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Found 8 results

  1. Daniel Jones

    Review: Abzû

    With 2012’s Journey, thatgamecompany succeeded in creating a type of interactive tome, replete with all the self-reflective ambiguity of an abstract painting. Debates over video games as art notwithstanding, Journey could hardly be described as anything but. While it wove an astoundingly rich visual tapestry, the surprisingly effusive weight of its anonymous multiplayer carried the brunt of its artistic meaning. So it’s impressive that developer Giant Squid—founded by Journey’s Art Director, Matt Nava—has created a game in Abzû that not only sparkles with aesthetic brilliance, but also finds its own voice as an emotionally driven work of artistic expression. The fact that it occasionally feels slight in the shadow of Journey’s monolithic legacy is something I struggle to hold against it, especially when the overall experience feels so singularly divine. Abzû’s wordless story begins in a serene corner of its ocean setting, as your avatar, a wet-suit-clad scuba diver awakes on the surface. Subtle visual cues and camera tricks help to guide you along your trek through underwater caverns, dense kelp forests, and even some less organic structures that I dare not detail further. Along the way, you’ll interact with all manner of sea life from the smallest clownfish to blue whales the size of a naval submarine. It’s in the interaction with these creatures that Abzû sets itself apart from any game I’ve played before. Each of the game’s environments is its own mini ecosystem, teeming with aquatic inhabitants that interact with each other and the player in fascinating and believable ways. Sharks will chomp on smaller fish, dolphins flip and twirl in their pods, and giant squid spray ink when you come near. These interactions are rarely scripted, often relying on your input to trigger, such as enticing a massive humpback whale to breach the surface or hitching a ride with a turtle. Finding new ways to play around with Abzû’s wildlife proves fun and engaging, while nicely complimenting the game’s naturalistic themes. Just as playful is the game’s soundtrack from Austin Wintory, whose work composing Journey earned him a Grammy nomination. The lively strings, twinkling harps, and celestial choir simply sound exactly like Abzû looks. Wintory’s scores have an exquisite knack for capturing the essence of a game’s visuals and themes, and his work on Abzû is no exception. This inimitable, ever-present music ties into the gameplay and adapts appropriately to your actions, making it as vital a part of the experience as the vibrant visuals and the smooth controls. As you might expect from the art director behind Journey, Abzû’s visuals inspire awe, a true sight to behold. Each area exhibits a distinct color palette with what can almost be described as a bouquet of marine wildlife. Seeing thousands of fish all animated on screen at once is jaw dropping more so for its audacious beauty than its technological achievement. Abzû has much in common with thatgamecompany’s earlier title, Flower, as you spread life through the world, making each new area more vibrant and lively than it was when you first waded into its waters. This is more than just pretty visuals at thirty frames per second; it’s emotion through gameplay and gameplay through art. Abzû’s ocean is not all smooth sailing, however, as a few questionable design decisions muddy the otherwise clear waters. Each area has a few hidden shells that you can collect, much like the scarf pieces from Journey. But whereas those pieces granted your avatar with a longer jump and eventually—if you were able to find them all—a white robe with an infinitely regenerating scarf, Abzû grants the player no such rewards, besides a gold trophy. A sense of progression would have served Abzû well, and would’ve made the already enjoyable movement even more gratifying. Though it may seem unfair to hold Abzû to the standards set by its predecessor, the corollary couldn’t be more apt. Make no mistake about it, this game—though not designed by Journey mastermind Jenova Chen—is a clear successor to that modern classic. Though the visual stylings and game design present a unique twist on the sub-genre, the level structure and pacing are lifted almost wholesale from Journey. As someone who has played through that game more times than I can count, I often found myself predicting what would happen next. Though the beats are familiar, each new area still kept me engaged as the game floated towards its conclusion. It’s just disappointing that Giant Squid chose to stick so vehemently to a previously established formula for a game that otherwise presents wonders I had never experienced before. That statement’s not completely true actually; I do have some experience with the grandeur of our planet’s oceans. I have been snorkeling on a few occasions, off the coast of Maui and Hawaii, and though it was over a decade ago, the adventure has hardly faded from my memory. Never have I been so humbled by nature as when I found myself surrounded by all manner of sea creatures, from turtles to barracudas to massive manta rays that dwarfed my six foot frame. This is the type of feeling Abzû so deftly replicates; that of a stranger in a strange land, discovering wonders your eyes weren’t meant to see. I never expected a game to make me want to don the flippers and goggles again, but that’s exactly what Abzû has accomplished. Despite that, Abzû isn’t a scuba simulator, and it never attempts to be. You don’t need to manage oxygen levels, or worry about depth pressure, or fear any of the predators that lurk in the deep. While the fish are all modeled after real species in both design and behavior, this is a stylized version of underwater ecosystems, not a perfect replication. So in place of realism, Abzû fosters a wondrous sense of respect for the species that exist in our oceans, and it’s all the better for it. Conclusion: After my second playthrough, I still haven’t uncovered all of Abzû’s marvels, and I can’t stop thinking about my next dive in its magical world of color and life. I want to unlock all of the fish species, collect all of the mollusk shells scattered in the hidden corners of the world, and I want to find every last meditation statue. Mainly, though, I look forward to revisiting Abzû anytime I just need a break from the noise and bustle of human life on the surface of this Earth. The flaws that keep Abzû from being an unequivocal masterpiece are of little import when fully submerged in the adventure’s calming beauty and spectral wonder. Abzû was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is now available on PS4 and PC
  2. As human beings, we continuously try to define art. In the world of video games, this impulse to put clear definitions to the world around us surfaces when we narrow our focus down to genre or use wider reaching umbrella terms like interactive entertainment. Each game is an experience within its own universe and can feature the full diversity of the human experience. ABZÛ can’t be defined by categories, as it falls messily between several, but only by experience alone. The aquatic adventure immerses the player in its undersea environment and the journey through that oceanic world is something special. Matt Nava, the creative director at Giant Squid, has been working on bringing ABZÛ’s aquatic ambiance to life for the past two years. After working as the art director on both the critically acclaimed Journey and its predecessor Flower, he sought to create a world filled with life instead of one void of it. “After working on Journey, which is this very desert, dry game, I wanted to make something that is very vibrant and wet - this sort of opposite world,” Nava said. “I actually love to go scuba diving myself, and I’ve had some great experiences diving. That, I guess, was the inspiration for the game.” In ABZÛ you play as a nameless diver who can freely swim around without restrictions so you can focus on the world around you. Ranging from serene views to engaging set pieces in a world rarely seen by man. “It’s an underwater adventure game where you take control of this diver and you’re sent to the bottom of the ocean. We tried to create a game for folks who dream of scuba diving,” Nava said. “What that meant to us was that there’s no air gauge, you do whatever you wish you could do when you dive. When you actually scuba dive you have all this gear you have to worry about. You have to think about how long you can stay down and in this game you don’t have to do any of that.” The environments start off as simple coves populated by hundreds of fish, which are all based off of real species. From name to physical scale, the species in ABZÛ bring a sense of realism to the fantasy world making it feel plausible that somewhere in the depths these locations exist. “These fish are all as big as they really are, and you can ride on these larger guys,” Nava stated, indicating some of the more massive acquatic creatures. “One of the cool things fish do in this game is they eat each other. Just kind of the main thing that fish do. You really don’t see that too often in video games, which is kind of cool for us because it was a really fun thing to make. You can ride this guy and watch him eat some little dudes. Sometimes you see a smaller predator that you’re riding get eaten by a larger one right up from underneath you which is pretty fun.” One of ABZÛ’s strongest traits is its odd sense of realism; the sense that you’re not swimming through someone’s imagination, but rather an unexplored region on this planet brimming with life and secrets. Along the way you will run into natural (and unnatural) barriers such a thick coral. To pass through natural and man-made barriers you will have to recuse and repair mini submersible robots that will aid you in your endeavors. Using the diver’s ping ability, which acts a sonar and commutation tool, you can unlock secrets and navigate your way through dark trenches and caves. Anything that appears out of the ordinary should be pinged at. In some areas there are fish sealed away and breaking the seal will release an entirely new species into the surrounding environment. “We recently added where you can sit down and meditate. This just lets you watch the fish. You can see what their name is and see what they do,” said Nava. “See who they’re eating and whose eating them. It’s pretty cool to just watch these guys. You can put down the controller and it will switch between fish automatically its like a little aquarium mode.” The tone of the game is peaceful, yet is full on many tense moments. Not from fear or stress, but the feeling of the unknown. Consistently wondering how deep you can go and what exactly is going on. The music expresses this wonderfully, which is no surprise since Austin Wintory wrote the score - the same man who composed the music for Journey, which earned the first Grammy nomination for music in a video game. “The game is this very serene experience and a lot of people ask us, ‘Is there a story in the game or do you just explore?’ and the answer is you definitely discover the story as you go deeper.” Nava said. “There is no text or dialogue in the game at all it’s all told through the environment and the events that occur. These little drones, the diver, you start to figure out who they are, why they're here, as you find more clues.” Just like the games Nava has worked on before, you can expect moments that will take your breathe away. I swam into majestic areas filled with more wish than I could count and felt like a small speck being engulfed in a world I thought I knew. Though experimentation, Nava and his team found a way to redesign aquatic life from the sea floor up. "One of the spaces has about 10,000 fish in it now. To get that many fish we had to really rethink how we animate fish from the ground up. Most times when you animate fish in a game you have kind of a skeleton that moves them,” Nava said. “This is a very traditional animation technique, but it’s expensive for the computer to render. So instead we don’t have any sort of internal skeleton for the fish that animates them. We make them move with mathematical formulas. It makes it so we can render way way more, and when we changed it to work that way we went from having about 100 fish to about 10,000 fish. So that was a really good day.” ABZÛ will be available for the PS4 and PC this summer on August 2. From my time with it, I think it will be worth taking the plunge to explore this world that words really don't accurately capture. Whether you just want to relax in the ocean or find every secret tucked away in its watery depths, ABZÛ seems to be shaping up as an adventure that shouldn’t be missed. “Something that’s really cool about the ocean is how little we know about it,” concluded Nava. “I think everyone has this sense of wonder and imagination about what could actually be happening down there. We wanted to capture that kind of surreal elements of the ocean in the game and this is our take on it.” View full article
  3. O'Dell

    ABZÛ's Aquatic Ambiance

    As human beings, we continuously try to define art. In the world of video games, this impulse to put clear definitions to the world around us surfaces when we narrow our focus down to genre or use wider reaching umbrella terms like interactive entertainment. Each game is an experience within its own universe and can feature the full diversity of the human experience. ABZÛ can’t be defined by categories, as it falls messily between several, but only by experience alone. The aquatic adventure immerses the player in its undersea environment and the journey through that oceanic world is something special. Matt Nava, the creative director at Giant Squid, has been working on bringing ABZÛ’s aquatic ambiance to life for the past two years. After working as the art director on both the critically acclaimed Journey and its predecessor Flower, he sought to create a world filled with life instead of one void of it. “After working on Journey, which is this very desert, dry game, I wanted to make something that is very vibrant and wet - this sort of opposite world,” Nava said. “I actually love to go scuba diving myself, and I’ve had some great experiences diving. That, I guess, was the inspiration for the game.” In ABZÛ you play as a nameless diver who can freely swim around without restrictions so you can focus on the world around you. Ranging from serene views to engaging set pieces in a world rarely seen by man. “It’s an underwater adventure game where you take control of this diver and you’re sent to the bottom of the ocean. We tried to create a game for folks who dream of scuba diving,” Nava said. “What that meant to us was that there’s no air gauge, you do whatever you wish you could do when you dive. When you actually scuba dive you have all this gear you have to worry about. You have to think about how long you can stay down and in this game you don’t have to do any of that.” The environments start off as simple coves populated by hundreds of fish, which are all based off of real species. From name to physical scale, the species in ABZÛ bring a sense of realism to the fantasy world making it feel plausible that somewhere in the depths these locations exist. “These fish are all as big as they really are, and you can ride on these larger guys,” Nava stated, indicating some of the more massive acquatic creatures. “One of the cool things fish do in this game is they eat each other. Just kind of the main thing that fish do. You really don’t see that too often in video games, which is kind of cool for us because it was a really fun thing to make. You can ride this guy and watch him eat some little dudes. Sometimes you see a smaller predator that you’re riding get eaten by a larger one right up from underneath you which is pretty fun.” One of ABZÛ’s strongest traits is its odd sense of realism; the sense that you’re not swimming through someone’s imagination, but rather an unexplored region on this planet brimming with life and secrets. Along the way you will run into natural (and unnatural) barriers such a thick coral. To pass through natural and man-made barriers you will have to recuse and repair mini submersible robots that will aid you in your endeavors. Using the diver’s ping ability, which acts a sonar and commutation tool, you can unlock secrets and navigate your way through dark trenches and caves. Anything that appears out of the ordinary should be pinged at. In some areas there are fish sealed away and breaking the seal will release an entirely new species into the surrounding environment. “We recently added where you can sit down and meditate. This just lets you watch the fish. You can see what their name is and see what they do,” said Nava. “See who they’re eating and whose eating them. It’s pretty cool to just watch these guys. You can put down the controller and it will switch between fish automatically its like a little aquarium mode.” The tone of the game is peaceful, yet is full on many tense moments. Not from fear or stress, but the feeling of the unknown. Consistently wondering how deep you can go and what exactly is going on. The music expresses this wonderfully, which is no surprise since Austin Wintory wrote the score - the same man who composed the music for Journey, which earned the first Grammy nomination for music in a video game. “The game is this very serene experience and a lot of people ask us, ‘Is there a story in the game or do you just explore?’ and the answer is you definitely discover the story as you go deeper.” Nava said. “There is no text or dialogue in the game at all it’s all told through the environment and the events that occur. These little drones, the diver, you start to figure out who they are, why they're here, as you find more clues.” Just like the games Nava has worked on before, you can expect moments that will take your breathe away. I swam into majestic areas filled with more wish than I could count and felt like a small speck being engulfed in a world I thought I knew. Though experimentation, Nava and his team found a way to redesign aquatic life from the sea floor up. "One of the spaces has about 10,000 fish in it now. To get that many fish we had to really rethink how we animate fish from the ground up. Most times when you animate fish in a game you have kind of a skeleton that moves them,” Nava said. “This is a very traditional animation technique, but it’s expensive for the computer to render. So instead we don’t have any sort of internal skeleton for the fish that animates them. We make them move with mathematical formulas. It makes it so we can render way way more, and when we changed it to work that way we went from having about 100 fish to about 10,000 fish. So that was a really good day.” ABZÛ will be available for the PS4 and PC this summer on August 2. From my time with it, I think it will be worth taking the plunge to explore this world that words really don't accurately capture. Whether you just want to relax in the ocean or find every secret tucked away in its watery depths, ABZÛ seems to be shaping up as an adventure that shouldn’t be missed. “Something that’s really cool about the ocean is how little we know about it,” concluded Nava. “I think everyone has this sense of wonder and imagination about what could actually be happening down there. We wanted to capture that kind of surreal elements of the ocean in the game and this is our take on it.”
  4. Marcus Stewart

    Losing Myself in the Tranquility of Abzu

    I got my hands on Abzu while exploring the E3 show floor. Developed by Giant Squid (which includes the composer and artist of Journey), players control a mysterious diver as they explore the depths of the ocean and uncover its secrets. The whimsical experience strikes the player with its calming beauty. Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the show floor, it’s amazing how quickly I was able to completely zone out in Abzu. Everything from the serene soundtrack to the calming sounds of the ocean current caused the world around me to melt away completely, sending me into a peaceful, almost zen-like state. Interestingly, mediation plays a role in gameplay. The diver can meditate in certain areas, causing the camera to shift away and focus on the different sea life. Outside of using the analog sticks to switch the focus of fish, this state acts as a peaceful screensaver. I wouldn’t be surprised if mediation enthusiasts used this function in actual sessions. Touring the sea as the diver feels graceful, performing elegant back-flips and twirls as I propelled myself through schools of fish and towering stalks of seaweed. The simple control scheme means anyone can dive in and explore with minimal learning curve. The right shoulder button propels the diver faster, and two face buttons to interact. The left shoulder button lets the diver grab a hold of larger creatures, which I made good use of to hitch a ride on a giant sea bass. Even though swimming about and taking in the sights is enjoyable, the drive to explore hit me immediately. I descended into every nook in hopes of finding hidden treasure or elusive creatures. Objects designated with a floating icon can be interacted with. A small hole in the ground opened up into a glowing wellspring that sprouted glowing, eel-like creatures in a magical moment. Early on in the game I located a downed robotic companion. Several of these machines are scattered around the seafloor, and activating them gives you an automated buddy to assist with different tasks. My companion cut down a wall of coral that led to a dreamlike area filled with ghostly pillars and an altar at the center. Interacting with the altar released a magical lock (represented by gorgeous imagery such as a ballet of manta rays) that opened a nearby gate. As I entered the next area, a great white shark immediately assaulted and destroyed one of my robots. It was a jarring but effective reminder that danger still lurks in this peaceful world. After lying low until it swam away, a massive and elaborate gate beckoned me from the distance. Drawn to the giant red circle at the center, I swam towards it almost hypnotically. Once I reached it, my beacon caused the almost alien-like door to open before me. The demo concluded once I entered, so I’ll have to wait to see what mysteries lie beyond. Pulling myself away from Abzu’s tranquility was an effort in itself. As someone who enjoys listening to the sounds of the ocean to unwind and loses himself viewing massive aquariums, Abzu is one of the most mentally pleasing games experiences I’ve encountered in some time. I look forward to kicking back and swimming with the fishes when it launches on PlayStation 4 and PC August 2.
  5. I got my hands on Abzu while exploring the E3 show floor. Developed by Giant Squid (which includes the composer and artist of Journey), players control a mysterious diver as they explore the depths of the ocean and uncover its secrets. The whimsical experience strikes the player with its calming beauty. Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the show floor, it’s amazing how quickly I was able to completely zone out in Abzu. Everything from the serene soundtrack to the calming sounds of the ocean current caused the world around me to melt away completely, sending me into a peaceful, almost zen-like state. Interestingly, mediation plays a role in gameplay. The diver can meditate in certain areas, causing the camera to shift away and focus on the different sea life. Outside of using the analog sticks to switch the focus of fish, this state acts as a peaceful screensaver. I wouldn’t be surprised if mediation enthusiasts used this function in actual sessions. Touring the sea as the diver feels graceful, performing elegant back-flips and twirls as I propelled myself through schools of fish and towering stalks of seaweed. The simple control scheme means anyone can dive in and explore with minimal learning curve. The right shoulder button propels the diver faster, and two face buttons to interact. The left shoulder button lets the diver grab a hold of larger creatures, which I made good use of to hitch a ride on a giant sea bass. Even though swimming about and taking in the sights is enjoyable, the drive to explore hit me immediately. I descended into every nook in hopes of finding hidden treasure or elusive creatures. Objects designated with a floating icon can be interacted with. A small hole in the ground opened up into a glowing wellspring that sprouted glowing, eel-like creatures in a magical moment. Early on in the game I located a downed robotic companion. Several of these machines are scattered around the seafloor, and activating them gives you an automated buddy to assist with different tasks. My companion cut down a wall of coral that led to a dreamlike area filled with ghostly pillars and an altar at the center. Interacting with the altar released a magical lock (represented by gorgeous imagery such as a ballet of manta rays) that opened a nearby gate. As I entered the next area, a great white shark immediately assaulted and destroyed one of my robots. It was a jarring but effective reminder that danger still lurks in this peaceful world. After lying low until it swam away, a massive and elaborate gate beckoned me from the distance. Drawn to the giant red circle at the center, I swam towards it almost hypnotically. Once I reached it, my beacon caused the almost alien-like door to open before me. The demo concluded once I entered, so I’ll have to wait to see what mysteries lie beyond. Pulling myself away from Abzu’s tranquility was an effort in itself. As someone who enjoys listening to the sounds of the ocean to unwind and loses himself viewing massive aquariums, Abzu is one of the most mentally pleasing games experiences I’ve encountered in some time. I look forward to kicking back and swimming with the fishes when it launches on PlayStation 4 and PC August 2. View full article
  6. Following Microsoft’s press conference earlier today, Sony had to be on its game. Microsoft showed a fair number of titles with first access DLC for Xbox owners and a couple highly polished an interesting exclusives (here’s lookin’ at you, Sunset Overdrive and Scalebound). Sony seems to have given a suitably escalated response. Sony began by showing a story-teasing, action packed trailer (narrated by Peter Dinklage!) and announcing that PS4 owners would have access to a special first-look alpha of the game beginning this Thursday and continuing through Sunday. It was also revealed that PlayStation owners would receive an exclusive strike mission (the Destiny equivalent of dungeon raids) for Destiny. July 17 marks when Destiny enters open beta. Furthermore, when Destiny releases on September 9, there will also be a bundle with a white PlayStation 4. The Order: 1886 also made an obligatory appearance with a brief segment showing off some atmospheric gameplay. It is worth noting that the trailer below was edited together and, while made up of the gameplay that I saw live, doesn’t quite capture the same intensity or urgency that the gameplay segment demonstrated. After The Order, Sony decided to introduce Entwined. Players control a bird and a fish that fall in love and over try to guide them through several lifetimes to be together. Yes, the concept is weird. On the other hand, the game is a joy to look at and the music relaxing and beautiful. Each creature is assigned a different joystick, meaning that you control both of them simultaneously. The best part about this announcement (I mean, besides that it exists) is that it is available today on PSN for a reasonable $9.99. If you thought that Sucker Punch and Sony had abandoned Second Son, think again! Entwined lead into the reveal of Second Son DLC titled First Light. Players take on the role of fan favorite character Fetch Walker as she deals with the demons of her past. First Light is slated for release sometime in August 2014. LittleBigPlanet 3 debuted with a live gameplay demonstration and trailer. The game introduces new characters as well as co-op gameplay. Sackboy is joined by the dog-like Oddsock who has the ability to wall jump; Toggle a blobby character who can grow and shrink at will; and Swoop who can fly around at will. LittleBigPlanet 3 is coming to PS4 this November. Additionally, you’ll be able to go online and play any level made in LittleBigPlanet 3. Sony had pulled out the big guns with the reveal of LittleBigPlanet 3, and like a comical scene in a sweeping action film they continued to pull out more big guns. It turns out those images and five second video clips that have been popping up and been attributed to a From Software game under the working title of Project Beast were genuine. Bloodborne appears to be a grim action game that makes use of Dark Souls imagery while making use of a slightly different premise. Count me in as excited for this PlayStation exclusive coming 2015. This might get a bit lengthy if I go too in-depth with what happened during the conference, so I am going to shotgun a number of highlights at you: Far Cry 4 was demonstrated live (and has co-op). Dead Island 2 is coming out and one of the characters is voiced by Jack Black. There will be a Last of Us Remastered/Diablo 3 crossover mission that involves taking out infected zombies in Diablo 3. Battlefield Hardline had a trailer (plus the beta, which is available right now for PS4 players). Paradox Interactive has all of its development studios working on exclusive PlayStation titles; the first of which is Magicka 2. With a great live-action trailer and a tagline like “Learn to spell… again” how can you not smile and feel a twinge of anticipation? Double Fine is partnering with Sony to remaster the beloved adventure game Grim Fandango. *JOY SPASMS* Devolver Digital, the publisher behind Hotline Miami, is bringing a load of games to PlayStation consoles first, before they make their way elsewhere. This includes Broforce, Titan Souls, Not A Hero, Hotline Miami Wrong Number, and The Talos Principle. Sound like a lot or never heard of the before? Check out this neat little trailer thing that does your research for you! Then we arrived at the point during the conference where Sony uttered the words Suda 51. The ever unpredictable designer is in the process of crafting a game titled Let It Die, which received a trailer that is probably too graphic to embed directly into this post. Check it out here if you are interested. Suffice it to say that Suda 51 is either a genius or insane. I’m leaning more towards insane, but possibly in a good way? Regardless, Let It Die comes out in 2015. Remember how great Journey was? If you don’t it was fan-flippin’-tastic. One of the artists on that thatgamecompany’s last title spun off his own studio, dubbed it Giant Squid and began working on a mysterious new title called Abzû. Much like Journey, Abzû’s soundtrack has been composed by Austin Wintory. Unlike Journey, Abzû appears to take place completely under water with a diver exploring the unknown depths and interacting with the various denizens of the watery deep. Immediately following Abzû was a trailer that showcased the progress of the highly anticipated No Man’s Sky. I can’t really put into words how excited I am to one day get my hands on No Man’s Sky, but… ugh. It really seems to be doing something different and doing that different thing WELL. Also, I think I just salivated at the thought of playing this game with a VR headset. Sony decided that we needed a bit of a break from new announcements and spent a few minutes reassuring everyone that their virtual reality peripheral Project Morpheus is still a thing and it will have demos n’ stuff. An integrated YouTube app will be making its way to PS4 later this year. This will facilitate the watching of cat videos as well as uploading shared gameplay videos online with friends, family, and strangers. The game streaming service PlayStation Now will enter open beta on July 31 for PlayStation 4 and shortly after available for PS3 and PSVita. As an almost casual aside, it was mentioned that PlayStation Now will also be available on select Sony televisions. All you need is a DualShock 4 controller to play on qualifying television sets. PlayStation TV will be coming to North America. The PlayStation TV is essentially a streaming box that allows the PlayStation 4 to be played on other televisions in the house, can stream PlayStation Vita games to be played on your TV, and allows anyone to access PlayStation Now without the hefty investment costs of a fully-fledged console. PlayStation TV will retail at $100 for the base box and at $139 for a bundle that includes the box, a controller, 8GB of memory, and a digital voucher for a copy of The Lego Movie Game. Oh, and it can stream other services like Netflix, too. In a new push to create more PlayStation exclusives, Sony announced that there will be an PlayStation original series, the first of which is a two run series based on the graphic novel, Powers. The first episode will be available for free. All PlayStation Plus subscribers will be able to view the entire Powers series free of charge. Not being super familiar with the graphic novel, for how it was described made it sound like a police procedural, if those police lived in a world where super-powers existed and there was a specialized police department for super-powered murder cases. That sounds pretty dang cool to me. Then Sony revealed that there is a Ratchet and Clank movie in the works for next year. Sony followed the Ratchet and Clank movie announcement with a drastic tonal shift to The Last of Us Remastered. Now, I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the trailer they showed for the enhanced PS4 version over PS3 version, but maybe that’s because my eyes aren’t discerning enough. However, as base and classless as my eyes may be, they couldn’t help getting excited for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. A new trailer was shown that was edited together by Kojima himself. In it we watch Big Boss mourn with urns, grow a ponytail, and be a bit more hardcore than the Solid Snake we’re all accustomed to seeing. I’m relishing the prospect of jumping into whatever craziness Kojima has concocted for The Phantom Pain, because good or bad, it is going to be a ride. Grand Theft Auto V was announced to be coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox one, and PC this fall (though at the press conference they conveniently left out the part about releasing on Xbox One and PC). Players looking to upgrade to a different version will be granted data transfers from whatever system they chose previously to the newer one of their choosing. Sony then revealed a new gameplay segment from Batman: Arkham Knight and, this is coming from someone who hasn’t played previous Arkham games and who is a professional critic, it looks amaze-tastical. I gotta hand it to Sony, they ended this conference incredibly strong. After so many great games debuted or showed impeccable polish, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End tipped the scales in Sony’s favor. Overall I was really impressed by what Sony brought to the table this E3. Maybe that’s partly because I was going in not expecting much besides a victory lap for The Last of Us, a few indies, and a possible Uncharted announcement. What Sony gave was so much more. They announced indie title after indie title, big game that people care about after big game that people care about, and while they kept non-gaming talk low, they hit all the bullet points they needed to and then got back on track with more game reveals and teases. What did you think of the conference? Good? Adequate? Meh? View full article
  7. Jack Gardner

    E3 2014 - Sony's Press Conference

    Following Microsoft’s press conference earlier today, Sony had to be on its game. Microsoft showed a fair number of titles with first access DLC for Xbox owners and a couple highly polished an interesting exclusives (here’s lookin’ at you, Sunset Overdrive and Scalebound). Sony seems to have given a suitably escalated response. Sony began by showing a story-teasing, action packed trailer (narrated by Peter Dinklage!) and announcing that PS4 owners would have access to a special first-look alpha of the game beginning this Thursday and continuing through Sunday. It was also revealed that PlayStation owners would receive an exclusive strike mission (the Destiny equivalent of dungeon raids) for Destiny. July 17 marks when Destiny enters open beta. Furthermore, when Destiny releases on September 9, there will also be a bundle with a white PlayStation 4. The Order: 1886 also made an obligatory appearance with a brief segment showing off some atmospheric gameplay. It is worth noting that the trailer below was edited together and, while made up of the gameplay that I saw live, doesn’t quite capture the same intensity or urgency that the gameplay segment demonstrated. After The Order, Sony decided to introduce Entwined. Players control a bird and a fish that fall in love and over try to guide them through several lifetimes to be together. Yes, the concept is weird. On the other hand, the game is a joy to look at and the music relaxing and beautiful. Each creature is assigned a different joystick, meaning that you control both of them simultaneously. The best part about this announcement (I mean, besides that it exists) is that it is available today on PSN for a reasonable $9.99. If you thought that Sucker Punch and Sony had abandoned Second Son, think again! Entwined lead into the reveal of Second Son DLC titled First Light. Players take on the role of fan favorite character Fetch Walker as she deals with the demons of her past. First Light is slated for release sometime in August 2014. LittleBigPlanet 3 debuted with a live gameplay demonstration and trailer. The game introduces new characters as well as co-op gameplay. Sackboy is joined by the dog-like Oddsock who has the ability to wall jump; Toggle a blobby character who can grow and shrink at will; and Swoop who can fly around at will. LittleBigPlanet 3 is coming to PS4 this November. Additionally, you’ll be able to go online and play any level made in LittleBigPlanet 3. Sony had pulled out the big guns with the reveal of LittleBigPlanet 3, and like a comical scene in a sweeping action film they continued to pull out more big guns. It turns out those images and five second video clips that have been popping up and been attributed to a From Software game under the working title of Project Beast were genuine. Bloodborne appears to be a grim action game that makes use of Dark Souls imagery while making use of a slightly different premise. Count me in as excited for this PlayStation exclusive coming 2015. This might get a bit lengthy if I go too in-depth with what happened during the conference, so I am going to shotgun a number of highlights at you: Far Cry 4 was demonstrated live (and has co-op). Dead Island 2 is coming out and one of the characters is voiced by Jack Black. There will be a Last of Us Remastered/Diablo 3 crossover mission that involves taking out infected zombies in Diablo 3. Battlefield Hardline had a trailer (plus the beta, which is available right now for PS4 players). Paradox Interactive has all of its development studios working on exclusive PlayStation titles; the first of which is Magicka 2. With a great live-action trailer and a tagline like “Learn to spell… again” how can you not smile and feel a twinge of anticipation? Double Fine is partnering with Sony to remaster the beloved adventure game Grim Fandango. *JOY SPASMS* Devolver Digital, the publisher behind Hotline Miami, is bringing a load of games to PlayStation consoles first, before they make their way elsewhere. This includes Broforce, Titan Souls, Not A Hero, Hotline Miami Wrong Number, and The Talos Principle. Sound like a lot or never heard of the before? Check out this neat little trailer thing that does your research for you! Then we arrived at the point during the conference where Sony uttered the words Suda 51. The ever unpredictable designer is in the process of crafting a game titled Let It Die, which received a trailer that is probably too graphic to embed directly into this post. Check it out here if you are interested. Suffice it to say that Suda 51 is either a genius or insane. I’m leaning more towards insane, but possibly in a good way? Regardless, Let It Die comes out in 2015. Remember how great Journey was? If you don’t it was fan-flippin’-tastic. One of the artists on that thatgamecompany’s last title spun off his own studio, dubbed it Giant Squid and began working on a mysterious new title called Abzû. Much like Journey, Abzû’s soundtrack has been composed by Austin Wintory. Unlike Journey, Abzû appears to take place completely under water with a diver exploring the unknown depths and interacting with the various denizens of the watery deep. Immediately following Abzû was a trailer that showcased the progress of the highly anticipated No Man’s Sky. I can’t really put into words how excited I am to one day get my hands on No Man’s Sky, but… ugh. It really seems to be doing something different and doing that different thing WELL. Also, I think I just salivated at the thought of playing this game with a VR headset. Sony decided that we needed a bit of a break from new announcements and spent a few minutes reassuring everyone that their virtual reality peripheral Project Morpheus is still a thing and it will have demos n’ stuff. An integrated YouTube app will be making its way to PS4 later this year. This will facilitate the watching of cat videos as well as uploading shared gameplay videos online with friends, family, and strangers. The game streaming service PlayStation Now will enter open beta on July 31 for PlayStation 4 and shortly after available for PS3 and PSVita. As an almost casual aside, it was mentioned that PlayStation Now will also be available on select Sony televisions. All you need is a DualShock 4 controller to play on qualifying television sets. PlayStation TV will be coming to North America. The PlayStation TV is essentially a streaming box that allows the PlayStation 4 to be played on other televisions in the house, can stream PlayStation Vita games to be played on your TV, and allows anyone to access PlayStation Now without the hefty investment costs of a fully-fledged console. PlayStation TV will retail at $100 for the base box and at $139 for a bundle that includes the box, a controller, 8GB of memory, and a digital voucher for a copy of The Lego Movie Game. Oh, and it can stream other services like Netflix, too. In a new push to create more PlayStation exclusives, Sony announced that there will be an PlayStation original series, the first of which is a two run series based on the graphic novel, Powers. The first episode will be available for free. All PlayStation Plus subscribers will be able to view the entire Powers series free of charge. Not being super familiar with the graphic novel, for how it was described made it sound like a police procedural, if those police lived in a world where super-powers existed and there was a specialized police department for super-powered murder cases. That sounds pretty dang cool to me. Then Sony revealed that there is a Ratchet and Clank movie in the works for next year. Sony followed the Ratchet and Clank movie announcement with a drastic tonal shift to The Last of Us Remastered. Now, I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the trailer they showed for the enhanced PS4 version over PS3 version, but maybe that’s because my eyes aren’t discerning enough. However, as base and classless as my eyes may be, they couldn’t help getting excited for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. A new trailer was shown that was edited together by Kojima himself. In it we watch Big Boss mourn with urns, grow a ponytail, and be a bit more hardcore than the Solid Snake we’re all accustomed to seeing. I’m relishing the prospect of jumping into whatever craziness Kojima has concocted for The Phantom Pain, because good or bad, it is going to be a ride. Grand Theft Auto V was announced to be coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox one, and PC this fall (though at the press conference they conveniently left out the part about releasing on Xbox One and PC). Players looking to upgrade to a different version will be granted data transfers from whatever system they chose previously to the newer one of their choosing. Sony then revealed a new gameplay segment from Batman: Arkham Knight and, this is coming from someone who hasn’t played previous Arkham games and who is a professional critic, it looks amaze-tastical. I gotta hand it to Sony, they ended this conference incredibly strong. After so many great games debuted or showed impeccable polish, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End tipped the scales in Sony’s favor. Overall I was really impressed by what Sony brought to the table this E3. Maybe that’s partly because I was going in not expecting much besides a victory lap for The Last of Us, a few indies, and a possible Uncharted announcement. What Sony gave was so much more. They announced indie title after indie title, big game that people care about after big game that people care about, and while they kept non-gaming talk low, they hit all the bullet points they needed to and then got back on track with more game reveals and teases. What did you think of the conference? Good? Adequate? Meh?
  8. Daniel Jones

    Feature: Review: Abzû

    With 2012’s Journey, thatgamecompany succeeded in creating a type of interactive tome, replete with all the self-reflective ambiguity of an abstract painting. Debates over video games as art notwithstanding, Journey could hardly be described as anything but. While it wove an astoundingly rich visual tapestry, the surprisingly effusive weight of its anonymous multiplayer carried the brunt of its artistic meaning. So it’s impressive that developer Giant Squid—founded by Journey’s Art Director, Matt Nava—has created a game in Abzû that not only sparkles with aesthetic brilliance, but also finds its own voice as an emotionally driven work of artistic expression. The fact that it occasionally feels slight in the shadow of Journey’s monolithic legacy is something I struggle to hold against it, especially when the overall experience feels so singularly divine. Abzû’s wordless story begins in a serene corner of its ocean setting, as your avatar, a wet-suit-clad scuba diver awakes on the surface. Subtle visual cues and camera tricks help to guide you along your trek through underwater caverns, dense kelp forests, and even some less organic structures that I dare not detail further. Along the way, you’ll interact with all manner of sea life from the smallest clownfish to blue whales the size of a naval submarine. It’s in the interaction with these creatures that Abzû sets itself apart from any game I’ve played before. Each of the game’s environments is its own mini ecosystem, teeming with aquatic inhabitants that interact with each other and the player in fascinating and believable ways. Sharks will chomp on smaller fish, dolphins flip and twirl in their pods, and giant squid spray ink when you come near. These interactions are rarely scripted, often relying on your input to trigger, such as enticing a massive humpback whale to breach the surface or hitching a ride with a turtle. Finding new ways to play around with Abzû’s wildlife proves fun and engaging, while nicely complimenting the game’s naturalistic themes. Just as playful is the game’s soundtrack from Austin Wintory, whose work composing Journey earned him a Grammy nomination. The lively strings, twinkling harps, and celestial choir simply sound exactly like Abzû looks. Wintory’s scores have an exquisite knack for capturing the essence of a game’s visuals and themes, and his work on Abzû is no exception. This inimitable, ever-present music ties into the gameplay and adapts appropriately to your actions, making it as vital a part of the experience as the vibrant visuals and the smooth controls. As you might expect from the art director behind Journey, Abzû’s visuals inspire awe, a true sight to behold. Each area exhibits a distinct color palette with what can almost be described as a bouquet of marine wildlife. Seeing thousands of fish all animated on screen at once is jaw dropping more so for its audacious beauty than its technological achievement. Abzû has much in common with thatgamecompany’s earlier title, Flower, as you spread life through the world, making each new area more vibrant and lively than it was when you first waded into its waters. This is more than just pretty visuals at thirty frames per second; it’s emotion through gameplay and gameplay through art. Abzû’s ocean is not all smooth sailing, however, as a few questionable design decisions muddy the otherwise clear waters. Each area has a few hidden shells that you can collect, much like the scarf pieces from Journey. But whereas those pieces granted your avatar with a longer jump and eventually—if you were able to find them all—a white robe with an infinitely regenerating scarf, Abzû grants the player no such rewards, besides a gold trophy. A sense of progression would have served Abzû well, and would’ve made the already enjoyable movement even more gratifying. Though it may seem unfair to hold Abzû to the standards set by its predecessor, the corollary couldn’t be more apt. Make no mistake about it, this game—though not designed by Journey mastermind Jenova Chen—is a clear successor to that modern classic. Though the visual stylings and game design present a unique twist on the sub-genre, the level structure and pacing are lifted almost wholesale from Journey. As someone who has played through that game more times than I can count, I often found myself predicting what would happen next. Though the beats are familiar, each new area still kept me engaged as the game floated towards its conclusion. It’s just disappointing that Giant Squid chose to stick so vehemently to a previously established formula for a game that otherwise presents wonders I had never experienced before. That statement’s not completely true actually; I do have some experience with the grandeur of our planet’s oceans. I have been snorkeling on a few occasions, off the coast of Maui and Hawaii, and though it was over a decade ago, the adventure has hardly faded from my memory. Never have I been so humbled by nature as when I found myself surrounded by all manner of sea creatures, from turtles to barracudas to massive manta rays that dwarfed my six foot frame. This is the type of feeling Abzû so deftly replicates; that of a stranger in a strange land, discovering wonders your eyes weren’t meant to see. I never expected a game to make me want to don the flippers and goggles again, but that’s exactly what Abzû has accomplished. Despite that, Abzû isn’t a scuba simulator, and it never attempts to be. You don’t need to manage oxygen levels, or worry about depth pressure, or fear any of the predators that lurk in the deep. While the fish are all modeled after real species in both design and behavior, this is a stylized version of underwater ecosystems, not a perfect replication. So in place of realism, Abzû fosters a wondrous sense of respect for the species that exist in our oceans, and it’s all the better for it. Conclusion: After my second playthrough, I still haven’t uncovered all of Abzû’s marvels, and I can’t stop thinking about my next dive in its magical world of color and life. I want to unlock all of the fish species, collect all of the mollusk shells scattered in the hidden corners of the world, and I want to find every last meditation statue. Mainly, though, I look forward to revisiting Abzû anytime I just need a break from the noise and bustle of human life on the surface of this Earth. The flaws that keep Abzû from being an unequivocal masterpiece are of little import when fully submerged in the adventure’s calming beauty and spectral wonder. Abzû was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is now available on PS4 and PC View full article
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