My Hopes For The Future Of Playstation

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I’ve been a fan of Playstation since the first, and I always find it interesting how Sony’s strategy for each console changes as time passes. Now, I’m not a blind Playstation fanboy as I primarily play on PC nowadays, but if I had to choose between Xbox or Playstation, I will pick Playstation purely because of the IP’s and exclusives available. This leaves me slightly torn, as Xbox has incredible value with their console with the Xbox Game pass – but none of their exclusive titles entice me, so I have no reason to make a console purchase.

The Playstation 5 is right around the corner and despite the rocky start of the PS3, Sony has been back on top throughout the PS4’s lifetime – almost harkening back to the Playstation 2 days. But that’s what has got me slightly cautious; Sony tends to get too big for their boots causing them to assume too much about the consumer. After the PS2 was a success, Sony completely dropped the ball when the PS3 released – taking years for the PS3 to start gaining traction after a huge marketing push.

If the rumours are true, we have some good PS5 launch titles on the horizon – primarily a new Insomniac Games title, a rumoured Demon Soul’s remake, and Gran Turismo 7. That being said, the make or break for many may be down to the backwards compatibility. It’s already confirmed to be PS4 backwards compatible, which is a huge plus. A big bombshell would be the announcement of PS1-4 backwards compatibility. Imagine being able to put any Playstation game into your PS5 and being able to play it – no game being stuck behind the console generation they were originally released on. It’s always been a pain to have to find the Playstation 2 or 3 when you fancy playing games on that particular console, let alone having a TV that supports the input cables for the PS2. It would be a total game-changer, no pun intended.

PS Now and Xbox Backwards Compatibility has already shown that there is a huge demand for the convenience that backwards compatibility offers, and I feel omitting this from the next console generation will hurt Sony in terms of selling points in the long run. The PS5 is rumoured to be revealed in February, so not long until we find out the full details.

LittleBigPlanet Restitched’s Fatal Flaw

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LittleBigPlanet is a franchise that has been dormant ever since the release of the third instalment in 2014, and despite the lukewarm reception of the game, the community surrounding has been relatively alive. This weekend, a group of fans (or development team) announced that they will be creating a LittleBigPlanet fan-game to revive the series – on PC.

As a fan of the franchise since the first game, I am surprised to how much progress the team has made with the development of their project. In the trailer, it appears Trixel Creative have a lot of the basics nailed down – but they’ve made one critical flaw in their development process. What is that flaw? Announcing it at all before release.

Every time a fan project or fan game, whether it be P.T, Mario, Red Dead Redemption or LittleBigPlanet, they all seem to make the same mistake. Announcing that you are developing a fan game or ambitious mod using other companies IP before release gives the rights holder ample time to throw over a quick DMCA – stopping you dead in your tracks.

The ones that actually see the light of day are the ones that announce and release their projects at the same time. Giving enough time for those interested to download it and redistribute it should you be asked to take the original down.

I’m sure Media Molecule, the original developers, are intrigued to see where this project will go – as am I. Fans have always wanted the option to play and create levels on PC – but the reality of the situation is that Sony owns the rights to the LittleBigPlanet IP and it will be no surprise when this project gets shut down. It sucks but they are well within their right to do so. They have to protect their intellectual property or they may weaken their stance on other cases in future.

What’s my suggestion? When the DMCA from Sony inevitably comes through, I recommend Trixel Creative removes any naming or visuals that relate it to LittleBigPlanet and create a spiritual successor to the franchise using original characters. That way, they will be able to keep developing their project without fear of legal repercussions. They clearly have a lot of talent and passion behind them so I would love to see what they eventually do come out with – And who knows, maybe it will be better because of it…

The Fall & Rise of Star Wars: Battlefront II

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It’s no secret that when EA’s Star Wars Battlefront 2 launched in 2017 it was met with an high amount of controversy – due to its monetization through its overabundance of loot boxes and pay to win elements. Even reaching the most downvoted comment in Reddit’s history as EA continued to defend the practice through their (now infamous) “pride and accomplishment” line. We are now nearing two years since its release and to the surprise of many, the game is still being actively supported by the developers. The majority of people are probably unaware of these positive changes due to the initial controversy, but it begs the question – Is the game good now? Let’s take a look.

Shortly after the initial launch DICE added some Last Jedi tie-in content which consisted of wrapping up the unfinished campaign and a new map from the movie. The updates in the forthcoming months were very minimal, being drip-fed to the community, with just a few cosmetics and minor changes being made. It wasn’t until March 2018 where the progression system was overhauled that real progress in the right direction was being made. The game was no longer pay to win, and you were rewarded for playing the game. But was it too little, too late though? The launch “hype” had long since ended, and the community only had a development roadmap to base their expectations off.

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Crait – The Last Jedi tie-in map.

E3 2018 rolled around, where DICE announced several additions to the game which were received rather positively – including General Grievous, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Count Dooku being playable within the game. As well as the much-requested Battle of Geonosis. Finally, the prequels were getting the attention they deserved as one of the most iconic battles of the prequel trilogy was being added to the game. Later that year they were implemented as promised, and that is when Star Wars fans (myself included) started to take interest in the game again. When the Geonosis update was announced the game went on sale at an incredibly discounted price in an attempt to reel new players in. Did it work? The simple answer is: Yes. 2018 showed the Battlefront community that DICE were listening, and (to the surprise of many) still supporting the game after the failed launch.

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The Battle of Geonosis Update

The updates did not stop in 2019, straight off the bat Anakin Skywalker was added to the game as a playable character, to the joy of many. Shortly after, a new game mode named “Capital Supremacy” was revealed, reminiscent of the classic Battlefront games, having players capture command posts across the map. Throughout the year more and more maps have been included in the new game mode, with balance patches to back them up along the way. DICE even revealed a new co-op game mode that saw players fighting off AI enemies as they defend strategic points on the map. All of these additions were received positively by the community. As 2019 comes to a close, it has been heavily hinted there will be Rise of Skywalker content on the way to tie-in to the new movie. How long the game will be supported afterwards has yet to be seen.

Many of the players (myself included) appreciate the efforts made by DICE to support the game, and it makes you wonder that if it weren’t for the controversy around the initial launch; would the game have been supported as much? The shocking amount of updates released almost make it seem like an apology, or to try and redeem the Battlefront brand. In my opinion, their strategy has paid off as it seems to have racked up a respectable amount of players over the past two years and shows little sign of stopping. Is it as good as the classic Pandemic Battlefront games? Nope. Do I wish that we had a game that had ground-to-space battles akin to the cancelled Battlefront 3? Yes. Do I think DICE are listening and may attempt that in the future? Only time will tell. I hope they build on what they’ve already made as well as take inspiration from the classic games if they do decide to do a third instalment to the rebooted franchise.

Destiny 2: Love at First (Second) Sight?

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Destiny 2 received a major expansion earlier this, and with it arrived a soft relaunch of the game. On top of the release of Shadowkeep, where players find themselves returning to the Moon for the first time since Destiny 1, the game received a new update named “New Light”. But what is New Light? New Light is Bungie’s dubbed name for the game transitioning from Battle Net to Steam, as well as going entirely free to play. This change seems to have breathed new life into the player base, resurging the community considerably by drawing in both new players and returning veterans alike – myself included. In order to get the most amount of players on board, Bungie has put every player at the same level so no players feel left behind and can immediately jump into the new expansions if they wish to. I’ve put in about 20 hours into the game since this update, despite being put off since its launch in 2017, and these are my thoughts.

Right off the bat, I came to realize they’ve brought back the tutorial level from Destiny 1, obviously to ease newer players into the experience rather than trying to throw them headfirst into the main campaign – which I appreciate. I didn’t feel as alienated as I did when I played the beta two years ago as a result. So far so good. Shortly after I partied up with some friends and did some Strikes as well as the Red War campaign – and three things stuck out to me that I really liked: the music, the feel of the gunplay, and the presentation. The game is visually beautiful, particularly the lighting. Easily some of the best lighting I’ve seen in a videogame, which is funny considering most of the plot and lore is based around the concept of Light and Dark. Secondly, the orchestral score is intense and plays well with the action on screen and adds to the experience immensely in my opinion. Ramping up and fading out at the right times. Lastly, the gunplay. In both PVE and PVP, it feels satisfying to kill enemies – my only major gripe being that campaigns are laughably easy due to the level boost given in the most recent update. This problem is nullified on harder missions or on Nightfall missions where you have to strategize with your squad in order to survive – which in my opinion is where most of the appeal of Destiny 2 comes from.

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Destiny 2: Shadowkeeep

I briefly played a raid with a combination of friends and random people we found online, and it soon became apparent that they were extremely challenging and required good coordination – and definitely something that cannot be completed with a bunch of random strangers like we were. In my eyes, the raids (and dungeons) are the ultimate challenges to the players in Destiny 2 and thus provide the most satisfying gameplay. I’m keen to learn some of the raids and give them another go, and hopefully complete them in the future due to the intensity of them, on top of the previously mentioned satisfying gunplay and interesting locales.

I believe this move by Bungie to make Destiny 2 free-to-play, as well as moving it to Steam was the correct one to make. Not only were existing players greeted by the Shadowkeep expansion (which I have yet to play), newer players also had a reason to try it out without spending a dime – letting players who liked the look of it, but didn’t feel like it justified a purchase beforehand the chance to properly try it out. For all of the above reasons, I commend Bungie’s efforts and look forward to what else they have in store for the Destiny franchise.

Hitman 2: The Last Resort – Impressions

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The second, and final DLC map for Hitman 2 dropped yesterday – where 47 finds himself at a tropical resort for criminals who want to disappear. The map was highly anticipated by Hitman fans, myself included, so the real question is… how does it hold up? Like my previous Hitman post, this will be a “first impressions” as I’ve only played through the level in its entirety once. 

Right off the bat, I was impressed with the briefing and opening sequence to the level, it seems like the expensive CGI cutscenes are still gone (for now) but it appears IO have played into what works best to takes its place – that being a combination of in-engine character models and a futuristic, almost James Bond-esque presentation style.

Once I was in the level, I found it intriguing how close they put one of the three targets to the starting zone. If you’d like, you can have a conversation with the target who then mentions your “file” that you used to enter the island (a cover story mentioned in the briefing). At this point, I was certain that this person knew about 47’s alias and was about to rumble him, but she just politely says to read the note in your room. I went into the wrong room and stole a briefcase and left. Not sure why to be honest. Anyway, soon after I grabbed the key to my hut and read the note, which I suspected was going to be a bomb before I saw it. It wasn’t. It said to go to a restaurant on another part of the island – so I started to make my way there.

My first playthrough of levels I have “mission stories” set to “minimal” so I’m not guided where to go, so I wandered around a bit and took in some of the ambience and atmosphere that IO Interactive put into the island. There was some incredible attention to detail, with little touches of character here and there, such as a bar with a party going on, and a spa. Eventually, I made met up with the target and she says she noticed you were listed as a retired thief in your file, and that she wants you to retrieve an item from the villa – I thought this was an incredibly nice touch. Incorporating some previously mentioned information into the actual level, and not only that, from a target? In your mind it sounds perfect; accept the “quest” from your target, so you can get close to them later and possibly open up a kill opportunity later. It’s definitely a different and compelling scenario that’s shaking things up for the better.

The rest I will not spoil, however the way the level was presented both in terms of design, and environmental clues were superb. I was expecting a downgrade due to the unfortunate lacking sales of Hitman 2, but I was wrong. It seems like money doesn’t buy talent. Talent makes talent. And this is a perfect example of that. The whole map has different interiors and exteriors, including villas, swimming pools, spas, huts, and an underground server room – all of which were brimming with opportunities for exploration and creative uses for the player. Personally, I had to reload a couple of times due to messing up, but I never felt like it was unfair, or I didn’t know where to go. An all-round well-made level and I look forward to playing more of it soon.

Lucas Grey & Agent 47 – Potential co-op?

But what’s for the future of Hitman? I believe they’ll continue adding smaller content to Hitman 2 for now, before properly unveiling Hitman 3 which was already been confirmed to be in development. In my opinion, I’m hoping they fix some of the technical hitches on Hitman 2, such as DirectX 12 crashing, the ability to transfer unlocks from Hitman 2, and possibly co-op due to the ending of the DLC being heavily set-up for a Hitman 3 – and it makes sense. Being able to play whole levels with a friend infinitely increases replayability – If true, I cannot wait.

Despite all of the hitches behind the scenes, and disappointing sales, in my opinion, it’s never been a better time to be a Hitman fan. Pick this up if you get the chance.

What is a “Strand” Game?

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Tokyo Game Show 2019 was last week, and with that Hideo Kojima fans were greeted with a special treat – that being over 49 minutes of Death Stranding gameplay. Those who have been following the development of the game, as well as Kojima in general, may have noticed him touting that his new game is the “first of a new genre” – specifically the “Strand” genre. But what is a “Strand” game…?

Of course, I would like the preface that this depends on how much you believe Kojima’s claims – as a big fan myself even I’ve come to realise some of his innovations tend to not be as grandiose or advanced as he initially says. But for the sake of this article, I’m going to assume he’s right – taking in all the gameplay and interviews for the game I’m going to be giving my analysis of what a “Strand” game may consist of.

Before the gameplay reveal, Death Stranding was thought to be a lonely game that’s completely single player, with a lot of walking involved – and it still is. However, it appears you will have a lot of connection between other players, as well as characters within the game – Kojima refers to these as “Strands”. From what I gathered in the gameplay demo, everything you leave behind, build, or even walk to will have some sort of ripple effect and has a chance of appearing in another players world. As you progress through the game you will connect different points on the map, and more and more strands will be created. Furthermore, the additional strands that you create in the game increase the strands (connection) between other players. Allowing you to see ladders left behind, luggage dropped, structures built – these will all be seen by other players playing the game. You may even be thrown an item or two during boss fights. You can either use these to your advantage or just ignore them…

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Using a ladder to cross a ravine.

There is also a rating system in place, allowing players to “Like” structures or objects left by “other Sams” within the game. According to Kojima, you can even upgrade these things for your fellow players, it’s up to you. Towards the end of his presentation, he highlights how you can see other players footprints, and if you follow them, it may eventually form a visible path for yourself and other players – and after a long period, a road. To me, that’s incredibly interesting and I’m very curious as to how that will work, as it seems the more they’re used, the bigger they become.

If I had to summarize what a “Strand” game is, it’s reminiscent of what the notes in Dark Souls did for the experience, but fleshed out into a full game and more involved. Kojima highlighted the main part of the experience is that you are meant to “feel alone, but not alone” and that you’re meant to be able to feel that you’re not the only “Sam” going on this journey – from East to West. Whether it is its own genre and will evolve into something even bigger – we have yet to find out. Either way, it’s going to be fascinating how much the playing experience is going to differ from player to player. November 8th cannot come soon enough.

Overwatch Role Queue: My Thoughts

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Following up from my post a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d make another expressing my thoughts and opinions on the new changes in Overwatch, specifically the new Role Queue feature. It’s currently in beta, however, it seems to have changed the game fundamentally in many ways, and it’s not always for the better in my opinion.

I briefly touched upon a few of these points (or fears) in the previously mentioned post, talking about how it stops any interesting team compositions to be formed and may lead every match to play out similarly – causing the overall experience to be quite repetitive. In my opinion, it appears all of these points turned out to be true. There’s no tactical switching to throw off the enemy team, or any “crazy” composition that “sounds so crazy it might work” kind of deals any more. It also seems to have caused an increase in toxicity (in my experience) from teammates; with a role tag slapped on everyone it becomes very easy to point fingers at teammates who you may not feel are doing what you would do – and even If that were true, there’s no way to swap roles, so it just creates frustration.

A counter-argument that I can see being made is the fact that due to this limitation, it’s now easier for Blizzard to balance the game since there’s a lesser chance of a broken setup. While true, I do not believe and have never believed that Overwatch has been a balanced game, which is why I see the whole “Overwatch League” that I’ve mentioned in a previous article to be completely forced and ludicrous. There are too many glaring issues with the game at the foundation where it can never be a truly balanced and competitive game in my opinion. A very small numbers of games are, saying that. However, Overwatch, even less so. Especially with characters like Mei in the game, who seems to go untouched by Blizzard despite being suitable in almost any situation. Just my opinion.

To wrap up, as much as I hated the flaws of the old system of having random teammates refusing to switch roles, or work with the team, this Role Queue change makes the game even worse: Boring.