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E3 2015 – How Any Presentation Could Easily Get Us Hyped

It seems that every year there’s an expectation with game companies and their E3 promises. Some exceed, while others underwhelm drastically. As time goes by, what may have been underwhelming proves to win out; while those that wowed audiences at the annual festival of electronic games potentially bomb at retail. I hesitate to make predictions, so instead I hand those brave enough to address an audience with a few things that could make or break their showing at E3.


Honestly Microsoft, Halo: The Master Chief Collection was embarrassing for you, but Forza Horizon 2 was phenomenal. Third-party support has been reasonable, with a few blips here and there in terms of compatibility. This year sees the new DirectX implemented which if the theory is true should make your games on Xbox One pop a little more.

Snagging timed exclusive rights to Rise of the Tomb Raider was a sneaky move, but combined with rumours of a new Gears of War title and the leak of Forza Motorsport 6, it’s a reasonably strong line-up so far. Just get some more IPs into your roster, some surprises here and there, and we should be golden.

This comes with caveats though. Halo 5: Guardians needs to be a return to form to restore people’s faith in 343 Industries. Fable: Legends is the make or break gamble of a century for Lionhead Studios. Rare hasn’t done anything of worth in years and absolutely needs to go back to their roots, rather than stick with Kinect. Heck, some people got so fed up of not getting a proper sequel to the Banjo Kazooie franchise that a successful Kickstarter is making a significant dent into Rare’s appeal.


The accidental leak of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and subsequent official announcement is probably the best thing that could have happened for Sony. After all, we know about this game now so you can spend more time focusing on showing us how incredible Uncharted 4’s going to be. Last year we were promised the world with DriveClub and The Order: 1886. Both had a less than stellar launch though DriveClub has apparently improved dramatically with post launch support.

Third-party support has been great, with some excellent indie titles launched on your platform. Bloodborne pretty much sold me on the PS4 and didn’t disappoint one bit. The momentum is slight, but there’s every opportunity to capitalise on this.

So what can you do that’s brand new? For starters, while our Editor-in-Chief has been saying this for years, this year I’m jumping into this bandwagon. Should you have enough money to buy the rights back from Activision, please let Naughty Dog make a new Crash Bandicoot. It’s not like Activision’s doing anything with the property now.

What about that famous piece of vanilla-ware though? The one that wowed us all those years ago when the PS3 was new? Honestly, I don’t really see it coming. I’d long assumed the project died off without as much as a murmur. I’m not even going to grace its existence by naming it.


So we have the next Zelda game looming in the distant future while Shigeru Miyamoto is helming the next Star Fox adventure. While I can’t really say I care about Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, there are fans of the spinoff series. I’m genuinely excited for the new Fire Emblem games and several other Wii U games from other developers have sparked my interest. Mario has been working overtime for the past couple of years and aside from some recognition of his 30th anniversary I’d say he’s earned a rest.

But there’s one thing I won’t let slide if it doesn’t happen…

Nintendo, I’m going to level with you here for a second. I bought a Wii U last year because I genuinely liked what I had played of Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U prior to launch. I also rented a whole bunch of games for the platform to bring myself up to speed. I have played on my Wii U on a relatively frequent basis. Yet, it isn’t your new games that I’ve sunk hours into.

Because the games I’ve been playing for hours on end have been the re-releases of Metroid games. It was for a little while a similar story with my 3DS when the ambassador program allowed me to download Metroid Fusion. I actively bought Metroid 2: Return of Samus in all its Gameboy glory, before concluding that it hadn’t aged well at all.

On the Wii U, one of the first Wii conversions was Metroid Prime Trilogy – a game that is hard to find at a good price. I struggled getting my Wii Remote and Nunchuck in order to play the damn thing. Then you released my favourite Gameboy Advance game of all time – Metroid: First Mission. It is the definitive version of that NES classic. This week I’ve even bought Super Metroid and had a whale of a time.

Metroid: Other M does not count as a game in the franchise as the whole thing felt like a betrayal from the developers who made it. They didn’t understand the source material. Samus doesn’t wait for the man to give orders but is a strong independent female lead. Last year I would have settled for an updated Metroid 2: Return of Samus. This year I can’t. Both the 3DS and Wii U would make great platforms for another adventure. 2D or 3D, I don’t care, just please don’t mix them up together; the memories are still fresh…


You don’t have a conference, I know, but I’m putting you in your own category to ask one thing.

Please give up on Sonic Boom.

When I saw the announcement of a 3DS sequel, I nearly choked on my porridge. Last year was a dark year for the blue hedgehog. Prior efforts were showing signs of a return to form, despite some odd decisions for antagonists, but none were as painful as Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. Granted, there’s no Wii U game (yet), but the cartoon isn’t doing so well either according to a couple of sources big on the whole cartoon thing.

As a publisher however you’re faring pretty well. Alien Isolation was sufficiently terrifying, while Bayonetta 2 is hands down the best 3rd Party game on the Wii U, even though Nintendo helped finance it. Your own IPs though? They desperately need to go back to their roots, especially that blue hedgehog.


You have a show this year. Great! I’d imagine the duration will be half an hour, so you won’t have much time to show off what you’ve got. Here’s what I’m expecting:

Do this and you’re pretty much golden for your first show. You can’t do any worse than Konami did in 2010! Give us a good platform to stand on when E3 2016 rolls around!


I honestly have no idea what you’re going to do other than The Division, Rainbow Six: Siege, or Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. Here’s what you’re not going to do though: make the “and finally” game look supreme yet impossible on current hardware. You pulled that stunt with Watch Dogs and I fear the same stunt was pulled with both of your non-Assassin’s Creed games this year. Realistic expectations are what entice people now.

You’ll probably have another Just Dance, but it’s probably about time we had another Rayman game announced, or at the very least another gorgeous looking UbiArt game.


EA have always underwhelmed me in conferences, mostly because a good third of their show is dedicated to the next FIFA or Madden annual update. Some have had genuine surprises however.

This is probably my biggest ask out of them all. I feel I should be surrounded with chalk markings, dressed in a hooded robe, and chanting the dark gods for this wish.

Please EA, please EA DICE or “EA Digital Illusions CE” to give you your full name; please make Star Wars: Battlefront not suck badly and not be filled to the brim with Star Wars Episode 7 stuff (yet). Please also hear my prayer in saying that Mirror’s Edge 2 needs to be shown at E3 this year, because honestly these are the two games in your roster I currently care about.

You can always surprise me again, but chances of that are slim given the time window.

Is Konami In Crisis Mode?

You may have heard about the recent debacle surrounding legendary game developer Hideo Kojima. Konami are attempting to save face wherever possible, but trickles of information that may or may not be true are indicating that he no longer works for the company. Now it has been revealed, though not unexpectedly, that his other big name project – Silent Hills, has been cancelled.

It’s not a new scenario for a Japanese developer, as Kenji Inafune was dismissed from Capcom, spelling the end of the Mega Man franchise, but Kojima’s situation is potentially game changing. Suddenly the mind behind Metal Gear Solid, Zone of the Enders, and Sega CD cult classic Snatcher is free to do whatever he wants. Inafune is using his newfound freedom to create Mighty Number 9: A spiritual successor to Mega Man. Kojima could very well do something extraordinary.

But what does this revelation mean for Konami and fans of Konami’s games? Obviously the backlash has damaged Konami to the point where they’re in full damage limitation mode, but the cracks are beginning to reveal themselves and their future is looking increasingly bleak.

Perhaps their sole gambit is that Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain is a short-term profitable endeavour. It is one of the most hyped games set to launch this year, so doubling down on it seems highly probable. Aside from this, however, there isn’t a great deal out there coming from Konami.

With Kojima no longer at Konami, Silent Hills is no more too. Guillermo del Toro just this week said regarding his involvement in the project that, “It’s not gonna happen and that breaks my greasy heart.” Meanwhile would-be protagonist Norman Reedus later tweeted: “Super bummed about this was really looking forward to it. Hopefully, it’ll come back around. Sorry everyone”.

This was before Konami’s official statement published on Eurogamer, which reads, “Konami is committed to new Silent Hill titles, however the embryonic ‘Silent Hills‘ project developed with Guillermo del Toro and featuring the likeness of Norman Reedus will not be continued.” A huge shame, as many felt the P.T. demo was one of the best things to come out of 2014. The fact it is now about to be removed from the PlayStation Store means that those who downloaded it have a rare piece of playable vapour-ware that will never see the light of day.

Konami’s other flagship franchise has also seen a setback. Castlevania is now seemingly on hiatus, as MercurySteam are no longer working on the franchise. In 2014, Koji “Iga” Igarashi took his whip and iconic hat and left Konami to form his own company. Many long time fans would like to see Iga be given the helm once more to create more of the 2D “Metroidvania” variety of the franchise, but historically that rarely happens.

Perhaps Konami’s saving grace at the moment is a franchise that up to last year was struggling against its competition. Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 saw general praise from critics and indeed more sales than previous years thanks in part to FIFA 15 not being as revolutionary as previous years. Given the success of last year’s game, it seems inevitable that Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 will be a thing though reduced revenue may mean reduced opportunities for likeness rights.

When I originally wrote this article, I said that Silent Hills would be a potential saving grace for the company. Alas though, with a high-profile cancellation, Konami is free falling at an ever increasing speed, but a few things might reinvigorate their fortunes. A welcome return to Castlevania’s roots might lure those long term fans back,  but what might help Konami further is the creation of something new, innovative, and successful. However Konami wish to play it, the more they focus on limiting the damage of Kojima’s departure, the longer it will take to get gamers excited for their future endeavours.

Konami is a company I have fond gaming memories of. To see them in such a state is disheartening.

New 3DS – More Than Just An Extra Nub

With so many varieties available, the Nintendo 3DS “family” is a bit of an uneven bunch. Prices widely vary, with some models being more affordable than others. February 13th is perhaps a little unlucky for the rest, as the New 3DS and New 3DS XL officially launched. So you’re probably wondering if they’re worth investing in compared to older, cheaper 3DS models. After a good week and a bit with the New 3DS, it’s clear that thought went into this hardware. There are however caveats.

Games Library

Found on the bottom of the New 3DS is the Game Card slot. They could have opted to just get rid of backwards compatibility for the Nintendo DS, much like the Nintendo DS Lite and subsequent models didn’t have backwards compatibility with Gameboy Advance titles; but thankfully Nintendo have wisely allowed the Nintendo DS family to be compatible with the new devices.

All previously available games, either on eShop or Game Card, are able to be played on the new device and that should be highly commended. Better quality screens enable the games to look vibrant. Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire which came out late last year look great, while other games out there such as Luigi’s Mansion 2, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf are also stellar choices. Even eShop titles including the notoriously difficult Shin Megami Tensei 4 and the Virtual Console offerings are available. Then again, if you want to play Nintendo DS games, you are able to do so with no problems, so there’s plenty of choice out there.

However, despite having the opportunity to do so, Nintendo have region locked the New 3DS models. It’s an outdated practice that hurts consumers. Piracy protection is one thing and I understand that the Nintendo DS had many piracy issues during its lifespan, but the New 3DS’s region lock just shows how behind the times Nintendo can still be with the new platform, despite many advancements. Hopefully this is something that can and will be patched out later.

Head-tracking 3D

One of the main problems with standard 3DS models is that the 3D visuals relied on your head being at exactly the right position. Deviation from this caused blurry visuals, which combined with some gyro controls made any game that used both a nauseating experience.

With the addition of another camera designed to track your head position and adjust the display accordingly, 3D is now a much more comfortable and viable option. Moving your head erratically will still confuse the New 3DS somewhat; but for normal play, the device does an admirable job of tracking your head position. 3D is of course optional, meaning that you can turn it off should you so wish, but I’ve certainly found myself using 3D more often.

Processing Power

Despite running the same games, there is a distinct upgrade to the horsepower of this handheld device. Games load faster, items download quicker on the eShop, and saving data takes a mere few seconds.

Currently, the only way to test this is by comparing the two models directly side by side, since no exclusive games for the New 3DS models have been released yet. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, however, will be the first game requiring the newer systems. Only then can the processing power be fully tested.


Even though the 3DS XL was bulkier, its smooth edges made it a much more comfortable device compared to the 3DS. The XL was the basis for a lot of the design features in the New 3DS library, with the standard model getting a small increase in screen size as a result. But really it’s all about how comfortable it is to hold and surprisingly the New 3DS XL isn’t heavy compared to the standard 3DS.

A lot of space is taken up by the screens, a fact that a lot of people will appreciate. The Circle pad and D-pad are positioned just as they were on the 3DS, while the face buttons have Super Nintendo colours (resembling that consoles’ Japanese/PAL buttons). Start and Select buttons are now small round buttons to the side, while the home button now sits on its own. Both 3D and Volume controls have a click to signify they’re not in use, while the system uses the same 3D camera and face camera setup found in previous 3DS models. By far this is the most ergonomic design that Nintendo have come up with for the 3DS family, but it’s not perfect.

While it is functional, we could have had the start and select buttons in their respective places, the face buttons shunted down a tiny bit in order to fit a proper second Circle pad, rather than the C-Stick which resembles nubs in the centre of old laptop keyboards. Thankfully the “C-Nub” does work rather well and isn’t badly positioned by any means.

One small sore point is you need to change how you hold the device to incorporate the ZL and ZR buttons, as they’re bunched up next to the L and R buttons. On the XL model, it’s not too uncomfortable, but on the New 3DS the buttons can be accidentally pressed. You can also potentially knock the power button, positioned at the bottom of the console, losing progress if you’re not careful. Another strange omission is how there is no Wireless toggle on the device, instead opting for the firmware to control whether Wireless connections are on or off.

The Storage Problem

If you invested in storage for your 3DS in the past, you’ll be disappointed to learn that the New 3DS does not work with standard SD cards. Instead, you’ll either need to invest in Micro SD cards or rely on the pre-installed 4GB card for all your storage needs. It’s far from convenient, especially as how even handheld games are starting to get rather large compared to an older system.

Given the rather archaic way of transferring data including Nintendo Network IDs over to your new system, you may find that it takes longer than initially anticipated to get up to speed. Both versions are able to be transferred via PC, wirelessly, or just the crucial data transferred to allow users to re-download content. Personally, I had no problems transferring my 3DS data to my New 3DS XL, but my brother lost save data for one game while transferring his 3DS XL data to the New 3DS. If in doubt, try transferring via a PC if possible.

Another problem is accessing the SD card. While New 3DS owners can access theirs with relative ease, the New 3DS XL requires a Number 0 Philips Screwdriver to access the back panel. It’s here that you discover where the battery lives, so that you can replace should your 3DS rechargeable battery become inefficient. Granted you’ll only ever need to do this a few times in the system’s lifespan, but requiring the use of a screwdriver just to access the SD card seems like a waste of space elsewhere in the console.

Saving Face

Unique to the New 3DS is the ability to personalise your handheld with face plates. These come in a variety of different flavours and all snap on and off with relative ease. Typically the consoles that become sought after are those based off properties such as Mario or Zelda, so to have interchangeable face plates become the hot property will help reduce overall costs to the consumer.

Despite not having the customisable covers, the New 3DS XL comes in a few flavours upon release; namely the metallic black and blue versions for the plain coloured ones. Out there are also Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and the sadly sold out The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D varieties which look great. As a creature of habit though, I bought the metallic black version which looks sleek and sophisticated.


Both devices are compatible with the Amiibo circulating around, with a patch for Super Smash Bros. for 3DS imminent/implemented to enable the same usage found on the Wii U verson. With more games coming soon with Amiibo functionality, such as Codename: Steam using Fire Emblem characters, this is a nice feature. However, at this time I was unable to test it out as no games thus far are compatible with Amiibo.

Should you go out and buy the New 3DS?

Generally speaking, if you’re interested in the 3DS but don’t own one, just go and buy one of the New 3DS models. It doesn’t really matter whether you want bigger screens and better battery life or the ability to personalise your device, because beneath they’re exactly the same. If you’re in the US however, the New 3DS is not available in your territory, but the New 3DS XL is a fine machine worth investing in. Still, the reason why is because some games will require the newer models in the future and it’s safer to buy these than a pre-owned model.

If you own the 3DS XL with Circle Pad Pro XL attachment, it’s a much harder sell. Processing power is the only real upside for upgrading and unless you badly want to play Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, there’s no real incentive to upgrade. Plus, you’ll only have to fork out on Micro SD cards! Wait a little bit for the device to be cheaper or if there are any exclusive games for the New 3DS that you want to play.

For the standard 3DS or devices without the Circle Pad Pro attachment however, the upgrade is worth every penny. It’s far more comfortable to hold, despite the weird button layout and other minor misgivings. The new devices are far less questionable than Nintendo’s 2DS handhelds, which have now been rendered obsolete.  My personal preference is performance, so battery life and larger screens come with the New 3DS XL, but at the cost of customisation. Just make sure you keep everything powered up during the system transfer process!

Alternative Game Of The Year Awards 2014

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to One Hit Pixel.

The beginning of a new year means another season of Game of the Year content on the internet. More and more I’ve seen people come up with more original lists, but I of course have had my own.  Note that these are more personal than most. If you read either last year’s list, you probably know where this is going.

This year’s list of categories sees some returning categories, some brand new, and some re-jigging of old ones; so let’s begin with my tried and tested award…

Head-Banging Music Track of the Year – Mario Kart 8 – Wii U

Eh? A Nintendo game with Mario in it has the best Metal riff?

Two words – Bowser’s Castle.

Metal music seems to creep its way into Mario Kart 8’s soundtrack a fair bit, but in Bowser’s Castle it turns it up to eleven. Wailing guitars are accompanied by saxophones to create this wonderful piece. Its inclusion is surprising, but the tone for the course is set by the first few bars. Further up we find a giant Bowser statue pounding the track with his bare fists, more fire than you know what to do with, and one of the most perilous of the new tracks in Mario Kart 8. It’s glorious.

Equally fantastic music can be found within Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, full of remixes of classic tracks; but the pounding riffs that can be found there were expected. In Mario Kart 8, this one is a bit left-field, despite the hints from one or two other tracks.

Biggest Tear Jerker – This War of Mine – PC

Last year’s winner (Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch) sucker punched in the first few minutes, while the other winner (The Walking Dead: Season 1) did so at the very end. This year brings a game that not only questions a player’s actions, but also makes them mourn every loss.

War seems to be the common theme in my considerations this year as Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts: The Great War provides a compelling narrative spanning the majority of the Great War from multiple perspectives. For the longest time this was the forerunner of the category.

But what This War of Mine does is vastly different. Instead of glorifying war by focusing on men with guns, we instead focus on the survivor’s struggles in this fictional war. Each loss of innocent human life that is committed fills one with remorse, while every loss to your party filled with regret. The game isn’t one you play for fun, but play to experience. So while previous winners sucker punches you with one major tragedy, This War of Mine reminds you of the human cost of war as it repeatedly slaps you in the face.

Best of British – Velocity 2X (Futurlab) – PS Vita/PS4

This was a two horse race between The Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation and Futurlab’s Velocity 2X. On the one hand we have a game that exceeded all expectations to deliver a survival horror experience that is intense. On the other hand, we have a game I described in its review as “the perfect sequel”.

You know what? I stand by that. For the second time running, Velocity 2X wins the Best of British award. It not only refines what made Velocity and its PS Vita upgrade Velocity Ultra so compelling, but includes seamlessly integrated platforming sections that are also great fun to speed run. The decision to port it to PS4 as well brings this incredible game to a wider audience, something I hope that Futurlab have the freedom to do in the future.

It’s been an incredible year for the two Sussex based studios, which only leads me to expect great things in 2015 from other UK based studios. Hopefully, some of the more high-profile ones don’t disappoint.

Best Crowdfunded Game – Shovel Knight – Wii U, 3DS, PC / Divinity: Original Sin – PC / Wasteland 2 – PC

I couldn’t decide. All three have a significant impact unique to their individual circumstances. All are great in their own right.

Let’s face it, without crowd funding, Shovel Knight wouldn’t exist and the world would be worse off without it. It’s a compelling game from talented people who have the passion for creating nostalgic experiences, while at the same time updating the mechanics to standards that in 2014 are revered.

Divinity: Original Sin marks the most ambitious project that Larian have ever undertaken. A lot of potential was present in Divinity: Dragon Commander’s narrative and world, shackled by some odd RTS elements. Original Sin may not be single-handedly reviving the PC RPG (cRPG) sub-genre that quietly disappeared in the late 1990s, but it is one that brings new, fresh ideas to the table. Player characters having a multi-choice conversation before deciding on a strategy is just the icing on the cake.

Then there’s Wasteland 2: Another major player in the cRPG revival this year that generated millions in crowd funding. Long usurped by Fallout as the premier post-apocalyptic RPG, the sequel to the 1988 PC classic is certainly a monumental gamble for InXile Entertainment. Critical acclaim and praise from consumers mean that this Kickstarter gamble paid off. The focus now lies with InXile’s next endeavour: Torment: Tides of Numenera – the spiritual successor to Planescape Torment which is one of the most revered cRPGs ever made.

The Best Decision Made All Year – Nintendo Publishing Bayonetta 2 for Wii U

Nintendo did the impossible this year – make the Wii U a practical investment. It wasn’t hard mind as my main concern was with the small library of games. Mario Kart 8 heralded in the new age of Nintendo, but the autumnal releases stole much of the thunder from the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One releases. Smash Bros. for Wii U and Hyrule Warriors showed that Nintendo were comfortable allowing other developers in on the act (Bandai Namco and Koei Tecmo respectively).

Bayonetta 2 on the other hand was a far larger risk. Here was a game that had a sizeable following, supplanting Platinum Games as the best in the business for spectacle fighting games. It was divisive with an eye-catching protagonist full of sass, but it was a confident game with a great setting with fantastic combat mechanics. Witch Time remains the best implementation of Bullet Time mechanics since Max Payne (the original one). By opting to put up the money to allow this game to happen, we were treated to Platinum Games’ best game of 2014. Given that the other game was the terrible Legend of Korra, that isn’t too hard…

Could it have been made on any other platform? Absolutely. Would it have been made on any other platform? No. Nintendo forked out the publishing money to Sega and Platinum Games in order for one of the more sought after sequels to come to life. They even allowed the original to be ported with upgrades for their console and bundled it with the boxed version!

From the moment that remix of Moon River (which is just as incredible as the cover of Fly Me To The Moon from the first game) plays to the high-octane action combat that is thrust upon you like a squire thrown into battle. It’s an iterative sequel, but it refines what made the original such a joy to play and takes out what made it infuriating. They could have just left it at that.

But Nintendo did something incredible. They allowed Bayonetta to don Nintendo themed garments with gameplay functionality linked to those games. Having her wield Arwings with Star Fox charms dangling from them instead of her standard pistols is a nice touch, but seeing what happens when Platinum Games make a Star Fox level within their own game is genius!

Most Pointless Investment of the Year – Pre-Orders

We’re divided on our opinions of pre-orders here at One Hit Pixel, but the past few months have only cemented my thoughts on this disputed topic.

Back in July, I wrote a piece asking “Are Pre-orders really that evil?” – the opinion piece inspired by the thoughts of Polygon’s Ben Kuchera. In it, I attempted to justify my pre-orders of Destiny and Evolve, while at the same time dismissing pre-ordering Alien: Isolation as a waste of time. While the launch of Evolve had been delayed at this point, we’ve had the “Big Alpha” that I’d wanted to get into and for the most-part I wasn’t disappointed. Hopefully the expanded content found within the final version keeps this as a mainstay in my gaming roster.

Do I regret pre-ordering Destiny? Not really as I saw the beta as an investment rather than a bonus and it served its purpose. I would have picked it up on day one in any case with the intention of going around with friends. I noticed some early warning signs in the beta that turned out to be deal breakers. But while that’s useful for me to write a critical piece, it’s nowhere near as useful for the average consumer. Betas in theory should be for those who want to test and provide feedback for the development team, same with Alphas. By commercialising them, we run the risk of missing the point of what these tests are for.

But dear lord how I sympathise with those who pre-ordered Halo: The Master Chief Collection or Assassin’s Creed: Unity. These people probably took days off work just to play the game, or play with friends who had also taken the day off. In the case of Halo in particular, the crippling matchmaking issues would write off an entire day or more; meaning that by the time the game is fixed, these people would be back at work and all the more bitter about the ordeal.

There’s value in waiting and seeing the condition of the game post-launch. I urge people in 2015 to think really hard about whether or not to invest in pre-ordering games next year.

Biggest Surprise – Wolfenstein: The New Order – PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360

If Aliens: Colonial Marines was an indicator that games might not be as good as its preview builds, Wolfenstein: The New Order is, rather pleasantly, the exact opposite. What was demoed was a hatchet job of the game’s worst level – the introduction. What we got was the best FPS experience of 2014.

I could quite easily have put the honourable mention of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor as winner of this category, due to the fact that preview builds made it look like a mere Batman: Arkham City/Assassin’s Creed clone. But as new things were drip fed by Warner Bros. Interactive’s PR department, Shadow of Mordor looked more and more like the real deal.

Wolfenstein: The New Order on the other hand didn’t set itself free from the shackles of bad first impressions until its release. Suddenly we had a sleeper hit, a smart revival of a franchise that may have been muddled in tone between gameplay and narrative, but was a lot of fun to play. I mean, how could I not give this award to the game that had me fighting Nazi’s on the moon?

Most Offensive Game – The Witch and the Hundred Knight

Those first few hours of this infernal game have produced so much ire within me that I refuse to give this more than a paragraph of my time. If you want to know what enraged me so much about this game, you can read the review here. In a year where perceptions about feminism have been all over the place, this is a game that does not help things…

Most Broken on Launch – Halo: The Master Chief Collection/Assassin’s Creed: Unity/DriveClub

Last year I awarded Most Dissappointing Game to SimCity thanks to its performance issues. This year it became more apparent that broken and disappointing are vastly different things.

These three games represent a month or two of controversy. Halo’s matchmaking issues cripple it to this day, while numerous patches still haven’t fixed some key issues within Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Both developers have publically apologised with the promise of free DLC. Ubisoft cancelled the season pass for the game. 343 were forced to launch Halo 3: ODST Remastered for free.

Then we have DriveClub. Delayed since the PlayStation 4’s launch day, the game took another year to surface, only for its own disastrous launch to effectively put the PlayStation Plus “free” version on hiatus as SCE were not sure it would work. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this idea dead in the water.

Most Disappointing Game of the Year – Destiny

Before you brandish the pitch forks and demand my immediate resignation, remember this list is purely my opinion. So hear me out.

Destiny promised many things. It promised an open world where players can meet up, go on missions, shoot aliens, and explore the galaxy. The first impression was one of wonderment as exploring worlds is a blast, especially when events that happen periodically suddenly flash on the HUD. But when the rather lacklustre campaign is over, the sudden realisation crops up: This is a MMORPG with barely any end-game.

Normally, this would be a death knell. PVP can only last so long and the one Raid mission that came out before the DLC hit is the only level of challenge left beyond completing fetch quests. My patience for World of Warcraft wore thin after a good two years, finally shattering the crippling addiction. Destiny lasted all but two months.

The elephant in the room is of course Watch_Dogs. That was a game where the initial reveal was breath-taking, the premise a captivating and original one, and another game that promised many things. That turned out to be graphically inferior (unless you modded the PC version), deeply unoriginal beyond the hacking mechanics, and yet another Ubisoft game where intel is gathered from “climbing up towers”. It was a closely contested for a long time.

What it eventually came down to was the fact that Destiny felt like a stunted effort, restricted by its menu-based navigation, DLC packs, initial player caps, and the lop-sided progression system. Raids do a lot to make the game more exciting, but that slog to get good enough to even attempt the raid missions with friends just isn’t worth the time or effort.

On top of that, Xbox One owners got to experience first-hand just how much damage timed-exclusivity deals hurt – a trend I hope dies off sooner rather than later.

Shameless Hype Ramp of 2014 – Watch Dogs

Oh I bet you saw this coming. E3 2012 was when it was first introduced, with stunning visuals and a phenomenal open-world hacking premise that spiced up the Grand Theft Auto formula. Throughout 2013 we were inundated with trailer after trailer, showcasing just how next-gen the game was to be. It was all going so well, topping Most Anticipated game lists for 2014.

Then all of a sudden someone noticed that the trailers close to launch looked off compared to previous trailers.

Other things began to surface. Aidan Pierce’s character, the storyline, how it looked more like a generic open-world third person shooter with minor hacking mechanics; it was all beginning to unravel. Then the game launched to reviews that while generally positive weren’t the scores expected. It sold well, but the consensus was that it was a disappoint affair.

To top it all off, the original graphic filters and settings were apparently hidden within the PC version’s code. There was only a small impact on performance and the tools were subsequently released in the form of an unofficial mod for the PC version. Ubisoft’s response could be considered an act of defiance.

Worst Game of the Year 2014 – Rambo: The Video Game

I said in my review that this was the biggest contender for Worst Game of the Year in 2014 and somehow after many disasters it never got surpassed! Some other games such as Air Control were incomplete messes, but this is the sole full price “effort” that came out this year that stunk worse than sewage.

On-rail shooting that isn’t fun, mixed with QTEs make up the entire gameplay experience; but these are only the beginning of this woeful experience. Sylvester Stalone looks like a disfigured husk of a man with sausage link arms, while everyone else looks only slightly more human. Animation quality is pathetic, voice acting was gutted out of the VHS versions of the films it depicts, and the game is prone to more crashing than most games this year. Heck, I couldn’t even finish it!

Game Of The Year 2014 – Overall Game Of The Year

The time is upon us. All the players are in their respective starting positions and the race for One Hit Pixel’s Overall Game of the Year 2014 is on. If all the other categories sparked much debate among the staff, this hotly contested category is the most important of them all! Let’s take a gander at all the winners of the previous categories.

By taking both Best PlayStation and Best Indie awards, Velocity 2X has more than deserved its spot on the short list. The sequel to both Velocity on PlayStation Mobile and Velocity Ultra on PlayStation Vita, it had a lot to live up to. Thankfully it delivered in spades with refreshing new platforming segments and excellent level design. With tight controls and a beautiful aesthetic, Velocity 2X exceeded all expectations.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on the other hand took gameplay mechanics that were tried and tested from other franchises, but made them meaningful by including the now revolutionary Nemesis System. No game this year has made you care about your rivalries in quite the same way, making each encounter with them a heated battle for survival rather than the standard conflicts other games. Certainly among the crowd for best movie franchise tie-ins of recent years, which makes its inclusion in the GOTY awards more surprising.

2014 saw the return of the cRPG in a big way, with the cream of the crop being Divinity: Original Sin. This immersive RPG has a fantastic setting and a compelling cast of characters that feel dynamic in their writing. The combat system is also great fun to experiment with and the game is genuinely funny in places. A lot of people are saying that it’s the best thing Larian Studios have ever made and we would agree with that sentiment.

Let’s not forget about Nintendo who in their revival of the Wii U as a viable platform this year, gifted us Mario Kart 8. Out of all the games on our short list, this is the best one to play with friends by a country mile. Online works really well, the tracks are white-knuckle rides full of excitement, and even the amount of custom vehicles and parts is admirable. It also shows that Nintendo know how to make DLC worth purchasing.

Finally we have Sunset Overdrive on Xbox, which just goes to show that even when a studio have a couple of duds, that the right game can spring them back into the limelight. As bonkers as Jet Set Radio was back on the Dreamcast, but now with a ridiculous arsenal that rivals Ratchet and Clank.

When it came down to deciding the Overall Game of the Year, both Sunset Overdrive and Divinity: Original Sin lost out as they were hotly contested by other games in their respective categories. The three remaining games are all very different, wowing us in a variety of ways. As the discussion went on, we eventually whittled down the choices until a winner was announced.

The Overall Game of the Year is…

Velocity 2X

We deliberated for a good long while on which one of the three surprised us more, but in the end we had to factor in the amount of recognition Velocity 2X achieved in the categories. It narrowly stood tall in the Best PlayStation category, but was almost unanimous in our choice for the Best Indie game.

Really, there isn’t a lot more that needs to be said about this incredible game. Sony had so much confidence in this game that it was made free on PlayStation Plus in September 2014. An absolute steal in my eyes as Futurlab have gone leaps and bounds into making a polished game in a year where quality left a lot to be desired from the AAA Industry!

Our heartfelt congratulations to Futurlab for making, in our collective eyes certainly, the Best Game of 2014.

Game Of The Year 2014 – Best Xbox Exclusive

Much like its PlayStation competitors, there weren’t a lot of exclusives on Xbox platforms this year. Granted, this always happens during the honeymoon period of a console launch; but the lack of exclusives in 2014 means that we have very little to give a verdict for Best Xbox exclusive. Part of the reason is that some of the great indie titles for the system also came out on PC as part of the new console exclusivity trend. Halo: The Master Chief Collection would have made the list if it wasn’t for the fact that multiplayer is still broken…

Best Xbox Exclusive 2014 Nominees

Sunset Overdrive

Forza Horizon 2

In the end it came down to two exclusives as nothing else even came close. Both are crazy open world games where you take on interesting challenges in a colourful location full of secrets. Forza Horizon 2 was certainly a great game full of fantastic features and a white-knuckle ride through the French Riviera. Sunset Overdrive on the other hand is wacky, exhilarating, and the most vibrant game on the Xbox One. This went down to the wire…

The Winner Is…

Sunset Overdrive

In the end though, Sunset Overdrive resonated more with the majority of the staff at One Hit Pixel. This slick shooter from Insomniac is a return to form and the best thing the studio has made in years, channeling Jet Set Radio and it’s anti-establishment skaters but also giving them decent weapons. This “neon beauty” makes movement and shooting a more arcade-like experience. Writing though polarising is hilarious in places, while the scenarios the game puts you in are as crazy as the aesthetic.

Davs said, “Sunset Overdrive is the winner for me. Wonderfully enjoyable third-person shooter with a twist of Tony Hawk Pro Skater. It wasn’t as slick as Mario Kart 8, but cruising with others on Xbox Live was a joy and the “attraction races” were a nice diversion from the standard shooting.”

It becomes all the more exhilarating when you take on the cooperative multiplayer with a few friends, working together to achieve the objectives but seeking to come out on top as the best performer. Insomniac’s gamble with this punk rock corporate rebellion shooter with soda guzzling mutants looks to have paid off and we look forward for the next project from the celebrated studio.

Game Of The Year 2014 – Best PC Exclusive

If there was ever the claim from the PC Master Race that the games on consoles just don’t come close to what can be experienced on PC, 2014 is certainly that. Some great exclusives from powerful depictions of war through survivor’s eyes to the return of the classic PC RPG (cRPG) gameplay are just some of the highlights that were launched on PC last year.

Best PC Exclusive 2014 Nominees

Divinity: Original Sin

Football Manager 15

Football Manager 15 certainly swayed an opinion or two with its incremental updates that make it “appealing to all levels”. The inclusion of the Assistant Manager certainly helps ease new players into the off-the-pitch managerial tasks, but the option is there for veterans to take the reins for themselves. Criminally however, we never got the chance to review Divinity: Original Sin, but this ambitious RPG was met with much critical acclaim when it came out of Early Access.

The Winner Is…

Divinity: Original Sin

A small majority of us found this to be the best PC game this year. It has competition from the likes of Wasteland 2 which saw a huge backing on Kickstarter years ago; but there are several key gameplay elements that make Divinity: Original Sin stand out above the crowd.

Great combat is one thing, but having the freedom to do exactly what you want to do, even if it means killing someone who is a quest giver, is a game changer. You can pick up on what quest givers would have asked you to do, so it isn’t the end of the world if you make a “mistake”.

Party interactions are also taken to another level with dialogue between characters on the course of action. You essentially have an argument with yourself! No other game has tried this and it only supports the wonderful characterisation and world building. It’s the best game Larian Studios have made to date and seals the expectation of quality in the future. A well-deserved victory.

Game Of The Year 2014 – Best Multiplatform

The majority of big name titles available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 came from the third-party developers trying to work out the capabilities of both systems. Some succeeded, while others dramatically failed to do so. Not a stellar year by any means, but there were enough highlights to warrant a look at several games for this year’s award.

Best Multiplatform 2014 Nominees

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor



None were more surprised than me by Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor with its open world gameplay that risked being derivative or by Wolfenstein: The New Order and its run-and-gun gunplay, as both turned out to be as fantastic. Others mentioned for a nod were Bungie’s Destiny for its captivating and addictive gameplay, FIFA 15 for still being a great football simulation despite a lock of innovation from last year, and Diablo III: Reaper of Souls for essentially restoring faith that Blizzard still knows what they’re doing with the Diablo franchise.

The Winner Is…

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

It was nearly unanimous that the best of the bunch was Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Who would have thought that the blatant Assassin’s Creed parkour gameplay would somehow feel better in Middle-earth from Monolith Soft than Ubisoft’s 18th Century Revolutionary Paris? Who would have thought that the combat from Batman: Arkham Asylum would be augmented with the stellar Nemesis system that made us care about those generals in an organic way?

Davs felt that Shadow of Mordor was a “terrific title” and that “the nemesis engine is a game changer in the industry and the combat is superb.”

Who would have thought that a game that was dismissed by many as a rip-off would have great ideas of its own and the production values to entice us all? By capturing our attention with the journey, it mimics the wonderful books by J.R.R. Tolkien in which this captivating world is set. Just make sure you don’t play it on last-gen consoles!

Game Of The Year 2014 – Best Indie

If 2013 was a great year for indie developers, 2014 was a vintage year full of fine games that will stand the test of time among the greats. From PC exclusive to indies found on both Xbox and PlayStation platforms, there is a great deal of imagination and innovation to be found within.

A lot of great games missed out on this coveted award and we wish we could highlight even more!

Best Indie 2014 Nominees


Velocity 2X


Shovel Knight

This War Of Mine

This was the year that gave us the sombre This War of Mine, the retro-platformer revival that is Shovel Knight and the truly mesmerising Transistor. Velocity 2X marked the difficult transition from fantastic concept to phenomenal follow-up, while OlliOlli shows us that the skateboarding genre is not stagnant. All these games couldn’t be more different in scope, execution, and tone. This was indeed a great year for indie developer awareness with some great games in the spotlight, with this category causing more arguments than others! Any one of these five games could easily have won.

The Winner Is…

Velocity 2X

But while a lot of these games are first outings, it takes a lot to build upon and expand in a meaningful way. For the sheer innovation on top of an already great concept, the sublime Velocity 2X takes the crown for Best Indie game. Reviewing this game was an absolute treat, the game refining its core gameplay found within the first title before impressing with all new side-scrolling levels and even a couple of surprises along the way. As Davs put it, “The perfect sequel and a fantastic title.”

On top of that, it looks glorious on both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, with some impressive effects and refined controls on both platforms. Futurlab were under severe pressure to top Velocity Ultra and in certainly our eyes it did so with gusto. If you own a PlayStation device and haven’t played it yet, go do it now!

Talking Explosions and Early Access With Tango Fiesta’s Andrew Smith

Early Access and Indie developers have been a big focus of PC gaming commentary this year. Lots of stories of some projects falling apart have come to light. We spoke with the developer of Tango Fiesta – Andrew Smith – about how to do Early Access right and 80s action movies. 

One Hit Pixel: How big of a team do you have at Spilt Milk Studios?

Andrew Smith: Four people. Spilt Milk Studios is technically one person, which is myself. Mastertronic are publishing the game for us. Then there’s one designer, one art, one coder, and one audio.

So it’s almost like bedroom coding.

It kind of is bedroom coding. I believe Andrew who is our coder actually codes in his bedroom. I design in my living room. I think our artist has his own studio, which is like, “Woah! Steady on! That’s not indie; we’re going to have to have words!”

Where did the idea for Tango Fiesta come from?

Funnily enough it was born at a Eurogamer event. Almost two years ago at Rezzed, they had a Creative Assembly sponsored Game Jam. We’d submitted as a team of four, having done a few Game Jams before and thought this would be a bit of fun. The theme was the 80’s and we had eight hours to make the game. What we ended up making was that scene in Predator where they shoot the jungle an awful lot because we thought, “We could do that in eight hours, that’ll be easy!” We had four guys in a single screen, shooting the jungle. There was a bit of a cover mechanic in there, where the jungle slowed down enemies as they move but acted as cover too.

Essentially it came out of that. The name of the game came from the restaurant we had dinner at the night before. There was a tango class at the Fiesta del Asado in Birmingham. We’d pledged that whatever we created in the Game Jam, it would be called Tango Fiesta.

It’s a great inspiration for a name certainly! So it’s a four player twin-stick shooter, been in early access since June 2014. How has the reception been from early adopters?

It’s been really good actually. We have had the usual mix. Some people didn’t like it so much and others absolutely adored it and played it more than Call of Duty or Counter-Strike. Because it’s on Steam, we can check these things! It’s quite exciting. I think there’s a lot of room for us to push it really hard. We’ve been a little reticent as it was launched quite early, it was quite buggy and we were committed to weekly updates, which is what we’ve been doing for the first two or three months. We recently switched to fortnightly updates.

The positive reaction has been quite humbling. There are a couple of guys on our forum who after our patch goes up on either the weekly or fortnightly cycle, within two or three hours they have got full bug reports with screenshots and videos. There’s an element of “Wow, that’s nice, they’re finding the bugs for us!” though we still would like to find the bugs ourselves as well, but it shows how much they care.

So you feel as if these people are “the other member of the team”?

Yeah, they’re part of us now, whether they like it or not! We’ve always said that the game is more “the player’s game” than ours. We’ve got an idea of what’s going to be fun about it and what we’re going to change; but if the fans want something we should be able to give them that, within reason of course! It’s been born out of the fact that we’ve got a lot of really good will from the way we’ve handled Early Access. In the Steam Curation that recently launched, we’ve been added to a list of “Early Access Games Done Right”. It’s alongside games like [Vlambeer’s] Nuclear Throne for example. It’s really nice to see it alongside games a lot of people have heard of and know are successful, and being associated with them through our attitudes to Early Access.

I was going to ask about Early Access more broadly, as it’s come under a lot of scrutiny in recent months. One critic raised a point where developers have been developing on Early Access, then suddenly pulling the game, much to the ire of the early adopters. I know you’ve touched upon this, how the community has taken to the development of your game on Early Access. If you were to make another game through Early Access, are there lessons to be learnt, or do you feel you got it right first time?

We’re not going to get everything right first time I don’t think! I’m absolutely keen on making another game using Early Access.  The major change we would take is twofold. We released a little early with Tango Fiesta and initial impressions were hurt because of that. That came from the fact that to developers Early Access means one thing, whereas to the consumer it’s changed a lot. We see a lot of games on Early Access that are essentially finished when launched and all they have left to do is add new content. I would argue that as a developer that isn’t Early Access. It isn’t an Alpha or Beta.

The reality is that they’re in the same bucket as other games on Early Access which are looser and unsure of how they’re going to end up. Consumers rightly pay for something and expect it to be fun. We were pretty certain that Tango Fiesta was fun on launch, but there were a lot of bugs and people weren’t ready for that. That’s down to us communicating it. So what we’re going to do next Early Access is wait a bit, make sure the game is way more polished, maybe fewer features initially, but more complete. The market is shifting more towards complete games.

A lot of the problem with Early Access in my opinion is that Valve hasn’t really communicated what the actual purpose of Early Access is. I think that’s been a bit confusing for consumers who are buying into an Early Access and expecting something a little more finished/polished. There are exceptions from the sounds of things, like your two guys who bought it and within hours of each update producing bug reports. Some people actually want to get involved in QA testing professionally and see this as a gateway into getting into an industry…

From way back in the day when I was making mods before I was making games professionally, I would have loved for this to be a thing, where I could see how a game is being made; weekly or monthly updates to see how things have improved. Part of the fun is seeing it develop. As long as at the end you get the finished game then that’s fine. It’s when it’s not finished where you see a lot of the negative feedback from consumers, who bought a game and the developers suddenly stop.

That was never a risk with us as we’re being published by Mastertronic. We’re being paid to make this game. We’re in a position where we can be incredibly confident about the fact that we’re going to finish this game. It will be available for a price at a time and people will be able to come back and enjoy it. Not everyone’s in that position and it’s on the developer to make sure they’re in that position and not release a paid Beta/Early Access if they’re not. They’re the ones with the knowledge of how long it will take to make, how much it will cost, etc. If it looks like it won’t be ready, you shouldn’t be doing Early Access because it’s dishonest.

Going onto the game itself, it’s a game born out of a Game Jam that’s a love letter to 80’s action movies. What kind of things can players expect?

It’s an arcade action game for one to four players, cooperative through and through. There are four worlds, five in the release version, each based on an 80’s action movie. One is inspired by Commando, one that’s a bit like Predator, there is a tribute to Ghostbusters, and the Running Man also gets a bit of a look in! We’ve gone a bit Arnie with our choices, but we’re looking to expand on that. The fifth one we haven’t decided on yet, but if anyone’s got any good suggestions we’re open to them! Maybe Tron because of its different aesthetic choice!

A lot of gamers want games like they used to be, mad fun, blasting through lots of enemies; but they expect it to last a bit longer and have depth to master some of the systems. We have got a simple example of that, where the characters in the game have eight or nine different attributes which affect how they handle and move in combat. If I’m running forward, then I move at a different speed for each character. If I’m running to the right and shooting to the left, essentially shooting behind me, I will run a bit slower.

We have character variety in there as well, from the broad tanks to the glass cannons. There’s a lot of room for interesting gameplay and dynamics. One of our more recent characters, Doctor Henk, who is a ghoul hunter character, he is a scientist and inventor so good with his hands. He reloads faster than anyone else in the roster, but has a weak melee. Another positive is that he’s thinner, so he can dodge bullets a lot more easily. There’s a lot of reasons to play through with different characters, so we think people will get a lot of a kick through the surprising amount of depth.

When it comes out of Early Access, is there more scope for more worlds or will it be feature complete?

The PR person in me would say, “Yes, it’s complete, we’re not releasing something not feature complete!” It will be finished to the point of scope, what we will be pleased to present as a finished product. We will have a story with a beginning, middle, and end. It will have a New Game +, seven playable characters, tons of bad guys, bosses on every world, etc.

That said, there are a lot of great 80’s action movies we want to homage and take the mickey out of as well! Why would we stop? If it does well enough, we will continue to support it and I can’t wait.

If you were to choose one 80’s action movie that isn’t in the game already, what would you pick?

A personal favourite is First Blood, the first Rambo movie. It’s a little darker in tone, but there’s an idea we’ve got for implementing a thematically similar element to the gameplay. First Blood is about a man who is haunted by his actions in a warzone and is wrongly pursued when he gets back home. We’ve thought of a Metal Gearesque way of tieing that into the game. I would really love to do that as the designer in me would be satisfied if I can pull that off!

The other answer would be Die Hard, because it’s the best action movie ever made!

You’d have to get a sound-a-like for Alan Rickman to do that!

He would be the most sarcastic boss battle! Maybe have the battle a bit like Monkey Island with the verbal ripostes! We can do what we like! We do have a publisher, but they let us do what we want.

Are we close to coming out of Early Access?

We’re aiming for the end of November. We have one world to add and polish the game up. [As of the time of publishing, it is still in Early Access]

We’d like to thank Andrew Smith for speaking with us and publisher Mastertronic for putting us in contact.

A Sample Of What’s In Store In Halo 5: Guardians

Did you pick up Halo: The Master Chief Collection? If so, you’re automatically invited to the Halo 5: Guardians Beta, scheduled to kick off just a few days after Christmas. But right now there is a separate beta going on, where the Slayer gametype is played across two maps, giving us a taste of what is to come.

Gameplay feels similar to previous outings, though Spartans have more tools at their disposal. Gone is the selectable perk system from Halo 4, instead giving Spartans a selection of abilities with minor drawbacks. Sprinting is now infinite, meaning your Spartan could run marathons and still be fit to shoot afterwards; but you are unable to recharge your shield while sprinting, as indicated by the time bar above your health. This level of vulnerability puts players in the dilemma of whether to take cover and heal or run away and risk getting killed.

Dashes can be activated to quickly get into cover or avoid sword attacks, though a small cool-down makes timing crucial, while hovering allows you to control your descent while potentially getting the jump on an unsuspecting foe from above. Ground Pounds do result in instant kills, just they require much precision and timing, since they take a long time to charge. Your Spartan can also slide into cover by pressing the crouch whilst sprinting, which not only looks cool but also great for catching your enemy off guard.

Weapons are familiar, though only a small selection are on offer at this time. DMRs, Battle Rifles, and Assault Rifles are great to use; but the SMG feels incredibly powerful, especially when aiming down sights – something all weapons now have. Sniper Rifles and the Prophet’s Bane are Power weapons that spawn in, giving skilled players the advantage if used effectively.

In this early build, which is not the beta expected to go live on the December 29, there are two maps available that are a mix of the old and the new. “Truth” is basically an updated version of Heretic from Halo 3, but it is still a great deathmatch arena full of hiding places. While weapons are found all around the map, you get indications of when certain weapons respawn. In “Truth”, this is the Prophet’s Bane – similar to the Covenant Energy Sword, but with speed enhancements for Spartans wielding it and a better lunge attack. Given that the Covenant Energy Sword was in exactly the same place in “Heretic”, this is a faithful recreation of a classic map. Perhaps the only black mark against it is that there’s nothing to distinguish it from other maps, something the Halo 2: Anniversary maps had in spades.

The other map is “Empire” – a large complex where you need to be looking out for threats from all around you. Here there are lots of high points for Snipers to hide, with the all-powerful Sniper Rifle being the weapon mentioned in the intel. You’re more likely to see some of the various new Spartan abilities, like the Ground Pound and hovering in mid-flight; but given how anyone can get the jump on you if you’re not careful, this is seldom recommended. “Empire” also exploits the new clambering ability, which is used by pressing the jump button if you can see the summit of a platform. Mobility is key here, more so than Halo maps in the past.

This all wouldn’t work well if the matchmaking system didn’t work. Thankfully, matchmaking has been thus far more stable than Halo: The Master Chief Collection has been. Yes, I’ve had to wait a little while, but once games got going there were far fewer players kicked out or idle. However, this is based on the build before December 29’s more expansive and open beta period, which is bound to put tons more strain on Xbox Live. Remember that beta is beta, but with any luck the signs will be encouraging.

Your first few matches won’t reap rewards, but eventually you’ll gain rankings which can decrease based on performance. You’ll unlock new cosmetic changes, such as helmets, armour, and visors; but most notably no perks that change up the gameplay. This is all of course subject to change, but it’s refreshing to see a game where all players are on a level playing field at all times.

Player skill has mostly been a key fundamental value for the Halo franchise. While it is modernising the gameplay to resemble more recent multiplayer shooters, Halo 5: Guardians thus far is showing promising signs. With at least one new gameplay mode and more maps coming shortly after Christmas, I’m certainly excited to see what’s in store when the game launches next year.

Dr. Mario, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Amiibo

Films have tried to impart that one day robots will take over the world, wiping out the human race. They’d break Asimov’s laws of robotics and begin to shatter everything we know. From Terminator to I Robot, the future looks bleak for mankind. Increasingly though there has been concern about A.I. itself becoming more and more sentient. Professor Stephen Hawking said in an article with the BBC earlier this month that, “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” He’s essentially saying that a nightmare scenario similar to the tragedy that occurs in 2001: A Space Odyssey is more in line with humanity’s fate.

However, as I discovered this week – his fear that humanity will eventually create A.I. that could potentially surpass human ability, has already happened. Its name is Amiibo and we should be cautious.

Activision have been pioneers of the use of NFC technology in their Skylanders franchise – a new vehicle for the likes of Spyro the Dragon among many other original characters. It has its fans, but it wasn’t until Disney got in on the act with Disney Infinity that the potential was realised. The House of Mouse has taken a golden opportunity to reinvigorate the market of toys with readable chips that save data when played with. This year saw Disney incorporate their Marvel wing into the mix, expanding the potential to even greater heights. With the company now the owners of the Star Wars franchise as well, we could well see a tie-in of proportions so epic that hardly anyone would be able to compete…

… unless they happen to be Nintendo. With the launch of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, the NFC potential of all Wii U gamepads has now been implemented with their new Amiibo figures. But while Disney Infinity and Skylanders put their figures into one game, Nintendo have cleverly unlocked the potential for all of their NFC figures to have uses in multiple games. Already we have three of this years’ big releases use the Amiibos to great effect. Mario Kart 8 uses a select few to unlock new Nintendo themed costumes for your Mii racers; Hyrule Warriors allows players to unlock new weapons for their characters; only Super Smash Bros. for Wii U uses them as a new way to play the game.

Since I recently acquired a Wii U, I decided it was time to test out the potential of NFC by purchasing one Amiibo figure. A word of advice if you do go out and buy one: do the research! Some Amiibos aren’t compatible with certain games. Marth – the hero in Fire Emblem, is not compatible with Mario Kart 8, but is compatible with both Hyrule Warriors and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. No indication is given on the packaging on which figures are compatible with which game. If in doubt, the mainstays of Mario, Link, Pikachu, or Fox usually work out well.

When first uploaded to Smash Bros., you can customise the look of your FP fighter and give him/her perks related to stats and special conditions. For example, my Marth FP can heal himself when crouched and doesn’t lose the Final Smash ability if hit once, but this is only scratching the surface. In order to actually train your FP to become a better Smasher, you need to spar with it.

How does it work? Well, when you launch into a match, your Amiibo fighter will be a punching bag at level 1. It will make some movement and try to attack, but it’s relatively basic A.I.. What it will do is learn how you fight. For the purposes of my test, I sparred with Marth and his palette swaps Ike and Lucina, all of which have the same moves. My aim was to make it a counter master, hence my decision to get Marth, where it could in theory attempt to predict when something would attack. It would mix it up by attacking, shielding, and roll dodging, but the general aim was to make it tough to land hits.

As it learned how I played more and more, it would go after Pokéballs, Assist Statues, and Final Smash symbols. There was a small setback where the level 75m from Donkey Kong was randomly generated, forcing me into dodging and avoiding everything. The Amiibo’s response in the following level was to run away from me at all times, hording items, and generally being a major pain to hit. On the plus side, it is now more often than not hitting the Final Smash attacks, taunting as I go off the screen. It’s also now reasonably good at recovering from being sent flying, and most importantly countering, though I could get it to practice a little more on the timing. My next big agenda is to get it to go for the opponent with meteor smashes when they’re recovering before making it back to safety.

Advancement of technology is either a beneficial or scary proposition. A.I. that can learn from human behaviour is unsettling; especially when it eventually triumphs over a human player thanks to all that it has been taught. Stephen Hawking’s warnings gave me food for thought at the time, but I never assumed that I could ever see that possibility come from using NFC. Given what I’ve taught my Amiibo to do so far, I can see that the potential is far closer at hand than I thought possible; but as long as the A.I. doesn’t go too far beyond merely learning what we do into learning how to be better than us, we might be fine.

Until Dawn: The Playable Teen Horror Flick

We’ve heard about this project from Supermassive Games for quite a while now. First it was coming to the PlayStation 3 with PlayStation Move support. but in August 2014 the developer re-announced Until Dawn as a PlayStation 4 exclusive. It’s built using a modified version of the Killzone: Shadow Fall “Umbra3” engine, the game is said to show off what the PlayStation 4 is really capable of. After going hands-on with the game it certainly left an impression.

If I were to sum up what Until Dawn is, I would lean heavily towards a ‘teen horror movie done like any Quantic Dream game’. Following eight teenagers who spend the night in a log cabin on the anniversary of the death of a friend they all have in common, they are unaware initially that they are being hunted by a serial killer with a vendetta. For the purposes of the demo, I was put in the role of Ashley as she explores a desolate basement trying to look for one of their friends alongside her companion Chris.

Firstly, I have to say that the character models are incredibly lifelike; utterly terrified of the predicament they are in. When tears form in Ashley’s eyes, they look insanely good, instead of the typical watery blobs we’re used to in most games. There’s a real sense of fear in their eyes that makes their situation all the more believable. Voice performances use their talent well and spoke naturally; yet fitting for the teen horror flick aesthetic Supermassive Games were going for.

On top of that, the basement is very atmospheric. By moving the PlayStation DualShock controller, you can manipulate where the torch shines. It takes a little getting used to, but the uncertainty of the control scheme brings potential situations where something scuttles in the distance, only for you to shine your light on where the sound is to find nothing. Beyond that however it felt to play like most modern survival horror games – no tank-controls, but not much beyond walking around and inspecting environments.

The demo eventually led me to a room with a bit of a puzzle aspect. There were supernatural elements in psycho analysis clue. This only appeared on screen for a few seconds and before I knew it I was in the next set piece, unable to go back. Perhaps this is intentional, a way to reward those who inspect the clues, with the potential for new scenarios if you inspected all the clues. But I was not so lucky.

If I had one reservation, it would be that akin to Quantic Dream games, the demo felt extremely guided, leading you from one set piece to another. You have some key decisions to make however, such as whether you go with your companion into a locked room or split up temporarily. While I was only allowed to play once through, I’m reasonably sure that the choices presented change the story accordingly.

It also submits you to that infamous creepy dead woman screaming jump scare. Not exactly what I was expecting at 10am and I’m not sure how I feel about that!

Yager On How Dead Island 2 Is A New Beginning

New developer, same publisher. When Dead Island 2 was announced at E3, it came with a trailer of a vastly different tone – one full of humour rather than the heartbreaking original trailer. I sat down with senior game designer Isaac Ashdown to talk about how the series will evolve under their wing.

One Hit Pixel: How did the property of Dead Island move from Techland to Yager?

Isaac Ashdown: At Yager, we were big fans of Dead Island. While we were working on Spec Ops: The Line, we played it a lot in our offices. It was a nice change of pace. When we found out we could pitch to do the sequel, we just jumped at the chance! The pitch was successful, so we got the project.

Spec Ops: The Line had a very serious undertone to it that garnered a lot of attention upon its release. With Dead Island 2, are we about to see a similar change in direction or will it undertake a more bonkers direction?

One of the things we’re doing at Yager with Dead Island is making it our own, but we’re not making it like Spec Ops. We’ve taken a lot of the core visuals and tone of the original where paradise meets hell and putting it in California to set it in a real place. We’ve been seeing what that means from a design perspective. I wouldn’t say we’re going completely bonkers, but certainly a light-hearted, over-the-top side.

That’s certainly something fans of Dead Rising would recognise. I noticed in the multiplayer demo build that the player is able to gather up items to upgrade weapons to have elemental properties. Can you touch a little more on what that will be like in the final game?

In the demo, it works a little differently to the real game, as you only need to complete a side quest to get a modified weapon. In the final game it will work like the first game, where you will need to find blueprints, weapons, and resources.

You will then be able to modify or craft a weapon or item based on what blueprints you have found, choosing what you want to create based on stats. We’ve tried to make it as flexible as possible, where any weapon can be modded and all kinds of recipes can be found. You can now do it on the fly, so you don’t have to find a workbench.

Would you say then that Dead Island 2 is more of the same but in a different setting?

We’re trying to do a real sequel, making what made the first game such a great experience and adding onto that: The melee combat and cooperative parts in particular. One of the things we’re doing is refreshing how cooperative works, so we’ve upped the player count to eight and made the transitions between single and multiplayer seamless.

For example, you can jump into a game, doing your own thing, when you hear some gunfire down the street. You arrive to find it was another player trying to fight a boss, so you help take it down. You can choose whether to tag along or go your own separate ways, it’s up to you. We’re trying to make coop a key feature of the game.

Character in the first game had unique abilities. Is this something that has been retained?

We’ve got four different characters that play slightly differently and unique specialities. You can play as a speeder character who is great with fast weapons and cool executions, a berserker character who is more into slower, heavier weapons to pack punch. They also have unique abilities, so the speedier character performs a cool execution where she runs up and stabs the enemy in the back, while the berserker has a super powered kick to send zombies flying. We do have a levelling system where you can assign skill points to customise characters how you want. When you see eight people online, some may have different variations on the same core character you are building.

There was a lot of enemy variety in the first Dead Island, so is there scope for new enemy types or skins?

Absolutely! In the demo you have regular zombies, some crawling and some that run faster. You also have special enemies too, such as the Thug hanging out in the electronics store and the Suicider at the gas station. We’ve reimagined them a little bit, mainly in the visual design. The Suicider for example looks like a gas station attendant. We also have new enemies as well that we haven’t revealed yet. Zombies should however look unique, wearing clothes fitting to the setting. So in the electronics store, some may be wearing the electronic store uniform.

What will fans of the original have to look forward to with Dead Island 2?

If you enjoy playing games with intense melee combat, but like to mix it up with guns and dual wielding, and you enjoy doing this with a group of friends or random people; then this is what we’ve been focusing on building on with the sequel. We’ve got this brand new setting to offer as well, offering more of the paradise meets hell mantra of the series.

Techland were originally going to make Dead Island 2, though a change of direction resulted in them signing with WB Games to create Dying Light. Aren’t you a little worried that this may steal some of the Dead Island thunder?

Personally, I think Dying Light looks like a really interesting game. I’m looking forward to playing it. They’re doing a lot of cool stuff. I think they’re taking it in a very different direction, especially when it comes to the tone. We’re trying to build on what made Dead Island so iconic, how you have this blood splattered, sun drenched place where you can have a fun experience being the hero. I think Dead Island 2 is going to be a great addition to the series. As for Techland, I certainly wish them all the best!

When is Dead Island 2 being launched?

Spring 2015 for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Have you been working on optimising the PC version for higher end rigs?

It’s still at an early stage, but we’re aiming to have an equally awesome experience on all platforms.

If you were to sum up Dead Island to try and sell Dead Island 2 to someone who had never heard of the series, would you say this is a good starting point or start with the first one?

The first one is great and if you want to play something right now, you can play the first game! Dead Island 2 builds up so much on what made the first one great. We’ve got four brand new characters, set in the same world though sometime after the events of Dead Island. You could totally jump straight into Dead Island 2.

A Brief Session With Dead Island 2

We were given ten minutes to kill as many zombies as possible in an open environment, with my character wielding a fire axe and a rifle of some sort. Early on it was a bit disorientating to get back into the stamina based combat that Dead Island sported, though I soon got into the swing of things. The gun had probably more ammunition in it than it will ever see in the final product and there was no degradation for the axe, but it’s likely this is for demo purposes.

Also for demo purposes, something the developers were open about, was the fact that the ten minute arena time limit was created specifically for the demo and that the side objectives we had are not representative of the final product. In the demo, completing the side missions of collecting 200 of a fire-based upgrade or electric-based upgrade would automatically apply said upgrade to your arsenal. In the final product, they’re anticipating it to work more like the original Dead Island with the crafting mechanic, though crafting can now be done anywhere for convenience.

While it doesn’t play any differently to previous Dead Island titles, it’s important to point out that it is at this time more visually complex than visually appealing. Certain enemies will have different skins depending on location. Suiciders found next to a gas station for example will look like gas attendants, while Thugs in the hardware store will look like clerks.

Their reason for this ties in with the fact the action now takes place in Los Angeles as opposed to the fictional “paradise” Banoi Island, so they wanted the game to have that immersive feel. It’s a strong addition to the mix, though we hope there are some new and interesting additions to the roster of enemies.

My concerns though are that by playing it somewhat safe, the game will feel like a glorified expansion to many. Having eight players at one time is a nice touch, but it certainly didn’t feel like a visual step up. I would have forgiven it had it sported a higher frame rate to make the first person combat feel fluid, but frankly I didn’t get that impression.

Maybe there’s more to the final version mechanically that they’re not ready to show, which is the case for many games at EGX this year. In the meantime, the foundations are there in full show and are a good indication that the franchise is at least in safe hands.

An In-Depth Chat About Total War: Attila

At EGX 2014, the next Total War game was announced, much to the surprise of many since The Creative Assembly were only just on the cusp of launching Alien Isolation at the time. We speak with Lead Artist Pawel Wojs and Senior Battle Designer Simon Mann, to get some more insight on just what direction the series is taking us.

One Hit Pixel: So Total War: Attila then! A new setting. How long has it been in the works for?

Simon: We started pretty much as soon as we’d finished Total War: Rome II.

What made you decide to pick that era?

Pawel: It’s a wonderful continuation of the story of Rome. Rome II was an epic period of 300 years of crazy empire building. It felt fitting to end that chapter and begin anew with the dawn of the dark age.

Simon: We’re 400 years after the events of Rome II, in a setting that isn’t well known. It’s the beginning of the early dark ages which not a lot of people have background knowledge of.

I have to admit, I haven’t! So could you please set the scene for us?

Simon: It’s the beginning of the dark ages, which sees the world dramatically change in major ways. There’s a lot of natural turmoil, so for example the climate is changing hugely, a feature we’re trying to push. The world is getting colder, the snow is slowly encroaching towards Europe. There’s devolution happening too, where people are moving away from cities to the countryside. The Roman Empire is so watered down by others settling in their lands that it’s almost unrecognisable.

Pawel: Because of the climate change, people from the north are slowly moving south, but you also have forces including the Huns pushing the Roman Empire further and further back. You have the Western Roman Empire, which used to be what we know as the Roman Empire, now crumbling at the edges, unable to maintain its borders and under a lot of pressure. It’s a darker world, not the classical Roman Empire we know, but more medieval-like. Then on the Eastern Roman Empire is a more wealthier, stronger side of the Roman Empire. It’s where the spirit of Roman Empire now resides. Then you have the Sasanid Empire, which is strong force and in its prime.

The only thing I know about the Hun era, was that Atilla got quite far West…

Simon: He made it into Gaul actually! He was a real celebrity of the time, with his empire stretching from the Stepsof Sepia up to the Roman Empire.

Pawel: He was the Alexander the Great of that period.

What drove you to choose Attila as the centrepiece for the game?

Pawel: It was an easy choice. He was the scourge of God. This is where the story of the four horsemen was born. He came to the Romans to bring the end of days. You cannot tackle this period without focusing on Attila.

Simon: He was cited as a catalyst for the things that went wrong for the Roman Empire. The Huns coming down from the East, pushing the Barbarians into Roman territory, like a grindstone. The Roman Empires are too big to deal with this amount of enemies at once, so it collapses down and Attila comes sweeping in. The Eastern Roman Empire basically had to pay him off, having lots of money to bargain with him.

Pawel: They would even hire him to fight some of their battles for them.

You seem to know quite a lot about the time period. How long did it take to research?

Pawel: A long time. Simon might be able to answer this better than I, as I’m an artist who only needs to worry about the pretty pictures, but we built a library of 70+ books that all the guys read through.

Simon: Indeed and this is something we continue doing to be honest. We’re all part-time historians here, interested in the history, architecture, etc.

Pawel: The architecture was particularly difficult to research. The time period wasn’t called the Dark Ages for nothing! We don’t know much about them, not much survived, and there’s lots of conflicting theories and stories. It’s a bit of a black hole between the Classical era and the Medieval times. It was definitely tricky to research the architecture and settlements – not too medieval but moving away from the classical.

Simon: I like the way we’ve got the ruins of the classic civilisation mixed in with this proto-medieval buildings. Wood buildings mixed with barbarian structure.

Pawel:  Londinium is one of the battles on show and is an example of a Western Roman settlement.

Simon: We did a lot of research that we essentially had a full canvas. You don’t need to make up anything. As long as we can read as many books as we can, we can make more games!

I guess the important question is how will you translate the history from the books and research into the game itself? What processes are you going through in terms of developing the game so it is a true and accurate, historically fun to play.

Simon: They say all the best plans fall apart once they reach the field. Total War is a sandbox game where you can rewrite history, rather than strictly follow. One of the things we’re doing is have objectives for factions that are based on historical context. For example, the Saxons coming over to England and essentially founding the British people, so you could have one that says “conquer London”.

Pawel: So we set the stage and leave it up to you!

Simon: If players want to take the Saxon army and charge it down the Roman Empire, they can do!

So essentially you’re giving them the same situations that the rulers of the time would have faced at the time. That sounds fascinating!

Pawel: We set the start date, try to set the stage as closely as possible, building the missions into that sub-narrative, and then leave the player to decide the future. At this point the Romans were a Christian people, but you can choose to convert them back to the old ways and follow the old gods, or convert to another religion.

So there’s a lot of scope for the civilisation building aspect of the game?

Simon: We’ve also got the flip side of that the Western Roman Empire, we’ve talked about this a lot because we’re excited about their gameplay. It’s not the building aspect, but destroying game of removing settlements, scaling back and recomposing. You have to survive, you can’t just start invading.

Pawel: As Western Rome, your borders are vast but you don’t have the resources to maintain the territory you keep. You have to choose to give up territory, so you may choose to give up on Britain because you can’t maintain Britain and all your other locations held.

Total War is also about the combat, so how would the strategies of warfare at the time play into the combat mechanics in-game?

Pawel: So far we’ve only revealed the two Roman factions and the Saxons.

Simon: Our approach is to give each side its own identity that’s in line with their culture. I’m not sure if you’ve played the demo yet…

The queue for the booth was massive…

Simon: Really? I’ve been trapped up here the entire time!

Pawel: Oh yeah, It’s wrapping around the booth.

Obviously the reception has been phenomenal with many excited to see the new time setting. Sorry, you were saying about the combat?

Simon: Yes so, each faction is unique in their culture and army composition. The Saxons were all about the axe warriors at the time, so they had a lot of heavy infantry with axes running around.

They also have raider units who are cheaper than the discipline counterparts, but the downside is that if they’re in a settlement they will begin to loot and pillage the village. Maybe you didn’t want this, instead to take over the city, so you would need to repair that damage from the campaign map. It’s intertwined in a fascinating way.

With the Romans you have more organised troops that people aren’t used to, civilised barbarians essentially. They rely on technology, so the Ballistarii and crossbows we’ve added into the game.

Pawel: We will be revealing more as the months go on.

Am I right in thinking we may potentially get to play as the Huns?

Pawel: Who knows? The focus is on Attila as a big bad.

A looming threat.

Pawel: Exactly. As much as Total War: Attila is a sandbox game as always, we’ve got this overarching narrative that the end of days are upon us. The omens that come with the migrating tribes and fleeing people. Stories of a rider, winters are getting colder. People felt it was the end of days, so you know they’re coming but you don’t know when.

I now have to address the elephant in the room, which is the AI. Now I played a bit of Total War: Rome II at launch, which had its issues. So what safeguards are in place to ensure that Total War: Attila makes a good first impression?

Pawel: Have you played it recently?

Yes, it’s a lot better!

Pawel: So we’re constantly improving. One of the things in [Total War: Rome II] – Emperor Edition was to address the top issues and also constantly building on the solid foundation for AI. This framework we’re using for Attila. If you look at the battle on show, it isn’t a scripted battle, but a siege battle against real AI.

Simon: We’re always going to be able to continually improve it.

Pawel: It’s an insanely complex system. A lot of people take it for granted because a lot of RTS games are completely scripted. Whereas Total War has an artificial intelligence. We will be constantly working on the AI forever!

Simon: Personally, I’m quite happy with the new AI and where it is at the moment. It sometimes surprises me, doing things you don’t expect it to do. For example in the siege battle, I’ve had the AI come all the way around my settlement and attack from the other side!

Pawel: That happened to me once as well! I was locked in battle once and the enemy sent a task force to capture my capture point and I didn’t even notice it happening. I lost because I was unable to get my army back to tackle the issue!

With regards to hardware, is it running on the Total War: Rome II engine?

Pawel: Yes. Gone are the days where we would scrap the engine as soon as the development begins on a new game in the franchise. We can always build and improve, implementing new things. Essentially it’ a new version of the engine. We’ve got a new effects system to support it – improved reflections for example.

With the new AI behaviour and graphical capability, will we need to upgrade our PCs?

Pawel: We always try to support the widest range of systems as we can. We’re obviously in the high end, but we’re still optimising.

When will the game be out?

Pawel: 2015 for PC.

Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us about this fascinating time period and a fascinating sounding game. Hope to hear more about it soon!

Bloodborne Tests Your Resolve And You’ll Want More

Few games make me as excited as the stuff coming out of From Software. This could be a case of Stockholm Syndrome as they’ve repeatedly tested my sanity with punishing difficulty, but that announcement for Bloodborne genuinely had me excited for a brand new setting and the leap into the latest hardware. As the successor to the lineage of Demon’s Souls and indeed Dark Souls, this aggressive new take shows you can hold out a blood soaked olive branch to the player, before beating their morale into submission with devious yet fair tactics.

The first impression was of awe. Never before has a gothic Victorian inspired setting looked so vast and foreboding. As I began to climb the tower, a blood curdling scream echoed through the air, not at all human and all the more terrifying because of that. While it looks impressive, sporting great visual fidelity, the combat mechanics probably deserved a higher frame rate to really show off what this PS4 exclusive is capable of. This of course won’t be anything new to Dark Souls or indeed Demon’s Souls fans, so they’ll feel right at home with the pacing.

Bloodborne felt like a more aggressive adventure simply because of how easy it is to restore health. When I was hit by the monsters, a huge chunk of my health vanished, replaced by a smaller yellow bar covering a small portion of the health bar. When you subsequently hit or kill the monsters, the blood they lose turns into recovered health; with the maximum able to be recovered being that yellow health bar. This is hardly a new idea as fighting games have utilised a similar idea for years, but it’s the first time we’ve seen this outside the confines of that genre and it works well.

Combat, for the most part, is fluid, with the modular weapons and stances proving useful in terms of crowd control or quickly landing hits on single opponents. Weapons range from the “Clever Axe” that we saw in the trailers, but also more conventional swords and axes. Without a decent block mechanic it was vital to dodge, especially when foes begin to use firearms.

This is something that the player can use as well; in fact, they play an integral part in how combat works. With a blunderbuss and pistol on show, the aim is to stun foes with your firearms before moving in for the kill with your primary weapon. Sadly, whether or not there is a lock-on system was never revealed by the staff, so its usefulness largely depends on if you can still lock onto enemies as it’s wildly inaccurate without one.

After dispatching a few human enemies who claimed that I didn’t belong, I went around an entrance to a gate being slammed on by something large. It turned out to be some kind of giant that was more challenging than its smaller cultist cousins thanks to a shoulder barge. Upon exploring the area for loot, I came across giant crow corpses which suddenly came to life and began to attack, from the ground. It was a bit jarring to see foes that usually swoop in from the skies to instead assault my character from the floor.

My run came to an end just as I saw what looked like an NPC being summoned to fight some werewolves. Thinking that it would be better to try to attack from afar, I fired my weapons a few times, catching one of them in the arm. Sadly this proved to be a fatal mistake as my character was leapt upon and consequently devoured for his troubles. I tried the run again several times, only for the speedy wolves to quickly end all hope of survival. Even though the mechanics are more forgiving when it comes to health recovery, this is still a Souls game through and through.

Definitely a polarising game then from developers From Software and certainly not for the easily frustrated, but Bloodborne is one of few games recently I’ve genuinely enjoyed. It had a great sense of pacing, a brutal challenge, and showed off just how striking a game’s visuals can be on a next-gen console. It may not be a graphical powerhouse compared to certain showcase titles, but it has the gameplay down and that’s the main draw.

Mortal Kombat X: The Fighter To Watch

Mortal Kombat X has seen a lot of attention and it’s not hard to see why. The reboot was favourably received, reviving a franchise that had long lost its way with “Kreate-A-Fatality”, Shujinko’s entire existence, and a convoluted plot that only the dedicated could make sense of. By altering its own timeline in dramatic fashion, the developers at NetherRealm studios now have creative freedom to embark down this new future. But how do the new mechanics fare and just how complex can a game about beating someone to death get?

I recently played the multiplayer-only preview at EGX alongside TheSixthAxis’ Kris Lipscombe and a couple of representatives from WB Games. Both showed me different things when it came to not just the mechanics, but also how it feels to play when you’re opting to make a small competition out of it. What was revealed during both sessions has me excited.

Old mainstays like Scorpion, Sub Zero, Raiden and Kano are still present, each with three different modes to vary fighting styles. All work well and have advantages in certain scenarios. Newcomers include D’vora – a venomous spider lady, Kotal Khan – the sun god, and the daughter of Sonja Blade and Johnny Cage (bet you didn’t see that one coming): Cassie Cage. Indeed Cassie Cage is an interesting blend of her mother’s special ops training with her father’s Hollywood brawler “shenanigans”. With plenty more characters and fighting styles to be revealed, the diversity thus far is impressive.

Fighting itself uses the best from Injustice: Gods Among Us, but further improving their utility. For example, in-stage items that deal damage can occasionally appear more than once in a fight, meaning their use becomes less risky. Brawling is also slightly faster, meaning battles happen at such a brisk pace, reacting to oncoming attacks is a tense affair. Supporting this are mobility based obstacles that can be used to leap across the area, and even areas that are used differently depending on where you and your opponent are. You can also run, but unlike in Mortal Kombat 3, it isn’t mapped to a single button, though the stamina bar limits how much you can spam this.

As if the fighting wasn’t good enough, during the time played I was able to pull off some rather disturbing finishers. Cassie Cage’s in particular made painful viewing, topped off with a rather comedic use of chewing gum. While it’s nothing on the recently revealed Quan Chi’s new finisher, the level of brutal extermination is perhaps more gory than previous titles. More importantly though, it keeps what made Mortal Kombat an excellent reboot with its combos, enhanced attacks, combo breakers, and the X-Ray attacks that brought the series up-to-date.

Where Mortal Kombat X has differentiated itself from its contemporaries thus far has been with the different fighting styles. These provide far more complexity than merely choosing characters as they provide different moves depending on the selection, each granting advantages and disadvantages in fighting styles that need adapting to. What’s more, it adds a level of depth unfound in most fighting games, making mastering a character a far more involved task.

Some have said that it is a darker looking game and in many ways it is. Stages have a desolate feel to them for the most part, with the “Kove” level showcasing a rather hellish landscape full of dead bodies that splash up against the bridge. An Outworld marketplace does a little more to build up the world of Mortal Kombat as all sorts of weird and wondrous things inhabit this stage. It helps that the physics and overall tone of the game are technically impressive, perhaps even rivalling Killer Instinct for artistic finesse.

It’s unknown at this time what else the game may have in terms of features, but given NetherRealm studios’ history with the Mortal Kombat franchise, they won’t skimp on the features. While I’ve always been a sucker for the series since its inception (I even liked Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero!), the improvements should have fighting game fans in general excited. Historically the Capcom fighters have had a more mechanical focus as opposed to just being about guts and gore, but Mortal Kombat X looks to bridge that gap, then uppercut its rivals into a pit full of spikes. Fatality indeed.

Is Metro 2033 Redux The Definitive Remake Of A Cult Classic?

Dmitry Glukhovsky’s dystopian novel has garnered a following since the videogame adaptation. In fact the English translation hit book shops the same year the game was launched. Metro: Last Light had a bit of a shaky development cycle, not least because of the fall of THQ and the franchises’ acquisition by Deep Silver, but it was highly praised on launch despite not running at its full potential on consoles due to hardware limitations.

4A Games could easily have spruced up Metro: Last Light and been on their merry way, but the team decided to revisit their original flagship game and remake it in the new engine. The atmospheric lighting is the biggest indicator of this as light bounces off walls to create foreboding shadows that lurk in the darkness. But this isn’t just a graphical upgrade.

For a start, Metro 2033 Redux opts to allow players to tinker with the game a little more before embarking on the commute. Survival is the game as was originally intended, while Spartan is a faster paced affair where ammunition, filters and other resources are more readily available. You also have access to difficulty settings, including the Ranger mode where the HUD and UI are disabled. There are other subtle changes within the main campaign too. Some sections are far easier than before, while others go on for far longer or ramp up the difficulty a little bit more.

If only they paid a little bit more attention to the character models. They look fine from a distance, but as soon as their mouths move it looks like they’re all badly imitating Pac-Man, all the while using the same dodgy English dub. I seriously recommend playing this one in the original Russian with subtitles. One particularly unfortunate occurrence came when riding down the lift I’d accidentally clipped into the character model of an NPC and could see the inner workings of his mouth. It’s an image I can’t forget.

Another image I can’t forget is that of the horrifying beasties that lurk both above ground and in the tunnels. Again it is the lighting that puts the icing on this ghastly cake as the light may occasionally flicker across the face of something terrible, only for it to be hidden once again in the darkness. It creates immersion so potent that if playing Ranger mode you’d almost think you were there!

On consoles, Metro 2033 Redux is the definitive version with plenty of upgrades and tweaks, but I’d strongly recommend getting both games in the Redux pack as opposed to one or the other. Metro 2033 Redux still has limited replay value while getting Metro: Last Light at least means you can continue your journey into the post-apocalyptic underground of Moscow. As far as remakes go, this is the cream of the crop.

Review copy supplied by Xbox.

Are Pre-Orders Really That Evil?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to One Hit Pixel.

During the summer months, procrastinating on the internet takes more of my time than actually playing games thanks to the summer drought. With a lack of upcoming releases compared to previous years, this lull is particularly painful. Yet summer also brings forth a slew of pre-order incentive announcements for games in the pipeline, something that Polygon’s Ben Kuchera has written a piece urging consumers to keep away from.

His argument against pre-ordering is that it isn’t consumer friendly, instead benefiting publishers with guaranteed income streams (because who cancels their pre-order?) and retailers because it gives them an indication of how many copies they need to order from the publisher to meet demand, thus limiting shelf space.

To quote directly, “You’re fighting a problem of potential scarcity, a problem created by the retailer”. Pre-order incentives are also damaging the market by favouring one retailer over many others. “That’s not marketing, that’s consumer hostility.” This is just a vertical slice of his argument against pre-orders though, so you should have a read before coming to your own thoughts on the matter.

Up until fairly recently, I was of the same thinking. I hadn’t pre-ordered a game for several years, loathed the very idea of it, and honestly had no reason to even consider. Heck, the last thing I pre-ordered was my Nintendo 3DS.

However, as of the past few months, I too am guilty of fuelling this particular flame.

I first pre-ordered Destiny with the intention of getting into the beta. In this case, the beta is the closest I’m ever going to come to play it before release due to the MMO style nature of the game. I see it as an investment in producing content for this website, for giving you a heads up. No doubt many will just play it as a sneak peek of the hottest new IP from a veteran studio. From what I’ve seen so far, I like the ideas being put forward- a fact that is vital to the can of worms that was opened, because I wanted to show support for another innovative gameplay idea.

Evolve was a game I immensely enjoyed during my limited time with it, simply due to the reactions that came from the others present and playing. Strangers and friends alike gathered to take on one stomping brute of a monster that was being controlled by another player. Some took on a leadership role, but everyone was talking to each other. Observing one particular game was deeply intense because of just how close things were getting. My time as the monster provoked the opposing band of journalists to argue about the best course of action after I dispatched their lynchpin.

This is the dawn of the next-generation multiplayer experience and to me that’s why I pre-ordered: to show support for ideas that I like. In my eyes, the only reason you should pre-order any game is to show support for ideas, not necessarily the developers themselves. However, this doesn’t extend to single player only experiences. I agree with Ben Kuchera that pre-ordering particularly single player games like Alien: Isolation is a stupid idea.

When something is multiplayer focused, pre-ordering guarantees you the copy from day one so you’re ahead of the curve. It’s important for those who want to play with friends or those who want to play competitively. Those who pre-order single player only games, no matter what the bonuses are, are succumbing to aggressive marketing. Pre-ordering a new games console is also a case of supply/demand as retailers don’t make a huge profit from new games consoles unless they’re part of a bundle. You know the ones; buy the console, a game, and a branded accessory pack? They make money from those accessories!

But I digress. Single player games tend to depreciate faster than any “profitable” multiplayer offerings, unless you have Mario or Zelda on the box. This is generally due to the fact that people sell finished games back to a retailer who puts them in their profitable pre-owned sections. When this happens, their business practice is to “upsell” pre-owned copies in favour of brand new ones which neither the publisher or developer profits from. Therefore, aggressive pre-order campaigns are a sure-fire way of making a little more money before the need for DLC comes up. It’s an ugly business and generally I don’t want a part of it. Do I still want single player games? Absolutely! Some of the best games out there are single player only. I’m just not wanting throw all the chips down and declaring myself all-in.

However, one factor isn’t taken into consideration in Ben’s article and that is PC pre-ordering, including Early Access. Some may say that Early Access isn’t linked as you’re “helping with the development of the game”, but what difference is there between the Destiny beta and signing up to an Early Access project to the average consumer? It’s another aggressive marketing technique that consumers shouldn’t fall for unless they really want to help with the game. It’s also a double-edged sword as gamers may forget about a developer’s Early Access game by the time it comes releasing the full version, there may not be enough hype for the game to generate sales.

Steam pre-orders generally debunk Ben’s argument about supply/demand as you can’t physically run out of digital copies. However, it reinforces his argument that the aggressive marketing damages consumer’s rights, as there are Steam exclusive pre-order bundles that shut out the likes of Green Man Gaming and GOG. In fact, Steam has an overwhelming monopoly on PC gaming as most online retailers sell Steam keys as well as DRM-free versions. Then of course you have high-street retailers selling Steam currency.

So be wary dear reader. Pre-orders are an ugly business that is slowly becoming more and more unpleasant by the year. After these two pre-orders come through, it is unlikely that I would pre-order again unless a similarly exciting and innovative multiplayer experience appears that is likely to be sold out. Even then I would have reservations.