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Microsoft’s E3 Conference: A Quick Roundup of Events

xbox-one-consoleMicrosoft is one of the videogame sector’s biggest players. It is a giant among minnows. Its videogame division has revenues of £5.5Bn and it is a massive player in both the console and PC gaming environments. Because of Microsoft’s role as console maker, games maker and all-out technology superpower, their E3 conferences are usually a big fan favourite. This year was no different.

First, we need to highlight something. It’s something really, really big. Microsoft at last year’s E3 talked about the Xbox One as an ‘all round entertainment platform’. Yesterday’s announcement was a little less grandiose as the focus of the entire event was on gaming. This is surprising as ‘entertainment’ was no-where to be seen? No Steven Spielberg made TV shows or music or social media apps, just boring old video games? What happened?

Microsoft in the past year has been ‘listening to fans’ and these ‘listening exercises’ resulted in some wholesale changes – not least of all, the boot given to the Kinect sensor. The changes were predicated on fan’s requirements that Microsoft, in a way, goes back to basics. This is what Microsoft’s E3 endeavours were all about.

They started off by ‘dropping’ the One. Not one mention of the Xbox One. It was all ‘Xbox’ and nothing else. The games demoed included Halo 5, Forza Horizon 2 along with Fable Legends. In the ‘active’ camps they announced Dance Central as a somewhat ‘Kinect’ ready title. However, they continued with a nice little exclusive surrounding a new game called Scalebound – a dragon fighting epic.

In usual Microsoft fashion, ‘exclusive’ DLC packs are going to be made available for Call of Duty: Advance Warfare before PS4 and additionally for Tom Clancy’s The Divison which will have special DLC features. Another ‘gem’ from the past was the announcement that Microsoft and Real-Time Worlds are working on a re-boot, of sorts, of the cult classic Crackdown.

These titles showcase a changing attitude from Microsoft, led by Phil Spencer, as they move away from the entertainment-only focus which was a disaster first-time round for the Xbox (One). The core branding is a nod to the disaster of the Xbox One and Kinect launch. They are offering fans a Mea Culpa – an apology – of sorts by offering some great next-gen content. This is the key here, as last year developers were working on multi platforms (i.e. PS3/PS4 and Xbox 360 and Xbox One). This time round they are just working on next-gen – this can be seen in the quality. So thank goodness Microsoft has seen the error in its ways and have found new traction and new motivation to move forwards.

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Activision’s E3 Expo Lineup

With just over 24 hours till the official opening of this year’s E3 Expo, Activision have revealed what they’ll be wetting our appetites with at the show. Activision will be showcasing what they’re dubbing as “a new era” for the Call of Duty franchise with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the latest in the innovative Skylanders series and the hugely anticipated Destiny will be playable on the show floor, as will Skylander Trap Team.

“This year’s E3 has been years in the making for us,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, Inc. “Each game we are showcasing is the result of our commitment to quality and innovation: our first 3-year development and our first new lead developer on the  Call of Duty franchise in a decade with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Our biggest innovation since we invented the Toys-to-Life category with  Skylanders Trap Team. And the result of over four years of passion, partnership and investment to bring Bungie’s vision for Destiny to life. I think this is the best slate in Activision’s history and I can’t wait for gamers to get a closer look.”

 


Call of Duty Advanced Warfare 1Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

While Sledgehammer Games had a hand in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, they’re now running the show with the development of their first Call of Duty title in the new tri-annual Call of Duty cycle. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare promises to deliver gamers a truly exceptional experience with an immersive and compelling narrative, stunning visuals and all new gameplay which will redefine how Call of Duty is played. With the power of a mechanical exoskeleton, players become an advanced future soldier empowered by an arsenal of never before seen weaponry, new abilities and gameplay mechanics to match. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is the first Call of Duty is the first in the franchise to be developed with the now current-gen Xbox One and PS4 consoles as the primary development focus. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare retains its early November slot, this year releasing on the 4th on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and Windows PC.

 

Destiny_31Destiny

From the creators of the infamous Halo, Bungie brings us Destiny. An epic action-packed adventure title set in a mysterious universe that resembles our own. Destiny is trailblazing a whole new way to play first person shooters with a story-driven universe filled with single player, cooperative, competitive, public, and social activities, all seamlessly connected in a vast, persistent universe, creating the world’s first “Shared World Shooter”. Players take the role of Guardians of the last city on Earth, wielding incredible powers and exploring the extremities of our solar system. From September 9th, Destiny will be available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. 

 

 

Skylanders-Trap-Team_Snap-ShotSkylanders Trap Team

After the roaring success of Skylanders, see  our review here, Toys for Bob are hard at work creating Skylanders Trap Team. In the next chapter of the Skylanders journey, kinds will be able to take characters out of the digital world and bring them into the real world. In  Skylanders Trap Team, Portal Masters seek out and defeat the most wanted villains in all of Skylands, taking them out the game by capturing them in Traps. Players can then send the villains back into the game where they become playable characters, fighting for good. Skylanders Trap Team will include the Traptanium Portal, a ring of magical energy that enables kids to not only bring their Skylanders to life, but also capture villains using Traps.  Skylanders Trap Team introduces new heroes known as Trap Masters and will be available on October 5th in North America for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, Nintendo’s Wii and Wii U. A completely unique version will be available on the Nintendo 3DS hand-held system.

 

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E3 Expo LIVE on UGP

E3 Expo LIVE right here on UGP!

 

E3 Expo 2014 was a fantastic event with some really awesome unveils and news coming out of L.A.

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Homefront: The Revolution Announcement & Trailer

Homefront The Revolution LogoComing in 2015 is a game that is sure to be popular. Take back the streets of Philadelphia with sneaky urban guerilla warfare tactics in Homefront: The Revolution. The new free-roaming FPS will be co-published by Crytek and Deep Silver.

 

Releasing on Xbox One, PS4, Windows PC, Mac and Linux in 2015, Homefront: The Revolution projects players into a near future dystopia. A series of catastrophic events have brought the United States to its knees. The Korean People’s Army imposes a brutal military occupation. Trapped in this nightmare, Philadelphia has become a police state. Surveillance drones and armoured patrols keep a close watch on citizens, crushing any dissent with brutal and final force.

To overcome their oppressors, players will have to utilise guerilla warfare tactics; ambushing and infiltrating in thrilling un-scripted fire fights. In Homefront: The Revolution, you’ll find a sprawling open-world city, in which recruiting fellow revolutionaries and building improvised weapons are just two of the key ingredients to nurturing a powerful resistance.

Homefront: The Revolution is more than just a single player game. Homefront: The Revolution supports up to four player online Co-Op where you form your own resistance cell and become renowned as Heroes of the Revolution.

“Homefront: The Revolution stands out from the crowd by immersing players in a world where they’ll feel emotionally compelled to fight for their freedom,” said Hasit Zala, Game Director at Crytek. “We’re very excited to work with Deep Silver and deliver an experience that underlines Crytek’s commitment to quality whilst tapping into the huge potential we saw when we first acquired the Homefront IP.”

Homefront The Revolution Preview Artwork

Homefront: The Revolution represents the first time Crytek and Deep Silver have worked together, the two partners collaborating to release the game as part of a co-publishing agreement.

“Crytek has an outstanding track record of creating AAA action games. Homefront is a fascinating IP with huge global potential. With Crytek’s technical pedigree and Deep Silver´s publishing expertise, we will take the IP to new heights,” said Dr. Klemens Kundratitz, CEO of Deep Silver / Koch Media.

Developed in Crytek’s Nottingham studio, Homefront: The Revolution harnesses the latest features of the CRYENGINE. On the ground, players will encounter a dynamic environment that looks and feels truly alive as day turns to night and storm clouds come and go – an authenticity that extends to the strikingly lifelike expressions, skin and clothing of everyone they encounter.

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Titanfall update

A huge patch is just going live for Titanfall that adds a tremendous amount of new features, issues some bug fixes and makes some tweaks. Something that is worth noting and is very useful is the ability to have custom loadouts for each different game mode. Here’s the full list of bug fixes, tweaks and updates as seen on the Titanfall blog. All this comes just in time for the Titanfall Expedition DLC, of course.

 

NEW FEATURES (All Platforms)

Custom load-out names – You can now name your custom loadouts for both your Pilot and your Titan.

2 dedicated Custom Loadouts per game mode – Each of these 2 loadouts become unlocked after playing the game mode 5 and 10 times respectively. These loadouts are only available in the game mode they are listed under. In a Private Lobby, all game mode loadouts can be customized. In a match lobby you can only customize the loadouts for the game mode about to be played.

Last Game Summary improvements:

  • Now shows the last game’s scoreboard so you can view it from the lobby after the match.
  • Now allows you to filter which challenges are displayed. You can toggle between “Most Progress Made” which was the original behavior, “Completed”, or “Almost Complete”
  • Challenges in the last game summary screen now show the reward the challenge will give when highlighted.

Custom Private Match Settings (Beta) – We’ve added the first round of Custom Match Settings to the Private Match mode, so you can tweak the games you set up for friends and tournaments. More are coming and feedback is welcome. Options include:

  • Score Limit
  • Time Limit
  • AI Lethality – Controls how tough and accurate Grunts and Spectres are.
  • AI Types – Sets the allowed types of AI from drop pods and drop ships.
  • Pilot Health – Gives pilots half, normal, or double health.
  • Pilot Ammo – Gives pilots normal or reduced ammo.
  • Titan First Build Time – Adjusts how long until players acquire their first titan.
  • Titan Rebuild Time – Adjusts how long until players’ replacement titans are ready.
  • Titan Shield Capacity – Normal, half, double, or disabled.
  • Minimap – Turns the HUD minimap on or off.
  • Respawn Delay – How long players must wait before spawning in again.

Extra Look Drift Guard – We added a new “High” setting to the “Look Drift Guard” controller option. This is useful for players experiencing and being bothered by view drift on their controllers. Players who prefer the original behavior should set this to “low”.

Level Stats – We added a new menu under “Personal Stats” showing statistics per map such as how many times you have played each game mode, or won each game mode. This allows players to easily track the achievement “I’ve Seen It All” requiring that you play each mode and every map.

Campaign MP – The campaign menu now shows a small trophy icon for each faction for every level that you have won. This will allow easier tracking of which campaign levels you have won for the achievements “Militia Elite Pilot” and “IMC Elite Pilot”.

Regen Challenges – We found that some players erroneously believed that the requirement challenges for Regen only became available when they reached level 50. Now, when Regen challenges become available, they are marked as “new” with an exclamation point, so players know they can start progressing on the Regen Requirements.

Amped Weapon pickup distinction – The pickup prompt for Amped Weapons dropped by other players will now show up in orange text.

Scoreboard Icons – We have added two new scoreboard icons to provide additional awareness during play. One is an icon that indicates that a dead player’s Auto-Titan is still alive. The other is an icon to differentiate players who have successfully evacuated during the Epilogue.

NEW FEATURES (PC)

Extreme frame-rate support – The game now supports refresh-rates up to 144fps.

Audio Installer – The audio file installation step is much faster. No more long wait times.

Scoreboard Controls – Added bindings to mute players from the in-game scoreboard. Defaults: Page Up / Page Down to select, Delete to toggle mute, Enter to view profile.

NEW FEATURES (X1)

New chat icon – Added an icon to the scoreboard and lobby screens to show when a player is in Xbox party chat and therefore not part of the game voice chat.

GAME BALANCE CHANGES

Match win/loss credit – Players are now rewarded win/loss credit at the moment of Victory/Defeat, rather than after the post-game scoreboard period. You also now receive a loss if you leave a match before a winner is determined. Previously you received neither a win nor a loss if you quit before the post-game scoreboard.

Normal Eject – Damage and area of effect has been decreased. Previously, a normal Titan eject caused damage over an unintentionally large area of effect, slightly larger than the circle outlining the statue in Corporate. This has been reduced, and the damage has been reduced as well. This brings the effect in-line with the ejection visual FX. The original intent of the eject explosion damage was to reward an ejecting pilot for accurately anticipating or baiting an enemy Titan into an execution attempt, but the size of the explosion made this too easy.

Nuclear Eject – Now does more damage against Titans. Previously an Atlas with full health could survive a close range Nuclear Ejection. Given the long “tell” that Nuclear Eject has, we decided it is appropriate for it to decimate Titans that are within the blast radius.

Build time – Shooting enemy mega turrets or evacuation drop-ships now rewards you with Titan Build Time or Titan Core Charge Time. You do not get build time for the regular drop ships because they do not hover long enough to make destroying them a reasonable or gameplay-meaningful player objective.

Dome shield

  • You can no longer knock a Titan out of its dome shield with Titan melee.
  • No longer tries to do damage to other Titans if they are in their own dome shield. Previously there were circumstances where this could result in a Titan unintentionally taking damage.
  • Now protects Titans against nearby Titanfall splash damage.

Emp effects – No longer mess up your screen while you are inside dome shield.

MVP – Killing the other team’s MVP now gets you 25 points.

CTF Assist points – Players are now awarded Capture the Flag assist points. If you help carry a flag back to base you will receive 100 points as long as the flag was never returned by the other team between you possessing it and your teammate capturing it.

Titanfalls – Disabled Titanfall near the evacuation location and stopped Titanfall from doing damage to the drop-ship. Dropping your Titan on the evacuation ship was not an intended behavior.

BUG FIXES (All Platforms)

  • Improved next game map and mode selection, so the chance of replaying the same map or mode as the last game should be very rare.
  • Fixed NPCs not cycling between locations while defending Hardpoints in Hardpoint Domination.
  • Fixed Bish / Blisk erroneously broadcasting the capture status of a Hardpoint to players that were out of range.
  • Fixed an audio issue where notification dialogue from the Player’s Titan might unintentionally be cut short or fail to play.
  • Reduced accidental pilot ability activations from pressing ‘A’ to respawn when using the “Bumper Jumper” controller config.
  • Fixed case where a pilot is rodeoing a Titan, and the Titan pilot ejects and collides with the rodeo’er, resulting in one or both pilots falling abruptly to the ground.
  • Fixed unintentional death that resulted from ejecting out of an out of bounds trigger.
  • Fixed case where Titan firing weapon while auto-ejecting will cause cloak to cancel.
  • Fixed cases where a rodeo’ing player or ejecting Titan pilot can become stuck in a solid object.
  • Fixed case in Rise where your Titan would teleport inside a building after you embark.
  • Fixed places where a Titan could be unintentionally dropped.
  • The Kill Card (the information about what killed you or your Titan) now shows up if you have Auto Eject. Previously it did not.
  • Arc Cannon rumble will no longer continue if you disembark while charging the weapon.
  • Arc Cannon idle effects will now properly play in all circumstances.
  • Pilot weapons will no longer disappear inside the Evacuation drop-ship.
  • Fixed a bug where the count on score splashes could be incorrect if the same event had different XP values.
  • Kill Cards will now always display the attacker’s remaining health. It previously could be pushed off by excessively long names.
  • Improved the sounds associated with Electric Smoke to increase awareness for the attacker and victims.
  • The Titan VO will no longer incorrectly say you’re outnumbered when allies are nearby.
  • The missile from the Amped Archer will now play proper whiz-by and impact sounds.
  • Improved the sound when Auto-Titans use the XO-16 with the accelerator mod.
  • Fixed several crashes.
  • Fixed burn cards being awarded during private match. This was not the intended behavior.
  • Fixed some weapon and mod names not displaying properly in the weapons menu.
  • Fixed private match showing XP after a match even though no XP was earned.
  • Grenades will now drop if you’re killed before throwing them.
  • Fixed a case where AI could be briefly frozen in place.
  • Fixed case of multiple Titan drops happening on the same spot at the same time.
  • Further reduced the bandwidth used when connecting to a server, for improved load times.
  • Improved the view-kick effect when firing the B3 Wingman. Damage and behavior have not changed.
  • When you are killed by a Titan execution, you will now be treated to a kill replay that begins about 5 seconds earlier than it previously did, which helps you better understand what were the circumstances of your death.

BUG FIXES (PC)

  • Fixed an issue where the “Emitter Limit” audio option was not being saved.
  • The “Master Volume” slider no longer affects voice chat volume so they can now be tuned separately.

BUG FIXES (Xbox One)

  • Players will no longer have a microphone icon if they do not have a headset plugged in.

 

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Call of Duty Advanced Warfare soldier

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare announced

CoD_AW_Advanced_WorldIt’s all go come November 4, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, will be hitting consoles around the world. The next title in the legendary franchise has been announced with a few screenshots and a teaser video of what to expect. Unlike previous iterations, Sledgehammer Games are taking the lead on this one and recruited the star that is Kevin Spacey to lead the story with a gripping performance.

 

“We’ve made several key decisions with an eye towards creative excellence on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. We’ve really approached this game differently,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. “This is our first three-year development cycle. It’s our first time with Sledgehammer Games at the creative helm. And we’re shaking up the formula in several ways. New core gameplay mechanics with the exoskeleton suit. A riveting new story. An iconic new character played by one of the world’s best actors in Kevin Spacey. We’re having a lot of fun making this game, and we think the world is going to have even more fun playing it.”

 

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare thrusts players forward in a groundbreaking experience envisioning a future taken from the headlines of tomorrow. Tactics and technology of tomorrow break new ground with the game being set in the year 2054. The story, a private military organisation is here to rebuild and restore humanity after a devastating global attack on the planet’s military forces. You are to play the advanced soldier of 2054.

 

“It’s been a lot of fun working with the team to bring Jonathan Irons to life.  The technology is truly remarkable and unlike anything I’ve done before.  I’m excited to see where this goes,” said Academy Award ® winner Kevin Spacey.

 

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare will be available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and PC. At the moment, only the USA, Canada and Australia can pre-order and the USA site has all the intel. Check it out here: http://www.callofduty.com/advancedwarfare/game

 

 

 

 

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call_of_duty_ghosts_bandit

Activision Blizzard CEO on Call of Duty 2014: “PERHAPS THE BEST CALL OF DUTY GAME EVER CREATED”

Robert Kotick, the head honcho at Activision Blizzard which is the second richest gaming company after Nintendo and beats EA by miles, has set the ball rolling regarding their annual cash cow – the beloved Call of Duty franchise. We are, of course, months away from November but when it comes to the current Call of Duty iteration we are prestiging, getting pissed off at Rileys biting your arse while camping and pretty much hating the entire experience and/or layout. I won’t even get started on the horrendous ‘patch updates’ we next-geners are experiencing but anyway, I digress. Activision Blizzard boss Robert Kotick has said the next version of COD will be ‘the best Call of Duty game ever created’. This is quite a statement. Since Ghosts was universally panned by critics and experienced a rather modest number of sales (although this was partially due to the release date being a week or so before the next generation consoles were released).

sledgehammerAt any rate, Sledgehammer Games co-founder, Glen Schofield, has said “we want COD to be ambitious in 2014”. I think this is great, but I hope the developer’s kind of thought about this months ago when they probably started coding the game? But that is not the point. The point here is that with both major partners in the Call of Duty franchise pretty much saying sorry the last couple of titles where total shit, next time we’ll do better, what does this mean for the future of COD?

It has made literally billions – it is officially the biggest revenue generating video game franchise in history (and Wikipedia never lies).  Therefore, the huge amounts of money mean Activision/Sledgehammer and other partners are quite interested in letting this cash cow chomp around for a few more years to come. However, stagnation has resulted in mini restructuring, mini crisis and mini disasters in recent years. The centrality of COD to the entire video gaming calendar cannot be underscored enough! It sees rivals, like Battlefield refocus its own attention to attack COD in marketing terms. So, what went wrong?

Many critics argue they have rested on their laurels for way too long. The overuse of the Infinity Engine, regardless of tweaks, has seen technology become commonplace. The concurrent thrust of Modern Warfare in parallel with Black Ops was a featured norm in the gaming calendar. However, the new Ghosts title has upended this. As they say, “All good things come to an end”, but Ghosts wasn’t the next ‘good’, in fact MetaCritic data shows the game is pretty much despised even hated by a large segment of gamers. So, what can they do to fix this? There are lots they can do, from improving engine tech, better rendering and more fluid multiplayer functionality. However, in reality if they want to improve it – how about releasing a half decent COD title in 2014. We loved MW, and MW2 was epic whilst MW3 had panache. Let’s get back to basics Activision and co, release a COD title with some balls!

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