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 16th June.
AUSSIE stand-up John Robertson smashed it at Play Expo Glasgow — literally. Robbo brought his hilarious interactive videogame show, The Dark Room, to the party with its signature mix of thrills and high jinks. He said:
“It was brilliant. We had a really wild time. On Saturday, I took a shopping trolley and smashed it into some kids. People liked that. I claimed I was playing space invaders and they let me do that. And both days I gave some kids paving stones as prizes. Congratulations, kid, you’ve won a brick.”
The Dark Room — where you try to escape and win £1,000 — has an adult version and one for kids. Robbo added:
“When you have a crowd full of adults you can do adult entertainment. When you have a mixed audience you can still do adult entertainment — the kids are happy because they are hearing swearing and kids like swear words.”
The show is a must-see and Robbo will be back in the summer at the Edinburgh Fringe and Resonate Expo in Glasgow. Robertson offered a sneak peek. He said:
“We have added an extra 300 screens to the Dark Room and I’ve taken to slinging beans into the crowd in a move I like to call the bean tsunami. Because it’s an improv show it comes down to whatever I feel like on the day.”
John has also taken the show into the digital world, but he admitted:
“Games developers are like saints and martyrs because making a game is like being nailed to a cross and not being Jesus. They work so hard while all I had to do was write three-and-a-half hours of content and fly to Australia to do three-and-a-half hours of mo-cap over seven days and even that busted my hernia open.”
But all the hard work looks to be paying off as the show is becoming a PC smash. He said:
“It’s insane. Our reviews are 90 per cent positive and people love it but it’s a great mixture of people who play the game and really get it. There are some pubs where people are playing it like a party game.”
“The next episode of the game should be coming out near the end of the year. The plan is to have chapters 1, 2 and 3 then Darkest mode which will be a brutal difficult boss rush.”
If all that wasn’t enough to keep him busy his first book The Little Town Of Marrowville is set to be released — and it’s a children’s tale. John said:
“Most things in life are happy accidents. Trust me, I’ve asked my mother, but one day a bloke from Puffin found the Dark Room and messaged me asking if I wanted to write a kids’ book. I have no idea how you look at the show and think ‘Wait a minute, that’s for the kids’, but he had good imagination and I got a second email and I had basically one night to come up with the kids’ story I’ve always wanted to read. Kids are much more hardcore than you think they are. I had a veteran come up to me after my show for kids at the Fringe where I had just killed a bunch of kids and he shook me by the hand and said that is family entertainment. That’s what I am doing — not patronising children.”
GAMERS went all retro as Play Expo Glasgow rocked Braehead. The fun fest offered treats for kids of all ages and parents could show off their arcade cabinet skills on the likes Tron, Pac Man and Bombjack. But the real stars were Space Harrier and Outrun. Pinball wizards tackled classics and modern games with competitions to hunt the highest scores. Retro consoles included NES, C64 and a selection of Amiga hardware. The indie section is always a hit — but it was a bit smaller than in the past three years. However, games like Squishy Sports, Nightfall and Epic Battle Fantasy 5 were crowd-pleasers. The cosplay scene is obviously healthy with special guests like Axios Cosplay, Glasgow-based Mike Lawson and Draculuna, while many gamers came dressed as some of the favourite characters. It may have been the biggest expo in floor size, but it felt like the content had stalled, especially when you look at the other shows around the UK. Ultimately, this was a fun way to fill a few hours between E3 conferences.
HOLLYWOOD superstar Keanu Reeves took gaming fans on a most excellent adventure at this year’s E3 convention. The Matrix star has made headlines for the John Wick flicks and games, but stunned the crowd when he emerged from the smoke during the Microsoft press conference in LA to talk about the new game Cyberpunk 2077. He told a whooping and hollering crowd that the new game would be breath-taking when it came out in April. It was too much for one fan, who yelled: “You are breathtaking!”. Quick as a flash, Keanu hit back: “No, you are breath-taking!”. And the whooping and hollering went viral on the internet. It was a rare slice of Hollywood showbiz from a show that was rocked by Sony’s decision not to show up. But that didn’t stop firms showing that the next year will be another strong one for the industry.
One of the main talking points was the rise of game streaming services along the Netflix model. New kid on the block Google shared details about their new Stadia system, including pricing and spec, and it looks like it will be a real game- changer when it lands this November. Then it was back to the more usual gaming business as EA showed their new projects. They abandoned the conference format from past years as they announced the games pre-show. Without Sony, Microsoft took centre stage to update fans on a bunch of games that were shown last year, like Gears 5 and Halo Infinite, and announced a lot of new titles. Keanu’s Cyberpunk show was followed by Scot Ralph Fulton with news of Forza Horizon 4 teaming up with Lego. To emphasise the point, he was joined by a life-size Lego McLaren Senna.
Microsoft’s X cloud system will rival Stadia in that you can stream games to different devices and play on the go but they also revealed the next box . . . well, sort of. There was a trailer where tech heads and developers talked about the power and specs of what they called Project Scarlett. It looks to be the most-powerful machine Microsoft has ever built and will go head to head with Sony’s PS5 next Christmas [Ed – maybe, there’s been no dates mentioned by either party just yet]. Ubisoft brought out Ghost Recon Breakpoint bad guy Jon Bernthal to present the game on stage along with his dog Bam-Bam because . . . well, it’s E3. Kinda Funny Games showcased 60 up-and-coming indie titles, while UploadVR was all about the virtual reality revolution. Limited Run also had a short conference where they showcased their future, while Digital Devolvers brought their trademark off-the-wall experience to the show.
Tango Gameworks were there to show off GhostWire: Tokyo. Creative director Ikumi Nakamura, left, made the announcement with plenty of drama. Nintendo released another of their Direct presentations. That’s been their way of handling E3 for a few years. It spotlighted new titles as well as adding some depth to others. The surprise news was that the sequel to Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is in the pipeline and the long-awaited Switch Animal Cross is on the way. It was nice to see them having a bit of fun as this was the first E3 with Doug Bowser at the helm, though Nintendo’s other Bowser showed up first. Overall, E3 2019 was a strong year, although we missed some old friends. One thing is for sure — Keanu made sure the event was breath-taking.
E2 2019’s Show Highlights
FIFA 20 – September 19th (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC)
THIS year’s instalment adds a ton of features with the biggest being Volta Football. It’s a new mode like an updated version of the Street series where men and women play together for the first time. There is a cool gritty look as you play from stadiums to rooftops and cages.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – November 15th (Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
WHO doesn’t what to be a Jedi? Respawn Entertainment treated fans to 15 minutes of Fallen Order footage where you are Cal Kestis — a Padawan who is trying to escape Order 66. See some great landscapes in the Star Wars universe as you get to grips with a lightsabre and learn to use the powers of the Force.
Gears of War 5 – September 10th (Xbox One and PC)
MICROSOFT’S biggest release, but bizarrely they didn’t show any action. They preferred a trailer of Kait struggling with a fractured mind. All very strange. We did see the new Escape mode — a three-player co-op mission to infiltrate a Hive nest. Gears 5 will get a beta starting on July 17th.
Cyberpunk 2077 – April 16th (Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
CD Projekt Red had a stunning trailer which showed a gang double-cross going wrong as V’s partner Jack is shot and he is also taken down. V wakes to a hologram saying: “Wake the f** up, Samurai, we have a city to burn.”. But the big surprise was that the hologram was Keanu Reeves. The acting superstar looks set for a major role in the game. He also appeared on-stage to reveal the release date.
Doom Eternal – November 22nd (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC)
THE Doom reboot was a huge hit and the new game promises more guns, demons and gore than before. A story trailer highlighted how Eternal lets you kill demons in Heaven and Hell as well as visiting the Sentinel homeworld. The new Battlemode multiplayer also sees one player as a slayer taking on two others to control demons.
Watch Dogs Legion – March 6th (Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
LONDON has fallen — and when you think about the PM battle and Brexit, this is a scary look into the future. The city has become a drone-filled surveillance state plagued by extremists and organised crime. And you play as as a city so you can switch between characters in the DedSec resistance force. It’s new and different and will shake things up in a good way.
GhostWire: Tokyo – TBC (Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
TANGO Gameworks were behind The Evil Within series. This new offering looks the part — the trailer featured all kinds of spirits haunting modern-day Japan. Some are peaceful. Others are not. People are disappearing and you must stop it. There was no gameplay but The Evil Within link should guarantee a scare or two.
Deathloop – TBC (Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
ARKANE Studios were behind the Dishonored series and the Prey reboot . . . and Deathloop looks like an interesting addition. Colt and Julianna are trapped in a time loop where they murder one another infinitely. Using dual-wielded uzis, swords, rifles and even teleportation abilities, the two repeatedly fight to the death.
Halo Infinite – TBC (Xbox One,PC and Project Scarlett)
IT’S been a long wait for Halo fans and it is not quite over yet. Infinite won’t launch until the end of next year alongside Project Scarlett, which was revealed by Xbox boss Phil Spencer. They also showed a cinematic trailer which threw up more questions than answers. It showed a man adrift in space when his craft comes across Master Chief floating around. The man revives Chief with the last of the power on his ship just as they come under attack. Chief says: “We need to fight.”. And that’s it. It looks very pretty . . . but we can’t tell you much more than that.
Forza Horizon 4: Lego Speed Champions Expansion – Available now (Xbox One and PC)
THERE has been a lot of chatter and expectation within the Forza community about the second expansion pack. Many had voiced hopes that Hotwheels would make a return or that the developers had something even more exciting on the cards. Well, Playground Games haven’t disappointed — they have landed a deal with Lego. This looks like a kids’ daydream as the worlds of Horizon 4 and Lego are blended together. You’ll get to explore a Lego-themed world where you’ll take on Lego Brick Challenges such as building a Master Builder’s house as your Brick Collection grows. You can collect and race new Lego Speed Champions cars which include the iconic McLaren Senna as well as Ferrari F40 Competizione and the 1967 Mini Cooper S Rally. And, best of all, the Lego Speed Champions is available now to buy and download. Bring it on.
Sniper Elite VR – TBC, (PSVR, Oculus Rift, Vive, and SteamVR)
REBELLION are looking to bounce back from Sniper Elite 2 Remaster with this one. The WW2 shooter sees you in Italy before the events of Elite 4, with a new story by Tony Schumacher, author of the John Rossett novels. You are with the Resistance trying to rid Sicily of the Nazi U-boat menace. X-Ray Kill Cam has been rebuilt for VR.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination – TBC (PC)
IT’S fun being bad. Rebellion agrees as this is the sequel to the 2004 classic. A short teaser hinted at the sheer levels of treachery and tyranny as you are an Evil Genius aiming to take over the world. You must train underlings to commit crimes like selling the British Royal Family or even bake Alaska…literally.
Marvel’s Avengers – May 15th (Xbox One, PS4, PC and Stadia)
THIS is an Avengers game, but not as you know it. Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal aren’t taking any inspiration from the cinematic portrayals. The game follows the A-Day’s storyline — a mission-gone-wrong for the superhero pals which turns them into public enemies. There will be a four-player online co-op.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons – March 20th (Switch)
MOST Switch users have been begging for an Animal Crossing game . . . and it’s coming. But New Horizons has been pushed back to March 20th next year. The Deserted Island Getaway Package shows a camp on a tropical island. During changing seasons you can craft new items using Tom Nook’s workbench.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint October 4th (Xbox One, PS4, PC and Stadia)
THERE has been a lot said about the next instalment, but Wolves leader Jon Bernthal was on hand to reveal his mission to exterminate the Ghosts. Ubisoft are also bringing back AI teammates which will help solo players. There will also be a Ghost Recon Breakpoint beta starting on September 5th about a month before the official launch. The teaser also suggested the Terminator franchise will be involved.
Final Fantasy VII Remake – March 3rd (PS4)
EASILY one of the most-anticipated games at the event. Combat will be split between real-time action and strategic command-based fights where you can do standard attacks to fill a bar before unleashing more powerful moves or slow down time and choose abilities, items and spells from the command menu.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War – TBC (Xbox One and PC)
THE follow-up to the over- the-top Zombie Army Trilogy picks up in 1946 — a year after Hitler was defeated and Europe lies in ruins. But he’s back. The game features drop-in, drop-out co-op for four players as well as battles across corpse-riddled Venice canals.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 – TBC (Switch)
LUIGI is back as he joins Mario, Peach and the gang in a haunted house. The game brings back Gooigi — basically Luigi’s gooey green clone. He lets you play two-player co-op with a Joy-Con. A multiplayer mode, The ScareScraper, sees eight players battle it out to rescue Toads from a tower of terror.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…