Weekly News Recap – Week of February 16, 2015

There were a couple interesting bits of news that I saw floating around this week. Here’s a couple of the more intriguing ones.

The Order: 1886

GAME LENGTH IS ALL THE RAGE
Talk about game length has been all over the blogs this week – every sight has been talking about it thanks to the reviews of The Order: 1886. Since it’s apparently really short, it’s been provoking a lot of thought about the length of games and the value of games. I wrote a post this week with my thoughts on game length – short version is that I don’t necessarily think it’s the be-all and end-all determining factor for value.

Rock Band 3 Cover

BLOOMBERG POTENTIALLY BREAKS BIG GAME NEWS
This week there was also a report over on Bloomberg, citing anonymous sources, so take that for what its worth, saying that Harmonix is planning on bringing Rock Band up to current-gen. I think we were all thinking that when they announced the return of DLC back in January, that it was a way to test the waters – and the survey they sent out in their newsletter definitely got me thinking we will see something big Rock Band related this year. Harmonix has also been really pushing their presence at PAX East, which has me thinking that we might not have to wait till E3 to see what they have in store.

Destiny

ULTIMATE GAME SALE IS STILL GOING ON
This week has also been the Ultimate Game Sale over on the Xbox Live Marketplace. There’s some pretty good deals on big games if you haven’t picked them up yet – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Destiny, and Shadow of Mordor are all marked down pretty substantially. There are also some special weekend only sales that just went live today. Generally these Ultimate Game Sales tend to be pretty awesome – I’ve picked up a fair share of my digital games through them over the years, so I really recommend looking at the deals this weekend. You never know what might pique your interest.

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Let’s Talk About Length

The Order: 1886There’s been a lot of talk this week about the length of The Order: 1886. The early reports are saying that the game is only five hours long. Now, if it really is that long, and half of that is cutscenes (which I’ve also seen) that’s an issue, mainly from a value perspective. Spending $60 on a game that’s only a few hours long, and doesn’t really seem to have a ton of replayability to it, well that’s a ripoff. Price that lower, and I don’t see a problem with a game that short. But it has gotten me thinking this week about game length. It’s always a variable that’s tossed around in reviews, but I honestly don’t see a huge reason to. Short games can be great, and long games can drag on – I’ve seen some writers recently talking about Dying Light being one of those games with just so much in it, that the story gets a little lost (although I think the lack of fast travel is what’s padding the length myself).

Dragon Age: Inquisition

There is something to length for sure – but it’s not a number set in stone. Shooters don’t all need to be 15 hours long, while RPGs don’t all need to be 60+. Instead, length should depend on the strength of the actual game – if the writing and action are strong, I’m much more likely to stay with a game for a longer time. It’s a big part of why I love the BioWare games so much. They’re loaded with content – both actual gameplay, and lore-building codex entries – that reward playing thoroughly, but don’t actually feel super long. For example, I recently started playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, even though I still am also working through the first game. I’m about 25 hours into the game already, and still haven’t picked which side, Mages or Templars, I’m going to try to gain the support of. I’ve done technically three or four main Inquisitor’s Path quests, while doing tons of the sidequest stuff. I’ve hit level 11 already, and barely scratched the surface of it. And I love that. Mass Effect was very similar, I went as slowly as I could so I could really get everything. I think that Bethesda’s RPGs are also really similar – I’ve talked a bit about my experiences with Oblivion already before.

Advanced Warfare Cover

On the other side, FPS games have trended the opposite direction in the last ten years or so. The campaign has definitely taken on a bit of a secondary role to the competitive multiplayer side. Now we get a nice 12-15 hour, on the long side, action movie ride that doesn’t really let up. It’s a really easy trope to complain about the story in Shooters these days, but I do think there’s something to it. They are all very similar – which is why new approaches like Destiny and Titanfall are great; while new settings like Battlefield: Hardline and Advanced Warfare help out too. In my experience, Shooters are just trying to make sure you get through the story – there’s plenty of hand-holding, and not a lot of room for deviation – and then they get you prepped for the multiplayer and off you go. The problem really lies with games that are built around the story – games like The Order. If there’s nothing beyond that, and your game is that short, that’s a major problem. Shooters that focus on story do still have a role-model too: the BioShock games. There’s not really anything beyond the story content, and they are closer to the 20 hour mark, but there’s plenty of both lore-building material in there, as well as action to keep you entertained the whole time. Now I know that BioShock isn’t exactly a pure FPS, but it’s primarily a Shooter more than RPG.

There are always exceptions of course – for me those are the sandbox style action games. Grand Theft Auto, for all the great writing and action, just seems to lose my attention after a certain time. Even Saints Row, a series that I really love, had a wall that I would hit. Sometimes it’s the mechanics – that’s my issue with Halo: The Master Chief Collection still – that keeps me from wanting to play. I have a feeling that game length is going to be in the news and social media a lot the next few days, especially since The Order comes out tomorrow. Just try to keep in mind that a game’s worth and value is never really dependent on one sole factor.

E3 2014 Sony PlayStation Conference Impressions

E3 LogoSony held their press conference last night, after a busy day zero of E3 2014, and had a pretty big job to follow a really strong Microsoft showing. Overall, I think the show may have dragged on a little long, especially hitting a snag midway through, but there were definitely some really strong games shown. Just like I did with Xbox, here’s a quick rundown of the show and my thoughts.

Destiny
I figured they would open with new Destiny footage, and they did indeed. This trailer gave us a little bit more story background, told to us by Peter Dinklage. My only negative with the trailer, and this might be more to do with my stream having some issues, but the gameplay looked closer to a PS3/360 than the PS4/Xbox One that I would expect them to show. Not a major issue really, still hyped for it big time.

The Order: 1886
We got a new trailer for The Order: 1886, a game I’m admittedly not that knowledgeable about. But the trailer looked interesting, with what appeared to be a zombie/werewolf thing chasing a human. Could be a pretty cool game.

Entwined
Showing a bit of indie love, Sony brought out Entwined, a game which immediately had me thinking of Beyond: Two Souls based on the art style. It’s a twin stick puzzle/action game that looks like a lot of fun actually, with a pretty serious story behind it. The coolest part was that it is available on the PS4 now, with PS3 and Vita coming later.

Infamous: Second Son
Another series that, since I’ve not owned a PlayStation since the PS2, I’m woefully out of the loop on. From what I have been able to tell this year, Second Son has been doing quite well, and they announced new stand-alone DLC for it, Infamous: First Light which will be out August 3.

LittleBigPlanet 3
Another PlayStation exclusive that I’m familiar with, but haven’t really sat down with and played a lot of. The new trailer for the third installment showed off three new characters that join Sackboy in his adventure. The demo had such character and cuteness it was really refreshing to see. Also cool was that the levels created in the first two games will be able to be played on LPB3 when it comes out on PS4 in November.

Bloodborne
One of the big questions coming in was whether Sony would talk about Project Beast – the next game from Dark Souls creator From Software. We got our answer in the form of Bloodborne, a new IP from them, with a pretty gruesome trailer that really just served to get the name and game out there – it was pretty tough to glean any real story or character info from it. But it looked pretty damn dark and brutal and gruesome, just what Dark Souls fans want.

Far Cry 4

Far Cry 4
Ubisoft might have a real winner on their hands with Far Cry 4 if the pressers are anything to go by. It was shown not only at Ubisoft’s show, but had a much longer gameplay segment at Sony’s. Gameplay looked very similar to the previous entry, which was a really fun game. The big scoop comes with the announcement that there is drop-in/drop-out co-op, and that with the PS4, you can actually invite people without the game to play, and they can still hop right in. That’s a pretty damn big win for Sony right there.

Dead Island 2
Talk about a shift in tone between games – the reveal trailer for the original Dead Island was one of the most intense trailers from that year. Not so much with this one – much more irreverent tone to the trailer, but we have to wait to see if that translates over to the game too.

Magicka 2
We got a pretty clever trailer to introduce Magicka 2, an isometric hack-and-slash game. Looked pretty interesting, but nothing super extraordinary.

Grim Fandango
In one of the biggest surprises of the show, we got the announcement that Tim Schafer will be revisiting one of the best adventure games from the turn of the millennium – Grim Fandango. It’s first out on PS4 and Vita, with others to follow – that’s a huge win for Sony as not only is this a really beloved game, but it was probably the biggest surprise thus far.

Indie Support
Sony then showed off a number of Indie games coming to the PS4 in the coming months/year, including Broforce, Titan Souls, Not a Hero, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, and The Talos Principle. It’s always good to see indie games getting some good love on the big stage like that.

Let It Die
Another nice surprise was the announcement of a new Suda-51 game coming out. The PS4 exclusive Let It Die got a pretty crazy trailer, in typical Suda fashion. From what the trailer showed, it looks like it’s going to be Suda’s take on a zombie shooter/rpg – should be pretty crazy.

Abzu
Following the somewhat over-the-top nature of Let It Die it was nice to get a little refresher in the form of the new game from the creator of Journey. The same feel and emotion that Journey has seem to be present in Abzu, which reminded me of Journey just set underwater.

No Man’s Sky
In my opinion, No Man’s Sky really stole the first part of Sony’s show – the trailer looked absolutely incredible, and the scale and scope of the game look like it’s going to be a great example of what “next-gen” can be. The fact it’s an infinitely generating universe, with each player starting on different planets with totally different experiences blew me away. And it’s another win for Sony, as it’s going to make its console debut on the PS4

Now we run into the main issue I had with Sony’s presser – after this really great high from No Man’s Sky, they ran straight into talking about hardware. Project Morpheus (VR), PSN news, YouTube – nothing wrong with them, but after Xbox having 90 straight minutes of games, this just felt like hitting a wall. And you could tell online – twitter reactions were not pleased they had this big block of time set for talking about hardware and PlayStation TV, while only briefly talking about the Vita.

Mortal Kombat X

Mortal Kombat X
Following a pretty noticeable lull, they kicked right back in with gameplay footage of Mortal Kombat X, which we now know is pronounced as an “ex”, not 10. The gameplay footage showed two fights – the classic duo of Scorpion and Sub Zero going at it again, and two new characters, a bee-controlling lady, and a Master Blaster-esque giant. The actual fighting looks as brutal as ever, with the X-Ray attacks returning and fatalities as over-the-top as always. One other thing I thought looked really cool was the stages seem much more interactive in the actual fighting this time around.

Powers
After a really brutal trailer for Mortal Kombat X, the show took another hard turn into talking about TV and Film available on the PS4. The only real highlight I took away was the show Powers coming later this year, based on the comic of the same name. Nothing wrong with the announcement, but I don’t know that this was the time or place for it.

The Last of Us
The PS3 exclusive is getting an updated version coming to the PS4, and we got a trailer that really had me scratching my head. All the opinions were that this was one of the best games of last year, and the story was a big part of why – and yet this trailer started with a spoiler warning. It really just felt a little off, but the trailer was still strong.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Oh boy, where to start here. I’m way out of the loop with MGS games, having only played a little bit of the first one, so story-wise, I had no clue what’s going on in the new trailer. But that having been said, the trailer looked really really gorgeous. I think it’s one of those trailers that as an outsider I just have no chance of really “getting it,” but I’m sure that fans of the series really appreciated it.

Grand Theft Auto V
Rockstar did a solid for Sony by showing off the PS4/Xbox One updates for GTAV on the PS4. GTA got it’s start on the Sony consoles, so it’s really only fair that the PS4 got the reveal I think. It was already a good looking game on the 360, but seeing it on the current-gen platforms was really eye opening – the game looks incredible.

Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight
Easily my most anticipated game for 2015 at this moment, I was a little curious what we’d see of it this year, especially considering that the date was just recently pushed back, so I figured it’s probably at a pretty playable state. Turns out we got an absolutely incredible looking bit of gameplay footage that blew me away. The scale and scope of this game look absolutely insane, not to mention the actual gameplay that they showed. I am absolutely on board the hype train for this one – it’s gonna be a major player next year.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Sony may have hit a wall in the middle of their show, but they definitely closed strong with Batman and then Uncharted 4. The trailer was showing PS4 captured footage, and looked absolutely gorgeous. Again, I’m a little behind with the series, but I do understand the importance to PlayStation the series has. I think this was definitely the trailer to end the show with, it was a great cap for the evening.

All in all, I think Sony had a strong conference, but to me it was just a little bit weaker than Microsoft’s. I’m not saying that as an Xbox fan, I just think that the middle section talking hardware dragged on a little long, not to mention the whole show felt long.┬áHad they gone the same route as Xbox with nothing but games, I think it might have been the stronger showing, but really, the ultimate winners of the whole day were us gamers. There are a ton of incredible games coming our way soon – it’s a great time to play games.