There are a ton of video games out to play this week guys, at last - and that's without forgetting that it's also the opening of the biggest public games convention on the planet, as Gamescom 2013 returns to the Koelnmesse with Next Gen in tow. Wie gehts, Niners - it's a jam-packed edition of Tuesday Game Room!
World of Warcraft continues to be World of Warcraft. Still no Weapon drops (CURSE YOU RANDOM NUMBER GAME), but I did get some shiny pieces of armour for Telsandre. Patch 5.4, due out next week, increases the drop chance in LFR-difficulty raiding by a wopping 70%, so hopefully next week I can finally get myself a bow that's worth a damn. The DPS, I needs it!
Aside from WoW, my time has been spent with another MMO - specifically, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, which had an open beta test this past weekend. Learn more about my Cat Man's adventures (with and without battle panties) here, but there was one thing I forgot to mention: Whenever you complete a dungeon in FFXIV, you're treated to a little cutscene of your player-party engaged in celebratory posing as Final Fantasy's eponymous Victory Fanfare blares out.
It is the greatest. thing. ever. So simple, and yet so viscerally satisfying. I adore it.
Video games are like buses - you wait 4 months for a good one and then a billion come along at once! There's a veritable host of games out this week, starting with the double-barrel that is Saints Row IV, the latest in the GTA-clone-turned-Hilarious-Sandbox series that sees the Saints fighting off aliens after you become the POTUS (also: Keith David's your VP. Seriously, the Keith David), and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, which takes us back to the origins of the XCOM organisation in 60's America, where men in fedoras battle the alien threat in style. Capping off the notable retail releases are Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Ubisoft's opening volley of their Autumn AAA releases, and Disney Infinity, the Skylanders-esque collectable figurine/platformer hybrid that is almost guaranteed to rake in the cashola for the House of Mouse.
On the digital front, Summer of Arcade finishes with Ubisoft's remake of Flashback, The Walking Dead shambles its way to Playstation Vita, and the PC gets a fighting game booster with Genre satire Divekick and the delightfully styled Skullgirls both hitting the platform.
LOOK AT ALL THESE VIDEO GAMES! If only they'd spread these out after the last few months.
There's been plenty of news this week, but nothing has topped the opening of Gamescom, with Sony and Microsoft peeling away another layer of secrecy to reveal a bit more about Xbox One and Playstation 4. Instead of the usual links, here's a wrap up of the news from the 3 big Cologne conferences that took place today:
- ID@Xbox, the Xbox One Indie Initiative: Finally, Microsoft sorts itself out with Indies. Although it will still rely on a semi-curated environment rather than being truly open á la the app store, and it's disappointing that this feature won't be with the console at launch, this is a huge step in the right direction - and yet another 180 on Microsoft's 'vision' for Xbox One. Thank god that they decided to listen to consumers though!
- Fable Legends!: Not much else was revealed for Lionhead's latest in its delightfully quaint action-rpg series, other than the fact that it will feature 4 player co-op for the first time, as well as an 'online Albion'. Fable III's rushed ending was a bit of a disappointment, but I'm glad to see another 'main-line' Fable existing - as an Englishman I'll always hold a special place in my heart for its oddball british humour.
- Third Party A-Go-Go: Microsoft rolled out a few tidbits from some third party developers, including Fighter Within, Ubisoft's Kinect-based fighting game sequel to the absolutely turgid Fighters Uncaged, and another look at their surprise E3 reveal, The Division. Mojang's deal with Microsoft will continue not only with Minecraft on Xbox One, but also with Cobalt, Mojang's publishing collaboration with Oxeye Games. Also announced was that not only will Call of Duty Ghosts feature dedicated servers on Xbox One, but that there will also be an 'exclusive' hardware bundle available at launch, as well as Activision's continuing plan of DLC-first on the Xbox platform.
- EA gets into bed with Microsoft: EA also revealed a host of partnerships with Microsoft - enough to warrant their own bullet point! This is a bit of a turnaround from the current gen, since it was typically Sony who saw bonuses to EA games on their platforms. First up, Peggle 2 and Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare will launch first on Xbox One, Peggle at launch, PvZ next year. Then came the big guns: EA's immensely popular (popular enough in the UK that last year there was a flurry of Xbox Account hackings taking place to literally do nothing other than buy Microsoft Points for FIFA microtransactions!) FIFA Ultimate Team card game will get an exclusive selection of 'legend' cards on Xbox One, called Fifa Ultimate Team Legends. But the biggest EA deal was...
- FIFA 14 will be bundled with every European Xbox One Preorder for no additional charge: In an attempt to add value to the incredibly pricey £430 tag on Xbox One, 'whilst stocks last' all preorders of Xbox One will include a digital copy of the latest in EA's massively popular football franchise - which currently has a frankly rather alarming RRP of £55. This is a big get for Microsoft in Europe, where typically FIFA has thrived on Sony platforms in the past (Sony and Playstation are brands inherently linked with football in Europe thanks to their long running sponsorship of the Champion's League)... but it's still cheaper to buy a PS4 and a copy of the game separately. It'll be hard to tempt people away from that lower price point, but if anything could do that, especially in the UK, FIFA 14 could. Currently there's no word on a similar promotion for the US, where the Xbox One is $100 more than the Playstation 4.
Overall, a bit of a mish-mash from Microsoft, honestly. The bulk of their time was spent rehashing third party games we'd seen from E3, and very little on First Party exclusives aside from the reveal of Fable Legends, a welcome bolster to the Xbox One's stable. Smart decisions were revealed in ID@Xbox and the FIFA deal, but aside from that, only one new game after E3 was a bit of a disappointment - even more so the lack of a solid release date announcement for Xbox One. Microsoft have stemmed the tide on consumer backlash thanks to their sweeping policy reversals, but it remains to be seen if they've done enough to convince people yet.
- PS4 You say? No, PS3!: Sony kicks off the show by taking a look at what's ahead for Playstation 3 this year, opening with Gran Turismo 6, due out December 6th 2013 - as well as unveiling a new Free to Play LittleBigPlanet, LBP Hub.
- PS4 You say? No, PS Vita!: Vita gets a shot in the arm with a host of new titles, from a Borderlands 2 port, to new first party releases such as platformer Murasaki Baby and music-festival-manager BandFest, to indie titles like Stealth Inc. and Spelunky. And surprise - The Vita will also receive a price slash, down to $200 in effect as of tomorrow!
- PS4 You say? Why yes, PS4! Indie Edition: At long last Mark Cerny takes to the stage to evangelise his vision for Playstation 4, declaring it the most powerful home console yet with the strongest launch line up in Playstation history, bringing Shahid Amad to reveal exclusive console debuts for hit indie titles like Binding of Isaac, N++, Rogue Legacy and Volume, the new game behind the creator of Thomas Was Alone, even Hotline Miami 2.
- PS4 You say? Why yes, PS4! WWS Edition: Now here's the big stuff. All of Sony's World Wide Studios are working on Playstation 4, and some of those games made a début tonight, including Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, a haunting post apocalyptic story from The Chinese Room, the gorgeous looking Rime from Tequila Works, Helldivers from the team behind Magicka, the spiritual successor to Super Stardust HD Resogun, and even a reboot of the Amiga Icon Shadow of the Beast! Sony declare have that they've revealed 15 new exclusive titles today, leaving 5 more in being developed in secret by other World Wide Studios - including Naughty Dog.
- PS4 teams up to offer Europe... Better Broadband?: Orange, Virgin Media, Deutsche Telekom and Ono are 4 partners Sony are allying with to create exclusive broadband packages and Playstation deals for customers. It's a strange package, but ultimately makes sense - if games are going to move to a digital future, Broadband standards have to be raised. A wry move on behalf of Sony.
- Minecraft and War Thunder are exclusive to PS4 at Launch: Wow, that first one is strange considering it was always 'Microsoft' territory, but both are welcome additions to PS4's launch rather small-scale exclusive lineup.
- The Playstation 4 Launches in 32 Countries, 15th November US, 29th November EU: And there we have it - after taking one last pot shot at Microsoft, Andrew House reveals that the Playstation 4 has a solid release date this November, launching in double the countries the Xbox One will. It's not as early as people expected - including many rumours of an October surprise reveal - but it is still a release date. Now to wait for Microsoft to respond...
In all, a strangely sedate Presser from Sony. A lot of game reveals, but no killer apps or even release dates for many of them. In combat to Microsoft's ID@Xbox reveal, a majority of the presser was given over to Indie game development for the Platform - but as great as building that relationship is, there was a distinct lack of dazzle to the Sony line-up at the moment, especially at launch. The System is exciting, but the first party games aren't quite matching up yet. A release date though, unlike Microsoft!
- More of the Same - EA Edition: From the sizzle reel opening to... well, the sizzle reel closing, EA didn't have much new to show that we hadn't already seen at E3 - repeat appearances from heavy hitters like Battlefield 4 to Titanfall, to games like PvZ: Garden Warfare and ALL THE SPORTS GAMES with very little in the way of much information for them. That's not to say there weren't some new titles...
- The Sims 4 revealed with a pretty bizarre live action trailer, adds 'Smart Sims': HOW DUMB WAS THAT TRAILER. But hurrah, more Sims! Maxis' Rachel Franklin argues that the new game brings more emotion and heart to the Sims, comparing her Sims to actors on a stage, as well as adding new, more detailed creation tools for both houses and characters. Sims now have tangible emotions that are impacted by their environment, the Sims they're around, and the hobbies they partake in.
- Victory Games unveils their take on Command and Conquer: Aside from some pretty excruciating on-stage banter, the former Bioware-titled Victory showed off their long-in-development Command and Conquer title with a live match between members of the dev team. The new game launches later this year, as a 'free service', with episodic story-driven content rolled out on a regular basis.
- Did they really get Patrick Stewart to do VO for this FIFA 14 trailer?: They fucking did! I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I don't much care for sports games, but it is nice that the current generation versions of FIFA will transfer profiles and save states over to next-generation copies too (including that free digital copy for Xbox One preorders in Europe).
We'll be back this time next Tuesday for more gaming discussion, but for now, sound off in the comments with the games you've been playing, and what you're looking forward to this week - and don't forget to join us on Steam!