Tag Archives: Sony

The Cutting Edge of Video Games…

Purple Box of Wonder…in 2001.

Yep, after fearing it lost forever in the great house cleaning of aught-11, the redoubtable Mrs Rolling Eyeballs managed to unearth Nintendo’s happy purple Gamecube from it’s most recent resting place and reinstate it to our lovely CRT telly, where it belongs.  The lesson to be drawn from this?  Tidying is for suckers – don’t do it, kids.

That golden era of titles like “Burnout 2: Point of Impact”, “Metroid: Prime” and “Zoocube” is even now being relived, via the medium of extended controller cables and an in-the-mail memory card from those nice folks at a popular online retailer.

Given that our platform-owning overlords are now seemingly bent on making us pay and re-pay to enjoy titles from back in the day by removing backwards-compatibility from video games consoles, my next course of action is to head into town and pick up a PS2 to enjoy some of the earlier Sony titles I missed first time around (and so that Mrs Rolling Eyeballs can enjoy other iterations of her beloved, Criterion Games-developed “Burnout” franchise).

Retro? No, I just love the classics…

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PS4 – new tech and shiny dragons

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Killzone: Shadow Fall” image via US Playstation Blog

Hmm…orange.

So, Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4 system last night amidst hoopla, fancy curved video screens and more new media waffle than I could parse early this morning.

What I gleaned from the talk about sharing, convergence and new experiences was that the new system is powerful (so what else is new?), designed with social media integration in its DNA (witness the sharing button built into the new DualShock controller) and that all that horsepower, invention and design has been pressed into service to make a new “Killzone” and “Drive Club”,  which looks quite like “Forza” only shinier.

So, iteration rather than innovation?  Possibly. But, is that so terrible?

Apple and Samsung have made phat stacks of cash from users willing to drop hundreds of pounds every year on a slightly curved version of the same mobile phone they bought previously, so why shouldn’t the console makers choose to unveil a system which makes every thing look a bit better, sound nicer and have moderately more realistic animation?

Capcom’s “Deep Down” – Here Be Shiny Dragons…

This was a curious event, really.  Lots of cheer leading for the slightly tarnished Sony brand, which emphasised the console maker’s strong points – innovation, engineering, production values – and pitched the new system as being able to seamlessly interface with those new-fangled tablets and smartphones whose ubiquity and quick play convenience have delivered a drubbing to the Japanese gaming giant’s own PS Vita handheld console.

It isn’t just Nintendo and Microsoft that Sony have to take on this time – it’s a sector of casual gaming which really didn’t exist when the PS3 debuted and which seems to have won the hearts, minds and wallets of “Angry Birds” addicts who would run a mile from being described as (cough, spit!) a gamer.

Can the core experience likes of Capcom’s intense-looking RPG “Deep Down”, dark superhero spin-off “Infamous: Second Son” and new Media Molecule quirkiness do the business and convince the public that they need Sony in their living room again? Will E3 bring us something as crazy and absurd as a look at the actual console – what do you call a console reveal which doesn’t actually show you the hardware?

And what do Microsoft have up their sleeves (so long as somebody from MS keeps Don Mattrick safely backstage at their press event and away from a teleprompter, I’ll be a happy man) to change the game anew?

 

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PS4 Hype Train? All aboard!

PS4 devkit and new controller image via T3.com

Hype level critical?  Video Games forum posting privileges not revoked?  A much-loved, custom Jack Tretton action figure clutched to your ample bosom?  Your best “Rii-iii-iii-ddd-ggg-eee R-aaa-ccc-eee-rrr!” impersonation ready to be unleashed?

Yep, you’re ready for tonight’s PlayStation press conference and the awe-inducing technology bound to be revealed as the latest iteration of the PlayStation console (are we still calling it Orbis?) makes its worldwide public debut tonight in New York – just as I go to bed, in fact:  I hardly dare guess how large the NeoGaf threads will be by tomorrow morning…

Expect the motion-sensor DualShock pictured above to feature, some increased online functionality to be embedded in the system, heavily rumoured game streaming tech from Gakkai to solve the backwards compatibility issue which bedevils new games consoles and all manner of widgetry to take advantage of those tablets and smartphones which were but so much vapour when the PS3 made its debut in 2007.

In conclusion?   I am, in the parlance of the young people, like so totes stoked, yeah?

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PS4 – 20/02/2013?

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Cryptic, much?

In a bid to steal a march not only on Microsoft’s next Xbox console, but also the encroaching threats presented by both Valve’s Steambox and whatever the tablet/phablet scene offers up next, once dominant gaming titan Sony is going to announce…something on February 20th in New York.

And if you were of the betting persuasion, it wouldn’t take much to persuade you to drop some currency on the PS4 being announced formally – whether this is confirming specs or just showing the case, who can tell?

It’s all getting a tad bit exciting, games fans – new generation get!

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Next Xbox, PS4 for Spring 2013 reveals?

Almost certainly not what the new Xbox will look like – but don’t you just love a cool case mod?

File this one under “I’ll believe it when I see it” – venerable UK games mag turned page-view hungry website, CVG, are reporting that we’ll see the new Xbox and Playstation consoles revealed in the Spring – with Apple style events planned for the Games Developers Conference in San Francisco at the end of March.

Which would be delightful, but for the fact that most people attending the conference are already working on titles for the new systems, so  the impact of a reveal at such an event would seem to be muted at best.   A behind-doors, strictly policed, NDA-heavy presentation I can see happening, but my money is still on Microsoft and Sony playing to a wider audience at E3 and crashing the internet twenty seconds after showing their latest hardware off.

Will Sony go nuts and have some kind of bonkers, crustacean-related shenanigans to show the power of PS4?  Will Microsoft show some games this time rather than media apps targeted solely towards their US heartland?  Will Nintendo show us some killer games that make the Wii U look worthwhile? Or will Gabe Newell sneak in with a “Half-Life 3“/Steambox announcement which sucks the oxygen out of the whole internets?

There’s nothing like an imminent new generation of hardware to make gaming more exciting…

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2012 in review – Games? We got games…

To some, an epic battle of beast versus noble knight. To me? Monday morning.

Gamers have lived in interesting times in 2012.  From Doritosgate  to a new console from Nintendo, from Kickstarter letting star developers of yore crowd-source funds for niche titles to the NRA blaming pop culture (and, inevitably, video games) for inspiring real-life violence, to studios like Sony Liverpool and even publishers like THQ either closing down permanently or entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to that “Mass Effect 3” ending, there’s been no shortage of stories on the daily games blogs to make you say “…hmm”.

Perhaps this weird sense of flux is partially attributable to the waning days of this gaming generation? With the debut of a hand-held  iterative system like the PS Vita and the aforementioned Wii U heralding the onset of a new generation of home systems, it’s probably not unusual to expect some consolidation in gaming – especially with the competition from smart phones being an ongoing agitant and conspiring to win yet more eyeballs and minds from the traditional gaming monoliths of Sony and Nintendo (next to whom, implausibly, Microsoft are the peppy young upstart of the sector).  If you’re not fast enough to keep up, and can’t get attention quickly, your game’s in the bargain bins two weeks after release and your studio will doubtless be downsizing headcount left, right and centre.  Who would want to be a games dev?  Not me, that’s for sure.

It would be easy to get downhearted, but there’s always reasons to get excited about this hobby – titles which engage so much that they persuade an otherwise sane gamer to invest 51 hours of his life (and counting) into a fantasy universe without really denting the main quest line – if you’ve read this blog at all this year, you’ll be in no surprise when I tell you that “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” was my favourite game of 2012.

It’s not one which has featured much in the year-end discussion – that honour goes to the likes of Tell Tale’s “The Walking Dead”, ThatGameCompany‘s art-em-up, “Journey”, steampunk stealth fest, “Dishonored” and the revived “Halo 4” – but it’s the game which pulled me back in, hour after hour, level after level to discover the secret provenance and reason for my seven foot blue elven ranged scout’s mysterious resurrection from death.

"Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning" is my game of 2012

“Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” is my game of 2012

Lots of action, deep lore (with a story by R.A. Salvatore), charming music, a neat inventory system and an indefinable x-factor which compels you to keep forging ahead even with the likes of “ME3”, “Halo 4” and every thing that XBLA/PSN/Steam could offer calling you away – that’s what my game of 2012 offered.  “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” is the overlooked gem of 2012 and the title which I hope somehow sees a renaissance worthy of it’s central plot line on the soon-to-be-unveiled next gen systems from Microsoft and Sony.

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E3 2012 – the bad, the worse and the hopeful…

The annual E3 video games trade show is a positive haven of nerdy eye candy.

Picture of the LA Convention Centre, home of E3, via Official Playstation Magazine UK

The newest, highest profile titles get splashy debut presentations in big conferences from the likes of Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, with fanboys and fangirls arguing online about which massive corporation succeeded best in winning our hearts and wallets for the next year.

As with the last two or three years, Microsoft appear to have no real interest in appealing to games fans, preferring to set up their stall pursuing the mythical nuclear family audience which appear in their adverts – upscale, freshly scrubbed, tech-savvy and possessed of the kind of cavernous, open-plan living spaces which would best house the full Kinect, Xbox 360 and huge Plasma screen which Microsoft’s advertising always presents as standard.

Their conference had new iterations of Gears of War, “Forza”, “Fable” and “Halo”, none of which did anything for me.  With numbing predictability, a downloadable content exclusive for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2″ was announced and for the hordes of bro-gamers who care about that, I’m sure that counts as good news.

To be honest with you, I’m close to giving up on my Xbox 360 as the last couple of years has proven to me that games are as important to Microsoft as they are to Apple – when large chunks of their E3 conference is given over to streaming media services which nobody outside the US has access to, there’s little point in continuing to pay money to Microsoft for an Xbox Live service which solely exists to provide entertainment to middle-class Americans.  Nobody else matters to them.

It’s hardly as if Sony represent anything morally better, but their exclusive titles tend to wipe the floor with Microsoft’s increasingly bland, space-filling, ‘will this do?’ junk.

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“Juno 2: The Slashening”

This year, the Quantic Dream developed “Beyond: Two Souls, with its motion-captured Ellen Page character impressed and used the tech which Quantic recently presented their “Kara” demo with – we saw a quiet scene with subtle and nuanced digital characters in an interrogation appended with the kinds of action and explosive set pieces which might reassure the more trigger-happy gamers in the audience that they weren’t just going to be expected to listen to characters speak and, you know, be expected to follow a story.

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It’s one that I’m going to watch, as is Naughty Dog‘s “The Last of Us”, which brings their prowess earned over the course of the two and a half good games in the “Uncharted” series to bear on a new, sci-fi flavoured survival action title (you might remember this one as the game whose first trailer had a young female character uncannily similar to Ellen Page, whose presence in the aforementioned “Beyond” might have prompted the redesign evident in the E3 footage).

Think “Uncharted”, in an overgrown urban environment gone to wreck and ruin and full of messed-up brigands who want nothing more than to rearrange your grizzled features.  In its way – action platform gameplay with combat and truly visually arresting settings – Naughty Dog are doing nothing new, but the storyline and characters promise enough that I’ll certainly be playing this one on PS3.

Another visually stunning title is the new, gritty “Star Wars” title “1313”, which seems to filch some of Naughty Dog’s Nathan Drake platform acrobatics and copy and paste them into a tale set amongst bounty hunters, criminals and ne’er do wells on galactic administrative centre Coruscant.

Looks incredibly pretty in this high-end PC build, but I’ve been burnt enough by decades of crappy “Star Wars” titles to reserve any judgement on this until I get my hands on it – the visual fidelity on the footage shown at the link above makes me think that next-gen hardware will make the best of it.

I’m keen to see what Nintendo will show today – something, hopefully, which isn’t the same ‘bro-shooter’, utterly predictable, guns and thunder balls which Microsoft are seemingly content to push when they’re not selling tooth-rottingly sweet, licensed crap (with Kinect!) to uncritical tykes.

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New “Amazing Spider-Man” trailer 23% more amazing, significantly spidery.

How absolutely typical.

No sooner have I posted about how little the trailers for The Amazing Spider-Man have done for me so far than Sony up and drop a new trailer that’s actually pretty cool.  What are the odds of that happening?

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Honestly, it’s as if somebody’s cottoned on to the fact that there’s a very crowded marketplace out there this summer and they really want you to go and see the damned thing.

Quite sensibly, the hive mind behind this trailer have decided to show one of the big set pieces in reasonable detail so that we can get a sense of the action in this reboot from director Marc Webb – and it’s looking pretty tasty, blending Peter Parker’s ineffable likeability and the ‘check this out’ swagger of his abilities when employed in the face of certain doom.

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I really enjoyed this trailer and might actually drag myself to the cinema to see it now – after all, something’s got to fill in that hellish July fortnight or so until Christopher Nolan lays waste to the hearts and minds of fanboys and geek girls eagerly wondering how he’ll possibly top The Dark Knight with the final instalment of his Bat trilogy.

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“The Amazing Spider-Man” attempts to divest you from your ready cash on 3 July 2012 in the UK – uncommonly fortunate folks in New Zealand and Japan get to see it from the 28th June.

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A week of Games.

It’s been a funny old week for gamers.

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We’ve lost and regained the loved/hated high street retailer Game in blink of an eye, with its future still uncertain.  Half the branches have been shuttered and the remaining portfolio is been split between the best performing locations of Gamestation and Game, with the business apparently being readied for a subsequent sale – prompting the return of GameStop to these shores?

In Sheffield, for example, we’ve gone from six stores to two – a branch of Game in the Crystal Peaks shopping centre and a Gamestation in the larger, presumably more expensive Meadowhall shopping mall.  What this means for me is that neither are now particularly near me and I’d have to make a special trip to two not-especially-pleasant shopping venues.  I see online and a couple of independent retailers in my future.  The Guardian‘s Keza McDonald has a great piece on Game, the market space now open for indy retailers and what it all means over at their Games blog.

The vultures, of course, have begun to circle…

On another note, embattled publisher THQ announced that they’ll be giving me what I wanted but in a totally roundabout way.  By all accounts, we will see another single-player action game in the “Warhammer 40K” universe but at the cost of their expensive and apparently too unwieldy 40K MMO, which has been shuttered. Developers Relic and Vigil are accordingly reducing headcount by over 100 staff – who would work in an industry that precarious?

Sony’s new console, meanwhile, may be called Orbis rather than PS4, will eschew any attempt to be backwards compatible and will eat any pre-owned disc that you attempt to put inside it’s ravenous, bio-mechanical, terrifying cyber-maw.

Or, if you want to be boring, the new console will lock games to PSN accounts, preventing trade-in and the second-user market which is even now destroying the video game business from within.  But I prefer my version.  It’s more Cyber.

Finally, in news which isn’t actually news to anybody who’s picked up a controller or installed a game to their hard drive in the last decade, EA are in the running for the coveted title of Worst Company In America…

Whatever you’re playing this weekend, you probably want to make sure it isn’t “Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City”…

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Do Androids Dream of PS3?

French developer Quantic Dream have a great relationship with Sony – their last game, the interactive noir drama “Heavy Rain” was a system-testing graphics showcase with some missteps in storytelling but truly stunning animation technology underpinning the title.

Apparently, that wasn’t enough for Quantic Dream’s leader, David Cage, who wants to make a game which will make you cry (Wow, he’s played the PS3 port of “Dragon Age”, too…)

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The latest tech demo from Quantic, “Kara”, is just that – it’s not a game but a proof of concept for the developer’s technology and this week’s Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco has let us see what the secretive, always ambitious Cage is now playing with.

I don’t know what I was more impressed by when watching this clip – the quality of the animation, the capture of actress Valorie Curry’s performance, the concise and engrossing storytelling or the apparent fact that this footage was running in real time on a PS3.

If this is what talented developers can do on a PS3, Sony’s repeated insistence that there’s life in the black box yet (and that PS4’s a way off) carry more weight for me.

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