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Mike Bithell On The Development Of Volume

A year has passed since we got hands-on with Volume and a lot can happen in game development in that amount of time. Changes to the gameplay I had time with were subtle but helped to produce a far more slick product that aims to live up to a rather lofty expectation. Mike Bithell’s previous title, Thomas Was Alone, was exceptionally well received and anticipation for Volume is high as a result.

I got to spend some time with Mike and discuss what’s happened in the past year for Volume.

So, how is Volume going? I had a go on it earlier today, and enjoyed it, plus it’s a lot different than the EGX build from last year. So from your point of view, how do you think it’s progress, how much has changed, do you feel you’ve got a good year’s worth of work out of it?

Haha. Yeah, it’s been an interesting thing talking to people who played the build last year and it’s cool, it’s nice that people see a difference. I see no difference. I look at it every day so to me it’s like you don’t notice a tree growing. It’s a slow, slow thing. It’s progressing along well though, the big thing for me are the things you’re not seeing. That big chunk of gameplay that we bring, it’s very early stuff, very easy stuff for players to jump on at an event and play, have ten minutes of fun that makes them hopefully want to play the rest of the game. But what’s happening behind the scenes is the four or five hours of other stuff and that’s coming along really well.

The rest of the game is slowly joining and coming up to the level of the demo which is the goal. So yeah, it’s been a very busy year, the team’s grown quite significantly over the past year. We’ve got lots of people working on it now, but it’s a very big game, a very ambitious game; especially compared to the last one [Thomas Was Alone].

From your point of view, working on Thomas was quite a solitary experience aside from getting the voice work and music done. How is that different now for you? Does the additional members working on it change your role? Do you prefer it one way or another?

The reason I made Thomas Was Alone that was is it was a hobby game. I worked in traditional game dev, I was the lead design at a big company, and I was kind of getting bored as I wasn’t doing the game development. I was in charge of telling five coders what they should be doing – it felt weird and disjointed from the act of actually making something. So Thomas was entirely me: I coded everything, I did everything other than voiceover and music. I wrote the voiceover and directed the music, so I was still very heavily involved. With Volume, a game of this scale, it’s impossible to do everything on your own. It’s meant hiring an art team, it’s meant hiring sound engineers to do the sound effects, hiring a cast, all of this stuff. Different companies and agencies to deal with different parts of development. All of which I’ve been able to do because of the success of Thomas.

All that said, in terms of who controls how the character feels when they move that’s still me. I’m still developing. The gameplay code is me. That’s the most important part; I’m not in the film industry, or the TV industry, or the music industry, I’m in the game industry and I want to make the game feel the way I want the game to feel. So that part of it, for me I always want to be the guy making that. That’s the bit that excites me and interests me, though writing the script is cool as well. Doing this or doing that, doing graphic design I enjoy doing so I bring in some of that. What it means though is that, for example, the game has user-generated content which means we have to have servers and handle all of that stuff – that’s someone else’s job. I have two very talented coders who are doing all the background stuff.

Essentially, if I care about it and feel if it will directly impact the gameplay experience then it’s me. If it’s something that supports that, but perhaps the player won’t directly interact with, that’s someone else. It seems to be a good balancing act for us and that’s how I like it – it’s how I want to do the next game as well.

What lessons have you learnt from Thomas that you feel have directly impacted Volume? Elements either during development or after release that you realised “oh man, if only I’d known that before if would have saved me so much time”.

Yeah so many things. The example I always use is user-generated content. I still get an email every day saying “when’s Thomas Was Alone going to have a level editor? I want to make levels for Thomas.” It’s cool but because of the way Thomas was made it’s kind of impossible. It’s a very sloppily put together videogame. You can’t really go in and make that editable. So that was one with Volume where I wanted to facilitate that specific kind of creativity that players want to do.

That’s probably the most obvious one, others things are Thomas was very much made to be one game – do its things, tell its story, get out – whereas Volume is being made with an eye on it being able to be expanded if I want to. It could scale up if I intended.

Obviously Thomas was a huge success for you and put your face on the map. Do you like being that front-facing persona for people who look up to you as this success story?

Well I love, I love to talk to people who play videogames. I love to talk to people who, for the lack of a less pretentious word, are my audience. I want to know what the 14-year-old who is playing my game thinks about it and being able to have that direct line of conversation, which social media lets us do. It’s something you couldn’t do before – to get that feedback. I’ll put up an image of the game, a new thing I’ve added to the game…

… like the UI for example?

Yeah and I can say what do you think of this? I’ll get fifteen messages about it. Now, I’m pretentious and arrogant enough that I’m not just going to do what they tell me. If I disagree with my audience then I’m going to do what I want to do… but, it’s cool to be able to get that feedback and information direct. To them, when I want to announce something just being able to do it and not have to necessarily go through press and instead talk directly to my audience – it’s something that I’ve chatted with film people and a lot of people in my position who have always been behind five PR people, whereas now I can go directly to the punter which is really all we care about. So it’s cool in that regard.

As for being a sort of spokesperson thing, it’s a bit weird. I’m just a jerk I’m not… it’s weird to me that we elevate certain voices and it’s weird that I’m one of those. That’s strange yeah. I think it’s natural though.

You say you enjoy that interaction with people but you’re always trying to avoid the ‘design by committee’ thing. Is there anything that someone has said that you’ve thought “actually, that’s really good” and perhaps has impacted something in Volume?

That’s happened a lot of times, it’s something that’s occurred many, many times. I’m trying to think of a specific example. Oh! There’s one. So, you launch these projectiles around the environment [such as the bugle] and one thing I had in the game, for about six months, was every time it happened I had a small screenshake. Not Michael Bay proportions, but a small, tiny little one to give a sense of impact – it’s an old animation trick. You have this slight shake and it creates this illusion of impact. I thought it was really good, but then when I put up videos that had that in it I got like twenty people saying, “Oh my god, that video gave me a headache.” People were saying they felt “woozy” or “horrible” afterwards.

I think what makes people very good at creating stuff if they have a very blinkered view, but games are an interesting intersection more than any other medium. Because we require engagement and interaction and accessibility, like designing an iPhone interface, you’re designing something to be used. Throwing stuff to other people’s awareness so they can say “I felt seasick” meant I could fix that problem and didn’t release a game to an audience of a million people that made them throw up. That’s always a win – if you can stop your audience from throwing up you can achieve your goal.

Agreed – you do get tunnel vision when designing and developing something. It’s so easy to miss a spelling mistake because you’ve read the same word a thousand times by this point.

Exactly, and that’s why you surround yourself with people who can deal with that. Some of those things can be public, you go to your audience and they say change this, but also obviously I have testers and proofreaders and people who professionally check that I’m not messing up; and you know what, I always mess up.

It doesn’t matter as long as it’s caught before release though.

Originally you were aiming for 2014…

I was.

…but now you’re planning on releasing in 2015. From your point of view was that an easy decision to make? And are you happy with the decision?

It was so easy to make. Genuinely, I’m in a position where I’m self-funding now, I don’t have shareholders or any external business pressure to release anything. I’m never going to release something until it’s done. Midway through this year, I was looking at the game and thinking that I wanted more time. I want a little bit of room to do this and that was the thing really to push it into 2015.

It’s very easy. It’s very very very easy. People will moan a bit if they release it a bit late, but I want it to be right.

There’s the phrase that “a shit game is shit forever”.

Yeah that’s Miyamoto, though I think you’re adding the word ‘shit’.

Yeah, it might have been a ‘bad’ game.

I don’t think Miyamoto-san would use the word shit. At least not to be quoted on.

Is there any concern from your point of view, that there’s no external pressure on you to release the game, that you might get to say February or March and think “I still want more time”, and then you get to June and think the same?

Yeah, yeah, you can always do more. You see this with novelists who spend five years on a book, but then you have others who do a book a year. Game development, at least from my side – in indie development – it’s very akin to writing a book. It’s so personal. Especially in terms of your timing and your motivation and stuff. So I think, for me, it is a fear. There’s the fear that I could get lost in it and decide it’s not perfect and not release it, which we’ve seen happen to a lot of devs.

For me, a) my rent needs paying – that’s a motivator, b) I know there’s an audience waiting, and c) I don’t want to be stuck doing the same thing for four years. So Volume will probably have been in development, by the time it comes out, for about two years, maybe two and a half. That sounds reasonable.

From other indie studios 18-months to two years seems a nice development length.

Yeah, and this was developed so that it could be scaled. Thomas was made for about five grand, the budget for this one is quarter of a million so it’s a bit of a jump. Knowing how to spend that money, and how to make it do everything is hard. We’ve been very lucky to be in a position to do that.

It’s also the difference between working on your own and working with a team of people.

And just good old-fashioned stupidity and a lack of preparation.

Thomas started out on a single platform and then has grown and is now out on nearly everything.

I think we’re aiming for everything, we’ll see.

Volume’s obviously gone a different route, you have the bigger budget for starters.

Yeah, we’re starting on PS4 and Vita and then a month later PC and Mac.

With the knowledge that you’d be developing for multi platforms eventually, is that something you’d be doing personally, or getting others into do?

We handle ports through a few people. Right now, my desk is mad: there’s a PlayStation 4 devkit here, a Vita one there, a bunch of others over there. My desk is all electronics. I had to get reinsured because of how many are in my home now.

The great thing about the tools I’m using – like Unity – is that you can develop once and deploy elsewhere. You don’t have to do an enourmous amount of work. It’s still a big job, it shouldn’t be underestimated.

It’s not a total rewritting though?

Yeah, you’re not talking years if work, instead it’s a couple of months. I’ll be doing some of that, but there will be a lot of more talented people taking a lot of it. I’m a big fan of giving the jobs that require the smarts to the person with the smarts. If someone’s better than me at something, I’m going to hire that person and let them do it for me.

One of those roles is with the voice acting. You have Danny Wallace back but some new ones as well.

Yes, Danny Wallace is back, but there’s also Charlie McDonnell; Kathryn Maccoll who’s a really good up-and-comer, she’s doing a lot of the additional voices; Jon Daou who’s actually a composer but as a favour for a friend he did some placeholder voices for our bad guys, he made everyone laugh so much with his voice over that we got him back in the studio – so I think it’s his first and last acting role as one of the villains in our game.

The interaction between Wallace and McDonnell was superb in the playable segment, and the voice of Danny Wallace gave it that “oh this is a Mike Bithell” game vibe. Did you record each of them individually or together?

You know what’s really cool is you’re the second interviewer to ask me that after just a few hours and it’s awesome – yes they were in the same room. And I’m more and more pleased with that choice. Basically, it’s clearer coming across in the game. We spent a day rehearsing in a loft in London, we rehearsed it like a play – all of their dialogue with each other. Then we went into a VO studio the next day and literally had them facing each other like a presidential debate. It created an energy in the room, a sense of chatter, and I’m incredibly happy with how it’s come across.

What left to do before release then?

Ha. We have to make a lot of levels, a lot of content we haven’t done yet. We’re nearly done with the server side, the boring technical gubbins that makes everything work. Then just polish. The game is pretty much done, but now I get to spend months and months and months making it as finely produced as possible.

What your favourite element of Volume at the moment?

Whenever you ask a game developer that it’ll be the last thing they saw, so the thing that just went in was the music – David’s [Housen] amazing score is now in the game. I adore it, he’s brilliant. I love that right now but that’s because it’s the new thing. If you asked me last week it would’ve been something else and if you asked me next week it’d something else.

I look forward to asking you the same question once you’re all done.

I look forward to that as well.

Our E3 2014 Awards – What Impressed Us The Most

As the doors at E3 close for another year, the videogame industry’s biggest event has produced yet another impressive year with games galore. In the past four or five years there has always been either a newly announced peripheral or the announcement of (or lead-up to) a console launch – this year was the first time that was not the case. It’s therefore somewhat surprising that Sony didn’t make more of Project Morpheus during their conference other than a passing mention of it. There was, of course, also a lot of titles that were no shows, but we’ve decided to focus just on the titles that were there.

To celebrate yet another cracking E3, we’ve compiled a list of our very own winners; those games, trailers or surprises that impressed us the most and stay at the forefront of our minds.

Best Game

First up, is No Man’s Sky as Best Game. Officially revealed at VGX 2014 to a rapturous reception, a then four-man team at Guildford-based developer Hello Games took the headlines. Showcasing a game that was both conceptually brilliant but also expertly realised, filled with vibrant colours, interesting environments, and providing the opportunity to fulfil the dreams of many space exploration enthusiasts, No Man’s Sky looked mightily impressive. It’s showing at E3 only furthered this feeling.

Confirmation that the title will be hitting PlayStation 4 first grounds it in reality, a game that is well and truly heading to a TV screen near you at some point in the (hopefully) not too distant future. Outside of a wonderfully (and procedurally generated) stylised world, No Man’s Sky will allow you to explore the vastness of space with the with almost total freedom in what you want to do. You can spend all of your time discovering new worlds, attacking or defending convoys, searching out other players that begin far, far away from you, or going on an adventure towards the centre of the universe.

No Man’s Sky is undoubtedly a hugely ambitious project, but one that has garnered near universal love and intrigue from day one – there’s no better response for a developer – and, just like VGX, it has taken E3 by storm.

Honourable mentions: Assassin’s Creed: Unity, The Division, Rainbow: Six: Siege, Sunset Overdrive, Evolve.

Best Trailer

The era of the E3 trailer is well and truly upon us, with almost every game receiving the treatment, but which ones stood out amongst the rest? Would it be the most emotive? Perhaps the most obscure? Or just the one with the most explosions? The answer is a combination of all three as Sunset Overdrive takes our Best Trailer award.

As the trailer was unveiled during Microsoft’s E3 press conference, most seemed to wonder why Battlefield Hardline (EA’s latest instalment in the popular franchise) would appear after Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare opened the show. As it transpired the bait and switch from Insomniac Games was what kickstarted this brilliant trailer. It had everything: a killer soundtrack, humour, quality CGI and was closed out with a seamless transition into some fantastic looking gameplay.

Honourable mentions: The Division, Dead Island 2, Valiant Hearts: The Great War, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

Best Debut

Every year that are a selection of games that make their debuts at E3 and this year was no different. Whilst there were lots of titles that garnered interest, it was the final debuting (after May’s leak of “Project Beast”) of Bloodborne that we’ve given Best Debut to.

The title is in development at From Software (the studio behind PlayStation 3 exclusive Demon’s Souls and the multiplatform series Dark Souls) and will be heading to the PlayStation 4 exclusively in 2015 (with a spring release now rumoured). With Hidetaka Miyazaki reprising the role as director, the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls is set in the fictional city of Yharnham in the 19th century and will sport a romantic blend of the Victorian and medieval eras.

A dark and mysterious debut trailer has since been accompanied by some terrific looking gameplay and for anyone who’s a fan of the new dubbed “Souls” genre, Bloodborne is shaping up to be a big hitter.

Honourable mentions: LittleBigPlanet 3, Halo: Master Chief Collection, Crackdown, Splatoon.

Best Gameplay Trailer

Whilst Sunset Overdrive may have taken the best trailer, the Best Gameplay Trailer goes to Rainbow Six: Siege. As this year’s final reveal at the Ubisoft conference (which is now somewhat of an expectation), Siege was unveiled as the newest title in the Rainbow Six series and replaces Patriots – which has subsequently been canned due to development issues.

It was the ideal way to show off such an impressive looking title and the level of destruction – which in compliments the degree of tactics required – was jaw-dropping. It, as The Division and Watch Dogs videos have in previous years, announced Siege in the best possible way and has it atop of many people’s most anticipated lists. The advantage of already having such a refined gameplay trailer is not worth underestimating and given that Siege is expected next year it gives great hopes of a truly spectacular game without a spectacular wait.

Honourable mentions: Assassin’s Creed: Unity, No Man’s Sky, Far Cry 4, The Division.

Best Reveal

A large part of a successful reveal is how much expectation and anticipation there is for a title. Whilst both Bloodborne and the Halo: Master Chief Collection were well received and aptly revealed, it’s LittleBigPlanet 3 that wins our Best Reveal.

With Media Molecule stating that they weren’t going to be at E3 the expectation of anything from them quickly vanished – despite those of us, myself included, that thought they might be bluffing. It seemed as though they had been telling porkies when LittleBigPlanet 3 popped up on the screen during the Sony press conference but with Sumo Digital and XDev developing the title their words remain entirely valid.

A delightful gameplay demonstration – with the reveal of the whimsical new trio of characters – was only bettered by the announcement of a November 2014 release. Having games announced and revealed within five months is something of a rarity but is mightily refreshing. It also helps bolster a somewhat spare exclusive line-up for Sony this winter.

Honourable mentions: Grim Fandango, Halo: Master Chief Collection, Bloodborne, Crackdown.

Biggest Surprise

Surprises are often the best thing about E3 and this year had some great ones. LittleBigPlanet 3, as mentioned above was a pleasant surprise, whilst the reveal of the Battlefield Hardline Beta going live during the EA press conference was a master stroke – as was Destiny’s PlayStation 4 exclusive four-day alpha period. However, the Biggest Surprise at E3 this year was the Grim Fandango HD reveal.

I must confess at having never played LucasArts title my excitement is somewhat reserved, but I know that many of the staff are ecstatic of the news. Under the wing of Tim Schafer once again – though now at Double Fine – the ‘currently’ PlayStation 4 and Vita exclusive was extremely well received during the conference and currently came out of the blue.

Honourable mentions: LittleBigPlanet 3, Battlefield Hardline Beta, Destiny PlayStation exclusive Alpha.

Favourite Common Theme

There was a clear theme running through many of the games at E3 this year: that playing with your friends is number one priority. Our Favourite Common Theme was indeed the prevalence of Co-op. Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Evolve, Fable Legends, The Division, Far Cry 4, The Crew, Driveclub, Destiny, LittleBigPlanet 3, Super Smash Bros., Yoshi Woolly Word, Splatoon, Rainbow Six: Siege, the list goes on. Although some of these obviously feature competitive multiplayer as well, there’s an emphasis on teamwork and cooperative play.

Personally, I’m unbelievably pleased. Multiplayer is a gamemode I can usually take or leave but playing on the same side with friends (usually against an AI opponent) is something I absolutely adore. Four-player Assassin’s Creed? I can’t wait. Forming a close-knit team in The Division? I’m there. All that’s left is for EA to announced a two-player mode in Mirror’s Edge 2 and all my wishes will have been answered.

Honourable mentions: Indie games not being referred to as indie games, 2015 is the year.

Favourite Gameplay Feature

In keeping with our favourite common theme is our Favourite Gameplay Feature which goes to Far Cry 4’s gameless co-op mode on PlayStation 4. Being able to play Ubisoft’s latest Far Cry title without even needing the game is both fantastic news and incredibly clever. It acts as an incredibly marketing tool, allowing players to either show off the title or try it out with a friend, and also gives a significant reason to purchase the PlayStation 4 version over any other – a big win for Sony undoubtedly.

Given that this seems set to become a core functionality component of the PS4 it could be just the first of many games to include such a feature and I cannot wait to see how it works out.

Honourable mentions: LittleBigPlanet 3’s new trio of characters, No Man’s Sky’s procedural ‘infinite’ universe, Splatoon’s ink-based mechanics.

Most Anticipated Game

Finally, our final award is that of our Most Anticipated Game. Whilst this doesn’t feature the complex algorithm that is used for our yearly Most Anticipated Games feature, it was a landslide victory for No Man’s Sky.

Unsurprising perhaps, given that it was also the winner of Best Game, but No Man’s Sky has captured the excitement of nearly everyone who has laid their eyes upon it. 2015 cannot come soon enough.

Honourable mentions: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, The Division.

First Reactions: Nintendo’s E3 Press Conference

Although not officially an E3 press conference, Nintendo held an online-only “Digital Event” (as they did last year) to reveal all of their E3 goodies. After a hectic first day – which was technically day zero – we saw Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony all impress, so it was up to Nintendo to round off the set.

Nintendo were able to do some clever things with their conference (such as the Robot Chicken opening) and executed them perfectly. The pacing was a little off in places but for the majority it was sound. There were plenty of release dates given, a bunch of new games revealed and even a new IP – marvellous. It’s time to find out what the team thought.


Favourite Moment: The Robot Chicken opening. As a fan of the show it was wonderful to see the Nintendo characters and Reggie Fils-Aime recreated in that style. It was also a complete surprise from what was expected.

Best Trailer: Splatoon. Whilst Zelda looks incredible, Splatoon was a brand new IP for Nintendo and a fantastic premise that was well demonstrated.

Best Announcement: The Legend of Zelda reveal. The snap of fingers to reveal the luscious field behind him was a class moment by Eiji Aonuma.

Biggest Surprise: That Star Fox for Wii U wasn’t given any screen time. Utter madness.

Biggest Let-Down: The number of titles slated for 2015. Hyrule Warriors and Bayonetta 2 seem to make up the remainder of – a third-party sparse – remainder of 2014 for the Wii U – given that I suspect Super Smash Bros on Wii U to be pushed into 2015.

Most Anticipated Game: Splatoon. A refreshing new excursion by Nintendo and one that looks mightily interesting.

Common Theme: 2015. What have Nintendo’s studios been doing for the past few years?!

Three-Word Summary: Good but late.


Favourite Moment: When they alluded to the fact the new Legend of Zelda was going to be open world. That is significant news in itself!

Best Trailer: That Reggie Fils-Aime versus Satoru Iwata Super Smash Bros trailer was intense, with a couple of important announcements thrown in such as using Miis and NFC toys to play the game. A strong opening.

Best Announcement: Nintendo announces a new IP called Splatoon that is an interesting take on third-person shooters. It’s genuinely interesting which is more than can be said for a lot of their more recent new IPs.

Biggest Surprise: A new Star Fox game on Wii U that uses the gamepad? Miyamoto is on board to design it? [Ed – and it wasn’t even in the main conference!] Sign me up! Can’t wait to hear more later!

Biggest Let-Down: We’ve just had a Kirby game release on Nintendo 3DS and while the one on show was more of a sequel to Kirby’s Power Paintbrush, it feels too soon compared to the long hiatus of other franchises.

Most Anticipated Game: The now named Xenoblade Chronicles X is probably the one to look out for, despite its trailer being one of those weird dodgy over-dubbed monstrosities that only work in Japan, with next to no gameplay shown off.

Common Theme: With only two 3DS games in the main conference, Nintendo placing all their bets on enhancing the Wii U. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but both Nintendo and Sony have all but abandoned the notion of showing new games for their handheld devices in their conferences.

Three-Word Summary: All Wii U.


Favourite Moment: Oooh, so hard to choose! The reveal of customisable Mii characters in Smash Bros. made my heart race, but I actually cheered when I saw that Zelda was playable in Hyrule Warriors, disrupting others in the office.

Best Trailer: Smash Bros. trailers really know what they’re doing – you’re more excited for the introduction animations more than the gameplay footage (something that large cinematic trailers often hope for but don’t always achieve). Reggie and Iwata going toe-to-toe was pretty hype, but the animation of Link fighting Pit, accompanied by the irreverent dialogue style of Kid Icarus Uprising took the cake.

Best Announcement: The Kirby Canvas Curse sequel for WiiU. The DS game was absolutely incredible and one of the few games I’ve 100% completed.

Biggest Surprise: Again, that Kirby Canvas Curse. Nintendo’s announcements were almost all well-forecasted (or leaked, in the case of Mario Maker), and this was a rad surprise.

Biggest Let-Down: It was all pretty cool, but I was expecting more news out of Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire. Stuff like mega evolutions were revealed days ago, and the engine being that of X/Y was a foregone conclusion. Where are the alternate costumes? Where are the secret bases?

Most Anticipated Game: I need that Smash Bros. in my life, yo. Bayonetta 2 is pretty much equal anticipation, and it’s great that the first Bayonetta is packaged in.

Common Theme: Genuine cheerfulness. Even with the more dramatic games like Zelda Wii U and Xenoblade Chronicles X, everything is vibrant and energetic. No ironic Christmas songs sung over ruined cities or anything! Even Nintendo’s attempt at a shooty-gun game is about paint and squid-people. That’s so whimsical my heart might explode.

Three Word Summary: Buy WiiU, nerds.

First Reactions: Sony’s E3 Press Conference

The last of the opening day’s conferences (with Nintendo to come tomorrow) was Sony. Following on from Microsoft, EA and then Ubisoft, what would Sony bring to the table? The answer? A ton of new stuff with a drab half an hour in the middle.

There was a plethora of new content announced, some truly wonderful surprises and a strengthening of Sony’s 2014 showing. It’s late here in the UK, but what did the One Hit Pixel team think of the Sony E3 press conference?


Favourite Moment: The LittleBigPlanet 3 reveal. Having claimed they weren’t attending E3 this year for Media Molecule to pull a fast one on us all was wonderful. Given that it is Sumo Digital and XDEV developing the latest LittleBigPlanet title they haven’t pulled a fast one on us at all.

Best Trailer: It’s a tussle between No Man’s Sky’s wonderful appeal and the superb direction of the Dead Island 2 one that was so polarising to the originals infamous trailer.

Best Announcement: Though I’ve never actually played it, seeing everyone else reaction to Grim Fandago being remastered for PlayStation 4 was priceless.

Biggest Surprise: Again, LittleBigPlanet 3 not only appearing and looking so brilliant, but that it’s out in just five months – such a rarity for the industry.

Biggest Let-Down: The slow half an hour in the middle. I don’t mind that content in a press conference but it could easily have been condensed into half of the time. It threw off the pacing of what was otherwise a great conference.

Most Anticipated Game: No Man’s Sky – what a simply breathtaking prospect, but then again… Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Common Theme: New games. Entwined, InFamous: First Light, Bloodborne, LittleBigPlanet 3, Dead Island 2, Grim Fandango remaster, Let It Die, Abzu and more – it’s an impressive list.

Three-Word Summary: Continuing strong indeed.


Favourite Moment: That “letter” that turned out to be from Tim Schafer and my dreams came true as a result.

Best Trailer: No Man’s Sky trailer shows off the ambition from the tiny indie studio. Inter-planet exploration and dog-fights.

Best Announcement: Out of nowhere, LittleBigPlanet 3 was announced with new characters that have unique abilities. Unbelievably cute stuff.

Biggest Surprise: Grim Fandango for PS4! There are tears running down my eyes. Schafer finally listened and Sony are re-hosting my dreams. Thank you!

Biggest Let-Down: As is always the case with Sony, their conference was way too long. One or two announcements could have been omitted, like the overly long Television segment or talking at length about PS Vita but not revealing any exclusive games.

Most Anticipated Game: There’s so many to choose from. Grim Fandango for nostalgia, No Man’s Sky for ambition, and more. I’m psyched for Bloodborne however as the expectation is that it will channel the spirit of Demon’s Souls.

Common Theme: Sony want to sell us the PlayStation 4, so are doubling down on games for the system to the detriment of the PS Vita. It seems to have been relegated to a second-fiddle device. But the games on PS4 are superb and the exclusives are potentially game-changing.

Three-Word Summary: Take my money!


Favourite Moment: That No Man’s Sky trailer. My god that was insanely awesome. Completely stole the damn show. Just wow.

Best Trailer: Dead Island 2. Completely unexpected, hilarious, really great to watch. I’m actually pretty excited about it now.

Best Announcement: Entwined’s reveal and subsequent availability announcement was fantastic. I’ll absolutely be picking that one up.

Biggest Surprise: LittleBigPlanet 3! Christ it looked bloody adorable. I can’t wait to try all the new characters, especially Oddsock. Didn’t see that one coming at all.

Biggest Let-Down: Everything to do with Shawn Layden and TV and Movies and… urgh. Why did they have that section? Why!?

Most Anticipated Game: This was a toss-up. I don’t really like Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls, but it was hard not to get really excited looking at Bloodborne. On the other hand, No Man’s Sky. Just wow.

Common Theme: Exclusive. Whether it’s console exclusive, timed exclusive, exclusive DLC, exclusive beta and alphas, Sony was really throwing the word out a lot.

Three-Word Summary: NO. MAN’S. SKY.

First Reactions: Ubisoft’s E3 Press Conference

Third in line, so how did Ubisoft do? Having already given our reaction to Microsoft’s and then EA’s conferences it was the French publisher up next. The past two years has seen Ubisoft spring a big surprise on us as they close out their conference so we were hoping for something similar today – and they didn’t disappoint.

Similar to EA, there was much new but what was shown was incredibly strong and leaves Ubisoft with an extremely promising 2014 and 2015 already. Overall they have a strong, albeit safe showing with one or two surprises. What did the team think of the conference though? Let’s see.


Favourite Moment: Before the conference even kicked off I was looking forward to the closing reveal from Ubisoft. For the past two years they’ve blown everyone away with reveals for Watch Dogs and then The Division and now closing with Rainbow Six: Siege was just as impressive.

Best Trailer: The Division’s story trailer had utterly sublime direction. It’s up there with some of the best trailers from the past few years in my mind.

Best Announcement: There was little new from Ubisoft – despite their strong showing – but Siege would likely have claimed this anyway.

Biggest Surprise: Whilst Rainbow Six was a lovely treat, I have a feeling we’d see Patriots there in some form – even if it has been officially canned and replaced with Siege now – Just Dance Now is an astute move.

Biggest Let-Down: That Patriots has been cancelled, but at least something good came out of it.

Most Anticipated Game: The Division - it’s the game I’ve always wanted.

Common Theme: Co-op: Unity, Just Dance, The Crew, Siege, and The Division are so heavily focused on playing with your friends.

Three-Word Summary: Impressive yet again.


Favourite Moment: The fact that Ubisoft’s last trailer was another unannounced, un-leaked game. They’ve only gone and done the hat-trick.

Best Trailer: Such a stark contrast to the beautiful Rayman Legends and the whimsical Child of Light, Valiant Hearts: The Great War was perhaps the most moving trailer I’ve seen at E3. Evoking strong emotions is hard to do and thankfully we don’t have to wait long to see more of this intriguing title.

Best Announcement: So Rainbow Six: Patriots is no more, but that doesn’t mean the franchise is dead as Rainbow Six: Siege takes the mantle. Gameplay trailer was impressive, though I suspect that while the gameplay will act a bit like this, the final product will look significantly different.

Biggest Let-Down: Generally quite happy and impressed with Ubisoft, though there was hardly games beyond the 2014 window. They’re definitely up to something as only nine games from such a big studio is suspicious.

Most Anticipated Game: Far Cry 4‘s story trailer was a strong opening for Ubisoft, with another unhinged antagonist and intriguing setup. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what the new location has to offer in gameplay.

Common Theme: Ubisoft’s focus was primarily on spectacle. It shows in the trailers and demonstrations. While a lot of it was familiar ground that we’re seen incarnations of before, there are the little details that are stunning.

Three-Word Summary: Consistent, yet Spartan.


Favourite Moment: The Far Cry 4 intro. Man, that game looks like it opens hella strong. The new villain looks fantastic and I hope he’s a worthy successor to the excellent Vaas.

Best Trailer: The Valiant Hearts trailer was excellent. What a gorgeous game, and very emotionally charged. That UbiArt engine makes for some incredible looking games.

Best Announcement: Rainbow Six: Siege looked ace from a multiplayer standpoint. Let’s hope the single player is great too.

Biggest Surprise: Seeing Gary Steinman do pushups on stage. That… uh… yeah. That was certainly a thing.

Biggest Let-Down: The cancellation of Rainbow Six: Patriots. I really liked the look of that game when it was originally announced, and while Siege looks cool, there’s a part of me that wishes we got Patriots instead.

Most Anticipated Game: Surprisingly, Assassin’s Creed :Unity.I have very little hype for Assassin’s Creed these days, generally, but man Unity looks stunning. Like, really damn beautiful.

Common Theme: Cursing.

Three-Word Summary: Aisha’s potty mouth.

First Reactions: EA’s E3 Press Conference

Two down, two to go. We’ve already give our reaction to Microsoft’s E3 press conference, but now onto EA. Clocking in at just an hour, EA didn’t actually announce anything new. There was a revisit for things announced last year – such as Battlefront and Mirror’s Edge 2, a look at the yearly sports franchises, a game that would’ve been new if it weren’t for last week’s leak, and then a look at what a duo of studios are doing without actually announcing anything.

Ultimately, EA’s conference felt a little bare, especially given the severe lack of new titles, but that doesn’t mean what they did show wasn’t impressive. Let’s take a look at what the team thought of the conference.


Favourite Moment: Either: the opening the conference with the iconic Star Wars music from the Battlefront trailer – it sent shivers down my spine; or the Bruce Lee snippet before UFC was shown.

Best Trailer: The Battlefront trailer was superb, but it has to be Mirror’s Edge 2 – that game can’t arrive soon enough.

Best Announcement: That a Battlefield Hardline beta is out now on PC and PlayStation 4 – it’s just a shame that the EA servers crumbled.

Biggest Surprise: It’ll have to be the Hardline beta.

Biggest Let-Down: The lack of new games. There was such a void from EA this year – especially when compared with the impressive showing last year.

Most Anticipated Game: Mirror’s Edge 2 without a doubt – there was nothing new this year to change my tune on that.

Common Theme: Showing off more of what we know.

Three-Word Summary: 2013 part II.


Favourite Moment: Seeing new Mirror’s Edge stuff. I love Mirror’s Edge and was ecstatic when they unveiled the new game last year. Seeing more of that, even if it was only concept stuff, and the remixed theme got me all excited.

Best Trailer: I loved the Star Wars: Battlefront trailer/intro video thing right at the start. Made me really nostalgic and the bits they did show of in-engine footage looked stunning.

Best Announcement: The Battlefield Hardline beta being available today!

Biggest Surprise: Uhhh… I guess the Battlefield thing again.

Biggest Let-Down: The Sims 4 – mainly because I couldn’t care less about new Sims or Agnes or Chuck or whoever.

Most Anticipated Game: It’s got to be Mirror’s Edge again. I can’t wait to play that game.

Common Theme: Inspirational speeches and sports.

Three-Word Summary: Idris Elba man.


Favourite Moment: Mirror’s Edge 2 footage. Iconic soundtrack (remixed) with that same clean and vibrant visual identity. A long time coming but great to see a sequel in concrete.

Best Trailer: FIFA 15. They always go full-out on hyping FIFA games, a great show of ambition with many tweaks and features making it as realistic as it gets.

Best Announcement: Battlefield Hardline beta now available. Quite the shock, but a welcome one that will have fans scrambling for their DualShock 4s.

Biggest Surprise: Again, the Battlefield beta reveal, it came right out of nowhere.

Biggest Let-Down: Dawngate. Looks to try to penetrate a genre already crowded with similar experiences, yet seemed far too mediocre to compete.

Most Anticipated Game: Mirror’s Edge 2, there is nothing quite like it. A great experience that is fresh in visuals and gameplay, cannot wait.

Common Theme: Applying polish or new coats of paint to established IPs. Very little in the way of new, the Ford Fiesta of gaming, same car – little tweaks.

Three-Word Summary: Milking the cows.


Favourite Moment: The conference from EA was dull, largely as expected, so when they announced the Battlefield Hardline beta would be opening now, I could feel the ripples as a world immediately scrambled to go to their PS4 and PCs to sign up.

Best Trailer: There weren’t many trailers as EA decided to let the devs talk. Star Wars: Battlefront would have taken it if there was actual gameplay, but there wasn’t. Mirror’s Edge 2 on the other hand did have some gameplay footage, so I’d say that’s the “best”.

Best Announcement: Having Battlefield Hardline‘s beta launch today is a huge deal. Given the gameplay footage we just saw, the hype was there before the surprise reveal. If you have a PS4 or PC, go grab it now while you can! If you have an Xbox One though, you will have to wait.

Biggest Let-Down: EA’s conference in general was a bit dull to watch, but by far the biggest letdown was not showing any proper gameplay for Star Wars: Battlefront. They teased us with brief glimpses before kicking us in the groin by promising to show more in Spring 2015. That’s almost a year away…

Most Anticipated Game: What little we actually saw of Mirror’s Edge 2 was still the most genuinely pleasing part of the conference. The Frostbyte 3 engine looks sweet rendering those parkour moves and the first-person fighting looks more fluid than the first one.

Common Theme: EA wanted to do things differently this year, so this meant a lot of people talking about their games, rather than letting the games speak for themselves. It didn’t work well.

Three-Word Summary: Shut Up Already!


Favourite Moment: I’m a man for loving spectacle. Fireworks. Confetti you name it. So EA ending with a ‘look you can play Hardline right now’ was a stellar move.

Best Trailer: Not really a trailer, but the Criterion announcement made my day. ATV’s, wing suits and more powered by the hype and energy that Criterion pour into every game.

Best Announcement: Mass Effect is going to be incredible. We all know that however the next installment looks the most ambitious yet. Fly where you want, worlds of incredible uniqueness; BioWare are cementing themselves as the Pixar of the gaming world.

Biggest Surprise: PGA Tour. Flaming balls of mercy and a battleship course. Perfect.

Biggest Let-Down: Not being able to download the Hardline beta.

Most Anticipated Game: Mass Effect future game name. The series just can’t get any better. Or can it. Hold me close.

Common Theme: What can we do better.

Three-Word Summary: What in-app purchases?

First Reactions: Microsoft’s E3 Press Conference

E3 is here, and it’s as loud and boisterous as ever. Microsoft kicked off the quartet of conferences (as usual) with a solid 90 minutes of games. Keen to make up for the huge misstep last year there wasn’t even an uttering of TV services or exclusive sports deal for the Xbox brand. This year was all about the games.

Focusing on a core audience is a smart move but as a result it felt a little bit safe for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, it was a solid showing from Microsoft and far better than last year, but there was little that left me wowed. That said, it seems most of the crew here at One Hit Pixel enjoyed the show.

In an attempt to make both the turnaround of these articles – yes, it’s the first of a few – and the reading length manageable, we’re breaking down out thoughts and opinions into a few key points. So without further adieu, our first reactions on the Microsoft E3 press conference.


Favourite Moment: Initially thinking that the Sunset Overdrive trailer was for Battlefield: Hardline. It set up what was a simply wonderful trailer and demo for one of the Xbox One’s most exciting looking titles.

Best Trailer: Unsurprisingly – the Sunset Overdrive trailer. Watch it and smile, there’s no other way to do it.

Best Announcement: As a massive fan of the Tomb Raider reboot it has to be the confirmation and reveal of Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Biggest Surprise: The lack of non-games stuff. After last year’s TV heavy focus to drop that so quickly is a massive surprise in my book.

Biggest Let-Down: Only thirty minutes given to newly announced games.

Most Anticipated Game: Assassin’s Creed: Unity and it’s four-player co-op. It’s something I’ve wanted in the series since Brotherhood so I am so pleased to finally see it.

Common Theme: Timed-exclusive DLC. There was a ton of it and seemingly just the reason to show a lot of what we’ve already heard about again.

Three-Word Summary: Safe as houses.


Favourite Moment: It’s hard to pick a favourite moment because the pacing of the press conference was pretty steady the whole way. The Halo music introducing Bonny Ross probably sneaks it.

Best Trailer: I think it’s hard to look past Sunset Overdrive for this. It was a clever trailer with a cool bait and switch.

Best Announcement: The Halo: Master Chief Collection was the big one for me. I’m a big Halo fan, and seeing them pack so much stuff into that package and giving Halo 2 the Anniversary upgrade was ace.

Biggest Surprise: I can’t say I was expecting to see a Tomb Raider sequel announcement, that’s for sure! Only a CG trailer, but it still looked interesting at least.

Biggest Let-Down: No real megaton or stand-out game for me. I came out of it thinking they did a better show than usual, but I still have no desire to buy an Xbox One.

Most Anticipated Game: Sunset Overdrive looks great, but I hope it’s not just a looker. If it’s as fun to play as it is to watch videos, it’ll be an excellent game. I’m less confident in Insomniac than I used to be, but Sunset Overdrive looks great.

Common Theme: Co-op. There was a lot of co-op there! Evolve, Unity, Crackdown, The Division etc. It’s nice to see co-op make a return.

Three-word summary – Cool, I guess.


Favourite Moment: Crackdown reboot came out of nowhere, havoc levels have increase exponentially.

Best Trailer: Sunset Overdrive got a riotous, attention-grabbing, tongue-in-cheek introduction.

Best Announcement: Crackdown reboot’s been a while coming, but Scalebound was suitably epic.

Biggest Surprise: Seriously, where did that Crackdown reboot come from?

Biggest let-down: Probably Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, for not looking like enough of a leap forward and for a distinct lack of Kevin Spacey.

Most Anticipated: Crackdown, but Unity looks sublime.

Common Theme: Games, games, games, with a healthy emphasis on exclusivity being earned back by Microsoft.

Three Word Summary – Loads of games.


Favourite Moment: Winking at the dragon during Scalebound. Standard Platinum cockiness but in a riduclous location.

Best Trailer: Crackdown was teased last year but this year it got it’s day. So excited for the game that will bring back the addictive nature of orb hunting.

Best Announcement: Four-player co op in Unity.

Biggest Surprise: Crackdown.

Biggest Let-Down: Where were all the Kinect games. was really looking forward to seeing another game massacred by control.

Most Anticipated Game: Crackdown.

Common Theme: Giving the gamers what they want.

Three-Word Summary: Past mistakes rectified.


Favourite Moment: Halo: Master Chief Collection announcement, the theme music gets me everytime.

Best Trailer: Sunset Overdrive, over the top, funny, action packed and a good jolt of energy to hammer home the craziness one can expect from this unique game.

Best Announcement: Crackdown. Loved the first, ground through the second, have high expectations of the third having displayed its online direction.

Biggest Surprise: No TV features mentioned. Seriously; Forza getting the Nurburgring for free, great surprise and most welcome.

Biggest Let-Down: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare! Starting with that had me thinking “here we go again”. Looks okay, but I didn’t feel any excitement for it at all.

Most Anticipated Game: Tough, Sunset Overdrive or Crackdown? The Halo fan inside wants to get a say in too. But I will have to go with Sunset Overdrive, fresh and full of energy – colour me hyped.

Common Theme: Games, pretty much all action and intense, like a statement countering doubts of the system’s ability to entertain through blockbuster titles

Three-Word Summary: The right direction.


Favourite Moment: “Cover mechanics eh?” – Sunset Overdrive took a huge dig at cover-shooters by showing a soldier being harassed by troops with this line.

Best Trailer: Scalebound had me initially thinking it was going to be one of Platinum’s more serious games. That wink destroyed that notion very quickly and what ensues has me excited and somewhat giddy. Well done Platinum!

Best Announcement: 100 multiplayer maps in Halo: Master Chief Collection? Dedicated servers and 60fps/1080p? 343 certainly know how to get the most of Microsoft’s machines, even if Halo 3/Halo 4 aren’t getting visual upgrades, so here’s hoping this paves the way for the rest of the developers to get the most out of Xbox One.

Biggest Surprise: Bayonetta 2 wouldn’t have been funded if it wasn’t for Nintendo, while The Wonderful 101 was a great looking game for the Wii U. Somehow, having Platinum make an Xbox One exclusive in the form of Scalebound seems somewhat dirty, yet I like it.

Biggest Let-Down: Harmonix, you’re a great studio and we know you love music. But you need to ditch the dancing game and work on something new. Sure Rock Band’s plastic instruments are so 2009, but they need to broaden their horizons slightly beyond Disney and Dance Central.

Most Anticipated Game: This category is tough to call to be honest as there were a lot to look forward to. I’m still going with Evolve for this year as I love what Turtle Rock Studios are doing with it, but for next year I’ll probably say Scalebound.

Common Theme: Unlike previous E3’s, we saw no sports games, no TV companion apps, and no corporate guests. This year was all about the games, whether it was indie, exclusive or AAA.

Three-Word Summary: Xbox One Redemption

Our E3 2014 Predictions

With just a few days until E3 2014 when we’ll hear about and see more new games than at any other time in the year. This is the stage for the big announcements now that the new-generation of consoles are out in the wild. What will they bring to the table? What will the publishers offer up? What surprises are in store? Who knows, but we’ll take a good guess. Below are our predictions for this year’s E3: enjoy!


Project Morpheus to be given a release window

With Sony’s own Virtual Reality headset out in the open now, I can see it getting a small amount of stage time during their E3 press conference. During such a period I would expect a release window to be announced. Something quite vague, perhaps even just a year, but ideally a quarter to go with it. My money’s on the end of 2015.

The Guardian finally reappears as a PlayStation 4 exclusive

After years of absence Team ICO’s latest title will finally be revealed. After popping up five years ago it’s time. I suspect the reason for the delay was initially due to a design shift but then was to retool the game for the new hardware that Sony were planning on releasing. Now that the PlayStation 4 is out on the market it’s time to show face.

If it fails to make an appearance then you must wonder if it will ever see the light of day and just how a studio can go ten years without releasing a title. It’s now or likely never for the hotly anticipated exclusive.

Sony go heavy on the games

No fewer than ten new games, with four of those being new IPs all announced for the PlayStation 4 – though few, if any will release this year. There will be plenty of indie titles that’s for sure, but I suspect we’ll see what many of Sony’s first-party studios have been up to over the past few years.

Microsoft migrate three franchise to Xbox One

I predict Gears of War, Crackdown and Fable but we’ll wait and see. In an attempt (and likely a successful one) to appease Xbox One fans, Microsoft will usher in the revitalisation of several of their well-known franchises. Add on top of this the strongly rumoured Halo Anniversary 2 as well.

PlayStation Now to go into open beta “tomorrow”

Sony to attempt an Apple tactic and announce that their PlayStation Now service will go into open beta “tomorrow” (i.e. June 10, 2014). The service will remain free as users trial the service before a full, official roll-out at the end of July. Obviously this will be America only.


Nintendo to announce new Metroid title

It’s hard to tell where Nintendo are going with the 3DS and Wii U. They’ve already announced Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, so that particular surprise is now gone. Knowing Nintendo though, their hand isn’t completely dealt.

Of all the franchises that Nintendo has under wraps at the moment, Metroid seems the most likely to get a new instalment. The last one we had was the misguided Metroid: Other M for the Wii by Team Ninja, a stain on an otherwise stellar franchise. Metroid Prime was perhaps the best first person shooter on the Gamecube, while the classic Metroid-vania gameplay hasn’t been properly represented since the Gameboy Advance remake of the original!

As for which platform, my money is on Wii U as it desperately needs a big system seller. Of course, I’d love to see Retro Studios (fresh off Donkey Kong Country : Tropical Freeze) to make a comeback to the classic Metroid Prime gameplay. They could do so many things with the Gamepad for this one that it seems silly not to take the chance.

That said, the installed user-base for the 3DS means that putting a throwback to the classic Metroid games wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Given their involvement with the Donkey Kong Country franchise of late, Retro Studios have a way of making 2D gameplay shine on the 3DS. A new adventure would be wonderful, though an updated version of Samus’ second adventure which debuted on the Gameboy would also sell well. If it’s developed by someone other than Retro Studios, the fans will be watching with scepticism.

Sony’s Morpheus Headset to launch in 2015

VR gaming is slowly in development. Morpheus is Sony’s answer and some members of the press have already seen demos for this project. The signs are that Sony’s pace is building with this product’s development and that we could see some kind of on-stage demo at their press conference.

It won’t be the same as putting it on, but there could be a screen showing their field of view, looking around the cockpit of a space fighter ship or walking around a dungeon with torch in hand. We probably won’t see any games for this device at E3 as it’s very likely we’re still at tech-demo stage.

As for price, they probably won’t reveal that unless it launches in early 2015. If we have another E3 to get through before the launch of Morpheus, the pricing will probably be revealed then, ranging somewhere around $150 or £100. Needless to say, PS4 owners will have things to keep them going in the meantime!

Microsoft to announce Halo 2: Anniversary in 2014, Halo 5 in 2015

The future of the Halo franchise isn’t clear cut, but chances are that 343 Industries will want to celebrate the Xbox game that popularised Xbox Live, given that it is 10 years old this year. We got Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary back in 2011 which saw the original game being faithfully ported while a brand new HD textures updated the game to Xbox 360 quality.

Halo 4 was a stunning looking game back in 2012 on hardware that in all fairness shouldn’t be able to run it so well. Using a variant of the same engine wouldn’t be hard, though there is the expectation of the original visuals being ported.

But then what about the multiplayer? If it is on Xbox 360, then the classic maps can just go on Halo 4 as an Anniversary Map Pack, much like Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary’s maps were converted to the Halo: Reach engine. If it is on Xbox One however, it would mark the first Halo title on the new console. Of course, it could be that Halo 5 would see the light of day first, meaning that 343 could port the classic maps to the Xbox One, but they could rebuild the multiplayer from the ground up on the new Microsoft console. To not include multiplayer seems a bit of an insult to the legacy of Halo 2 so, if announced, we expect them to reveal how multiplayer will work out.

EA reveal that Star Wars: Battlefront will release close to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s release date. Battlefront 3 to launch this year.

EA have been looking for something to fill in the shoes that Medal of Honor left behind. While candidates for annual franchises include Crysis and Dead Space, neither of those really fit. Dead Space is the wrong genre, while Crysis hasn’t traditionally launched in this vital period.

Having recently acquired Star Wars: Battlefront from the recent downsizing of Lucasarts, having this revived as a bi-annual franchise makes sense financially. The IP is there and the gameplay is fondly remembered. While the third person shooting gameplay is not the norm, it would be high-profile enough to get away with it.

As for gameplay, I really want to see the vision of Pandemic Studio’s Star Wars: Battlefront 3 being put into effect. That essentially means large-scale battles, with the new mechanic being that you can seamlessly transition from space combat to planetary warfare. The demonstration that Pandemic showcased proved that it was entirely possible. With next-gen hardware, it could be even better! Will there be a console exclusivity deal on DLC? More than likely!

Ubisoft to re-reveal Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Patriots and announce launch date of Tom Clancy’s The Division – possible “in memory of Tom Clancy” section in conference.

This will be the first year that Ubisoft will be talking about the late author that has inspired many of their successful shooters; Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six and Splinter Cell just to name a few. No doubt they’d want to show their appreciation by launching titles under his name out of respect, so E3 2014 could see a surge in Tom Clancy titles.

We last saw Tom Clancy’s Rainbox Six: Patriots at E3 2011. It was hugely impressive looking, perhaps being the first real next-gen footage we saw, before Ubisoft blew us away with Watch Dogs a year after, before Tom Clancy’s The Division took centre stage the year after that! The latter game probably seems most next-gen in terms of its multiplayer mechanics, but let’s not rule out Rainbow Six: Patriots.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see The Division take the spot that Ubisoft filled with Watch Dogs in last year’s conference and for Rainbow Six: Patriots to take the “and finally” spot. Will it be the same? I doubt it, but it will probably impress just as much!

Final Fantasy XV releasing worldwide in MMXV – on-stage demo at Sony Conference

See what I did there? Well if Square Enix wants to exploit that particular marketing gimmick, then now is the best chance to take it.

I would also love to see that new snazzy engine debuted a few years ago, showing actual gameplay. The battle system, which fans will hope is more of a throwback to the ATB system or even something turn based, given that Square Enix finally admitted that worldwide audiences actually liked JRPG game mechanics and that they somehow failed to notice this throughout the Final Fantasy XIII days.

With its recent commercial success with Bravely Default (despite some issues), there’s little doubt that the company is slowly getting over their troubles. They’re a publisher with some great studios under their belt thanks to their offshore acquisitions. Now all they need to do is step up with their core products – the games that got them to where they are now. JRPGs are still in-vogue worldwide, something the Japanese developer needs to understand quickly. Hopefully E3 will be where they demonstrate that.

New Rockstar title revealed during Sony or Microsoft conference

It’s very rare that Rockstar make an appearance at E3. Heck, when Peter Moore revealed his new GTA IV “tattoo” at E3 2006, that was a rare moment where the developer let one of the big publishers reveal their upcoming titles.

But what could it be? Smart money is on one of three properties. Either the next-gen and PC versions of GTA V, something new, or the long dormant PlayStation 3 exclusive Agent.

In fact, Agent isn’t a bad shout considering the vapourware reputation that LA Noire got before it finally graced our screens. If Agent is to finally come out, it would need to be on next-gen hardware.

So why is this a possibility? Hidden in their end of tax year financial results, there was news that before the end of March 2015, Rockstar will launch a game. This is the first we’ve heard of this, so the likelihood that they’ll use the biggest stage in the world to reveal it doesn’t seem far-fetched.


Well it wouldn’t be E3 without picking out of the air some crazy predictions now would it. After last years car crash of a Microsoft conference and Sony being cheered for announcing what the people wanted, who knows what can pop out of the Los Angeles Convention Centre come the June 9.

Crash Bandicoot makes his long-awaited return

Too much happened last year regarding the Crash Bandicoot licences to just let this rumour die as Activision seem set about making a Crash game… eventually. They have admitted that they have no foreseeable plans to do a Crash game but then, when can you believe what a publisher says.

Crash Bandicoot to succeed on the current-generation needs an idea. The original series broke boundaries on what was possible in the platform genre however with open world games now becoming as common as leaves in the wind, Crash Bandicoot would have to do a Super Mario 3D World at least to have a chance of making the dent that the original series did after the brand was destroyed by the latter releases in the series.

All is needed is a teaser video at the end of the Sony conference to please a huge amount of fanboys/girls and start another round of investigating background details of every Sony video.

Avalanche Studios finally reveal Just Cause 3

The Swedish developers are currently working on the Mad Max game but what’s stopping the company from doing a tag team double team move on the PS4 & Xbox One by releasing a sequel to one of the most stunning and architecturally advanced games of the past generation.

Just Cause 2 was only outdone on scope by GTA V, which came at the end of the PS3 consoles life-cycle, so a company like Avalanche who are known for realising console potential early on creating another addition to the series would make me warm with titillation. Imagine the possibilities: grapple hook your way through buildings which result in your character being dragged through glass, wood shards, desks and all before smashing out the other side successfully attached to an enemy helicopter.

Skate 4 ollies into shot

University consisted of playing FIFA against housemates and brutal Skate 3 sessions where the aim was to beat each others spots with simple tricks. Simple in the context of Tony Hawk as it would only take a tap of ‘square + left’ to pull off a kick flip, whilst in Skate it was more like ‘push up down, twist analog stick, throw stick down’.

The added precision of the PS4 controller, the best controller ever made in my opinion, would only add to their pure technicality of the game and would allow EA to hopefully bring the same oozing addictive quality that the previous three did. On a side note, if the super ramp is in the game again, then I’m instantly sold.

Parappa the Rapper lays down the beats

There is no words to describe how much joy this would bring to a new generation of gamers. To exemplify that, just watch the video below and imagine how this could work on PS4; touch pad integration and the light bar would expand on the input methods available to the developers. A revolution in rhythm games could start on the PS4.

EA continue the Dead Space franchise

EA go back to basics and create the sequel to Dead Space 2 that was supposed to happen instead of thinking that gamers wanted the Mass Effect mould ported across to the horror genre. Keep it suspenseful EA and drop the in-app purchases. Dead Space 4 (or appropriate subtitle) can be a revolution in horror if the strict rules of the first game are obeyed and the new consoles are engineered to show their future potential.

Also, if another nursery rhyme gets Del Torro-fied by EA then the series will be back on track.


Sony to debut Uncharted 4 gameplay

With a pretty thin roster of first-party exclusives currently announced, Sony need to bring out the big guns to impress PlayStation fans. With all the apparent turmoil at Naughty Dog that has seen key figures move on from the former Crash Bandicoot developer, impressing us with gameplay for the new Uncharted title would be the ultimate statement of intent.

Ubisoft close their conference with an unannounced new project

With Watch Dogs and The Division ending the last two Ubisoft conferences on a massive high, the French publisher could very well have something new up their sleeve for this year. Expect the unexpected.

Michel Ancel shows off Beyond Good & Evil sequel

The legendary French videogame icon has been on great form recently, with his team creating two of the best platformers of last generation in Rayman Origins and Legends. I’d expect to see the limbless wonder take a break to make way the highly anticipated sequel to cult-classic Beyond Good & Evil.

Star Wars: Battlefront will win ‘Game of the Show’

The PlayStation 2 generation’s best shooter franchise is finally getting a new instalment, and with DICE at the helm the new Battlefront could blow people away. Perhaps the most anticipated game for this year’s EA conference, I can see Star Wars: Battlefront stealing the whole show.

A Tomb Raider sequel will be announced

Although sales of Square Enix’s Tomb Raider re-boot initially disappointed the legendary publisher, the game put Lara Croft firmly back in vogue and a sequel can surely be expected – before the Definitive Edition on next-gen ensured the title turned a profit. With the game already said to be in the works, I’d expect a full-scale announcement at E3.


A bunch of reveals for Pokémon Omega Red and Alpha Sapphire:

Following the brief (and vaguely rushed) announcement trailer Nintendo put out last month, more in-depth information is on the cards.

Fans will hope for a mention of Secret Bases, but we’ll most likely just see key areas of the Hoenn region remastered in Pokémon X/Y style. There’s reasonable odds of being able to change the player’s skin tone and clothing, but Pokémon games tend not to transfer features between their games.

Ubisoft continues to push Watch Dogs:

You thought the overly forced hype train was over? Nope! Even though Ubisoft is not best friends with Nintendo right now, the production of the WiiU version of Watch Dogs will definitely give them something to talk about. Not putting the Game Pad to good use would be a crime.

It won’t be directly announced, but depending on the game’s reception, Ubisoft may release new Watch Dogs titles on the regular, similar to what they already do with Assassin’s Creed. Maybe a crossover is on the cards?

Sony continues to push Indie Gaming… on Vita:

The Vita is not dead, Sony promise you. They’ve always had a big commitment to releasing Indie titles on their hardware, and if Hotline Miami, OlliOlli and Luftrausers are anything to go by, they like releasing them on the Vita’s PSN store.

Transistor is already doing so well, I would figure a port of that would be likely (maybe even Bastion too – it’s already on most other platforms). The likes of Mercenary Kings with Ad Hoc play would be marvelous.

Square Enix will release concrete info on their big upcoming titles:

We’ve been teased by shiny trailers and screenshots of Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3 all year – and now it’s time for the publisher to put up or shut up.

I’m hoping for some solid 5-10 minute demos from both games, along with some numbers about release windows (late 2015 most likely) and breadth of content. Because Final Fantasy XIV is still a big deal, expect some cross-over content with the MMO.

Oh, and maybe something from the Eidos side of things too, I guess.

Hyrule Warriors!

There will be some solid information on that dope-looking Zelda/Dynasty Warriors crossover. We already have a host of new screens and Impa announced as a playable character, so a playable build is very likely.

There will be both local and online Co-Op, several characters from across the franchise will be playable including Zelda, Ghirahim and maybe even some Link Between Worlds cast members, and it will be perfect and amazing.The villain’s massive chest notwithstanding.


Limited Edition Halo 5 Xbox One announced

Microsoft will reveal and announce an Xbox One limited edition console for Halo 5. As they have so often done with their triple-A blockbusters, a new Halo 5 themed Xbox One seems likely.

Finally, Alan Wake gets the sequel it deserves

Alan Wake will see a sequel! It has been too long since the original and American Nightmare. Surely a sequel for what I consider Xbox 360s most unique game is on the table? Though I fear they may try to tailor it to a wider audience with more action, less suspense and possibly co-op play.

An larger capacity Xbox One to be made available

A new 750GB or 1TB Xbox One to be released. In a desperate attempt to compete with the PS4, Microsoft may use a bigger is better approach and up the disk space for the Xbox One. Perhaps dubbing it the XBO “Elite” and replacing the original Kinect bundled SKU to sit alongside the new Kinect-less package. This would tempt customers to go for the Elite bundle and keep Kinect in the limelight.

Xbox 360 gets an official price cut

Price cut for the Xbox 360 to be announced, possibly via a cheaper iteration – perhaps one without a disk drive. Much like the Wii received a cheaper digital only version, I can see Microsoft doing the same with the 360. A cheap and cheerful system with access to the vast library of digital content.

Project Gotham makes a return

A new Project Gotham. This one is a long shot, but Microsoft maybe looking for a racer to compete with the less serious Driveclub on PS4. Project Gotham was always arcade racing that would shine with a social orientated build much like Driveclub. Forza is great but it is for the serious race fans, leaving space to slot in a not so serious arcade racer.

Vita TV launches in the west

Vita TV to be released in Europe and the US. I expect it to be announced that such a great little device will not be kept from us eager western gamers anymore. This coupled with a demo or video of remote play working via Vita TV. Release date and price also revealed.

A second round of Dark Souls 2

Dark Souls 2 announced for new-generation upgrade. With it already on PC, transferring it to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One shouldn’t be too much bother. With both games lacking a decent RPG catalogue I wouldn’t be surprised to see them announce Dark Souls 2 for the new systems.

A wild Rockstar appears

Rockstar reveal Red Dead something! Following the success of GTA Online, I expect a Red Dead sequel to get the same treatment. Following John Marston’s son, it will be bigger, better and full of all the great narrative that makes a Rockstar game really come to life.


Gears of War heads to Xbox One

Microsoft to reveal new Gears of War game: there has been talk of Gears in development, but with all the trouble Microsoft have faced lately they will be wanting to appeal to Xbox fans by highlighting old favourites for a new era.

Halo Anniversary 2 gets a gameplay debut

Definitely going to see some form of Halo gameplay and the reveal of all previous Halo games being re-released onto the Xbox One. This will be for release before Halo 5, to tide over the Halo lovers and introduce new gamers to the game(s) that made the Xbox and 360 such a big hit.

The long-awaited new Zelda title is officially revealed

For Wii U, more info and maybe some gameplay on the new Legend of Zelda game which has been quite silent since the initial reveal. The game is said to resemble Dark Souls but with less of the insane difficulty and more of the fantastic Legend of Zelda lore.

Fable on Xbox One

Fable is a must have game on Xbox 360, so I wouldn’t be surprised if either a re-release or a new game was announced for the Xbox One, possibly set in the timeline after Fable III but could be a complete revamp of the Fable universe for a new console and a new era.


This year is the year

I think this year will be the year we see what the hell The Last Guardian is. It’s been on too long before we’ve had a solid update, and I fear if we’re going to see it at all in the future, it has to turn up at this E3 as a PS4 game, either releasing this year or next. I’ve heard rumblings that it’s all hands on deck for it (with even Sony’s European XDev helping out), so it still exists in some form at least.

Gears of War by Black Tusk

Microsoft recently purchased the rights to the Gears of War franchise from Epic Games, with developer Black Tusk helming the series’ first next-gen entry. I wouldn’t expect to see gameplay yet, but we’ll probably get a trailer with a name, logo and a possible hint at what the new entry will entail.

Despite what they say…

Media Molecule have been pretty quiet in the home console space for a few years. Of course they recently released the delightful Tearaway on Vita, but that was made by a small team within the overall studio. We’ve heard bits and pieces about what their new-gen title would be, and it will probably involve the Move and Morpheus in some form, and I expect us to hear at least some details about it this E3.

A new game from thatgamecompany

thatgamecompany, creators of stellar titles like Flower and Journey, just recently secured funding for their new, emotionally charged game. E3 seems like the right time for us to see what that project is, but what platform(s) it will be on, I could only guess. They’re free of their three game deal with Sony allowing them to go multiplatform, although whether that means releasing on a Microsoft console or going mobile remains to be seen. By the way, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Journey PS4 announcement at the Sony conference either.


Saying sorry

After having recently decided to drop Kinect from the Xbox One, Microsoft to issue an apology for the camera before showcasing the software side of Xbox One in an attempt to misdirect and focus the attention on the console’s versatility.

Ubisoft bring the big hitters

Ubisoft to predominantly showcase The Division, show the first gameplay of Assassin’s Creed: Unity – revealing the previous-gen version in the process – and revealing a new Splinter Cell game.

EA do what you expect

EA will reveal its roster of sports titles (Madden, NHL, FIFA, etc) and speak of the new technology behind each, and Mirror’s Edge 2. The highlight for most will be the latter, but some will enjoy the next Battlefield presentation.

The other conferences fail to impress

Konami will show off The Phantom Pain in an otherwise painful conference. Nintendo will again be the silent party, waiting until E3 is wrapped up to reveal something big. Sony will present a fairly functional conference with only a few highlights… until a Hail Mary move shows off a new major IP. Either that, or Uncharted 4.

A Lost Console: Xbox One Without Kinect

My, my. What a turn of events this is. From the controversial initial reveal, the Xbox One is nearly unrecognisable today compared with what was showcased for the first time just short of a year ago. From the self-publishing restrictions to the DRM features, a lot has changed for the Xbox One.

Commercially, whilst it has been selling extremely well – with 5 million units shipped already – its falling further behind the PlayStation 4 each and every week. Microsoft obviously felt the need to react, but this was not expected – they have announced that an Xbox One without Kinect will go on sale on June 9.

Without even touching the lunacy in announcing this model both a month before it will hit the market and just before E3, it represents the completion of a terrible vision by Microsoft. I mentioned shortly after their first wave of U-turns that, with something as reliant on a strong future as a games console, you cannot just undo all of the groundwork and expect things to go smoothly. This solidifies that notion more than ever.

Microsoft now have a console that will retail at the same price as a PS4 (£349.99) but with less powerful hardware (as shown from the releases so far), a muddled potential future, and discarding its key feature; the Xbox One – despite all of its positives – looks like a console in turmoil. I have little doubt that it will likely sell well initially, but it now seems lost.

It’s a console that promised a future to nearly 5 million users that it will likely never be able to deliver now and will require a substantial reworking of the interface – something that works wonderfully with the voice commands, but otherwise is somewhat disappointing.

Granted, this is great news for those that never really wanted Kinect in the first place (though the option to add it on will be provided later in the year) and will likely see an initial upturn in sales (after the coming month of course), but in the long run it could seriously hamper the potential of this now underpowered machine. Microsoft positioned themselves between a rock and a hard place and decided to smash their head against the wall rather than find an alternative way out.

Sony Driving Into A Virtual Reality Future With Project Morpheus

As technology progresses through time, certain things stick around and some things fade into history. High-definition may have seen a relatively slow adoption rate but it was never in doubt that it would hit the mainstream – and the same can be said for the future of 4K and other Ultra high-definition. 3D on the other hand never took off outside of the cinema as many, including Sony, had hoped but still has its place as a nice-to-have.

Virtual Reality sits tentatively between the two spectrums. The Oculus Rift is the only high-profile VR headset looking to change the face of the videogame industry; or at least, it was the only one.

Sony has, as widely expected, announced its own VR headset, Project Morpheus at the Game Developer’s Conference today for exclusive use with the PlayStation 4. Shuhei Yoshida announced that Sony has been prototyping a VR headset since the creation of the PlayStation Move back in 2010, but then you have to strap the controller to the headset. Now you have a slick, Star Trek-esque headset that is the culmination of three years of experimentation – though the current build is still technically a prototype.

It seems as though Sony driving towards the virtual reality future, typified by Sony’s GDC session titled “Driving the Future of Innovation At Sony”, whilst it seems Microsoft are, currently, pushing forward with Kinect and the hands-free market.

The core question remains though as to how mainstream such technology would be. Oculus Rift has garnered strong support within particular circles but, likewise with latest version of Kinect, the technology remains largely unproven or supported in the wider market. How it’s supported will determine how it’s adopted but it’s undeniably exciting.

It’s something that Sony believe “may well shape the future of games” as they aim to “push the boundary of play”. A lot rides on final specification, pricing, developer support and, of course, comfort, but it’s the first time in quite a while that a shift in the videogame industry – even a small one – is upon us.

Next-Gen Rayman Legends – A Luminous Wonderment

In Rayman Legends we find not only the inadvertent future of the rhythm game, but a relentlessly joyous romp through stupendously vibrant worlds.

I remember the first time I discovered ‘Mushroom 30,000’ by Gentle Mystics, and the sustained joy I felt throughout both the first listen and the subsequent dozens that followed. Not many things – music or otherwise – have provided me with that level of persistent happiness. I’ve watched films like Black Dynamite and Naked Gun over and over again; I’ve lost many hours watching clips of Tommy Cooper and The Day Today on YouTube also…

Rayman Legends however, is something which has proved so unrelentingly merry, so thoroughly enjoyable, that it’s earned almost by default its place amongst the aforementioned. The room’s been made for it alongside its predecessor Origins; it deserves to be both continually lauded and repeatedly returned to. Legends is phenomenally good, from eager start to raucous finish.

Run and Fun

It may well be a major Ubisoft property released soon after its prequel, but Legends is a game that feels overwhelmingly crafted with loving care and attention to detail. If the long-lasting interactive credits sequence didn’t exist (that would’ve been a devastating omission on reflection) you’d be forgiven for thinking that only a small team within the French studio worked on Legends over the course of several years.

Au contraire: it’s incredible to think that something so immaculate in design and large in scale was originally intended to be a Wii U exclusive. Fewer games have felt as consistently faultless or polished as this; fewer still have managed not to sacrifice consistently enjoyable gameplay to achieve this level of presentational perfection.

Legends was a game delayed by almost a year, but its release was intended to be only a year after Origins. On top of this, considering how turbulent the development process proved to be, the level of pristine quality that shines through is perhaps Legends’ biggest success.

Origins was a big step in a different direction for the Rayman series, but one so successful a sequel was inevitable. Ubisoft couldn’t risk much change, so Legends is more enhancement than evolution. That might irk some quick to condemn Ubisoft for releasing ‘more of the same’, but if ‘the same’ is the (previous) best platformer released last generation, why blame them for wanting only to try and best it?

Legends contains all the basics that Origins introduced: the run/jump/punch core game mechanics still exist, along with the Lum collecting and Teensie/princess rescuing. I’d level a criticism at Ubisoft for not eliminating the ‘damsel in distress’ sections, but allowing players to play as the rescued is at least a step in the right direction.

The enhancements come from more extravagant level design, new level types – including the astounding chapter-ending music levels – and new enemies to face, amongst other formula tweaks here and there. While the levels never quite reach the length or fiendish difficulty of some of the latter ones found in Origins, Legends’ sustained creativity means that you can never quite decide which level you loved most (though if I had to choose, it would be Castle Rock).

Don’t Look Back

Legends suggests you can never have too much of a good thing. Its content not only remains fresh throughout but continues to be updated daily, a revolving door of daily and weekly challenges in full swing. Play the campaign through the way intended, and you’ll still have over half of it left to complete when finished. Then there’s the mass of extra levels ported over from Origins to play through again.

It plays to what it considers to be its own key strength – replayability. That isn’t its best quality, mind: some of the replay value is in fact diminished by the removal of max Lum targets in each level, giving you one big reason less to jump back into some of the more over-too-quick levels. What makes Legends believe that its quality lies in its replay value comes from each and every level feeling like a work of art. The game’s lobby is an exhibition, series of paintings holding within them individual masterpieces that you’re invited to leap into and explore without limit.

I’d consider Legends to be the best platformer of two generations, given that it was released on PS4 and Xbox One a few months after the previous crop of consoles. The eleventh hour winner for the last group, and the benchmark for the next.

The Arkham Knight: The Next-Gen Batman

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.

Miss Croft’s Definitive Edition Is Ideal For Next-Gen

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: The Middle-Earth Game I Was Hoping For

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.

Evolve – The Next Big Thing From The Creators Of Left 4 Dead

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.

Alien: Isolation Looks Like It Could Be The Alien Game We’ve Dreamed Of

Aliens: Colonial Marines was a disaster, “miserably failing and embarrassing itself when put side-by-side with the Aliens franchise”. Publisher Sega were not willing to make the same mistake twice as Alien: Isolation looks set to scare your pants off.

“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.

2014 Most Anticipated – #5 Tom Clancy’s: The Division

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.

2014 Most Anticipated – #8 Titanfall

Announced in June this year, Titanfall is 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.

2014 Most Anticipated – #11 Rainbow 6: Patriots

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.

2014 Most Anticipated – #12 Driveclub

How fast do you want to go?

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.