2017 The Game Awards Predictions

2017 ended up being an amazing year for games, to the point it might even be considered the best of this generation. New and interesting games, old franchises making incredible comebacks whilst others established themselves. Like last year, let’s make some predictions about the possible winners of this year’s The Game Awards. What are your favorite choices, let’s talk in the comments.

And the nominees are:

Game of the Year

  • Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Persona 5 (Atlus)
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corp.)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

If I had to guess

Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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In a year with great nominees, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild really stood out. Personally, my game of the year would be Horizon Zero Damn, I still am enamored by the beauty of the world, the exciting combat, great lead character, Aloy may become as big as Nathan Drake, Master Chief. However, BoTW brought something new and changed the way open world games should work, allowing the player to access any region of the map. It also had interesting survival aspects, varied landscapes, and a real feeling of joy and discovery.

PS: I just can’t accept the fact that an early access title is nominated to game of the year, no matter how much it sold or how much people love it, it would be better to add a new category for that type of game.

Best Game Direction

  • Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games)
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD)
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (MachineGames / Bethesda)

If I had to guess

Super Mario Odyssey

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I believe another Nintendo game takes the award, but instead of Zelda, Super Mario Odyssey will be the winner. They managed to completely change what we think of 3D platformers again, while games like Yooka-Laylee hold on to the glory days of the genre, Super Mario Odyssey has innovative mechanics, such as the ability to use a hat to transform into any character. And not only that, every part of the game feels that has a purpose, impressing with the variety of gameplay options, and the beautiful design.

Best Narrative

  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Tameem Antoniades, Elizabeth Ashman-Rowe / Ninja Theory)
  • Horizon Zero Dawn (John Gonzalez / Ninja Theory)
  • Nier: Automata (Yoko Taro, Hana Kikuchi, Yoshiho Akabane / Platinum Games)
  • What Remains of Edith Finch (Ian Dallas / Giant Sparrow)
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Jen Matthies, Tommy Tordsson Bjork / MachineGames)

If I had to guess

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

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One of the biggest surprises of the year for me was how great the story of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus was. The New Order was a very good game, but its sequel manages to turn a story that could just be silly into something unique, with crazy, charismatic and compelling characters. It has one of the most believable couples in games, and it goes to completely unexpected places without losing steam or feeling rushed. The other candidates also have great stories, like Hellblade touching important subjects, and Horizon, that created an enticing world and an incredible character like Aloy, What Remain of Edith Finch having a bizarre, unusual story. But none reached the same level of Wolfenstein II.

Best Art Direction

  • Cuphead (Studio MDHR Entertainment)
  • Destiny 2 (Bungie / Activision)
  • Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Persona 5 (Atlus)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

If I had to guess

Cuphead

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Horizon’s creature design was impressive, Persona 5 has a style unlike any other game, BoTW showed that you don’t need a powerful machine to create a vast and breathtaking world, and Destiny 2 is just jaw-dropping. But Cuphead is a design feat, to see a small team recreating the look of 1930’s cartoons into a game is something to marvel at. It manages to bring something never seen before in the industry whilst feeling modern, and I think that it will resonate with voters. It is a design masterpiece.

Best Score / Music

  • Cuphead (Kristofer Maddigan)
  • Destiny 2 (Mike Salvatori, Skye Lewin, C Paul Johnson)
  • NieR: Automata (Keiichi Okabe, Keigo Hoashi)
  • Persona 5 (Shoji Meguro)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Naoto Kubo, Shiho Fujii, Koji Kondo)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Manaka Kataoka, Yasuaki Iwata)

If I had to guess

Destiny 2

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This may be my weirdest guess, but Destiny 2’s soundtrack was completely unexpected, especially after the departure of Marty O’Donnell, a drop in quality wouldn’t surprise anyone. But what we saw was a diverse soundtrack, with different sounds that you might see at a regular FPS. It created an amazing atmosphere throughout the entire campaign, enthralling the player from beginning to end.

Best Audio Design

  • Destiny 2 (Bungie)
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

If I had to guess

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

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This will sound impartial, but if Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice doesn’t win the award, it will be an outrage. Hellblade’s sound is just perfect, powerful, an integral part of the experience, that without it would be lessened. Using binaural audio Ninja Theory made the gameplay a lot more tense, oppressive, nightmarish, putting the player in the head of Senua, as you hear the voices that guide, deceive, frighten, torment her. A game that must be played with headphones to be fully experienced, it goes beyond its competitors.

Best Performance

  • Ashly Burch, Horizon Zero Dawn (As Aloy)
  • Brian Bloom, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (as BJ Blazkowicz)
  • Claudia Black, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (as Chloe Frazer)
  • Laura Bailey, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (as Nadine Ross)
  • Melina Juergens, Hellblade (as Senua)

If I had to guess

Ashly Burch as Aloy – Horizon Zero Dawn

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Melina Juergens is also very deserving of the award, especially if we consider the fact that she wasn’t even an actress prior to playing Senua, as she made you feel every emotion she went through, the pain, the doubt, the misery. However, I think Ashly Burch will take it, as she performed Aloy in a way that perfectly displayed the various facets of character, her courage, her fear, her doubts, her hope, in such a charismatic, honest manner that she will become not only the face of PlayStation but of the industry as well.

Games for Impact

  • Bury Me, My Love (The Pixel Hunt / Figs / ARTE / Playdius)
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)
  • Life is Strange: Before the Storm (Deck Nine / Square Enix)
  • Night in the Woods (Infinite Fall)
  • Please Knock on My Door (Levall Games AB)
  • What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow / Annapurna Interactive)

If I had to guess

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

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I love the Life is Strange series, even though Before the Storm doesn’t have the same level of quality as the original, and Night in the Woods deals with depression in a natural and genuine manner. Yet, Hellblade doesn’t only tackle mental issues in the story, but also in the gameplay, in the sounds and sights. It creates the entire experience around it, using advisers to assist on how to demonstrate the aspects of the disease. And the fact that we see that in a game with a bigger budget represents a bold and much-needed move by the developers, that throughout the story showed how it affected Senua, the struggles she went through and how she dealt with them.

Best Ongoing Game

  • Destiny 2 (Bungie / Activision)
  • Grand Theft Auto Online (Rockstar Games)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard)
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG. Corp)
  • Rainbow Six: Siege (Ubisoft Montreal / Ubisoft)
  • Warframe (Digital Extremes)

If I had to guess

Overwatch

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My personal vote would go to Rainbow Six: Siege, simply because of the fact that not only they brought gamers back, but greatly increased the audience, reshaping the entire game with constant updates. But my bet would be on Overwatch, that consistently adds great characters, thematic events while maintaining an active audience that became so big it turned into an important part of Blizzcon.

Best Independent Game

  • Cuphead (Studio MDHR Entertainment)
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)
  • Night in the Woods (Infinite Fall)
  • Pyre (Supergiant Games)
  • What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow / Annapurna Interactive)

If I had to guess

Cuphead

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After several years of development, Cuphead was expected to be underwhelming, as it usually happens with games that are shown years ahead of release. Gladly that wasn’t the case, even the added platform moments felt amazing, it was as beautiful as expected and incredibly challenging, feeling like an old school game that fits perfectly in our current gaming landscape.

Best Action Game

  • Cuphead (Studio MDHR Entertainment)
  • Destiny 2 (Bungie / Activision)
  • Nioh (Team Ninja / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Prey (Arkane Studios / Bethesda)
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (MachineGames / Bethesda)

If I had to guess

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

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It is beautiful, bold, brash, crazy, the gameplay is frantic, explosive, visceral and it deserves this award. Wolfenstein II greatly enhanced aspects of the first game whilst adding new mechanics, new and surprisingly compelling characters, and turned “B.J.” Blazkowicz into one of the best characters of the year. The fact that they annoyed nazis was a plus.

Best Action/Adventure Game

  • Assassin’s Creed: Origins (Ubisoft Montreal / Ubisoft)
  • Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

If I had to guess

Horizon Zero Dawn

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Since I betted that Zelda would win game of the year, and award shows tend to prefer to spread the awards, I would bet on Horizon to take this category. And I really do believe that it is a better action game than Zelda, the characters are more well-developed, the variety of enemies is great, the world is mysterious and beautiful, and the combat is truly exciting and challenging. It made me tense like I wasn’t in a long time, as it requires you to think fast and adapt to enemies. The fact that it is one of the most beautiful games on any console also helps.

Best Role-Playing Game

  • Divinity: Original Sin II (Larian Studios)
  • Final Fantasy XV (Square Enix Business Division 2 / Square Enix)
  • NieR: Automata (Platinum Games / Square Enix)
  • Persona 5 (Atlus)
  • South Park: The Fractured But Whole (Ubisoft San Francisco / Ubisoft)

If I had to guess

Persona 5

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Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a remarkable title, NieR: Automata is strangely amazing, Final Fantasy XV was a rebirth for the series. Persona 5 on the other hand, represents the epitome of the franchise, improving on every single level, with a refined combat system, time management mechanics, a wonderful cast, stunning visuals. Simply the best example of what JRPG’s can bring to the market, and why they are so loved.

Best Fighting Game

  • Arms (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • Injustice 2 (NetherRealm Studios / Warner Bros. Interactive Ent)
  • Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (Capcom)
  • Nidhogg 2 (Messhof Games)
  • Tekken 7 (Bandai Namco Studios / Bandai Namco Entertainment)

If I had to guess

Injustice 2

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The easiest category for me, mainly because Injustice 2 is not only the best fighting game of the year, especially after Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite’s disappointment, it is one of the best games of the year. When it comes to gameplay it still feels great, the graphics are flawless, with some of the best facial expressions we’ve ever seen, there’s a robust customization system. And let’s talk about the story, an example that the DCU should follow, by creating a serious story with huge stakes, but that doesn’t feel forced or dragged, it has light and dark moments, and it worked perfectly.

Best Family Game

  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo EAD / Nintendo)
  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Ubisoft Paris + Milan / Ubisoft)
  • Sonic Mania (PagodaWest Games, Headcannon / Sega)
  • Splatoon 2 (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EAD / Nintendo)

If I had to guess

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

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Despite my impression that either Super Mario Odyssey or Splatoon 2 will win, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle caught people off guard. What many expected to be just this simple strategy game ended up becoming a lighter, more colorful version of XCOM, without the squad management, but as much fun and exciting to play.

Best Strategy Game

  • Halo Wars 2 (Creative Assembly, 343 Industries / Microsoft Studios)
  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Ubisoft Paris + Milan / Ubisoft)
  • Total War: Warhammer II (Creative Assembly / Sega)
  • Tooth and Tail (Pocketwatch Games)
  • XCOM 2: War of the Chosen (Firaxis Games / 2K)

If I had to guess

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

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This category I had some question before choosing. After all, Halo Wars 2 was good, but kind of a disappointment and I don’t believe that neither Total War: Warhammer 2 nor Tooth and Tail have the profile, the attention required to win. XCOM 2: War of the Chosen was well-received, however, it just an expansion and it didn’t get the level of adoration for that to happen. So I chose Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle to win another award, it had critical acclaim, it managed to reach a bigger market, and it really was a good strategy game.

Best Sports/Racing Game

  • FIFA 18 (EA Vancouver / EA)
  • Forza Motorsport 7 (Turn 10 Studios / Microsoft Studios)
  • Gran Turismo Sport (Polyphony Digital / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • NBA 2K18 (Visual Concepts / 2K Sports)
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (PES Productions / Konami)
  • Project Cars 2 (Slightly Mad Studios / Bandai Namco Entertainment)

If I had to guess

Forza Motorsport 7

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This one was based on elimination. Fifa 18 wasn’t a great evolution and has microtransactions issues. NBA 2K18 doesn’t deserve the award because of the microtransactions. Gran Turismo Sport was a letdown. Project Cars 2 was praised but didn’t seem to garner a lot of love or a huge audience. PES 2018 didn’t make any noise. Forza Motorsport enhanced some areas, changed some things, and still is a great addition to the series, known for its huge quality, so that’s why I think it will win.

Best Multiplayer

  • Call of Duty: WWII (Sledgehammer Games / Activision)
  • Destiny 2 (Bungie / Activision)
  • Fortnite (Epic Games)
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo EAD / Nintendo)
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corp.)
  • Splatoon 2 (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

If I had to Guess

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

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This one is a lock, although I don’t agree with the game of the year nomination, there’s no denying PUBG’s huge impact this year for multiplayer games. It sold more than 20 million copies, reached more than 2 million concurrent players. The fact that they accomplished that without a major marketing budget, or a huge publisher behind speaks to the quality of the game, that became a phenomenon.

Most Anticipated Game

  • God of War (Santa Monica Studio / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man (Insomniac Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Monster Hunter World (Capcom)
  • Red Dead Redemption II (Rockstar Games)
  • The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

If I had to guess

Red Dead Redemption 2

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Rockstar has had a track record of winning The Game Awards and its previous iterations and not only that, but the other nominees end up competing with each other. Monster Hunter World doesn’t have the cache, the 3 others are PlayStation exclusives. God of War is just around the corner and we have already seen it for a long time, both Marvel’s Spider-Man and The Last of Us Part 2 might not even come out next year. Red Dead Redemption II has a release window and is a highly expected sequel from an adored game, just remember the commotion this picture caused last year.

Best Debut Indie Game

  • Cuphead (Studio MDHR Entertainment)
  • Golf Story (Sidebar Games)
  • Hollow Knight (Team Cherry)
  • Mr. Shifty (Team Shifty)
  • Slime Rancher (Monomi Park)

If I had to guess

Cuphead

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Again Cuphead, but it really is an accomplishment most notably coming from a debuting studio, that created a product that captured the imagination of gamers around the world. Slime Rancher and Golf Story have a big change to win as well, however, I put my chips on Cuphead.

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Scalebound is Another Example Why Microsoft Can’t Have Their “PSX”

This week Scalebound, one of the most expected exclusives of this year on the Xbox platform, was cancelled after more than 4 years of development. Being another exclusive that was announced by Microsoft and didn’t come to fruition in this generation, like Fable Legends, Phantom Dust.

This year’s lineup that didn’t really looked as appealing as in years past now is even weaker. And to me, that’s another example why the Xbox brand doesn’t have the power to have their “PSX”.

For the past three years, PlayStation has organized the PlayStation Experience, a.k.a. PSX, and fans of Xbox have been clamoring for a similar event. Despite using my XONE as my main platform, I just can’t agree with this idea, and the cancellation of Scalebound is a perfect example why, along with many other reasons, such as:

Lack of Strong First-Party Exclusives

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Scalebound was just another example of Microsoft’s policy of using third-party studios to produce their exclusives. And even though a lot of them were excellent titles, like KOTOR, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Ninja Gaiden, Alan Wake, just to name a few, they don’t feel as part of the Xbox brand.

A lot of them never went on to become a franchise associated with the console, going to PlayStation later. All due to a pale number of first-party studios compared to their competitors. And even the amazing indies of the Summer of Arcade age can be played everywhere else, losing any identity with the console.

Inability of Creating Memorable Franchises

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When the game in the image above was announced, a lot of people, including me, thought that it was a new IP and not a revival of Phantom Dust, an obscure Xbox exclusive that is unknown to most gamers. Watching PSX’s conference you could see people cheering for games such as Parappa the Rapper, LocoRoco, Patapon, Dangaronpa, receiving a warm reception in spite of never being huge franchises.

If feels like the Xbox consoles don’t have those smaller, unusual, artistic games that appealed to a hardcore audience, like Journey, Shadow of the Colossus. Having only Halo, Gears, Forza, the now in the limbo, Fable as their trademark franchises, whereas Sony has many cult hits over the years that created a fandom that is extremely faithful to the PlayStation brand.

Something that Microsoft has been unable to do, and we see that in sales numbers, with 4 active PS franchises (Uncharted, Gran Turismo, Ratchet & Clank, God of War) selling over 20 million copies, and only 2 from Xbox (Halo and Gears of War), with no new franchise in sight as a possible massive hit.

No Recognition of Third-Party Games as Theirs

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When you think about Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, Destiny, more recently Resident Evil 7, you end up thinking about PlayStation. With many having no idea that titles of these franchises have been released for Xbox consoles, and in this specific generation it feels stronger than ever. Sony has been able to attach their name to a game so strongly that the audience reacts to them as a first-party title, all due to a successful use of marketing agreements, and titles that were part of the establishment of their brand.

Scalebound was an expected title because it looked like something that the Xbox One doesn’t really have, an exclusive AAA JRPG. In this generation, many of XONE exclusives didn’t take off like Sunset Overdrive for example, and it feels like more games are being cancelled than released.

A large-scale fan event from Microsoft would be great, but unfortunately, the Xbox brand doesn’t have the variety and the franchise power than their competitors have. Like Nintendo and Sony do, and yes, they have more time in this market, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that without Halo, that doesn’t have the same impact as it used to, and Gears, that went through a soft reboot, a Xbox console may fail due to a lack of a established history with gamers.

 

 

PSX Showcase highlights

This is a completely subjective text, after all, these are my personal highlights. But we can say that even though it had its lows, this year’s PSX Showcase was a very good presentation with some amazing surprises, and leaks that were confirmed. Let’s begin:

What a way to open

A very nice mysterious demo, at first it looked like Uncharted, then a new IP, and then I was sure it was Tomb Raider. The Lost Legacy, Uncharted’s single player DLC looked amazing, and felt different enough from the A Thief’s End. With Chloe as the protagonist, something nobody expected, and Nadine back, it feels a lot stealthier and with a different combat. And Naughty Dog didn’t stop there.

What a great time to be alive

The moment I got goosebumps, it was the perfect way to finish the show, an incredible and impactful reveal. Joel and Ellie are back with a hauntingly beautiful song telling the story behind the trailer. 5 years after the events of the first game, Ellie seems tougher, grittier and hardened by life, in a quest for revenge, that may take her to extremely dark places. And interesting, but sad theories emerge with a possible death of Joel, whose face we don’t see here. Too bad we are 2 or 3 years away from this.

When’s Marvel

A leak that we were thrilled to see confirmed, Marvel vs Capcom is back and looking better than ever.With a bigger focus on the story mode can make it very different and exciting, and no exclusivity, well, I think they learned their lesson with Street Fighter V.

Nobody asked for it, but…

I know that a whole lot of jokes ad awesome memes appeared after this reveal, and people seem to hate the first Knack. But for some reason I enjoyed the trailer, and who knows we may see a AC 1 to AC 2 evolution.

How I missed you

I just can’t wait to see you back again,Crash. It looks great, and from what the developers are saying, some welcome updates are coming, with improved controls and a promise to bring the game back without destroying its history.

A nice mystery

Revealed a few years ago, What Remains of Edith Finch, looks like one of those titles with an enigmatic story, an obscure atmosphere. From the same studio of the great Unfinished Swan, it tells the story of a family plagued by tragedy, possibly being on of the surprises of 2017. And a welcome addition to PS4’s catalogue, as we don’t have that many quality exclusive indies as we did in the PS3.

Throwback Saturday

The series that made me buy a PSone, I’ll always remember of being amazed by the graphics, the gameplay. It’s nice to see Sony bringing one of its oldest franchises back to life, with not only one but 3 titles to fulfill our nostalgia.

Got the funky flow

For some strange reason I never played PaRappa The Rapper. And it’s a great chance for those who always loved the game and others like me, who always had the curiosity but never had the chance, to give it a try.

Not Enough Bantering

Minor spoilers follow

Games have evolved tremendously since I was a child when it comes to storytelling. And the more complex they became, the more we wanted to know about these characters and worlds. With the evolution of the 3D technology and voice acting, with actors becoming prominent due to some roles, character interaction has reached levels never seen before, increasing immersion, with one aspect that is crucial to it, ordinary bantering.

Even though we have titles with books, texts, audio logs, working as a way to develop our knowledge on a game’s lore, few things are as efficient and powerful as a straightfoward conversation. The Last of Us being  a very successful example, with a very charismatic cast, that becomes even more engaging due to these simple moments, that make the story a lot more compelling.

Like when Ellie is learning to whistle, or tells “amazing” jokes, or when Joel finds comic books for her, and she quotes them, or when she see arcades or albums in a music store for the first time. It may sound silly, but they allow the player to be part of this world, and to better understand it. Enhancing what its characters are going through, and how Ellie, that didn’t have contact with the outer world, reacts to these new experiences and places, bringing a lighter tone to a world torn apart by violence and death.

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And Naughty Dog took that to Uncharted 4, using it to reveal more about Nathan’s relationship with the other characters, more than in other titles of the franchise. Exposing more about their past, stories with Sully, Sam, as an outstanding style of telling stories, without the need of cut scenes or missions that wouldn’t work as part of the main plot.

Similar to TLOU, Bioshock Infinite used this to build Booker and Elizabeth’s relationship. As Ellie, Elizabeth didn’t have a lot of contact with her world, living in a tower, and using bantering we managed to see it through her eyes, having access to a perspective that we wouldn’t otherwise. With many moments becoming unforgettable, as when she reacts to the sound of music, being a quiet and beautiful moment in an action-packed game.

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In games that have a smaller playtime, it can be even more important for a campaign. In RPG’s such as the Mass Effect series, it shows us more about the races, the politics, the galaxy, but in a much minor fashion than Enslaved, for example. A true hidden gem, Enslaved, used it to display the mutation of a contentious relationship, at first, and explained what caused the destruction of mankind in an impressive manner.

As games improve their storytelling, new ways of creating better and more compelling characters are required. And a very competent and simpler way is through bantering, that doesn’t require much from game creators, working as a bridge between the player and their favorite titles. That through thoughtful dialogue can assist us into getting a better grasp of character motivations, their stories and most important, who they are, making them a lot more believable and human.

 

Why you should play Journey

One debate that has been present for years now is if games are art, mainly due to a lack of recognition in the mainstream media, and the general perception of games as child’s play. But from the moment you play Journey, that won’t even be a debate anymore, being one of the most unusual and emotional examples of entertainment I’ve ever been in touch with, a true piece of art.

But why should you play Journey?

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In Journey you start as a robbed figure in a desert with no HUB to guide you, nothing to show you where to go, except for a mountain and a flash of light in the distance. And that ends up being the ultimate destination of the game, that surprises you every time you travel through the various sectors, one more beautiful and mysterious than the previous one.

Controls are incredibly simple, with the player only being able to walk, jump, fly, and emit a shout or a musical note, with the volume depending on how you press the button, all in tune with the background music. The jump is influenced by the magical scarf worn by the figure, allowing you to even fly depending on its size, with a need to recharge its energy, and that can be grown by absorbing glowing symbols, allowing you to remain airborne longer.

One thing that really surprised me was how the multiplayer is effective, being the best experience I’ve had in my life with this mode. You can’t talk with the players you run into, and the only way to communicate with them is with the aforementioned notes and shouts, and  it may sound weird, but despite using no words, I truly felt like I successfully communicated with people who I didn’t even know their PSN ID’s. And every sound turned into a way of forming plans, warning about possible dangers, show your location, being a lot more interesting than any Titanfall or Battlefield match I’ve ever played.

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The visuals are breathtaking, being a great example that an amazing art direction can surpass AAA graphics anytime, with many moments where I just wanted to stop and savour the beauty around me, with magnificent and unique environments, that make you feel minuscule in such expansive places, that from the beginning seem that will remain the same, but after a specific moment, you go to places that you would’ve never expected and that never fail to amaze.

All greatly enhanced by an inspired soundtrack that adapts dynamically to the gameplay, fitting perfectly in every moment. Being a crucial park to making Journey a spiritual and personal experience, involving the player and guiding through every story beat and locale, never trying to move the player,  but doing it naturally, managing to give me goosebumps and making me care not only about the mysterious figure, but also about the world and the players around me.

I’ve always heard about how it was a special experience, and after I played, I can say it really is, few games moved me like Journey. And it’s an example that you don’t need to create huge worlds, complex systems, thousands of lines of dialogue, or even be a fast paced shooter to create something beautiful and remarkable. If you never saw games as art, play Journey, your mindset with undoubtedly change.

 

 

 

Expectations for Fall Season

Fall Season has arrived upon us with the release of the acclaimed Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Batman: The Telltale Series, amongst other games, the best time of the year has come to destroy our wallets and our savings, and warm our hearts, and I’ll talk about some of my personal expectations regarding some releases from September to December, a few major titles may not appear here, but after all it’s my most expected, so…

September

Recore

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To kick things off, a game that had an enticing reveal trailer that left gamers intrigued with the concept of a heroine being assisted by robots that could evolve, and the relationship dynamic around it, Recore, will be released on the 13th, with concerns surrounding the title due to a lack of a marketing push from Microsoft, mixed reception from previews, however the team behind it is composed of industry veterans, known for the Metroid Prime and Megaman series, and from what it has been shown that’s a title that may not have the most complex story or amazing graphics, but a fun and interesting gameplay.

Forza Horizon 3

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One of my favorite franchises, and one that has maintained a steady level of quality throughout its iterations, showing great and considerable improvements, Forza Horizon 3, out on the 27th, seems to elevate the level of the franchise, that will premiere on PC, and spin the story, from an unknown driver fighting for recognition, now you are the man or woman behind the Horizon Festival, organizing the events, hiring your friends and firing them if they don’t perform, all with one of the most beautiful settings anyone could ask, Australia, from the coast to jungles, with breathtaking vistas, and the stunning graphics and great gameplay we’ve come to expect from the franchise.

Destiny: Rise of Iron

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A game that has transformed a lot from the troubled release, with terrible reviews and expectations being shattered, to last year’s The Taken King expansion, that I have to admit I enjoyed a lot more that I’d expected, Destiny: Rise of Iron, out on the 20th, is a new promising expansion with new missions that will expand on the franchise’s lore and improve the story in meaningful ways, multiplayer changes, a raid, all while leaving last generation behind, what looks like a great move, bringing new gameplay and graphical possibilities, preparing the market for next year’s Destiny 2 expected release.

October

Mafia 3

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This is a surprise for me,  especially since I’ve never played any game of this franchise, Mafia 3, out on the 7th, has turned into my most expected for the entire year, with the promise of a grueling and mature story, of a former soldier, Lincoln Clay, coming back from war to find his family and city, New Bordeaux, torn apart by crime, displaying his climb through the ranks, tackling tough themes that we hardly see in any games, such as racism, prostitution, and the dark side of crime and America, all with a soundtrack that has everything to be one of the best ever and a concern on world-building that looks into enhancing the atmosphere of the US in the 60’s, that if done properly, can create a remarkable experience.

Titanfall 2

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The open multiplayer beta didn’t really help creating any hype, actually going on the opposite direction, tampering players expectations, mainly due to the pace, that is slower than Titanfall 1, and modes that didn’t feel right with the gameplay, Titanfall 2, out on the 28th, has the difficult task of bringing the franchise to a whole new level, with the a single player campaign that looks like a buddy story between the soldier and his titan, and I still can’t wrap my head around how they’ll be able to bring the multiplayer speed to the campaign, while telling a compelling story, but team behind it has professionals responsible for the revered COD: MW 1 campaign, so let’s give it a chance.

Battlefield 1

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After an entire generation of modern and future war games, the Battlefield franchise returns to historical wars, focusing on one that doesn’t have enough representation on video games, WWI that was the background for the excellent Valiant Hearts, with Battlefield 1, out on the 21st, displaying a combat focused on closer interactions, old airplanes, more rudimentary tanks, weapons that don’t have a lot of range, making the battle more intense, and less dependant on technology, and promising to present a single player that will tell different stories with varied POV’s.

The Last Guardian

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This one is more due to pure morbid curiosity, after approximately 10 years of an arduous development, the team behind the classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus will finally release The Last Guardian, out on the 25th, being the spiritual successor of the aforementioned titles, with years and years of hype, being announced originally for the PS3, it will be released on PS4 with worries regarding the graphics that look outdated, and the problem of a project that’s been through a long development cycle, the possibility of a game that comes out feeling old, with gameplay systems that don’t belong in this generation, chances are that the hype was too big to achieve but maybe a new classic is upon us.

November

Final Fantasy XV

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Speaking of morbid curiosity, I’ve never played a game of this franchise, a few hours of FF7 doesn’t count, Final Fantasy XV, out on the 29th, is another example of a game plagued by a long development cycle, will be released after several delays and name changes, being announced originally as FF Versus XIII in 2006, boosted by an aggressive marketing campaign that culminated in an event, called Uncovered, unveiling a multimedia strategy, with an anime series, a movie, Kingslaive, and demos, that brought the project back to the media in grand fashion, promising hours of a grandiose experience that will be fulfilling for novices as well as for veterans of the franchise, being influenced by western games such as Last of Us.

Watch Dogs 2

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The sequel of one of the most successful new IP’s of this generation, Watch Dogs 2, out on the 15th, aims to improve on the first title, that despite selling very well, failed to meet expectations, and had a release that tarnished Ubisoft’s brand due to the general feeling of deception, because of a downgrade and a final game that didn’t reflect the reveal trailer, however Watch Dogs 2 has been well received so far by the media, with previews presenting a sequel that heard the complaints and worked on them improving on every area, from driving to customization, and a new and beautiful setting, in San Francisco, with everybody expecting an improvement on the level of AC to AC2.

Dishonored 2

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After the rousing success of Dishonored, that despite being a new IP, had rave reviews being considered one of the best games of the year, Dishonored 2, out on the 11th, has 2 protagonists, Corvo, and his daughter Emily, both returning from the first game, with Emily being playable for the first time, presenting a world that will react to the player’s actions, with new possibilities of stealth, areas shifting physically, changing the perspective of the gameplay, new powers and a big focus on the story, that looks very interesting, with the city being an important part of it.

December

Steep

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Another surprise for me was Steep, out on the 2nd, that during the Ubisoft E3 press conference I was surprised they finished the presentation with this game, that looked so boring, and even though I’ve always loved extreme sports games, such as SSX and THPS, I couldn’t muster any excitement for Steep, but after watching a gameplay released during Gamescom, introducing the possibility to use 1st and 3rd person views, and embracing different styles like snowboard, ski, a sign of hope erupted that it may be an interesting game, not groundbreaking, but fun, and that’s why we play games.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

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Talking about fun, this may be the most fun and one of the funniest games of the year, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, out on the 6th, is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Stick of Truth, and now they poke fun of the superhero genre, with the hilarious E3 trailer demonstrating how the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe and no DC Universe will be torn apart, with the characters leaving the RPG stereotypes from the previous entry to dress up as heroes creating their own Universe, and being a worthy addition to a genre that hasn’t exploded on games yet.

As we can see there’s a plethora of games to play for the rest of year with some that weren’t mentioned here, like Gravity Rush 2, Dead Rising 4 and Bioshock remasters, COD: Infinite Warfare, just to name a few, and Indie games like Cuphead, do you remember another game? Leave it in the comments

 

 

 

 

Why would you buy the PS4 Pro?

In the afternoon of September 7th, in Playstation Theater in NY, the PS4 Pro, formerly known as PS4 Neo, was announced in an event that had the complex task of revealing a product that has suffered a severe backlash from the community, whilst at the same time creating expectation and a desire in customers to buy it.

Sony decided to take a different approach than of their main competitor, Microsoft, instead of announcing during E3, they went for a more low-key presentation, with a somber environment, without any orchestra, theater or an impressive spectacle, where Mark Cerny and Andrew House, some of Sony’s main executives, took the burden of presenting to the world the future of Playstation, but at the end of the Playstation Meeting, one question remained, why would you buy the PS4 Pro?

But how about the PS4 Pro?

It all started with the “announcement” of the PS4 Slim, that leaked weeks prior to the presentation, and from that moment on the PS4 Pro was the main focus, with rumours being confirmed, with the console running 4k, HDR, that later was revealed to come to every PS4 ever sold (a hit in the Xbox One S), but also something that indirectly makes the Pro a little redundant, the ability to bring higher graphical fidelity even in HDTV screens, and a better performance and integration with PS VR.

However, after the presentation, instead of feeling excited about the possibility of selling my PS4 to upgrade to the Pro, I felt underwhelmed about that prospect, and happy and satisfied with my current machine, and from what it seems, the feeling around the internet echoes mine, without any major hype surrounding the announcement, or any fuss as what happened with Scorpio on E3, to sum it up, a lukewarm reception, the worst kind possible for a new hardware.

What went wrong

Their major mistake comes from the fact that the presentation failed to really demonstrate what would be the driving force behind the new console, failing to deliver the message to the consumer, with the console looking like a gimmick, running games with a higher resolution, better definition and nothing else, with the decision of the streaming feeling like a poor judgement, that would only run at 1080p not showing the true potential of 4k gaming, with the choice of posting it on-demand looking more suitable for the situation.

The tone also felt wrong, with the feeling of a shareholder meeting than an announcement of a high-profile product, with a low energy audience, feeling tedious at times, focusing on the technical part, utilizing a lingo that really didn’t mean anything to the average gamer, gameplays that felt unimpressive, somehow the Mass Effect Andromeda gameplay reveal didn’t manage to excite me, with pretty much all of them spotlighting the graphical possibilities but being too short to really create any hope of PS4 Pro being a revolutionary product to the industry.

Even though the company talked about being one community, one game, and that it would be forwards compatible, they didn’t reiterate on it as much as Microsoft did during E3, a major point for gamers, the name also feels strange, with the Pro implying that the OG PS4 could be the one for casual players, something that would feel confusing for consumers that don’t really follow the news, and wouldn’t know the big difference even if they watched it today.

Despite using more than 40 minutes to explain everything, Sony disappointed to do something that Microsoft managed to do in 2 minutes with a simple trailer, successfully present the world what was the power difference between the PS4 and this new product, with PS Meeting presenting the Pro as a minor upgrade that isn’t worth of an investment.

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And the price, that doesn’t represent the major upgrade that was expected, being only $100,00 more expensive than the PS4 Slim, working as a message to the market that if you want a product that is marginally more powerful or better, you can buy the Pro, that doesn’t really have anything different and is not worth the bigger investment of also purchasing a 4k TV, that has yet to reach mass market, and even lacks Blu-ray 4k support.

The general feeling is that the tables have turned, and Sony decided to take Microsoft’s position in the beginning of the “previous” generation, failing to communicate to their consumers what their main product is all about, displaying a strategy that feels lost, talking about the possibility of third-party companies patching their games to run better, a company that doesn’t seem to understand the market and their needs, and after today’s reveal, I can’t find any good reason why anybody would want to buy a PS4 Pro, unless if you don’t have a PS4 and you have or is thinking about buying a 4k TV, feeling like a useless product for a huge part of the market.

 

 

Branding and games: EA – What Battlefield 4 meant for EA

On this second text focusing on EA, I’ll talk about how the troubled release of Battlefield 4, the company’s biggest franchise, represented the beginning of a turning point for the company, that was going through a transitional moment, amidst a change of leadership, the arrival of a new generation of consoles  and a recently announced partnership with Disney regarding the Star Wars Franchise.

Released on October of 2013, Battlefield 4 was the first entry of the renowned franchise on the PS4/Xone generation, and it was received by positive reviews being recognized by the great multiplayer, but feeling as a small step forward after the incredible success of Battlefield 3, being of one of the most played titles til this day.

But despite the good reception, the title presented an incredible amount of problems during its release, with a myriad of issues such as bugs, glitches and crashes across all platforms, taking more than one year to be completely functional, causing a stop to the development of DICE’s projects, like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Star Wars Battlefront, in order to fix the game.

From that moment on EA decided to have a different approach towards its titles, concentrating their attention on quality over quantity, especially due to the damage the Battlefield franchise image suffered, and we clearly saw some signs of the way they treated their latest releases.

Like for example, an increase on the number of delays, like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst that went through several delays to improve various aspects of the title, the spin-off Battlefield Hardline, that surprisingly was postponed from the Fall of 2014 to March of 2015, representing a change of pace to the franchise, that was on its way to becoming annual, being that a move that surprised the industry.

Another modification was the way betas happened, with an increase in the number of tests to measure the stress on servers, the state of titles, with some having multiple betas, like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, BF: Hardline, and titles you wouldn’t expect like Need for Speed, with a very successful Star Wars: Battlefront beta, and it has presented good results with EA’s titles having smooth releases, with minor problems but nothing close to BF 4 fiasco.

Despite being one of the most successful title of the company, BF 4 started a transformation in the company, that helped developing the corporate brand improving the market’s point of view, by managing their assets well, with quality coming first, a mindset that has fortunately spread through the industry when it comes to big companies.

Are demos really better than a Beta?

One of the biggest discussions that has been going during this generation is the lack of demos, something that in the 360/PS3 was almost mandatory, with every major game having a demo, with some standing out, such as the Burnout Paradise, the Bioshock, among others, and nowadays it seems to have been replaced by open betas, with only some sports and lego games having a demo, and few indies games having an option to test, but were the demos really better than a beta?

There are many reasons why a company wouldn’t want to give previous access to their games, like the investiment that could be used on another area and that could actually improve the product, especially in a moment in which game development becomes more and more expensive, another reason, and the one that makes more sense, is the fact that you are going to create something that might tarnish the image pre-release, an experience I had with the Evolve and the Homefront: The Revolution betas, that showed flaws that made me give up ever buying both games.

But despite all the negative ideas around it, betas can be much better for gamers than a simple demo, for AAA’s specifically, that are becoming adventures of dozens, if not, hundreds of hours, a beta  is better suited to give the player an idea of how the game works, like for example Destiny, that even though repeated content, showed how the levelling system would work, how the missions were structured, that would not be able to do in a demo that lasted through 40 minutes.

The same could be said about The Division, that displayed the base, and the basics of how you can advance it, and the materials required to do it, the matchmaking, the world building, characteristics that require an amount of time and testing that we wouldn’t get otherwise, it was great having the opportunity to test pretty much every game available, but times are changing.

For an indie game a demo makes a lot more sense, testing 10 to 20 minutes of a game that doesn’t last more than 5 or 6 hours can really help sell an idea that has a chance of being a brand new concept, but for AAA games as complex as those we have now, embracing RPG systems, various genres, a demo may not make the cut anymore, and whether we like it or not, a beta works as an extended view of the product, as a way to make a more educated purchase.

What Sunset Overdrive means to Spider-Man PS4

Announced last week confirming rumors during the Sony press conference at E3, the exclusive Spider-Man PS4 game came with one surprise, instead of being developed by Sucker Punch as reported, Insomniac is the studio behind the project. And its history of quality franchises provides a lot of expectations despite the lack of details regarding the project, mainly due to an Xbox exclusive.

One of the biggest endeavors of Marvel Games is part of a strategy that changed the focus of the company, investing in quality over quantity, resulting in the Disney Infinity series cancellation and the partnership with Telltale. The company chose Imsomniac as the one responsible for a new Spider-Man project after years of lackluster games, and Sunset Overdrive shows exactly why this is the right studio to helm it.

Released in October 2014, Sunset Overdrive received rave reviews, being considered by many outlets as one of the best games of the year, and as the best Xbox exclusive until that moment. With a strong influence of games like Infamous, Jet Set Radio, Ratchet & Clank (another title of the studio), it reminded me at moments of one of my favorite franchises ever, Tony Hawk, which had a cameo of Spidey in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, but what features show they are a good fit for this project?

The World

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Located in the fictional of Sunset City, one of the most striking features is the beauty of the world, an incredibly colorful city, with a diverse landscape. And that was a breath of fresh air after a 360/PS3 generation that was famous for its lack of color. It was filled with enemies, here human turned zombies after drinking a new energy drink, gangs and robots from different sizes from FizzCo, being one of the first real “next-gen” titles to be released.

It had neighborhoods that went from a very technological one to a Chinatown based area to a seaside pier, populated by some of the craziest characters you’ll ever see. Like an RPG group that you run missions for, a gang formed by luchadoras, a former soldier, scientists, just to name a few, all with an amazing soundtrack composed of punk bands, creating an atmosphere of pure and reckless fun. Something that seemed to lack on the last Spidey games, with NYC feeling lifeless and in desperate need of life and interesting characters.

Combat and Traversal

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Here’s the main reason why I believe this is the biggest motivation behind this whole idea, the way that traversal works, with the mantra of never stopping. Your main character is incredibly slow when on the ground, creating a flow that is beautiful when in motion, with a mechanic that reminds the Tony Hawk series, grinding, zip lining, with an amazing map design that allows it to continue like a song, with combos increasing the power of attacks. And after a moment in the game, you gain the power of air dashing, allowing you to never touch the floor, something crucial for a game with a hero like Spider-Man, known for its fluid and plastic movement.

The combat is divided between melee, with weapons like a crowbar, a knight sword that can spit fire when upgraded and one that really reminds that a light saber that can inflict damage.  However, they are not as effective as the insane arsenal, with some of the craziest weapons I’ve ever seen, like one that shoots fireworks, another exploding teddy bears. And each weapon is upgraded through use and enhanced with amps and overdrives, unlocking new possibilities, all happening as you grind, dash, with a pace that never falls down, something that for a mobile hero could make a great gameplay experience.

The Fun Factor

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Another positive feature of this game is the levity of the script, with an ordinary story that becomes better due to a wacky cast that never takes anything seriously, always ready to poke fun at the zombie genre tropes, the video game market, consumerism, among other subjects. The main character that you can create as a woman, man, with a big number of options of customization, has a Spidey personality, joking amidst the fights.

I know that all those signs don’t mean that we are necessarily going to have a groundbreaking title or a revolution when it comes to the superhero genre, but the chances of having a really fun entry are big. And Sunset Overdrive had a mindless gameplay, in the best way possible, without having an amazing story, but having something that seems to lack in most games nowadays, fun. When I think of Spider-Man I think of a funny character, ready to make jokes at any moment, not afraid of anything, and when I played Sunset Overdrive, I felt this way.