Day two of PAX Australia was another long day full of panels and walking, but far less stressful because I finally knew where everything was. No more waffling, let’s get right to it.
PAX Australia 2014 came and went last weekend and to say it was an improvement from last year’s convention would be a massive understatement. The convention was moved to the utterly gigantic Melbourne Exhibition Centre on Southbank, solving a lot of the space problems that plagued PAX Australia 2013 at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Arriving there at 9am, I, along with the rest of the media who attended, were able to roam the expo hall an hour before general admission.
Welcome back to part 2 of our look back at the history of Xbox. By now, you’ve probably read part one and will want to read it again. That’s ok, that’s cool, we’ll wait for you. The Xbox One launches locally on September 23, and we’ve already covered the foundation that the very first console laid down when it launched in 2001. But it was the Xbox 360 that proves that Microsoft could stand with the big boys, and make gaming even more mainstream. Let’s put our hands on our hips, jump to the left and travel back in time.
In our last ASUS headset review for this series, we look at the ASUS Vulcan PRO, the top of the range for the Republic of Gamers. Does this headset go above and beyond the others? Is this the creme de la creme?
I am terrible at Mario Kart. Though I’ve played them all, starting with the series introduction on the SNES, I never really seem to get any better at it. I’ve tried, mind you. I play the game regularly with my family, and regularly I get beaten by my boastful children. In all these years, my skills have essentially remained static, barely changing at all. The same could be reasonably argued for Mario Kart itself.
When I first heard about WildStar, I was really rather skeptical. It seemed like a bad Borderlands rip off made into an MMO. The classes sounded similar, the aesthetic looked vaguely similar, and I was not in the mood for a game the seemed to be trying too hard. Well, I got beta access and decided to give the game a whirl. I've got to say, if I wore a hat I'd be eating it now - this game is nothing like I expected.
Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 were very different. They featured differing combat styles, gameplay mechanics and even changes to open world approaches. Lightning Returns, the final installment in the trilogy, carries on the tradition of changing everything. Unfortunately, these changes are not improvements.
When Matt Stone and Trey Parker set out to make a South Park RPG, their main guideline was that it had to look and feel like the TV show. It wasn't enough to encounter familiar characters; players had to feel as though they were navigating that world itself. The Stick of Truth is fully successful in that regard.
Players take on the role of "the new kid", a 9-year-old boy who has just moved to South Park and has a mysterious past. When designing your character, there are a ton of options. These will change your interactions with other players - everything from your skin tone to class choice is fodder for hilarious jokes from Cartman. On one preview play through, we played with a spray tan, ginger hair and a cow t-shirt, prompting Cartman to ask if we were Kyle's mom; when I played with black skin, a huge afro and hipster clothes, the game even changed the parents' style to match.
There are four classes to choose from: Fighter, Mage, Thief and Jew. As you might expect, each gets unique traits and abilities. The first time I saw Stars of David fly out of a damaged enemy due to a special attack from the Jew class I nearly wet myself laughing.
While combat is turn-based, it's not just a matter of "press A to win". Players can select actions from a range of options in their attack wheel. Actions will need to vary based on enemy stances, armour or skills. Additionally, when attacked, players have the opportunity to block - if all attacks are successfully blocked, the player can counter attack. Combat is very fast and certain abilities have the possibility of harming the player as much as the enemy - what would else you expect when Butters tries to play with hammers?
In fact, the combat in the game is very difficult and expects a high degree of strategy from the player. Sure, you can successfully take on more difficult enemies early on in the game, but you will need to use your healing items, special attacks and abilities in just the right way. Combat adds a deeper level to the game, taking it beyond an opportunity to explore South Park in an interactive adventure - it is truly an impressive RPG.
Despite being 2D like the TV show, the game offers a huge open world the explore. Sure, I was only able to explore the town of South Park, but there was more than enough to see. As long as you stay on the side walks or use pedestrian crossings, you can go anywhere in the town. In this way, the game feels like a fully open-world game, without breaking from the 2D background design. Each house can be entered and explored, as can all the shops. Upon checking out the one business, I was treated to Chef singing "Simultaneous Loving" in the background while looting the items available. In the next store, "Taco Flavoured Kisses" was on the radio as I spoke to different characters and found a side quest.
Within each area, there is some degree of platforming as you move up ladders and across obstacles. You can use your environment to your advantage in combat, taking out enemies with a variety of objects rather than needing to fight your way through each and every one. This small amount of puzzle solving varies the gameplay and will appeal to those who prefer to out think their opponents rather than relying purely on brute strength.
The Stick of Truth has a pseudo-Facebook system that allows you to make friends with tons of characters in South Park. This brought back memories of Suikoden as I tried to collect all the characters as friends. Some people require you to complete extra missions, or have a certain number of friends before they will interact with you. Checking your friend-feed can give advice on quests, or just offer hilarious commentary as you go. Friends can also provide you with side quests or random funny dialogue. In this way, interacting with every person you come across becomes interesting, enjoyable and rewarding.
The aesthetic design is fully in line with the TV show and franchise. The character models are like those in the show, and even the walking animations are the same. Beat up an enemy and they'll whimper as they limp off screen. Each enemy is unique and even has funny and relevant names. Despite the fairly simple design that South Park is known for, nothing feels repetitive or meaningless.
Truly, the core of the game is laughter. Whether it's from discovering weird South Park themed Easter eggs, or the hilarious character interactions, or even the hilarious in-joke side missions, the whole experience makes the game feel like the series has come to life. My hour with the game was far too brief - there was so much to explore and discover. I honestly can't wait to play the full game.
It was a mission playing The Elder Scrolls Online Beta this weekend for a variety of reasons. In the end, I managed to log a bunch of hours with my awesome Red Guard character, but is this the next big thing or will the hype train pass us by on this one?
The time has finally come - the top ten games of this generation. We are expecting your bile and vitriol; not everyone will agree with us, but it's important to remember that this list was based on what made us all happy to be gamers this generation. Not based on sales, scores, fancy metrics or algorithms, we fought it out to make this list, and we hope it just goes to show how many fantastic games we had in this generation.
In the late 80’s there were really just two major players in the console space: Nintendo and SEGA. As We’ve explained before, Sony was contracted to create a CD add-on for Nintendo’s cartridge-based Super Nintendo, but soured relations and an 11th hour bit of treachery halted what could have been a beautiful relationship. It’s probably for the best; Sony went on to develop the PlayStation, arguably one of the most important, influential, and awesome consoles ever created.
After being burnt by the failed Nintendo partnership, Sony’s Ken Kutaragi wanted to keep at it, caught by the allure of videogames and convinced Sony to take the risk. After a few years of development, Sony brought the world the PlayStation. They used technology, like the fancy sound chips from the cancelled Super Disc/Play Station, upgraded it and developed a console that gave Nintendo and SEGA a run for their money.
Developers were intrigued by the console thanks to the CD-ROM drive that would carry its games. It gave them far more space, at a significantly reduced cost. It also, thanks to the 33mhz SGI-powered chip and whopping 2mb of system memory, allowed developers to use 3D graphics, an alien thing compared to the Atari Jaguar and rather underpowered 3DO of the time.
LaunchThe PlayStation was released in December of 1994 in Japan, within weeks of the competing Saturn from SEGA. It sold considerably better than SEGA’s machine though, thanks to the 3D graphics that SEGA’s decidedly 2D console just couldn’t pull off. It saw release in North America on September 9, 1995 and in Europe on September 29, 1995 – debuting on South African shores just a few weeks later in November that year. 5000 units were imported to South Africa, but just half of them actually sold through from the initial shipment. Sony’s new gaming division went on to become the company’s most profitable, with the PlayStation selling 102 million units in the ten years it was on shelves before being discontinued in 2005.
The ControllerThe X, Square, Circle and Triangle buttons that are on the face of the PlayStation controller have become a symbol for videogames. Though the PlayStation originally launched without any analogue sticks, it soon, after iteration, became the very first console to have twin-analogue sticks. The controller was indeed very iterative; starting with just a d-pad, the controller soon (and briefly) got a model that had just one analogue stick, then later a dual analogue, before finally getting rumble motors as well and becoming the Dualshock that’s served as a template for Sony’s controllers since.
Defining GamesThe PlayStation was home to some rather incredible games, and was the birthplace of many of the gaming franchises you know and love today. Thanks to some lax third-party licencing and the relative low cost of production, the PlayStation is also home to some of the worst examples of shovelware. We’re not worried about those though. Some of the games that helped defined the console include:
Final Fantasy VIIRight up until final Fantasy 6, Square and Nintendo were bedfellows, but the move to CD (and the full-motion video that allowed) let Square take the reigns off of its creativity and wallow in its recently acquired love for Silicon Graphics workstations and 3D polygons. We’re glad, because what we got is one of the finest games and some of the biggest swords the JRPG genre has produced.
Resident EvilJill, here's a lockpick. It might come in handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you. Capcom’s Resident Evil was Shinji Mikami’s take on Alone in the Dark, and he managed to created a survival horror masterpiece that’s still one of the benchmarks of the genre. Playing as a member of the Special Tactics And Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Alpha Team law enforcement task force trapped within a creepy, puzzle-filled mansion, Resident Evil had you killing zombies, conserving ammo and using herbs to heal yourself. It also had you frequently change your underwear. Metal Gear Solid Snaaaaaaaake! Hideo Kojima took his convoluted, incredibly successful MSX game series Metal Gear and breathed 3D life into it on the PlayStation. Sited as one of the games that popularised the stealth genre, Metal Gear Solid had Snake liberating hostages from the clutches of FOXHOUND, confronting nasty terrorists and hiding in boxes. Crash Bandicoot Sony had a great console, but it didn’t have a Mascot like Nintendo did with Mario, and SEGA had with Sonic. Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandicoot became, for a while at least, that mascot. That crazy, wombat-looking bandicoot smashed boxes, collected apples and spun about like a maniac, showing Cortex who’s boss. Symphony of the Night Featuring a pretty expansive (mirrored!) expansive map, RPG elements, unlockable skills, and the sort of backtracking found in Metroid, Konami’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night essentially created the “Metroidvania” sub-genre. Unlike many games of the era, Konami avoided the temptation to go 3D, instead using the PlayStation’s power to make it a damned sexy 2D game – meaning it still holds up pretty well today. Parappa the Rapper Kick! Punch! It’s all in the mind! Parappa The Rapper paved the way for rhythm games, giving us inventive characters, wacky songs and timed-to-music button presses, presaging games like Bust-a-groove, Guitar Hero and Rockband. Plus, it had an onion teach you Karate.
WipeoutSony purchased developer Psygnosis, later Studio Liverpool, who brought us the futuristic, techno-infused, anti-gravity pod-racer Wipeout that was Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s popular F-Zero. With weapons. With a real-sense of speed, Wipeout was an adrenaline-fuelled frenzy.
Oddworld: Abe's OddyseeAbe’s Oddyssey, a game about a mute factory worker leading a revolt to free workers from a meat-processing plant is one of the most cerebral, and tightly designed puzzle-platformers ever created. Featuring a beautiful, strange world and enemies with genuine personality, Oddworld certainly lived up to its name. Follow me? Ok!
Gran TurismoThough it looks a bit silly by today’s standards, Gran Turismo blew minds when it was released in 1999, after five years of development. Infusing his genuine passion for cars with video games, Polyphony Digital’s Kazunori Yamauchi created one of, if not the most influential driving sim on the planet. To this day, Gran Turismo is the PlayStation’s biggest selling bit of software, having shipped nearly 11 million copies.
TekkenThough it was preceded by two months by Battle Arena Toshinden, arcade port Tekken really pushed the PlayStation’s graphical capability, especially with its sequels, which were very damned close to their arcade counterparts. And though it’s now on other platforms, if there’s one fighting game that’s synonymous with PlayStation, it’s got to be Tekken.
ImpactWhen it came to videogames, in 1994 Sony Computer Entertainment was nothing, a sapling. Until then the gaming world was dominated by Nintendo and Sega. Nintendo’s impending Nintendo 64 was expected to maintain the status quo, but Sony’s focuse on a wider audience and darker, more adult games paved the way for gaming’s mainstream revolution. By the late 1990s, Sony’s PlayStation was synonymous with gaming, relegating Nintendo and Sega to second and third place. The incredible, millions-string install base and incredible third-party support paved the way for the PlayStation 2, which went on to become the best selling console of all time and, some say, was largely responsible for SEGA’s exit from the hardware business. Microsoft’s Bill Gates was quite impressed with the system, so much so that the company threw its hat into the ring for the next generation of consoles, pitting its giant Xbox against Sony’s PlayStation 2. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tetrobot and Co. is a delightful puzzler from Swing Swing Submarine. It is well put together with crisp visuals and a fantastic soundtrack. This not-so-little puzzler may have you scratching your head at times, as its challenging and rewarding levels keep you engaged for hours.
For anyone who has played the Desktop Dungeons Alpha, you may think that you know what the game is all about. Sure, it's still a rogue-like dungeon crawler, and some of the enemies and bosses are the same, but that's where the similarities end. In simple terms, you play as a level one adventurer in each dungeon wherein you use skills and leveling up to defeat the high-level big bad, but that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the game.
Mighty Switch Force 2 is a puzzle platformer that channels some serious retro vibes. As soon as I started the game up, it felt like I was playing something from my 16-bit past.