Category: Video Games

The British Parliament is examining the loot-box model in video games

Posted on October 14, 2017  in Video Games

Loot boxes in video games like Forza Motorsport 7 and Middle-earth: Shadow of War are raising a debate about business models in the gaming community, and some people are now trying to get their governments to do something about it. That has led Daniel Zeichner, a member of the British Parliament from Cambridge, to pose two questions asking what Secretary of State for digital, culture, media, and sport Karen Bradley will do to protect people from loot boxes.

Both of Zeichner’s questions are online, and they come as the result of a conversation with concerned gamers. The first question asks what steps Bradley plans to take to “help protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling, and loot boxes within computer games.” The second question asks what the British government has determined about special rules on the Isle of Man that determine in-game items as having real-world value.

GamesBeat has reached out to Zeichner for comment on this, and I’ll update this post with any statement from the MP.

In a post on Reddit, user Artfunkel says that they met with Zeichner, who is their MP, to encourage the politician to bring up these questions.

“These are a result of a very positive meeting I had with Daniel a few weeks ago,” Artfunkel said. “The goal here is to see the United Kingdom’s existing gambling regulations applied to loot boxes.”

The U.K. would have to define loot boxes as gambling first before it could apply any existing laws. And that process would depend greatly on what kind of gambling the government considers loot boxes. For example, the government doesn’t treat slot machines and those grocery store gachapon toy dispensers the same way.

But any response like that is still a long ways off. It likely takes about a month for Bradley to respond to a written question. Even when she does, she doesn’t have to commit to anything. But it’s clear that the noise around loot boxes is starting to fuel some curiosity from people in positions of power, and that could lead to new regulations the video game industry.

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Category: Video Games

A video gamers guide to board games – Reader’s Feature

Posted on October 14, 2017  in Video Games

A video gamers guide to board games - Reader’s Feature
Dark Souls: The Board Game – not as hard as you’d think

A reader gives an introduction to the world of modern board games and how they often overlap with video games.

I recently wrote to GC speaking about my experience of Kickstarter, and how some of the largest funded projects were actually board games. Not only that, some of them were actually the board games of video games, such as Dark Souls.

This may have been the first time some of you heard about board games that weren’t typical ones such as Monopoly or Cluedo, and you may also be surprised to know that, over the past 10 years or so, modern board games have become very popular. This was initially thanks to YouTube channels such as Geek & Sundry with their Tabletop show hosted by Wil Wheaton, as well as The Dice Tower YouTube channel which reviews and promotes board games.

This rise in popularity has resulted in many gaming groups being formed for you to play games at, weekend-long conventions being held throughout the country, and the annual UK Games Expo held in the Birmingham NEC. This attracts board game designers and reviewers from across the globe for a three-day event that allows attendees to buy the latest games, see demos of those that are upcoming, as well as play games late into the evening/early morning. However, the biggest board game event is held each October in Essen, Germany, where many new and hotly anticipated games are launched.

You may be wondering what all the fuss is about, and that these games are basically nothing more than Monopoly, Cluedo, or any of the other games you used to play at Christmas. But modern board games are very different from these – they are less reliant on luck, streamlined and concise with multiple paths to victory, and are designed so that you do not know if you’ve won or lost until the very end.

Board games, and those who play them, are often put into two camps: war gamers (the games they play are often referred to as Ameritrash, despite them not always being from the US) and euro gamers. War gamers are those who play games similar to Warhammer 40,000; essentially games with dice, miniatures, and lots of theme.

Euro gamers (derived from the genre of games originating in Europe, or Germany to be precise) are those who prefer games with little, if no, luck; are less reliant on theme; involve wooden components; and generally have an economic feel such as managing a farm, producing and selling wine, or establishing the infrastructure for cities/countries in some way, such as railways or utilities, etc.

There is some crossover, with many different genres, and there are also some types of games that don’t fall into either camp, such as abstract strategy games (modern equivalents to chess) and party games (modern equivalents of Twister, but almost always without the need for anything physical, and generally where you play in a large group (5+), playing a shorter, less complicated, game. These are often, but not limited to, hidden role games, where some of the group are bad guys, and the good guys need to work out who they are, while said bad guys secretly attempt to thwart their plans.

Not all games are competitive either, with some being cooperative, such as working together to save the world from the spread of various diseases (the Euro version)/saving the world from Cthulu and his Lovecraftian monstrosities (the Ameritrash version) being one/two such examples.

But how does all this fit in with video games? There have actually been many board games of video games lately, but they often fall into the Ameritrash category, mainly involving you moving miniatures around a board, rolling dice to kill bad guys and following some sort of campaign or skirmish mode – Dark Souls, Gears Of War, Resident Evil 2 (upcoming), to name a few.

However, not all are like this – there is a Street Fighter game based on the ‘deck builder’ genre, where each player starts with a deck made up of an identical set of cards, and then use these cards as currency to buy further cards from a shared marketplace. This then extends their deck in a unique fashion, further enabling them to use these purchased cards to buy more and more advanced cards, which can be used to beat stronger and stronger incarnations of the game’s opponents and bosses, which then earn you victory points and, hopefully, victory.

There is also the XCOM board game, a real-time game played with the aid of an app downloaded to your phone/tablet. This is a cooperative game which sees you and your team taking on asymmetrical roles, with the ultimate task of attempting to defend the Earth from an alien invasion. Each of the game’s roles are reliant on the others being performed well, enabling them to further increase their own efficiency.

As a team, one player essentially has to balance the books, enabling the other players to research new tech, which then allows other players to more efficiently hold the aliens at bay and fulfil missions to win the game. All the while you do this, the clock is ticking, and hazards and events are thrown at you via the app in real-time, preventing you from carrying out your tasks, and potentially causing a snowball effect where you can no longer hold off the alien invaders.

As good as they are, they don’t really give you the same feel as their video game counterparts, but there are board games that attempt to directly replicate the feel and the gameplay of certain video game genres. There’s a game that specifically replicates the feel of an online multiplayer shooter, and there are 2D fighting board games, complete with a myriad of fighters who are represented in-game on a 2D plane.

In these, playing cards represent moves, both special and regular, which have an execution priority and can have a guard value, with many moves also unique to the character you choose; the more moves you execute, the more they charge your super meter, which allows you to pull off the equivalent of super combos.

There are also board games that are dungeon crawlers, ones that are 4X games, and there’s even one that is essentially Candy Crush, coming complete with coloured spheres and an apparatus to replicate the layout of the rows and columns, as well as the movement and combinations that can occur when lines of three or more single-coloured shapes are formed and then removed once they score.

And lastly, board game are also moving into the video game market themselves, with a multitude of accurate representations of them being available on Steam, Android, and iOS, where you can play against the computer or online against other players.

Board games are going from strength to strength, with a huge variety of genres to look into and play, many of which even offer a solo mode.

If you want to look into it further to see if there’s anything for you, I would recommend watching some of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop web series, and also the board game reviews and news available at The Dice Tower YouTube channel. I would also recommend BoardGameGeek; while not the best website, it is the best repository for all things board games, their reviews, updated rules and errata, photos, and gamer forums which the designers of the games often frequent to answer any questions.

I’ve made lots of friends through board games, and frequent many conventions and am part of many gaming groups. They’re very social, hugely varied, a lot of fun, and I can’t recommend them enough.

By reader TickTockRob (gamertag/PSN ID/SW-5541-5798-6105)

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. As always, email gamecentral@ukmetro.co.uk and follow us on Twitter.

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Category: Video Games

Texas State should offer a scholarship for video games

Posted on October 14, 2017  in Video Games

Israel Gonzalez | Staff Illustrator“>
Photo Illustration by Israel Gonzalez | Staff Illustrator

Sports and entertainment have a history of being one-track, get-rich-quick opportunities.

Electronic sports or “eSports” is the competitive variant of the ubiquitous pastime of video games. While its prevalence is slowly climbing with the potential to be a prime-time sport, eSports also has the potential to be another avenue out of poverty.

Take LeBron James, Kendrick Lamar, JK Rowling, Justin Bieber or Oprah Winfrey for example. Each of these individuals were impoverished prior to being some of the biggest entities in their respective fields. However, the one similarity between each of their successes is that they are based in sports or entertainment. The reason behind why most of the greatest come-up stories are based in athletics or the arts has to do with accessibility.

It is no secret that when you are born into a low-income life, it is very difficult to escape the vicious cycle of poverty due to various systemic factors. Oftentimes, it becomes a struggle between securing their family’s next meal and distracting themselves from the physical and emotional pain that comes with poverty. However, rather than turning to drugs or crime, occasionally individuals will choose to hone a craft that they can access.

That is what makes football, basketball and the arts so potent. Footballs and basketballs can be cheaply made and the sports do not require expensive equipment for someone to become highly skilled. eSports is no different. It too has a low cost of entry with about 80% of households already owning a gaming console.

The culture of eSports is predominantly middle to upper-class white males attempting to dethrone the few Koreans who dominate most games. However, this culture serves as an opportunity for impoverished communities in the U.S. because shortcomings of the league, in regards to its entertainment value, are likely linked directly to its shortcomings in diversity.

eSports is also a young industry fueled primarily by tech companies buying teams for the ad space. There is plenty of room for commercial growth with merchandising and syndication. However, even without utilizing everything eSports leagues have to offer, the sport is still a multimillion-dollar spectacle. This year’s prize pool for the most popular and longest running competitive game, DOTA 2, is 24 million dollars, and the winnings have increased every year since the tournament began.

It is clear that there are opportunities to obtain worthy compensations in eSports. Therefore, colleges and high schools should respect it as a serious form of competition and create opportunities around them. There are plenty of kids who already spend much of their time playing video games. If colleges establish scholarships for eSports players it allows impoverished students another avenue to afford college, whilst allowing schools to tap into a multimillion-dollar industry.

Society could continue to perpetuate the elitism surrounding gaming and geek culture as they scoff at the idea of video games being a sport, or we could recognize the win-win opportunity at hand and encourage the youth to get good at video games the same way we encourage basketball players to be good at their sport.

There is no difference between the cerebral tenacity required to play a video game at an intellectual level to that of any other mainstream sport. In fact, hand-eye coordination and reaction times are integral to video games the same way football and basketball require.

Neither sports nor entertainment are by any means a solution to poverty. However, while we work to uproot the systematic issues that perpetuate poverty in certain communities, it is good to create avenues that can help at least a few individuals escape such hardships.

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Category: Video Games

The best video games of 2017

Posted on October 14, 2017  in Video Games

It has been an extraordinary 2017 so far, even before we enter the Christmas rush. From blockbuster horrors, open-world behemoths and a host of indie darlings, we have had a job even keeping up with the slew of quality and invention. We have even had spangly new hardware in the form of Nintendo Switch, complete with one of the best video games ever made.

Safe to say, it’s a good time to be gaming, so without further ado, here are the Telegraph’s best video games of 2017 so far, with more to surely be added in the coming months.

Gravity Rush 2

Platform PS4 Developer Sony Japan

What is it? Surprising but welcome PS4 sequel to the excellent Vita adventure that has you battling evil in a fascinating fantasy land with the ability to flip the world upside down.

Why we love it Gravity Rush 2 builds on its predecessor’s smart, gravity-flipping mechanics, with a creative streak that runs across its two heroines Kat and Raven. These two are the heart of a heartfelt and engaging tale, while the floating city of Heskeville remains a fascinating place to explore.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

PlatformsPS4, Xbox One, PC Developer Capcom

What is it? Terrifying first-person return to Resident Evil’s roots as you explore a decrepit Lousiana mansion while being stalked by the estate’s demented Baker family.

Why we love it This deliciously grimy and oppressive game is evidence of a lesson learned. Resident Evil 7 looks into the series history to find its B-movie black heart, but scalps from video game terrors that have followed in its wake. Vastly more intimate and earthy than the globe-trotting gunfest that Resident Evil had become, it is a success, providing a rich, atmospheric and reverent chiller that is just silly enough to make sure we are all having fun.

Full review

Yakuza 0

PlatformsPS4 Developer Sega

What is it? Brilliant Eighties-themed RPG prequel to the long-running tale of Kazuma Kiryu, an honourable Yakuza making his way in the neon-lights of fictional Tokyo district of Kamarucho.

Why we love it The perfect game for Japanophiles and those who like whacking goons with bicycles, Yakuza has always shone a fascinating light onto the underbelly of Tokyo’s nightlife, weaving a compelling crime yarn with offbeat wackiness and extravagance. Yakuza 0 is arguably the series best, with a thumping combat system, a lot of laughs and a surprisingly grown-up tale of land-grabs and inter-family wrangling. Kazuma remains one of gaming’s most cool and compelling characters, while the chance to control one of Yakuza’s long-time stars in Goro Majima is a treat.

Dandy Dungeon

PlatformsiOS, Android Developer Onion Games

What is it?Bonkers but brilliant mobile game that casts you as brave Yamada, a budding games developer and failed lothario attempting to impress his beautiful neighbour with his coding skills. You progress by testing his roguelite puzzle game, a challenging dungeon crawler in which you must draw a path for our hero to the exit, avoiding traps and fighting beasts on the way.

Why we love it We think the above says it all. This is a bizarre but wonderfully heartfelt game, with the smart puzzle game expanding far beyond what you would expect of it. But just as engaging is the touching, funny Yamada and the people that come in and out of his life. It’s a free-to-play game well worth a punt.

She Remembered Caterpillars

PlatformPC Developer Jumpsuit Entertainment

What is it? Self-described by developer as ‘fungipunk’, She Remembered Caterpillars is a quirky, touching puzzle game that has you building bridges and making paths with the titular insects.

Why we love it The logic puzzles in She Remembered Caterpillars are delightfully devilish and compelling, with new elements added in a smartly judged drip-feed. Underpinning these smart mechanics is an alluring art-style and touching narrative by developer Cassandra Khaw, which unfolds in delicate snippets and deals with bereavement and grief.

For Honor

PlatformsPS4, Xbox One, PC Developer Ubisoft

What is it?Ferocious medieval multiplayer that pits knights, viking and samurai against each other in bloody combat.

Why we love it For Honor’s fighting mechanics are weighty and gratifying, communicating the violence and impact of medieval combat through handsome visuals and animation. It really is terrific. And For Honor wraps a multiplayer structure more familiar to shooters around it. Think Dark Souls and Street Fighter hooking up at a Call of Duty house party.

Full review

Sniper Elite 4

Platforms PS4, Xbox One Developer Rebellion

What is it? The latest in Rebellion’s gruesome WW2 shooter moves to Italy, as you prowl open-sandboxes and take pot-shots at Nazi testicles.

Why we love it Sniper Elite 4 is tactile and gratifying when mastering the game’s mechanics as they were intended. But how it responds to chaos? That’s where it earns its stripes. Rebellion make all of its mechanics click, with the level design throwing up both challenge and freedom. Structurally it could be pitched somewhere between Metal Gear Solid V and Hitman, with you scouting the area and attempting best practice and then adapting when things don’t quite go according to plan. It is a game that relies heavily on its mechanics to keep its players entertained. And it does a fine job of it.

Nioh

PlatformPS4 Developer Team Ninja

What is it? Samurai-inspired fantasy RPG that has you exploring a vast battlefield, hunting Yokai.

Why we love it Hundreds of hours in and we were still getting excited at new aspects and discoveries within the game, finding constantly fresh and rewarding things to do and see. It’s a slick, fantastic hack and slash with a strong sense of charm and sincerity, accessible yet tough to master, and if there’s any justice, it’ll go down as a classic.

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Halo Wars 2

PlatformXbox One, PC Developer Creative Assembly

What is it? Surprising sequel to the RTS spin-off of Xbox’s famous sci-fi shooter.

Why we love it This is a clever, confident improvement on the solid if unspectacular first Halo Wars. Which is not much of a shock given it is made by RTS-maestros Creative Assembly. It isn’t as intricate as the giants of the genre, but this is entirely deliberate, making for a fizzy, accessible and thoroughly enjoyable strategy game. Wrapped around this is a blockbuster narrative given all the pomp, circumstance and gleaming cutscenes you would expect from a Halo game.

Horizon Zero Dawn

PlatformPS4 Developer Guerilla Games

What is it?Ambitious open-world adventure starring young hunter Aloy making her way in a post-apocalyptic world crawling with robot dinosaurs.

Why we love it On the surface, Horizon seems like a jumble of influences but, just like the murderous machina wandering its lands, the game is far more than its component parts, delivering a gripping story, satisfying combat, and the most gorgeous video game environments we’ve ever seen. Horizon confidently carves out an identity of its own in an overpopulated genre.

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Torment: Tides of Numenera

PlatformsPS4, Xbox One, PC Developer inXile Entertainment

What is it? Spiritual successor to 1999’s Planescape: Torment with a familiar isometric perspective and a focus on multiple approaches to its strange and unique fantasy world.

Why we love it Any of the approaches are equally valid, and the game never punishes you for deciding on a specific route to take; rather, the story unfolds in various rich and interesting ways depending on how you proceed, and sometimes even flat out failing a task can lead to exciting story beats. An exceptionally rewarding RPG filled with deep systems, a ton of genuine replay value, and delivered with a lot of love and care.

Stories Untold

PlatformsPC Developer NoCode

What is it? Fascinating 80s inspired interactive fiction joint that has drawn comparisons with Stranger Things and Her Story. You play through four connected vignettes in front of various different computers and machinery as the story unfolds beneath your fingertips.

Why we love it To say too much would ruin any of the impact, but it’s a fabulous exploration of interaction and expectation, toying with the player’s perception of both at every opportunity. But it is a fantastic example of interactive visual storytelling. It would absolutely only work in the form that the developers have created, and is a creepy story deftly told.

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

PlatformsSwitch, Wii U Developer Nintendo

What is it? Spectacular open-world reinvention of one of gaming’s most loved series, following the legendary hero Link as he travels across a gorgeous fantasy land battling a malevolent evil.

Why we love it It is dense yet lean; its map bursting with distraction but without an inch of it wasted. It is classical yet modern; drawing on the heritage of its own illustrious series while openly embracing more recent gaming trends. It is challenging yet welcoming; giving you the choice to ease yourself in or take on some of the game’s most fearsome creatures.  And it features the kind of mechanical creativity that makes you laugh out loud at the sheer audacity of it. These are just some of the reasons why Breath of the Wild is one of the very finest video games ever made.

Nier: Automata

PlatformsPS4, PC Developer Platinum Games

What is it? Long-awaited action RPG sequel to the imperfect yet unforgettable Nier, this time developed by action superstars PlatinumGames in conjunction with Nier creative director Yoko Taro.

Why we love it A superb action game with fast, frenetic combat that showcases Platinum at their best. Whether you’re fighting giant robots or exploring a devastated world, Nier Automata brings thrills and melancholy in equal measure. The combat systems are a vast improvement over its predecessor, but Automata retains the level of introspective weirdness and genre-bending experimentation that made the first game so notable. There’s so much to discover, so many twists and turns, and it’s all packaged together with Platinum’s trademark prowess. Whether you’re a fan of Drakengard and Nier or new to the series, Automata is a must-play.

Read full review

Persona 5

PlatformsPS4 Developer Atlus

What is it? The latest in the cult hit JRPG that follows you through a year at Tokyo’s Shujin High School, where the students moonlight as masked vigilantes locked in battle with supernatural forces.

Why we love it Persona 5 is a wonderfully crafted game, expertly juggling superb combat mechanics with the series’ penchant for the fascinating and often terrifying social whims of teenage school days. Dark, compelling and gorgeous.

The Signal From Tölva

PlatformPC Developer Big Robot

What is it? Gorgeous sci-fi adventure that has you exploring a hostile world remotely through the eyes of a stomping robot.

Why we love it Tolva is a game that puts its faith in the details. Its world is gloriously crafted, from its colourful untouched plains, to strange alien architecture and the haunting wreckage of those that have been there before. Its terrific, slow-burn storytelling is bolstered by bursts of satisfying combat, with  its factions of violent robotic enemies prowling the surface.

The Sexy Brutale

Platforms PS4, Xbox One, PC Developer Cavalier Game Studios

What is it? Time-bending murder mystery that has you prowling the halls of a baroque casino-mansion in an attempt to reverse a series of grisly slayings.

Why we love it The Sexy Brutale is a creeping, clever and assured game, placing you in a meticulously constructed mansion and weaving its temporal teasers throughout its halls. Each murder is a smart case of observation and action, tracking the victims and their killers, putting a series of events in motion to prevent each death. As you progress, the mansion opens up and the cases get more intricate. Above all, The Sexy Brutale leverages its time-bending mechanics to weave a compelling narrative. Combine this with stunning art-deco architecture and endearing chibi characters and you have one of the year’s most effective surprises.

Pinstripe

Platforms PC  Developer Thomas Brush

What is it?  A creepy, macabre puzzle platformer about a former priest who is struggling to save his daughter from the clutches of the evil Mr. Pinstripe.

Why we love it Pinstripe is a short, sweet, excellently crafted platformer. It has a bunch of fantastic puzzles, a neat approach to exploration and progression, and a severely eerie atmosphere. The art and sound design is gorgeous, and the denouement will leave you thinking about it for days afterwards. Almost everything in the game was made by one man, but Pinstripe comfortably sits alongside games created by much larger teams. With a brilliant cast of characters, precise and tactile controls and a wicked sense of humour, Pinstripe is one of our low-key favourites of 2017.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Platforms Switch Developer Nintendo

What is it? Chunky Switch re-release of the fantastic Wii U racer that comes with all of the DLC tracks and characters, plus a fuller battle mode.

Why we love it Mario Kart 8, with its zippy racing, fabulous tracks and stomach-flipping anti-gravity, is as deliriously entertaining as it has ever been. And with Battle Mode restored, the bumper pack of tracks and the neat nips and tucks, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the fullest and most finely-tuned entry the series has seen. Crucially for Nintendo and the Switch, it is a splendid celebration of its host console’s charms. We’ve played at home with our families, tried to shave seconds off time trials on trains and roped colleagues into multiplayer by snapping off a controller and handing it over. 

What Remains of Edith Finch

PlatformsPS4, PC Developer Giant Sparrow Games

What is it? Harrowing and surreal series of interactive vignettes as young Edith explores her looming childhood home to uncover the truth of a family curse.

Why we love it Giant Sparrow demonstrate extraordinary skill in storytelling throughout Edith’s journey, harnessing games’ interactivity with diverse tales of death and superstition within the Finch household. From the purely surreal – sharks tumbling down hills in the fevered imagination of a child- to hyperactive comic books, to more grounded and gut-wrenching tragedy; Edith Finch flits between each with real poise. And as it does, it threads together a compelling and often disturbing picture of a most unusual family.

Full review

Prey

Platforms PS4, Xbox One, PC Developer Arkane Studios

What is it? Atmospheric first-person sci-fi adventure spiritual successor to System Shock in which you play Morgan Yu, a scientist stranded on a space station overrun with chameleonic lifeforms know as mimics.

Why we love it Prey makes you feel clever, excites, intrigues and, at least once, can be absolutely terrifying. Talos 1 is an incredible sandbox, ever-shifting as the story progresses. You map the place with your mind throughout, finding new routes through the sprawling space obelisk. Still, no matter how familiar you get with the place, you never feel safe, not even when you’re floating through zero-gravity in the endless black.

Injustice 2

Platforms PS4, Xbox One, PC Developer Netherrealm Studios

What is it? Superb fighting sequel to the DC themed Gods Among Us in which Batman, Superman and pals beat the snot out of each other.

Why we love it? Injustice 2’s story of Braniac invading Earth while Batman and Superman have a barney is way better than it has any right to be. It is all very silly, as you might imagine, but pulled off with a real sense of style. The plot breezes along as everyone smacks each other around a bit, with splendid visuals and a voice cast clearly having a lot of fun. Though all the looks and fancy story would be worth nothing if the game underpinning it wasn’t any good. And Injustice 2 is an excellent fighting game. It is by far the most technically adept game Netherrealm has developed and the most accessible, content-complete brawler on console.

Full review

The Surge

Platforms PS4, Xbox One, PC Developer Deck13 Interactive

What is it? A sci-fi twist on the Dark Souls formula as you play Warren, a new employee at the factory of the future, fighting his way through zombie-like workers, angry security guards and a selection of murderous robots.

Why we love it It’s a cracking action adventure, with extremely satisfying combat, sprawling and complex facilities to explore, and a fantastic upgrade system. It also possesses a surprisingly deep, interesting narrative that tackles transhumanism, disability and the nature of existence in a somewhat more nuanced way than the usual sci-fi fare.

Full review

Tokyo 42

PlatformsPS4, Xbox One, PC Developer SMAC Games

What is it? Self-described by the developer as ‘GTA meets Syndicate’, Tokyo 42 is a terrific isometric action game in which you are an assassin in a far future vision of Tokyo where a new medication means people can live forever.

Why we love it Tokyo 42 is a little marvel, a challenging adventure that mixes slick hyper-violence, stealth and exploration into its gorgeous diorama.

Arms

PlatformSwitch Developer Nintendo

What is it? Nintendo’s spin on the fighting game, featuring a colourful cast of characters that box with extendable limbs and an expansive arsenal of attachments. Missile-equipped boxing gloves anyone?

Why we love it Arms is perhaps both the most and least Nintendo-like game the company has ever made. A third-person fighter isn’t the first thing you would think of as a Nintendo game, but the eccentricity and goofy fun of the concept are absolutely its MO. It’s glorious fun and with its mixtures of modes, option for motion controls and more serious online competition, has enough going on to satisfy casual Nintendo players and more dedicated fight fans.

Splatoon 2

Platform Switch Developer Nintendo

What is it?Nintendo’s spin on the third-person shooter featuring a colourful… wait we’ve been here before. The usual Nintendo invention on show is here as it swaps violence and deathmatch for swathing the walls and opponents in paint as a kid that can turn into a squid. You know, the usual.

Why we love it Splatoon is a kinetic, deliriously enjoyable sugar rush. A thoroughly decent single-player adventure backs up the main business of moreish online multiplayer.

Full review

Pyre

PlatformsPS4, PC Developer Supergiant Games

What is it? A potent mix of fantasy RPG and tactical sports game as teams attempt to destroy the opposition’s tower with a single glowing orb.

Why we love it Pyre’s gorgeous art style and thoughtful narrative is par for the course for Supergiant, developers of gems Bastion and Transistor. The sport-themed combat, meanwhile, is a delicious twist on the usual RPG fare.

Lawbreakers

PlatformsPS4, PC Developer Boss Key Productions

What is it? A hi-octane, multiplayer-only, gravity defying multiplayer shooter from Gears of War creaotr Cliff Bleszinski’s new studio.

Why we love it While this ‘hero shooter’ has echoes of Overwatch, with its variety of different classes to choose from, Lawbreakers sets itself apart with its focus on movement. The pace is fierce and frenetic, as players soar over maps battling over objectives. While there is plenty of recognisable shooter design here, Lawbreakers does enough, uh, law-breaking to give itself a fresh identity.

Observer

PlatformsPS4, Xbox One, PC Developer Bloober Games

What is it? Harrowing cyberpunk horror starring Rutger Hauer.

Why we love it From the developers of Layers of Fear, Observer has you exploring a dilapidated apartment block after a mysterious message from your estranged son. The setting is grubby and effecting, while the rich dialogue and detail paints quite a picture. Harrowing, too, is the ability to hack into people’s minds to uncover their memory. And if nothing else, the grizzled Hauer returning to cyberpunk is a treat. 

Sonic Mania

PlatformsPS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch Developer Sega/Christian Whitehead

What is it? A greatest hits package of classic Sonic platforming bolstered by new levels and bosses.

Why we love it Because it’s proper Sonic. Mania rekindles the love for the much maligned hedgehog but understanding that momentum is his greatest strength. Levels are tricky and complex, switching deliciously between volatile marble runs and more precise platforming. The bosses aren’t great and a wonky save system irritates, but at its heart this is the best Sonic game in decades.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

PlatformPS4 Developer Naughty Dog

What is it? Terrific standalone spin-off from Uncharted 4 starring Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross as they hunt down the Tusk of Ganesh in India.

Why we love it While The Lost Legacy is unadulterated Uncharted – high-octane set-pieces, panicked shooting and climbing gorgeous outcrops – its two new leads give it a fresh twist. As the game progresses, so too does Chloe and Nadine’s relationship, backed by a splendid script and performances from its two leads. By the end, as a spectacular finale starts to look like an Uncharted greatest hits, the pair give this famous series a fresh voice.

Full review

Absolver

PlatformsPS4, PC Developer Sloclap

What is it? Ambitious twist on the fighting game, blending it with role-playing elements in a connected world.

Why we love it Absolver’s complex fighting decks blend terrifically with the world you roam, taking on both AI-enemies and fellow players. You can also seamlessly team up as you explore, kicking seven bells out of the other warriors out to test your mettle.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

FormatNintendo Switch Developer Ubisoft

What is it? Deliciously silly strategy crossover between Nintendo’s famous plumber and Ubisoft’s manic Rabbids.

Why we love it This could be the biggest surprise of 2017, a turn-based strategy mashing together two disparate universes to create something far better than it has any right to be. The XCOM-flavoured action is fun and accessible, but smart and challenging too. While the unlikely meeting of Mario and the Rabbids brings around a lot more laughs than you would expect. An unexpected triumph.

Destiny 2

Format Xbox One, PS4, PC Developer Bungie

What is it? Sequel to Bungie’s previous space shooting MMO extravaganza.

Why we love it Destiny 2 is vastly more accomplished than its fascinating forebear. Its campaign, as you tackle the Red Legion across a multitude of planets, is stronger and more defined, its distractions more engaging and worthwhile. It is a game that has learnt from everything the previous game both excelled and failed at and pulls it together into a more comprehensive package. And the space-faring combat is as delicious as ever. Best part is, it’s only likely to get better.

Full review

Divinity: Original Sin 2

FormatPC Developer Larian Studios

What is it? Sequel to the cult fantasy RPG in which you play a persecuted Sourcerer on a quest to defeat an evil Bishop.

Why we love it This style of classic role-playing is something of a dying breed, but Divinity 2 breathes new life with its rich vein of choice, charisma and storytelling. Everything from combat, to crafting to the world  is perfectly judged and thoroughly compelling. You can also take to your quest in co-op with up to four players, each Sourcerer with their own race and stats.

Steamworld Dig 2

Formats Switch, PC, PS4, Vita Developer Image & Form

What is it? Delightful action-adventure that revolves around mining as you explore a hostile world as steam-driven robot Dorothy.

Why we love it Any of our older readers remember Boulder Dash? Imagine a modern, steampunk-cowboy-robot version of that and you are on the right track. Steamworld Dig 2 is a ‘metroidvania’ style adventure, as Dorothy pickaxes her way through an underground world, fighting beasties by dropping rocks onto their heads and discovering new items to forge her way. A definable improvement on the already excellent original.

Project Cars 2

FormatsPS4, Xbox One, PC Developer Slightly Mad Studios

What is it? The second lap of Slightly Mad’s wonderfully deep driving simulation.

Why we love it While PC gamers have plenty of choice, this is the most serious console racing game for the proper petrol-heads out there. Project Cars 2 has a boggling array of cars and events to get stuck into. 182 vehicles, 46 tracks with 121 different layouts. Scale and numbers are one thing, but there is a clear love for all things motorsport here. It might not compete with the budgets of competitors Forza and Gran Turismo, but for an authentic experience and absurdly deep career mode, Project Cars 2 is every bit their equal.

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

FormatsPS4, Xbox One, PC Developer Arkane Studios

What is it?Sneaky spin-off of Arkane’s brilliant steampunk adventure starring the enigmatic Billie Lurk.

Why we love it At the risk of spoiling Dishonored 2, which you really must play, we can’t go into too much detail over Death of the Outsider’s tale. Suffice to say it takes place after the events of that game, with a new protagonist and powers for them to wield. It has all the hallmarks of Arkane’s now trademark brilliance, absurdly detailed environments, flexible interlocking stealth and combat mechanics and a gritty world worth losing yourself in.

PES 2018

Format PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC Developer PES Productions

What is it? Konami’s latest entry into its cult football series.

Why we love it For all its continued travails in presentation and structure, Pro Evolution Soccer remains the king on the pitch. Each match in its finely tuned engine has its own narrative. Its tactics are rich and varied, while teams feel like individual entities with their own style. Also does a lovely line in chaotic goalmouth scrambles.

Full review

FIFA 18

Format PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC Developer EA Canada

What is it? EA Sport’s latest entry into its absurdly popular football series

Why we love it FIFA 18 is the best the series has been on the pitch in many a year. Its action is fizzy, satisfying and much more responsive. Off the pitch, it continues to excel with a smorgasboard of footballing treats. The sequel to The Journey, the surprisingly good story mode introduced last year, is much better balanced and still a lot of soap opera fun. Career mode’s improved and Ultimate Team is even more compulsive.

Cuphead

Format PC, Xbox One Developer StudioMDHR

What is it? A tight, challenging run and gun platformer that centres around screen-filling boss fights and frantic shooting action.

Why we love it For one, it looks like a living cartoon, with the classic animation style of the 1930s captured wonderfully in everything from visuals to soundtrack. For another, it’s an exceptionally fun challenge, focusing on excellent boss battles. The one-more-go compulsion is real as, while the game can be tough, it’s rarely punishing, with short multi-layered fights that do a good job of teaching you how to improve. Throw in local co-op and some great platforming challenges and Cuphead is as exquisite as dining on your fine china.

Full review

Forza Motorsport 7

FormatsXbox One, PC Developer Turn 10

What is it The newest track-based racer sim in Microsoft’s successful racing series.

Why we love it This is Forza Motorsport at its best, providing an extraordinary showcase of audio, visual and tactile feedback. The cars roar through absurdly pretty and detailed environments and you feel every bump and dip in the road. The career mode is much more varied and better paced, given you plenty of opportunity to get behind the wheels of your dream cars. And maybe throw a limousine round the Top Gear track, sideswiping bowling pins.

Category: Video Games

The Most Memorable Amusement Parks In Video Games

Posted on October 13, 2017  in Video Games

Amusement parks are where people go to relax on a sunny day. They also appear as less-than-relaxing locations in plenty of video games. Game designers can somehow be inspired by “The happiest place on Earth” and turn that inspiration into a place with murderous robots or zombies. Not all in-game parks are trying to kill you, however; some host creative mini-games for heroes and heroines to enjoy. Here are some of the most memorable amusement parks in video games.

Dead Rising 2
Fortune City’s amusement park was a nice place full of UFO crashes and molemen – then the zombies arrived and ruined the family fun. Now Uranus Zone is filled with zombies, but the park offers plenty of ways to fight back. Galactic Glide, a giant swinging spaceship, kills zombies as they walk under it. Combining this with Frank West’s ingenious weaponsmithing means the zombies should be cleared out of this theme park in no time. Unfortunately, none of the awesome action in the Dead Rising 2’s Off The Record DLC (including this theme park) is canonical, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to play.

Cuphead
Cuphead’s second world starts in the middle of a fair, with a Ferris wheel, food stands, and the sinister boss Beppi the Clown. You’ll quickly learn to hate rollercoasters, since you have to dodge one during your fight on the tracks. However, a speeding train isn’t even the biggest threat in this level; inflated balloon-dog heads fly down at you while you jump over passengers on the coaster. Then Beppi jumps on his horse and starts flinging horseshoes at you instead. Cuphead and Mugman will die many times trying to take on this sadistic clown, but the satisfaction of finally finishing Beppi makes it all worthwhile.

Batman: Arkham Knight
Set atop an offshore drilling rig, Seagate Amusement Park doesn’t need a working roller coaster for The Joker and Harley Quinn to have fun. Batgirl and Robin make their way to the oil platform to find a kidnapped Commissioner Gordon in the Batgirl: A Matter of Family DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight. Fighting a bunch of henchmen, Batgirl soon faces a speeding Ferris wheel with hostages onboard, which she puts the brakes on before moving inside the oil rig to find more hostages on a ride featuring a ship with a giant octopus attached. While the Joker eventually flees and the oil rig is seemingly abandoned four years later (during Arkham Knight’s campaign), the idea of an offshore amusement park is a tough one to forget.

Sunset Overdrive
Setting aside the fact that pretty much the entirety of Sunset Overdrive’s city plays like you’re in an amusement park, the actual amusement park portion is extremely fun. After killing mutants across the park while jumping on bunches of balloons from the Rocket Murica ride to the Ferris wheel, you eventually end up at the best ride in every amusement park: the rollercoaster. Sliding around on the rails of this active coaster, you jump from one part of the track to another with ease while blowing up medieval scenery and mutants. The train speeding its way along the tracks also happens to be spitting flames out its front. That’s the boss, and it’s destroyed by putting on a giant triceratops head and ramming directly into the train.

Left 4 Dead 2
Left 4 Dead 2 introduces infected clowns for the Dark Carnival campaign. These squeaky-nosed undead attract common infected to team up and attack any survivors who dare enter Whispering Oaks Amusement Park. Your group’s job is to get through the creepy carnival to an outdoor concert venue where you call for a helicopter by making a bunch of noise and shooting off fireworks. Which, of course, calls a bunch of infected hordes as well; it wouldn’t be a mission finale without that small detail. When you’re not running from infected, take a break with some of the minigames found throughout the park like Whack-A-Mole, a strength tester, and a shooting gallery, all of which unlock achievements.

Nier: Automata
The entrance to the abandoned amusement park in Nier: Automata features seemingly endless fireworks and robots you can attack before platforming across a broken rocket ship ride and taking on a tank. Then you hop aboard a rollercoaster where you perform some physics-defying side-scrolling combat before making your way to the boss, a giant robot that will try to kill you with spinning blades, bouncing orbs, bullets, homing missiles, and lasers. It’s going to be a tough fight, but once you’re successful you can abandon the abandoned amusement park and continue with the story. Unless you want to fight a giant rabbit statue that comes to life once you’ve done enough damage to it, that is.

Bully
Rockstar loves adding minigames to its titles (no, I don’t want to go bowling, cousin), and it had a ball with the carnival in Bully. You can even experience the carnival’s old Western-themed rides from a first-person perspective. The carnival includes four mini games: Strike Out involves throwing baseballs at moving targets, High Striker is a test of strength, Splish Splash is a dunk tank, and the shooting range is, well, a shooting range. Tickets won from these games can be exchanged for prizes. The fair also has go kart races to participate in, and the carnival plays host to the mission “Funhouse Fun,” which has you dodging scythes and shovels as you traverse the carnival’s funhouse.

Final Fantasy VII
The Gold Saucer, built above the ruins of Old Coral as a shining beacon in the middle of a grimy world, offers everything from Chocobo racing to the opportunity to participate in a play with your date. The Wonder Square is the real jewel of the Gold Saucer, letting you replay minigames found in other parts of Final Fantasy VII, from bowling to motorbiking. Be sure to spend the GP you get from mini games and Chocobo races before leaving the Gold Saucer, as everywhere else in the game only accepts Gil.

Chrono Trigger
It only happens once every thousand years, and the title character can’t even wake up for it on his own. The start of this epic game has Crono woken up by his mom who rushes him out to the Millennial Fair, your first introduction to the world of Chrono Trigger. Go ahead and participate in a soda-chugging contest and be a lab rat for a teleportation system that couldn’t possibly go wrong. Be careful with your actions here, however, as they could come back to hurt you later in the game.

Super Mario Sunshine
Located on a small island off the coast of Isle Delfino, Pinna Park features a good number of vibrantly colored rides, and Nintendo makes use of all of them throughout Super Mario Sunshine’s campaign. Whether you’re collecting red coins spread across swinging pirate ships, riding a rollercoaster while shooting at a giant mechanical Bowser, or reaching the top of an out-of-control Ferris wheel to slow it down, Pinna Park is sure to keep you entertained as you splish-splash your way throughout it.

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Category: Video Games

Games Inbox: Do you mind level-grinding in video games?

Posted on October 13, 2017  in Video Games

Games Inbox: Do you mind level-grinding in video games?
Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War – would you pay to avoid level grinding?

The morning Inbox considers the ethics of loot boxes and games aimed at children, as one reader suggests making a historical Hitman.

To join in with the discussions yourself email gamecentral@ukmetro.co.uk

Complete edition

Interesting that you published an article on loot crates being a form of gambling and Eurogamer published a similar article on the same day.

What this tells me is that there is a problem and it requires some form of regulation.

One of the comparisons made was that loot crates are no different to trading cards or football stickers, and on this point alone I fundamentally disagree. Cards and stickers that you already own could be traded amongst your friends, a loot crate has no physical existence, so cannot.

The point you made about the final level in Shadow Of War really puts the nail on the coffin though, and also highlights a difference between free-to-play games requiring significant outlay to proceed without inordinate amounts of grinding, and a full price, major title being skewed in the same way when you have already made a large financial commitment to play.

Ultimately, these things should be kept to cosmetic-only enhancement, having no bearing on the ultimate outcome of the game and letting the player’s own skill decide their fate.

Funnily enough, I’m currently playing Final Fantasy III on my SNES Mini and am having to grind to learn spells. But I don’t mind because I’m safe in the knowledge that the game is complete and encapsulated as an experience. There is no inducement that can let me skip levels, or sidestep my skill, or lack of it, and I’m enjoying the experience immensely as a result.
ZiPPi

Doing the maths

Regarding the loot box situation I’ve seen many defending this and thinking it’s OK but I just want people to think about something, I’ve been working a few things out and the maximum credits earned in a match was 180 credits and the loot boxes were 1,100 credits so it’s roughly seven matches in order to gain one box.

Now say it’s £1 per loot box and someone spends £50 buying them, it means I have to do around 350 matches just to catch up and get the 50 boxes myself. Which is an insane amount of games to do and even at £2 a box it’s going to be around 175 matches, which for people who have jobs or kids or just don’t have the time that’s a number few people will get to.

if Star Wars: Battlefront II sells a lot, which we all know it will, it would mean that games like Battlefield and Titanfall will likely follow, and that’s something that is very worrying when it comes to online gaming and would mean an end to multiplayer gaming for a lot of people. I don’t mind loot boxes if they’re purely cosmetic, but in the case of Star Wars it’s progression based and that’s why there has been so many complaining.
ssj monkey boy (gamertag)

Nintendo in money-spending shocker

So wow! It looks like Nintendo threw quite a bit of money on that Super Mario Odyssey Jump, Jump Super Star video.

I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so pumped for a new Mario game since the N64 days, everything about Super Mario Odyssey has just oozed quality since its announcement, particularly this.

I know you shouldn’t get over excited about a game you’ve never played before but with every other trailer and what people who have played it have said, and now those rumours about Edge Magazine giving it a perfect 10, I have to say I can’t help but expect big things from it.

I mean, it even looked like Mario was trying to give one of Michael Jackson’s music videos a run for its money in terms of its quality. I’m sure they’ll be a mash-up video online someday.

I also have a sneaky suspicion that that video might be the opening scene to the title screen the second you put the cartridge in, it certainly would set the game off on the right foot.

I also think Ubisoft could do something with that for their Just Dance franchise, OK it needs a bit of work but it looks fun and could be a very lucrative download for both companies.

Let’s hope it lives up to the hype, I’m sure it will.
freeway 77

GC: The Edge 10/10 review is real.

E-mail your comments to: gamecentral@ukmetro.co.uk

Take a stand

Having read your article on loot crates yesterday morning, I have decided to take a stand and cancelled my pre-order of Star Wars Battlefront II. I am a big Star Wars fan and was eagerly anticipating the game, but I am not willing to play a game where rich players will have such an advantage and where it seems that it is deliberately difficult to gain new upgrades and abilities without paying.

I knew the loot crates could be an issue but didn’t consider how damaging to the game they were until reading your article. Hopefully enough fellow gamers will vote with their wallet, so that publishers understand loot crates implemented in this way are not wanted.
Pigfish2 (PSN ID)

15 minutes later

So I get up for work at 7pm this morning (Thursday) and read GameCentral as I eat my Ready Brek. By 7.15 I’ve cancelled my order for Star Wars: Battlefront II.

I’m not against loot boxes altogether, but when they are pay to win then I’m out. And I have other friends that feel the same way. I hope enough boycott it to make a difference
manic miner 100 (gamertag)

Child danger

Just read your article about the danger of loot boxes and I completely agree. Outside Rocket League I strictly play single-player games, and the new trends we’re seeing with Shadow Of War are worrying. I must confess to buying Shadow Of War for release day but I’ll be thinking twice in the future.

As you quite rightly mention, loot boxes are essentially gambling. I was wondering if they’re common in games aimed at younger audiences such as the Skylanders franchise? Surely there’s a moral issue there with children playing them, not old enough to pull a slot in a casino, not old enough to pay for a random loot box. Makes you wonder if all non-cosmetic loot box games should be 18-rated.
RJ

GC: Skylanders doesn’t have any loot boxes, although the morality of toys to life is a whole different question. Loot boxes are very common on smartphones though, which for many kids will be their primary format for games.

Time Lord assassin

I appreciate that I’m probably in the minority, but I’ve never got on with the Assassin’s Creed games. I’ve tried about three titles in the series, and the games always seemed to be more about jumping between endless towers and rooftops rather than being a historical assassin.

Ubisoft’s blockbuster franchise does present a brilliant gaming concept though, assassination through the ages. I just wish the games narrowed their focus and played like a historical version of Hitman.

I don’t know how Hitman’s developers could sell the idea narratively, but wouldn’t it be brilliant if the next Hitman game (if there is one) had levels set in different time periods?

I found that a lot of the levels in the last Hitman game felt slightly mundane.

How cool would it be to have Mr 47 stalking a senator inside Roman amphitheatre during a chariot race? Or what about a World War II level, in which Mr 47 bumps off a Nazi officer?

The possibilities are endless. In my opinion the central narratives have always been the weakest part of the Hitman games and I see no problem in abandoning sense and logic altogether.

Why can’t the next Hitman game set its levels wherever and whenever it wants?
msv858 (Twitter)

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

Personal impact

I would like to say that your loot crate article was an amazing read, and a big well done in doing it and putting it out there and I felt compelled to write in. I agree with every word you said and I now worry for the future of my favourite hobby. There’s been lots mentioned by yourselves and the Inbox recently on the subject of loot crates, and it got me thinking about my own experience with them. I don’t think I ever have been affected by them until now, as it’s just been mainly season passes (I look at you Batman: Arkham Knight) or poor DLC where I’ve been burned in the past.

However, two games you mentioned in your article, Star Wars: Battlefront II and Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War, are where I will be affected, as these two games were two of my most wanted games this year. Regarding Shadow Of War, I have so far refused to buy this game despite loving the original and really wanting this one. As you mentioned in your review about the difficulty spike towards the end, meaning unless you want to grind your way there you can just buy loot crates to do it.

What a disgrace for a single-player game, totally not surprised by Warner Bros. tho’ as they fleeced me of the above mentioned Batman season pass funds, but not again. I’ll probably pick this up when it’s in the bargain bin after the new year, and even then won’t be spending a penny on the loot crates.

The other game is Battlefront II, and even at the time of writing this I still have it on Amazon pre-order. I’m seriously looking at cancelling this, which is proving very hard as I’m a massive Star Wars fan and the Star Wars fan in me is demanding the game. But using my head I don’t think I can go through with this purchase. I played the beta and it was great and all, but as someone else recently wrote in (can’t remember their name, sorry) about getting wasted constantly, this also happened to me many, many times.

I’ll admit I’m not the best at online shooters, far from it, but on one particular game of Strike the night before the beta ended, the winning person had like 60 kills. I ended the round on nine, which either says a lot about my level of skill (I didn’t manage to play it every day) or this other person has been playing the beta 24/7 since it was launched and is an absolute pro. Or the game is too unbalanced, which I think it was by quite some margin. If the beta was so badly unbalanced then surely the main game will be worse, it’s certainly not going to be any better as EA aren’t suddenly going to change things. What a shame.

Does GC know by any chance when the servers may be pulled for the original Battlefront? I was thinking of re-buying that, as it’s cheap as chips now for my Star Wars gaming fix. Although I wouldn’t be surprised in EA pulling them on release of the new one to avoid this very thing, I presume they’ll be wanting everyone on the new one ASAP, so they can start counting the cash rolling in. Unfortunately, there will be loads of people out there who will spend fortunes on the loot crates, and you’re right GC, it takes advantage of those out there with any form of gambling addiction.

Anyway, I managed to get a good go of the GT Sport demo last night and came away very impressed with what I saw and played. What is GC’s thoughts of it? I haven’t owned a decent racing game in ages, so I might buy this instead of Battlefront II. By the way thank goodness for Nintendo and the Switch. At least there you’re not getting fleeced for every penny, there the games are fun – which should be the number one priority after all. Also loved the new Mario advert. Actually loving everything Nintendo is doing right now and I hope it continues. Anyway, rant over. I’m off to cancel this pre-order.

Keep up the awesome work GC.
Bertie1 (PSN ID)

GC: Thank you. Companies don’t announce taking down servers very far in advance, but we would think Battlefront I will be safe for a couple of years. We actually haven’t played the GT Sport demo, since our review copy is coming in soon anyway.

Inbox also-rans

Are you reviewing the new South Park game? Is there an embargo in place? When does it lift?
Dan

GC: The embargo ends at noon on Monday.

Didn’t realise how much I was looking forward to Life Is Strange’s next episode until I saw the news about next week. If all the episodes are up to snuff I think this could end up eclipsing the first game.
Stip

This week’s Hot Topic

The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader msv858 (Twitter), who asks what’s your favourite start to a video game?

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a non-interactive intro or cut scene, the opening moments of the first level, or the whole thing, but what do you think is the most memorable and effective start to a game? How important is it that a game grabs you straight away, or are you okay with a slow burn?

How long does it take you to make a first decision about a game, and what’s the quickest you’ve ever given up on one? Conversely, what’s the quickest you’ve realised a game is a classic, and that you’re definitely going to love it?

E-mail your comments to: gamecentral@ukmetro.co.uk

The small print
New Inbox updates appear twice daily, every weekday morning and afternoon. Letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word 4Player viewer features at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

If you need quick access to the GameCentral channel page please use www.metro.co.uk/games and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

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Category: Video Games

Why do my kids waste hours watching millennials play video games on YouTube?

Posted on October 13, 2017  in Video Games

When you’re in those weird culturally formative years, you explore a lot of weird culturally formative options. So I understand that it is a middle-aged cliche to say that my kids’ penchant for watching videos of bothersome millennials playing video games on YouTube is a remarkably idiotic waste of time.

There is a monster cottage industry of millennials who record themselves playing video games, and my boys, ages 13 and 6, have plunged into it. Mild-mannered on most days, my children, when presented with these videos, spot-mutate into glassy-eyed replicants who draw the shades, hide under blankets and watch as many as they can before I dramatically stomp in and do my impression of the dad at the beginning of that Twisted Sister video.

It is hard to overstate how much of this content exists. There is a guy named Sky who plays Minecraft, and he amassed a fan base of nearly 12 million subscribers before shutting himself down a few months ago to focus on his music. (I know.) There is something that I know only as “Lucky Block Hunger Games” (12 million subscribers), in which two millennials whose voices sound like they’ve been digitally manipulated to resemble cartoon chipmunks talk for 40 minutes about cows and mods and mobs (if mods and mobs are different things, I actually can’t tell because when one is talking about mobs/mods, the other one is holding an entirely unrelated monologue about “the Nether”). My 6-year-old recently announced, “Super Girly Gamer actually had the weird apple sword and she had a skelly armor and she looked like an apple!” (bursts into laughter) (falls onto floor) (would not eat an actual apple if I promised to buy him a real sword).

VenturianTale (merely 2.6 million subscribers) is similar to Lucky Block Hunger Games, except there is a character called Homeless Goomba and another named Sally who, according my 6-year-old, is a big fan of waffles. There may well be more of these, but I’m bailing on my journalistic responsibility because I do not want to research them.

Some background: For years, the video game situation in our house was happily deplorable. We had no PlayStation, no Xbox. Somewhere in the attic there was an ancient blow-on-the-cartridge-era Nintendo circa 1988, which represented the precise moment at which my video game evolution ended, and that was it for video games. We were less like modern parents and more like negligent Amish.

Yet it was impossible for me to stand atop Hippie Mountain and say, “The scourge of video games shall not touch this castle!,” because in place of the Xbox we became obsessed with Minecraft. That is fine. I like Minecraft because it facilitates building, which is one of my kids’ favorite ways to play. It became an obsession so powerful that I would have to kick my older son out of the car in the school drop-off line because he couldn’t stop telling me about diamond blocks and iron blocks and stone blocks and dude seriously you have to leave RIGHT NOW.

But Minecraft offered one resolute positive: It is interactive. Such is not the case with the Minecraft videos, where viewers simply sit there, root beer and chips in hand, and watch other people play. To be fair, this is something I did in junior high, particularly one thrilling evening when Jon made it all the way to the end of “Defender of the Crown” and we almost spilled root beer all over the Commodore 64 in the resultant celebration. And if you are holding a Super Tecmo Bowl tournament for the duration of a sleepover, watching the championship can be pretty exciting.

But there is a key element to those scenarios: Other human people were around, providing some form of tactile carbon-based interaction, the merging of the pixels vaguely shaped like Neal Anderson with your actual, real-life nerd friends.

That interaction is conspicuously missing from these videos. Watching other people play video games for hours is the only thing more dismally sedentary than playing video games for hours. Maybe the kids are picking up Minecraft building tips, or secret strategies on how to smuggle butter into the Nether, or learning if you can use axes to butter zombies (I have no idea how these games work). But in the conversations my kids have – the bottomless, ping-pongy monologues that have taken over our breakfasts – we’re not talking about strategy, or building, or creating. We’re talking about something funny the Homeless Goomba did with waffles.

Friends report something similar, that their kids are obsessed with toy-unboxing videos, or videos of people building with Legos from scratch. This is where I write something hopelessly ancient-sounding and out-of-touch. I can’t justify the amount of time these children – bright empty vessels in the midst of discovering which activities make their synapses erupt and which make them bored – are spending passively watching other people doing something on the computer.

And that’s pretty much my point. It’s watching, not doing. Therefore, it’s wasting time.

Some nights later, I got excited about sharing a video from “SNL” with my older son. In the late 1980s, I slowly became aware of George H.W. Bush through Dana Carvey, so I figured why not? It was comedy, it was news, it was something that bridged our age difference. I counted on it being a slam dunk. What I got was complete rejection.

“I don’t like ‘Saturday Night Live’ videos,” he said, in a voice that indicated he considered the matter closed and the argument easily won. “So there.”

But no, I said, it’s okay, I know there’s a little salty language but it’s really funny, and besides, it involves smart political comedy, a reflection of our culture and really great writing. “This is funny, Bud,” I said. “Come on, let’s watch.”

“Harrumph,” he retorted.

And this is where we remain, me convinced that my attempts to expose him to meaningful, nuanced comedy are worthwhile, him convinced that my stuff is pathetic old-man humor that could only dream of rising to the heights of Sally eating Minecraft waffles. Both stubborn, both stuck, both sure that our stuff is funnier.

We’ve been here for weeks. It is a remarkably idiotic waste of time.

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Category: Video Games

The New Zen of Playing Old Video Games

Posted on October 13, 2017  in Video Games

On Sept. 29, a new Tickle Me Elmo arrived in online stores–and then quickly vanished. That same day, Nintendo’s new Super NES Classic, a Lilliputian version of the ’90s-era game console compatible with today’s television sets, sold out in minutes. The wee machine proved popular partly because it comes with some 20 classic games built in, including a never-released version of cult favorite Star Fox. But mostly it went so fast because retro game boxes are like fidget spinners for nostalgic grownups.

The $79 Super NES Classic isn’t the first throwback game device by far. A line of plug-and-play set-tops crammed with Atari’s iconic games has been around since the early 2000s. And so-called virtual consoles have allowed players to download halcyon hits to modern Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft platforms through software emulation for years. But it took last year’s impossible-to-find, heavily scalped $59 NES Classic–a mini Nintendo Entertainment System with 30 built-in games, including the first Super Mario and Legend of Zelda–to jolt the category. There’s more to come: Atari announced what it calls an Ataribox, a new console styled after its 1977 Atari 2600 that is designed to run both old and new games. A pint-sized C64 Mini laden with classic Commodore 64 games will go on sale for $69 early next year. At this rate, a miniature Apple II and TRS-80 seem inevitable.

Part of retro gaming’s allure stems from a preservationist impulse, like remastering classic music albums or releasing “definitive” editions of beloved films. Vintage video games have it rough by comparison, though. Lo-fi graphics optimized for old-school TVs look garish on today’s ultra-high-definition screens. Retro consoles ease that translation with modern perks like HDMI support.

More interesting is why you might want to play a classic game at all, especially if you don’t harbor fond memories from their particular era. Sure, Nintendo mainstays like Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past may look crudely basic at first glance. But playing one in 2017 is a reminder of not only how much they got right about game design but also how much they influenced contemporary titles. The experience is not unlike re-engaging a superlative jazz solo or a half-century-old abstract painting.

Whether you view a system like the Super NES Classic as a portable library of bygone times or just a reminder of how tortuously difficult some of those games were, its popularity makes one thing certain: the game with the longest odds, at this point, is finding one.

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Category: Video Games

Chiefs’ creative offense a challenge for video games

Posted on October 13, 2017  in Video Games

Chiefs’ creative offense a challenge for video games

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s utilization of jet sweeps, motion and the shovel pass is inspiring imitators around the league, but running back Charcandrick West wants to see Reid’s influence spread further — specifically to the EA Sports “Madden NFL” video game franchise.

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“Coach Reid is going to make Madden’s job very hard,” West said. “I don’t know how they’re going to put all this stuff in the game next year.”

The Chiefs have invested plenty of coaching resources into building what arguably stands as the league’s most creative offense. Reid continues calling the plays, but he also has help from associate head coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy creating the game plans.

But Reid’s creativity in play design continues to bewilder even his own players.

“What he’s doing is crazy,” West said. “He amazes us every week we come in, he’s got something new. How does he even continue to create this stuff?”

West refers to one of the most effective and copycatted additions to Reid’s game plan. The Chiefs’ offense lines up with a full-house backfield and puts a receiver in motion. A second receiver runs a jet sweep. Quarterback Alex Smith runs a read option, at which point he can hand the ball off to a runner from the backfield, hand off to a receiver running a sweep, deliver a shovel pass to another receiver inside or even keep it himself. The options keep the defense guessing.

Now West wants to grab a controller and run the play himself.

“But like I say, good luck to Madden next year getting all those jet sweeps and flips on the game,” he said.

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Category: Video Games

AI isn’t just learning to play video games, it’s helping us build them

Posted on October 12, 2017  in Video Games

The creators of Unity, the most popular game engine in the world, recently launched a set of machine-learning tools that lay the groundwork for actual AI (not scripted computer opponents) in video games.

Typically these kits include rendering aids and simple tools for training neural networks, but the beta release sent to developers promises to revolutionize video games, and provides machine-learning researchers with a perfect environment for training robot brains.

The applications for the new agents go beyond just creating better first-person-shooters and role-playing games. Unity aims to take a weeks-long development cycle and trim that down to a couple of hours.

Aside from making life easier on devs, and cooler for gamers, the beta provides a bevy of tools for researchers as well.

Instead of letting driverless cars, factory robots, or other autonomous machines loose on our streets and in our buildings, the tools are there for AI devs to use environments created in Unity to train AI. This gives them the ability to create training grounds that take advantage of Unity’s already amazing physics.

Unity VP of machine-learning Danny Lange pictures a future for gamers where all of these things come together to make beautiful games that engage us and learn from us. Speaking to TNW he said:

On one hand AI and developments in machine-learning allow Unity developers to make beautiful games, but you flip that around and Unity is really an awesome lab to create environments for training AI as well.

It’s great that developers can create magical worlds with greater ease, and I’m very excited that AI programmers will be able to teach robots to slay dragons and shoot zombies in preparation for deployment in the real world. But I’m far more thrilled at the prospect of having non-player characters (NPCs) and CPU opponents with an actual AI brain.

Unity provides developers with the tools to create machine-learning agents capable of learning and interacting with each other in a virtual world, which makes it possible to create games inhabited by AI that actually learns, instead of forcing developers into painstakingly scripting behavior by hand.

Video game developers have been using the term “artificial intelligence” (AI) since the 1950s to describe a computer opponent designed to challenge humans. This use of the term has no relation to machine-learning; the AI in a video game doesn’t learn anything, it simply executes algorithms.

It looks like game publishers will have to stop advertising things like “advanced AI” unless there’s actual machine-learning taking place.

Read next:

Apple taught iPhone users not to care about specs. Now it’s Google’s turn.

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