While I did not take the time to track every game released for console, PC and dedicated portable game systems in 2016, I am fairly confident that the total is over 1,600 and possibly as high as 2,000 (US.) According to research firm, SuperData, the total dollars spent on PC and Console gaming, worldwide, was close to $70 billion. These are some BIG numbers (not completely believable/verifiable… but BIG.) While every gaming website is now in the process of giving you their “Best Of” for the past year, I have always thought that these compilations were bogus. No matter how big the site, they simply can’t cover all of the games released, and those that they do cover are split up among a handful of editors/game reviewers.
So, while they may have fairly educated opinions, they are just that – opinions – based on those games that they did play and ignoring the ones which they did not. So, at the end of the day, what they are really giving you is their list of favorites – not the “Best.” My list is admittedly very personal, but I believe no less educated. While I estimate that I probably played 200 or so of the new games on offer for the various platforms in 2016, I have whittled that down to the 25 that I enjoyed the most in 2016. The list is chronological and not based on any empirical rating system. In addition, there are games, like Civilization VI, that are from genres that I simply do not play – if it has anything to do with “RTS,” “turn-based,” or “world-building,” I am out. So, no matter how great they might be to those that enjoy that particular genre, they are not going to make my list.
They’re what I like, because they’re what I like – no definitive recommendations made and no apologies offered. I am guessing, however, that a number of these can be found on your lists as well.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (PC)Publisher: Square-Enix Developer: Crystal Dynamics/Nixxes
Although released originally in 2015 for Xbox One and Xbox 360 (and my favorite game of 2015), I couldn’t wait to come back to Ms. Croft’s latest adventure when it was released on PC in January. Why? Well, first of all, it’s a great game that deserves to be played more than once. Secondly, Nixxes, the developer responsible for the PC port, was kind enough to patch the game for Stereoscopic 3D. SOLD! You haven’t lived as a gamer until you have experienced ROTTR in breathtaking 3D!
Firewatch (PC)Publisher: Campo Santo Developer: Campo Santo
February saw the release of this compelling Indie title and the story, sense of isolation and developing relationship between your character and the mysterious woman at the other end of your radio combine to make Firewatch one of my most memorable gaming experiences of 2016.
SUPERHOT (PC)Publisher: SUPERHOT Team Developer: SUPERHOT [...]
Hello one and all.
Apologies for the radio silence as we raced toward the end of 2016, but life, and my day job, intervened and kept me from the Inner Circle. Hopefully, I will be able to keep this blog on more of a consistent schedule in 2017 and give you a few things worth reading/thinking about.
So, with that being said, what say we close out 2016 by taking a look at what to expect from the core gaming platforms in 2017? Let’s start with the market leader…
I think it is safe to say that, with the launches of PlayStation Pro and PlayStation VR in 2016, Sony Interactive Entertainment in all-in with the 8th console generation. They have pushed all of their chips to the middle of the table and there is next to nothing that we can expect from them, on the hardware side, in 2017. Or, for that matter, in what remains of the current hardware cycle. Going forward in the new year, the platform holder will rely on hardware price drops and bundles, third-party software sales and sales of first-party games that, with a few notable exceptions (Uncharted 4 being the most prominent), have failed to move the needle much over the past three years. You know… straight from the PlayStation Sales and Marketing Playbook.
With the debut of PS Pro and the ushering in of mid-cycle hardware iteration, it is not even clear at this point that there will be a “PlayStation 5.” While it is fairly common knowledge among my colleagues that the Pro has made a limited impact on the marketplace, I believe it is only a matter of time (and dropping component prices) before the Pro becomes the PlayStation family’s base model and the next, even more 4K-y, more-HDR-y Super Pro becomes their high-end entry – thus ending the idea of the 5-7 year hardware generation life-cycle and any thought of SIE delivering a true Gen 9 PS 5. With regard to PSVR – color me “disappointed.” Actually, I can’t even say that I am disappointed. The hardware has done exactly what I thought it would do at retail and the “experiences” have been underwhelming. Like prior adjunct technology attempts by the company (Move, Stereo 3D, Vita, Wonderbook, etc.), it looks like any dream of continued long-term support and/or deep, AAA core games coming from SIE’s Worldwide Studios, let alone major third-party publishers and developers, is a pipe dream. As I own both PSVR and Oculus Rift, I get a close-up view of their respective ecosystems, and there is a lot of crossover. The vast majority of the titles are simple wave shooters, cockpit racers and games that really are tech demos – ranging in price from $2-$20. While there are a few standouts – Arkham VR, Lucky’s Tale, Edge of Nowhere and a handful of others – the vast majority of available software could be classified more as time wasters than AAA type games. With the exception of the tip of the spear gaming [...]
SIE’s PlayStation 4 Pro hits retail this week with a consumer proposition that is as confusing as it was two months ago when I first posted the article below. With PlayStation’s latest overly-reliant on 4K TV ownership, which has yet to achieve any significant level of penetration into American homes, and confusing jargon like “HDR” that takes hardware marketing to a new level of minutia, it seems like the Pro will be appealing to a VERY small audience – possibly smaller than that of PlayStation VR (which looks to have sold, LTD, roughly 250,000 units on a global basis.) In any event, get ready for a bunch of software patches and warm market media debate/side-by-side comparisons on a pixel-by-pixel basis as the week unfolds…
About two months ago, I replaced my aging GTX 660 GPU in My Alienware X1/R2 with the new GTX 1060 from NVIDIA. The 660 had done an admirable job over the four years that I had it, even… just barely… handling VR through my Oculus Rift DK2. The 1060 was a game changer and prepared my PC, with the 391 games that currently rest on its HDD, for the next few years of high-resolution and VR gameplay. It also took me about 15 minutes to install and get it up and running without a single issue or glitch.
Two days ago, Sony Interactive Entertainment officially announced the price and availability of the ‘PlayStation 4 Pro” – the company’s attempt to boost the PS4’s spec’s while maintaining compatibility with the 43 million PS4’s that are currently out in the wild. You know… like replacing the GPU on your PC. The Pro is set to hit the market on November 10th – just a few weeks after PSVR starts making its way into early-adopters’ hands – at a price of $399 – the same price the base PS4 launched at in November, 2013.
So, riddle me this, Batman – with day one patches, HDD swaps, DLC and now platform life-cycles that are being dramatically shortened, what is the difference between consoles and PC’s? The answer? Over the course of the next few years… almost nothing. With the announcement of PS4 Pro, the well-etched line in the sand that divided console owners from the “PC Master Race” has been obliterated. In reality, this has been coming on for some time. PC’s have become easier to use, upgrade and modify, while consoles and their ecosystems have become more complex.
And, I just upgraded my PC to a spec similar to what is going to be offered with PS4 Pro for significantly less money than the cost of Sony’s platform evolution. The times, they are a-changin’.
I am one of a small group that is fortunate enough to be able to own all major consoles, a decent gaming PC and VR and, for the first time since I started playing my Amiga 500 more than my SEGA Genesis, I am spending the majority of my gaming time on PC – and I am not the [...]
For the week ending 10/1/16, two more sports have made their way up the rankings in the latest VGChartz Top 10 list (USA.) 2K Sports’ latest NBA game and EA’s latest version of European football have combined with the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Madden to claim seven of the ten slots for sports titles (eight if you include “Forza Horizon 3.”) Although, from my POV, what makes the week special is the inclusion of a game with the words “Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls” as part of the title… pure genius.
Best-Selling Games (USA) for the Week Ending 10/1/161. (PS4) FIFA 17 2. (Xbox One) FIFA 17 3. (PS4) NBA 2K17 4. (Xbox One) Forza Horizon 3 5. (Xbox One) NBA 2K17 6. (Xbox One) Madden NFL 17 7. (PS4) Madden NFL 17 8. (3DS) Yokai Watch 2: Bony Spirits & Fleshy Souls 9. (Xbox 360) FIFA 17 10. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
It’s All Just SO Intense! And The Microphone Holding Dudes Are Just SO Cool… I Think I Need Artisan Facial Hair and a Tat!
In a word…
Yes, it does look like Nintendo did enough with their new console/handheld hybrid to ensure that third-party software is not an issue – mainstream GPU, and a fairly “normal” controller (well… Nintendo Normal.) But, let’s face it – at this point in time in video game history, your average gaming enthusiast is not going to purchase Nintendo hardware to play what we can safely assume will be slightly watered down versions of CoD, GTA, Dishonored, Madden, etc. (when compared to their PlayStation, Xbox and/or PC brethren.)
So, leaving their main gaming platforms and making the switch to Switch is not going to be within the realm of probability for most gamers. Once again, and without any compelling reason for mass-man to join in on the fun (as they did with the original Wii), my belief is that the Switch will be (if Nintendo is lucky/smart) relegated to “second system” status and that its relative success will be almost entirely dependent on the quality and quantity of first-party software.
The new Zelda is already a foregone conclusion. The Switch teaser trailer offered a short, generic Mario game and not a whole lot else. How willing is Nintendo going to be to dip into their bag of under-utilized IP’S (here’s looking at you “Metroid Prime” series) and to nurture new IP’s more befitting an adult gamer demographic (if they can even remember how to do that?) And, can they put a new face/spin on those series’ that they have gone back to time and again to give them a reboot (here’s looking at you “Mario Kart” series?)
No, I think it is safe to say that there is not enough in what we have seen of Switch to make gamers switch. And, only time will tell if Nintendo’s first-party software development studios are up to the task this time around. They failed miserably with the Wii U and that wasn’t too long ago – their customers are still feeling the sting of that purchase decision. A strong offering out of the gate, with a clear road map of year one releases, could make their path to second system success a little easier to navigate and make Wii U consumers a little more forgiving/excited. But, without a strong lineup and a lack of vision on the software side of things?…
… consumers might just flip this particular Switch off.
Did Nintendo Learn Their Lesson? Will New IP Be a Priority? Will They Give Gamers ANY Reason to Make the “Switch?”
[UPDATE] This article was first published on 6/22/16. With the launch of PlayStation VR (PSVR) imminent, I thought it would be interesting to revisit this piece. Early reviews of PSVR from the warm market media are mixed, with many citing issues with motion control and software that is much more tech demo than fully fleshed-out experience (as is the case with the vast majority of VR content available for Oculus Rift and htc Vive.) I will be putting the hardware and launch software through their paces over the next week or so and will share my opinions/experience with you in due course. For those of you that are interested in PSVR, I also encourage you to take a look at a feature I posted back in October of 2015 ( it can be found here.) As with any new technology at launch, “caution” is the keyword. Exciting as the potential may be, the reality is that consumers are looking at spending $400-$500 for the privilege of being one of the early few and a number of factors must be considered before making the leap – not the least of which are market potential, publisher/manufacturer track record and commitment, third-party support and the value of the current experience.
Did you know that “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” has sold to less than 7% of PlayStation 4’s installed base? The game is, arguably, the single biggest first-party title that SIE will release during the platform’s life-cycle and, to date, it has sold under three million units. While this is, in this day and age, a very solid performance for a $60 game, it does highlight the biggest challenge for PlayStation VR. If the biggest, most critically-acclaimed game release for your hardware is selling to less than 7% of your potential customers, what can you expect from a $500 peripheral – an investment larger than your consumer has made in committing to your platform?
I pose these questions because SIE is asking a lot of their most loyal and well-heeled customers with PlayStation VR, and the company’s track record for floating adjunct technology for their current platforms, then abandoning it when the consumer base doesn’t materialize is almost 100%. PlayStation Move, PlayStation Vita, Stereoscopic 3D, the PS2 HDD, Wonderbook (remember that?) – the list goes on and on. But, with PlayStation VR, the risks to the consumer are so much greater given the level of investment required. And, it isn’t just the $500 investment in the headset, camera and Move controllers. I have spoken with many people with knowledge on the subject and the general consensus is that the PlayStation 4 does not have the processing muscle to provide for a quality virtual reality experience akin to that on offer from Oculus and htc Vive. So, the implication is that PS4 gamers that want to get the true VR experience are going to have to purchase the upgraded PS4 currently known as “Neo.” With a retail price likely to [...]
It was phenomenal when it was released on Xbox One nearly a year ago (my thoughts on the original can be found here), and it is still a truly fantastic adventure on PlayStation 4 as 2016 draws to a close. Even Naughty Dog’s release of “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” as a PS4 exclusive earlier this year can’t dull my enthusiasm for the latest adventures of Lara Croft. “Rise of the Tomb Raider – 20 Year Celebration Edition” gives us the original adventure, all of the game’s DLC, some pretty cool packaging, a new difficulty level and a new side adventure, “Blood Ties,” that takes place in Croft Manor, allowing Lara to both explore the mansion and her family’s history, and that includes support for PlayStation VR (more on that when I delve deeper into PSVR next week.) Bottom line; The game is still gorgeous, the adventure still epic and the new additions welcome. It will be interesting to see how the year’s delay to reach the world’s best-selling video game platform will impact sales (not to mention the large shadow cast by Uncharted 4), but I have a sneaking suspicion that ROTTR 20 is going to hold its own at re/etail over the next 60 days or so. After all, the game has sold roughly 1.5 million units, combined physical and digital on a platform (Xbox One) that has sold to roughly half of the global consumers as has PlayStation 4. If my math is correct, that theoretically would translate to 3 million units on PS4. If sales come close to that target, then we can effectively say that Xbox’s timed exclusivity was for naught, as was the prolonged wait for PlayStation consumers.
Rise of the Tomb Raider – 20 Year Celebration EditionPublisher: Square-Enix Developer: Crystal Dynamics Release Date: 10/11/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4 Price: $59.99 Initial Impressions: Same great game with all of the original expansions, Blood Ties is an excellent addition, still one of the best games of the past few years
Lara Finally Takes a Bow on the World’s Best-Selling Game Platform – One Year After ROTTR’s Original Release
I used to be a big-time sports video game player. Hell, back in the day, I even contributed to the design of SCEA’s original “MLB Pennant Race” on the first PlayStation, the NFL GameDay franchise (same publisher/same platform) and a few others. Sports and racing games were my two biggest passions in gaming. But, that was some time ago, and I honestly have to say that, in 2016, I can’t be bothered to play the latest and greatest that the genre has to offer. I mean, the games don’t really change much, do they? With graphics display technology leveling and robust features lists negating the need to upgrade every year because there is something employed that makes you want to jump back in, I simply have grown tired and bored by the latest Madden, MLB: The Show and NBA 2K. Truth be told, the only sports game that I actually do play (and absolutely LOVE) in 2016 is “Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings” on PC. But, I also realize, in the US at least, that these games still push a decent number of units every late Summer/Fall and that consumers seem content to pay 60 bucks for the latest rosters. The latest VGChartz Top 10 list (USA) is verification of this. The 2016 versions of Madden, NHL and NBA 2K comprise six of the ten spots for the week ending 9/17/16 and manage to do what hasn’t been done (at least to my recollection) in a very long time – knock Grand Theft Auto V off the list (don’t worry… it will be back!)
Best-Selling Games (USA) for the Week Ending 9/17/161. (PS4) NBA 2K 17 2. (Xbox One) NBA 2K 17 3. (PS4) Madden NFL 17 4. (PS4) NHL 17 5. (Xbox One) Madden NFL 17 6. (Xbox One) NHL 17 7. (3DS) Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past 8. (Xbox One) ReCore 9. (PS4) The Bioshock Collection 10. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
The Cav’s With Rings… LOL – Jewelery Should Have Gone to the NBA’s NYC Executive Team – #DubsGotScrewed
So… they didn’t completely blow it up.
Yesterday, September 30th, 2016, was the day that the original Disney Infinity for PC (1.0) was supposed to be completely shutdown. No online play, no Toy Box, no support of any kind, purchased Play Sets and virtual figures… all dead. This is how Disney Interactive and the Infinity website itself (https://infinity.disney.com/) explained it. You see, DI always required an internet connection so their servers could verify that you hadn’t pulled a fast one and cheated the mouse out of some cheddar. Without that connection, it was going to be Bob Iger telling his most enthusiastic/dedicated customers/fans of all things Disney “you’ll get nothing and like it.” That connection was severed yesterday and the game told me so.
But… a funny thing happened just after that warning – the game booted up and allowed me to play The Incredibles Play Set. Now, all of my other Play Sets and characters were locked, but I was encouraged. Then, I quit The Incredibles and backed out to the main menu – a menu that now showed all of my Play Sets (Pirates, Cars, Lone Ranger, Toy Story and Monsters, Inc.) as unlocked! In addition, all of my purchased characters associated with those Play Sets were now accessible. And, all of my save game files were still valid. Still… to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, I repeated the process a few more times and achieved the same results. It’s kind of a hassle that I have to start The Incredibles Play Set and back out before I can play any of the others every time I launch the game, but still…
And, to be clear, all community features are gone – no sharing of levels created for the Toy Box, no TB challenges, none of that good stuff. But, for me, I never got into any of that… I just wanted to get the Play Sets and play them as I would any other single player game, and have them sit on my HDD to enjoy for as long as I cared to. Now, unless there is another anti-consumer policy out there waiting to become the next monkey in the wrench, I have that ability.
The cat (well… corporate stooges) must be away – because the mouse is still letting us play!
In Spite of Disney Infinity Supposedly Having a Finite Lifespan, it Lives… it Lives!
Over the past two weeks, the latest episodes of two games that I really enjoy, “Batman: The Telltale Series,” and “King’s Quest,” were released. In the case of Telltale’s episodic series, the new episode was the second of five scheduled for what is sure to be the first season of many, with each episode of season one scheduled to appear every six weeks. In the case of King’s Quest, this week’s offering was the fourth chapter of five that are scheduled. The first was released over a year ago, and “King’s – Quest Chapter 3: Once Upon a Climb” was made available in April. But, no matter the timing – rigidly scheduled or taking the more casual “when it’s done, it’s done” approach – both series’ illustrate the fundamental problem with episodic games.
There is too much time elapsed between releases.
We all know that games take many human hours to create and that the process of creating them can be messy, and that their ultimate release can be subject to delays for any number of technical and business reasons. But, when your games are built around a continuing narrative that requires the player to recall the details of the episode prior, six weeks is way too long – and six months is simply intolerable. There is a reason that episodic television is built around weekly beats that collectively add up to a “season’s” worth of entertainment, or that “binge watching” is all the rage – neither require that you go back and watch the prior episodes because you’ve forgotten everything that has previously transpired. This extended time between episode/chapter releases results in misty, water-colored memories of the way things were, and a complete disconnect from that narrative.
My thesis is not built solely on the two games mentioned above, either – there are a number of arrows in my quiver. “Blues and Bullets,” “Life is Strange,” and a host of games developed by Telltale all have two things in common: first, that they are games that I, and many others, have enjoyed, and, second, that they basically require that you play each episode of the game series in question, play that same episode again once the next episode is released, and play it a third time (minimum) once the entire season has been released. Of course, a lot of players won’t do that and simply wait until the entire season is complete before diving in (usually at a discounted price) – defeating the whole business plan behind episodic gaming.
The idea for most episodic game developers is that they develop the first two to four hour episode on their own dime (or the dime so thoughtfully provided by their financial backers) and release it into the wild to see what kind of consumer and critical response it receives. If it is a hit, or it at least comes close to [...]
Are you ready for some football? Apparently, at least 250,000 US-based humans that purchased the game during the week ending 9/3/16 are, as the PS4 and Xbox One versions of “Madden NFL 17” hold down the first and second spots on the latest VGChartz Top 10 list (USA.) Madden NFL 16 sold roughly 7.5 million units worldwide. The 2015 version sold roughly 7 million. As of 9/3/16, Madden NFL 17 has sold approximately 1.3 million units. Will it hit the 7 million + figure as its two predecessors did? Hard to say – the prior two years, the Gen 7 SKU’s did fairly well. Out of the gate, it doesn’t look like that same set of circumstances will apply to the Gen 7 models of 17, as they are barely making an impact at retail. So, the Gen 8 versions will have to carry their weight, and then some, to match prior years’ performance. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on the under.
Best-Selling Games (USA) for the Week Ending 9/3/161. (PS4) Madden NFL 17 2. (Xbox One) Madden NFL 17 3. (PC) World of Warcraft: Legion 4. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 5. (PS4) Doom 6. (3DS) Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire 7. (PS4) Resident Evil 4 HD 8. (Xbox One) Gears of War 9. (PS4) Attack on Titan 10. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V
A 30 Second Spot with No Gameplay Until the 20 Second Mark? I Love When a Game Believes Itself to Be a Cultural Phenomenon!
Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, when Sony’s PlayStation division introduces a new piece of hardware, you can bet that there is going to be a promotional tie-in with Taco Bell. In my eight years at SCEA, I saw it over and over again – PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4… every hardware introduction seemed to come with cheese and re-fried beans on the side. In truth, it was a little embarrassing. I ran the advertising business for PlayStation and did not have anything to do with promotions, but I always wondered what was going on in their world… I mean… it’s PlayStation for cryin’ out loud – can’t we find just ONE other promotional partner, or are we going to have to make another run for the border?
Or, in other words – Mi no quiero Taco Bell!
I suppose the school of thought adhered to by both parties is that the combination of a sedentary hobby and the consumption of high calorie, high fat food go together like an unemployed 20-something male and his mom and dad’s basement. So, this is a natural fit, right? Why worry about diabetes and heart disease when you can enjoy a Doritos Taco and a Mountain Dew while sitting on your ass for hours at a time playing insert game name here?
Now, we have the pending introduction of PlayStation VR and the two companies are at it again… “Buy a $5 Big Box and be entered to win a PSVR!” The difference is that this might finally be a cross promotion that the American Heart Association can get behind. At least with PSVR, there is the opportunity to stand up, move around, run in place and trip over the cable tethering the headset to the PlayStation 4 – that could burn off a few of those Big Box calories!
And, success with this promotion might open a few doors for other products from Sony Interactive Entertainment. The “PlayStation 4 Pro” was recently introduced and received a rather tepid reception. It could use a good promotional push and I think I have the perfect idea…
We’ve all seen the pictures of PS4 Pro – it’s a triple-decker, right? Say it with me… “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun!” Somebody in SIE Promotions reach out to Mickey D’s and make it happen! (Ping me if you need a contact!)
Sigh… I Weep for Humanity!
“Obduction” is the classic adventure game, “Myst,” for a new generation. Gone are the static screens of yore – to be replaced by a gorgeous, creepy real-time world that is just begging for its secrets to be discovered. The world is called “Hunrath” – a far off alien landscape that inexplicably has buildings, objects, artifacts, etc. from Earth scattered across its landscape. When you begin the game, it is as if you are in the old west – America circa 1850-ish – but surrounded by glowing purple mountains/topography. Like Myst, and many other games that have come since, it is your job to discover why/what/when/where and who through a series of increasingly difficult brain teasers that allow you to alter the landscape and delve deeper into this strange alien environment. While I am enjoying the world and the concept, and quite challenged by the puzzles, I am also frustrated by the severe lag/frame-rate issues present in the game. A quick check of the Steam discussions has shown me that I am one of many suffering from the same technical issues. In addition, the game has been out for two weeks and there has been little feedback from the developer, Cyan Worlds, and no patch addressing the issue. Make no mistake – there is a great game here, it is just a shame that, like so many games in this day and age, it takes weeks after launch to sort them out.
ObductionPublisher: Cyan Worlds Developer: Cyan Worlds Release Date: 8/24/16 Platforms: PC/Steam Price: $29.99 Metacritic: 78 My Impressions: Beautiful, clever, obtuse at times, severe stuttering/lag/frame-rate issues that need to be addressed
Obduction – A Game that is Much, Much More than Myst for Millenials
The shuffling of existing titles continues on the latest VGChartz Top 10 list (USA.) The one new entry, Nintendo’s much-maligned “Metroid Prime: Federation Force,” sold less than 10,000 units in its debut… ouch! While the game debuted a little later in Japan and the EU/UK and sales figures are not available for those territories quite yet, I think it is safe to say what we all already knew – Federation Force is not the Prime game that fans of the Metroid series wanted, nor was it delivered on the appropriate platform. Nintendo’s refusal to see the writing on the wall going back two years now, coupled with the various product and policy decisions that the company has made over the last few years, begs the question… How many different ways can they screw the pooch?
Best-Selling Games (USA) for the Week Ending 8/20/161. (PS4) No Man’s Sky 2. (3DS) Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire 3. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 4. (3DS) Pokemon X/Y 5. (Xbox One) Gears of War 6. (Xbox One) Tom Clancy’s The Division 7. (PS4) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End 8. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V 9. (3DS) Monster Hunter Generations 10. (3DS) Metroid Prime: Federation Force
The Game That Nobody Wanted… Nintendo – Always Listening, Quick to Adapt… Can’t Read the Room
Insomniac’s “Feral Rites,” the studio’s second foray into the brave new world of VR (the first being the excellent “Edge of Nowhere”), is an amalgamation of various influences. It is fairly obvious that its most direct inspiration is the “God of War” series (with its combat, fixed camera angles, gore and energy fences that only fade away after defeating the bad guys in the area.) But, the Gen 6 game influence doesn’t end there. I have also detected bits of “Shadow Man” (look it up) and “The Mark of Kri.” The bad news is that it inherits both the good and the bad from these older franchises. Most notably, the game looks old (in fact A LOT like Mark of Kri), it requires that you backtrack INTO the fixed camera (unless you want to pivot in your chair and risk getting all tangled up), the camera (and water) leads to many a cheap death, and it is a bit of a collect-a-thon. To the positive, the combat is fairly satisfying, with cool executions. It is fun playing as the various beasts (to this point, I have been able to change into a panther and this huge jaguar/thingie (technical term… don’t expect many people to be familiar with it.) And, it seems like it is set up to be a long-ish adventure. Still, a little over an hour in, I can sense my interest fading and don’t know if I’ll be around to see it through.
Feral RitesPublisher: Oculus Studios Developer: Insomniac Games Release Date: 9/13/16 Platforms: Oculus Rift Price: $49.99 Initial Impressions: Graphically sub-par, little reason for it to exist in VR, fixed camera ( a la God of War) is annoying, nowhere near the standard the studio set with “Edge of Nowhere,” and nowhere near as good as the game that served as its primary inspiration (God of War), Oh… and overpriced
The Launch Trailer – Yeah… It’s Not as Good as it Looks… and it’s Not Close to Being Worth 50 Bucks!
The gaming and cinematic influences on Comcept/Armature Studio’s “ReCore” are obvious from the get-go. Take “Metroid” gameplay (albeit from a third-person vantage point) and have it centered around a world that looks quite a bit like the planet of Jakku in “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” and you’ve got a recipe for success. Although the early reviews for ReCore have been average – most citing the game’s extended load times and the repetitive back-tracking as the main negatives – I am really enjoying the world, story and, in particular, the tight third-person shooting and platforming gameplay that is deep and rewarding. The basics of the plot are that you – playing as Joule Adams, a young woman who wakes from cryosleep 96 years later than intended – are stranded on the hostile desert planet of Far Eden with only your robotic dog, Mack, for companionship. You quickly discover that the rest of your crew, including your father, are nowhere to be found and that you need to reactivate a “Terraforming Pylon” (the technology that was created to try to make Far Eden a more habitable world.) Thus, the adventure begins…
ReCorePublisher: Microsoft Studios Developer: Comcept/Armature Studio Release Date: 9/13/16 Platforms: Xbox One, PC (Windows 10/Microsoft Store exclusive) Price: $39.99 Initial Impressions: Excellent control and gameplay, love the jumping/jetpack mechanic, load times long in spots. third-person Metroid
Will ReCore do for Xbox One What Quantum Break Couldn’t? (You Know… Have a Modicum of Sales Success!)
“Redout” is “Wipeout” or “F-Zero” – depending upon whether your console predilection goes to the Sony or Nintendo side of things – for VR. Although a more accurate comparison might be to the excellent “Radial-G: Racing Revolved,” which has been available for the Oculus Rift since before its consumer launch, as well as the htc Vive. After puttering around with it for an hour or so, I do like the variety in the courses and it is a quality product, but am not yet convinced that it is as good as Radial-G. I will spend some more time hovering over the track over the course of the next few days and we’ll see how my initial impression might be swayed.
RedoutPublisher: 34BigThings Developer: 34BigThings Release Date: 9/2/16 Platforms: PC/Steam, Oculus Rift, htc Vive Price: $31.49 Initial Impressions: Fast, good looking, quality product, not sure it’s better than Radial-G
The VR Descendant of F-Zero and Wipeout Makes its Virtual Reality Debut
Wow! This one really came out of nowhere. “Unbox,” from the moment you first hear the steel drums kick in the very tropical theme that plays in the game’s first open-world, evokes fond memories of classic Gen 5 and Gen 6 platform games – most notably “Mario Sunshine” on the Nintendo Gamecube. The game, a third-person, open-world platform adventure that draws on all of the best of the genre (including collect-a-thons like “Banjo-Kazooie”), is an interactive love letter to a style of game that is all but lost in 2016. It is beautiful, simple fun that, a few hours in, has left me with a smile on my face and wanting to play more. Oh… and you play as a cardboard box.
UnboxPublisher: Prospect Games Developer: Prospect Games Release Date: 9/5/16 Platforms: PC/Steam Price: $12.79 Initial Impressions: Fun, fond memories, incredible bang for the buck, Amazon Prime (if you play the game, you’ll get the “joke”)
Unbox is an Interactive Love Letter to the Great Platformers of Gens 5 and 6
The majority of last week’s winners on VGChartz Top 10 list (USA) took a step down on the list to make room at the top for one of the most divisive games released in recent memory – “No Man’s Sky” on PlayStation 4 (also available on PC/Steam… if you dare…) In spite of the critical and user reviews that attacked the game’s failure to deliver on its promise, the repetitive and boring gameplay and the severe technical issues that plagued the PC/Steam version, the game has managed to move close to one million units on the two platforms – once again proving that PT Barnum was right (for our younger readers… the circus guy… he was famously quoted as saying “there is a sucker born every minute.”) Of course, there is no telling how many of these purchasers self-corrected and removed themselves from the “suckers” list, as it seems the level of returns through Steam was in record-setting territory.
Best-Selling Games (USA) for the Week Ending 8/13/161. (PS4) No Man’s Sky 2. (3DS) Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire 3. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 4. (3DS) Pokemon X/Y 5. (Xbox One) Gears of War 6. (3DS) Monster Hunter Generations 7. (PS4) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End 8. (Xbox One) Tom Clancy’s The Division 9. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V 10. (Xbox One) Grand Theft Auto V
$60 and One Million Suckers Later, We Have the Legacy of No Man’s Sky…
“Seasons After Fall” is an interesting little side-scrolling platform game where you play as a spirit that has possessed a fox. This spirit fox has the ability to change the seasons to manipulate plant life and alter the landscape – allowing the spirit fox to progress further in the adventure. Looking a little like Capcom’s “Okami” and playing like your average “Metroidvania” game, Seasons After Fall features beautiful graphics and a calming, pastoral soundtrack. I am not quite sure that the gameplay grabs me, at least an hour into the game, but am willing to be proven wrong.
Seasons After FallPublisher: Focus Home Interactive Developer: Swing Swing Submarine Release Date: 9/2/16 Platforms: PC/Steam Price: $12.74 Initial Impressions: Pretty, good music, predictable gameplay, spirit guide’s voice too low in the mix
Is Seasons After Fall All Frosting and No Cake? Maybe… But it is Some Tasty Frosting…