Evan Lahti: The blackest of ops
We’re a bit beyond it now, but I finally added my eyeballs to the 20 million that’ve watched the Black Ops 3 trailer. Emanuel, the writer we sent to play Black Ops last month, generally had a good time with it. But man, what a weird, underwhelming piece of marketing. I say that as someone who’s been distancing myself from CoD with each annual update, but it feels like the particular pace that Activision is committed to milking Call of Duty has now left room only for incremental changes rather than taking a moment a few years ago and reimagining what Call of Duty as the consoles transitioned to new versions. It comes off as a series of bolted-on mechanics and systems, a collection of welding rather than a uniform thing, and a poorly-synchronized sequence of cliches set to a song from Activision’s Guitar Hero library doesn’t exactly change my impression of the franchise.
Tom Senior: The hills aren’t alive
Nobody knows what's happening at Konami, but I'm sad about the cancellation of Kojima and Del Toro's Silent Hills this week. The announcement of MGS5 on PC gave me hope that the horror series would see a revival on PC at some point, but the dream (or rather nightmare) has died. We never even got to play the disturbing prelude, PT, which was stripped from console stores this week as all traces of Koj are deleted from the Earth. Silent Hill 2 is still terrific, but a modern take on the series' purgatorial townships could have been incredible. Rendered in current tech, the twisted, subconscious-bothering inhabitants even freakier. Del Toro's knack for bringing fantastic creatures to screen could have worked perfectly with Kojima's talent for fourth-wall-smashing mentalism. Damn. Time to watch Eraserhead to cheer myself up.
Phil Savage: Pre-order for slightly different chaos
Just Cause 3 looks like a game that is right up my proverbial alley. The first proper trailer was released this week, and many things about it made me very happy. Explosions make me happy, destruction makes me happy, literally dragging a bus down the road so it smashes into everything in its way makes me very happy. It's a trailer for a sequel that I loved: I should have come away from it feeling nothing but good vibes. But there, at the end, was a familiar sound: “pre-order for...”
It's not a big thing, you know? I'm sure Just Cause 3 will be great; all the things that made me happy about the trailer are still there. But pre-ordering is dumb. It's too big of a gamble. I'm sure the weaponised vehicles are fun enough, but they're not worth the price of an informed purchase. I'm not even bothered about missing out any more. That desperation to secure early sales is just starting to seem a bit sad.
Chris Livingston: Savaged Man
I took a look at Early Access survival game Savage Lands this week, hoping it would result in a nice diary in which I do terrible things to other players and have terrible things done to me. Unfortunately, the only multiplayer servers I could find were passworded (and practically empty), so I wound up running around alone, and didn't find a whole lot to write about, figuring no one would want descriptions of me slowly and repeatedly starving and freezing to death.
I'm fine with uneventful game sessions, provided I still enjoy myself, but I sort of didn't. In this cold and hostile world, staying warm is a priority, and I died several times before I even found some flint so I could make a fire. Even with a fire roaring, I couldn't stray far from it at night, and night lasts a long, long time, and there's not much to do while staring at a campfire besides staring at a campfire. When the sun finally came up, I was killed by an angry skeleton. I was a little jealous: the skeleton doesn't need to eat or keep warm. I hate my stupid human body with its endless list of needs.
It's Early Access, though, and I'm interested in trying it again, hopefully further down the line when there are more servers available.
Tim Clark: Mixed feelings when it komes to Kombat
Away from our E3 scheming, I’ve been playing some Mortal Kombat X with my other half. Fighting games—the arcade Street Fighter II and the Dreamcast’s Soul Calibur II—were a huge part of my gaming life, so it’s weirdly nostalgic to go revisit a genre which largely seems frozen in time. Mortal Kombat was never particularly my bag, but tooling around with X’s Fatalities and X-Rays is great fun. I’m not sure there’s another game with quite the same astonishingly Grand Guignol approach to gore, and the fighting fundamentals are solid. (There’s no blood in this video, but deez nuts will never be the same.) It’s a pity though, that as Matt Elliott noted in our review, the PC port is marred by a number of technical problems, from disconnects online to ropey framerates on midrange rigs.
Samuel Roberts: Season pass fatigue
Grumbles about DLC are no new thing. I actually don’t mind buying DLC for the games I really like, such as BioWare RPGs or games like Dishonored, where I want to see more of a world. I’ll happily spend money where the value is obvious, and weirdly, Nintendo seems to be doing it better than anyone else in pretty much doubling Wii U title Mario Kart 8’s track numbers with its most recent DLC releases. There’s different ways of doing it and selling it, and it’s not always a bad thing.
Lately, though, I wonder if Warner specifically has been selling DLC a bit too hard. This week, it was revealed that Arkham Knight will be getting a season pass that costs an extraordinary $40/£33, which is nearly the price of the game at some retailers. Mortal Kombat X, too, has a season pass, and last year’s Shadow of Mordor had one for some content that’s now going to be rolled into a re-released game of the year edition package. Lego Batman 3 had one. I’m confident there’ll be a GOTY edition for Mortal Kombat down the line that collects everything into one package, much like Injustice did. Arkham City had a GOTY edition, so I can see Arkham Knight getting one eventually as well.
Ultimately, these are all very content-packed, complete-feeling games I’m talking about, so on that level I’m not dubious about what’s being sold here. I bought all the DLC for Arkham City and I felt like I got good value for what I paid for (playing challenge rooms as Nightwing is how you get me to spend money), plus you could’ve ignored it and still had a great experience. I’ve no reason to doubt that won’t be the case here. It’s more the fact that every one of these games offers you the chance to spend a significant amount extra to get the ‘premium’ version, and that, in the case of Batman, it’s promoted way before the game is out. I don’t see any way in which that is good for games or the consumer. It’s not just Warner doing it, of course, but I really don’t want a £33 season pass to become standard practice.