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 [...]
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!)
As most of you likely know, the PlayStation 4 has been the dominant market leader, in terms of hardware sales, in what is commonly referred to as “Gen 8,” or the eighth generation of home console video game hardware (Gen 8 also includes Wii U and Xbox One.) In its first 30 months of availability, it has racked up global sales of over 40.7 million units – more than doubling the sales of PlayStation 3 over the same period of time (19.6 million units.) And, at least to this point in time, it is keeping up with the sales pace set by Gen 6’s PlayStation 2 – the undisputed all-time champion of home video game consoles, with global lifetime sales of over 157 million units.
But, in spite of the success of PlayStation 4, all is not wine and cheese puffs for Gen 8 home console sales. When we add Xbox One global sales over its first 30 months of availability (21.1 million units) and those of the Wii U for the same period (12.9 million units), we come to grand total of 74.7 million units of Gen 8 home gaming consoles that have made it into consumers’ hands. On the surface, a solid number…
But, if we look at the first 30 months of availability for each of the Gen 7 home consoles, we get the following:PlayStation 3: 19.6 million units Xbox 360: 18.1 million units Wii: 43.6 million units
For a grand total of 81.3 million units of Gen 7 home video game consoles sold in each of the participant platforms’ first 30 months – a figure that is 8.2% higher than the current generation. So, what’s happening? How do we account for this performance dip?
The easy answer is that the Wii was a dominant market force that reached out and grabbed the “mass market” (people that don’t normally purchase video game consoles) by the scruff of the neck, and that the Wii U took the express route straight down the crapper. True on both counts… But, while the raw numbers point to this conclusion, I think there are more subtle market forces at play here. When the PlayStation 4 came out of the gate as strong as it did at the end of 2013, pundits and market analysts were quick to cite the well-publicized, corporate-wide “foot-in-mouth” disease that had plagued Microsoft’s Xbox division as the cause of this shift in power to the PlayStation brand in Gen 8. But, the reality is that Microsoft has actually attracted a slightly larger audience for Xbox One in the first half of Gen 8 than they did in Gen 7 with the Xbox 360 – it’s just that PlayStation 4 has done so much better.
So, while many have attributed the success of PlayStation 4 to a migration of Xbox 360 owners to the PlayStation Nation, I think a more accurate conclusion is that it is not Microsoft that has suffered a mass exodus to the PlayStation brand – it is Nintendo. While the company was able to have [...]
That figure represents the total worldwide sales (to date) of the much-ballyhooed Xbox One exclusive, “Quantum Break.” Remedy’s time-bending third-person shooter was supposed to revolutionize gaming through its hybrid approach – marrying a traditional video game with episodic television. Microsoft went all-in on the concept and attempted to build a production house modeled after those found in the world of network, cable and syndicated broadcasts as a result of their commitment to Remedy’s original vision, and energized by corporate greed and ego. And, although the game and the studio were really two different concepts, my take is that they became blurred in consumers’ minds and that Quantum Break was perceived as a Trojan horse for the bigger network content play.
Remember Nancy Tellem? Xbox Entertainment Studios? Of course you don’t – why should you? Microsoft pumped a bunch of money into the venture, hired a bunch of TV types, started it up in 2012, had their asses handed to them at E3 2013 by SCE and PlayStation 4 – with their “gamers first” PR strategy, then kicked everybody associated with this mess to the curb. Two years and millions of dollars right down the crapper with nothing to show for the investment…
Except Quantum Break. Given the disaster that was building behind the scenes over this period of time, the game could have been killed and probably should have been really bad – the unwitting victim of what, in the consumers’ minds, was a bad marriage and an equally bad business concept. Except it wasn’t…
Quantum Break turned out to be an excellent game intertwined with a compelling, high-quality drama (you can find my evaluation from a couple months back here) that, if it had been marketed strictly as a AAA-quality video game (and, truth be told, if it was selling for another platform), could have performed much better at retail and had a chance at establishing itself as a cornerstone IP for Microsoft Game Studios and Remedy.
Sadly, the game could not overcome its confusing, non-traditional origins and the instability/perception of Xbox Entertainment Studios that was built to create and promote video content. It is anyone’s guess what the development costs were for QB, but let’s start the bidding at $25 million (it was likely higher, but this figure is good enough to play “Fun with Numbers.”) Sales of 400,000 units at a retail price of $60 is going to gross $24 million at retail. After retailers take their cut, and Microsoft pays for marketing and manufacturing, we are looking at an easy $10 million coming off of that gross – leaving $14 million or so to mitigate those development costs… ouch! (And, realistically, the financial pain is likely much greater than what I have outlined here.)
Everyone in the AAA game publishing business [...]
Well… “Neo” now has a buddy – Xbox lead dog Phil Spencer announced today the holiday 2017 arrival of their upgraded, VR-ready iteration of Xbox One – code-named “Project Scorpio.” Like the PlayStation 4 Neo, Scorpio is said to have the computational muscle to handle VR and real-time 4K images. And, again, like Neo, it is highly unlikely that any third-party publishers/developers, outside of the VR studios for which this upgraded console is primarily being constructed, are going to support this added horsepower in any meaningful way – particularly when considering that Xbox One currently constitutes less than 30% of the worldwide Gen 8 console marketplace. Sure, the EA’s, Ubi’s, and Activision’s of the world will up the resolution and throw in a few more lighting/particle effects to slate the thirst of the well-heeled early-adopter, but that will be the limit of their commitment.
While there is still a lot we don’t know about both Scorpio and Neo, what we can be pretty sure of is that the one-two punch will be the knockout blow to the console business as we know it and that a very uncertain future is waiting in the wings.
Oh… And They Also Announced the Xbox One S – In Case Smaller Means More to You than “Bigger & Better”
At Xbox’s E3 2016 press conference, the company just announced the 9-27-16 availability of “Forza Horizon 3” – on Xbox One and PC – if you’ve bothered to “upgrade” to Windows 10.
More Xbox One Forza on the Horizon…
Ubisoft has announced the 11-15-16 availability of “Watch Dogs 2,” the sequel to their often-maligned, but Metacritic approved (80) and strong selling (over 9 million units across six platforms) third-person shooter/action-adventure released in 2014. Like a number of games set to debut at E3 this year, information started to leak out a few days ago, and the publisher soon followed with the official announcement. You would think that, with all of the hacking expertise that developer Ubi Montreal must possess to author a game where the skill set is central to the experience, they would be better equipped to prevent leaks like this.
San Francisco Welcomes You and Big Brother is Watching You!
Disney Bails on Infinity and Gaming – Definitively Proves the Destructive Power of Corporate Greed
You will not find a bigger Disney fan than me. I have been to Disneyland I can’t even tell you how many times. I have been to Epcot and Disney World. I have been to Tokyo Disneyland. My family celebrated my parent’s 45th anniversary at Disneyland’s 50th. Hell, I’ve even been speaking in a Donald Duck voice since I was in fourth grade.
And, more to the point, I own all three Disney Infinity’s, all the Playsets and a number of the figures.
Today, Disney announced that they were canceling Disney Infinity and closing the development studio responsible for it (Avalanche Software – announcement can be found here.) I feel betrayed, bamboozled and ripped off, as I am sure millions of others do across the globe. This was Disney finally making a full-scale, AAA commitment to gaming through building their own gaming platform. Avalanche did a fantastic job and the quality of the product was excellent. Oh, and Infinity was also out-performing its two competitors (“Skylanders” and “Lego Dimensions.”) And, in the grand scheme of things, the financial losses on the project were a pittance in comparison to the incredible profits coming out of their other divisions (well… except for the whole ESPN debacle, but they EARNED that one.) In other words – Disney could afford to take a short-term loss on this project in the hope of a long-term gain and the certainty of synergistic marketing with their key IP’s.
But, they chose to cut the cord on Infinity and bail on gaming as a whole (for, I don’t know… like the 10th time) – gutless, spineless corporate dolts with not a brain between them. Thanks Disney – you have just shown loyal customers your true colors and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. It will be a long time before you see another dime of my money. And… best wishes to all at Avalanche as they seek other employment – you didn’t deserve this kind of treatment from your paymaster.
Disney Infinity is No More – Bite Me Mickey… You Greedy Rodent
Did you ever notice that the video game industry spends a lot of time discussing the “birth” (i.e. launch) of a console, but very little time discussing a console’s “death”? It’s almost as if our reluctance to discuss the subject in real life has carried over to our hobby: “Poor Dreamcast… taken from us much too soon” or “Our Atari 2600 lived a long and happy life, and we will always cherish the memories.” Or “Isn’t it time to pull the plug on the PS3?”
This occurred to me as I recently moved to a new home and had an opportunity to go through my video game collection for the first time in many years. I own cartridge-based systems that are now thirty to forty years-old, and yet they still work fine… if you can find a television with an old antenna connection, that is. Disc-based systems are apparently not quite so sturdy, as anyone who has replaced an Xbox 360 due to the “red ring of death” can tell you. While my original PlayStation still works, twenty years after I purchased it, I’ll be surprised if it lasts another ten or twenty. Am I wrong to think that this is not long enough? After all, our cars, washing machines, televisions and computers all have limited lifespans. So why should game consoles be any different?
The problem is that I don’t think of videogames as consumer electronics. Instead, I see them as forms of entertainment… and, when compared to other forms of entertainment, videogames get the short end of the stick.
My wife is an avid reader with a large library of books. I can’t imagine she would be pleased if the text in her books started disappearing after a certain period of time. And neither of us would appreciate it if our movies and music similarly became unusable with age. But books, movies and music are likely to continue indefinitely because they aren’t dependent upon a particular media. The Beatles album which my parents purchased on reel-to-reel tape or 8-track, which I bought on vinyl or cassette, which my son bought as a CD or an .mp3, is likely to be purchased by my granddaughter on whatever music format exists in 2036. My wife’s favorite book, a copy of which she bought in the 1990’s, was originally written in the 1960’s but is currently available on Kindle and will likely still be in print twenty years from now.
Not so with videogames. Ignoring emulation, and the legal issues involved, if your console of choice becomes inoperable in the future, your games will be worthless… no matter how carefully you store your CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays.
Which is what I found myself doing this past weekend. Years ago I had a bookshelf of PS One CD jewel cases (and the occasional cardboard or plastic boxes for the system’s earliest titles). A few years later, those were joined by the DVD cases of my PS2 collection. When the PS3 was released, and I was running [...]
You know it’s a quiet week when the best-selling title in the world is a baseball game that sold almost exclusively in one market. But, that was the case as “MLB The Show 16” made its debut in the top slot. In other chart news, “Tom Clancy’s The Division” continued to show strong on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and, surprise, surprise… both GTA V and Black Ops 3 bounced back to continue securing their customary two spots in the Top 10.
Best-Selling Games (Globally) for the Week Ending 4/2/161. (PS4) MLB The Show 16 2. (3DS) Yokai Sangokushi 3. (PS4) Tom Clancy’s The Division 4. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 5. (Xbox One) Tom Clancy’s The Division 6. (PS4) Star Ocean 5: Integrity and Faithlessness 7. (3DS) Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 3 8. (PS4) Far Cry: Primal 9. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V 10. (PS4) EA Sports UFC 2
Will the North Siders Replicate MLB The Show 16’s First-place Finish This Year?
The original arcade “OutRun” is still one of my favorite racing games of all-time, and one that I still play regularly in Stereoscopic 3D on the Nintendo 3DS. I have owned every iteration of the franchise for every major platform over the years, including lesser-known versions like “OutRun 3D” for the SEGA Master System and its 3D glasses peripherals, and the very impressive version found in “SEGA Arcade Gallery” for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance (GBA.) In 2016, however, there is only one other version of the game that I play on a regular basis, and that is Sumo Digital’s “OutRun Online Arcade” for the Xbox 360.
OutRun Online ArcadePublisher: SEGA Developer: Sumo Digital Platforms: Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Arcade), PS3 (EU only) Release Date: April 15, 2009 Worldwide Sales: NA Metacritic Rating: 79
I guess I should begin by telling you that, no matter how much my glowing prose might convince you to go seek the game, you won’t find it. Because of the termination of SEGA’s licensing agreement with Ferrari at the end of 2011, the game was de-listed on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network (the PS3 version was only made available in the European PlayStation Store(s).)
I purchased the game on its release date, seven years ago this week, and loved it from day one. While the feature set was somewhat limited (due to the Microsoft-imposed file size limit at the time of 350 MB) relative to “OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast,” which was released a few years earlier for the original Xbox, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and PC, it never bothered me. The gorgeous 720p graphics, speed of play and looser take on the game’s classic drifting mechanics have been enough to satisfy me over the years. For the record, the game featured 10 different Ferrari models offering a choice of colors and transmission, 15 different track segments, and four modes of play (“OutRun,” “Time Attack,” “Continuous Play,” and “Heart Attack.”) While the OutRun and Continuous Play modes are obviously fairly self-explanatory, Time Attack had the player racing against a ghost car and the Heart Attack mode found your female passenger requesting that you perform specific moves. If successful, you gained hearts. If you crashed or failed to impress her, you lost hearts. In addition, online multiplayer was supported in the form of six player head-to-head racing.
As was the case with the original OutRun, there was nothing deep and meaningful in this game – you need to make it from point A to point B, and all points beyond, within a set time limit – avoiding obstacles and traffic, while trying to overtake the occasional Challenger. It was meant to be simple but challenging fun in sweet rides, set to great driving music. OutRun Online Arcade delivered that in spades, and, for me, continues to do so to this [...]
Time is broken and the end of time is near.
This is the scenario that ‘Quantum Break,” the ambitious third-person shooter/Netflix-style live action series from Remedy Entertainment (Max Payne, Alan Wake), presents to the player. As Jack Joyce, brother of a world-class physicist (William Joyce) and best friend of a world-class douche (Paul Serene), you are tasked with trying to restore the time continuum that was broken by the douche, as predicted by the physicist. While the game draws on a lot of Remedy’s past experience with time manipulation within the interactive gaming experience, it is the inclusion of four 22 minute episodes of live action streaming television that take the game in a new direction.
The interactive game is played out (for the most part) through the eyes of Jack and his fellow protagonists, while the live action television episodes are presented from the antagonists’ perspective (Paul, Martin Hatch and their co-conspirators at Monarch Solutions.) At the end of each gameplay “Act,” consisting of three parts, the player is presented with a choice (called “Junctions”) that will move the plot along in one direction or another, with gameplay affecting the live action Episode, and the live action adding color, background and detail to the gameplay. The gameplay itself is a combination of traditional third-person shooter mechanics, coupled with the ability to alter time and space, and the objects and people within it. Jack can create time shields that will temporarily protect him from enemy fire, quickly move out of the enemy’s line of sight while he is frozen in time, fire time blasts that have the ability to cause significant damage to any baddie in their wake (or, in the weaker version of the power, simply knock them off of their feet and freeze them in the air for a couple of moments), dash through an area while time momentarily stands still (allowing for a crushing melee blow), and manipulate objects to allow him to move through environments.
Not counting the 90 minutes or so of live action television (not compulsory that you watch, but I HIGHLY recommend you doing so), the game lasts about 10 hours and offers tremendous replayability because of its branching paths and player narrative choices. In addition, Quantum Break makes use of an upgrade system that is fueled by Jack finding “Chronon Source” scattered throughout the game environments. You will also find a bunch of intel and “Quantum Ripples” as you progress through the game, as well as emails, documents, computers and media that I recommend you seek out and read through. Not only are they very informative and offer some very relevant detail on how time broke down, the aftermath, the politics of Monarch Solutions, etc., they are often highly entertaining as well.
Quantum Break was a big risk for Remedy and Microsoft and the project could have easily gone [...]
With the 2016 Major League Baseball season upon us, I can’t help but reflect upon the great game and the video games it has inspired. In one way or another, I have been intimately involved in a number of games over the years – from editorially endorsing a game (the classic “World Series Baseball ’95” on SEGA Genesis), to working with the development team to implement a few special features (“MLB Pennant Race” on the original PlayStation), to working with sponsors to integrate them into the game (“MLB: The Show” (a couple of different years) on PlayStation 3.) I love the game, love my San Francisco Giants and love this time of year. And, of course, I love baseball video games – all kinds… simulations, arcade, realistic, unrealistic… I have played them all. Although there are a number of different games I could have chosen to feature in this post, there is one that I keep coming back to over the years – not because it is the best or most realistic representation of the sport, but because it is just a whole lot of fun – SEGA’s “World Series Baseball 2K3.”
For me, this game had it all – fast and smooth arcade style gameplay, great graphics featuring a number of different camera angles, replays, etc., ESPN integration, fairly dependable fielding and base running, a tremendous degree of user control and gameplay customization, and games that could be played in around 20 minutes, but without sacrificing too much on the simulation side of things. WSB 2K3 also had Ted Robinson, the former voice of the SF Giants and NY Mets (and the current radio play-by-play announcer for the SF 49ers), in the booth and, for my money, one of the best pitcher/batter duels through its use of the moving batter cursor and the option of “Power Pro Hitting” – a gameplay tweak that established a power meter where success was dependent not only on where the cursor was relative to the ball at the point of contact, but where the power meter was when the hit button was released by the player. The immediate impact when you were successful, combined with Ted’s call when you hit one deep, was instantly memorable and SO satisfying. While pitching against the CPU was not quite as rewarding (too many strikeouts for my tastes on “Pro” setting until you worked with the gameplay sliders to balance), the overall cat-and-mouse game that is at the heart of the pitcher/batter duel was captured perfectly, while leaning more toward an arcade experience than a heavy simulation.
Since the release of WSB 2K3, it seems like there has been some sort of arms race between baseball game developers – each trying to deliver the most realistic game of baseball, while seemingly forgetting that a video game needs to offer a balance as there is only so much time and attention you can demand from the average fan. This battle was so bloody that [...]
In honor of “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” opening in theaters nationwide this week, I thought we could use Retro Corner to take a look at one of the better superhero games released, prior to Rocksteady turning the genre upside down with the “Batman: Arkham…” series and setting a new standard for the category in Gen 7, EA’s “Batman Begins.”
While Batman Begins can be criticized for being linear, and for aping and over-simplifying some of the design tropes found in Ubisoft’s “Splinter Cell” series (optical camera, lock-picking, etc.), I think what was lost at the time, in terms of critical evaluation, is just how bad the games were in the superhero category prior to Batman Begins coming to market and how it was a marked improvement over most of what had come before. Most of the games that preceded Batman Begins were either less-than-stellar, quick licensed cash-ins (“Batman Forever”), good ideas poorly executed (“Batman and Robin”), or truly awful games with no redeeming qualities (“Superman” on Nintendo 64 and “Batman: Dark Tomorrow.”) Quality games in the genre, like Ubisoft’s “Batman: Vengeance,” or Atari’s “Superman: Shadow of the Apokolips,” were few and far between.
In spite of its shortcomings, Batman Begins emphasized many of the things that made the character of Batman so believable in the film. It emphasized stealth and fear over melee combat. It made use of the arsenal of gadgets that are so important to the Dark Knight’s fight on crime in Gotham City and the hand-to-hand combat was solid. In addition, the game looked great for the time (and still looks very good), and it employed all of the major characters in the film as voice actors (with the exception of Lieutenant Gordon/Gary Oldman.) The game also does a very good job of adhering to the film’s plot, while expanding upon it in gameplay, and it includes close to two dozen clips from the movie to help drive the game’s narrative.
While Rocksteady’s stellar work and history have ended up being unkind to Batman Begins (not to mention the fact that the relatively big budget title only managed to scrape together global sales of one million units), it really is a solid game and one that I enjoy revisiting from time to time.
Batman BeginsPublisher: EA Developer: Eurocom Platforms: PlayStation 2, Gamecube, Xbox Original Release Date: June 14, 2005 (North America) Worldwide Sales: 1 million units GameRankings Score: 65
Intimidation and Fear – The Two Best Weapons in the Dark Knight’s Utility Belt (apologies for the audio)
WB Games just released a new gameplay trailer for “Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The game, scheduled for release on June 28, 2016 in North America and Europe, is looking really, really good and seems to be closer to what Star Wars gamers really want than what “Battlefront” or “Disney Infinity” have been able to deliver.
TT Games is at it Again, and it Looks Like They’ve Hit All the Right Buttons
For the week ending March 6th, 2016, we have a major global victory for publishers everywhere, as the “new coat of paint” version of “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD,” a game that was originally designed for the Nintendo Gamecube in Gen 6, debuted at #1 on VGChartz. In looking at the rest of the Top 10, not any surprises here – Far Cry: Primal had a good second week and Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto continue to be the first franchises purchased when someone new to Gen 8 buys a box.
Best-Selling Games (Globally) for the Week Ending 3/6/16:1. (Wii U) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD 2. (PS4) Far Cry: Primal 3. (Xbox One) Far Cry: Primal 4. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 5. (PS Vita) Gundam Breaker 3 6. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V 7. (3DS) Fire Emblem Fates 8. (PS4) Gundam Breaker 3 9. (PS4) Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 10. (Xbox One) Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
Nintendo Can’t Seem to Release any New IP, But They Found a Can of Paint to Spruce Up an Old One!
It’s going to be a pretty quiet week on the new game front, but I am intrigued by “101 Ways to Die” and the Fallout 4 DLC looks interesting enough for me to give the game one more try to see if I can work past my issues with Bethesda’s latest hit.
101 Ways to DiePublisher: Vision Games Publishing Developer: 4 Door Lemon Release Date: 3/22-24/16 Platforms: PC/Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One Price: NA Forecast: Cloudy
This puzzle/platform game has a very interesting look to it – reminiscent of the “Oddworld” series. The game is rumored to be hitting Steam on 3/22 and PlayStation 4 and Xbox One the following days, but I can find no confirmation of that, nor its price. What I could find, however, is the trailer below and information on the game’s web page.
RepubliquePublisher: Gung Ho Developer: Camouflaj Release Date: 3/22/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, (already available for PC/Steam) Price: $24.99 Forecast: Cloudy
Republique is an interesting stealth game that has been available for over a year on PC and mobile platforms, and is now coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. I purchased it on Steam six months or so ago and never completed it. I did like it, but not enough to stay with it to the end. My personal experience aside, it has received positive user reviews in the Steam community. If you are interested, you can find out more information on Republique’s web site.
Fallout 4: Automatron DLCPublisher: Bethesda Developer: Bethesda Release Date: 3/22/16 Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC/Steam Price: $49.99 (Season Pass) Forecast: Sunny
Not much is known about this expansion to Bethesda’s hit game, “Fallout 4,” other than it involves robots. To my knowledge, it has not been priced separately and can only be acquired via the game’s season pass. That will likely change and, if it does, it feels like $9.99. I was not the biggest fan of the game, but the trailer below does look interesting… maybe I’ll give it one more try.
IO Interactive’s reboot of the “Hitman” franchise as episodic content is an interesting exercise, from both business and game design perspectives. Looking at it through a business lens, they, along with their publisher, Square-Enix, are looking to succeed with a business model that has been kind to very few. Looking at the first episode, in game design terms, it seems to be built to give you a lot of different things to do and ways to play within a very small, contained environment.
Of course, the Hitman franchise has always been about trial-and-error gameplay, so, if you like that sort of thing, IO is giving it to you in spades. But, this initial episode, with its training missions and the main story mission that takes place in a palace outside of Paris, France, is not just about taking out the two assassination targets that the plot outlines for you, it is really more about HOW you choose to approach that mission/those targets and the many varied scenarios that are presented to you for execution.
In a way, it’s kind of a “Groundhog Day” scenario – where you are playing the same day over and over again, but with the ability to change how you spend that day, if not the ultimate outcome of your efforts. The episode presents a wide variety of different Challenges as to how you execute the main mission, which can keep you busy for quite awhile. In addition, the game also gives you a number of assassination Contracts that require you to dispatch of different people attending the swanky fashion industry gala that the palace is home to, with a number of options/requirements as to how you approach these scenarios. You can also create your own Contract scenarios and play those created by others.
On the downside, the game requires that you are always online, even if you are concentrating only on the Single Player aspects of Hitman. While this hasn’t been an issue for me, it can be a problem if you have a shaky internet connection and, looking at Steam user reviews, there are many people that are not happy at this point in time. In addition, the NPC AI is, shall we say, more “artificial” than “intelligent” from time to time.
As to whether or not the first episode of Hitman is for you, it really is all about how much you enjoy the planning and execution of a series of games of cat-and-mouse set against the same backdrop, with the same end result. For me, I consider the $14.99 money well spent as I do enjoy the challenge of completing these tasks in different ways and I think the story that has been started in this first episode has all of the intrigue that you would expect from a good spy yarn.
HitmanPublisher: Square-Enix Developer: IO Interactive Platforms: PC/Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (PC/Steam version played) Release Date: 3/11/16
ICG Verdict: Hit
I had grown bored of the Hitman franchise over the [...]
Major League Baseball decided to publish their own baseball game a few years ago, as there were no takers for the license among the major console game publishers – with the notable exception of Sony Computer Entertainment/PlayStation and the “MLB: The Show” franchise. In my dealings with the MLB and the MLBPA while at SCEA, I could give you a laundry list of reasons why this was the case, but that is a story for another time and place.
At the time, I was actually excited about the idea of an old-school, simple game of arcade baseball making its way to Gen 7 – something that would require less time and effort, but that would be fun, good looking and have enough realism (as a result of the two licenses) to make it worth playing over the long haul. Sadly, this didn’t happen. The first game, “RBI Baseball 14,” was a cheap cash-in that was an insult to the game of baseball, and to gamers in general. The second, “RBI Baseball 15,” wasn’t much better.
Now, Major League Baseball’s overseers are back with… wait for it… “RBI Baseball 16” and, in spite of myself, I am actually, tentatively, hopefully excited about the possibilities of the game this year. Could it possibly be the game I hoped it would be back in 2014? You might ask; “what has happened to make you so delusional?”
Well, I saw the fluff piece announcement on the PlayStation Blog… snickering to myself as I read, but then I decided to watch the gameplay trailer below and I started to get that old Spring feeling… the freshly mowed grass, hot dogs, beer… a 400′ jack. I might very well be delusional (or, at best, a hopeless optimist), but, all of a sudden, I was looking forward to the game’s release on March 29th and $19.99 seemed like a good deal.
Please don’t join me in my delusions until I get back to you. I’ll drop the Jackson on 3/29 and let you know how it turned out.
RBI Baseball is Back Again in 2016 – Will the Third Time Be a Charm?