All posts by James Pinnell
Heroes of the Storm

By on July 21, 2015 at 3:45 pm

When Heroes of the Storm came along and stripped out much of what makes the MOBA genre so insanely difficult for new players to learn, hardcore players rejected it almost immediately.

It was a “MOBA for casuals”, it “wasn’t difficult”, it “wouldn’t have staying power”. By allowing new players to feel accepted and competent within a much quicker period of time, older players instantly felt upset that their experience wasn’t being valued. They figured that this accessibility was due to an innate lack of challenge or depth – in much of the same way many people derided Hearthstone in its infancy.

But confusing accessibility with a lack of difficulty is a common mistake.

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By on July 16, 2015 at 1:05 pm

It is going to be an extraordinarily rough year for any developer or publisher who wants you to spend money on their team shooter. There are at least three new heavy duty contenders (including Dirty Bomb, Overwatch and, now, BattleCry) competing with a host of established F2P offerings like Team Fortress 2, Warface and Blacklight.

BattleCry enters the arena at an unusual time – after a a brief public showing at PAX last year, its developer team promised me that they had gone back and worked over a number of the complaints players had with hit registration and class differentiation. So it was with interest that I took an invitation to jump the queue at Bethesda’s E3 booth, strapped on some headphones and feel into the world of BattleCry.

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EVE Valkyrie

By on July 2, 2015 at 1:49 pm

I’ve been in the very lucky position to go hands-on with quite a few different VR technologies over the past few years. From the original Oculus DK1 to Sony’s Morpheus to Razer’s OSVR, it’s plain to see that everyone is foreshadowing that our screens are going to be sitting a lot closer to our faces in coming years. At E3 2015, I got a chance to play EVE Valkyrie on the Oculus Rift consumer model. It was amazing.

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Rainbow Six Siege

By on July 1, 2015 at 3:10 pm

There are few things more satisfying than successfully executing a well laid plan. I still have fond memories of the map, dot and line system of the original Rainbow Six titles – where engagements were planned via a series of drawn lines, frantic circles and a few small arguments in regards to breach locations and what equipment to bring. Then there were the coordinated actions, that beautiful shock and awe moment when all four members simultaneously blast/rappel/storm one or many locations at once before the tangos even know the cavalry has arrived. Part of that appeal was the inevitable failure that accompanied a woefully nieve takedown plan — but then you just re-evaluate, and start again.

Ubisoft has taken yet another departure in its latest re-imagining of Rainbow Six, which they’re calling Siege.

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Ghost Recon Wildlands

By on June 29, 2015 at 4:51 pm

To be honest, Ghost Recon was not a title I expected to see at this year’s E3 — and after its out-of-nowhere reveal of Wildlands at the end of Ubisoft’s press conferences, I was ushered behind the curtain for my closed door session to find, sadly, that it was a strictly hands-off demo only.

Wildlands is Ghost Recon‘s first proper gameplay evolution since its inception, and from its fairly decent linear shooting roots Wildlands, like many other titles this E3, has expanded its scope to reduce its reliance on scripted gameplay and allow players to create their own unique experiences.

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Destiny the Taken King

By on June 29, 2015 at 3:21 pm

If you clicked on this and wanted to know whether The Taken King is fun – it is. It’s a solid continuance of the Destiny story, alongside a bunch of new PVP and PVE content. If you are a Destiny fan, what this DLC offers is a solid effort that you will likely enjoy.

But I’m going to break preview protocol a little now and talk about why I don’t think this expansion is good value for money.

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Just Cause 3

By on June 25, 2015 at 4:55 pm

Originally a semi-serious attempt at producing a title where you attempt to take down of a totalitarian regime, Just Cause quickly evolved into arguably the best sandbox for creating almost every type of explosion you can think of.

In its two previous incarnations you could hijack vehicles, crash them into other vehicles, buildings, military installations, small towns and blow up almost every object in the world. There was some element of a story, sure, but no-one actually cared about it. Square Enix seems to have taken this to heart: during our hands-off gameplay demonstration of Just Cause 3, they didn’t even mention the story at all…

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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

By on June 24, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Possible spoilers for Human Revolution within.

I have to admit I was a little bit disappointed that my first look at the long-awaited Human Revolution sequel was a hands off demo. But as was the case with many titles at this years’ E3, the games announced and shown are not actually going to out for at least 6-8 months. As a result, what we’re seeing is usually pre-alpha — largely feature complete, but without a lot of the polish and shine that will come through on the final release.

Still, there was much to see and what I did feast my eyes on was both revealing and as the same time a little relieving – enough has changed to be different, but the bulk of what made the original great is still shining through. Welcome to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

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Dark Souls 3

By on June 24, 2015 at 4:06 pm

It was in a very tight, dark and ominous meeting room upstairs in the back of Bandai Namco’s media area that Dark Souls 3 was very unceremoniously unveiled to me and a number of other press. Two representatives from the developer team, one who only spoke Japanese alongside his very patient translator, gradually walked us through about 20 minutes of footage (no hands-on for us, I’m afraid), highlighting a number of changes while being very careful not to spoil anything nor inadvertently reveal any information they weren’t ready to divulge.

But what I could see, frankly, was that Dark Souls 3 was looking utterly gorgeous.

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Total War Warhammer

By on June 23, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Let’s face it – Warhammer has always been crying out for an opportunity to hit the wide, digital, battlefield. Thousands of units, sprawling, epic, battle arenas with volcanoes, castles and the like. So it was with great excitement that Tim ordered me with great haste to Deep Silver’s media room, where I was offered a cold cranberry juice and the opportunity to check out a hands off gameplay demo of Total War: Warhammer. I was not disappointed with the results (although the cranberry juice was a little sugary for my liking — America, right?).

Total War: Warhammer is not your father’s Total War. Gone are the historical restrictions that once prevented the developers from branching out into the unordinary. With the license in hand, Creative Assembly have started cracking apart the engine to allow all sorts of weird and wacky additions to combat.

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By on June 22, 2015 at 5:51 pm

There were few titles I was looking more forward to checking out than XCOM 2, after it dropped out of nowhere just before E3. So it was with a little bit of disappointment that I  discovered 2K did not have a playable build, and instead I was treated to a closed door demo of the new title via a full mission, played out in realtime.

It’s been two years since XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and in a departure from most sequels, our friends at Firaxis have decided to take an unusual tactic for the setting. As was the case with most play throughs of the original, in XCOM 2 canon, Earth lost.

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razer mamba

By on June 22, 2015 at 4:53 pm

The Razer-staple Mamba mouse is changing for the better. Last week, as part of Razer’s E3 product launch, they demonstrated the capabilities of the new device, headlined by the 16,000 DPI laser sensor, dual click force customisation, and the addition of its “Chroma” LED colour system. As is the case with most of their hardware, Razer mean business when it comes to ensuring quality and backing up their claims with facts. Not one but three very expensive looking machines filled the small meeting room in the West Hall, each with a mouse filling a custom cut hole. My guide Cherry flicked them on with a flourish and invited me to check out the monitors.

The first two machines monitored click force as relative to travel pressure (I’m honestly not kidding here, check the pictures), showing how the new, simple screw mechanisms on the bottom of the mouse allow each button to supply individual force. Like your buttons to be ultra quick and responsive for those MOBA and RTS micro movements? Or maybe a little more dense and secure for those shots. I was skeptical at first, especially since I didn’t honestly think it mattered… until I set my right mouse button to be quite firm and the left quite light. Oh my. I could get used to that sort of control, thank you very much.

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The Division

By on June 19, 2015 at 3:12 pm

The scenario behind The Division is one of those Tom Clancy archetypes that really gets my shadowy organisation blood flowing. People trained as sleeper cells of sorts that spring into action when serious disaster strikes in order to retain security is a fantastic idea for a game – namely because very few have considered it as an option. As each cell operates independently, but under the same organisational umbrella, what happens when central control has been destroyed? Do the cells start forming their own loose coalition government, or do they end up morphing into warring factions?

The Division leans towards the former but offers a small taste that the former may end up being a possible dilemma that could very well be faced. In a closed room session at Ubisoft’s E3 booth I was offered a chance to go either way. I was teamed up with one other journalist and a member of Ubisoft Montreal’s developer team, who gave us a short rundown on the controls, loadouts and our mission – to enter the “Dead Zone” and secure territory.

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razer forge

By on June 19, 2015 at 2:00 pm

From the moment the Ouya broke onto the scene and broke Kickstarter records, many people have asked: is there even a need for a device that offers mobile gaming options for home use? The common (mis)conception is that many people would prefer to use a console or PC with their TV simply due to their versatility and accessibility. The problem with this argument is that not only are you limited by price (good luck finding an Xbox One or PS4 for less than $400), but what you’re paying for is generally well and truly overpowered for what many people actually use. I have friends who own a PS4 but spend 85% of the time watching Netflix and Hulu Plus on it, with nary a Blu-Ray entering its bowels through the optical orifice.

Unfortunately Ouya turned out to be what many originally expected — underpowered, poorly designed, and lacking a critical mass of quality software. Which it got the size right, its controller was a hot mess of cheap engineering and little quality control, coupled with a user interface that took too long to get right. But there’s still hope for a product to fill this gap — announced earlier this year, I got a chance to check out the Forge TV at Razer’s E3 booth.

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Mirror's Edge Catalyst

By on June 18, 2015 at 4:29 pm

This is embarrassing to admit, but when I play Mirrors Edge I get really nauseous. This is a problem, since the original game is on my top 10 list of all time favourites and I actually kind of dreaded loading it up – the feeling I imagine people who are lactose intolerant have when they want a delicious pizza. But I bought some sea sickness tablets and pushed through the pain, hopping from skyscraper to skyscraper, punching guns out of the hands of nameless corporate drones. Aside from one particular level (CONSTRUCTION SITE AHHHH) I loved the risk that DICE took by creating a title that focused so little time on combat and much more on the graceful and fluid movement of a pretty fantastic female lead.

So when I saw Catalyst teased and finally announced to the world, I was ecstatic. The problem is that I forgot to bring any sea sickness medicine to EA’s booth.

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Star Wars Battlefront

By on June 18, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Few games in recent times have been more anticipated than Star Wars Battlefront.

Since its announcement last year, it seems to be the title that unites almost every gamer in universal excitement. The full trailer at the EA conference just days ago whipped up an enormous fervour on both social media and live at the conference, so I didn’t mind waiting in line for over an hour to get my hands on a single round of multiplayer. After all, this isn’t just Star Wars. It’s Star Wars inside one of the best FPS engines ever created, coupled with multiple assurances that so much research has gone into the game that even the guy who spent four hours arguing on forums that Han shot first will appreciate the attention to detail.

So I when I sat down into the bottom-most level of EA’s public pavilion, PS4 controller in hand, I was more than ready to become a stormtrooper fighting to dominate Hoth.

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Razer OSVR

By on June 17, 2015 at 6:17 pm

At the time of writing, there are now about seven proprietary VR systems (including Oculus, Morpheus, ValveVR, and a number of other less prominent startups) that I could count. All of these systems are being developed independently, ignoring the usual central consortium system to produce particular standards and a common software core — meaning that every publisher in the near future will probably require support for various SDKs and engines in order to ensure they can support virtual reality in their games.

This presents a large problem: multiple engines mean higher production costs to ensure that their software and peripherals are supported by the product that the end user — you, the gamer — happens to own.

As part of Razers new product platform, I was today introduced to Open Source Virtual Reality (or OSVR for short) – a Razer-lead consortium to produce a kind of DirectX for Virtual Reality, a central standard library that supports all sorts of VR based hardware and assorted devices.

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peter molyneux

By on February 17, 2015 at 10:40 am

Like almost everyone over the age of 30, there have been times where I have been stung by the bee of nostalgia. Our generation seems more determined than almost every other to demand a constant reinforcement of our childhood’s pop culture, whether it’s re-releases, re-makes, re-imaginings… or a combination of all three. When our demands are met, we reward them with cynicism and derision, after we quickly release that nostalgia is generally something that cannot be recaptured, let alone recompiled into a easily consumable package.

In reality, sentiment links us back to a particular moment or feeling in our past – somewhere safe, just and stable. Hollywood aren’t the only ones capitalising on this obsession, with a host of early game designers popping out of the woodwork, promising that their new (old?) projects and new (old?) ideas will right the wrongs done by those evil publishers who so long ago prevented these geniuses from realising their destinies.

Enough is enough.

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