Author Archive

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

Destiny

FIFA 15

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

Transistor

Velocity 2X

OlliOlli

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.

In Alien: Isolation You’re Never Truly Alone

It seems that The Creative Assembly has been tasked by Sega with the question :”Why have games from the Aliens franchise failed?” With Alien: Isolation, the answer they’ve come up with is simple – drop the ‘S’ and focus on what made the original film a classic. That meant getting rid of the high-tech shooters we’ve seen in the past and instead focus on terrifying the player by making them bait for the sole Xenomorph.

But you’re probably wondering how it all works. So far, Sega have already shown us the interaction between player and Xenomorph. The radar allows players to get a vague idea of where life forms may be, but you will get a better idea should you turn to face the threat indicated. Sounds fairly primitive so far.

We were led to a darkened room where various versions of the game were on show. This was revealed to be the E3 build that introduces some dynamics that on paper may sound like they’re detracting from the original vision. I was given the ability to create tools to distract the alien to another location, or heal myself after an encounter with the newly introduced humanoid hostiles. These are usually to enabled me to lure it away from a particular objective, or alert patrols to a location where they can rendezvous with a grizzly end.

Even with these tools and the inclusion of humans and androids who react hostilely, neither detracts from the main objective – not to get eaten by the Alien. This is compounded by the fact that you can make them paranoid by merely giving yourself away before hiding. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword really because the AI will fire randomly, alerting the Xenomorph to their location. Naturally their demise is at this point inevitable, but was hiding under that table or in that closet enough? That is the constant peril that Alien: Isolation presents and the paranoia that sets in thanks to the gloomy atmosphere of the dilapidated space station is enough to put you on edge.

As I was put on the edge so many times by an Alien that loved to skulk in the ventilation shafts, it wasn’t easy to figure out what I was supposed to be doing by the time I got there. Retention of tasks is a bit more difficult when you are being constantly hunted, so when it came to hacking into a computer to unlock a safe to grab a key to unlock a door, it really became a test of nerves. Some might find that to be a hindrance, but it’s certainly in keeping with the aim of being utterly terrified.

I did get rather lucky not to have to avoid the Android on patrol while hacking terminals, but when fleeing the station it became a rather tense game of cat and mouse. When being pursued by the Xenomorph, the last thing you want is a couple of guys firing at you. I just about made it through that area, but it was certainly touch and go. Anything can set the Xenomorph on your trail, including knocking down an object.

Unbelievably tense and full of paranoia, Alien: Isolation is utterly terrifying and I love what that means! The game launches on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on October 7.

Be sure to read our interview with senior designer Gary Napper and creative lead Al Hope about the upcoming title.

Talking Alien: Isolation With The Creative Assembly

We recently got the chance to go and take a look at Alien: Isolation – the new game in the popular franchise now under the wings of Total War veterans The Creative Assembly. We’ll have a preview on it up a little later today, we first got the chance to talk with senior designer Gary Napper and creative lead Al Hope about the upcoming title.

For those gamers who were disappointed with Gearbox’s interpretation of the franchise, how are The Creative Assembly doing things differently?

It’s important to note that this game has been in development for over three years and has always had its own vision of recreating the feeling of that single terrifying Alien we love from the first movie. This is not a game about machine guns and mowing down a horde of Aliens. This is about being underpowered and unprepared to deal with a single creature that is deadly and smart. You are being hunted and that is terrifying.

Alien: Isolation seems the closest the game has come to being a homage to the films. Do you feel pressured by this?

I think we put more pressure on ourselves than any outside influence. This is the Alien game we’ve always wanted to play so we are very critical of our work and how we approach constructing the game both mechanically and visually. We are the first to point out if something does not look or feel right as we are honestly huge fans of the film.

What has been the most difficult design challenge in creating Alien: Isolation so far?

Our greatest creative challenge has been the Alien, it’s totally unique. The AI programmers have done an incredible job at creating a creature that feels like it is a smart and capable, deadly hunter that can stalk around under its own behaviour and dynamically use its senses to track you down.

Have you had to drop any key features as it didn’t fit what you were hoping for?

I have worked on many games in my career and I have to say that this is the first game that has pretty much stuck to its core feature set and not had to drop any major features. We have made tweaks and evolved systems and sometimes things have not fitted as well as we would have planned but all the key components have come together really well

We’ve previously seen how vital the radar is in staying alive and how hiding can make the difference between a fatal end and living another few moments, but just how intelligent is the AI for the Xenomorph?

The AI for the Alien is the thing we have focussed on more than anything else. He is the star of the show and needs to appear as if he is, to use Ash’s words, “the perfect organism”. He is based on a sense system that gathers information in the environment and then uses that info to make decisions and close in on its prey. After that we have a set of behaviours that adapt to the kinds of things he sees in the world and also the actions of the player. He is a pretty hefty piece of work!

What will it notice and how difficult has it been to balance its AI?

It has certainly been tricky to balance but it is easy to see when we have got it right. The first few iterations were far too hard as we made him too good! He became great at finding the player and killing them quickly. As it turns out, that wasn’t much fun. But it was a starting point that we were able to build from and up to the complex creature with all its gameplay depth that we have today.

One thing I noticed when playing is that it is easy to forget what your objective is due to the constant threat. I take it this is intentional?

This is a side effect of the incredible threat of the Alien. We wanted to create something that would always be in the back of your mind. Something each player would learn to fear and project into every space. What is that noise? Is it the Alien? That is something we wanted players to feel. That is what the crew of the Nostromo felt in the original film.

Is Alien: Isolation designed to be hard as nails?

I would say it is a different type of game than some people are used to. We have seen action fans come to this game and sprint around, fire what limited ammo they have and then die as the Alien found them easily. But they quickly adapt and start to gain a healthy fear for the Alien. When this happens, the true scale of the game’s threat starts to be felt and then we see a change in moving and weapon use to something that is more survivable. A huge part of the game is learning what the Alien is capable of and how to deal with it so I would say it is certainly challenging, but no, not hard as nails or impenetrable.

Now the version of the game we saw has a crafting system. Can you briefly explain how things lying around can help?

We wanted to make a system that was believable and grounded in the situation. If we were trapped in a location with an Alien, what would we construct to help ourselves survive? We figured we could make rudimentary explosives and things that made fire or lots of noise. It is these sort of items that you can create when you find the pieces that allow it.

Also introduced in this new version are other characters that react hostilely to you. How do they change-up the dynamic?[/aside]

This is one of my favourite things about the game and also the most dynamic. When you come across a group of humans for example, there are several thoughts the player will have. First off, they could be aggressive or they could be friendly. Next is the fear that whatever their disposition, they might make noise and if they do, that will attract the Alien. I think we have made something special when the player is worrying about a group of potential enemies, not due to the threat they pose, but the fact that they could attract a greater threat!

Is it as scary to design it as it is to play it?

I think we have all been scared by the game we are making at one point or another. We have had large build reviews where the lead level designer and lead artists jumped and held each other when something sudden happened on-screen. Working with the Alien has been a really interesting experience as no matter how well you know him, occasionally he will do something unexpected and catch you out.

Do you reckon Alien: Isolation will live up to the original movie tag-line “In space, nobody can hear you scream?”

We hope so. It would be an honour to be counted as living up to the original film. What we have tried to create is a similar setting, feeling and fear to that original film so to be considered alongside it would prove we had succeeded.

Do Celebrities Spell The Death Of A Franchise?

So Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was revealed the other week, featuring strangely similar gameplay elements found in the likes of Titanfall and Battlefield. However, this is not what has me as puzzled. It’s clear that big bucks are to be made in starring roles for videogames, but more and more they’re being used as a selling point. Kevin Spacey’s role within the game is currently of an antagonist nature but have Sledgehammer and Activision shot themselves in the foot by bringing his starring role to our attention?

Let’s face it; nobody particularly cares about the single player campaigns for Call of Duty games anymore [Ed – except me]. The past few have been forgettable romps that you would complete in a few hours before sinking the rest of the time into the multiplayer mode. It’s gotten so bad that the likes of Titanfall veered away from a proper campaign, instead opting for multiplayer matches with a narrative flavour. Not even this held out as the community just leapt into standard multiplayer maps post-campaign. The mantle is either being carried by Halo or the single player FPS games that refuse to include multiplayer – the next of which being Wolfenstein: The New Order.

But I digress. The point is: can Kevin Spacey save the campaign? The short answer is perhaps, but it all depends on how the campaign is, which in the history of Activision is mixed at best. In their effort to revive the Spyro the Dragon franchise, the voice was cast to Elijah Wood who probably took a fair chunk of the overall budget as payment for his services at the time due to his fame gained from being Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those games did have Gary Oldman as Ignatius and the irritating David Spade as Sparxx, which didn’t help things, but this probably let the developers short of funds to create a compelling game. The sequel replaced Spade with Wayne Brady (the musical guy from the American version of Whose Line is it Anyway?) and added Christina Ricci. They both bombed spectacularly, nigh-on killing the franchise before that whole Skylanders thing kicked off for Activision.

Bethesda have also fallen into the trap of parading the celebrities they got on board for The Elder Scrolls: Online like some weird circus freak show. ‘We’ve got Dumbledore himself Michael Gambon in a major role and Bill Nighy as a king! Not good enough? Have a look at Kate Beckinsale as that saucy elf queen. Is that still not good enough? How about we throw in John Cleese being a crazy man and Malcolm McDowell doing his best evil tyrant act? Are you not entertained?!’ Even videogame voice acting celebrity Jennifer Hale was name-bombed. We’re not blaming the celebrity involvement for that game not being as good as the other Elder Scrolls games, but it obviously hasn’t boosted the sales as they may have hoped.

This isn’t to say that all celebrity involvement translates to a death knell. While it wasn’t a major success for the studio financially, Ninja Theory’s Enslaved: Journey to the West had a stellar motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis as main protagonist Monkey. It met critical acclaim, particularly for its believable dynamic between characters, praise that the man behind Gollum should certainly take to heart. It’s since gained a cult following, with more and more people discovering just how good the game was.

More recently, the likes of Ellen Page and Willem Defoe have graced our screens in Beyond: Two Souls. While the game itself may have divided critics, in the words of our editor-in-chief, the “quality of the acting is exceptional and a testament to hiring award-winning actors to play the roles of Jodie and Dr. Nathan Dawkins. Succinct facial motion capture helps in their elocution”. The rest of the game might not have been up to scratch, but the performances were top notch, truly showing the world the capabilities of capturing actor likeness.

Bethesda has gotten celebrity voices right in the past. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion featured a cameo from Patrick Stewart, while Sean Bean took another role. Fallout 3 had Liam Neeson as the protagonist’s father. Yet Bethesda didn’t highlight their appearance in the game, making it all the more surprising to the player. Fallout: New Vegas had Matthew Perry and lesser known celebrities such as Danny Trejo, Michael Dorn (Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Kris Kristofferson; yet the only real celebrity to gain attention was internet darling and champion of geek culture Felicia Day – hot off the success of her web series The Guild. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim didn’t have much beyond Christopher Plummer, though digging into the cast list will unearth the surprise that is Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario, in a rare non-Mario related role as a major character.

Then there is the last Call of Duty game to involve real celebrity talent: Probably my favourite of the franchise! Call of Duty: Black Ops had Gary Oldman as Reznov, who incidentally starred in Call of Duty: World at War together Kiefer Sutherland, though the characters never met. They buck the trend slightly by being announced as part of the cast, but the focus was more on the multiplayer for the advertising campaign. This was the last Call of Duty campaign to really grab my attention and do something different narratively speaking and despite being typical modern FPS gameplay, it had a plot worth paying attention to. Treyarch have a knack for this kind of thing after all, despite Black Ops II being comparatively a damp squib.

So do I have faith in Kevin Spacey? Of course I do, after all he is what made The Usual Suspects and Netflix darling House of Cards as good as they are. But the fact they’ve said he’s in the game has now put a level of expectation that is almost unobtainable. Sledgehammer games are also relatively untested, their only credit being co-developers of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. We shall see in November how it all turns out and it’s safe to say it will sell a bucket-load of copies, the jury is out on whether Spacey will make a difference for the campaign.