Tagged: #E32017

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‘Monster Hunter Worlds’ preview

Monster Hunter has long been one of the most beloved gaming franchises in Japan. The action role-playing game series sends players (alone or working with friends) on a hunt for massive, imaginatively designed monsters. They engage in intense, visceral battles in order to loot the monsters’ corpses for parts that can be processed into powerful gear.

The series has been steadily growing its Western following with each release, and as the first entry in the series to have a simultaneous worldwide release (as opposed to first coming out in Japan), Monster Hunter World aims to take its popularity to a whole new level. We recently watched a live, commentated demonstration on the E3 show floor, with one of the game’s programmers on the hunt.

We’re gonna need a bigger platform

Monster Hunter Worlds also marks a major return to consoles after primarily residing on mobile platforms for the last decade. Although the series originated on PlayStation 2 and has had iterations on Wii, Wii U, and PS3, these have generally been remasters of handheld versions, and often have not seen a release outside of Japan. Western audiences have primarily come to know the franchise on 3DS. While being on handheld platforms has hardly meant sacrificing depth, focusing the development of Monster Hunter Worlds solely on PS4, Xbox One, and PC allows for an increase of scope for the famously deep games.

Apart from the expected visual upgrade, that extra hardware oomph is being put to use in making larger and more systemically complicated environments. “Living, breathing ecosystems” was the phrase used by developers to describe this new approach to design, and you’ll agree that it’s entirely apt once you’ve seen the game in action. Reminiscent of Horizon Zero Dawn[1], the environments really fewl like living places that exist independently of the player. They’re layered with interlocking parts that could be exploited to the hunter’s advantage.

For instance, our hunter ran past a group of grazing, herbivorous dinosaurs in a stream early on. Out from the shrubbery leapt what looked like a giant iguana, which swallowed one of the grazers whole, like a python, as the others scattered. He then followed it as it dragged its distended belly upstream and regurgitated some of its kill for a few babies that came scampering out of the shadows. It was a neat series of events, and totally unscripted.

That was a more incidental interaction, but these sorts of organic interplays can also be used to the player’s advantage. Our hunter’s main quarry was a giant T. Rex-type monster, but at one point he led it into the raised nest of a giant flying beast that promptly attacked it in a Ray Harryhausen-style clash of titans.  There was also a moment when the target was temporarily stunned on the ground, and several nearby, smaller dinosaurs took advantage of the opening to run in and nip at it.

Again, this wasn’t the product of a scripted set piece, and the hunter didn’t even seem to plan on it happening –it was just a byproduct of the environment being populated by free-acting, intelligent agents. These larger and more dynamic maps, which layer more immersion on top of an already rich base experience, are probably the defining feature that separates Monster Hunter Worlds from previous series entries.

Jaegermeisters

The core Monster Hunter experience, however, remains unscathed. Despite speculation to the contrary, Monster Hunter Worlds is not an open-world game — the action still took place in a discrete level under a time limit — but its environments are substantially larger than in previous entries.

All 14 series weapons return, each of which possesses its own distinct style, rhythm, and tactics. The hunter in our demo primarily wielded the great sword, which had an almost Dark Souls-like rhythm of dodging and swooping in to find openings and land devastating blows. Later on, he popped back to camp and switched to the heavy bowgun, which is like a bolt-firing minigun. He used a variety of ammo types, such as stunning prey with a delayed explosion, or a devastatingly powerful blast — but only at very close range. He also made good tactical use of clothing, sometimes throwing on a ghillie suit for stealth, or a heavy cloak for greater stability when trying to land a point-blank shot with the bowgun.

All this tactical richness is compounded by the addition of multiplayer. Where previous titles in the series partitioned multiplayer and single-player missions from one another, Worlds will be the first to allow for seamless multiplayer. If someone is having a hard time with a particular hunt, they can send up a signal that they’re looking for help and be joined by either friends or strangers to take down the beast together. Cooperative play has long been a central pillar of the Monster Hunter franchise, but Worlds promises to make it more seamless than ever before.

The Monster Hunter franchise has been steadily growing in global popularity, but Monster Hunter Worlds could take it to a whole new level by bringing in mainstream console gamers. We’re excited to hunt monsters from our couch again on PS4 and Xbox One in early 2018. It will head to PC soon after.

References

  1. ^ Horizon Zero Dawn (www.digitaltrends.com)
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‘Dragon Ball FighterZ’ plays like it looks, and it looks awesome

‘Dragon Ball FighterZ’ is the playable Dragon Ball cartoon we’ve always wanted.

Few cartoon franchises lend themselves better to fighting games than Dragon Ball. Akira Toriyama’s manga, and its various animated spin-offs, has grown to be one of the most beloved anime franchises in the world, telling an inter-dimensional tale of super-powered fighters hurling each other through mountains or, in some cases, just yelling and clenching while they jack themselves up to increasingly absurd levels of power[1].

Many of the series’ narrative arcs revolve around huge fighting tournaments, so it’s not remotely a stretch to port that directly into a classic fighting game. We’ve seen many adaptions over the years, including the Xenoverse franchise, but Bandai Namco’s latest effort, Dragon Ball FighterZ, feels special. We had a chance to play a few rounds on the show floor at E3 recently and chat with producer Tomoko Hiroki via translator.

First, a point of clarification: the game’s title is pronounced “Dragon Ball Fighters,” not “Dragon Ball Fighter Zee.” This was our first question, evoking a chuckle from the translator, who said they’d anticipated people asking that in particular.

Kameha…

Dragon Ball FighterZ’s aesthetic is instantly striking. Every Dragon Ball game has riffed on the anime’s classic look, but many have tried to do so with 3D graphics — and fallen short. FighterZ is different. It manages to replicate the anime with such detail that you’ll immediately assume its a 2D game. It’s not. Look close enough and you’ll see a polygon here or there, but the flaws are very hard to spot.

All of the Saiyan characters (Goku, Vegeta, and Gohan in the demo we played) start out in their enhanced Super-Saiyan form right from the get-go. Basic special attacks have characters hurling crackling balls of energy the size of a car across the screen. The action is relentless and flashy right from the start of the match, evoking the series’ climactic battles.

dragonball fighterz review dragonballfighterz

Capturing the show’s aesthetic was one of the major design goals for the team. “Recently, a lot of games have been going for a very realistic look,” Tomoko Hiroki explained. “But you can probably tell that this has a very high end animation quality that’s quite different from a lot of the AAA titles that are all around us.”

The game’s character roster draws from across the franchise’s extensive history. “We haven’t really chosen characters from specific points [in the series], rather we wanted to make it really broad, so a really broad generation will be able to enjoy the game.” The version we played included Goku, Gohan, Vegeta, Cell, Freeza (in his final form), and Majin Buu (in his portly form). Hiroki would not confirm any other characters, but we expect to see fan favorites like Piccolo, Trunks, and Android 18 (and hopefully some deeper cuts as well, such as Garlic Jr.).

…me…

The game plays much like another flashy, 2D fighting game: Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Hiroki admitted as much, telling us that MvC3 was a major reference for the game’s development.

At the start of a match, players pick three fighters to form their team. Only one is active at a time, but your teammates can be called in to help with special attacks, or swapped out, tag-team style. This adds a strategic consideration of not just choosing a fighter with whom you are fluent, but also assembling a team that will complement each other well. It allows for interesting play and counter-play, such as swapping in your more nimble fighter to counter a powerful but lumbering opponent.

The action is relentless and flashy right from the start of the match, evoking the anime’s climactic battles. 

The control scheme was simple, with the four face buttons mapped to light, medium, heavy, and special attacks. As with MvC3, much of the complexity and tactical depth comes from the interplay of different characters, rather than having overly elaborate move-sets and form-changes for each individual fighter. “We wanted to make a rather simple battle system,” explained Hiroki, “but make it deeper, so that fighting game players will be able to enjoy it.” Making a game that appeals equally to hardcore fighting game fans and casual Dragon Ball fans was a “main goal for this title.”

Hiroki even has her sights set on cultivating serious, competitive play. “We’re strongly considering EVO [the fighting game tournament], and that’s on our mind the whole time we’re developing the game, so we’re hoping to hear a lot of user feedback.”

…HA!!!!

Dragon Ball FighterZ was a standout in Microsoft’s press conference,  mostly thanks to its vibrant visuals. After getting our hands on it for a few rounds, we’re happy to report that the gameplay lives up to the look, capturing the accessibility and tactical depth of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 — one of our favorite fighting games. Dragon Ball FighterZ will come to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in early 2018, with a closed console beta coming later this summer.

References

  1. ^ absurd levels of power (www.youtube.com)
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‘Knack 2’ atones for the mistakes of its simplistic predecessor

The new ‘Knack’  mends the original’s lack of challenge without losing the game’s charm. 

Knack has had a rough time of it. A family-friendly platformer released in 2013 as a launch title for the PlayStation 4, the game was largely panned for its lack of new ideas, and for being easy to the point of boredom (although our own review[1] was one of the more generous).

The gaming community was somewhat perplexed at the announcement of its sequel, scheduled to release on September 5, 2017, again as a PS4 exclusive. We played through a level at Sony’s recent media showcase event to see whether Knack 2 can make up for its ill-received predecessor.

Paddy-whack

Knack, the game’s title character, is an anthropomorphic assemblage of ancient relics, capable of growing or shrinking in size as he absorbs or spits out more relics into his composite body. His capabilities vary with his size, being more nimble while small, and more powerful while large, forming a shield to block attacks, or throwing out flurries of punches. The player can switch between modes with a button press at any time, as the situation demands. The level we played was a mix of light platforming and brawling.

One of the first game’s most common criticisms was that, in the pursuit of making it as accessible as possible to any player, the developers expunged any challenge. We are happy to report that, playing at the second of three difficulty levels, Knack 2 does in fact feel like a real game.

e3 games preview knack 2

Although the brawling sections in the level we played never presented any challenges, several of the platforming bits required a few attempts to perfect the timing between platforms, and through opening and closing doors. Series creator Mark Cerny has returned to lead the sequel as well. A veteran of early 2000s 3D platforming classics like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, Cerny brings that pedigree to bear on his newer work.

Bring a friend

We also had the chance to try some two-player co-op. A friend can seamlessly jump in and out at any point in the story. When they do, a blue clone of Knack emerges from his body with all of the same capabilities.

An added power of co-op is that either player can teleport to the other with the press of a button. This mitigated some of the challenge in the platforming sections, as only one of us needed to make it through for both of us to succeed. That will help two players at different skill levels enjoy the game together.

Much like the first game, Knack 2’s visuals look great, taking full advantage of the PS4’s powerful hardware. The characters are stylized and cartoony, but the textures and environments are realistic, presenting a bright, colorful, and inviting world. Knack himself, being composed of a variable amount of small and detailed objects, is particularly impressive, feeling almost like the great grandson of Vectorman.

3D platformers are having a moment right now, with new titles like Super Lucky’s Tale[2] and Yooka-Laylee[3] set alongside remasters like the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy[4] and Ratchet & Clank[5]When Knack 2 arrives exclusively on PS4 on September 5, 2017, we’ll find out whether Knack will join the canon of platforming greats, or wither away in derivative obscurity.

References

  1. ^ our own review (www.digitaltrends.com)
  2. ^ Super Lucky’s Tale (www.digitaltrends.com)
  3. ^ Yooka-Laylee (www.digitaltrends.com)
  4. ^ Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (www.digitaltrends.com)
  5. ^ Ratchet & Clank (www.digitaltrends.com)
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Microsoft’s new Xbox One X reveal marks the start of E3 gaming expo

E3 to the power of X

The big annual video game expo E3 is getting under way in Los Angeles, but there was plenty of big news over the weekend. Top of the list: the new Microsoft Xbox One… X. Yes, X, not S. And yes, it’s got it where it counts: 12 gigs of GDDR RAM, a six-teraflop GPU, full 4K and HDR output, and, perhaps surprisingly, it’s smaller than the Xbox S. But perhaps the biggest feature is how the X Xbox will make your old games even better.[1][2]

Microsoft says the new console will play all your old Xbox and Xbox One games, and all that new horsepower will help make those games look better than ever. Additionally, all your old gear – controllers, headsets, and so on – will work on the new machine, so you won’t have to “re-buy” a bunch of new stuff. Check out our full coverage of the Xbox X at this link[3], and start saving up: it’s going to hit stores and online retailers on November 7th for $500.

Fly like an eagle, battle Darth Maul

Sticking with E3 now, there was, of course, no shortage of new game announcements, and we’ve piled all the best trailers into one big bucket for you to enjoy. Check out gameplay and cinematics for Bioware’s Anthem, the latest version of Assassin’s Creed, which takes place in ancient Egypt and the super dark Metro Exodus from 4A games. Man, stay off the subwayS in Moscow!

And we didn’t forget the new Star Wars Battlefront 2, which features some amazing action and takes place in the time frame between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. This version of Battlefront looks better than ever. We’ve got much more to show you, including Crackdown 3, Sate of Decay 2, and The Evil Within 2, so hit this link[4] and be sure to take it all in full screen with some good cans on.

Suddenly less Essential

If you’ve been saving your nickels for Any Rubin’s new “Essential” Android smartphone, we have some… not-so-great news for you. USA Today talked to Essential’s president[5] Noccolo de Masi and came away with this essential fact: the new phone will only be available on the Sprint network in the US. Why? Apparently they weren’t able to close deals with the top carriers ahead of the phone’s release.

It’s actually a fairly complicated matter, but the short version is this: what looks like a cool phone that couples with a matched smarthome hub and a slick 360-degree camera is going to hit the US market with a severe carrier handicap right out of the gate. There are rumblings that Sprint and T-Mobile could merge at some point, which would of course broaden the base for the phone, but for the moment… well, good luck, Andy.

But hey, if you’re a Sprint customer right now and you’re ready to upgrade, you can get started on Rubin’s “Essential” ecosystem for $700 for the phone and just $50 more for the matched 360-degree camera… all due out later this summer.

References

  1. ^ E3 is getting under way in Los Angeles (www.digitaltrends.com)
  2. ^ got it where it counts (www.digitaltrends.com)
  3. ^ at this link (www.digitaltrends.com)
  4. ^ so hit this link (www.digitaltrends.com)
  5. ^ USA Today talked to Essential’s president (www.usatoday.com)
       
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