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 17th June 2018.
E3 2018 Roundup
IT’S Forza frenzy time . . . the mega hit is coming to Scotland. The eagerly-awaited E3 2018 convention in Los Angeles revealed a feast of gaming goujons, and the tastiest titbit was that FORZA HORIZON 4 will be set in the UK — with racing battles on the streets of Edinburgh. Ralph Fulton — the Scots creative director for Playground Games, right — was arguably the star of the Microsoft show. He said the game will hit shelves on October 2nd and will feature his home country — just as a picture of Edinburgh was flashed on the screens behind him. The game also gets the four seasons as it will sync the weather for all players online at the same time. Expect more than 450 cars and the McLaren Senna gets the honour of bring the cover car.
CRACKDOWN 3 continued the Scottish theme. The game is being partly developed here and looks like an open-world blastfest if the OTT trailer with Terry Crews was anything to go by. There was a sad note — the game has been pushed back yet again. It is now due on February 22nd next year.
If Scotland was the high, then the E3 conferences were the low. The event has long been a cue for a late-night party in the UK, as gamers get together to tune in live for the latest news. Well, this year, the firms weren’t playing ball. EA was very low-key, almost apologetic over the loot box and season pass controversies that have marred this year. Xbox simply piled up the game trailers, although there was a hint that work has already started on the next Xbox. Bethesda need a reboot after a bag of cringe-worthy dad jokes failed. Luckily, company director Todd Howard saved the day with some much-needed charisma. The Devolver show was a car crash while Square Enix was a half-hour pre-record show. Wow, thanks. Ubisoft and the PC Gaming Show were solid if unspectacular, while Sony was interesting and . . . bizarre. No on-stage developers and no clear message. Nintendo? All Super Smash Bros Ultimate. But E3 is about games, so here are our best picks . . .
Battlefield V (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, October 19th)
THE latest instalment in the FPS series was revealed last month, but this was the first look at gameplay in multi and single player. DICE also announced a Battle Royale mode. We were shown a number of new features — like being able to smash through windows as well as moving stationary weapons around the battlefield by hooking them up to vehicles. Destruction is back — tanks were shown ripping through buildings with more realistic “damage” to the building. DICE also emphasised the fact that there will be no loot boxes and no premium season pass.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, TBC 2019)
IT is no secret that we were big fans when Wolfenstein 2 came out. It is also no secret that we were not such big fans of the DLC packs that followed it. It is fair to say that most gamers felt a little let down, but Machine Games are determined to put that right . . . with Wolfenstein Youngblood. You will play as BJ Blazkowicz’s twin daughters as they take on the might of the Nazi empire in Paris during the 1980s. In an interesting twist, the twin element means co-op. More good news — the series is also making the jump to VR with Wolfenstein Cyberpilot where you play a hacker taking control of the Nazi war machine.
Beyond Good and Evil 2 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, TBC)
AFTER last year’s trailer it’s safe to say fans were hungry for more info on Ubisoft’s new space opera epic. And they didn’t disappoint, showing off a polished trailer which was packed with character and charm. It also dropped a huge bombshell in that Jade, the hero from the first game, will return . . . as a baddie. The open universe will be playable in both solo or in co-op and it was revealed that the Space Monkey Programme, with help from Gordon Joseph Levitt, will let the community contribute ideas, artwork and music to the game.
Rage 2 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC Spring, 2019)
THIS has to have been the worst-kept secret in gaming, so it was no surprise that Bathesda kicked off their show with Rage 2. Andrew W.K. rocked out on the stage, then we got a real taste of what is being developed by Avalanche Studios. You’ll play as Walker, the last ranger of the Wasteland, in a fast, frantic and over-the-top adventure. It also looks stunning. The game has a big Doom feel as the player darted around using slides and jumps as well as special abilities. It all looks like a must-play game.
Halo Infinite (Xbox One and PC, TBC)
THE much-loved Microsoft exclusive is back, but there were very few details. The trailer showed off the Slipspace Engine that 343 Industries are using to build the game. It will go back to a more classic look, and there will be rhino and deer-like creatures. But we just got a hint of the Master Chief. It looks like his helmet has a Halo Combat Evolved look. Studio head Chris Lee says the game will take place after the events of Halo 5. And that’s your lot for now.
Death Stranding (PS4, TBC)
IT is almost E3 tradition for Sony to serve up a trailer for Hideo Kojima’s next title . . . and, like past efforts, the new one was baffling. Death Stranding looks epic, but you play as a postman making deliveries. Then, to add to the confusion, there are invisible monsters, babies in jars and weird bugs. Yup, all a bit left-field. We got a quick shot of Lindsay Wagner — TV’s Bionic Woman in the 70s — who has joined a cast including Norman Reedus, Lea Seydoux, Mad Mikkelsen and Guillermo del Toro.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate (Switch, December 7th)
NINTENDO Direct’s boys and girls must have had a one-line memo for the show — plug Smash Bros. That was all they talked about. However, if you’re a fan then you are in for a treat. This is the ultimate edition of Smash Bros. It has every character from the series so far, including DLC and one-off stars like the Ice Climbers and Solid Snake. Then there are new fighters like Ridley from Metroid, Princess Daisy and Splatoon’s Inkling. The game will support the GameCube controller.
Gears of War (Xbox One and PC, TBC)
YOU wait for one Gears game then THREE come along at once. It was a strong show for the guys over at The Coalition as they showcased their up-and- coming titles. The first — and maybe most bizarre — was a cross-over mobile game between Gears Of War and Funko Pops. It looks super-cute, but we were not treated to many real details so the jury is definitely out on that one. Then there was Gears of War Tactics. This will be a strategy game in the same style as X-com — you get to take a squad of four COG on a missions before the start of the first game. It looks very interesting, but it would seem that it is only destined for the PC at the moment. And that brings us to the third and final game — Gears 5 is on the way. Yes, that’s right, it seems to have dropped the “of war” bit. We will see the action follow JD, Del and Kait Diaz along with the main series hero, Marcus Fenix. The plot looks to revolve around the squad falling out. It also looks like we will be treated to different territories, like forests and deserts, and some brutal new melee combat.
Anthem (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, February 22nd)
THE star of EA show. Bioware finally showed off some solid gameplay from their sci-fi epic. Some gamers are calling Anthem EA’s answer to Destiny. There are four kinds of Javelin exosuit — Ranger, Colossus, Interceptor and Storm — and you take control of one as you team up with up to three friends to blast your way through an alien world. It’s a shared living world so all players see the same thing — it’s only when you return to the base hub world that Anthem turns into a single player story. Bioware have also said that the game can evolve, with extra stories or events being seamlessly slotted in.
Fallout 76 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, November 14th)
BETHESDA director Todd Howard was brilliant as he did the reveal on Fallout 76 — full of great one-liners and laughs. This will be an epic online survival game where every character you meet will be another player. That is an interesting spin on the series as you’ll need to team up to get the most out of the game. However, you can still play in single player. You’ll be able to build a settlement anywhere but other players could try to stop you. You can also get launch codes for a number of nuclear weapon silos. That is one way to settle a score.
The Last of Us Part II (PS4, TBC)
SONY started with a bang with their reveal of one of the most eagerly-awaited games at E3. The first game was an masterpiece and Naughty Dog have delivered with the sequel. The cinematic trailer showed Ellie at a party — hinting at the character’s softer side — before the gameplay kicked off in the most brutal way. Ellie is most definitely angry. Stealth is the order of the day — using whistles as a distraction as you hunt for weapons and equipment. But it gets frantic when things go south. This will be a flagship title for Sony in the future.
Ghost of Tsushima (PS4, TBC)
SUCKERPUNCH’s Samurai adventure may have gone under the radar since it was announced last year, but it has finally broken into the light.
This is a beautiful-looking game — from the fields filled with crops blowing in the wind to epic showdowns under a leafy tree. Combat is very much a one-strike affair. You will have to master when to time your attack. Get it right and you’ll dispatch a foe will one slash. It is packed with cinematic style and polished, with tons of tiny details like your trousers getting covered in mud as you walk through it.
The Division 2 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, March 16th)
THE virus from the first game has begun to die out, but now you have left snow-covered New York and gone to Washington in a bid to save the nation. There will be a new signature weapon which also comes with a set of unique skills. You get extra abilities based on whether you pick the grenade launcher, crossbow or high-powered rifle. And eight players can team up to take on Raids. There are plans for major content additions in Year 1 — three pieces of DLC that will have new areas, story and weapons. Good news — they will be FREE to everyone.
Just Cause 4 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, December 4th)
RICO Rodriguez is back, but this time the action takes place in the fictional South American region of Solis. Avalanche Studios have ramped up the destruction and physics as well as the giving the game a new extreme weather system which adds in blizzards, sand storms and tornadoes. There are new vehicle types, like bulldozers and car transporters, and Rico’s grapple hook has been refined.
Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu! / Eevee! (Switch, November 16th)
THIS is the first full-fat Pokémon for the Switch. You return to the Kanto region of the original Game Boy games and there is a heavy original Pokémon Yellow/Red game vibe. You will be able to transfer Pokémon from Pokémon Go into the Switch game, and you can play couch co-op with a friend. There is a neat new physical Pokeball controller instead of a joy-con — and that comes preloaded with a Mew inside that you can use in your game.
Resident Evil 2 Remake (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, January 25th)
THE fans have been listened to. All those cries for a remake have been answered — Capcom have revealed that a Resident Evil 2 Remake is on the way. It will look to keep the core story but spice up the look. The trailers show a much younger Leon, along with Sherry and Ada, a horde nasty zombies and a Licker mutant. Best of all, we won’t have to wait too long to get our hands on it. A release date has been set for January 25th next year.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, October 5th)
ANOTHER year, another Assassin’s Creed . . . but this one looks a bit different from the normal fare. The game is set in Greece — about 400 years before the events in Assassin’s Creed Origins — and it has a big 300 vibe. You can play as a male or female character — Alexios or Kassandra. The combat looks as fast and fluid as you would expect, but the new dialogue system lets you choose how things pan out when taking to NPC — a bit like Mass Effect. The most interesting thing from the show was what was NOT said. There was no talk about any link to the assassin brotherhood. Apart from a few symbols, it’s actually hard to tell this is an Assassin’s Creed game.
Skull and Bones (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, TBC)
UBISOFT has a strange show. There were some uncomfortable murmurs when the opening statement was “Piracy is dead” but things started moving in a better direction when they got onto Skull And Bones. This is piracy of the highest order. It has been developed by Ubisoft Singapore and has more than a passing flavour of past Assassin’s Creed sea battles. It is inspired by the same tech behind 2014’s Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. The game is set in the Indian Ocean, and you take to the high sea with one ambition — to become an all-round bad ass pirate. You can choose your type of missions in a shared world which means you can team up or go to war. They have got the look spot on — the pitch and roll of the waves will make you seasick. Sea Of Thieves has a rival.
State of Play
THE future of gaming may have been the focus at E3 in America last weekend — but Glasgow had the good old days firmly in its sights at Play Expo. While the globe’s biggest publishers were in Los Angeles showcasing their latest titles, thousands packed Braehead Arena to play the hits of yesteryear. Now in its third year one of Scotland’s biggest gaming event was a wonderful retro blast. We were taken back in time to indulge ourselves in classics such as Tron, Pacman and Bombjack. The biggest stars of the show were the iconic full Afterburner cabinet and the Dancing Stage EuroMix2. The queues for the 80s favourites were the longest over the two days. There was something for everyone ranging from indie and arcade to virtual reality.
Highlight of the indie section was Matt Roszak showing Epic Battle Battle Fantasy 5. And the developer was full of praise for Play Expo. He said:
“The event was surprisingly family- orientated and there was a huge variety of people — from young gaming enthusiasts to grandparents. It was great.”
I was yearning for the past when I came across consoles such as NES, Commodore64 and Amiga. It’s amazing how the years have flown by so quickly! And if pinball is your thing you could take part in a highest scoring tournament on classic or tech’d up machines. However, if you fancied a glimpse of the future there was the VR section where you could take games like WipEout for a spin.
Retro YouTubers Daniel Ibbertson, aka DJ Slope, and Kim Justice, were on hand to give fans an insight to their careers and tips on how to get into the industry. And the Scottish cosplay scene was also well represented. Hundreds of fans dressed up as their favourite characters for the occasion while Aberdeen’s Lady Arthas and her Sindragsa armour from World Of Warcraft was a huge hit.
Play Expo was another huge success and I’ve got a feeling it’s just going to get bigger and bigger over the years. And like many of the games from the past on show it is going to get better with age!
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…