Good-bye Discs. Hello Digital Age (11/11)
Silly me. I was foolish to think that my frugal sensibilities in saving hard drive space this generation would work next gen. For 6 years, I’ve budgeted every KB of space within my 20GB Xbox 360 and my 40GB Playstation 3. I’ve deleted pictures, demos and old downloadable games to make room for Halo 4’s mandatory install, and happily erased God of War Ascension and Final Fantasy XIII, keeping favorites Journey and The Last of Us to give my PS3 more breathing room.
It was a practice that I stood by, avoiding irrational game downloads when I could have played the content off of the disc. But with next gen’s mandatory installs, I don’t have a choice.
Playstation 4’s architect Mark Cerny describes the inability to stream content off of the disc as a “physics issue”, confirming that indeed, disc based games will also need to installed as well. Kotaku reports:
“The machine may have a Blu-Ray drive that's about three times faster than the PS3 with about six times as much memory, but it's still more expedient for it to read data from its own hard drive.”
Like what we’ve heard about downloadable titles, disc games will allow play mid download, doing the rest of the heavy lifting in the background while we enjoy the game. Cerny notes that playing disc based games will allow gamers to access the data sooner than if they were downloaded off of the Playstation Network, and that games such as Knack will be playable 10 seconds after inserted into the Blu-Ray drive.
Early Xbox One users, particularly André Weingarten AKA Moonlight Swami, revealed some of the system’s mandatory installation details. Much like the Playstation 4, disc or digital, games on Xbox One will require installs.
According to Swami, looking at the list of Xbox One launch titles, if some crazy person picks up all of these games, they’re looking at roughly 342GB of mandatory occupied space on a 500GB (minus the OS and preloaded software) hard drive.
Supported external and swappable hard drives couldn’t come soon enough for these consoles, as space budgeting can become an issue for many gamers as early as this time next year. For competitive gamers such as myself, multiplayer titles will be hard to let go of; and the rest of us all have those games that are so cherished that we refuse to part ourselves from them.
This might be a life lesson, learning how to grow up and release ourselves from our irrational attachment to games while PC gamers bluntly state, “Welcome to our world”. Or it will be a test, challenging us to go out of the way to continue to hang on to the things we love.
There couldn’t have been a better response to Dragon Age 2’s criticisms for restrictive gameplay.
Dragon Age: Inquisition has been painfully private since its announcement compared to attention greedy next gen titles since E3 this year. But Inquisition is stealthily shaping up to be one of the most significant RPGs of 2014.
An uphill climb reveals the accessible vistas of the land, a painter’s fusion of snowcapped mountains, a canyon orange temple in the distance, the sun-lit glaze of the grassy plains, and the emitting green aura rising from the sea. Dragon Age Inquisition is massive. And from the sprawling fields of Crestwood Hills to the uninviting jaws of the dark caves, as we’ve see thus far, much of the world explored in Inquisition can be entered without load times. It’s a feature that we’ll have to get used to seeing with so many of next gen’s titles broadening to open world, much like the transition between the last console leap.
Contextual animations further indicate the open world intention of Inquisition. Your Inquisitor takes knee-high steps when walking in muddy docks, and presses their weight forward when climbing a steep ridge, then balancing it backwards when carefully making their way down. Everything from character animations to seamless transitions to other locations, all appear to be engineered to create this feeling of vast exploration.
I was happiest to see Varric, easily the most charming and most interesting character to have in your party returning with his sardonic delivery to one of the other party members. It was a tiny reminder Dragon Age’s exceptional characterization, and with a new dynamic dialogue system incorporating different variables such as characters present and even character stats – even amongst the unsurprising yet appreciated choice based content inclusion and exclusion – I can’t wait to see the results in major decisions made.
You can’t blame the presenter for making a point to mention that all of the armor and weapons of each of your party members can be customized. In Dragon Age 2, Bioware deliberately relinquished armor customization for party members in efforts to enhance their story. White armor and more inviting apperances reflected the decisions they’ve made and their likeness to your character. More sinister looks were more telling of their miserable attitude.
This new RPG carries over many of the mechanical elements from previous games. One to one action gameplay is here to stay as Dragon Age continues to play as a third person action game. But then the camera tilts overhead to reveal the return of full tactical control. This is a return to form from 2’s simple and serviceable order command view. Here we see the player issue explicit commands such as ordering positions in the battle field to casing spells in precise locations.
Lastly, dragons seem have an intimidating presence, even more so than Skyrim. Wandering the dusk desert, the player comes to a sunken wasteland shrouded in poisonous gases. A dragon cries, landing on an arched rock formation with a formidable crash before taking off again, pulling some of the lingering gases with sweeping flight. The demo closes right before an encounter of a dragon touching down with its hot breath steaming from its gaping maw readying for a fight.
There won’t be a whole lot of room late 2014 with Dragon Age: Inquisition landing in Fall.
WARNING: The Last of Us spoilers ahead.
One of the biggest mysteries of The Last of Us was what predated Ellie as a character. Why is she immune to the Infected? How did Ellie meet Marlene? And under what circumstances did Marlene promise her mother , Anna, to watch over her?
The Last of Us’ first DLC, Left Behind, may answer these questions for some, and provide exposition or a different perspective for those who’ve already gotten a glimpse of Ellie’s history.
The Last of Us: American Dream, was a four issue comic series that ran through before and after The Last of Us’ release date on June 14th. It was a condensed look at a 13 year old Ellie, and the life she lived before she met Joel. Ellie attends a military school where she’s bullied as the spunky, yet still isolated trouble making outsider. She meets her new friend Riley, a fifteen year old student who she goes through a similar relationship transition with as we saw between her and Joel. Riley’s juvenile dreams to join the Fire Flies leads them to escaping from the military school and venturing out into the infected concrete jungle. We also see where Marlene came into the picture, revealing her role in Ellie’s life after making a promise to Anna.
Just enough background was given in American Dream that even after the unnerving confrontation at the end of The Last of Us, there’s still much to be known.
Left Behind brings Riley back into the picture, and as seen in the brief trailer, they’re up to typical teenage venturing shenanigans. One can predict that Left Behind takes place after the events of American Dream being that there was only one Infected encounter in the comics, and we can assume that there would be several in this upcoming DLC.
This gives room for further exposition to further flesh out Ellie’s history. Deep in the game, we hear Ellie refer to a friend and an incident where they were both bitten. Could this be Riley? One of the most emotionally impactful moments in the game occurred in an argument between Ellie and Joel when Ellie stated, “Everyone I have cared for has either died, or left me.” Could she have been referring to Riley’s death?
It comes to no surprise that The Last of Us’ DLC has you partnered up with another character. The game’s story telling hinges upon a leading duo. We can also expect its intense stealth gameplay and desperate item management. Playing as Ellie, we may very well see the return of her indestructible blade, which made her even more effective against enemies in some situations than Joel, particularly when you chuck a projectile at a Clicker’s fungal dome, and stabbed them in their crusty face until they’ve fallen.
This leads into what I’m eagerly hoping for, which are sequences that replicate Ellie’s finest moments from The Last of Us. In a game that was deeply rooted in stealth mechanics, Ellie and David’s stand offs against waves of infected was a drastic change of pace for the game, and featured The Last of Us arguably at its gameplay best.
Next to Bioshock’s Burial at Sea, The Last of Us’ DLC has been my most anticipated add on content this year. Too bad we have to wait longer until early 2014.
A week in gaming special feature:
Playstation 4 Launch Title Review Blowout
Originally reported on November 13th 2013
This pas week, Playstation 4 game reviews have gone live helping us to determine what console exclusive will earn our wallets in justifying our purchasing of this next gen system.
KILLZONE: SHADOW FALL
Killzone: Shadow Fall has received mixed but relatively positive acclaim for its less than linear campaign and experimental multiplayer. In a post Far Cry 3 world, first person shooters with chosen objectives have become more appealing, and in a holiday matched up against two painfully linear, and quite frankly, not very good campaign modes between Call of Duty: Ghosts (look forward to my review between the next two weeks) and Battlefield 4, Killzone Shadow Fall has an opportunity to scratch that shooter itch in a noncompetitive fashion.
Competitively speaking however, Killzone Shadow Fall presents an unusual proposition in a post Call of Duty era. It is a multiplayer shooter not contingent on accumulating EXP, allowing players to rummage through a toy box full of customization options. Few games can get away with such a lateral approach. The Halo franchise has been able to hold on for so long without fully committing to a reward as you play system because of the richness of its idiosyncratic core mechanics and expert level design. Shadow Fall doesn’t look to be much different in terms of differentiating itself mechanically, and some reviewers have lamented over its map design.
What does look appealing is its unrestrictive approach not only to custom classes, but modes as well. Few shooters allow players to tinker with their rule sets, but in Shadow Fall, it appears to be one of its leading attractions.
Killzone Shadow Fall looks to be just the obligatory shooter that a new system needs, but will it be the shooter of choice outside of Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4?
Resogun appears to be the Geometry Wars of this generation, which comes to no surprise coming from the same developers that brought us Super Stardust HD, which was lauded to be Playstation 3’s comparable title to the Xbox 360’s smash hit.
It takes Stardust’s concept of battling on a singular spherical plane and confining the dimensions to left and right, adopting the style of side scrolling sh’m-ups and creating a cylindrical arena.
High score chasing, multiplier racking, bomb managing and weapons upgrading all seem to be here from Housemarque’s past, but the single restriction of now only moving and shooting side-to-side look to make Resogun novel enough to be one of this gen’s definitive pick-up-and-play titles.
What might be Knack’s biggest problem is how it might betray players into thinking that it’s a shape shifting brawler platformer, where it said to be really a straight forward and surprisingly tough brawler.
The word is that Knack is a lot of things that you might not expect it to be. It’s long for a game that’s expectedly shallow, it’s challenging for a game that looks like a Saturday morning cartoon, and according to IGN's Steve Butts, you don’t dictate the size of Knack so much as the levels do.
It seems that Knack is very much the throw away title everyone expected it to be, a game that Mark Cerny just threw together as a pet project after leading the design of the Playstation 4 itself; all in all an expectation that was easily honored.
Among the mainline launch titles, Contrast seems to be the black sheep of the bunch. Contrast is heavily aesthetic. The 1920’s musical and visual sheen, the touchy subject of a child caught between a parental feud, and the incredibly unusual story telling devices “contrasting” the physical Didi and the silhouetted individuals she interacts with make Contrast one of the most unique launch titles across both systems.
Contrast bridges two gameplay styles together, neigh Limbo style 2D platforming, and 3D exploration. With both coexisting within the same space, allowing you to transition seamlessly between the two, it raises a concern that the mesh of the two styles may be interesting together, but present a weaker experience in isolation.
While the gameplay might be divisive between odd platform sections, annoying glitches, and repetitive puzzles, the game’s story is universally praised, taking dark turns such as murder, divorce, and residential eviction.
Contrast seems to be the experience worth having despite the execution of the gameplay itself.
…which will be your console exclusive game of choice within this breadth of both AAA and intimate small scale titles?