Tag Archives: EA

2016 E3 Predictions

We haven’t been very good at E3 predictions historically. While much of what we predicted came to pass eventually, E3 is almost always less exciting than we want it to be. With that in mind we’re doing the predictions a little closer to the time now. E3 starts tomorrow at 9PM BST with EA’s conference, then continues with Bethesda in the early hours of the morning, Microsoft after work, Ubisoft Monday evening, Sony at an ungodly hour, and Nintendo never because Nintendo have decided this E3 isn’t worth bothering with. OK so they will have a Treehouse but we’re still bitter we’re not going to hear anything about the NX.

So here are our predictions for each of the big conferences. We don’t really have any insider information on any of these beyond the rumours floating around on NeoGaf and Reddit, as well as some tiny little bits of hearsay we hear from PR people, so treat all of this as speculation and let us know what you want to see this year!

ea
Sunday 12th June 21:00

Electronic Arts are kicking things off this year with a conference much earlier than we’re used to. Hopefully they’ve learned from their mistakes of past E3s, showing off games that are nowhere near ready or filling their time with bizarre interviews with Pele. This year we’re quite excited for what they have to show, purely because on one licence. They have Star Wars.

  • New Star Wars title

We know there’s at least one new Star Wars title in development that is being developed by Visceral (of Dead Space fame). We loved Dead Space and even enjoyed what they did with Battlefield Hardline so we’re looking forward to what they can do with Star Wars. All we know so far is that it’s going to be a third person adventure game similar to Uncharted or the cancelled 1313. We’re speculating that it’ll be based around the bounty hunters of Star Wars – with Boba Fett, IG-88, Dengar and more all making an appearance, possibly as playable characters in their own mini campaigns. We’d love to have a game with 6 mini stories, maybe released episodically like the newest Hitman, with a multiplayer mode pitting them against each other Overwatch-style. Add a bit of Visceral’s talent for horror with a darker tone for the Star Wars universe and we could have something really special

  • Battlefront 2

All we’re expecting from this is a very brief teaser trailer like we had for Battlefront in 2013, but perhaps an in-engine scene using assets from The Force Awakens, maybe just a First Order Tie going up against Poe’s orange and black X-Wing, just to let us know it’s coming.

  • Criterion’s racing game

Expect this to be the racing game for the GoPro generation. Massively multiplayer with a huge open world and a ridiculous array of vehicles, this is perhaps the game we’re most excited about from EA. We saw a snippet of this the year before last and by now if it still exists they must be ready to show it. Either that or they cancelled it and are working on Burnout Paradise 2. That’d be good too.

  • Battlefield 1

Obviously we already know about this, but we’re expecting to see a healthy dose of campaign. I think they might save the multiplayer for Gamescom, but we should see a decent section from a mission and see how they’ve decided to combat the impression that Battlefield campaigns are a waste of time.

  • Titanfall 2

This is one of the big games they’ll be pushing this year. We expect to see plenty of multiplayer, a new Titan unveiled and perhaps a glimpse of what they’re going to do with the single player if it exists. We’d be happy with a fleshed-out horde mode. With EA not having a presence on the show floor they won’t be able to let people play this, so we’re going to bold and predict that there’ll be a beta of this live during the show, so you’ll be able to download it tomorrow night and play on 3 maps with 1 new titan. We really hope this happens.

  • A load of football/Sims stuff

I’m sure there will be 2017 editions of their sports games and they’ll be the same but with some different names in. The Sims might get a new expansion or two. Unfortunately we don’t really care about this.

bethesda
Monday 13th June 03.00

We’re cheating a little with this one, we pretty much know what Bethesda have to show off. Of course there could be a big surprise, but we think it’s unlikely. Treat this part of the article as spoilers

  • Wolfenstein 2

This is the most exciting thing Bethesda will be showing off as far as we’re concerned. The last title and expansion were absolutely fantastic and Doom is possibly our game of the year.. Wolfenstein is likely to be more of the same, but remember that ‘same’ included castles, a moon base and a concentration camp, so who knows where it’ll be next? Perhaps change up the setting to a German invasion of Britain/America? We’d love to play one set in London and maybe give Norwich a look in too?

  • Prey 2

As far as we know this is alive again but being created by a different studio. There’ll be a new look at Prey 2 which we expect to keep the open-world RPG-esque aspects alongside some solid FPS action and Native American folklore. We really don’t know what to expect from this but we enjoyed the first Prey so we’re hoping whatever we see is substantial and convinces us that it’ll actually come out.

  • The Evil Within 2

Continuing Bethesda’s theme of sequels for 2016, there’s going to be an Evil Within 2. We found the first one interesting at first but it quickly dragged and relied on sub-par combat far too much despite the horror aspects working much better. We’re hoping this will be focusing more on puzzles and exploration with some strong survival horror, rather than being a third person shooter with zombies. We’re not expecting too much from this sequel but maybe Bethesda will be able to surprise us.

  • Dishonoured 2

We refuse to spell this the way they do even if it means people can’t search for it. Dishonoured was a fantastic vaguely open-world FPS with sprawling levels and interesting interactions and freeform gameplay that we’ve missed in this generation so far. The writing was top-notch, the world design was fantastic and the gameplay mechanics were innovate and refreshing. We think this will be very far along now so what we’ll be seeing is essentially the finished product. IF Bethesda are going to let people play anything at home, we expect it to be this, perhaps a single-level demo from the game. That would be an impressive announcement and get people hyped for what could be a 2016 GOTY contender.

  • DLC and expansions and cards

The rest of the conference will probably be taken up with that card game they showed off last year, the next expansion for Fallout and perhaps a new one for Elder Scrolls Online. We really don’t think they’re going to be coming out with anything of Elder Scrolls VI or Fallout 4’s New Vegas equivalent, you’ll have to wait until next year for this. At a long shot we might get a Quake reboot teaser.

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Monday 13th June 17:30

We’re expecting quite a lot from Microsoft this year. Phil Spencer has clearly shown his passion for this kind of show so he’ll be bringing out the big guns to get people Hyped for the 2016 holiday season, just like he did last year. Some of these games might be pushed back to Gamescom, like Crackdown was last year, but we’re expecting a healthy amount of real gameplay trailers plus some nice surprises for people watching back home.

  • Halo Wars 2

We think this might open the show, along with the announcement of the beta that will go live on Monday. You’ll be able to play Halo Wars 2 all the way through the week and they need to start the hype machine so people who aren’t avid fans of the last one (like us) can begin to get excited. We’re expecting a new race to be shown (probably the Prometheans, but perhaps the Flood, as well a decent explanation of how they’ve enabled cross play between PC and Xbox and made it fair. We also think that the multiplayer might be free to play, with the campaign being released as premium DLC in episodes. Might explain why they’ve kept quiet about pre-orders.

  • Recore

All we’ve seen of this so far is a teaser trailer and if anything is kept back for Gamescom we think it could be this. But we’re hoping to see some gameplay and a better explanation of the lore and story behind this. We’re not really expecting it to make a 2017 release, perhaps early 2018.

  • Scalebound

This will be a big deal and again is a possible contender for a downloadable demo next week. This should be on track to come out early this holiday season, and there’s be plenty more gameplay footage to show, perhaps of one of the boss fights.

  • Forza Horizon 3

We’re not convinced the new Forza will definitely be a Horizon game, it might be a new branch off from the series, but there’ll definitely be Forza and we’re hoping for something set in a very different location like Scandinavia, Asia or Africa. All of these games have been fantastic and we’re not expecting anything less, but perhaps there’ll be a new way of connecting players together like on massive servers populated with real players.

  • Dead Rising 4

Again this has been leaked so we’re pretty sure it’s coming, but we don’t know much more about it. From the leaked images it looks like Frank West is back, possibly in the same town as the first game, but with more of it open than just a shopping mall. Dead Rising 3 was a lot of fun, even if it was a little janky, so hopefully this’ll be a smoother experience with a much bigger focus on multiplayer. Perhaps four-player co-op with some cloud-computing magic to increase the density of the zombie hordes? That sounds like fun.

  • Crackdown 3

Surely this is ready by now? It feels like we’ve been waiting ages for this game but we still don’t have a set release date or really a good idea of how the game is structured. There’s been a lot of confusion about the differences between multiplayer and the single-player campaign so hopefully that’ll be cleared up and perhaps we’ll get a look at how vehicles work this time around. We’re hoping for a September release date but we can definitely imagine this being pushed back to next year.

  • Gears of War 4

There’s clearly going to be a lot of information coming out about this, particularly for the single-player, possibly in the form of a single mission playthrough. We’re hoping to see some new enemy types and weapons, and possibly some on-stage co-op. Hopefully we’ll get a release date confirmation too.

  • Scorpio/Slim

We know Microsoft is working on new hardware but it’s hard to know just how far along they are. Now we know Sony won’t be showing off the Neo at E3 perhaps the pressure’s off and all we’ll get is a reveal of the Xbox One Slim, coming this November. With how excited Spencer gets about things we can imagine there being a bit of a tease of Scorpio and how it’ll work with Oculus Rift but we don’t think we’ll get to see the console or get any concrete information on just how powerful it is. That’ll be happening this time next year.

ubisoft
Monday 13th June 21:00

Ubisoft’s conferences are nearly always the most entertaining, almost entirely thanks to Aisha Tyler, one of the most charismatic and passionate hosts any of them can boast. Sometimes the jokes seem weird or in bad-taste but that’s half of the fun. The biggest problem we have with Ubisoft is that they definitely have a tendency to over-promise and under-deliver, so take whatever you see at this conference with a mine’s worth of salt.

  • Watch Dogs 2

There’s already been a stream and videos of this so we’re not entirely sure what more they’ve got to reveal. We’ll probably see a little more about how multiplayer works within a mission just like the first reveal of Watch Dogs. Expect there to be plenty of scripted but impressive looking scenes and some addressing of the problems of the first game.

  • Ghost Recon Wildlands

We loved the reveal trailer for this but hopefully this year we’ll see some real gameplay, perhaps one of those co-op point of view demos where four people play it on stage at once and talk like no-one does in any videogame ever (except ArmA because that’s serious business). This probably won’t be ready for release until next year  but I’m sure that won’t stop Ubisoft from showing us what the pre-order bonuses will be.

  • For Honour

This will probably be the focus of Ubisoft’s show and with good reason. We played it last August and were blown away by how accessible and satisfying the combat is, in the context of huge sieges and three-way battles. We can’t wait to see more of this and, like the other studios, we wouldn’t be too surprised to see a beta announced for this, possibly starting as early as Tuesday. It lends itself well to an open beta and as soon as you play it we’re sure you’ll be just as hyped as we are. They might announce a new ‘team’ in the game, like Pirates. We’d quite like some pirates.

  • Assassin’s Creed Movie

There won’t be anything about a new AC game this year (they’ve said they’re taking a break this year and Watchdogs is filling that release slot) but I’m sure we’ll get a new trailer or a small section from the new Fassbender film. We weren’t impressed with what we’ve seen so far but perhaps a better look at the modern day scenes (that apparently make up 60% of the film) might be able to change our mind.

  • The Crew 2

This is one we haven’t heard anything about, but just feel it makes sense. Ubisoft has gone above and beyond supporting the first game and advertising it, despite the lukewarm reception from the public. Perhaps this is because they’re on the cusp of announcing a new game in the series, but this time set in central Europe. Imagine being able to drive from London (maybe catching a ferry, or driving through the tunnel dodging trains) all the way to Moscow or Istanbul? With some of the weather effects added in Wild Run and the same anarchic multiplay, we’re thinking this is a very real possibility.

  • An Archer Game

Again this is wild speculation on our point, but who better to announce an Archer game than Aisha Tyler who voices Llana on the show? We’d love a FPS in the vein of No One Lives Forever, but set in the Archer universe. Cell-Shaded, with the original voice cast. This could be the Game of All Time. Perhaps have a Bob’s Burgers-themed take on Cooking Mama as an easter egg and Bojack Horseman as a DLC mount?

  • The Division Expansion

Despite buying the season pass for the Division, we completely lost interest in the game months ago. Hopefully Ubisoft will be looking to breathe some new life into their struggling game with a look at the first big DLC and how it will change up the game. Perhaps they’ll also address the legions of people who have unfairly got massive advantages over other players through exploits and hacks and how they’re going to redress this. It seems like the sensible thing to do would be to dramatically nerf every item that is out there now and start again with fresh tiers for the next waves of content. Or perhaps they’ll leave the Division to die and move on. Who knows?

  • Assorted Rabbids and Just Dance things

Even though this doesn’t appeal to the main audience for E3, I’m sure Ubisoft are keen to show off everything else they’ve got going which will surely be a new Just Dance with new music and something to do with the Rabbids like a movie or a new mobile game. That’s the time to go get a drink and some food.

sony
Tuesday 14th June 02:00

Sony have got a difficult job this year. Last year they hardly released anything, this year they’ve already released their biggest hitter, Uncharted 4, so what do they show off next? Most of the games they have in the pipeline have already been announced so while we’ll definitely see some more of those, it’s a little difficult to predict what their first part studios will have to offer. We imagine most of their show will be taken up with their exclusive marketing deals for third-party multiplatform games. Expect to see a lot of games you’ve seen elsewhere in their show. We’re not expecting to see anything from FFVII remaster or Shenmue 3 at all this year, that’ll be for next year. We’ve been told explicitly that there will be nothing about the Neo here, they’ll save that for a separate show of it’s own later in the Summer.

  • The Last Guardian

Surely we’ve got to get a release date here? We’ve never been particularly excited about this game but we can understand why so many people have. This game has been a ridiculously long time coming and it’s hard to see how it could possibly live up to the hype. Hopefully we’ll see much more of this alongside a solid release date for this holiday season. Or we won’t see anything and it’ll return to being vapourware.

  • Uncharted 4 DLC

Uncharted only recently came out and Naughty Dog did well with the Last of Us DLC so it makes sense that we’ll be seeing some DLC for Uncharted. Perhaps a new chapter detailing some of Sam’s exploits we didn’t see? Who knows but it’s a fairly safe bet that we won’t see a new game from Naughty Dog, so this is all we can hope for.

  • God of War 4

This was leaked a while back but we’ll be seeing a level and boss fight from God of War 4, now set in Norse Mythology with a bearded and trouser-wearing Kratos. We’re really hoping there’ll be a new twist on the gameplay somehow but we’re not really expecting it. Chances are this will be more of the same, gorgeous, finely tuned brawler action.

  • PSVR

Sony only really have one shot at this so they need to get it right. VR is almost impossible to show at a conference but we’ll definitely get solid details on price, what you get in the box, and what games will be available at launch. We’re expecting to also hear that Playstation Plus will include one VR game alongside the PS4 and Vita games from now on. Speaking of which…

  • PS Plus reinvigoration and RDR

PS Plus has been pretty terrible this year, we cancelled it a while ago and haven’t missed it at all. We think Sony have been aware of the lukewarm response all the offerings this year have got, so they’ll bring out something fairly impression. Like the Red Dead Redemption remaster and a teaser for the next Red Dead game. You heard it here first. It won’t be a full demo, but it will be in-engine.

  • Gran Turismo Sport

Of course Sony will be showing this off but first impressions haven’t been good. Due to release in November we wouldn’t be surprised to see a delay to the release date so they can add some new content and make it more worth your time.

  • Third Party Announcements

During Sony’s press conference we’re expecting to see trailers and DLC agreements for: Call of Duty Infinite Warfare, Titanfall 2, Destiny (the new DLC), and possibly Resident Evil 7. We think if Resident Evil is announced anywhere it’ll be at Sony’s conference alongside some kind of exclusive DLC like a horde-mode.

 

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EA Access

EA Access has been running on Xbox One since August 2014 and while it was immediately met with a healthy dose of suspicion it’s now widely regarded as one of the better gaming-related deals on offer. So what is it exactly and what makes it so good?

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For £3.99 a month you get access to everything EA Access has to offer. This includes early access to the latest EA games and a whole host of AAA games in the ‘vault’. The early access has worked on Dragon Age: Inquisition and Battlefield Hardline, allowing anyone with EA Access (you do not need to have the game pre-ordered) access to some or all of the content for ten hours before the game launches. For example, in the latest Battlefield you could only play the first hour or so of the campaign, but you could play as much of the multiplayer as you wanted for ten hours in the week before launch. You don’t need to have subscribed for a certain amount of time, as soon as you sign up and pay your four quid, you have access to it all, so if there’s an EA game coming out (Battlefront anyone?) you can just pick it up for that month and enjoy all the perks.

The list of EA Access games that you get complete digital access to is ever expanding, and unlike PS Plus or Games with Gold, they don’t seem to be taking old games off the list. So far we have:

  • Battlefield 4
  • Madden NFL 25
  • FIFA 14
  • Peggle 2
  • Need for Speed Rivals
  • Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
  • EA Sports UFC
  • NBA Live 15
  • Madden NFL 15
  • NHL 15
  • FIFA 15

One of the hidden perks of this program is that if you do the trick where you set your home Xbox to a friend’s, and have them do the same to you, only one of you needs EA Access to get the complete library available to you both, to play at the same time together. The vault currently has some of the best multiplayer games Xbox One has to offer with Battlefield 4, Plants Vs Zombies, Madden, NHL and Fifa (we’re not sports fans but they’re all a lot of fun playing with someone you know and can chat to) so for £3.99 between you, two of you could have access to a huge amount of gameplay.

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Considering the somewhat mercenary business practices EA has indulged in over the last decade, it’s surprising to see how generous this program is, but while it’s here we say pick it up and make the most of it before they come to their senses and start charging more!

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Battlefield 4 Review (PC)

Only one of the levels has a field, they all have battles though!

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Battlefield 4 is upon us and we’ve put in an ungodly amount of hours already. It’s testament to a fine game when you struggle to write a review because you want to go back to playing but duty calls (heh) so here it is. While we can say without any hesitation that Battlefield 4 is an excellent game, the real questions people will be asking are 1. Is it better than Battlefield 3/Bad Company 2? and 2. Is it better than Call of Duty? We can’t really answer the last one, it’s such a different game now, but we can definitely help out with the first.

Battlefield 4 on the surface looks exceptionally similar to the third entry – the engine may be new and it might be set in a different part of the world but when you load it up it’ll all look very familiar. Games work in the same way (it uses Battlelog on the PC again which is a surprisingly elegant solution to server browsing as you can save server pages to your favourites bar or be sent links via chat programs), the same classes are back, the objectives are mostly the same and many of the vehicles and weapons are similar. Of course there’s a clear argument that if it isn’t broken then don’t fix it, but some will be wondering what justifies this game being a proper sequel to Battlefield 3 when so many Battlefield games (2142, Bad Company, 1943) don’t deserve to be part of the numbering system.

The big headline change is levolutions. In each map ( there’s nine maps in total which doesn’t sound like a lot but when the DLC starts coming out it’ll expand greatly, nine is plenty for now) there’s some kind of feature that changes the way the game is played. The map from the beta – Shanghai- has a giant skyscraper in the middle that can be toppled if four supports are destroyed at the base. Another map shown off extensively in previews – Paracel Storm – is set on a small archipelago where a storm breaks out and if you destroy a burning Wind Turbine you can release a battleship that crashes into the map. These changes really do alter the map fundamentally – moving a capture point on Shanghai and greatly reducing visibility in Paracel Storm. The other maps are a little hit and miss – Zavod features a chimney that falls through the center of the map and creates a bit more cover but doesn’t really change anything – another map has a rising flood that turns streets into canals – altering the entire map completely. While the big central levolutions are always going to be the focus (and even the disappointing ones look spectacular when they happen – and thanks to them requiring player interaction they don’t always happen) the smaller ones are often the most useful. In the 12 hours of multiplayer we’ve put in, we used a large levolution ( a collapsing Dam in that case) precisely once as part of a strategy. We had a big build up of forces in the central canal  locking down our movement from the right to left side of the map – so we dropped a dam on them and it was glorious. In contrast we find ourselves using the smaller changes nearly every time we play on the maps that feature them. For example in Dawnbreak there’s some shop shutters that can be lowered that surround one of the objectives in Obliteration. Earlier today we ran inside carrying the bomb and hit the shutters to close off all the access points. After arming the bomb there were two or three enemies just outside trying to work out how to get in and by the time they did it was too late and the bomb went off, we could raise the shutters again and make our escape. The concept of levolution is simple but when it works it’s amazing, when it doesn’t work you still get treated to a little bit of a spectacle.

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In terms of new game modes the big new objective based game is the aforementioned Obliteration. Here both teams race to grab a randomly spawning bomb from the centre of the map and then take it to one of the opponent’s bases and arm it. The team that destroys three bases first wins. This ends up playing a little like Rush but without the drag of just defending or attacking all the time, the action focuses around the bomb carrier and teamwork is vital as the bomb carrier can get into vehicles so you’ll be hunting them down in an alleyway only to lose sight of them and then need to get into cover as a helicopter gunship roars out of a nearby clearing with the bomb on board.

For new weapons and vehicles there’s definitely a wider selection but very few of them change the game dramatically. Some have been adjusted to be more dangerous – you will learn to loathe snipers even more – and the new boats are a huge amount of fun on the maps that feature them. This is probably the area where the game has progressed the least though – with many of the lunlocks feeling far too similar and therefore not as exciting. Lots of balancing tweaks have been made to equipment – so recon and support now both get C4 – the assault class can’t revive people more than once – ammo and health packs start off fairly weak and can only heal one person until you unlock the bigger bags later on – but these are all for the better and seem to be designed around a philosophy of keeping the battle moving. It’s very hard to get entrenched into a position now as everything conspires against you. Battlefield is about movement and strategy, and huge explosions.

Commander mode is returning from 2142 and lets one player on each team take control of the whole side – issuing orders to squads, getting an overview of the entire map and doling out bonuses and missile attacks. It’s a great idea and when you have a team that is listening it can lead to a much more strategic game. Being able to spot holes in the opponent’s defence and then exploit them, backing up your troops with vehicles and supplies or faster respawns as they rush across the map to take objectives. You spend the whole game from a top-down view, like on a map and if you zoom in enough you can actually see everything happening in real time. As you click on a squad or UAV or missile you can actually see a little picture-in-picture view as if the soldiers have helmet cams feeding to your screen, this isn’t that useful but it sure looks cool. You earn your abilities by the troops capturing points so suddenly the central points become much more important as that tends to have the cruise missile which is by far the most fun thing to use.

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Sadly not everything about Commander mode is great and most of the time you’ll be trying to give orders only to be completely ignored as half your team sits on a hill sniping without effect, throwing the game away while you’re helpless to watch. There’s also very few abilities available so games get repetitive very quickly. The general pattern is ‘use UAV, spend bonuses on drops, fire cruise missile/block cruise missile with EMP, repeat’. It’d be nice to have a wider range of abilities so commanders actually have more to do.

The other things Battlefield has always done well is maintained here. The sound is phenomenal, the battlefield is a terrifying place to be particularly if you’re playing in hardcore and don’t expect to see a tank roll up on you or a missile barrage strike just outside your hiding place. The whizz and crack of sniper shots gives you information as well as increasing the tension – this is a game you want a decent sound system or headphones for as DICE are well-known for going all out when it comes to sound production. Destruction is similarly excellent, and dialed up from Battlefield 3. There’s a few maps where many of the buildings can be brought down fairly easily, leading to a much flatter landscape by the end of the match. Even on the mission where very little can be destroyed altogether (such as Flood Zone) there’s so much destructible cover that it’s still immensely satisfying to fire a rocket or throw a grenade at enemies in cover only to see debris flying all over.

The single-player is a let-down, much as it was in Battlefield 3. They’ve made a more likable cast of characters who you actually care about by the end, but the plot is almost incomprehensible (unless you’ve read the book apparently) and ends with more of a fizzle than a bang (although there is a literal bang). The best scenes have been shown off extensively in trailers so there’s very few surprises. This is one area where we feel we can compare the game directly to Call of Duty, and Call of Duty wins hands down. Battlefield’s set pieces are few and far between, there’s huge amounts of repetition and the gameplay just isn’t that much fun. The AI does seem to have improved, with enemies moving from cover to cover as you destroy it and occasionally attempting to get behind you, but they also pop their head out at regular intervals to give you a target to shoot down. Handy for the player but slightly dull in terms of challenge. All of the interesting features in Battlefield (destruction, vehicles, sniping physics) are used once or not at all, and never in any kind of satisfying way. It only takes 5 hours and graphically it looks amazing, so is probably worth the effort – but if you weren’t planning on playing multiplayer I would stay well away from the game.

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Overall, Battlefield 4 is an excellent addition to the series. It doesn’t change too much, but is an improvement in nearly every way and you’ll get plenty of entertainment for your money. The single player is admittedly poor but that doesn’t bring down the score as I don’t believe anyone is going to be buying this mainly for the single player. At least there is a single player and it’s not awful. As far as multiplayer shooters go, this is one of the best – Call of Duty is going to have to work hard to pry our attention away next week.

Verdict 9

 

We only just received a copy of Battlefield 4 on Xbox 360 and will be testing it over the next week to see how different it is. We already know there’s a reduced player count but we don’t know how much fun it will be. Once we’ve made our mind up we’ll add our impressions to the bottom of this review.

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Battlefield 4 Hands-on Preview (PC)

Much more exciting than cattle field.

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At Gamescom we got to play an early version of Battlefield 4 in a 32v32 player PC Obliteration match on the Paracel Storm map. As long-term Battlefield fans it was on of our most anticipated games at the show and EA had pulled out all the stops when it came to presentation. With two massive booths letting gamers play and a cinema in each showing a collection of trailers and dev diaries before you went in, they knew it was going to be huge.

In the trailers we learned a little more about the second-screen integration including the fact that you can change loadouts etc on the fly (for example when in the passenger seat on a vehicle or while waiting to respawn) and the changes will be reflected instantly in game. Similarly we saw a little more of commander mode where it appears that all the powers (UAV, Tomahawk strike etc) are on a timer that is constantly counting down, there was no indication of whether team performance will alter these cooldowns.

Once we sat down at the game stations we had a powerful PC to run the game on, starting off we could do a little customisation of our classes, giving us a chance to check out the options. Interestingly on the Assault class there’s now a medic bag and first aid kit as separate items. with the first aid kit being a quicker ‘instant heal’ rather than the medic bag’s heal over time ability. There’s also a much greater choice of anti-vehicle measures for the engineer, with the weapons with more guidance systems generally doing less damage or having less ammo with them.

The ‘obliteration’ mode was a fun twist on a mixture of capture the flag and rush. Somewhere in the middle of the map a bomb spawns and your team needs to pick it up and take it to the opponent’s bases. Each team has three bases and once you destroy all the enemy team’s bases, you win. Picking up the bomb is simply a matter of running over it and you can ride in vehicles with it just fine so it’s worth going after it with a helicopter if possible to get to the objectives more quickly. Once you reach the objectives you have to hold the action key to set the bomb and then it goes off after a shorter delay then the Rush bombs.

The map we were playing on, Paracel Storm is set in a tropical archipelago we’ve a huge amount of military hardware dotted around. There are bases and small villages on some of the islands and an array of boats from jetskis and patrol boats all the way up to stealth boats with hugely damaging rockets and a giant battleship caught up amongst some wind turbines out to sea. There’s no jets at least in the version we played and there was usually just a single helicopter in the air, we never discovered where it spawned. When you spawn into the map you come in via Parachute unless you spawn on a squad leader, definitely deploy your parachute as the sea isn’t deep enough to let you survive a drop straight in.

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At some point during the match you see the much-talked about ‘Levolution’ as the wind turbines are destroyed by a raging tropical storm and the battleship makes its way through the map before beaching itself on an island. All the way through this players can use the heavy weapons on the battleship’s deck and huge waves surge through the map throwing boats into the air and hiding them from rocket shots -putting them in quite a good position to barrage units on the land.

The biggest change from Battlefield 3 was the speed of the game. Many of the vehicles were focused on maneuverability and fights were often taking place as chases around the maps and rivers with players shooting at boats from cover as the boats stormed around the waterways picking off everything they could. The boats’ weapons seem hugely powerful and can dominate completely unless a team is prepared to fight them off with a concerted engineer effort. Players appear to have less health so a short burst is usually enough to drop them and despite the long sight lines on the map, snipers aren’t really needed as an SMG can drop an opponent from hundreds of yards.

Swimming has also been sped up, which is a good thing with the abundance of water, so while the enemy taking the bomb to an island can seem irritating, it was impressive how quickly everyone’s forces converged and wiped them out. At any point you can see who has the bomb and where it is, so you need a lot of defensive play in order to protect the carrier. IT was common throughout the match we played to see bomb carrier sniped before they took ten steps and it was important to lock down the area before you tried to do anything.

Graphically it is very similar to Battlefield 3, but as that game looks so excellent on PC that’s not a complaint. The water effects are much improved and definitely a focus of the fourth entry, with one map in the videos showing a city street area that gets flooded half way through turning into an American Venice. The game was running smoothly but the PCs were incredibly beefy rigs so it’s hard to take much away from that. The view distance was huge and given the open nature of the map you could see an awful lot going on at any given time, with helicopters and boats clashing all over the sea and players storming buildings and parachuting out of the sky.

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Audio was impressive, as it always is in the series and really stood out amongst the other (excellent) first person shooters at the show. DICE know how to make the battlefield sound intimidating and with high-spec headsets the environments comes alive with distant explosions and bullets buzzing past your head as the waves crash all around you.

If I had any criticism of the game it’d be that the levolution is distinctly less impressive than it would appear. I barely noticed the storm as the level barely got any darker and I didn’t even see the ship crash though the map until I was watching another screen after our match finished. Once you’re focused on the objective it’s easy to ignore incidental details and the storm changes things less than it could have. I’ve long pined for a multiplayer FPS where darkness is actually dark and that could have changed the game significantly. There were also a huge number of bugs and glitches with machines constantly crashing but then again this is still in alpha.

We’re incredibly excited about Battlefield 4, with bigger maps, a great range of vehicles and slightly faster gameplay. The new game-mode was an absolute blast (pun unintended) and avoided the static coke points of Conquest and Rush with a more mobile battle taking place all around the map. Battlefield 4 comes out in the UK November 1st and then will reach the next-generation consoles at launch. If you pre-order you can get into a beta test beginning in October.

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Titanfall Hands-On Preview (PC)

Stomp stomp stomp parkour!

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At Gamescom 2013 in Cologne EA have brought their biggest future title in playable form to the show floor. I’m not talking bout Battlefield 4, or Fifa 14, or even The Sims 4, I’m talking about Titanfall. Evidently the focus of their attention, taking literal centre stage with a towering life-size Titan guarding the entrance, the booth is amazing before you even get inside to play the game.

Before we played we were treated to a series of videos including instructions on how to play. The demo featured three titans and three classes to try, although it appeared that the classes were in some way arbitrary as many of their skills overlapped implying that they are actually user-defined. The three titans were all also noted as being ‘Atlas class’ hinting that there might be different classes in the final game. I can imagine smaller titans spawning on faster times and being more manoeuvrable or larger Titans that you only get to use once but can deal a massive amount of damage. The video was somewhat intimidating as it showed players freerunning their way across entire maps with the simple instruction that to freerun you just jump at a wall and run, it couldn’t be that simple could it? We also had the game mode explained to us. It was framed in what is called ‘campaign multiplayer’ where the multiplayer match has a storyline to go along with it. Ostensibly one side was searching for a certain soldier while the other side where there to stop them, but in essence it was Team Deathmatch. The missing solider wasn’t actually on the map, you were just fighting while that search was happening, providing a handy explanation for the time limit. There were two factions, with one supposedly the attacking force and the others defending, but this was in no way important to the gameplay, with both factions playing identically as they do in games like Call of Duty.

After the training videos were over we were led to our stations where we had a card with all the controls on and a choice of Razer keyboard and mouse or an Xbox 360 Gamepad. I opted for the gamepad assuming the movement controls would be easier with twin sticks and face buttons than with a combination of key presses, but saw people using both and no-one seemed to have a considerable advantage over the others. We could get straight into picking our classes and Titans and we could learn a lot about the game from this menu.

First, every character carries two main weapons as well as an anti-titan weapon. This means no character is defenceless against the mechs unlike in a game like Battlefield where you need to rely on those with C4 or engineers to take out the vehicles. The anti titan weapons consisted of an armour piercing machine gun, a tradition lock-on guided rocket launcher and a magnetic grenade lobber. The other weapons were full of the usual suspects like shotguns and machine guns, but there was also a pistol that let you lock on to up to three targets and then shoot with the bullets being able to veer around corners. Each class also had a special ability that was always a cloak but obviously there’ll be more in the final product.

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You pick your titan before the match begins and then it’s on a timer until it’s ready to deploy. The three titans in the demo each had different weapon loadouts and were clearly designed for different purposes. One could fire four rockets at once and create a cloud of ‘electric smoke’ that could disorient and damage players and titans, one had a 40mm cannon that served as a semi-automatic rifle (albeit one that could reduce a soldier to a pink mist with a direct hit) as well as the electric smoke and one with a machine gun that could deal out a stream of damage that also had the ability to capture bullets fired at it for a short period then release it as a targeted attack. All titans also had a shoulder-mounted rocket that could be fired with a tap of ‘RB’, on a cooldown but useful while you are reloading your main weapon.

One the game begins, you see yourself in a drop ship in a brief cut scene and when you hit the ground there are already troops and a titan there. Due to the ‘campaign multiplayer’ environment, there’s actually events that happen in-game that serve the story more than anything else. So for example as soon as I took control, a soldier yelled at me to get down and a titan provided cover for us from a rocket barrage that hit an apartment block directly in front of us. Little moments like this can happen throughout the matches and there are teams of AI soldiers that are worth less points for killing but play surprisingly well as grunts while the players are the elite soldiers.

All my worries about not being able to make the most of the parkour abilities were evaporated instantly when within seconds of joining I was sprinting from wall to wall, crossing the map in mere seconds and able to land behind the enemy team and take quite a few of them out while they were still looking at the controls. When you jump you can tap ‘A’ again for a secondary jump and if you hit a ledge within reach you’ll pull yourself up. If you hit a wall at a suitable angle (the game is very forgiving) you’ll start to run along the wall for a short distance and then you can leap across to another wall to continue. As you chain together wallruns you’ll build up momentum allowing you to reach some ridiculous speeds in a fluid and elegant way. This mobility feels perfect and gives the pilots ( that’s what they call the player soldiers) a real edge on the huge but slower Titans. If a player is standing in a street he’s an easy target, if he’s springing around the level shooting you from all sides, he can easily take you down.

During my initial freerunning adventure an enemy titan spawned right in front of me. Once they are ready you simply press down on the D-Pad and then when they are called ( to a nearby area that’s big enough) they’ll drop out of the sky and be bathed in a giant white/blue orb. This is a kind of shield that allows you to quickly get inside without getting destroyed everytime you call one. The timer seems to be about three minutes and the shield is a genius idea that makes calling your Titan as soon as possible the right thing to do. So a player had called one in front of me, and as he limbed in I happened to leap directly towards it. I mean obviously that’s exactly what I had planned all along, landing on the cockpit and starting a sequence where I didn’t need to control my movements, I was staying on its back, and could fire my main weapon into some kind of core on the back of its neck. To latch onto the titan you didn’t need to do anything clever, you just had to land your jump right and within about twenty seconds I had destroyed the titan with my trusty shotgun. Balance is key to any FPS and I had been worried that the titans would be horrendously overpowered. While they can do a lot of damage they are also extremely vulnerable if they don’t have someone watching their back (literally) so it’s ideal to have a two-titan team or a few pilots on the rooftops around you as you lay waste to the opposing force.

After a lot of sprint, jumping and murder my titan was ready at the same time as many people on my team. We all called them down and hopped in with a press of ‘X’ on the gamepad. Climbing into the titan you instantly feel powerful as you’re twenty feet in the air and holding a giant cannon. You can stomp around the level, sprint with ‘A’ and absolutely decimate anyone foolish enough to get in front of you. Obviously there’s large parts of the map that titans can’t access such as interiors, so its surprisingly tense being encased in the massive metal suit as you’re never quite sure where an enemy attack could come from. As our team had three titans on the go we charged on to the other side of the map where fresh waves of AI soldiers were just dropping from helicopters and coming out of APCs and we absolutely obliterated them. Crushing them under foot, firing cannons all around, the points racked up quickly. In a single game players were getting upwards of 80 AI kills compared to my 9 kills against actual players (for the record I died twice so I count that as a personal victory).

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Before long the ‘Victory’ sign flashed up on the screen but the game still wasn’t over. In a feature called the ‘Epilogue’ in each battle the losing team have to try and make it to an evacuation point to get some extra XP, the winning side have to stop them. This was just as thrilling as the main match as we set up a defensive perimeter around the evacuation dropship, with titans on the streets and pilots on the rooftops and then player after player from the enemy side started trying to rush past us to get to the ship. Very few (if any) made it as we shot them out of the sky, on the floor and melee’d them in chases. There’s something exhilirating about pursuing a foe across buildings, landing just behind them and clicking in the right stick to break their neck and carry on. Once the other players were dead or on the dropship the game finally ended and the score screen came up.

Titanfall is easily the best game we’ve seen at the show so far, and amongst a strong lineup of games that’s high praise. The controls were tight, there was a huge range of strategies available and more than anything it was sheer fun for the whole match. For an early build balance is surprisingly good and while it was playing on high-end PCs it looked gorgeous and ran without a hint of glitches or slowdown. If you’re at Gamescom this weekend go down and play Titanfall whatever the queue is like, it’ll be worth it. It’s going to feel like a long wait until 2014 for the eventual release but this could easily be a game to replace Call of Duty, Halo and Battlefield in many gamers’ lives. We can’t wait.

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Gamescom Day Two Round-up

When there’s no more room in hell the dead shall walk the Earth.

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Today we learned a very valuable lesson – don’t go to Gamescom during the weekend. Today was the first day the public were allowed in and although we got a few early games in with our extra hour, as soon as they came in the place was flooded and every single queue was filled to capacity. So less games today and many weren’t hands-on but we’ll make that clear in each preview.

TitanFall (PC)

Titanfall is the result of two members from the Call of Duty team (Infinity Ward) leaving and starting up their own company. While there might have been hesitation having a brand new company delivering an important next-gen game, any doubts have gone out of the window, TitanFall is excellent. With campaign elements in multiplayer, fluid controls allowing you to freerun around the the environment and giant mechs that are easy to use and empowering without being too ridiculous, TitanFall blew us away on every level. Check out our full preview here!

Command and Conquer (PC)

While introducing us to Command and Conquer, the intro video mentioned wiping away the ‘stain’ of C&C4. Those are bold words for a company but Victory Worlds might be able to pull it off. Titled simply ‘Command and Conquer’ but essentially a sequel to the popular ‘Generals’ iteration, C&C sees you pick from three factions and tonnes of generals, and then engaging in a battle that is a mixture of Company of Heroes, Starcraft and classic C&C. There are fixed resource points on the map, you have powerful abilities to use as you level up your commander – just like in Company of Heroes – but then you also need to tech up, control the map and attempt to counter your opponents units (some of which are futuristic in nature) in a game that plays similar to Starcraft. It’s not as fast as SC2 and not as visceral as CoH2, but Frostbite does a lot for the game, with tank rumbling over scenery and explosions packing a real punch, C&C is making its own way and it’s at least interesting, even if the pacing leaves something to be desired currently.

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The Division (Hands-off)

The line was long and we were disappointed with The Division’s Gamescom booth. There was the E3 trailer and then a very brief gameplay demo where two developers played through two firefights. The big element on show was the companion app where another developer could control a UAV in real-time, designated targets, casting heals and even launching missile strikes. The fact that it could keep up with the game (albeit with much worse graphics) was surprising and it appeared to have a significant effect on the gameplay. The game itself looks great, with crisp clear graphics and detailed environments. Graphically at least it’s the best looking next-gen game on the show floor.

The Witcher 3 (Hands-off)

Geralt is back in an open-world next-gen adventure with an environment 36 times the size of the one in Witcher 2. What we saw contained impressive weather effects, a nuanced side quest with difficult moral choices and a slightly faster combat system. Although others have been wowed by the graphics I felt the textures left a lot to be desired but then this was pre-alpha gameplay. With CD Projekt’s history it’s hard to imagine that The Witcher 3 will be anything less than amazing, and that’s what was reflected in the demo. We also got given a jigsaw which I won’t be able to fit in my luggage on the plane back tomorrow, if anyone wants it who can pick it up at Gamescom, drop me an e-mail and we’ll give it away.

Rain (PS3)

An interesting PSN game, Rain follows the adventures of a young boy that is some kind of ghost and is therefore invisible. You can see his outline in the rain, and his footsteps in puddles, but that’s it. Manoeuvring through an environment where you onlu see what your character interacts with is exciting and unusual, and while there are enemies, if you stay in dry areas they have no way of seeing you. An interesting game to be sure, coming soon to PSN.

Puppeteer (PS3 Hands-off)

All the action takes place on a theatre stage and although it looks childish, it’s not one just for kids, but as the Creative Director put it – ‘a game I would want to play with my son’. In one player mode it’s challenging but in co-op more forgiving, Puppeteer takes an interesting approach to levels. With you staying in a fixed area (the stage) throughout the game, the scenes move around you. It’s a spellbinding effect and the game has so much charm and humour there’s nothing quite like it. Coming in September to retail.

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