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The Order 1886 is a game in hot contention right now. It seems to be under fire from all directions with some of gaming’s biggest outlets panning the Order as nothing more than a graphical showcase. This is sorely misinformed. I am forced to wonder if I played the same game that they did.

Having just completed the games campaign as I am writing this. My first thought is I cannot wait for a sequel. My impressions of the game start with how fresh I found the setting. It was just really nice to escape into a world that felt new and different. From the very outset of The Order 1886, a very robust and intriguing mythology is developed.

First off. Yes the graphics are gorgeous, but their was so much more to the game than just a visual feast. The other criticism made about The Order 1886 is that it is too short. Admittedly it took me about 9 hours to complete on normal difficulty but for perspective the first Uncharted game was shorter than that by almost 2 hrs and that game started one of the biggest franchises in gaming right now.

You play as Sir Galahad a veteran of The Order although very noble he tends to follow his own moral compass. His team including himself is made of four unique characters with distinctive personalities and interesting backgrounds. Sir Perceval serves as the squad leader, delving out wisdom he and Sir Galahad are old friends and Galahad does not take Perceval’s advice lightly. Lady Igraine or Izzy as she is referred to in the game has a big ego and is often the first to kick in a door. Rounding out the team is the passionate Marquis de Lafayette a freedom fighter who fought in both the American and French Revolutions. Together this team serves as a sort of special forces where encounters with the occult and supernatural seem like a normal occurrence.

The story is fascinating, ripe with the possibilities historical fiction allows for in the Whitechapel district of the 1880’s. For instance Jack the Ripper’s infamous murder spree is in full swing, Nikola Tesla not only makes all of your tools and weapons he is also one of your best friends and confidant’s, and you occasionally fight werewolves. The combat is really satisfying. Every single weapon fires differently and has a different feel to it. Specifically the weapons that Tesla has created are fun and imaginative. For instance one weapon is basically a giant electric arc generator and another shoots clouds of flammable gas that you can engulf multiple enemies in before launching the weapons secondary incendiary function taking down multiple enemies in a giant fireball. The cover system works very well too. Using the circle button to cover and the X button to break cover makes it harder for you to stick to cover by accident.

The Order 1886 is truly an immersive experience. It is obvious a ridiculous amount of effort went into crafting this game. Every level down to the tiniest detail looks incredible. The characters are likable and engaging. Combined with the story The Order 1886 is successful in creating a fresh experience for the gaming community. Most importantly the game is just fun to play. I found it hard to put down.

As for all the bad reviews and negative press this game has garnered over the last few days I just find it bewildering. I have noticed this mindset more and more in reviews over the last few years. Some outlets have made a conscious effort to stay away from it and fight hard to be unbiased. However if you read between the lines of a bad review sometimes you will notice it. People will sometimes give a game a bad review, not because the game is actually that bad but because its not the game they wanted. I think that this is exactly what has happened with The Order 1886. The game has been highly publicized since it was announced and their was a lot of hype for this game being one of the first big next-gen console exclusives and it just simply wasn’t the kind of game the critics wanted. By no means however does that make this a bad game.

Obviously this is just my speculation. The only other reasoning I can validate as to why The Order 1886 got such a bad review is because of some background politics between the publisher and the big name outlets because quite honestly I thought the game was brilliant. I thought the story was really interesting and I found the conclusion really satisfying. My hope is that word of mouth will triumph over these superficial reviews because this game is worth playing and I really hope they make a sequel or at least some big DLC content because I don’t want to stop exploring this world.

The Order 1886 is a PS4 exclusive and is rated M for mature.

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Game Review

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Wolfenstein: The New Order

Reviewed

Wolfenstein: The New Order is a FPS developed by Machine Games and published by Bethesda Softworks. The version I reviewed is the PS4 version. Wolfenstein has a storied franchise. Wolfenstein 3D is considered to be the game that birthed the modern first-person shooter. It was the game that defined what an FPS is. A year later DOOM would come out and cement the FPS genre as a staple in the gaming community. To this day FPS games hold the largest market share in video gaming. Both Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM were developed by id Software. Although Wolfenstein: The New Order was developed by Machine Games it was only after their owner ZeniMax Media acquired id Software and Machine Games earned id Software’s approval that development started. Wolfenstein: The New Order was also built on id Software’s proprietary id Tech 5 game engine which was also used to create the game RAGE. When RAGE came out in 2011 it blew my mind for how gorgeous it looked and for its dynamic game play physics. The things it pulled off I had previously thought were impossible for console gaming at the time. While RAGE has its flaws it is still a great game and I strongly recommend at least a rental.

STORY

From the very first moment of Wolfenstein: The New Order you are dropped head first into an engaging tale that soon reveals itself to be a powerful narrative. Its sort of strange in a game that features such an impressive arsenal, the violence never feels glorified. Rather a necessary means against unimaginable horror. The characters you meet in the game feel like fully fleshed out individuals with realistic humanities. The protagonist is no exception. Captain William Joseph “B.J.” Blazkowicz feels like a real person. Machine Games deserves credit, B.J.’s actions may at times be superhuman but his personality makes him feel genuinely human. Throughout the game periodically you will hear B.J.’s inner thoughts as you progress and perform different actions. It is a subtle layer of storytelling that does wonders to deepen B.J.’s personality. The inner thoughts also serve the player well as to better understand the character of B.J. and his motivations. The premise of Wolfenstein in its purest form, to kill all Nazis, could easily have distilled B.J. Blazkowicz into nothing more than a mindless killing machine. Instead Machine Games has carefully crafted an endearing protagonist you can’t help but root for.

Captain B.J. Blazkowicz is a U.S. soldier fighting in Europe during WWII. After an incident resulting in a severe head injury he wakes up from a vegetative state 14 years later. The Nazis have won the war. The world he knew is gone. He himself is now a relic of a bygone era. No longer a freedom fighter he is now labeled a terrorist. Captain Blazkowicz must uncover the fate of his former comrades and along the way find/create a resistance. A cell to once again fight for the freedom of the people of the world. It is a very personalized story that does an excellent job of hooking you in right from the beginning.

Make no mistake this is a mature game, not just because it contains mature content and deals with adult themes, but also because it handles the them in an adult way. Wolfenstein does not blink when delving into the horrors of war, particularly war against the Nazis. On that note, never have I felt so motivated to defeat an enemy. The events experienced in the game become personal very quickly. You are not just fighting for yourself, but everyone who can’t.

Most of Wolfenstein: The New Order takes place in an alternate timeline after World War 2. Specifically the game takes place in a version of the 1960’s where the Nazis have won the war. The re-imagining of history allows for some pretty interesting science fiction. Machine Games took the opportunity to explore the what ifs? of a history defined by a Nazi victory of WWII and they came up with some creative answers to those questions. It should be noted that early on in the game the player is offered a decision that will effect Wolfenstein’s timeline. The overall story does not change significantly based on how you make this decision but it will have an impact on your in-game abilities, upgrades and the characters you will meet. It is clear that Wolfenstein was created with multiple playthroughs in mind.

GAME PLAY

The combat is extremely satisfying. The weapons are balanced with great precision and all of them are viable options of attack in some capacity on every level. Controls are spot on and feel very responsive. Enemies visibly respond to attacks in appropriate fashion to the weapons you are using. Even larger enemies respond satisfyingly to your attacks. While you do have a large arsenal of weapons and attacks at your disposal you can only quick cycle 2 different weapon sets. The sets are chosen from a selection wheel displaying all of your weapons at once. Choosing your quick select weapons from the wheel really doesn’t take long once you get used to it but still in the heat of battle those few moments can mean life and death. The system does work well enough and I really don’t know of a better way to execute weapon selection on a console game. Thrown items like knives and grenades have designated buttons and are always available for attack no matter what weapons you have selected.

Captain Blazkowicz plays like a total badass. He can run, jump and then rock star slide into combat with duel-wield weapons blazing. On the flip side the stealth was unexpectedly well realized. Using silenced handguns, throwing knives and hands-on takedowns you can dispatch large portions of enemies without them ever knowing you were there. One of the most refreshing parts of the stealth was that I never felt unfairly punished for being detected. Being detected can definitely make portions of the game more difficult but you never feel like you automatically lost because you were detected as is the case in other games. The feeling of getting caught is sort of like “OK, so much for being sneaky, time for plan B!” You obviously don’t want to get caught when trying to be stealthy but if you do get caught being sneaky the game is still fun and you can still win.

Something I really appreciated about the combat was the level of skill that was involved. For instance performing a stealth take down by throwing a knife takes careful consideration for distance and the number of enemies present. Although it is a one hit kill no matter where you hit your target, hitting them is not a guarantee. You could easily miss for a number of reasons which can result in alerting enemies to your position. Even performing stealth takedowns means making sure you are aiming directly at your target within the proper distance. This was something I really appreciated in Wolfenstein because in a lot of other FPS titles similar gameplay often feels less involved and of little skill.

Another thing about the combat is that it really does take strategy. You will need to use a large variety of skills and strategies to progress. Going in duel guns blazing is definitely a lot of fun but in some areas it may be much more beneficial to only wield one rifle, firing from cover. Certain weapons are better suited for different situations and enemies. This is especially true when you are first starting out and don’t have many perks or upgrades unlocked. It is wise to pay attention to your perks. Performing detailed tasks will unlock useful upgrades that will make you more formidable in later levels.

EXPLORE! I swear every nook and cranny of this game has something hidden in it. I’m starting my 4th play through and I am still discovering hidden items and passage ways. It is impossible to talk about Wolfenstein’s gameplay without mentioning it’s level design. Although it is far from a sandbox game and progression is fairly linear, there is still a huge amount of content in every level of this game. The levels are also varied enough that missions and treasure hunting stay fresh. I am suspicious of every environment I enter now because Wolfenstein is full of secrets. Too many times have I walked through a seemingly unassuming area only to look a little closer and discover something hidden. Utilize the resources you are given and pay close attention to your surroundings.

GRAPHICS/PERFORMANCE

Wolfenstein: The New Order is the second game to be built using the id Tech 5 game engine and for the most part it looks pretty good on the PS4. Lighting and shadowing effects are very nice. Certain textures occasionally look flat, pens and papers sometimes look painted on to surfaces. The only time I think the graphics really suffered is in one scene late in the game where they show a city from overhead. Some of the buildings and cars look fine but the surface on the ground looks stretched out and undefined. Wolfenstein is over 50 gigabytes and on last-gen hardware that size is especially large. The 360 version actually comes on 4 discs. I imagine playing Wolfenstein on the PS3 and XBOX 360 would give me a similar feeling of awe to when I played RAGE back in 2011. On current-gen hardware like the PS4 and XBOX One the graphical expectations are greater so when minor blemishes appear on an otherwise great looking game they stick out a lot more.

Wolfenstein boasts a large variety of enemies and even when many of them would appear on screen together I never experienced any noticeable drops in frame rate or slow down. I played with the highest difficulty setting turned on and I will say the enemy A.I. may not be the best ever but they can be quite crafty and they are ruthless. There was only one instance when sniping a long distance that I noticed an enemy had gotten stuck on an object. Overall Wolfenstein looks and plays great, weapons and explosions are especially good looking, there were just a few moments when a few textures seemed lacking.

FINAL VERDICT

The story is surprisingly well told. The voice acting is superb. It is obvious a lot of hard work went into meticulous level design. For a game based on a 30 year old franchise Wolfenstein: The New Order does a great job of honoring the past while leaping forward into the 21st century. I was afraid this title would get caught in the same pitfalls as Duke Nukem Forever. Duke Nukem is another storied franchise from the same era as Wolfenstein. Duke’s biggest game was Duke Nukem 3D, an obvious descendant of Wolfenstein 3D as it featured all of the same core gameplay mechanics. Both franchises experienced their peak in popularity during the 90’s and as evidenced by Duke Nukem Forever, striking that right balance between past and present is tricky. You don’t want to alienate what originally made the franchise so popular in its heyday but you also can’t ignore current trends. Swing too hard one way or the other and you risk the chance of getting stuck in the past or losing the identity of the franchise. It is a delicate balance.

Machine Games did a great job tip-toeing that tight wire. The identity of Wolfenstein is still intact. The core gameplay elements are all present. Staples of the franchise are still present like hidden passage ways and increasingly bizarre enemies. The large arsenal of weapons is well realized and accounted for. The protagonist is still a badass and the Nazis are still the enemy. What Machine Games did was utilize the tools afforded to them by current gaming capabilities to take those core elements, flesh them out, and bring them into the modern world of first-person shooters. Most of all Wolfenstein: The New Order is incredibly fun to play. It is such a refreshing title in a sea of FPS clones. In a world where Call of Duty is a yearly title it is really nice to see a game that embraces its imagination and runs with it.

One thing I will say about this game is that I think it might have been held back a little bit by the restrictions of also being developed for the XBOX 360 and PS3. Had development not been restricted by the constraints of the aging hardware I think this game could have been even more amazing and not had the few issues I mentioned earlier.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

ESRB Rated M for Mature 17+

A highly recommended must play title.

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Mortal Kombat X Revealed

 

Hey, so uh, yeah its official. Mortal Kombat X is real! An announcement trailer has surfaced today featuring staples of the franchise Sub-Zero and Scorpion battling it out in a winter forest setting. The two donned costumes that were reminiscent of their original ninja designs yet they appeared updated and far more detailed than ever before. The end of the trailer teases a 2015 release. With that info in mind I think it is safe to say that this trailer is not in game footage but likely a CG rendering of what we can expect in the new game.

Based on the “kombat” shown it looks like the x-ray attacks from the last game will be present. It looks like the game will again be 2.5D in presentation meaning a 2 dimensional presentation in a 3D environment. This means no side stepping but the character models and levels will still be rendered in 3D. (More confused? or less?) Think Street Fighter’s presentation versus Tekken’s. The environment seems to play a bigger role this time as both Scorpion and Sub-Zero were shown interacting with trees during their battle, bouncing off of their trunks and using their branches as weapons. Individual character weapons appear to be making a comeback as well.

The setting of a snowy forest at night is noticeably less fantastical than in previous games. It looks like Scorpion and Sub-Zero are fighting in an actual forest. The overall atmosphere is darker than in previous games and the tone is serious. Despite Scorpion and Sub-Zero’s magical powers it is the most realistic MK rendition I have seen. I won’t spoil it for you but the fatality shown at the end of the trailer is just brutal.

IGN reports that every match played in MKX will have an impact on the online portion of the game. Most interesting is that it is being reported players will be able to select different versions of the same characters, effecting both strategy and fighting style. Mortal Kombat X is said to feature an original story encompassing both classic and completely new characters in the fight of good versus evil. Luckily MKX will be on show next week at E3 so we will not have to wait long to learn more about this title. Mortal Kombat X will be available on PS4, PS3, XBOX One, XBOX 360 and the PC.

Here is the link to the announcement trailer for Mortal Kombat X as posted on the Mortal Kombat Community YouTube page.

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Nintendo Making Head Scratching Decisions

Nintendo has announced a new “Affiliate Program” for YouTube “Let’s Play” videos featuring any Nintendo content. Though Nintendo has yet to release all of the details on the new program what has been released is not good news for many YouTubers whose channels feature game related content. The affiliate program states that any ad revenue generated by a Let’s Play video will be divided up between Google and Nintendo. The creator of the content will have to ask for official permission from Nintendo to receive their share of the revenue.

Last year Nintendo started flagging all videos on YouTube featuring their content. This flagging was met with such disdain by the gaming community that Nintendo recanted and returned to letting YouTube users feature Nintendo content without consequence. It looks like Nintendo has modified their original idea. It may seem fair for Nintendo to get a share of the revenues earned from Let’s Play videos featuring their content but the thing is no other gaming entity engages in any practices similar to the “Affiliate Program.” Not even Sony nor Microsoft enforce any sort of revenue sharing for Let’s Play videos featuring proprietary content.

In fact every other gaming entity encourages Let’s Play videos. On top of being free advertising Let’s Play videos help create communities around the games by giving a deeper look into content that can not be easily displayed in a trailer or commercial. Gamespot just did a Let’s Play for the new Watch Dogs title and I am really glad they did because it shed a lot of light on just what kind of game Watch Dogs really was and it helped me decide if it was something I really wanted to play. To get right down to it Let’s Play videos have become a staple of the gamer community. YouTube host boogie2988 made an excellent point in a recent video about how most of the developers in gaming, big and small, are so excited for people to play their games they often ship them early to people who do Let’s Play videos so as many people as possible can enjoy their games.

It just seems counterintuitive for Nintendo to put this kind of restriction on its content. The “Affiliate Program” is going to discourage the creators of Let’s Play videos in favor of content with less restrictions. Nintendo will also go after reviews of their games and anyone displaying anything Nintendo related on YouTube. For a company that has lost almost half a billion dollars in the last year and has watched its newest console struggle to gain any kind of foothold in the gaming market alienating your fans makes no sense. Why would you tax people for giving you free advertising? Obviously this is a way for Nintendo to make some money. The question is will it be worth it in the long run? It is fairly likely people will stop wanting to do coverage of their games and products.

YouTubers with gaming channels reach huge audiences. Why would you do anything that could potentially diminish your presence within that audience? Especially when you are struggling. All I can say is it feels like every time I think Nintendo is starting to turn it around they do something like this. Nintendo has deep pockets so they aren’t going anywhere in the near future but actions like this “Affiliate Program” make them seem so out of touch with what is going on within the gaming community, a community they helped to create.

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Horror News

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The Evil Within Release Delayed

Highly anticipated horror title The Evil Within has seen its release date pushed back. Director of the title Shinji Mikami and his development team requested more time to polish the game. Publisher Bethesda Softworks included this quote with the delay announcement.

“Shinji Mikami and his team at Tango Gameworks have asked for additional time to further balance and refine the game in order to deliver the polished, terrifying pure survival horror experience they set out to create.”

Thankfully the new release date is only a few months so instead of a late August release we will see The Evil Within release in late October, just in time for Halloween. Also included in this announcement were details about in game perks rewarded to people who pre-order The Evil Within. Dubbed The Fighting Chance Pack here is what it comes with as listed on Bethesda Softworks home page.

  • Medical Kit – A vital health enhancement to enable Sebastian to fight on.
  • Green Gel – Used to upgrade Sebastian’s attributes.
  • Double Barrel Shotgun and Three Shells – A larger and more formidable shotgun than the regular shotgun, it’s useful for tight situations with multiple encroaching enemies.
  • An Incendiary Agony Bolt – Capable of showering nearby enemies with damaging fire sparks.
  • A Poison Agony Bolt – Will draw enemies towards it and poison them, allowing Sebastian time for a quick escape.

The Evil Within has been on everyone’s radar because the director of the game Shinji Mikami is the creator of the Resident Evil series and this new title is said to be his desire to return survival horror to its roots. From the different sources I have seen who have had the opportunity to go hands on with The Evil Within it sounds promising that Shinji and his team at Tango Gameworks will make good on their promise. If the game does live up to expectations it will be well worth the wait. The Evil Within is slated for release on PS3, PS4, XBOX 360, XBOX One and PC.

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Microsoft to Make Kinect Optional for XBOX One

Starting June 9th of this year you will be able to pick up an XBOX One sans the Kinect motion sensor. This is good news for many people who were turned off by the peripheral. For starters the Kinect-less XBOX One will be available for $399, dropping the cost by $100 and matching the price of its biggest competitor the PS4. More good news for XBOX One consumers is that the console supposedly will have its performance boosted by freeing up memory designated to running the Kinect.

This was a much desired concession made by Microsoft that critics of the Kinect have wanted since day one. However the decision seems to have been abrupt as multiple developers who were working on XBOX One and Kinect titles have expressed disdain. Everyone developing anything for the XBOX One less than a few weeks ago were under the impression that Kinect was a mandatory part of the system. Some developers are currently creating games that exclusively use Kinect controls and they will definitely see an impact on sales now that the Kinect install base will shrink. Even the XBOX One interface has been retooled as it was designed to function with the Kinect.

While removing the Kinect is a popular decision within the hardcore gaming community it still seems a shame that Microsoft has made it optional. I know that I was someone who in the beginning was fiercely opposed to the Kinect but now I feel like the last part of Microsoft’s identity has been lost. Games that specifically only use Kinect controls don’t necessarily appeal to me but I can’t help wondering now how a future XBOX One exclusive may have took advantage of the Kinect’s unique features to create an experience only available on the XBOX One.

There are a few reasons as to why Microsoft may have chosen to remove the Kinect so swiftly. The PS4 is still outselling the XBOX One and Titanfall didn’t turn out to be the system seller Microsoft hoped it would be. Forbes estimates that if current trends keep up the XBOX One will have close to half the install base of the PS4 by the holiday 2014 season. This information combined with the fact that XBOX One cost $100 more than the PS4 fueled the decision makers at Microsoft to make a drastic decision. Once the decision was made to make Kinect optional Microsoft felt it better to make the news public as quickly as possible as to dissipate some of the negativity that might have been associated with this move before E3.

I’m sure that the XBOX One will still have some amazing exclusive content without the Kinect and the price drop is definitely favorable. My concern now is that in removing the Kinect has the XBOX One become too similar to the PS4? With less to differentiate itself from the PS4 will the price cut be enough to persuade consumers away from the highly popular PS4? Finally does the removal of mandatory Kinect herald the end of motion gaming?

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Gamer News

Grand Theft Auto Online

Tuesday May 13th the High Life Update is finally set to arrive for GTA Online. The addition of new high-end properties and the ability to own more than one property including garages is something online players have been wanting since day one. Five new locations with new interiors have been added to the real estate of Los Santos. Three new cars will be available, the Zentorno, Massacro, and Huntley S. A new motorcycle the Dinka Thrust. There is a new weapon the Bullpup rifle. Fifteen new missions will be added as well as new high-life themed attire. A feature many fans of GTA’s races will take note of the new “non-contact” mode where racers will no longer be able to bump each other off the road. Traffic and other obstacles will still remain. New vehicle horns as well as new player salutes will be included in the High Life Update. Lastly a new Mental State stat will appear for all players. The is designed to show how passive or insane your fellow players are. 

Still glaringly missing are the heists promised for GTA Online from day 1. This update does add some much asked for additions, namely the new property and garage features. As someone who personally has really enjoyed GTA 5 and its online mode for what its worth, I can’t help but feel that the overall online experience including the updates has been far shallower than expected. GTA Online is far less populated by players now than when it was launched last September. Much of the mayhem and unprovoked hostility in GTA Online stems from this shallowness. There is little to no incentive for players to work together outside of certain missions and even then as soon as a mission is over it is fairly common for one player to murder another for the money they earned together on that same mission. These factors combined with a dwindling online community, mostly out of sheer boredom of repetition and a caustic peer to peer environment, make me think that Rockstar has dropped the ball on this one.

The next update after high life is supposed to be the one featuring heists. It just feels like too little too late. The large community that first participated in GTA Online has for the most part moved on. The updates have been mostly superficial and I’m curious to see that whenever the heists update finally does come out if that many people are really going to care. How many players are going to want to come back to GTA Online after playing every other aspect of it to death. I theorize that Rockstar might have an announcement regarding all of this at E3, probably regarding GTA on PS4 and XBOX One. Are you still excited to play the heists missions in GTA Online? Leave a comment below.

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Gamer News

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Ed Boon co-creator of Mortal Kombat has been tweeting cryptic messages that decipher into a countdown which ends on June 2nd. Needless to say their is a LOT of speculation going on. Is it a sequel to the well received Injustice: Gods Among Us title featuring DC Comics all stars? or is it the much rumored Mortal Kombat 10? Ed Boon is certainly having fun with fans with tweets like this.

It is possible that we may get an announcement for both Mortal Kombat 10 and Injustice 2. The good news is hopefully we will only have to wait 26 days to get to the bottom of this mystery. E3 starts June 7th so if Ed Boon does indeed have a new game announcement up his sleeve it might be only a few days before we get to see it in action. Recently production on a Classic Mortal Kombat HD remake was cancelled in favor of just porting the original titles with online support. Perhaps this announcement will shed some light on why the remake was cancelled.

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Gamer News

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Nintendo will not be holding a traditional conference at E3 for the second year in a row. Instead Nintendo is opting for a similar approach to last year’s E3. Nintendo will have a presence at E3 showing off new software and hardware on the showroom floor but instead of the traditional conference they will broadcast an E3 specific online special called the “Nintendo Digital Event.” Along with the “Digital Event” Nintendo will be broadcasting live all 3 days from E3 from the “Nintendo Treehouse.” Nintendo will also be holding a Super Smash Bros Tournament during E3 among 16 high skilled players. Like last year, Nintendo will again have a presence in Best Buys across the country. This year the new Smash Bros will be playable on the Wii U for fans to try at participating Best Buys nationally.

I think the original reasoning for Nintendo to take this approach last year had a lot to do with the extreme hype and momentum Sony and Microsoft were carrying into last year’s E3. It also had to do with the fact that the Wii U was tanking and overall Nintendo hardware sales were down. Opting out of a traditional conference felt like Nintendo bowing out of the ring to let Sony and Microsoft duke it out for console supremacy, and to an extant that is what happened. On the other hand this new approach by Nintendo is perhaps more clever than credited. The Wii U is still tanking. Even after Nintendo severely cut yearly sales expectations the Wii U still failed to meet the quota. It’s no secret that while the Nintendo DS is still selling well, Nintendo as a whole is hemorrhaging money.

Foregoing the traditional conference saves Nintendo money. By having a live Nintendo specific channel in the “Nintendo Treehouse,” Nintendo has guaranteed coverage of everything it wants to show off during the entirety of E3. They don’t have to rely on third party outlets like IGN or Rev3Games to provide coverage on their products. This way Nintendo can ensure anything and everything they want to show off will get full coverage. The downside is that it is largely possible the only people who will tune in to the “Nintendo Treehouse” are the hardcore Nintendo fans, people who already own the Wii U, and therefore a limited audience with limited potential to grow the console install base. Showcasing a new game at local Best Buys has more potential to reach a larger audience and is a cool way to try to share the E3 experience with people who may never get to go to the actual expo.

In the end Nintendo does have fairly deep pockets so it is unlikely they will be going anywhere soon. Will this new approach to E3 payoff in the long run? If nothing else at least Nintendo is making headlines by changing it up. I mean I wrote this post right here about it. There was a rumor circulating recently that Nintendo might unveil a new console this year and just cut their losses entirely with the Wii U. I find this really hard to believe as research and development for a new console is really expensive and Nintendo is no stranger to struggling hardware. Outside of the Wii, the N64 and the Gamecube both had modest install bases compared to their competitors. E3 2014 starts June 10th this year and thus another chapter in gaming is only a month away. Where Nintendo’s story goes from there is anyone’s guess.

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Gamer News

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In my last post about Wolfenstein: The New Order I had mentioned that some stealth elements would be present in the gameplay. Yesterday a new YouTube trailer was released on Bethesda Softworks official page and it sheds some light on just how stealth plays into Wolfenstein. The trailer subtitled Stealth Vs. Mayhem shows two alternate ways of approaching the same level. From the trailer it appears that stealth is actually quite viable and it appears more involved than previously believed. Using silencers and picking locks, protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz quietly progresses, dispatching unsuspecting enemies along the way. The mayhem approach is pretty self explanatory. Go in high profile with guns blazing, which admittedly looks like a lot of fun and probably the way I would play the game. A few high powered weapons are shown off as well as the ability to duel wield different weapons. Let’s be honest though hearing me describe this stuff isn’t nearly as fun as watching it for yourself so here is the link to Bethesda’s Official YouTube page so you can check it out for yourself. I would say the gameplay trailer is probably NSFW as it is pretty violent. You can read the disclaimer at the beginning of the video and decide for yourself. Wolfenstein is slated for a May 20th release for PS3, PS4, XBOX 360, XBOX One as well as on the PC and of course if you pre-order it you will be given access to the DOOM beta. For more on Wolfenstein: The New Order and games like it subscribe to Sonic Mercury’s mailing list at the bottom of the page.

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Gamer News

DOOM 4, New DOOM

No there is not a DOOM Wolfenstein hybrid game coming out soon but there is a connection.  Both titles are being published by Bethesda Softworks and if you pre-order Wolfenstein The New Order before May 20th you will gain access to the DOOM beta. May 20th is the date of the U.S. release. DOOM originally called DOOM 4 was announced in 2008 and has had a rocky development cycle with rumors indicating that a version of the game was completely scrapped in 2011. John Carmack former head of iD Software the developer of DOOM was the one who made the original announcement for this new DOOM game back in 2008 and recently left iD this past November to work exclusively at Oculus VR. It is also of note that iD Software had made it public that development on all other projects had been put on hold so the team could concentrate solely on finishing DOOM.

 

Wolfenstein The New Order once again finds series protagonist William “B.J.” Blazkowicz fighting against Nazi foes. Only this time “B.J.” wakes up in the 1960’s in a world where the Nazi’s won WWII. The New Order promises old school fps game play with plenty of nods to the original source material including familiar enemies and weapons as well as hidden pathways. Stealth elements have been added. Taking place in an alternate timeline and being a Wolfenstein game bizarre science fiction weapons and enemies will also be present. Here is a link to the gameplay trailer on the Bethesda Softworks YouTube homepage so that you can take a look for yourself. (NSFW Violence and Language) You can decide if you think it is worth it to pre-order Wolfenstein The New Order just to get some early hands on time with the new DOOM.

 

Personally I am excited to play both Wolfenstein and the new DOOM. Being someone who grew up with the original titles I think such storied franchises deserve a spot at the top again. I will say that the last title I played by iD Software Rage blew me away. It had its flaws. The story and characters could have been fleshed out a lot more. The loading times were a bit long and the overall game was way too short for me, mostly because I was having way too much fun. Overall though I thought the graphics were absolutely stunning. The weapons customization, in game physics and enemy AI made for highly entertaining and addictive game play. The character designs were highly detailed and I really enjoyed traversing the wasteland in custom vehicles it really added to the atmosphere of the world.

 

Rage came out 3 years ago and despite the previously mentioned flaws it still sets the bar pretty high. I’m very excited to see what a new iD Software game looks and plays like post Rage. On that same note I’m hesitant to get my hopes up. There have been many cases of long gestating games released in the last few years that have been sub par to say the least. So it is with guarded anticipation that I look forward to playing the newest entry in the DOOM series. Needless to say my fingers are crossed. Wolfenstein The New Order will be available on PS3, PS4, XBOX 360 and XBOX One.

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Horror News

Survival Horror

A new gameplay trailer for The Evil Within has surfaced. The trailer shows off many new areas including a forest suggesting the world for this new survival horror title may be more diverse then has been shown previously. Up until now The Evil Within appeared to take place all inside one building but it is now apparent that this is not the case. There is also a scene showing the main character walking towards a barn through a field of surreal sunflowers suggesting that our journey through the game may feature lapses in sanity. Many different creatures, monsters and other nasties can be seen as well.

 

The Evil Within is being developed by Bethesda Softworks and directed by Shinji Mikami the creator of the original Resident Evil Games. Mr. Mikami has previously stated that he was unhappy with the current state of survival horror games and began creation of The Evil Within with the intent of bringing the genre back to its roots. Mr. Mikami has also stated this will be the last game that he directs. According to the new trailer the release date for The Evil Within will be August 26th 2014. As this trailer was created for this weekend’s Pax East conference in Boston I think it is safe to assume this is the U.S. release date. It was speculated The Evil Within could potentially have been in development until 2015 so it is exciting to know we will be able to get our hands on this one sooner than later. Here is the link to the new trailer via the official Bethesda YouTube channel. The Evil Within. (NSFW – Violence and Blood)

 

I will say I definitely get an old-school Resident Evil vibe from the atmosphere in this trailer. The good news is we will only have to wait a few months to find out if this new title makes good on the promise of old-school survival horror. For more on The Evil Within and games like it subscribe to SonicMercury.com’s emailing list at the bottom of the page and subscribe to the links provided at the end of this article for even more updates.

 

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Gamer News

Grand Theft Auto Online

Rockstar has announced features for its upcoming spring update for Grand Theft Auto V Online. The first part of the update should be available next week according to Rockstar’s online social club. This will be a capture creator which will allow players to make their own custom capture missions. Players will be given options to choose whatever weapons, pick-ups, and other undefined variables as you see fit in these custom missions.

 

Also slated for spring is the High Life update. This update does not yet have specified release date but it promises more options for high end apartments. The High Life update also promises the ability for GTA V Online players to own 2 properties now complete with a second garage. Some new clothing items will come with the update as well as the Bullpup Rifle, Dinka Thrust motorcycle and 3 new high-end cars including the super class Pegassi Zentorno. But the most interesting part of this update is something called the Mental State player statistic. The Mental State statistic will allow players to see just how safe they really are around the players joining them in their online sessions.

 

Finally the long awaited heists are being promised in the spring updates for GTA Online. You will be able to team up with Crew members or other mercenaries on your mission to commit simulated grand larceny. Unfortunately there are still no specific dates so hopefully we see this date sooner than later. More holiday updates are promised to come for GTA Online and some story mode DLC is on the way for later this year.

 

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Gamer News

Oculus Rift, Sony's Project Morphues
Sony's Project Morpheus
Sony’s Project Morpheus: Image Courtesy of IGN

Sony has indeed been working on a Virtual Reality headset for the PS4. Titled Project Morpheus, I’m guessing a reference to the Matrix character of the same name, the new hardware was unveiled at this years Game Developers Conference or GDC. Amongst excitement for the announcement of this new hardware there have been several stories related to virtual reality unfolding in recent weeks.

 

First and foremost the acquisition of what logically would be the biggest competitor of Project Morpheus, the Oculus Rift was bought by Facebook for 2 billion dollars. A very impressive feat considering the Oculus Rift began inception as a kickstarter campaign. However pillars within the gaming community haven’t been so enthralled. The fear that this hardware with unknown potential to revolutionize gaming as we know it will now instead be reduced to a tool for collecting consumer information on people under the guise of “social networking” is very real.

The Oculus Rift sold to Facebook for $2 Billion
The Oculus Rift sold to Facebook for $2 Billion

The creator of the popular sandbox game Minecraft, Markus “Notch” Persson immediately cancelled development on a version of Minecraft for the Oculus Rift as soon as the deal with Facebook went through. Notch was quoted on twitter as saying “I just cancelled the deal. Facebook creeps me out.” Many others in the gaming community have expressed similar concerns. Most of the people who have already received development kits for the Oculus Rift are PC developers/enthusiasts who intended the device for gaming experiences.

 

Adam Sessler of Rev3Games made some good points on the future of virtual reality gaming as a whole. He said developing software specifically for hardware like the Oculus Rift will be expensive, especially early on while developers learn how the hardware works. The other thing to consider is at this moment both the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus are not available to public consumers. The starting price point of such hardware is as of now unknown and the relative number of people who can afford, let alone want a virtual reality headset is unknown. With all of that in mind it must be understood that developing full-fledged AAA titles for a virtual reality headset could still be many years down the line if ever.

 

For companies to even consider developing a full-fledged title to utilize virtual reality hardware the install base will have to be pretty high. Otherwise the effort simply isn’t cost effective. Instead Adam Sessler suggested that we should adjust our expectations of what virtual reality as a whole will be. It is more likely we will see applications made by smaller development teams with the goal of emphasizing different experiences, like exploration or  something like skydiving. There is also interest in virtual reality for aid in scientific and medical research as well.

 

Palmer Luckey the creator of the Oculus Rift assures fans that Facebook was the best choice for purchasing the rights to his hardware. Stating that if he had sold to Apple or Microsoft they would have gutted his company and used whatever parts they saw fit to appease their own agendas. Luckey says that Facebook has promised to leave his team intact and allow them the freedom they need to develop the Oculus Rift appropriately for consumers.

 

Be it Facebook’s Oculus Rift or Sony’s Project Morpheus it seems the age of virtual reality is upon us. The applications for gaming and otherwise seem quite promising. YouTube is already full of people who have modified current games to work on virtual reality hardware. To reference Morpheus from the first Matrix movie we will have to see if people take the blue pill and “wake up as if nothing has happened” or “take the red pill and see how far the rabbit hole goes.”

 

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Gamer News

VR Headset for PS4, Sony, PS4, console wars, sonicmercury,com

The Game Developers Conference or GDC begins March 17th in San Francisco. Surely there will be all kinds of fresh video game related news to report on. In the meantime I would like to shine light on a rumor floating around from multiple sources in the cyberspace right now regarding virtual reality. Of course the concept of virtual reality is nothing new having been the inspiration for hardware manufacturers and fictional mediums for many years. However the hype died down after a surge of interest in the late nineties as the tech just couldn’t meet expectations.

 

Over the last few years there has been a resurgence of interest in virtual reality. This resurgence was culminated by the emergence of the VR headset prototype the Oculus Rift. The hardware though flawed and a bit buggy was optimistically reviewed by many gaming enthusiasts and industry vets alike stating that with fine tuning, the Oculus Rift experience could potentially become a viable platform for exciting new applications for gaming and other software.

 

Current rumors suggest that Sony plans to enter the virtual reality arena. Supposedly not only has Sony been developing a virtual reality headset for some time now but multiple sources including Forbes, IGN and Gamespot suggest this new piece of hardware will be unveiled at this year’s GDC. Furthermore the Sony VR headset is said to be designed for use with the PS4 and that some developers have already had dev-kits for the new hardware for over a year now.

 

Recently I was able to have a hands on experience with the Oculus Rift VR headset playing a modified version of Slender. The graphics weren’t the best but the headset combined with a pair of headphones were very effective in conveying an interactive experience. Even in a crowded room it was really easy to become completely engrossed in the game. It actually was almost too easy to become entranced in the game and forget my surroundings. As someone who is always curious about new gaming hardware I found the immersion level of the Oculus Rift fairly impressive.

 

Sony’s rumored VR headset is supposedly superior to the Oculus Rift hardware. With GDC less than a week away hopefully some facts will emerge and we can shed some light on the truth behind these rumors soon. For more on this story and other gaming news subscribe to Sonic Mercury’s mailing list at the bottom of the page.

 

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