Batman; The Dark Knight; Bruce Wayne; The Caped Crusader; The World’s Greatest Detective; now he’s The Arkham Knight.
Rocksteady has announced the follow-up to their series of Batman games with The Bat’s first next-gen outing in the form Batman: Arkham Knight which will launch in 2014 on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. Although there have been three titles in the new Arkham franchise, with Arkham Asylum, Arkham City and Arkham Origins (with Blackgate on 3DS/PS Vita title as well – which itself is being ported to the consoles), the latter was developed by Warner Bros. Montreal rather than the London-based studio. This means we finally get to hear about what they’ve been working on these past few years since City’s release in 2011.
It may be slightly surprising that Arkham Knight is a next-gen exclusive but I for one am happy to see games freed from the shackles of older hardware and given the licence to harness as much power from the new consoles as possible.
This will apparently be the finale of the Batman Arkham series – which already leads me to wonder what the terrific Rocksteady will do after this – and you’ll take to the rooftops as before, but also to the roads of Gotham in the iconic Batmobile which becomes driveable for the first time. Rocksteady are hoping that this new feature will make Arkham Knight feel completely different than any of the other Arkham games.
It takes place one year after the events of Arkham City with Batman at the height of his powers, but he has all of the villains after him now. As for foes we can expect to see Scarecrow along with “Gothams most feared villains” such as Penguin, Two-Face and Harley Quinn.
Last year’s Arkham Origins may have dented the Arkham franchise a tad with an underwhelming release, but given that it wasn’t developed by Rocksteady it’s unlikely to dampen excitement for Arkham Knight. Arkham Asylum was a wonderfully refreshing game that destroyed the rule that licensed videogames had to be terrible and its sequel was one of the best games of 2011 so I cannot wait to see more of what Rocksteady have planned.
Square Enix has made me question all other publishers. Why oh why is no-one other than the Japanese company releasing next-gen versions of the biggest titles from the last 12 months or so? By launching the ‘Definitive Edition’ of Tomb Raider Square have put a critically acclaimed title into the eyes of the public once again and made it a must-have title for those who, for some reason, missed out on Lara’s adventure last year.
With Crystal Dynamics seemingly at work on the next Tomb Raider title, it was the fine work by Nixxes Software that has seen this next-gen re-release storm to the top of the UK chart. In a period when new releases are somewhat thin on the ground anyway, Tomb Raider has entered at a time that can see it gain, potentially, a substantial market with nearly 8 million PS4s and Xbox Ones already out in the wild.
The current-gen version has already sold over 4 million copies and with the Definitive Edition already hitting number on in the UK chart it’s likely to add considerably to that number. The main reason for that, as with all new console launches, there’s a window that usually lasts for a few months before the next set of titles land and even within the first year new releases are often slow to arrive. This is the ideal time to put out next-gen versions of the best games from last year.
Tomb Raider is certainly one of those games.
An already stupendous title that was undoubtedly one of the best from 2013 saw the reinvention of gaming’s most famous heroines in the gritty and at times uncomfortable origins story. We witnessed a fresh-faced, 21-year old Lara’s challenging experience after her expedition ship was shipwrecked upon a lost Japanese kingdom that was far from hospitable. Awakening a captive Lara’s tale never relented, throwing obstacle after obstacle at her in an attempt to thwart her from rescue.
She went from the innocent explorer in the opening scenes to doing what ever was necessary to survive and help those closest to her. It’s a powerful narrative and one that is accompanied by some tremendous gameplay, but one that is even better now thanks to the visual overhaul that the next-gen version has received.
Higher resolution textures and video output, TressFX hair technology, a higher framerate (on the PlayStation 4 at least), improved models and lighting, even a brand new, high-fidelity face for Miss Croft all make Tomb Raider on next-gen even more stunning than it already was. The opening ten minutes or so had me questioning whether or not this version was actually any better, but once you get out into the world it’s startling clear.
The bump in framerate makes a huge difference and should not be underplayed; a smoother experience is evident and vastly improves the high-octane sections in particular. As for the new face for Lara, having only seen photos prior to release I wasn’t overly keen on the new design, however, having seen it in motion, it’s incredibly and well worthy of accolade.
By no means does this look as good as a native next-gen title but it’s undoubtedly the best way to play Tomb Raider.
Beyond the visual benefits, the inclusion of voice control is using the tools at hand but, boy, are they sensitive. Speaking one of the many commands (such as “Show Map”) works extremely well and first time at every attempt, but having paused the game, it unpaused itself whilst I was having a separate conversation and must’ve said the word “close” – which in-turn closed the menu and resumed the game.
The addition of the game’s DLC is welcome (a new tomb to raid and some new maps for the enjoyable multiplayer) but there’s not exactly a huge wealth of it.
If you’ve yet to play Tomb Raider and own a next-gen console then this is certainly a game you should pick up and devote your time too. There’s nothing new here though, so unless you have a hankering to play it through once again – which I did – then it’s hard to recommend. However, such a release like this is for those who have not had a first go, or who are looking for an excuse to go back and have a second, or a third.
Shadow of Mordor is exactly what I want from a game based on the Middle-earth universe, an open-world title bridging the gap between The Hobbit and The Lord of Rings with proven gameplay hooks and inventive and exciting new features.
The debut gameplay walkthrough showcases an interesting premise and one that clearly has taken a lot of inspiration from the Assassin’s Creed franchise – so much so that a former Ubisoft developer took exception to what he saw. With assassinations, an eagle vision-esque mode, mobility and combat systems similar to the popular franchise it’s not difficult to see the similarities – though that’s not something I consider a negative.
You play as Talion, a ranger of Gondor and a guardian of the Black Gates until Sauron’s armies killed everyone he loves and Talion himself. However, he’s revived with “Wraith-like abilities” and heads to Mordor to exact his revenge. As a result of his revival, Talion has powers from the very abilities that gave him a second chance and has to fight, sneak and trick his way to his goal.
One of the strongest aspects of the Assassin’s Creed series is each games attention to detail and their ability to bring alive a historical world; if Monolith Productions title can manage to do the same with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor then I’d consider that ideal.
However, it wasn’t anything that was akin to Ubisoft’s title that impressed. There were two features shown that impressed: the Nemesis system and Talion’s Wraith abilities.
Firstly, every character in Shadow of Mordor is an individual, no two are the same and every game you play will be different meaning no encounter will be the same. The Nemesis system procedurally-generates enemies which are shaped by the player’s actions, leaving a dynamic society in Middle-earth. The walkthrough highlights how this system will impact both the game’s narrative and gameplay.
Characters will remember Talion and previous encounters (if any) and react accordingly. They may fear you or want revenge perhaps. If you injure or scar them then they will mark your enemy and they may even hunt you down.
Then there’s the Wraith powers that allow Talion to track his enemies and bend their minds to carry out assassinations, become spies, induce fear and terror, or read their minds to understand their connection in the orcs’ chain of command. This opens options to track enemies back to higher profile targets for example.
It’s refreshing to see the first glimpse of a title be an extended gameplay walkthrough rather than a CGI trailer or teaser. It shows that Warner Bros has great faith in the development team and title to reveal it in such a fashion – especially so with pre-alpha code.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is due out this year on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 and I cannot wait to see more.
When a publisher pays £6.6 million ($10.8 million) to acquire the IP to a game you know they’re banking on it be something a bit special. Then again few independent studios can boast the pedigree that Turtle Rock Studios can. The hugely successful Left 4 Dead followed on from years of working on Valve’s Counter-Strike series for the Californian team but the future’s about to evolve. No, that’s the actual title for their new game, Evolve.
Revealed as this month’s Game Informer front page, it’s a blend of competitive and cooperative play in a sci-fi shooter pitting four-players against a separate player-controller monster. Although that may seem unfair, that monster increases in size and power with each subsequent match. Given the terrific quality of Left 4 Dead, big things are expected of Evolve as it hits next-gen exclusively (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC).
Each of the four-man crew of alien hunters has their own unique items and abilities, with classes including assault, medic, support and trapper, and will require all four to defeat a monster far larger and more devastating than they. Both characters and items will feature a progression systems, but most interestingly, hunters have unlimited ammunition to try to take down the colossal foe that lay before them but only three lives in order to achieve that.
There will be some form of solo experience though that’s not something Turtle Rock are talking about just yet, and if you don’t have enough players for the one versus four Hunt mode then the AI will fill the empty slots.
2K Games picked up the game during THQ’s auctioning of its assets and they hope, as do we, that Turtle Rock will take this opportunity by the horns. The premise of Evolve mixed with the pedigree of the studio are extremely exciting, and expectation is high given that.
It will be interesting to see just how the game looks and how gameplay pans out. There is certainly some huge potential here and it’s something seemingly fresh and, large alien aside, rather original. Four-on-one doesn’t usually sound like an enjoyable prospect but given the immense power that the ‘one’ will have I cannot wait to see how it plays out.
“A thrilling first-person survival horror experience that will focus on capturing the horror and tension evoked by Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic film”. Set for release later this year on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the debut trailer looks utterly terrifying and is looks set to finally be the Alien title we’ve all be craving.
Taking the series back to its roots, the ruthless Xenomorph will hunt you down – he’s hostile, brutal, intelligent and relentless. And who are you? Well, you play as Ripley’s daughter, Amanada, in a game about surviving and staying away from the Xenomorph rather than gunning him down.
It’ll take play “in the fringes of space” on a decommissioned trading station, where fear and panic will be your only company. “Constant dread and mortal danger” are your atmosphere and scavenging resources, using your wits and improvising solutions are vital for survival as you are underpowered and under-prepared.
It sounds fantastic so far and we cannot wait to see more.
The Division was Ubisoft final showpiece at this year’s E3 and it’s not hard to see why. At an event where we were shown plenty of next-gen title, developer Massive’s newest title was something of a looker, it was on another level to most of the titles shown. The attention to detail in the environments, the weather, the art direction, it’s all stunning and had an entire engine built specifically for it – the wonderfully named Snowdrop engine.
The bold claim of “never before has a videogame reached this level of detail” doesn’t look misplaced given the staggering population of assets within each and every locale shown off so far. A dynamic day and night cycle, volumetric lightning and dynamic global illumination, procedural destruction, an advanced particle system, and dynamic material shaders are just a few of the technical features that The Division will include and as a result the world looks both vibrant and yet utter deserted.
The idea of a post-apocalyptic world where you fight for survival is also deeply intriguing. Having to scavenge for food and water makes this sound what I Am Alive should have been before it dropped in development difficulties. Despite not having to find these aspects to actually survive in a sort of time-based system, they will be an important aspect of trading.
When you start your character will only have around 72 hours of supplies in their bag so acquiring loot and gear – to then trade for things you need – will be a key aspect, though where you go in the game is entirely up to you.
Though not classed as an MMO, the multiplayer aspect of the game is right up my street with co-op being the focus as you engage in battles with against both AI counterparts and other player squads. The RPG elements are important but it’s the idea of choice and putting the player into the position of having to deal with the collapse of society. A levelling system will be in place with the ability to gain new skills based on your gameplay choices rather than restricted to class.
The Division showcased a true next-gen experience with an incredibly ambitious goal and unparalleled visual quality. Hopefully when it hits PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC late next year it will live up to the lofty heights it’s already set. We cannot wait.
Announced in June this year, Titanfallis the debut title from Respawn Entertainment, the studio composed of former staff from Call of Duty studio Infinity Ward, and boy, does it look good.
Having run away with the awards at E3, including a record-breaking six E3 Critics Awards, it’s dubbed as one of the biggest titles for next year upon its release in March. Though not technically an exclusive with it coming to Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC, it’s the former platform that has received the majority of the pre-release marketing and will likely be the best platform to play it on.
The premise of Titanfall is a high-octane first-person shooter with an emphasis on mobility, mechs and utter satisfaction. Pilots are your standard character, whom you look through the eyes of, and their freedom of movement is vast. Equipped with jetpacks you are able to double-jump – much like many of today’s platformers – as well as wall run to allow for terrific verticality within maps.
Environments themselves will be on a derelict and war-torn planet amidst the conflict between the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) and the Militia. In and amongst the battles will be the agile and devastating Titans. Upon Titanfall, the huge mechs are protected by a forcefield allowing the pilot to enter their designated Titan. Unlike the pilots, the mechs cannot crouch, jump or cover but make up for those shortcomings with incredible firepower.
The balance between pilot and Titan already seemed wonderful during a hands-on back in September. Pilots agility was a huge factor in their enjoyment but there have been few things cooler than entering a Titan in recent gaming memory. There was enough at a pilot disposal to take on a Titan (if you have some backup at least) and seems to create a delicate tactical element to engagement.
Gunplay was tight and enjoyable but it was the inclusion of bots within the map that was a stroke of genius. Getting killstreaks in modern shooters often brings perks or some equivalent but it’s getting those vital kills that’s important. Titanfall throws in a variety of computer-controlled enemies that seemed considerably easier to eliminate, but given that, at the time, it was difficult to discern the difference it resulted in a truly outstanding feeling of satisfaction upon racking up an eight or nine killstreak. At the end of the session you are given a breakdown of kills of human, CPU and Titan, so you can still see how well you did.
Whilst Titanfall is an online multiplayer-only title, there will be a narrative which drives players through. One aspect of this can be seen by the expertly envisioned epilogue. Upon match completion, the losing team must evacuate the area and reach their dropship in time, do so and you received a big windfall of XP; however, the victors are hunting you down and attempting to stop you, in turn earning themselves a large amount of experience. It’s a fantastic idea and it’s implementation already was spot-on.
Titanfall represents a huge opportunity for Microsoft as it is a real system seller. The one thing that may hamper that slightly is its release on the PC; if it’s on par with the Xbox One version it could prevent a lot of people shelling out over £429 for a new console. It’s one of those titles that you won’t truly understand the hype until you’ve gotten your hands on it, but when that time comes you’re in for one hell of a treat.
Another title in our most anticipated list this year that was announced back in 2011 and has had some development issues. Despite them though, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6: Patriots remains high on our list given the initial demos we witnessed and the potential scope of the title.
With a dynamic single-player storyline that will look to “capture the reality of modern-day terrorism” and allow players to experience it from multiple characters’ perspectives. This includes tactics as well as a strong narrative that would add an “unprecedented level humanity” to the franchise – something showcased in the debut prototype video. Co-op play and multiplayer would reward teamwork with communication being vital for a successful mission.
As for the plot: Team Rainbow faces a threat from a highly-trained, well-organised terrorist group called the “True Patriots” and must prevent them this new breed of terrorists from retaking America from an “American government is irrevocably corrupted by greedy politicians and corporate special interests.”
Patriots was due to release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC this year but then it hit a snag back in March 2012 when several of the game’s lead developers were axed. Creative director David Sears, narrative lead Richard Rouse III, lead designer Philippe Therien and animation director Brent George were all removed from their positions with Jean-Sebastien Decant coming in as the new creative director.
Since then, Patriots went underground with no official word either way if the game would see the light of day or not – other than Ubisoft’s CEO Yves Guillemot stating that “there’s a good chance” the game would land on the then unknown next-gen consoles, which was then confirmed at E3 this year.
That was until earlier this week when Ubisoft’s North America president Laurent Detoc confirmed the next-gen switch and how the game as essentially been remade. However, there’s still the possibility that the game may never come out either.
Until this confirmation we had Patriots pinned for 2014 due to it’s scheduled 2013 release that it wasn’t going to meet. In all likeliness it probably won’t even launch until at least 2015 and who knows if much of the original premise that had us all so excited will remain. Personally, I certainly hope so as it was exciting yet somewhat haunting to put you in such difficult shoes and could really have pushed a strong moral narrative – something that is rarely examined in any detail in shooters.
The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One would obviously offer more computational power that would be extremely useful to a game like Patriots so it will be interesting to see if it ever makes it out. Given that plenty of franchises are rebooting themselves it’s a direction that Rainbow 6 could take and drop the Patriots name altogether, becoming a refresh of the series rather than a just another instalment.
Hopefully we’ll get a re-reveal for Patriots in the near future and that it will resemble what we initially saw – it was exciting enough to land itself this high in our most anticipated list on that alone.
That’s the question that the inexplicably catchy soundtrack for Driveclub queries in and amongst some pumping beats and uplifting tunes. It’s the ideal song to accompany Evolution Studio’s upcoming next-gen racer, a title that looks set to embody speed, joyous moments and co-operation – after all, it is a Qemists remix.
Let’s be frank though, Driveclub should not have even been applicable for this feature given that is should have launch at the tail of November with the launch of the PlayStation 4. However, events transpired that it would be delayed into early 2014 and impact the grandeur of Sony’s day one releases.
As a stark change in direction from their usual repertoire, the Cheshire-based studio are aiming high for their first non-off-road racer, finding a raceline somewhere between simulation and arcade, and from what I’ve played so far there’s some big potential there. Obviously more time was needed to “in order to deliver on their vision” which will surely mean an improved title in the end – even if it wasn’t great news for the PlayStation 4.
Aside from simply stunning visuals, Driveclub is a team-based racing game that rewards you constantly ensuring a wonderful feeling when playing it. In just two laps of a demo I successfully earned points for my ‘club’ on four occasions as I bettered the top-speed, drifted farther than the opposing driver and successfully road the racing line; all of this with no other cars on the track.
Despite coming nowhere near the record time I was still successful, and thus still a benefit to my club. It’s this asynchronous style of gameplay that will see plenty of games in the next-generation thrive and the praising of players for completing different aspects successfully creates a positive environment and one that you cannot wait to return to.
Quite how this all works across an entire game remains to be seen of course, but the initial premise and early execution are extremely promising. The ease of creating/finding/joining clubs will be key as well, which is something we’ve yet to really see much of.
Touched upon briefly earlier, Driveclub is a beauty, sporting graphics only possible on a next-gen platform. The prowess of the environments, the fidelity of the cars and the wonder of the dynamic lighting already make this one of the best looking games out there so hopefully the entire thing holds up.
It’s critical success will come down to a factors, but for me it’s all about the team play and being rewarded even if you fail to win a race. The snippets of video that have been released since the delay was announced are stunning and it’s a title that anyone with a PlayStation Plus membership will get the chance to play (as a Lite version of the game will be free) – and that is a very good thing indeed.
From the developers of hit platform racer Joe Danger comes No Man’s Sky – a game that took VGX by storm.
In amongst the barrage of latest videos for huge triple-A titles for the latest shooter or sequel came a surprise. Something no one was expecting and it blew the competition away. Vivid colours, a distinct lack of violence and a premise that was utterly intriguing left No Man’s Sky the talk of town following the weekend.
A procedurally generated space exploration game with callbacks to the hit classic Elite, No Man’s Sky used the power of surprise to its advantage. There were no murmurings, no leaked details, not even the knowledge that such a game was in development at Hello Games, a small independent team based in Guildford, where the ambitious project currently has just four out of thirteen employees of the studio working on it.
To have such a buzz around the game so early is fantastic for Hello Games and it highlights just how powerful no knowing can be in this industry. We’re all too often bombarded with marketing material for years and years prior to release (that could still happen for No Man’s Sky albeit very unlikely), which has been preceded by leaks from voice actors or concept art or something similar.
Then there’s the obvious expectation for sequels and continuation of franchises from established developers and publishers, but No Man’s Sky isn’t any of those. This is a title that has sprung out of nowhere and people have taken notice.
What about the game then? Any planets you can see you can visit, any details you can determine are things that are explorable and it’s all utterly seamless. From the depths of an ocean to the vastness of space is possible without ever seeing a loading screen.
When the game launches the star map will be completely empty as nothing has been discovered, but over time, as you find planets and places, you can choose to put it on the star map for other players to see in a sort of asynchronous multiplayer.
Every planet is procedurally generated including the ecology, the landmass, the colours, its size, what animals inhabit it. However, all of this is shared for each player and poses the question as to if, when you get nearer to the centre will more planets generate luring you into thinking you’re closer than you actually are? It would certainly be more challenging, though likely frustrating as well – so I hope they don’t do this.
As for a goal, you’re travelling towards the centre of the universe having begun somewhere on the outside, however, don’t expect it to be a walk in a shiny space park. No Man’s Sky will be hard, Dark Souls hard according to managing director Sean Murray. The closer you get to the centre, the harder it gets.
There are currently no platforms scheduled for release, nor a date, and the rumour is that Sony and Microsoft hadn’t even seen the game before its debut trailer. Hopefully this will be a game that comes to many platforms, though likely PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. One thing’s for certain though, it’s grabbed everyone’s attention.
A true next-gen title without the restraints of accommodating the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 – or even the Wii U – The Crew is Ubisofts entry. Announced back at E3 this year, The Crew will be the publishers “biggest game ever created” which is saying something from the company behind the open-world Assassin’s Creed series.
Featuring the entire United States of America, Ubisoft Reflections (the studio behind Driver: San Francisco) and Ivory Tower are aiming to take varying elements from a variety of other popular racers and infuse them within a single title. Car customisation, open-world, persistent world, single-player campaign, co-op, multiplayer, missions, and much more will all feature.
The size of the map will result in a 90-minute drive from coast to coast in-game across the States in a world devoid of loading – or at least, that’s the goal. Drive through the bustling streets of New York City, cruise down Miami Beach, trek through Monument Valley, or visit Las Vegas, Florida, or Chicago. Quite how this transitions between locales remains to be seen but the premise is exciting.
Beyond the knowledge there’s a role-playing elements and that there are plans to use the new consoles social elements strongly, we still know very little about The Crew. If Need for Speed Rivals is anything to go by though, then the persistent world is potential a game-changer in the driving space and with a map as big as Reflection claim it could essentially become a racing MMO.
A wonderfully edited debut video gave The Crew a solid start in the eyes of the public but a delay into Q3 of next year put the brakes on a little. Nevertheless an experience whereby you jump online to race with your friends will always be an appealing one provided it is simple and has that necessary hook to keep you coming back – two things that The Crew will rely upon.
Ubisoft are trying to create a racer that’s about adventure, about making friends and about competition. Combining all of those aspects will be tricky but we’ve seen enough to have our intrigue.
Over two and a half years ago, Homefront released to a mixed reception following what looked like a highly promising pre-release marketing campaign. I for one enjoyed Homefront more than most, thanks to a surprising good multiplayer portion and a valiant, albeit poorly executed single player.
With an extremely appealing plot the Homefront series could become something rather wonderful – especially given that Crytek, the developers behind the successful shooter franchise Crysis, are not in command.
Let’s rewind a little bit however. Back in June 2011, Danny Bilson (of the late THQ) confirmed the existence of a Homefront sequel stating that it would address all of the negatives of the first game. Of course, since this date THQ suffered the terrible fate of declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2012 which saw Crytek pay $544,218 for the franchise.
Prior to the downfall of THQ, Homefront 2 was due for a release in the current financial year (April 2013 until March 2014) on PC and then “unspecified consoles” so we can assume that those would be both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Given that we’ve never had an official reveal for Homefront 2 who knows when it could actually release now and a lot will depend on how much the THQ saga had an affect on development – though this is something that Crytek’s CEO, Cevat Yerli, denied stating that the game will undertake “no tangible change whatsoever” as a result of THQ’s problems, adding that the development of Homefront 2 is isolated anyway and being treated as their own new IP.
Such a reveal could be on the horizon though after the first alleged images of the title leaked online back in October. The “work-in-progress” images from part of a “promotional handout” suggest that at least part of the game will be set in New York – which would mark a fresh setting for the series following the San Francisco locale of the original.
Not only that but Crytek UK confirmed that they are “making great progress” with the upcoming shooter and that they intend to “reinvent” the franchise. Whether this means changing the theme from the invasion by the Korean People’s Army on North America remains to be seen. I for one hope that it does not though given that it was an extremely intriguing and unique premise and one that, given the USA were being invaded and the underdogs themselves, is rarely explored.
With next-gen consoles an almost certain destination and given Crytek’s pedigree, Homefront 2 will likely be something that needs to be seen to be believed – a visual masterpiece. The art direction available with the series opens up an exciting prospect along with the likely continuation of the narrative.
Hopefully we’ll receive an official reveal for Homefront 2 soon and our expectations, following its predecessor and the studio now behind it, are high – albeit realistic. The game’s current scheduled release for 2014 is its reason for inclusion in our most anticipated games for this year, though to have not heard anything about a game and see it released within 12 months would be something rather unique in itself.
The final next-gen console to hit the shores of the UK, the PlayStation 4 completes the set. Having had two weeks to be immensely jealous of our brethren across the pond, the eventual release has arrived, but was the console worth the wait?
Slender and contemporary, the PlayStation 4 is a stunningly beautiful console with it’s angled profile highlighted by the thin light bar that glows softly within the black frame. The dual-finish creates a complementary effect that results in an attractive console that won’t look out-of-place under any TV.
No longer supporting analog outputs, the rear of the console houses digital-only ports with HDMI and optical out. A dedicated port for the PlayStation Camera frees up one of the front-facing USB 3.0 ports for other things, but it’s the inclusion of an internal power supply that is more impressive.
That Sony’s engineers have managed to fit such powerful hardware in a sleek container, all-the-while keeping it cool and wonderfully quiet without the need to have a hefty power brick is remarkable.
Now into the fourth iteration of the DualShock, it sees a drastic evolution in several ways compared to both the PlayStation 3’s DualShock 3 and the history of more recent controllers. It’s larger chassis provides a more ergonomic and therefore comfortable feel that slots into the palms of your hand effortlessly.
The triggers have been curved to provide a seat for the tips of your fingers, a stark contrast to the slippery concave triggers of the past seven years or so. Analogue sticks have been tweaked to be slightly wider apart, fractionally smaller and given a ring of grip, though they do feel as though they could be worn down over time – something to keep an eye on. As for the d-pad, the excellent DS3 pad has been improved upon further to become sturdier and more satisfying to press.
Elsewhere there are some throwing out of the controller rulebook. The Start and Select buttons are sent to confines of the past being replaced by the Share and Options button – though the latter acts in the same fashion as the Start button in most titles.
There is a speaker located where the PS button used to be, thus pushing that particular button down a centimeter, and a microphone port on the underside for use with the supplied wired headset.
Two of the biggest additions though are the touchpad and lightbar. The former is a 2-inch by 1-inch capacitive surface akin to a laptop touchpad which also features a click mechanism – something that provides another input option for developers. Its smooth touch and responsive button press, as well as its placement, are delightful and, provided it’s implemented, will be a big addition to the controller.
The lightbar functions as a PlayStation Move-esque marker for the PlayStation Camera, something showcased via the bundled Playroom app, but it’s colour is generally more of an aesthetic one but certainly a welcome one.
With several colours, it can dictate which player is which, indicate your health in a shooter, or just display a colour related to the game you’re playing. Any concern that you won’t see the light given its location on the top of the controller is misplaced as the subtle glow it places upon for trigger fingers is mightily pleasant.
A series of minor adjustments and bold changes sees the DualShock 4 become one of the best controllers in history. It’s sturdy and a gratifying weight that comes packed with improvements. The battery life seems considerable shorter than that of the DS3 but standby charging on the PS4 alleviates that somewhat. Other than minor worries over the longevity of the thumbsticks the DualShock 4 is utter fantastic.
Although not bundled with the standard SKU, the PlayStation Camera is a compact device that makes for a more well-rounded PlayStation 4 experience and is an add-on that I heartily recommend. Even with the small uses currently of facial recognition for login or broadcasting yourself on Twitch or UStream, it adds that something extra.
Outputting at a 1280×800 pixel resolution it does what is needed of it. The implementation of the lightbar on the DualShock 4 will likely see more PlayStation Move like functionality within titles down the line although Playroom is the only game that really uses it currently.
It’s able to accurately decipher faces in even low-light conditions and you can use it for the PS4’s limited voice command functionality. This works well provided you speak loudly enough and follow the specific onscreen instructions – though of course you can also do these voice commands through a headset with nearing complete accuracy, though given that you’d have a controller in your hand are currently rather redundant.
No longer the XMB and now the PDM (PlayStation Dynamic Menu) the UI on the PS4 is simply glorious. A crisp and clean interface that is also fast, responsive and a breeze to navigate makes it tremendously impressive. The large icons for your library as eye-catching and the way the top menu changes once you navigate upwards is splendid.
There are many aspect to the interface including the PlayStation Store (which loads almost instantaneously), Notifications, Friends, Messages, Party, Profile, Trophies, Settings, and Power. Some of these submenus are merely iterations from the XMB and others drastically change your PlayStation experience.
Notifications is, similar to that on many smartphones, an area depicting your notifications – such as recent trophies and messages, invitations to games, game alerts, download information and uploads. From any of these you can see a list of recent activity and jump straight to whatever it is quickly and easily.
Friends are grouped similarly to before though the ability to show your full name (which is shown to other players via approved name requests) is most welcome. No longer do I have to try to rack my brain over whose strange username this is.
Messages are largely the same, although you can now send voice messages. Party chat is finally makes it’s debut on a PlayStation home console and is fantastic. You can have multiple chats on the go that you can dip in and out of; each on supporting up to eight people.
Your profile, which you can now sync with Facebook and import your profile picture from, displays your trophy list, information, current game playing, as well as allowing you to change your bountiful privacy options and sort through your uploads folder. Trophies haven’t seen much of a change other than the addition of the rarity for each trophy which gives you an indication of just how impressed you should be.
Settings are as you would expect with plenty of options to customise your PS4, whilst the power settings, currently missing the Suspend/Resume feature, offers the ability to log out, enter standby mode or turn off the console.
There’s plenty that can still be improved upon for the PS4’s UI and if the evolution of the XMB over the years taught us anything it’s that it will do exactly that. Currently the inability to filter or sort things on the main home screen isn’t an issue but within six months or so it could be. Right now though it’s simply wonderful and one of the slickest and most visually pleasing interfaces around. It is possible to get lost in the myriad of menus and options, but after a few hours of use – thus learning the system – it felt second nature.
A feature of the PlayStation 4 that will likely be one of the biggest. The ability to quickly and easily share a screenshot, upload video or even broadcast your gameplay is fantastic. With two variations of inputs available by either a short press, a long press or a double tap of the controller-based share button you can take a screenshot, begin broadcasting or access the share menu with ease.
With the PlayStation 4 constantly recording the last 15 minutes of gameplay you can edit and trim footage on the spot – or, by simply jumping into the share menu, save it for later – before uploading it to Facebook or Twitter. Currently being able to only push video to Facebook is disappointing, as is the level of compression, but it’s a good start nonetheless.
Over time I’d like to see more options with regards to sharing. Sites to upload content, ability to duplicate videos, editing options, upload quality, and watermarks to name a few.
Another feature of the PS4 I love is remote play. Having the ability to play my PS4 games on my Vita while I’m downstairs having breakfast or in bed is awesome. What’s even better is that it works flawlessly, assuming you’re in range.
There is no discernible input lag over a direct connection to the PS4, and the range is far enough. I can imagine myself spending many a late night bombing through Resogun again and again.
If you’re looking for a reason to pick up a Vita, but its games alone don’t quite sell you, this is as good a reason as any. Any game that doesn’t require use of the PlayStation camera (so only the Playroom at launch) supports it, and it really is fantastic.
I do wish some developers would put a bit more effort into adjusting the controls for the Vita though. While games like Need for Speed and Resogun translate well to the Vita, FIFA 14 is a game that noticeably doesn’t. Sprinting and tactical defending with the back touch (where L2 and R2 are mapped) is really unintuitive.
For the past few years many corners of the videogame industry have declared the death of console gaming following a few years of stagnation and decline, briefly coming up for air with a blockbuster release like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. Whilst these discussion and musings where worthy of having they were critically overlooking the prolonged length of the seventh-generation and the increasing demand for something new and shiny.
The struggles the Wii U has faced since its launch last year has not helped alleviate any concerns either, with Nintendo’s latest home machine failing to make any sort of dramatic impact.
Roll on a few months or years and the next-gen duo of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have sold a staggering 3.1 million units within a two-week spell.
“We are humbled and grateful for the excitement of Xbox fans around the world,” said Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President of Marketing and Strategy, Xbox. “Seeing thousands of excited fans lined up to get their Xbox One and their love for gaming was truly a special moment for everyone on the Xbox team. We are working hard to create more Xbox One consoles and look forward to fulfilling holiday gift wishes this season.”
In the UK alone the PS4 moved 250,000 units in the opening 48 hours to become the fastest selling console on our shores. When combined with the Wii U, the next-gen trio have over 600,000 consoles already in the UK – an impressive feat indeed.
“It’s an impressive and record-setting accomplishment for our company and for our industry, and we couldn’t have done it without you,” SCE boss Andrew House stated. “I want to personally thank PlayStation fans, both old and new, for your vote of confidence.
“The best part: the PS4 journey has just begun. In addition to an incredible line-up of PS4 games from the best developers in the world, we will continue to introduce valuable new features and services to PS4 in the months and years ahead.
Given that both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are in short supply at the moment it’s clear that gamers across the globe have been desperate for some new hardware. The next few years will be so very exciting.
Just over six months ago Techland popped up to announce another zombie game – a month after Dead Island: Riptide hit the shelves. This time is was something different though. Grander, vaster, dynamic and unrestricted; it’s a vision of a bold game that aims to push what has been done before in the genre.
A day-night cycle with some Mirror’s Edge-style free running was touted early on to whet the appetite but it wasn’t until the first gameplay video a month later that the groundwork was well and truly laid. It was mightily impressive and showcased a next-gen experience, visually at the very least – with the title confirmed to be hitting PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Following a hands-on with the game it had me completely sold. There’s certainly still niggling issues over stability and polish based on the past few Techland games, and the potential variety of the gameplay, but the expansiveness and current feature set are extremely exciting.
Run for your life
It’s all be a bit quiet on the promotional front for the title though, with the studio hard at work, so it’s possible that it slipped under your radar. So just what is Dying Light about?
“The game takes place in the fictional city of Harem,” words from the mouth of the game’s producer, Tymon Smektala. “The city has been closed by the army because of the zombie outbreak and you are just one of the survivors trapped in the city. At the start of the game you just want to survive, but then you find some clues about what happened.”
Surviving is at the heart of Dying Light and it’s what makes it so enthralling. Whether it’s something you do on your own or with others thanks to four-player co-op, you’ll be sprinting your ass off either heading to the next objective with the sun burning in the sky or fleeing for your life with a hoard of brain hungry zombies sprinting behind you.
The day-and-night cycle looks to have a substantial impact on the gameplay, including your own tactics and is the aspect of the game that has intrigued me most.
A tale about a zombie
By incorporating a free-roaming element as well as a more linear plot will hopefully provide both an element of freedom without sacrificing an interesting story. Something that the team are keen on emphasising.
“We bumped our writers team two-fold since the release of Dead Island so we’re quite confident that we can really create a story that’s engaging, interesting and that people will like,” said Smektala. “I really would like to reach that point in promoting the game that we can talk about our story. I think it has that unique Techland feel to it but the nature is very interesting. Many people will be surprised by it; it’s not your regular zombie story, that I’m sure off.”
The combination of free-running, an open world, the day and night cycle and drop-in-drop-out co-op make this a truly exciting title. Already it’s visually impressive, but it’ll all come down to how fleshed out the title ends up being as the gameplay was already well refined back in September.
There’s still plenty of time until release as well, with a launch not until the summer of next year; this leaves ample time to polish and add substance what was already a surprisingly slick title.
Occasionally it’s fun to speculate as to what may happen within the videogames industry and today just so happens to be one of those days. After Square Enix all but confirmed that a ‘Definitive Edition’ of Tomb Raider is seemingly on its way, the pieces of the jigsaw are falling into place for what seems like a next-gen re-release of one of this year’s best titles.
The publisher exclaims that we should “keep an eye on any major gaming events happening in early December” which will almost certainly be referencing VGX (formerly the Video Game Awards) which streams on December 7 – for a potentially laborious three hours. We’ll likely see a plethora of new announcements, for next-gen in particular, at the event but it’s the possibility and potential of next-gen re-releases that has been intrigued.
It wasn’t until three years into its life that we saw the PlayStation 3′s first HD remake in the form of the God of War: Collection; what followed was a over 60 releases, many in bundles, of games remastered in HD and often with additional features to lure in those with a nostalgic itch. Not only were they incredibly popular but they also helped to bring a new audience to some of the best games from the past generation.
Though the graphical leap from PlayStation 2 to PlayStation 3 was impressive, it was the bump up from standard definition to HD that was a big draw for their creation. It’s for this very reason that, in the long run, I don’t expect to see many next-gen re-releases. However, in the short-term, it’s an entirely different ball game.
Quiet after the storm
As with the launch of any console the selection of games is relatively small and the release schedule is expectedly quiet for at least a year compared with what we’ve become used to and it represents the opportune time to push out some of the best games from both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 onto the next-generation consoles.
Which games should come to next-gen will more often than not fall into two categories: those released in the past year or two and the classics from further back.
For those released more recently, such asTomb Raider, their PC counterparts were often better looking than the PS3/360 versions so the amount of development time would hopefully be kept to a minimum (especially given the ease of porting from PC to PS4/XBO). Having titles such as Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3, Journey, Hitman: Absolution, Dishonored, Borderlands 2 and others on next-gen consoles at a bargain price seems like a win-win for everyone.
Then there’s the cream of the crop from the departing generation. Games that were perhaps released further back, say the Uncharted or Mass Effect trilogies, that would be great to play again in full 1080p at 60fps and with improved visuals, especially leading into new iterations in the franchise. The God of War: Collection launched a few months prior to God of War III providing an opportunity for those that are not up-to-date in the series the chance to do so, whilst also acting as a revisit for many and a cash injection for the developer and publisher.
Already half way there
Sony are already bringing some fantastic titles from the PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 in the form of fl0w, Flower and Sound Shapes, and I’m sure we can expect many more. The Halo Anniversary sold extremely well on the Xbox 360 and I’d love to see an Xbox One version of Halo 4 a few months before the next Halo game releases.
Getting the chance to revisit some of the current-generation’s best titles again in the quieter period of next-gen is incredibly appealing providing they price it aggressively; the trilogy approach for the HD Remasters was fantastic with their budget price.
Whilst the visual benefits may not be as large as from the sixth- to seventh-generations, there are plenty of new innovations that present exciting possibilities. Streaming and sharing features, for example, on the new consoles will allow users to promote brands and spread the joy to for other gamers to see and fall in love with – especially if it’s soon before a full next-gen release.
Will we get re-releases on the next-generation beyond smaller PSN titles? Who knows. I for one certainly hope so though. My big concern would be how would this impact the PlayStation 4′s inbound Gaikai streaming service with providing a form of backwards compatibility. Only time will tell.
Whilst seemingly drifting between REM cycles at 4am in the morning, I was hoping for something special at the PS4 All Access event and boy, it didn’t take long to deliver. There are just a few developers in the world that can truly get the excitement pumping following an extremely short teaser trailer along with a logo, but Naughty Dog are one of them.
So the announcement of a brand new Uncharted game for the PlayStation 4 is as big for Sony as the Halo announcement at E3 was for Microsoft. We know literally nothing on the title but that just doesn’t matter; the prospect of a next-gen Uncharted from Naughty Dog is mouth-watering.
Following on from the videogame defining Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and The Last of Us, whatever it was that the Californian studio did next was going to be hotly anticipated and rightly so. It’s likely that we’ll get our first look at VGX (previously named the Video Game Awards) but for the next month – at least – we’ll have to make do with speculation and wish-listing.
Following on from a simply exceptional trilogy on the PlayStation 3, it’ll be interesting to see where the Uncharted series goes next – and if the teaser was anything to go by we may not even play as protagonist Nathan Drake. As with InFamous: Second Son, Sucker Punch are taking the PlayStation 3 franchise into the next-generation with a reboot and a new lead character, could we see Naughty Dog do the same and drop Nathan Drake and take Uncharted in a whole new direction.
Personally, I don’t see it, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. One things for sure though is that the pressure on Naughty Dog to deliver something truly exceptional will already be sky-high. Given that their last four titles have garnered a Metacritic average of nearly 93 anything less than exceptional will be seen as a disappointment but to doubt the studio would be foolish. After all, you don’t make four hugely successful concurrent titles just be chance.
Returning to the world of Uncharted will be a welcome one with its lavish action scenes, witty dialogue and more jovial tone than that of The Last of Us – which we’ll be able to play a little bit more with in spring 2014 with the newly announced ‘Left Behind’ DLC.
A new Uncharted gives PlayStation fans something to look forward to in the distant future – much like the Halo announcement at E3 did for Xbox fans. It’s a series with some serious weight now and the thought of what it could look like on next-generation hardware is truly astounding. Let’s hope that it goes some way to meeting my already lofty expectations.
With the next-generation of consoles just around the corner I’ve worked tirelessly to bring you the next generation of One Hit Pixel in time to welcome in a new era with a contemporary look, a new focus and a fresh way of producing our content. So here it is!
Now fully free of the shackles of last year’s name change, One Hit Pixel is ready to flourish into a site that combines both visual and literary substance as we press forward with a clear focus on the next-generation consoles, bringing you solely original content.
A New Way Of Working
No longer will we posting up reworded press releases or the latest trailer unless we personally have something to say about it. There’s plenty of sites around that already cover every shred of news out there but that’s not us. We will be bringing you our own thoughts on what’s going on in the industry, about newly announced titles and what we want from them, about just how stunning a new cinematic is and what that could mean going forward for the title.
Everything will hopefully be something that you’ll be able to enjoy, and something that you’ll not find anywhere else – something unique. Also, we’re shifting our focus to primarily the next-generation consoles – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U – as well as the PC of course. We will still cover both the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS, though our coverage of the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and mobile titles will reduce significantly over time.
We have a lot of other content in the pipeline – including video content, but, as with many of the next-gens features, will be a 2014 thing.
Giving Special Attention
One of the new things that we’re bringing to the table are dedicated hubs to particular topics that we want to give special focus to. This could be a platform, a game, an event, a feature, anything that we deem appropriate.
Each of the hubs are custom designed and will merge both our content with said topic and other details (videos, lists, charts, etc) that we want to display – plus it will be something that evolves over time as we write more and new things reveal themselves. For now, we have hubs for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, though you can expect a new hub, on average, every month.
Developing For The Future
Whilst many complimented One Hit Pixel’s debut look, I wanted something new, something fresh. Both the style and implementation of the new design have been in development since February this year and have seen thousands of hours poured into it.
The bold style has been iterated on dozens of times and will I’ll continue to do so as the requirements change over time. There’s plenty on the horizon as well with regards to features we offer and help to provide content to you in new and interesting ways.
One of the main aspects of this new look is the responsive design. Whether viewing on a desktop, tablet or mobile you’ll get a site that’s more appropriate for that platform. Each experience has been optimised to help relax the strains on your bandwidth and allows you to get the full site on a small screen – though, of course, the desktop experience is the bees knees.
Another major change is the removal of comments. Whilst I’ll freely admit we were never inundated with discussions on the site, we engaged in plenty on other social media and have decided that the likes of Twitter and Facebook are where we will talk until the cows come home.
In the next coming months you can expect to see plenty of gorgeous looking reviews, blogs and features as we kick off a new generation in our much loved passion. Now well into our fourth year, we aim to continually improve our content and hope that you enjoy reading it.
There’s plenty to be excited about in the lead-up to next-gen launches – which are now just four/five weeks away depending on which land of glory you’re heading towards.
The PlayStation 4 has had a rosy lead-up so far with barely even a niggle, but the delays of Driveclub and Watch Dogs from launch were blows that it (and the Xbox One for the latter) could have done without. Plenty has been speculated and dismissed, such a HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) on its games which would’ve prevented from being recorded, but one thing that was true is that the PlayStation 4 will not support current-gen bluetooth headsets for chat, and will require a post-launch patch for USB-based headsets to be compatible. Even Sony’s own PULSE headset will require a patch to be used at all – not just for chat.
One Hit Pixel has learned, via a PlayStation representative, that this patch is aiming to be out by the end of the year, but don’t be surprised if it slips into early 2014. It’s frustrating that we could potentially have to wait several months in order to be able to use bluetooth headsets with a brand new bit of tech, but at least the console will come bundled with the controller-connected mono headset.
It’s not just the PS4 that will have such restrictions though, as the Xbox One’s adapter to use third-party headsets has been delayed into 2014.
Such feature delays are frustrating but thankfully minor in the grand scheme of things. So, if you plan on using cross-game chat for the first time on a home PlayStation console then you’ll either have to use the provided wired headset, or wait until early next year.
Mere days after Ubisoft announced that Watch Dogs, one of next-generations flagship titles, would be delayed from the launch of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One into next year, Sony have dealt another blow to the new era of gaming. Driveclub, the PlayStation 4′s exclusive racer, has been delayed into 2014. Rumours have been circulating for a day or two but this morning President of Sony Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida, has confirmed the delay.
“Driveclub will be a truly innovative, socially connected racing game, but the team requires more time in order to deliver on their vision — and I’m fully confident the game will surpass your expectations,” reads the statement on the Official PlayStation Blog.
Set to be a PlayStation Plus launch bonus, Yoshida announced that in its place will be Contrast, the highly anticipated PSN title from Compulsion Games – which will be free to download on day one for Plus members. When Driveclub eventually releases in the new year it will still be part of the Instant Game Collection as well though.
Whilst the delay will undoubtedly be good for the game it places somewhat of a downer on the PlayStation 4′s launch line-up as it removes the only exclusive racer for Sony. They’ve had the run of the green up until now but this is the first time that Microsoft will be pleased of the going-ons. When combined with the delay to Watch Dogs it’s not been a great week for the next-generation consoles – especially so close to release.