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The Wonders of Werewolves Within on PSVR

Werewolves within is an adaptation of a board-game where you sit around a campfire with seven other people and lie to them. It’s also the best game currently in VR.

 

Taking the general structure from games like ‘One Night Ultimate Werewolf’, Town of Salem, and Mafia (the card game, not the open world video game), Werewolves Within has a devastatingly simple premise. Eight of you are all given roles in secret, each with their own (individually useless) power, and you have a few minutes to work out who is lying and actually a werewolf.

There’s no visual signs to look for, no way of knowing for sure who you can trust, just a random selection of weak powers and your own powers of deduction, and a lot of name-calling and the occasional spot of begging.

Balance is key in any multiplayer game and although there’s a random element that can stack the odds for or against team werewolf, there’s very rarely a game where you can be absolutely sure you’ve made the right choices. The Saint, for example, does get to know exactly who one of the werewolves is, but if the werewolves all vote for him, the werewolves win regardless of whether they die or not. This leads to a precarious game where you try and push the rest of the group in the right direction, while keep your true identity a secret. It forces you to lie, which makes you suspicious, which might make the village inadvertently turn on their only saviour. Houndsmen are powerful as they can whisper with the players either side of them and discover their true roles, but the werewolves have the exact same power, so you can never be sure if a houndsman is really who they say they are.

Every game starts with the group going round in a circle announcing their roles and inevitably some people will claim the same role. What do you do if someone claims your role? They could be a werewolf, so you should get everyone to vote for them. They could be a Turncloak, who is working with the werewolves but wins if they die instead of the werewolves. They could be a deviant, who wins if they get killed. They could be the saint! It’s an incredibly complex psychological game that runs lightning fast thanks to the simple rules and fantastic community.

Players quickly learned to adopt certain unenforced rules, like everyone praying at the start to hide who the real saint is (they have to pray to find out who the werewolf is). While the community is small (you’ll often run into the same players night after night), that leads to friendships and vendettas. I play nearly every night and I know who’s a good liar, who’s a lot of fun, and who to avoid.

Thankfully the number of players you want to avoid is incredibly low, as players can be kicked at any time. People who are racist, homophobic, or just can’t play by the rules get kicked mercilessly, leaving lobbies full of like-minded people to play with.

In terms of the actual VR, it’s used in a subtle but effective way creating an effect you couldn’t really get any other way. Only your head is tracked, and whenever you talk your mouth moves and your character gestures. It’s surprisingly convincing so it’s easy to tell who is speaking and who people are looking at. You can also use a set of emotes if you’d like to emphasise a point or hint at someone. All of the games take place in various different environments around a small town, and while they become quite repetitive, they’re appropriately atmospheric and well designed.

If you’ve got a PSVR, Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive, you owe it to yourself to try this game. It’s entirely a seated experience, the VR will never make you the slightest bit nauseous, and the gameplay is almost entirely unique to videogames (Town of Salem is a little similar). Check out the video at the top of the page if you’d like to see a game, then come and join us to hunt some Werewolves!

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Games of 2016

While 2016 might have been a terrible year for politics, celebrity deaths, the environment, migrant populations and Suicide Squad adaptations, it was good in one respect: Games.

From the start of the year we’ve had a succession of incredibly good games this year, many of which might have been overlooked because they were sequels or reboots. We couldn’t possibly list every game we’ve loved this year but we’ve highlighted the two games that have really stood out to us for being excellent, alongside one that stood out for various other reasons.

As always leave your comments below and let us know what your games of 2016 were!

Runner Up

We play a lot of First Person Shooters and this year has been amazing for them. Call of Duty is surprisingly great with an enjoyable (if cheesy) campaign and an admittedly familiar but very addictive multiplayer, Overwatch proved that Blizzard could stretch out into entirely unfamiliar genres and beat the current champs (I’m looking at your Team Fortress) at their own game, Battlefield somehow made World War One fun, which we’re hoping is a good thing, Titanfall 2 added a fantastic campaign while improving everything about the original’s fantastic multiplayer.

But despite all of those phenomenal games, there was one that stood out for us, and surprised us. Doom

Doom is a reboot of the original game and it manages to get the feel of the originals right while completely updating them for the modern gamer. It looks gorgeous, it flows incredibly well (and ran well on all platforms), it’s a decent length, it’s incredibly punishing on higher difficulties, and the soundtrack was amazing. OK so the multiplayer wasn’t so great (although is far more fun than some would have you believe) but they need something to work on improving for Doom II right?

Winner: Doom

Best Game of 2016

Despite how much we loved Doom, something much closer to my heart finally came out this year, and complete blew me away. It was Roller Coaster Tycoon World, and it was a disaster. Never has a game so completely underwhelmed me at every turn, and I’m the sort of person that downloaded the RCT mobile version while standing at the gate in an airport about to board a plane the second it went live. Rollercoaster Tycoon World was ugly, ran terribly, had barely any realistic rides and made it impossible to make an interesting park.

Thank god for Planet Coaster. If it wasn’t for PC I genuinely think the theme park sim genre would have been killed off, but with the also-excellent-but-not-quite-finished Parkitect around at the same time, we can just forget about RCTW and move on.

Planet Coaster is nearly everything I have ever wanted in a Theme Park Sim and more. You can build terrain up around a coaster easily, there’s nearly every major manufacturer represented (albeit with fake names), there’s fastpass queues and employee management, the guests actually behave a little bit like real people, they’re updating it constantly, and there’s an incredibly active Steam Workshop section where people are making everything so I don’t have to mess it up. It’s a simply incredible game, it looks gorgeous and the devs have already shown how committed they are to free updates with the fantastic Winter Update a few weeks ago.

If you ever had fun with Rollercoaster Tycoon, get the true sequel that was actually made by the same people, get Planet Coaster.

Winner: Planet Coaster

Most Controversial Game

It would be wrong for us to sum up anything about this year without mentioning the game that clearly brought us the biggest audience. We managed to get an early copy of No Man’s Sky from Simply Games and from streaming this we attracted an audience like we’d never seen before. Those first few days (where I was streaming around twenty hours a day) were incredible and I genuinely loved the game all the way through to our final push to the centre of the galaxy, fighting through getting banned from Youtube and Twitch temporarily until we managed to get the stream working on Dingit and made what I believe was the very first video of the end of the game.

Then the game came out, and the first patch it. This had two weird effects. First of all, it changed everything about the game quite dramatically, so our first experience was very different from everyone else’s. Secondly, it started building a snowball of hate once people started pushing the boundaries of the game and realising you didn’t have to push too far to see the old guy behind the curtain.

So (as we said from the very start) mutliplayer wasn’t in the game. Every NPC interaction was completely static and cookie-cutter, the worlds all ended up looking fairly similar, space combat was extremely limited, there was no real ending, crafting was extremely limited. It was a surprisingly shallow game built on some incredible tech. For all the hatred aimed at No Man’s Sky, it’s hard to deny that some of the blame needs to be aimed at Sean Murray for over-promising and refusing to admit what the game really was, but the majority lies at Sony’s feet. They marketed (and priced) No Man’s Sky as an AAA game, rather than an amazing indie title made by 14 people in Guildford. As an indie game, it is an amazing accomplishment, as an AAA game, it’s fairly disappointing.

Hello Games have returned from their long silence and started updating the game and it’s already much better than it was in the Summer. There’s now an incredibly punishing but exciting survival mode. You can buy huge freighters. Space combat is improving. There’s more variety in the types of planets you can see. You can build bases like in Subnautica. The game is genuinely worth the money now and a lot of fun can be had it in.

Whatever you thought of No Man’s Sky over the Summer, it’s definitely caused a great deal of controversy and will likely always be remembered for that. For us it was the start of something new with our Youtube channel and streams and one of the mose exciting weekends we’ve ever had with the site. We met so many awesome people and had a huge amount of fun exploring the galaxy with all of you.

Winner: No Man’s Sky

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New site – Let us know what you think!

Hi all,

So this is the relaunch of TPReview with a new style and approach.

For many years I’ve been running this site with the mind to make it look as much like Eurogamer/IGN as possible, as those are the sites I enjoy.  Now the majority of our content is on Youtube, and after a couple of promotions at my day job (I’m a teacher), I haven’t had the time to keep it updated in a way that makes sense for that kind of layout. So I’ve decided to change the site into more of the blog it always secretly was underneath the shiny veneer.

Now none of the posts have gone, and if anything this means I’ll be posting more often as I’m less constrained by post ‘types’ and can just post whatever I feel like writing about.

Please let me know what you think of the new design or if there’s anything you can’t find so I can make the necessary changes. A new blog for 2017, welcome!

TPSou

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Blizzcon 2016 Updates

We’ve got our Virtual Ticket so we’re going to be following all fo the news and updates from Blizzcon, especially news for our favourite games Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. Keep stopping buy to see our thoughts and opinions as the show progresses over the next two days!

Opening Ceremony: November 4th 6pm GMT

 

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Titanfall 2 Review (Xbox One)

We’ve been excited about Titanfall 2 for a long time purely because it’s a sequel to one of our favourite multiplayer FPS games of all time. That being said, we were worried. We’d been on holiday over the beta so had missed out on that, and with Battlefield 1 being released a couple of weeks ago (and being excellent) and Call of Duty coming out a week later, we thought it might get buried, forgotten, and ignored like so many brilliant games that were released at the wrong time. Thankfully Titanfall 2 is being to shine through it’s unfortunate (or incompetent on the part of EA) release window and has actually managed to drag us away from Battlefield. Titanfall 2 is everything we wanted and so much more.

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The multiplayeris very similar to the first game in nearly all the right ways. You still fight over control points, or kill AI opponents, or capture flags, or kill enemy players in order to get points. As you gain points yu also gain percentages towards your Titan meter. At a specific point on this meter you unlock a boost like a Smart Pistol (no longer a normal equippable weapon) or a turret or mines. Once the meter reaches 100%, you can call down your Titan. The Titans make exactly the same sounds and visual impact on the game as they did before and I genuinely can’t see what Respawn could have done to improve it. Screaming from the sky in a fireball of cloud and steel they smash into the ground and await your instructions or get ready to help you climb in. Jumping into your Titan is incredibly empowering. You go from an agile but flimsy weakling darting around the battlefield to a 30ft tall death machine. Obviously as the game goes on other players will get theirs too and it quickly separates into a war of two fronts with pilots duking it out in the buildings and on objectives while Titans do their best to gain map control and prevent the pilots from going around their business. When it works and your team manages to keep a few titans while destroying all of your opponents’, it feels amazing. Suddenly you can lock down the map and quash any resistance.

Of course Respawn didn’t want that to be the end of a round so now pilots have even more abilities designed to help them get around and avoid the Titans’ attacks. There’s a grappling hook that lets you clamber up ledges and onto Titans quickly, a phase shift that lets you shift out of real space for a while and then reappear at another point, and even a decoy that will run ahead of you and hopefully confuse the opponents into shooting the wrong way. Games of Titanfall never get boring and there’s always something to do or a problem to solve, within short spaces of times it’s amazing how quickly you transition between different tactics and strategies alongside a team you’re not even speaking to, from armoured warfare to guerilla defenses to free-running sprints across the map. Even when you lsoe a game the desperate sprint to the (now much more fragile) escape dropship feels exciting and meaningful.

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In terms of what’s new for Multiplayer, there’s now six Titans instead of three, but you can no longer select the weapon for them. There’s still a 40mm cannon attached to Tone who plays the most like the old Titans, but then there’s some interesting new takes on the machines like Scorch who can set down petrol bombs ready to ignite large areas, or Ronin who can dart around and phase shift then lay waste to enemies with a giant sword. It might not be practical or realistic, but it looks amazing.

The weakest part of the multiplayer offering is definitely the maps. Although the layouts are quite interesting and work well, visually they’re very dull and nowhere near as good as those found in the base game. Thankfully Respawn have said that all future maps will be free, so perhaps they can change things up with DLC, but at the moment every map essentially feels like a series of boxy buildings. One has caves and a crashed ship, and one is in a giant building, but the rest are all pretty forgettable. We’re also a little annoyed by the lack of viewable stats, but it’s understandable that Respawn didn’t want people working to improve their K/D ratio at the expense of the rest of their team as happens so often in Call of Duty and Battlefield. At least having some basic stats like kill streaks and win percentage would be really useful.

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Now the most surprising thing about the game package is the single player. The original Titanfall didn’t even have a single player – it was purely multiplayer combat, but Respawn decided to do more than just dabble with a campaign and have created a short but incredibly impressive story that doesn’t just help to explain what’s going on in the Titanfall universe, but actually makes you care about the characters. The level design is top notch with each mission introducing you to a new mechanic or tool that feels natural to use in the situations you are presented with. Interestingly there’s plenty of platforming involves in the campaign and trying to find some hidden helmets that serve as collectibles is actually one of the most entertaining things we’ve done in a game this year. The free-running puzzles involves have been far more engaging then the entirety of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.

Overall Titanfall 2 is an absolute no brainer for anyone who enjoyed the first game. If you’re new to the series this is a refreshing and entertaining take on the FPS genre and easily up there in terms of quality against the big hitters. We only hope it survives well enough against BF1 and COD to warrant a Titanfall 3.

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Battlefield 1 Review (PC)

Battlefield has managed to come a long way over time without really changing. If Dice decided to re-release Battlefield 1942, the game that started it all, it would be instantly recognisable to the millions of younger fans who have only played the newest entries in the series. Conquest is the main game mode, you fight across war-ravaged towns and meadows using a wide variety of weapons, tanks and aircraft to try and defend or assault positions. The actual fun of the game is still the same chaotic sandbox-style multiplayer violence. This isn’t meant as a criticism by the way, Dice have somehow managed to keep this pure and incredibly fun core while constantly updating the rest of the package that surrounds it, to the point where Battlefield 1 is easily one of the most impressive first-person shooters currently played. The graphics are cutting-edge, the multiplayer infrastructure is finally strong enough to cope with the huge numbers of player (most of the time) and a new time period manages to make a familiar game feel fresh again. On top of that Dice have managed to create a compelling (if brief) single player campaign that would be worth paying for alone. That’s not something I expected to write about a Battlefield game that doesn’t have ‘Bad Company’ somewhere in the title.

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When Battlefield 1 was announced as being set in World War One, many gamers were appropriately concerned. Most people’s view of World War One was that it was a dull yet horrifically torturous affair that managed to suck the joy out of an entire continent. It had none of the heroism or daring raids of World War Two, none of the might of technology on display that has characterised wars since Vietnam, and none of the honour and chivalry that we romanticise into wars pre-1900. Instead it mostly seemed to involve mud, a lack of movement, and a horrific death toll for very little or no gains. Not exactly the perfect setting for a multiplayer game.

Dice clearly realised this and have instead decided to create a vaguely believable ‘based-on’ version of World War One. All of the weapons, the vehicles, the places and even many of the characters from the campaign are at least based on real things from the war. Perhaps they were hardly used, or only ever tested, perhaps they’ve been slightly exaggerated or modified to make things more exciting, but nothing is completely out of place. This means that rather than a historically accurate battle simulator, we get a game where you can stand on top of a giant zeppelin, throwing grenades hundreds of feet down on to a giant tank that’s charging across trenches bellowing fire from both sides chasing down a heavily armoured man carrying a giant machine gun. No-one’s saying it definitely did happen like that, but technically it could have. Kind of.

Regardless of the accuracy, what we have is an incredibly fun game. The campaign is split up into five hour and a half sections that demonstrate specific mechanics within the game. Each one tells a surprisingly touching story about one person’s experience of the war and the narrative touches are difficult to fault. These are over-the-top stories of bravery, deception, and luck. They don’t truly delve into the horrors of war, but there’s definitely an element of that, and each fo the characters are interesting in their own way, rather than being the two-dimensional ‘soldier’ stereotypes we’re used to in previous campaigns.

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The first sees you as a young soldier joining a tank crew Fury-style as they head towards a particularly brutal battle. You fight over tanks, assault a town and even lead the tank through ambushes in a foggy wood and get to do some sniping before that story comes to a close. Another has you essentially stealing a plane and getting involved in some of the most ludicrous air battles I’ve ever seen in a game. The third has you donning heavy armour to plough through the Italian Alps trying to protect your brother. One involves storming a beach as an elite Australian soldier, trying to protect a younger newbie. The final mission involves Lawrence of Arabia and an assault on the intimidating armoured train. You can play through these missions in any order you’d like and the quality is consistent across all of them. They manage to keep you entertained while teaching you every single major mechanic of the game, and none outstay their welcome. In fact we’re rather hoping to see some more stories from the Eastern Front from the upcoming (but still far off) DLC.

The multiplayer is clearly where it’s really at for Battlefield fans, and Battlefield 1 does not disappoint. In squads of up to five you’ll fight through forests, castles, mansions, cities, deserts and more in all of the game modes you’ve come to love from the series. Conquest and Rush are much as they ever have been, but the inclusion of trenches and a distinct lack of helicopters refreshes the series and means new strategies are needed. Poisonous gas forces you to put on a mask and fight without being able to look down the sights, smoke is entirely blinding and forces you into brutal close-quarters combat, heavy bombers can wreak havoc on objectives but are so flimsy they can be brought down by small arms-fire from the ground.

Graphically, the game is absolutely breathtaking. The environments themselves are impressive and completing convincing for the places they are supposed to be, from the whitwashed walls in the desert on the Sinai map to the dense forest of Argonne, but it’s really the weather system that takes your breath away. Within a match you might have fog roll in, reducing visibility to ten feet or so, then you might have a heavy storm, blowing things around and making it difficult to fly, then brilliant sunshine might emerge, revealing the beauty of the maps and the lighting system. The changes are subtle and natural, if a little fast, and it’s amazing how differently you need to play to adapt to the conditions.

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Overall, Battlefield 1 is an absolute triumph. There are still bugs and the odd server issues, the menu system still don’t work properly (you can’t edit your loadouts unless you’re in a game and often you can’t leave a game when it’s over) but these are easy to ignore when the actual gameplay is so much fun. This is easily worth your money, even at full price. We’d say wait on the season pass until we know what you get, but the base game is more than worth the money. We just need to find the time to play more of it alongside Titanfall!

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Syndrome Review (PC)

Note: This is the first of our reviews where we will not be giving a score. We are following the trend of many sites where we think a score is simply no longer meaningful. We’d prefer for you to read the reviews and see what we think rather than assign some arbitrary number for you to compare against other arbitrary numbers. 

Last week we attended the Fright Night at Thorpe Park. I hadn’t been through a scare maze for many years so was unbelievably jittery while we were queuing to be taken through a series of rooms and scared silly. When we finally got in it turned out all these people can really do to an adult is make you jump. I knew the actors were just actors, I knew the weapons were fake, I knew the blood was just make-up, so while they could easily make us jump by leaping at us out of the dark, this was no more frightening than the childhood bully trying to make you flinch. Once you realise that the whole premise becomes hollow as your fear leaves you and you start to see how cheap the props are and how bad the acting is. All of this reminds me very much of Syndrome, a horror game that is entirely capable of making you jump, but nothing more than that.

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Starting off with some story exposition about waking up on ‘totally-not-the-Nostromo’, which just so happens to be a large ship that looks like the Nostromo, Syndrome drops you right into a clichéd space horror. You awake from cryosleep and everyone’s dead, except for a few groups who you’re not sure if you can trust. Syndrome is content to leave it there though, quickly introducing you to your objectives which attempt to outdo each other in how much of a cliché can they become. Find keycards? Check. Find a door code in a diary? Check. Crawl through a vent to get around a malfunctioning door? Check. That’s all within the first few minutes.

Unfortunately Syndrome doesn’t really progress from there. Of course there’s some monsters in the way of weird zombie things but they all look the same and will react to your trusty wrench smacking them, but not getting shot until they die completely. Later on you face some slightly more intimidating enemies but beyond being faster and tougher, they act the exact same way and somehow manage to sound less frightening.

All of this would be forgiven if it built up a frightening atmosphere like Amnesia or Outlast, but it simply doesn’t. The ship you’re exploring looks like it was created in the Half Life engine and just smattered with some dynamic lights. Most of the decorations don’t make sense, like awkwardly placed boxes everywhere, there’s no moments of intense fear or calm, it’s just constant grey corridors and rooms with occasional enemies to murder or run away from. The fact it’s a indie game could answer for some of this, but then the developer is charging £18.99 for what feels like a horror mod and for that kind of money you could easily buy much better games in the same genre.

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Overall it’s impossible to recommend Syndrome. If you’ve played Alien: Isolation, the Dead Space Trilogy, or System Shock, it’s going to feel like a massive letdown and far too familiar. If you haven’t played them, buy those instead, they’re all much better.

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EGX 2016 Overview

So we just got back from our trip to EGX 2016 (and Alton Towers as a bonus) and we are exhausted. This year we went with two non-journalist friends joining the two of us and it was interesting to see the experience from a slightly different perspective. We didn’t get there until the main public opening at 11 and we stayed right up until the end.

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Firstly, it’s hard to ignore the fact that EGX was not supported well by the major developers this year. Although some of their games were there, there was no significant presence from Microsoft, Nintendo or Ubisoft. EA had a couple of large stands dotted around but the show really did feel like it was worse for missing the key players. No charming Nintendo area with fun little side games and plenty of street passes, no bombastic EA with huge statues and light shows, No ultra-stylish Microsoft booths with stamps and giveaways. Instead the show was mostly dominated by Sony with a huge Playstation area, alongside surprisingly large sections for Syndicate, Yoggscast, and Twitch. Personally I’m not the biggest fan of the way Sony does these shows, it feels like they enjoy the long lines as a sign of how ‘wanted’ their games are, and they don’t give very much thought to the people in them. Not many consoles, not much was playable, and more focus on taking up space than actually showing off good games. For example, the PS4 Pro was there, but behind a glass case and switched off. PSVR was there, but you had to book (or be smart and go to the many indie booths showing it off), their biggest playable games were Gran Turismo and Infinite Warfare, but the queue for Infinite Warfare was getting up to about two hours and Gran Turismo only had a few pods with a fairly basic set up. No fancy HDR being shown off, no 4K, no looks at games that people are really excited about like The Last Guardian.

The other areas were pretty sparse, Mafia 3 had a spectacular facade but was only showing a 25 minute gameplay video – the Twitch area devoted a tonne of space to letting you play the Forza Horizon 3 demo we all got a while ago, despite the actual game coming out this weekend – the over 18 area had a grand total of 4 games, one of which only had two seats. It felt like a lot of the show floor was wasted without the blockbuster games to show off. There was no way of playing For Honor, Ghost Recon, Steep, Prey 2, or the new Zelda. Instead you just had plenty of giant booths to walk around.

Of course the best place to play games was (as always) the Rezzed and Leftfield collections. Indie developers really come out in force for this show and it’s a great chance to play plenty of games you’ve never seen before and actually chat to the people that made them. Shot lines, lots of amazing games and a nice atmosphere – it’s just a shame that the quality evident there couldn’t have been matched with the AAA titles.

In terms of the rest of the show, it really feels like Eurogamer still haven’t managed to get the vibe they want. There’s a poor food selection, which has no connection to games and never goes beyond being purely functional. This could be a chance to show off some interesting dishes to an audience who might not come across it otherwise, but instead you get burgers, chips and sandwiches. The merchandise stalls were everywhere, easily taking up a third of the overall space, but 80% of them all had the same knock-off stock with seemingly unlicensed merch aimed at ‘geek culture’ without really being part of it. Lots of cheap items being sold at a premium by people who had no interested in getting involved with ‘gamers’ – they just wanted to fleece you. Of course there were exceptions, there are always a couple of interesting stands or independent retailers that care about embracing the community, but these are increasingly pushed out by large mass-producers of vaguely gaming-related tat.

All of this sounds very negative, and it is, but despite it all we still had a good time. We played a few outstanding indie games and had a lot of fun with Titanfall 2 and Dishonored 2 – but after visiting Gamescom in the last couple of years then coming here and seeing how much is missing, how much is boring, and how many people look tired and fed up from the moment the doors open, it’s hard not to think EGX is getting it wrong. Maybe they’ll find the magic formula next year, but we’re not so sure we’ll be there to find out.

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HTC Vive Initial Impressions

Thanks to the generosity of all the people who donated on the stream, we managed to pick up a HTC Vive last weekend and we’ve put some serious time into trying out everything we’ve been able to get our hands on.

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Setup

Much has been made of the Vive setup being difficult or a hassle but we found it much better than we expected. As long as you take your time to find a good place in your house everything will run smoothly. If you haven’t done your research though you might be in for a surprise as the Vive requires a pretty specific space.

First of all you need physical space. You can get by with 1.5mx2m for room space but we’d recommend more than that. Our space is around 2mx2m but was really pushing up against the boundaries of how small it could be and at first it didn’t believe us that we could do what the VR setup calls ‘room space’. If you don’t have the space you can still play most games by selecting ‘standing space’ in the setup, but you’ll be missing out on some of the most exciting features in games. Don’t forget you need overhead room too. Try to make sure you’re not easily going to hit anything if you try to throw overarm, it’s unbelievably easy to get absorbed into a game and completely forget where you are. We’ve taken out the lightbulb from the overhead light fitting for just this reason. I would recommend that you find a space that you can leave set up like this for as long as you want. If you have to move furniture every time you want to play I doubt you’ll be playing very much and that’d be a shame for something so expensive!

The next thing you need to look for are plug sockets. In the area you want to play you’ll need two sockets, one for each lighthouse. Of course you can use extension cords etc but you want a minimum of clutter that you could potentially trip over in the space you’re using. You also need to make sure your PC is close enough. The cable from the breakout box is about 5m long and the USB cable and HDMI cables that you need to plug into the PC are about 1m long (remember you’ll need ports for these too or a powered USB extender if you want to use your own longer HDMI cable). While all of these restrictions might sound imposing, in practice it all seems pretty reasonable. Basically the more space you have, the better, but it’s quite accommodating if you’re in small accommodation.

Setup is quite simple really once you’ve got everything. You simply plug the base stations into the power and make sure they sync up (they just sync with each other and not with the PC, all they do is bathe your room in infrared dots that your headset can pick up, much like the Wii U sensor bar). Then you switch the wireless controllers on and make sure the headset and breakaway box are plugged in then you go through some room setup including calibrating the controllers with the space and tracing the boundary (this later becomes the wall you see if you get close to it in games) then you have an in-VR vaguely portal-themed setup that introduces you to the main controls and is a lot of fun. We’re not big fans of the tiny headphones you get but other than that using it now is easy as anything. We simply turn the controllers on and put the headset on in the tracked area. Even if you’re not in the area as long as one station can see you the VR will work for seated experiences.

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The Hardware

The hardware feels premium as although it’s plastic the matte finish and foam sections all fit beautifully together and are grey and black so it’s easy to ignore when you haven’t got it on. Of course the screens inside and lenses aren’t perfect yet, it can be hard to get them entirely focused and the resolution and light bleed leave a lot to be desired, but they are industry leaders at this point. HTC have got the form factor basically perfect, it’s just a matter of time before the screen technology improves in later generations. The breakaway box is tiny and unobtrusive too, like a little lozenge roughly the size of a Steam Link.

The controllers are worth special mention. Their weird hoop-on-a-stick shape is unusual but it feels great to hold and within VR every button is easy to reach and it feels perfectly natural whether the game has skinned it as a variation of the controller, a gun, a torch, or even a lightsaber. The haptic touch pad on top can take on many functions but works very well as both a button and a joystick and the triggers feel every bit as good as those on the Xbox One pads

The Experience

Right now, nothing comes close to the Vive. Yes the Rift has a decent screen but the lack of room-scale VR is really harming its position in this competition. The VR might be a tiny bit blurry but it’s incredibly responsive (even just running on a 970) and once you get into a game you forget about the low resolution quite quickly.

Being able to move around in a game like FPS military shooter Onward is revelatory in terms of gaming. If you need to lean around a corner, do it for real. If you need to go prone, go prone. Suddenly kids have an advantage of me on the battlefield not just because of their quicker reflexes, but because they can get up with having to be careful about their clicking knees and aching back, but I love it. Throwing things like discs in Rec Room feels as natural as anything and projectiles coming towards you in game like Audioshield and the Star Wars experience feel incredibly real and elicit a surprisingly genuine response. Even cardboard cutout zombies in Zombie Training Simulator can make you feel genuine fear as you get swarmed by hordes of the paper-maché undead.

Right now there is a much-reported limit on the number of AAA games, but there’s more and more each week and there’s already plenty of adventure games and decent shooters alongside the plethora of tech-demos to keep you busy. We’ve found our gametime is limited more by the hot weather than running out of things to do and with nearly every new experience we can’t wait to show it to someone. In a genius stroke every game produces a 2D image of what you can see on your monitor so other people can still watch what you’re playing. This alleviates some of our worries about how antisocial VR would be, but we’re still hoping for some more asymmetrical multiplayer games to take advantage of this like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.

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Conclusion

We’re a long way away from making any final decisions on this hardware yet, but we’d say if you have the money this is definitely an incredibly exciting and compelling taste of the future. It’s expensive for what it is, and the technology is very immature, but you can have a lot of fun with VR already and if you’re looking to be blown away by the next big thing, you owe it to yourself to try the Vive.

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We’re back on Youtube!

Just letting you all know that after our temporary banning – we are back on Youtube!

Sadly we still can’t stream to Youtube at the moment so will be streaming to our Twitch Channel but all of our videos will making an appearance on Youtube and you can catch up with the entire epic stream of our journey through No Man’s Sky before the patch. Enjoy and spread the word!

If you’ve got a few days free, try watching the whole playlist here!

 

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