Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 18th June 2017.
THE gaming revolution is alive and kicking if E3 is anything to go by. The annual trade fair sees the great and the good of the gaming world gather in Los Angeles to show off the products they hope will be the mega stars of the next 12 months. Ever since the first show in 1995, they have met up and done the deals that kept gamers excited and they have shown off their stars to the waiting media. But 2017 was different — this was the year when the public voted with their feet. They were allowed in for the first time and they responded in style. They descended on the LA Convention Center like a swarm of bees. Organisers said that 15,000 tickets were up for grabs at a hefty $250 a pop. But they went quicker than it takes for me to die in a new Call Of Duty demo. The queues were so big on the first morning that the organisers made the decision to open the doors 15 minutes early — just in case the enthusiasm got too much for some people. It has been such a success that the week-long event will generate a cool $40 million for the LA economy.
E3 — or the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2017 to give it its Sunday name — is almost a city within a city. It has been a dream of mine for many years to be there. The first thing that strikes you is the sheer scale of the place. There were more than 2,300 games and products. It was true gamer heaven. The first thing that hits you is the sheer scale of the crowds. There are HUGE queues everywhere and gamers are patiently waiting up to five hours to get a shot at their favourite titles. They were also very clued up. They knew where the big titles were and when news was coming out. I was diving all over the place to get hands on with some of the titles we’ll be enjoying this year.
I have been to European gamer events, but this is on a different scale. It is all slightly surreal, with gaming heroes and characters suddenly looming up in front of you. Turn a corner and you bump into a Star Wars stormtrooper or a Titanfall Titan. Then there are huge dragons from games like Shadow Of War, a massive Rabbid and even a Le Mans Porsche and a souped-up BMW highlighting Need For Speed Payback. The two huge halls are a gaming wonderland. That all adds to the entertainment, but me and thousands of other gamers are there for one reason — to get a glimpse of some of the most-eagerly awaited titles.
All the top studios are at the event. It’s a who’s who of developers and publishers. From the likes of the big three — Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo — to Activision and Bethesda and everyone in between, they are all looking to give you a taste of their future. They have brought the best hardware to show off their games, so there is some really serious kit — from racing wheels to a full-blown flight chair set-up. I thought I had experienced proper racing with a shot on Project CARS 2. But try playing it on a full sim set-up. The demo pod had a VR unit with a full motion racing chair and wheel. It seemed rude not to have a go. It was fitting that I got to throw a McLaren P1 around on the Highland course — or, more to the point, it threw me around as every bump and dip sent the chair mad. But it is a marvellous bit of technology and, if you can afford one, it will reinvent your racing experience.
You can also see some of your favourite developers — I spotted Shigeru Miyamoto the godfather of all things Nintendo — and Hideo Kojima, the man behind the Metal Gear Solid games. In fact, there seemed to be a major name around every corner. And there are a lot of corners. By the end of the show I had walked miles and my feet were killing me. But I was still more of a gaming fanatic than a reviewer and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face even if I wanted to. If you’re a gamer and have an interest in what’s happening in the industry then E3 is a magical mystery tour.
E3 wouldn’t be E3 without a new shiny toy being revealed. And the 2017 fun festival was no different because Microsoft unleashed the beast that is the Xbox One X. All the preview teasers and info had used the codename Scorpio. But there was a twist as the first thing to change was it’s name.
Microsoft made the presentation with the usual flashing lights and stage show and Xbox chief Phil Spencer make the big announcement and revealed that:
- it is the most powerful console so far, and
- it will actually be the SMALLEST Xbox One in the family.
It’s like a Fiat 500 with a F1 engine. The other good news is that most Xbox One games will get a free upgrade patch to prep them for the new console. It should launch on November 7 and is expected to cost you 450 of your hard-earned Pounds. It is $499 in the States. But having a powerhouse is no good without having the games to back it up.
The first title out the blocks was Forza 7. It looks stunning on the new hardware. We got to test it with the Porsche GT2 RS, which was also revealed as the game’s new cover car. But if a new hot-off-the-line Porsche doesn’t do it for you there will be 700 cars in the game and you’ll get to throw them around 30 tracks which have 200 different layouts. Satisfied now? Forza 7 will be speeding on to the Xbox One family this on October 3.
So, what else was there?
PROJECT CARS 2
RAISED the bar again for console sim racing. A huge selection of cars and tracks. Developers Slightly Mad Studios have claimed it has more tracks than of any racing game on the market right now. But the bigger thrill is how the new grip mechanic adds to the realism. And Knockhill is included. It is a must for racing fans.
LIFE IS STRANGE: BEFORE THE STORM
IT follows Chloe from the original and will be told over three different episodes as it picks up the action three years before the first game.
If you were a fan of the first Life Is Strange game then this continues the series trademark story-telling along with some deep character development. There is a lot of teen angst.
A NEW VR multi-player game — an offshoot of the story-driven Lone Echo. It sees teams facing off against each other in a 3v3-type disc-throwing game where you must score as many points as you can. A new league, supported by Intel, shows how seriously they are all taking VR eSport. So much so that Echo Arena will be FREE for a limited time as they aim to build a user base.
THIS is a blast from start to finish. You team up with three friends and hammer mummies, zombies and other monsters. Everything is wrapped up in a 1920s Boys’ Own-style which makes it a spiffingly good time.
MARIO + RABBIDS KINGDOM BATTLE
A SWITCH offering and the first move from the new partnership between Nintendo and Ubisoft. It is a turn-based strategy game with a dash of platforming thrown in and is unlike any Mario game that has come before it. It is a perfect fit for the Switch.
THE CREW 2
THE revenge theme is replaced by a bid to become the best racer in the world — and you get boats, planes… pretty much anything with an engine. Real arcade feel to how it controls but the ability to switch between a land, sea or air vehicle at the press of a button is great fun. Big multi-player angle. You can race friends anywhere and in any way you want.
STAR WAR BATTLEFRONT 2
THIS has taken the first game and ramped everything up to 11. We played a droids against clones, where the droids had to protect a troop carrier then capture and hold a final point. It plays just like the first game, but it gives you more choices like what sort of character you want to be — from assault to heavy. They all have their own good points and bad. You can also call in support by spending the point you earned. This lets you play as heroes like Darth Maul or Boba Fett or you could become a heavy battle droid or vehicle. This WILL be a hit.
ONE of the most anticipated games of 2017. If your team gets killed, you can revive them but there is a huge risk-and-reward element. Do you try to hold the point yourself or risk it all to bring back a team mate?
FAR CRY 5
THE demo starts with you having to clear a town under the control of a gang. You need a mix of stealth and all-guns-blazing bravado. There are loads of weapons depending on the situation. Then you had to grab a plane and bomb an enemy convoy. Being able to fly is a new feature for the Far Cry series and it is a real winner. The demo ended with a dog fight against another plane, which got the adrenalin flowing. Out February 27 2018 and looks to be a blast.
GRAN TURISMO SPORT
WE tried it with the PS VR. Wow, it is very good. The depth of field and the ablilty to read the road was incredible. It is the best VR racing game I’ve played so far. Sorry, DriveClub.
TURTLE BEACH STEALTH 700
WIRELESS headsets that are compatible with Xbox, PS and PC. They are really light and comfortable, but have a solid build quality.
They feature a host of new features like a flick up to mute mic and the ability to connect to other platforms through Bluetooth like your phone.
NEED FOR SPEED PAYBACK
THE headline EA title. We got a quick taste by playing through a section where you had to steal a Koenigsegg off the back of a truck.
The game looks really promising but there are still question marks over how well the Fast And The Furious-style story will work out.
FLIGHT SIM WORLD
RIPS up the sim game rulebook. This was an early version but it was still shown with a full flight set-up at the Thrustmaster stand. This is the real deal. But it’s so, so hard and takes time to get everything right or else you’ll be heading nose-first into the ground.
A NEW budget headset which aims to bring great quality audio and strong build quality and all for just over £55. Three colour options and they can be used on the Xbox One, PS4 as well as the PC. They will certainly add to your gaming experience.
MAIN news from PC Gamer con was the new Xcom 2 expansion — War Of The Chosen. It adds units, enemies and a host of other goodies. Twice as large as any other Xcom expansion.
SEA OF THIEVES
HIGH-seas swashbuckling. Great sense of humour from developers Rare. It is a really interesting game because, apart from the world, everything else in the game is random so no two players will get the same game.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…