Tim Clark: FIFA 16’s feminine side
The negative response to EA’s decision to include women players in the next FIFA game—ranging from tedious ‘banter’ about stats to the weirdly inexplicable fury the Internet specialises in—could easily have made this my low, but bollocks to that, I’d rather focus on the feelgood.
I’ve seen the move dismissed as easy tokenism, but it’s something the developer has been thinking about since before last year’s game. I’ve also seen it described as a feature no one actually wanted, and that won’t sell any more copies. As if that’s the sole reason for ever doing anything! To that complaint one person in our comments responded: “Actually, my daughter now wants to play it, so you are wrong there.” Will I play with the women’s teams? Probably for novelty, I used to watch Arsenal ladies occasionally, but let’s be clear this isn’t for me. There were over 600 teams in the last FIFA. Almost all of which I never touched. The addition of 12 female ones in the next game will mean more people will feel welcomed by the choices available when they fire up FIFA. To suggest that’s some sort of disaster is preposterous.
Phil Savage: Wild and free
Wildstar is going free-to-play. This is good. Let me explain the reasons why it is good. Reason #1: Wildstar is good. Reason #2: Wildstar is going to be free-to-play.
That's about it, really. Wildstar struggled after it launched, partly because new subscription MMOs always struggle, but also because, as it turned out, there wasn't enough appetite for such an old-school MMO template. It's been tweaked quite a bit over the last year, though, and the sense I get from the community is that it's in a much better, broader and more welcoming state. Now all it needs are people to populate those servers, and a free-to-play switch will almost certainly supply them.
I've seen a few people argue that it should retain a one-off cost, Guild Wars 2 style, rather than go fully free-to-play. I'm not sure it matters, so long as the free experience isn't overly restricted in an attempt to push people towards a real-money store. Or, to put it another way, as long as it's more Rift than Star Wars: The Old Republic. If that's the case, then more people will get to experience all that Wildstar does well.
Chris Livingston: Hey! My eyes are down here!
I'm enjoying The Witcher 3, and even getting into the story a bit, which is a surprise to me since I'm a both a newcomer to the series and not a major fantasy fan. As much as I'm digging the world, the exploration, and the characters, I think my favorite moment came when I used the free camera supplied by a mod to see what NPCs do when Geralt isn't around. Interestingly, their faces melt and their arms and heads pop off.
I know it's just a quirk of the game—there's no point in faces and animations being simulated perfectly when you're not around to see them—but I like to think it's the personal choice of the NPCs to let their faces melt when you're not around. I admit that it real life, when I'm around very fit people, I find myself, y'know, sucking in my gut a bit as the result of some combination of insecurity and vanity. Maybe these NPCs are a little self-conscious about their looks when a handsome Witcher is around, and suck in their faces in the same fashion.
After Geralt rides off, they finally get to relax and their faces come pouring down. "Is he gone?" "Yes." "Whew." *FLORPPPP*
Samuel Roberts: Zeroes to heroes
Everything comes to PC eventually. I’m not overly blown away by the news that Resident Evil Zero is probably coming to PC, since it’s largely considered one of the series’ weaker entries, but it’s an interesting sign that publishers are more keen than ever to get previously console-only games onto our platform. Look, Capcom, if you need any hints on what to port next, we made a whole list. Okami. God Hand. Make it happen.
This week I was talking to someone about how every publisher needs to be a bit less precious about what console games they bring to PC. How games like Mario 64 should be sold on GOG, as a way to counter people emulating them. Hardware-driven companies like Nintendo are unlikely to ever see the potential of doing that on PC with their older titles, but something like Resident Evil Zero shows that third-party publishers are more keen than ever to get their games onto a platform where they can be sold forever. That’s only a good thing.
Tom Senior: Invisible Inc is ace
Invisible, Inc is a turn-based espionage game that puts you in charge of a spy agency devastated by corporate attackers. You have 72 hours to strike back by taking on a choice of missions scattered around the world map. Steal corporate tech, break spy teammates out of jail, rob corporate vaults or steal data from the brains of high-level businessmen. As you guide your super-spies around each randomly-generated level, the alarm state escalates to increasingly unmanageable levels, spawning tougher guards wielding high-tech spy-busting gadgets. All is rendered in an exquisite, angular art style that sells a world of colourful corporate futurism perfectly without ever obfuscating the critical placement of cover, security cameras and other dangers.
It's brilliant. Your spies are vulnerable, but capable of moments of satisfying operational cleverness that wouldn't look out of place in a heist movie. Hack a camera, mug a guard and then pass the key-code you just palmed to your fellow agent, who can run off to scope out the rest of the facility. Put an agent in harm's way, and then laugh as the guard walks through a doorway and is tasered by your other operator. Apart from the randomisation that goes into generating levels, there are no dice rolls; you must own every decision. Areas in enemy vision cones are highlighted in bright red. You always know exactly what you need to take a guard down. The result is a tense and challenging procedurally generated puzzle game that your agents attack with fabulous panache. I love it, and I've only just cleared the first difficulty tier. It's my personal GOTY so far.
Tom Marks: Rediscovering Diablo 3
Diablo 3 has been half price for the last couple of weeks, so I bought it for my girlfriend on a hunch we might enjoy playing it together. I beat it once-through when it first came out and had pretty much not gone back to it since. We loaded it up around 8pm and began hacking at zombies and skeletons. Suddenly, I checked the clock thinking it was around 11 to find it was past 1am. That game may have some issues, but I forgot how zen it could be to mindlessly cut through waves of enemies in a snowstorm of numbers. Especially after coming off of a co-op game like Divinity: Original Sin—which is an absolute masterpiece, don’t get me wrong—the change of pace was refreshing.