nintendo switch

So E3 Came and Went...


The yearly E3 expo is a highlight for a lot of gamers, myself included. It is the one time of year I want to watch something live, and I follow all the announcements and news, getting more excited than I do at pretty much any other time of year. So with 2018’s expo now over, what were the hits and misses and what do I have on my radar?

Let’s start with the misses: Sony. While I love my PS4 and found that Sony’s decision to have a smaller press briefing which focuses on just four big games to be bold, it just lacked impact. There wasn’t any cool announcements, and the main bit of news was about why the hell they had to fill time while moving attendees from one venue to another. The Last of Us Part II demo they showed saved them from being a totally forgettable couple of hours, but only just.

Nintendo missed with the amount of time devoted to Super Smash Bros Ultimate. They mentioned the game had every character ever in the game and over ten thousand changes to make it the best ever. It felt like they then proceeded to list all of them over the next twenty minutes of their direct, and it was boring. A general lack of cool looking games also didn’t help, but they did show some that peaked my interest.

As for the hits, Microsoft stole the show by a large margin. Their briefing had all the bravado that I want from one of these things, they had cool announcements and some interesting news, and generally did it right in a year the other two members of ‘The Big Three’ couldn’t. All of this helped along by the ever charismatic Phil Spencer, one of the best execs to present an E3 Briefing in some time.

So what is on my radar now that the show is over? Well the list covers a lot of genre’s and systems, from big name games to smaller indies that just look cool. Lets start with probably one of, if not the, biggest game at the show: The Last of Us Part II. The original game has become one of my favorite games of all time, and seeing some of the scenes played out on stage by the actors that played Ellie and Joel only cemented that fact.

Sony’s show opened with a demo that started at a dance, an older Ellie watching from the bar. There was a brief conversation with a new character, then she was dragged up to dance by the girl she was watching. The scene turned romantic, with some awkward flirting followed by probably the best virtual kiss ever put to screen. If this is the level of detail the whole game shows, then The Last of Us Part II can’t come quick enough. It was the thing that saved Sony from having a terrible show that was barely talked about, bold and progressive. In short, awesome.

This was followed by what is supposedly a gameplay demo of Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding. Norman Reedus walked and talked, a new character played by another film/tv actor showed up, and that was about it. It was a poor demo, but did nothing to extinguish my excitement for Death Stranding because, well frankly, Kojima is so nuts that the game might be just walking and talking but the story will be so out there that it will be worth it.

Spiderman is my favourite marvel superhero, so I was always going to get the new game. The gameplay demo looked cool, but I didn’t want to get too invested in it because I wanted to find everything out for myself. It looks amazing though, so I will definitely be picked this up.

On the Microsoft side of things, there were several games that peaked my interest. I don’t normally play racing games, as these days they are far too close to ‘sim’ for my tastes, but damn, does Forza Horizon 4 look good. The changing seasons look like a great addition, but just the overall look is astonishing, and it's a bit more arcadey so I might actually get on board with this.

The other big names on Microsoft's hat, Halo and Gears of War, had showings too. Halo is my favorite game series of all time, so while all we got was a brief trailer that only really showed Master Chief’s helmet I was happy and excited for Halo Infinite. Gears of War had a strange one. They unveiled three Gears games, Gears 5, Gears Tactics and Gears Pop. The last one was completely out of left field, but the trailer made me laugh, so the mobile only game might get the thumbs up from me but for now I am intrigued.

Gears tactics looked like a cool take on the cover based gameplay of the main games, so i think that could work well. It was only a brief bit of gameplay footage so no real details, but I have my fingers crossed it will turned out good. Gears 5 was shown by a cut-scene playing, and it looks good. While story has never been the series strong point, it looks like this one is taking it up a level and continuing from the foundation laid by Gears 4.

They also revealed Devil May Cry 5. Not to be confused with DmC by Ninja Theory (now a Microsoft Studio!), this a full on Capcom created sequel. It has Nero and Dante and cool shit and demons and cool shit and...well you get the idea. I only have two questions: Can they make it quicker and is former black ranger Johnny Young Bosch reprising his role as Nero?

For smaller titles, Microsoft did well too. They showed a new trailer for Ori and The Will of The Wisps, sequel to the fantastic and gorgeous Ori and the Blind Forest, and I couldn’t be more excited for it. The sequel somehow manages to look even better than the first, a high bar indeed, and if it plays just as well then this will be aiming for the top spot in my 2019 game of the year list I am sure of it.

As well as announcing the acquisition of the studio behind the game, a new trailer for We Happy Few was shown, making it look much more like the Bioshock style immersive sim that original trailer showed us. I thought it looked cool back then, and it looks doubly cool now, I just hope the final game can live up to the promise.

A new trailer for Tunic was shown, a game I hadn’t seen before but it has stunning visuals and is apparently a isometric zelda-inspired game. I cannot see any issue with anything there, hopefully the game will be great.

Finally, a game that was released and played by my good self by the time you are reading this: The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. A full review is incoming so I will leave that here, but it does also get me excited to play Life is Strange 2, coming this september.

Nintendo unfortunately didn’t get me too excited this year. I am a lifelong giant robots fan, so the small indie game Daemon X Machina looked awesome, and Fortnite is now out for free on Switch, which is cool. The new Fire Emblem: Three Houses, looks cool but I have no history with the series. This might be the one to get me into it, I don’t know, guess we shall see!

I saved the last paragraph for this: Cyberpunk 2077. If you haven’t watched the trailer, go do so right now. If you are a sci-fi, it should get you excited like you wouldn’t believe. If CD Projekt Red can pull it off, that game could well go down in history as the greatest sci-fi game ever made, topping even Mass Effect and Halo. That might be hyperbolic, but...just watch that trailer again!

The rest of 2018 and 2019 should be an awesome time to be a gamer, with some truly stunning titles on the horizon, I just wish they would come out sooner!


Some Thoughts on the Switch

I love this thing, there I said it. The house that Mario built has enriched the gaming landscape again, and while it's not the perfect console, it does what it's designed to, extremely well. Its hybrid nature just making sense without being forced, far surpassing its predecessor in every way.

The Wii U was a system with problems. A lack of third party support, confusing messaging on what it actually was and a game pad that felt like a toy. All these added up to a system that, while having some fans, was generally seen as a flop. Naturally, concerns were high when rumors started about Nintendo’s next system.

After nearly a month with the Switch, I can say that those concerns were, for the most part, unfounded. The Switch feels like the system the Wii U should have been, a natural consolidation of the company’s portable and console devices that actually works.

All the guts are contained in a device that's essentially a modern tablet. The dock is literally just that, hardly any electronics and extremely easy to setup, but it does feel a bit light and flimsy, I feel like knocking it off the tv stand would easily cause a crack. The actual tablet section, though, feels great in your hands, like a modern, high tech piece of kit.

By today's standards of course that isn’t the case, the latest iPad’s far outpacing the internal technology of the Switch. They also do a lot more, capable of running games, web browsing, email, even replacing a laptop. By comparison, the switch is a meager offering, only capable of playing and downloading games.

The best thing about the Switch is that it's a hybrid, allowing you to pull it out of the dock and take it with you. This is one of those things you didn’t know you needed. It is brilliant, especially if you have limited time, because you can grab five or ten minutes here and there, playing the full main console game at your desk on your lunch hour or sat in the car waiting for someone.

The system does exactly what it says on the tin - its a gaming system through and through. The default controllers, the Joy-Con’s, are much nicer than I first thought. Worry set in after the initial reveal that they would be too small in my hands and it would annoy me, but actually they’re perfect.

You can use the Joy-Con’s in a few ways, and all feel pretty sweet. You can attach them to the tablet with a satisfying ‘click’ and use it more like the Wii U’s tablet controller, though it feels much more solid than that thing ever did. You can undock them and hold one in each hand, which works surprisingly well and is the method I use when playing on my lunch hour, and finally you can click them into the bundled Joy-Con grip, turning them into something akin to a standard controller.

The flipside of the grip is that they don’t charge when using it, it is literally just a fancy holding device. To charge them you have to keep them attached to the Switch and dock it. It’s not exactly a deal breaker but it is a bit annoying. The upside is the battery life on them is great, so you don’t have to do this that often.

The major downers, and there are some, is that out of the box, some online features are missing until an update later in the year. This includes chat in online multiplayer, but at least the multiplayer launched with the system.

That update will be a paid subscription service, which I will happily sign up to, especially since it will reportedly be cheaper than similar services on the other consoles. The biggest problem with the online portion of the switch is that they still haven’t figured out a better system than the bloody friend codes. It was archaic when they first introduced it, and it downright prehistoric now.

The other major problem is that the left Joy-Con loses synchronisation with the console, causing it to not respond or send false signals. It is maddening when it happens, and requires some rather stupid workarounds to solve, though Nintendo have now come out and said it is down to a manufacturing error and they will fix it if required.

Overall, the Switch is a quality bit of kit. It has some problems, sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that Nintendo have learnt from their mistakes with the Wii U and improved on the initial design. I hope that they slowly kill off the 3/2DS and move over to just Switch development, as it’s hybrid nature is the perfect excuse, and it is the best portable gaming device on the market.