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Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Announced

Originally published for MCM Buzz on the 4th of June 2015

Nathan Drake Collection

After a listing for the previously unannounced remastered collection of the hugely popular Uncharted series hit some mobile versions of Sony’s PlayStation Store last night, the cat is officially out of the bag. After confirmation from Naughty Dog and this announcement on the PlayStation Blog it’s now official; Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection will feature all three original outings with Naughty Dog’s own weathered scoundrel and will be released on the 9th of October this year for UK gamers.

The acclaimed series was hugely popular, and if The Last of Us: Remastered is anything to go by, this will open their unparalleled action-adventure series up to a new generation of fans as well as those who didn’t own a PS3 system.

All of the games will be remastered to run at 60fps with 1080p and this will be overseen by Bluepoint games, the team behind the God of War and Metal Gear Solid HD Collections. The remaster is only confirmed to contain the story modes of the original PlayStation 3 trilogy at this time, however it will also include a photo mode similar to the one found in The Last of Us: Remastered, all new trophies to unlock and will grant players access to theUncharted 4: A Thief’s End multiplayer beta. The announcement comes alongside a teaser video we’ve placed below. In a year where PlayStation exclusives are looking relatively thin on the ground this could give Sony a significant boost ahead of Uncharted 4‘s release in 2016.

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection will be scaling its way to the PS4 on the 9th of October in the UK.

Splatoon Sunken Scrolls Guide

My first video takes you from the start of each level right through to its sunken scroll in Nintendo’s inkredibly unique shooter! It’s worth noting whilst there is no reward for collecting all of the scrolls, boss scrolls give blueprints for weapons you can use in PvP and the rest give wonderful snippets of Splatoon lore (their world is zanier and more post-apocolyptic than you’d expect). There are times for each level below if you just need to find one or two, and I’ve left out the boss scrolls found by defeating the bosses, as they are pretty much impossible to miss. Enjoy! <:=

Scroll 1 00:20 – 03:11
Scroll 2 3:12 – 04:41
Scroll 3 04:42 – 06:57
Scroll 4 06:58 – 10:32
Scroll 5 10:33 – 12:39
Scroll 6 12:40 – 15:06
Scroll 7 15:07 – 16:57
Scroll 8 16:58 – 20:28
Scroll 9 20:29 – 21:48
Scroll 10 21:48 – 24:16
Scroll 11 24:17 – 25:49
Scroll 12 25:50 – 28:16
Scroll 13 28:17 – 30:15
Scroll 14 30:16 – 32:48
Scroll 15 32:49 – 35:57
Scroll 16 35:58 – 40:30
Scroll 17 40:31 – 42:12
Scroll 18 42:13 – 43:24
Scroll 19 43:25 – 47:20
Scroll 20 47:21 – 52:18
Scroll 21 52:19 – 54:35
Scroll 22 54:36 – 57:23
Scroll 23 57:24 – 58:19
Scroll 24 58:20 – 01:01:16
Scroll 25 01:01:17 – 01:03:26
Scroll 26 01:03:27 – 01:07:06
Scroll 27 01:07:07 – 01:09:19
Final Boss Scroll 01:09:20 – 01:12:40

LEGO Jurassic World at MCM London Comic Con

Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 23rd of May 2015

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Things just became prehistoric here at the MCM London Comic Con Games Dome as Jurassic World opens its gates. LEGO masterminds TT Games are keeping the details of the Jurassic World adventure heavily under wraps until the film is released in cinemas, but as LEGO Jurassic World covers all of the original Jurassic Park trilogy, there was plenty of nostalgia-inducing goodness to cover.

Fastening our InGen seatbelts, we embarked to Isla Nublar and were treated to some exclusive footage of the original Jurassic Park like we’d never seen it before. Jamie Eden, the game’s director presented the panel, whilst lead story designer Graham Goring played through the exclusive MCM London content.

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The adventure began with the triceratops scene, as Dr. Ellie Sattler steps off Jurassic Park’s first guided tour to help the hurting herbivore. The gameplay feels familiar, drawing from the LEGO games before it as you swap out between LEGO figures to solve puzzles to jump, climb and smash your way through the levels. One thing that has changed is that you can play as the real stars of the park, the dinosaurs themselves. Unlike any characters in previous games, the dinos add an extra dimension to the game, allowing for more versatile level design and a host of new abilities. Many of the larger animals can charge to knock over objects and create bridges, and Jamie Eden revealed that the enormous aquatic Mosasaur is playable and even has its own area in one of the game’s two open world islands.

In the iconic T-Rex car chase once the player has unlocked LEGO’s free play mode you can return and play the level over as the pursuing predator. In order to counteract the terror that some of these magnificent creatures brought to the big screen in 1993, TT Games have added their signature comic twist to many of the scenes; dinosaurs can be distracted by bones, frisbees and rubber ducks and Gennaro ends up in the mouth of the T-Rex only to brush her teeth!

This doesn’t mean the game’s characters have been ignored, and a love of the source material and attention to detail makes them feel distinct from previous game figures. As an expert paleobotanist Ellie can grow plants to affect the level and grow bridges, platforms and alter the environment. She can even dive head first into dino droppings, whilst most characters won’t go near them. Muldoon can track dinosaurs, fire tranquilliser darts and is best suited for general acts of badassery, whilst Lex can hack terminals and shatter windows with her ear-piercing scream. You can even play as the animated strand of genetic code Mr. DNA.

Raptors are the only dinos that can build LEGO structures, clever girl...

The TT Games veterans followed up their panel to share a series of facts about the game in an engaging Q&A, revealing that it will have 20 levels, five for each film, dinosaur skeletons will be playable characters and there will be dinosaur races on the ground and in the air. Lastly, perhaps my favourite; there will be a cheat brick that dresses all the characters in Dennis Nedry’s horrible Hawaiian shirts.

Lego Jurassic World will be released on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC and Wii U on the 12th of June 2015.

Hands on With Splatoon at MCM London Comic Con

Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 23rd of May 2015

Nintendo’s first original characters since 2001 are debuting in Splatoon, the studios’ anarchic paint-shooting extravaganzaand MCM Buzz have popped to B&Q for some high quality emulsion and returned the the MCM London Comic Con show floor to get our multicoloured hands on the highly anticipated title.

Playing two rounds of the game’s unique ‘turf wars’ multiplayer mode, it was splatoon4clear this game is something special. In this mode you are split into two teams of four and pitted against each other, with your only directive being to engulf the area in your teams’ colour of paint. What is surprising is that there is so much to this simple objective. You can transform yourself into a squid to travel quickly, refill your paint, climb walls that are painted in your colour or hide and escape your foes. When you’re on the offensive, you can blast your paint sprayer at an opponent or throwing a paint grenade to cover them from head to toe which causes them to ‘splatter’ and respawn at their starting point.

Whilst that last feature seems similar to regular deathmatch-type shooters, in Splatoon getting your opponent to explode in a blast of colour is more fun than it is essential. Sure you will lose a few seconds respawning, but what makes Splatoon stand out is the fact that if you beat your rival team over and over, but they have painted more ground, you’re going to have a hard time winning. As a squid you can only move in patches of ground that are painted your colour, so if there’s not much of it around you, you’re going to have a serious disadvantage.

In the first round I was focused on attacking my opponents more than covering ground, and I paid the price as three opponents leaped up from their paint splatters to completely obliterate me. After my second game, I couldn’t be pulled from the booth. Splatoon is more tactical than your regular shooter. The colours are so wonderfully vibrant you can’t help but smile and perhaps, most importantly, it’s as much fun as watching Saturday morning cartoons with your friends on your 7th birthday eating cake for breakfast. Once again Nintendo look like they are set to prove that games don’t have to be serious or dark to have real substance. In a word, it’s Inkredible!

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Splatoon will be released exclusively for the Nintendo Wii U on the 29th of May, and is available to try out this weekend at the MCM London Comic Con over at the Nintendo stand.

Mortal Kombat X Review

Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 18th of April 2015MKX_Kunglao_KotalKahn

In NetherRealm’s latest entry Mortal Kombat returns to your screen to slice, dice and entice players back into its uniquely gruesome brand of brawling. With every bone-crunching blow it’s easy to realise that this over-the-top arcade style fighting extravaganza is exactly what has been missing from the latest generation of consoles.

As the tenth instalment in the Mortal Kombat series there is a lot to build on and Mortal Kombat X does it well, using the now commonplace energy bar from 2011’s Mortal Kombat, Injustice’s interactive arenas and even the sprint bar from Mortal Kombat 4, longtime Kombatants will be met with a wave of nostalgia in an updated combat system. There is plenty here for existing fans but not so much that it feels inaccessible to new players. If this is your first Mortal Kombat experience it will be hard to be disappointed, and harder not to laugh maniacally when you perform your first fatality.

When it comes to returning characters, the game offers plenty of familiar faces to choose from, including classic Kombatants Scorpion and Sub-Zero as well as favourites from previous instalments like Kenshi. Not only does the game rely on past glories, but there are eight new characters introduced. Many of these characters have ties to previous MVP’s and some, like Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs, mimic their parents’ fighting styles with some changes just subtle enough to warrant a new character. Kenshi’s son Takeda and Shaolin Archer Kung Jin on the other hand feel unique with their incredibly diverse set of attacks, including dual chain-whips, energy swords, bow-staffs and throwing knives. The new additions who aren’t taking their style from a previous fighter are something to be marvelled at. These newcomers come with a massive range of combat styles complimented by the game’s new variation options. Each character has three unique variations that allow fans to change-up their favourite fighter or simply explore the enormous number of fighting styles at their disposal.

In terms of combat the controls are responsive and the range of attacks should please even the most sadistic of gamers. The combos require rapid and precise execution and the fatalities even more so, but in the single player mode learning the ropes doesn’t feel punishing. Returning to the series are the graphic but often delightfully violent X-Ray special moves, area attacks and evasions and the block breaker option can turn the tide in your favour, making for a fast-paced, brutal, but ultimately rewarding experience. The fatalities are as gruesome as ever and are sure to bring about the usual feelings of shock, disgust and complete awe in true Mortal Kombat fashion.

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The story mode takes a leaf out of fellow Warner Bros game Injustice, creating a grand interlocking narrative featuring all of the playable characters. It does an excellent job of weaving together old characters and feuds and giving new fighters a place in their world. Cassie, Jacqui, Takeda and Kung Jin are placed as an elite team under the command of Johnny Cage and they are plunged into a world filled with menace, betrayal and magic. At times the plot itself seems a little sickly sweet for the limb-shattering action that Mortal Kombat is known for, with an emotional focus on parents Jax, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade’s family relationships and a budding romance between Jacqui and Takeda. Whilst these scenes can be at odds with the high level of violence, the inclusion of emotional themes widens the scope. Kung Jin’s discussion with Raiden about who his heart desires highlights Jin as the series’ first gay character, and this is nothing short of a definitive step forward for fighting games, and is an example to the gaming industry as a whole. All in all, the dialogue can be sharp-witted, the voice acting is solid and the cutscenes themselves are nothing short of stunning. The result is completely charming and whilst the skin and bones of the fantastical story are not easy to follow, it ends up feeling like a classic fantasy action movie with a heart (although one that might not stay in its chest for long).

The story is only just the beginning, as Mortal Kombat X boasts a wealth of online content from player vs player, survivor and king of the hill modes. In a world where split-screen gameplay is dwindling, fighting games remain a multiplayer-friendly experience, and there is nothing better than taking it to the sofa, battling it out with friends and gawping together at the hyper-violent finishers that you’ll fight to land on each other. Faction wars are also introduced to the mix. All players must join one of five factions and will earn points for their chosen allies in every fight, gaining faction-exclusive abilities, unique fatalities, and becoming able to fight in faction battles. Your faction’s world-ranking can be viewed in real time and also gives daily challenges that can boost your alliance’s status. The Living Tower feature also makes its debut, a set of three player vs computer tournaments that are refreshed hourly, daily and weekly and are set to provide a huge amount of additional content with the promise of rewards if you meet the challenging points targets. In these themed towers unique effects will be active, whether it’s randomly generating tornados to catch both Kombatants off-guard, or added effects like vampirism, there will be much to explore for persistent players.

Since Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance the Krypt has been a staple for the series, developing into a good old-fashioned treasure hunt in which players use their in-game coins to open coffins, corpses and the like to unlock goodies such as concept art, finishing moves and character skins. The exploration is made more interesting by the addition of item-controlled shortcuts and attacks by the areas beasts to invoke a real time event. The Krypt adds an element of light dungeon crawling to the game and offers an enjoyable way to take a break from tearing people apart.

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As much as there is to do in Mortal Kombat X, there is also plenty more that is available to purchase as DLC, something which the player is made aware of fairly often. In the character select screen the original Mortal Kombat boss Goro is included, but only as an available to buy icon. Whilst there are more intrusive ways to promote your DLC (I’m looking at you Assassins Creed Unity), it sours your experience when you run out of coins in the Krypt and must grind to find more or pay out in actual currency (£15.99) to unlock all of the game’s pricey Kontent. Skipping levels and easy fatalities are also purchasable options, allowing for simple ways to execute the most complex of death-inducing special moves, or simply the ability to skip an essential fight altogether. Whilst this is nothing new, it’s a shame to see features that punishes the less-skilled players through in-game purchases in a game that takes such a light-hearted approach to its hyper-violent, larger than life gameplay.

Whilst the in game purchases are a disappointing sign of AAA gaming, the rest of Mortal Kombat X offers a stunning action experience and an incredibly satisfying fighting game. It combines the levity of retro arcade fighters, the multiplayer couch-gaming of previous console generations and the sharpness of modern AAA titles to produce a truly special fighting game experience. With so much to accomplish throughout, a unique style in its storytelling, a gore-factor like no other and a multitude of fighting styles to choose from, the latest Mortal Kombat is the definitive all out brawler of its generation and an absolute joy to play.

Bloodborne Review

Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 28th of March 2015The hunt is on

There are many mysteries to be uncovered in Bloodborne, FromSoftware’s unique action-RPG from veteran game director Hidetaka Miyazaki (Dark Souls, Demons’ Souls). But finding out how to put it down is not one of them. Set in a beautiful and densely detailed gothic nightmare, Bloodborne takes its daring players on a journey of discovery that will challenge, consume, immerse and captivate.

The game begins as you might expect, your intrepid hunter finding themselves thrust into a world full of terrifying creatures and wonderful secrets. Once you’ve created your character and chosen your origin, which determines your starting attributes, you’re ready to start exploring, dying, learning and repeating in the fashion that FromSoftware has championed for years. The first thing that’s impossible to ignore is just how stunning the world of Yharnam looks. From the sprawling buildings to the ornate graveyards the entire world could have been plucked from a gothic masterpiece.

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In terms of design Bloodborne is in a class of its own. The level design is nothing short of perfect; each area seamlessly folds over itself as hunters battle through the dangers Yharnam has to offer. Like its predecessorsBloodborne is intimidating at first, but once you sink a few hours into its perilous cobbled streets you get a feel for how to make progress, and from then on its impossible to stop searching for that next item, checkpoint or boss. Finding a shortcut that leads back to a lamp or a safe place gives a sense of relief, triumph and added determination to push forward. With each attempt you progress further through incredible sprawling environments learning trap locations, local enemy placement and attacks all whilst gaining blood echoes, which act as both experience and currency in the Hunter’s Dream. The Hunter’s Dream is the central hub of the game, offering a mysterious doll-woman who levels you up, a wizened hunter offering sage advice, a weapon upgrade station, messenger item shops, storage and gravestones that will warp you to one of the various lamp checkpoints placed sparingly across Yharnam’s enormously varied landscape.

The only gripe that comes with this style of play is that in order to travel from one lamp to another you must always go back to the Hunter’s Dream and then back to Yharnam, which initiates the game’s loading screen twice. It’s impressive such an enormous game only has so few loading screens, but they can take up to forty seconds to load. In such a richly detailed game it’s not a deal breaker, but staring at the ominous title of the game as opposed to Dark Souls’ varied and interesting item description screens can seem like a punishment after losing a boss fight a few times. When it comes to the bosses and enemies themselves, however, the inhabitants of Yharnam are so painstakingly detailed their terrifying presence gives an atmosphere unlike anything else. Whether it’s the fast and furious Cleric Beast, a vicious monstrosity that relentlessly attacks your hunter as you scrabble for breathing room, or the horrifying collection of bones and faces that make up ‘The One Reborn’, there is an incredible attention to detail that speaks volumes about the depth of this game visually and mechanically.

The One Reborn

This is echoed in terms of story as Bloodborne takes a ‘show but don’t tell’ approach. When traversing through the broken alleyways it’s up to you to find out what’s cursed this land. Item descriptions and the design of the enemies and environment can lead you to some conclusions, but ultimately the game is shrouded in mystery and all the better for it. There is a thrill in discovering the lore behind the incredible world in front of you by delving into it head first that engages the player from beginning to end. The game mechanics are largely the same, challenging you to figure out what items upgrade weapons, how to leave notes for other players and even how to use the multiplayer features. It all takes some time but nothing compares to those wonderful moments when it all clicks.

The combat system makes a bold change from the Souls games, removing shields from the fray and introducing firearms. This combined with the new health regain system, where hunters can gain health back from enemies a few seconds after being damaged, forces players to take a more offensive approach. The result is blisteringly fast strategic combat in which your goal is to hunt the beast before you become the hunted. In true FromSoftware fashion, players wishing to cling to the old ways of hiding behind your trusty shield will find themselves rightly punished. The new aggressive style of play gives a real sense of danger when battling the game’s sinister bosses; one slip up and you’re lunch for a deadly beastie or two (or seven if you run in head first).

In this absolutely enormous adventure it’s difficult to run out of things to do, whether it’s simply exploring until you run into a boss, searching for hidden pathways or scrapping your way through to a new area, you’ll be spoilt for activities in the main game. FromSoftware’s unique multiplayer experience gets an update too. By using up insight points and ringing bells players can call other players for aid, whilst their fellow hunters can help or hinder depending on which bell they ring. The system makes for a high-risk high-reward way to defeat bosses or get past difficult enemies, with hunters you’re inviting both types of players into your world. You can receive invaluable help or be thwarted before you even begin.

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The newest feature for Bloodborne is the ability to play through Chalice Dungeons. These procedurally generated multi-tiered dungeons can be accessed from the Hunter’s Dream with the right items and add an entirely new dimension to the game. With the option to tackle your Chalice Dungeons solo or with other players, hunters can delve deep into the underground facing new bosses, harrowing enemies and a number of traps and obstacles that will never be the same twice. These randomised dungeons can be shared between players if theirs has some particularly good loot, and MCM’s own labyrinth was nothing short of incredible. With a challenging variety of enemies and swinging blade traps and three bosses (one on each tier) to face it was exhilarating as you fight your way further into the depths in search of goodies.

Bloodborne really is something special. Unlike many modern RPGs that focus on huge amounts of similar content, (succeeding with only 23 weapons to choose from) Bloodborne places gameplay and immersion above all else to create a truly unique experience. You will die again and again, but because of its incredible design, depth and execution those who dare to soldier on will wonder at its darkest secrets.

Bloodborne is out now for the Playstation 4

Grand Theft Auto V: Taking Mayhem to the Next Generation

Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 22nd of November 2014

13 months after the initial release of Grand Theft Auto V, which blew us away in our review, Rockstar have given violence and villainy enthusiasts the chance to return to sunny Los Santos in glorious 1080p for PS4 and Xbox One. The result is a beautifully polished version of an instant classic to next-gen that gives new players a definitive edition of the game whilst still offering veteran Santos sinners enough new content to sink their teeth into.

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The most notable new feature is of course the first person mode, a first for Grand Theft Auto that already feels like it belongs in the franchise. Completing a heist in first person drastically heightens the tension, whilst the gunfights place you at the centre of the action (shooting demonic clowns or evil alien spawn has never been so immersive). The most surprising delight of this new viewpoint is that you can truly experience just how detailed the world is that Rockstar have created. Whether that immense sense of detail is found whilst walking downtown and gazing into the shop fronts or simply gazing out at the city following a quad bike excursion up the Vinewood hills, this game is indisputably the most stunning iteration of a Grand Theft Auto title to date.

Additional content has been added, including a new murder mystery mission for Michael that unlocks a couple of noir-style filters for the game, for those who want to get their Hitchcock on. Players on the PlayStation 4 will experience some features exclusive to the Dualshock 4, such as intuitive swipe controls (including a swipe to throw grenade feature), an atmospheric red and blue flash from its light bar if you become wanted and the audio for your in game phone and the police scanners run through the controller’s speaker. These touches alone are not game changing, however they are indicators of what Rockstar have achieved, which is something far beyond a 1080p port of their past success.

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GTA Online returns in a big way, after the problematic start on last-gen consoles it’s incredible to see the full potential of the online mode from the offset. In the ambitious online mode your created character is let loose on Los Santos and there are hundreds of hours of fun in deathmatches, races, jobs and of course just running riot with friends or fellow miscreants online. Hours can be lost as players scrimp, save and steal to get that dream car, plane, boat or tank as you make your mark in Rockstar’s city of sin. The variation of every gameplay is growing with every update, yet heist missions are still unavailable in Grand Theft Auto Online at the time of writing this review. With a PC version coming in January heists are expected to enter into the fray soon, yet in the meantime tons of additional content in the form of clothes, vehicles and weapons are being released.

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Ultimately, Grand Theft Auto hits the next-gen with more than just a ripple, offering a variety of new features and another chance for gamers to experience the stellar storyline and the hilarious, absurd, sharply satirical, manic and beautiful world that Rockstar Games have created. The story still flourishes and remains one of the strongest and most entertaining in video game history. All of the devilish joys that are found in the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are back in force (I missed Trevor’s utterly insane rampages more than I knew was possible), and there really is a fresh new perspective to be found in the first person mode. If you are returning for a second time, get ready to be engrossed all over again, and if this is your first journey into Los Santos, prepare to be blown away. Sometimes literally.

Grand Theft Auto V is now available for PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360, with a PC release slated for the 27th of January 2015.

Interviewing ‘Tales of’ Series Producer Hideo Baba

Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 3rd of November 2014

MCM Buzz managed to catch up with the producer of the Tales of series, the ever-wonderful Hideo Baba. Talking about what fans can expect from the latest Tales’ adventures, delve deeper below to discover more about the upcoming PS Vita release Tales of Hearts R and the game’s graphical overhaul, as well as the fluid battles in the brand new Tales of Zestiria.

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Me: What can fans of the Tales of series expect from Tales of Hearts R?

Baba: Every Tales game has a key theme in the storyline, and the theme in the Tales of Hearts is hearts. At the beginning of the storyline the Kohaku’s Heart is broken into pieces and the pieces fly all over the world. Kor Meteor decides to go on a journey to pick up all of the pieces to get Kohaku’s heart back. Whenever she reclaims a piece she receives an emotion and remembers what joy, or sadness, or fear is. I wanted to describe every emotion throughout this journey.

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Me: It’s an incredible concept, and the characters themselves are completely charming. How did you develop the character design from the Nintendo DS to the PS Vita?

Baba: In the Nintendo DS version there are 2D sprites, whenever a player plays this kind of game they have to imagine how these characters look because the information is really limited. When we created Tales of Hearts Rfor the PS Vita we recreated everything from scratch with 3D graphics, so the amount of information on the screen radically increased when compared with the 2D style. We paid attention to the characters movements and actions to show the characters emotions truly and clearly to the users.

Me: Tales of Zestiria marks 20 years of the Tales of series, and it’s been said that the gameplay style combines classic elements with brand new gameplay. How does the game celebrate its 20th anniversary?

Baba: Firstly, when it comes to the storyline, the characters and the real-time battle system, these are very traditional features that most Tales fans expect. Every time we create a brand new story and characters and improve the battle system, and this has become tradition in the Tales series. We also have some brand new features for Tales of Zestiria this year. The atmosphere of adventure is really important, and I really wanted to capture the sense of interaction in the previous adventures, so I introduced a vast map in Tales of Zestiria. In the previous games of the series, when the player encounters an enemy the loading screen appears and the player moves to the battlefield, but in Tales of Zestiria there is no loading screen and the player battles on exactly the same field.

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Me: How has the combat system changed since the previous games?

Baba: Every game in the Tales series has a linear motion battle system, this is a very fundamental feature. Tales of Zestiria has a new linear motion battle system which is the Fusionic chaining linear motion battle system. This allows players to infuse human and Tenzoku into one different character, changing their appearance, attack and weapons.

Me: Will Europe be able to experience the Japanese voice acting as we did with Tales of Symphonia Chronicles?

Baba: Tales of Hearts R will hit Europe with its original Japanese voice-overs. I understand there are many western users who want to have the original Japanese voice-overs in the western version of Tales of Zestiria. But there are a lot of issues we need to solve to use the original Japanese voiceovers in the western versions, but I really want to make it happen. I cannot make any promises, I can only try.

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Me: Could we see Tales of Zestiria come to PS4 in the future?

Baba: Our strategy when selecting a platform depends on which platform our users want to play these games on. More and more users are enjoying the Tales of series in the western world, but actually it is true that the Japanese market is the biggest for us. So in the same way as Tales of Xillia and Tales of Xillia 2 we recognise that most of the Japanese users want to play the new game with the PlayStation 3. But we understand that the transition to PlayStation 4, especially in the west, is quicker than we expected. Not for Tales of Zestiria, but in the future of the series, we need to consider games for the next generation consoles like PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. If the same amount of users in the west are enjoying the Tales of series and we receive so many requests about the next gen consoles it may be a big help when it comes to making it happen, so thank you for this coverage!

Tales of Hearts R came to PS Vita on the 14th of November and Tales of Zestiria is expected to be released in Europe for PlayStation 3 in Summer 2015.

Interviewing Infinite Crisis Lead Designer Ryan Bednar

Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 28th of February 2014.Infinite Crisis Wonder Woman

With the announcement of their open beta launch and after a hands-on with the game MCM Buzz catches up with Ryan Bednar, Turbine’s lead designer. We talked about his break into the gaming industry, MOBA (Multiplayer online battle arena) tactics and their upcoming DC Comics project Infinite Crisis.

Me: So you are the lead designer on Infinite Crisis, that’s exciting.

Ryan: It is pretty exciting!

Me: What inspired you to work in the videogames industry? Was it something you always wanted to do or something you just came across?

Ryan: So I went to university for Industrial Design, graduated in 2003, and I knew my entire life that I was always into videogames. And I remember the year before I graduated I was talking to my parents in my kitchen and I was kind of figuring out or trying to figure out what I wanted to do after college, and I decided out of the blue then and there I wanted to try and get into the games industry somehow. Really at the time there wasn’t really any clear road to actually making that happen at all. You didn’t have any friends who were like, “Oh, this is how I broke into the games industry,” ’cause everyone who wanted to do it was kind of scattered all around. So I moved to Boston, because there were a couple of industrial design firms up there. About a couple of months after I moved to Boston, Turbine posted an internship for Lord Of The Rings Online, the MMO they developed a while back. I applied for the internship, I got it, and I’ve been there ever since. I started out as an intern on Lord of the Rings Online, became a world builder, then a lead world builder, then a lead systems designer, then I moved over to this project as the lead designer.

Me: It’s got to be exciting working with all those incredibly different worlds. The Lord of the Rings universe to start is tremendous, and now you’ve got the DC Universe, the DC Multiverse even!

Ryan: We’ve had some great opportunities to work with the best IP (Intellectual Property) that are possibly out there. We’ve just been really fortunate in that regard.

Me: Have you always been a fan of DC comics? Was this something that you were excited to do?

Ryan: I would say that I’m a medium fan for DC Comics, and I say that knowing that a bunch of people on our team are superfans! My level of comics knowledge does not compete with theirs, but it takes a team to make a game and we have the people that are super-into the comics doing the back-stories, the writing and the character development side of things. My area of interest and expertise was on the competitive MOBA side of things, so we all collaborate together.

Me: How do you think the DC Universe translates to the MOBA genre?

Ryan: It’s perfect! When we were deciding to build a MOBA at Turbine we were looking to build on a new genre. MOBA seemed like a great thing for us to get into with the RPG background we have. The MMO’s translate really well into managing all the systems and advancements that you have, and that’s worked out really well for us. When we were acquired by Warner Brothers, the DC Comics IP was something we really wanted to build games with, and we saw that as the perfect marriage of genre and an IP. The main content of a MOBA is its characters, and DC has fantastic characters. If you add the concept of the multiverse in on top of that, then we have an opportunity to make our own characters. For people that are super into the comics this is the thing they’ve wanted to do for their entire lives, the fact that they can take a character like Green Lantern and get two versions of him, it’s been a ton of fun and everyone loves working on the project.

Me: It’s great the way that instead of the standard class systems this is implemented into different versions of the same superhero, it’s a smart way to do it.

Ryan: It’s really interesting that if you’re a Batman fan one of the great things about having this multiverse is that you have three Batman’s, and they all have a different skill set. So if you’re a Batman fan who likes to play a bruiser character, you play Batman Prime. If you like ranged attack characters like marksmen, Gaslight Batman’s your guy. If you like assassins, Nightmare Batman. You can really be a fan of the IP and still find a play style that suits you.

Me: One thing that’s noticeable is that this game is catered to fans.

Ryan: Yeah, because we’ve had all these different people working on the project, people that add the really tight competitive balance in the game, and people who are working on the voice and video that’s driving all the action between the characters. When Green Arrow ends up fighting against Batman they’ll say something as they are fighting, so when Batman gets low on health Green Arrow will have some line to say in response to Batman being on the other team or his health bar. There’s all these interactions; you might not be super familiar with all the characters that are in the game, but because they’re always talking to each other and about what their state of mind is in the game you get an insight into their backstory without having to read a book.

Me: Right, even in-game it definitely gives the characters personality. Now Turbine has been at the front of online gaming since the very start, you guys have been doing this since dial-up.

Ryan: (Laughs) Yup! Asheron’s Call has been around since Ultimate Online and Everquest, those were the big three that started everything MMO, eventually that genre evolved into what it is today. We saw MOBAs gaining the same kind of traction and [when] we really got the chance to play a bunch of them ourselves we realised that was something else we were very passionate about and I think that’s why we’re here, we were excited to make this for ourselves.

Me: And that’s part of why Turbine is so exciting, you guys are at the forefront and it gives you opportunities to build on what you have already done and tweak it.

Ryan: We have a lot of experience in managing online games and keeping them running and pushing out updates and figuring how to take a game that you’ve launched and evolve it over time, and that’s something that we’re really excited about in this game. We’re getting to the point where it’s in open beta, we don’t have a long list of features that we really really want to add to the game. There are no features that are notably absent from the game. Now we’re just polishing it up, and then we’re into the world of live content, that’s what we’ve been really good at for a long time and we’re excited to get there. We are kind of already there with the champion releases that we do, they’ve been steady for a long time now every three weeks, we are about releasing three of them at a time, we have a backlog of about 20 that are in development in different stages so that’s starting to get going and then there’s going to be even more content available afterwards.

Me: That’s what’s interesting about designing an online game, there’s not really a point where it stops.

Ryan: No, it just keeps going and going; Asheron’s call is still going! We have thousands of people that are still playing that game and are die hard fans. We’re just getting started with this one and we plan on keeping it going for a very long time.

Infinite Crisis Screen

Me: Do you feel like some of the features in the matches themselves put a slight spin on the MOBA genre?

Ryan: The big thing that we’re pushing for in this game is aggression. If there’s one constant that we’re trying to steer everything towards, we want to build a MOBA where it’s okay and incentivised for you to go fight the other players. We’re making a game where Batman faces off against the Joker, and you can make that game and have it be about Batman fighting tiny robots for 15 minutes and then he finally decides to fight the Joker, or it can be that Batman’s there and the Joker’s there and they have a lot of reasons to actually fight each other right out of the game. You can see that with the currency drops we’re doing, as the tiny robots fight each other, if you don’t last hit them they just drop their coins to the ground. You have to walk over there to pick them up, when you walk over there the other team can either spend their time attacking robots or they can start attacking you, and if they do you’re probably going to attack them back. It’s all there to drive that point of tension between two or four people in your lane to fighting for the resources that are available to you. In addition to that in standard MOBA’s, you can only buy items at your base, for us we wanted to give people the opportunity to get stronger whilst playing without having to recall and then walk all the way back. You can actually buy artefacts, which are the items in our game, at your turrets themselves. That gives someone the incentive to potentially be lower on health but not go all the way back to base, actually to stay out there and try to get stronger while also running the risk of getting ganged by others.

Me: It can be a numbers game that’s for sure, if you’re on your own and there’s five people around you, you’re done.

Ryan: Oh yeah!

Me: It is great when you’re in that group though.

Ryan: Yeah, when your team shows up and you get a couple of kills and just push forward and seeing how far you can get. That’s part of the cadence of a MOBA too, and I feel like that’s why they’re so popular, because the game starts off slow and less is happening because everyone is distributed pretty evenly, and there will be those stand-offs where people are fighting against each other, and then all of a sudden it evolves into play between two or three people fighting for objectives. One thing that is specific to our latest map Gotham Divided, there are objectives out in the jungle between lanes, and if you kill these creatures they give out beacons that a member of your team can pick up. What happens is they get a new skill that they can use that drops that beacon pretty much anywhere in the map. You’ll be top lane, someone from your bottom lane can pick up a health pack and drop it that you can pick up, and that might be enough to can swing the battle in your favour. We want to make sure that as people are getting those objectives there is a lot of opportunity for skillful play, that you’ve got this thing that you can use in a variety of different ways. 

Me: Are there any plans to bring social features voice communication to Infinite Crisis?

Ryan: Voice definitely helps, we don’t have any plans to integrate voice at the moment. MOBA communities can be kind of all over the place with these kind of features. So we are hesitant to investigate voice, but it’s something that we’ve done in the past and we could see in the future. Turbine has a lot of experience in developing social features. I think something like a Guild would be great to add to a MOBA, just to give you a social identity right out of the gate, it also gives you a great way to meet other people that will be supportive of you, there’s a lot of comradery there and I think there’s a great opportunity for us to have that. At the same time too we have a whole range of audiences, there are a bunch of people whose friends might want to play the game or people who are curious about this new genre, and a Guild-type atmosphere you could have players to help new players. Perhaps even implementing a game mode with less stress for new players, something like that that would be great.

Me: I guess with this being a DC Comics game, there will be a lot of people who may be new to the genre but fans of the universe?

Ryan: We have a lot of people who have checked out the game but never played a MOBA before because they like Batman or Superman, and they want to play the game. We want to make sure those guys have a fun time too.

Me: One last question, if you could have any superpower from the DC Universe, what would you choose and why?

Ryan: (Laughs) I’ll take Aquaman’s ability to talk to sea-life! I’m curious, who knows what could happen!

Infinite Crisis goes is out now on Steam.

Grand Theft Auto V Review

Originally Published by MCM Buzz on the 28th September 2013

The Devil is in the Detail.

Helicopter Chase

Welcome to Los Santos, where being bad has never felt so good. In Grand Theft Auto V, developers Rockstar North have created nothing short of a masterpiece, an engrossing, exciting, dizzying tale of friendship, atrocity and insanity that succeeds not only in providing opportunities for high-octane mayhem, but produces a layered storyline packed with blockbuster action, humour and tension centred around our lovable band of criminal misfits.

The game follows three criminals at different stages in their lives, a retired thief who struck a shady deal with the Bureau, Michael; a young, ambitious car-booster Franklin; and the mentally unstable crystal meth distributor and “entrepreneur” extraordinaire Trevor. The story sees the three thrust together, Trevor and Michael after a long separation and a job that went south for the two, and Franklin as a new kid on the block, looking to shadow some more experienced (but not wiser) members of the Los Santos crime underbelly. In a town filled with corrupt government agents, private militia, drug kingpins and every criminal in-between, the three try to make it and take it in a world where no one can be trusted and everyone’s a threat. The scope of GTAV is beyond cinematic blockbuster, this game is massive, in every sense of the word.

Let’s start with the first thing you notice when the game begins, acting on your most twisted and violent impulses has never looked more incredible. Every area in the game, from house interiors and smaller details to the mountains of Blaine County, is gloriously detailed and perfectly done, the lighting in the game gives a cinematic feel that is really brought home by the pain-staking effort placed in developing realistic faces and very human expressions. From the start the player can see Michael’s frustration, Franklin’s cocksure swagger and quick flickers of insanity behind Trevor’s eyes. The cinematic mode that can be activated whilst in a vehicle really demonstrates what Rockstar were trying to achieve, and they have succeeded in spades. If you’re in the middle of an elaborate heist, driving through busy streets or taking your chop for a walk, the game takes hold and catapults the player into the devilish world of Grand Theft Auto.

Grand Theft Auto 5

Aside from the missions, in true GTA style there is no shortage of things to keep you occupied, with randomly activated events, optional side missions gained from people you meet and even hobbies to adopt, this game keeps you busy between heists and story events, not to mention all those spontaneous killing sprees. The vehicle list grows ever larger with cars, bikes, lorries, quad bikes, off-road vehicles, planes, helicopters, jet skis, speedboats, ribs, pushbikes and even submarines in the vast setting of Los Santos and Blaine County. The world itself is of course huge, but the buildings are all so immensely detailed that the city has a much bigger impact than any of the previous games. As if the game wasn’t big enough, there is an online mode that will be released in the near future set before the events of the story mode.

Michael, Franklin and Trevor

The characters themselves are a central part of what makes this game great. Each character is associated with a different kind of crime. Whether it is Michael’s has-been bank robber, Franklin’s aspiring car booster or Trevor’s meth-cooking, weapons-smuggling anarchist, one of the great triumphs of the game is that players begin to change their gaming style depending on who they are controlling. Trevor is one of the most perverse but also entertaining characters to ever appear in a videogame, yet he quickly becomes a guilty pleasure as the game continues. As well as having their own in-game abilities their stories all have decent themes, and the quick-change system that has you jumping between characters is yet another part of the game’s control system that keeps everything flowing and fast-paced.

The controls are sharp and intuitive, which is important in a game with such varied modes of gameplay. Whether it’s shooting, scuba diving, playing golf or tennis, running a triathlon, playing the stock market, stealing a helicopter or manning a submarine, the game manages to seamlessly switch to a control system that is perfect for that particular activity, although bring some deep heat for your thumbs on any of the running activities. These immersive, accessible controls help to give Grand Theft Auto V something special, a feeling that anything can be done in this game.

Heist

The heist system is something to be admired, taking RPG-style tactics selection and applying it to the usually unadulterated mayhem makes it all the more engaging. If Michael makes the wrong choice or hires the wrong guy, you are going to pay for it. The stakes are higher, and the fact that each choice has an impact on the mission really adds tension to every single job. The game also has a replay mission function that not only allows players to retry missions and gain gold classification on each, but allows you to choose the alternative heist options to experience your other options. Sometimes the smartest way to go is going to be focused on stealth, but you can go back and get your fill of explosions the second time round. This mode is available at any time (outside of a mission) in the game, and is accessible from the start.

Rockstar North have taken Grand Theft Auto to the next level, but the mammoth scale, incredible style and complex storytelling are not the reason for its success. The incredible thing about this game is that it takes every great aspect in the free roaming parts of its predecessors and implements them in the narrative, enabling the player to unleash hell upon the unknowing citizens of Los Santos whilst adding weight to your most maniacal exploits through a focused and engaging story. The variety of the gameplay, the incredible detailing and the charismatic characters from our protagonists to the people we simply love to hate all make this game what it is.Grand Theft Auto V is the last instalment in the franchise on the current-gen consoles, and it is perhaps the most explosive send-off in videogame history. Simply put, this game is a perfectly crafted, enormously addictive one-stop-shop to all things violent, devious, deliciously immoral and outright insane.

Grand Theft Auto V is available now for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, with an online mode launching on 1st October. 

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