Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Best E3 to Date!

By: Joshua Volkers

Hello there nerds, nerdettes and everybody in between who just so happened to take a glance at this article. If you know what E3 is, then you know what this article will be about. For anyone who doesn’t know, here’s the rundown of it all: E3 is a massive convention held annually that is pretty much all about video-games, so for anybody who plays video-games avidly, going to E3 is essentially their Mecca. E3 stands for Electronic Entertainment Expo, and while some years are definitely stronger than others, E3 has been noted for being the Comic-Con for video-game news, announcements, demonstrations and so forth, and managing to produce excitement among the gaming community in the process. This year, however, from what I saw on the news-feeds about everything that was shown at E3, I am very confident in this opinion that I hold: this has been the best E3 ever! You knew that that was where I was going with this from the title, but really, I truly mean this. I don’t know if a single E3 has produced so much buzz, what with announcements like the Final Fantasy VII remake, or the demonstrations of the highly anticipated Star Wars: Battlefront, and of course the plethora of indie games that are sure to cause quite a stir, there was a lot of variety from this year’s E3.

Because there is so much that comes out of E3, I’m not going to be able to talk about everything that came out of the conferences there, just the really big stuff or the things that I remember seeing and being impressed with. I’m going to cover this E3 section by section, starting with announcements, then games that were shown off in actual demos, and finally every miscellaneous thing that I remember. Trust me, if I wanted to, I could go over 10 pages on this article, easy! But I think that’s far too much for a simple article; it would be a report, not something that you can easily be done within 10 minutes, tops. So sit back, pour yourself tea, coffee, water, or whatever other refreshment you like, and let’s talk about dem vidya-games!!!

Okay, so this E3 has been noted for making some pretty big announcements, and I’m going to be covering the largest ones, as I have said. First, I think that I should talk about Fallout 4. Yeah, they demoed the game a bit, and there was that announcement trailer a little bit over a week ago, but really, that was just an appetizer to the real reveal at E3, and man, what a reveal it was! The game is distinctly a Fallout game, in the vein of its predecessor, Fallout 3, but this one boosts a graphical upgrade, (it’s not as graphically impressive as some other titles shown, yes, but that matters very little to me), the character you play as is fully voiced and is married to the potential other character of the opposite gender you can play as, (fully customizable, of course), and said character flees with their family into one of the Vaults to escape the impending nuclear destruction headed for you. You wake up with no memory of the following events, however, and you discover that not only do you appear to be the sole survivor of your Vault, you have woken up 200 years later. Quickly trying to gain a bearing of your surroundings in this new apocalypse-ridden landscape you are stranded in, you go about your not-so-merry way, it seems, with a dog companion in an attempt to survive and maybe, just maybe, figure out what on earth allowed you to sleep and not age one iota for 200 years. The game’s announcement was followed by one of the largest waves of hype I’ve ever seen; so large, in fact, that pre-orders have already sold out. And the game doesn’t come out until November. Like, a whole month before Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Wow.

Fallout 4 wasn’t the only big one, though; I mentioned it before, but now I can talk about it in full: the long-awaited and highly anticipated remake of a game that is considered one of the greatest of all time, Final Fantasy VII.

Final Fantasy VII was a title that was noted for its, at the time, revolutionary CG cutscenes, it’s brilliantly crafted turn-based battle system, (due in no small part to Materia: little magic orbs you equip onto your characters to have them possess whatever attributes they contain), a riveting story, believable -if sometimes cartoonish- characters, and one of the best hero-villain relationships witnessed in any format, Cloud and Sephiroth, (it’s a Japanese game, bear with the silly names. Trust me, behind that there’s a whole lot more than you might think). The graphics used were of a strange, blocky style, and to be honest, it could be jarring compared to the realistic models used in battle as opposed to the ones you used when traversing the world of FFVII. Despite this, it is personally one of my favourite games ever, and my favourite in the whole Final Fantasy series, alongside with Final Fantasy VI. Final Fantasy VII is the game that made Square Enix a AAA developer and publisher, the game that sold the original Playstation, and the game that has what is probably the biggest spoiler moment in gaming, which is one of its saddest moments too. To hear that they are remaking a game that is near and dear to my heart warms me to no end. They made the announcement with one of the best CG trailers I’ve ever seen, dropping it after some obscure Final Fantasy spinoff called World of Final Fantasy. Watch this, and tell me that even as a CG trailer, (which can be the most deceiving as they don’t have any actual gameplay), the production design and the expertly crafted cinematography aren’t gorgeous to look at.

I do have to mention that the original game could be pretty silly, seeing as it took after a more anime-like style than previous games in the franchise, and this is even evident in its artwork by Tetsuya Nomura, the director of this upcoming remake and Kingdom Hearts III, (more on that too; gosh, there’s just too much to cover in one article sufficiently!). The game has quite a few moments where it forgets reality altogether to deliver an over-the-top but nonetheless impressive story. Examples include characters falling from high buildings only to somehow survive when they should be squashed like pancakes; a random motorcycle chase; borrowing a freaking snowboard from a 9 year-old to go down a mountain and beat your enemies to your destination; and even having our main hero, Cloud, cross-dress as a woman in order to save one of his two principle love interests from a perverted crime lord. Yeah. However, considering that this is a Japanese game, I somehow wonder why these moments don’t ruin the game, but actually add to its weird-but-different child-like charm. So, if you’re on board with what I just said, then you can look forward to a darker, more realistic take on the beloved 1997 classic with most of the silly moments intact, (cross-dressing is confirmed to be included, so this reassures me that they’re completely committed to doing this remake), and expect for it some time in 2017, seeing as that would be the 20th anniversary, and they will want to capitalize on that, I’m sure. You can even get the original game on Steam, the PS3 store as a PS1 classic, and pretty soon iOS and, eventually, the PS4 store.

Did I also mention that this thing will be a monster? I mean, the original sold roughly ten million copies, and with digital sales that number may have jumped over 12 million; this one trailer got over 10 million views on all of its YouTube uploads combined in just a few days, (without the aid of any internet ads I've seen), with numerous reaction videos posted by fanboys crying in relief and joy. That’s not even mentioning the fact that this one trailer gave a dramatic boost to Square Enix’s stock as well. So I predict that even though it is coming first to the PS4 with other platforms likely to be announced afterwards, it’ll jump over 10 million copies, easy. In other words, an absolute beast of a game.

Since I have talked in depth about those two, I regret that I will have to skip over the rest of these announcements, so let’s make this brief, shall we? Shenmue III, the conclusion to the highly acclaimed trilogy; never thought it would happen, but I’m glad that the trilogy is going to be completed despite their less-than-satisfying commercial performance. Dishonored 2 has been announced, really loved the first game, so having Emily and Corvo as, from what I know, dual protagonists this time around, is encouraging to me; wonder what scenario they’ll go with seeing as the end of the first game is based upon your actions. Horizon Zero Dawn looks like a rare mix-match of different genres stemming from post-apocalyptic to sci-fi and who knows what else; the female protagonist Aloy looks awesome, really curious to see how this one will turn out. Nier 2, which I don’t know much about, has people buzzing, so that has to be mentioned as well. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands looks like a Ghost Recon game through and through, so very happy about that; Abzu is an indie game with you as a lone diver in a world beneath the sea, (Abzu is a Mesopotamian word for 'deep sea'), and it doesn’t hurt that the game’s art style is beautiful. Xbox One now has limited backwards compatibility, allowing you to play 18 Xbox 360 games as of right now, they are aiming to increase that number and I have no doubt that they will seeing as they now have a big advantage over the Playstation 4.

That covers the announcements, so onto the actual demonstrations.

Star Wars: Battlefront has been met with a mostly positive response to its gameplay, noting that the game uses the Frostbite 3 engine to very good effect in order to simulate very well the visceral and rather awesome combat in Star Wars; a blaster rifle modelled after an assault rifle never looked or sounded so good! You will mostly be playing as infantry, but if you meet certain requirements, you can play as your favourite characters from Star Wars. These include, but are not limited to, Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader. So when I crush the necks of my sworn enemies while swinging my red lightsaber around like a child, I can now thank DICE and EA (for once), for making my dream as a geek come true. However, there are some criticisms to the gameplay, one being that the flight controls for piloted aircraft vehicles is rather poor, and that the game appears to be a little simple, at first glance, but those that have pointed out these flaws in the game only got as much time as everybody else, so I guess that if there is some sort of beta-testing later with select players, which I’m sure there will be, they will want to further pound out and improve on these problems before the release date.

Dark Souls III was also demoed, and while it was an announcement, they did show actual gameplay of it. Dark Souls is known for being rather hard, and this proved true for this second sequel. The dev who was playing the game couldn’t even beat it! So for gamers out there who are fans of these types of games, look forward to a third one coming your way at some point. Also, the Microsoft Hololens was shown off, and the general word of mouth is that it works far better than the Oculus Rift, and it lets you play Minecraft too. So, I can chip away at a virtual block whenever I want when wearing it while viewing videos of cats being cute and dogs looking guilty, all while watching that Final Fantasy VII Remake trailer again and again just like the sucker that I am. But that’s just me. Oh, and with the Hololens, you can play Halo 5, and I am told that the result is glorious, so that should give people looking forward to the Hololens and/or Halo 5 hope.

Kingdom Hearts III was shown, and this highly anticipated game, which is the finale in the Keyblade trilogy but not the end of the franchise, is a strange mix of Disney and Final Fantasy characters with many original characters that exist in that specific series. You play as Sora, a young teenage boy who fights with weapons called keyblades alongside Goofy and Donald Duck and is out to thwart the return of the evil Master Xehanort, who is set up to be Sora’s greatest enemy and nemesis. The series actually has a lot more layers than you think, and I know that a lot of people are passionate and rabid fans about it, so seeing the fast action-gameplay mixed in with the Disney-style type of art design pleases me, and makes me happy for people who are fans of the franchise. I never got the chance to jump in myself, but given the amount of remasters and re-releases these games get, I’m fairly certain I’ll get the chance at some point.

Now that I am on page 4 of my article I am miserable forced to just skim through the rest. Just Cause 3 looks to be ridiculous fun with the promise of hours upon hours of senseless destruction; Black Ops 3 looks 'meh', and quite honestly looks like a poor attempt to revitalize the franchise by developing a crock-pot of all of the plots and premises of sci-fi films over the past 20 years and throwing it into the game, but instead of achieving a fresh result, it honestly feels like painfully recycled ideas to me at this point, but that’s just my opinion; the sports games shown are FIFA, Madden and all of the rest of them, you know the way they are, and while I personally see them as recycled games with very few changes, again, that’s just me, and I know that these are all going to sell a ton so what do I know? Also, I forgot to mention the Last Guardian earlier: this is a game from the creators of Shadow of the Colossus, viewed as one of the greatest games ever made, and is a puzzle-action game following a boy trying to escape a castle's ruins with the aid of a strange but gentle bird/dog-like creature. This game has had a tumultuous production, being pushed back and cancelled once or twice. Now it is finally going to be coming out on the PS4 sometime next year.

Also, I saw some more Batman: Arkham Knight footage at E3, and even though it’s awesome, I don’t think that that really did anything to convince them to buy the game, as Arkham Knight is hyped up as much as you can hype a game. And it lives up to it, I hear, so I’ll gladly think about that when I’m able to play my digital copy. And The Phantom Pain still looks completely, 100% awesome with a capital Snake!

To cover the not-so-great of E3, the new Metroid game doesn’t look, feel or play like a Metroid game, they didn’t show off the new Zelda game for the Wii U, and it appears to be more Mario and Yoshi games. Don’t get me wrong, I love Nintendo, I just feel that the way they’ve been marketing themselves a bit strangely, not to mention their ridiculous online policies when it comes to YouTube videos of their games. And following their lackluster sales, my concerns do not appear to be unfounded. Never the less, they are still Nintendo, and they probably have a bunch of great stuff lined up.

I feel this article has gone long enough, so I will have to say that this will wrap up my coverage on E3, and I do sincerely wish I could have written more. However, like I said, 10 pages is not good for an article. And in-depth report? Sure. But not an article.

I want to thank you all for reading this, this will be my last piece I do for the blog as a Grade 11, but as I said in the latest Thursdays at the Theatre, I will still be updating that through out the summer with the aid of the great editors over at The Titan Times. I wish you all a great summer, I hope you at least appreciated my enthusiasm for video-games as I love them just as much as any other form of art, and remember, if you wish to stay up to date on everything that we do here, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. That will do it for me, so stay strong, Titans! Josh Volkers out.

(Final Fantasy VII is really a great game though, just saying. Probably going to go back and play it, now that I’m thinking about it.)

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Thursdays at the Theater: Vol. X

By: Joshua Volkers

Hello there, everybody, this is the last week we have of school, most of you are beginning to take your exams, and I believe that most of the Grade 12s have finished their exams by today, so congratulations to every single one of you who are moving on from high school, and I wish you the very best in whatever you wish to do out in the big, wide world that we call home. Among these departing seniors will be none other than our very own Izabela Pitula and Carolyn Martinko! Carolyn’s been a big help with all of the wokr she has done as our copy editor and she is an incredibly enthusiastic individual, and you should know Izabela’s contributions already. Izabela’s just had her last sports round-up published, so believe me when I say that I have nothing but the best wishes for all of the Grade 12s. Now though, it’s time to talk some movies!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Weekly Sports Round-Up: The Final Score

By: Izabela Pitula

Well here we are - last weekly sports roundup article from me. Can’t believe this day is already here. It all seems like it was yesterday when I started writing for The Titan Times. The time sure has flew by.

Before we take a look back at the entire athletic season from this year, lets take a look what happened this past week…

Thursday, 11 June 2015

MCM: Comhairle Ar Ollscoil/Choláiste

MCM doesn't just stand for Man Crush Monday. This June on The Titan Times, we are celebrating a MultiCulturalism Month. Today's article from former HT student Gabriela Escribano begins our series of bilingual articles. Up first is Gaelic and English! Keep reading for some great advice for university and college!