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FIFA 15: Continuation of the Norm or a Break from the Norm?

FIFA is getting on a bit… it has been around for nearly twenty one years. The first incarnation of the FIFA football game was created in 1993 and was available on Amiga and Sega’s MasterSystem. The game has grown and morphed into a franchise on a plethora of different platforms from mobile, console to PC. However, with EA’s E3 announcement of FIFA 15 yesterday, has the game changed or is it more of the same? Now bear with me here… It’s a football game and the rules have been the same for over a hundred years. That’s not the issue, what I mean by change is that the game needs to change and morph with time – the 2D top-down gaming of the 90s was changed completely by the 3D experience of the early noughties. What is required is something different – from emotive to visual flair in order to help bring FIFA 15 into the realm of next-gen greatness!

In the Los Angeles Convention Centre, EA did just that! EA announced that the FIFA 14 technologies and code changed that have yet to yield results – from the in-air ball physics engine, the changes to the Ignite EA engine and the wider principles of uncertainty which were part of FIFA 14 that just didn’t quite work – have all been re-engineered by EA in order to make a true break from the past. FIFA 15 will bring football gameplay into the next level by incorporating more fluid and dynamic playability modes – think two step dribbles with ‘stuttering steps’ before shooting a goal which is ‘doable’ on FIFA 14 but it will become a more fluid part of gameplay on FIFA 15. This is the issue – you watch FIFA 12, 14 or FIFA 2002 and you know you’re playing against a computer or that your multiplayer opponent could never do that on a real pitch. This is what EA wants to change by making fluidity in game play more realistic and this is what EA have announced at their epic E3 conference.

FIFA 15 will bring ‘reality’ onto the pitch once more. It will create real-life dynamism in terms of spinning and arcing the ball’s movement on the pitch and in the air and will help re-define how the contact between player and ball is crunched by the Ignite engine. This is a massive change – one that some doubt is doable. The next-gen consoles have yet to ignite the passion of the masses in terms of epic visual output. However, FIFA 15 needs to be something different – not a step change but a wholesale change in one of the gaming calendar’s most successful annual launches. So we are looking forward to FIFA 15 to see if we can bring to an end the curse of the ‘oh, he’d never do that on a real pitch’ mentality of FIFA gameplay?

 

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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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Finish Him…. It’s Coming Soon To The Next Gen Consoles, Mortal Kombat X Announced!

Mortal-Kombat-10-Fan-Screen-1.1Suddenly appearing on Amazon today, Mortal Kombat X has been ‘outed’ by developer NetherRealm and publisher Warner Brothers. The slip-up by the US online retailer said the game was to be launched in 2015, at some point? However, co-creator of Mortal Kombat and Creative Director of NetherRealm Studios, Ed Boon has been quietly, well as quietly as you can with nearly a hundred thousand followers, started to tease the release of one of the most influential video games in history. The presses, from the bastions of press release re-writing like IGN to the gutter rags like Metro have all started to go ‘viral’ about the announcement of Mortal Kombat 10 or X depending on where you are reading this. Mortal Kombat is a game that changed everything. In 1993 a game was released which trigged a slight ‘controversy’. To put into context, the BBC paid great lip service to Warner Bros’ release of Mortal Kombat saying it “was the equivalent of Disney distributing Reservoir Dogs or American Psycho on Sesame Street.” Mortal Kombat has become a brand that has survived long after the demise of the myriad of consoles it has enlightened. The news that Mortal Kombat X will hit the ‘next-gen’ consoles has already started to wet fans’ appetites about thumping Sub Zero or thrashing Raven in beautiful high def, or as high def as one 720p can go with the next gen consoles! More news will be forthcoming as the developer releases more information. So keep tuned!

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Airships Strategy Map

Airships – Promising indie RTS early-releasing Tuesday

Over the weekend we came across what looks to be a very promising little gem from indie developer Zarkonnen. Airships is an RTS where design and management are as important as strategy and tactics.

airshipThe game revolves around constructing your airship and using it to gain superiority over either your computer or other live players via an on-line connection.  The connection is currently made by manually entering your opponents IP address, but there are plans to incorporate a bespoke match-making and ladder service that will automatically connect you to games.  With that complete and released, Airships looks to be gaining the same simple yet addictive gameplay that has made Minecraft such a winner.

The game has a blocky and pixilated feel that won’t be winning any awards for its graphical depictions, but that is not the point and the game focuses rather neatly on an engaging gameplay rather than pretty pictures.  With your airship built to whatever specification you want, you need to populate it with a crew of air-sailors who will carry out the specific tasks you assign them.  These might include carrying coal for steam-powered engines, replenishing ammunition, or carrying out maintenance.  All of these tasks and many more like them are equally important, and to neglect just one of them will invite potential disaster. As you become adept at controlling your airship, you can design and build more to enhance your domination over your opponents. But, be aware of over-stretching your resources as that can leave you exposed too.   It’s a game about balance and thoughtful gameplay and looks to be a refreshing brain-teaser with plenty of scope for diversity.

While the actual game looks to be an exciting delve into strategy and forward planning, the real point of interest is the fact that this game has been developed and launched by David Stark (no relation to Tony, btw), an indie game developer based in Switzerland rather than a professional studio.  It marks the fact that game development is no longer the domain of large, professional establishments and anyone with the will and a bit of crowd-funding can now construct and launch a game that has been bouncing around the back of their mind for more years than they can remember.  Game development is now open to anyone with a bit of imagination and an understanding of programming, and that is an exciting prospect.

While looking a little too much like Minecraft and stretching credibility a tad, Airships nevertheless has caught our attention and is due for release on Windows, Mac and Linux on March 25. With Airships imminently available for the minute price of just $5, the game is a steal and a fitting addition to any PC or Mac.

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far-cry-4

Far Cry 4 coming 2015

Far Cry 4 has been confirmed for a release sometime in the first half of 2015 and is to be set in the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, Eurogamer has confirmed.

It’s a drastic switch to move Far Cry away from the clear waters and sandy beaches of the tropics and into the hostile environment of the Himalayas. What the move does mean is the unique opportunity to ride elephants, which is awesome, for some!

Far Cry 4 is still a long way off but it’s understood that Ubisoft are hoping for a launch before the end of the 2014/15 financial year which would put a release date somewhere around March 2015.

Fear not though Far Cry fans, Far Cry 4 is set to be revealed in some form at Ubisoft’s annual E3 press conference in June. We can expect to see Far Cry 4 come to PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. There’s been no mention of Xbox 360 or PS3 versions, which is not surprising as it’s clear that developers are dropping last-gen now, take Assassin’s Creed Unity as a prime example.

It sounds like the Far Cry recipe isn’t changing too much. The style of gameplay in Far Cry 4 will remain loyal to the tried and tested fauna hunting of Far Cry 3 and the game world will be familiarly structured, outputs to liberate et al.

far_cry_3_screenshot-1920x1080

Looking back at the Far Cry 3 timeline with Far Cry 3 launching in November 2012 and Blood Dragon, 6 months later, we can assume Far Cry 4, when finished, will have had 2 years of development.

We’ll be looking forward to E3 in June, and of course bringing you news as it happens, when Ubisoft reveal more about Far Cry 4 as well as open-world racer The Crew and Assassin’s Creed Unity.

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