Overwatch League – Season 2 Preview

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With the new season of the Overwatch League (OWL) starting in mid-February, I thought it might be worth taking a look at what’s changed since the inaugural season last year. There are a lot of new teams and some changes to the format, both of which I’ll get into later. To start with, let’s take a quick look at last season and some of the players you should keep an eye out for in 2019.

The first season of OWL was split into four stages, with each stage having their own playoffs before the grand finals. This was a good way to keep up interest during the season because it meant that, while the New York Excelsior were crushing everyone in the overall results, teams and fans had something to fight for throughout the season. The much fancied Korean roster of the London Spitfire won Stage 1, New York Excelsior took Stages 2 and 3 with the Los Angeles Valiant winning Stage 4. In the end of season playoffs the London Spitfire took home the championship, seeing off the Philadephia Fusion in the final. It was a thrilling end to a great first season.

There was some amazing play on display throughout 2018, here are my picks for the players to watch out for in the upcoming season…

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1. Profit (London Spitfire)

What can you say about Profit? One of the best damage dealers in the league, he has the ability to turn a match on its head with one smart play. Definitely a huge asset to the defending champions.

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2. Geguri (Shanghai Dragons)

As the first female OWL player, Geguri already had a huge amount of pressure on her and adding to that she joined the Dragons – who lost every game of the 2018 season. Her tank play was a bright spark and she carried the team at times, I’m looking forward to seeing what she can achieve with a more stable setup around her.

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3. Fissure (Seoul Dynasty)

Ah Fissure, the very confident (and highly skilled) tank player that left London mid-season for the Los Angeles Gladiators, only to not show for the end of season playoffs. And I don’t mean that figuratively, he literally stayed away from the arena after in-fighting with the team. Drama follows him everywhere but he’s a great player and, if he doesn’t throw a wobbly, just what underperforming Seoul need.

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4. Pine (New York Excelsior)

Pine is what you’d call an impact player. Often being used as a sub during games and pulling off daring damage plays that always seem to come off. I’m hoping he might get some more play time this season as his skill level is outrageous. New York’s stellar season fizzled out in the playoffs, maybe more Pine would’ve helped.

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5. Surefour (Los Angeles Gladiators)

Surefour is known for his Widowmaker play and I always enjoy seeing him in action. I don’t feel he had the consistency of someone like Fleta (Seoul) or Carpe (Fusion) last year but I think if he can deliver regularly through 2019 then the Gladiators have a real shot of making the end of season playoffs.

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OWL New Teams

The amount of teams in the league this year has risen from 12 to 20, which has also impacted the scheduling. Each stage will now be 7 games rather than 10, meaning each team plays 28 games overall. In terms of the end of season playoffs, the top Atlantic and Pacific division teams, along with the next four teams in the standings regardless of division, will automatically qualify for playoffs. In a change to last season’s format the 7th through 12th placed teams in the overall standings will also have a chance to qualify for the playoffs. These teams will be pitted against each other in a sudden death tournament, with the top two teams being able to join the playoffs for a total of eight teams.

So from the overall 20, 12 teams will be in with a shout of making the final 8 places in the playoffs. New teams that have paid upwards of $30m to join OWL come in the form of Atlanta Reign (US), Chengdu Hunters (China), Guangzhou Charge (China), Paris Eternal (France), Hangzhou Spark (China), Toronto Defiant (Canada), Vancouver Titans (Canada) and Washington Justice (US). Do any of the new expansion teams have a shot this season? Let’s take a look.

OWL Spark.png

A lot of the teams have picked up players that were in the league last season – Soon joined Paris, Hooreg joined Vancouver and Hotba joined Guangzhou, to name a few. Some teams went for players from the Overwatch World Cup with no league experience – Kyb at Guangzhou or Krystal at Hangzhou. Most of these teams seem a mishmash on paper, especially ones with multiple nationalities that could lead to language barriers. The front runner for a tilt at the playoffs has to be the Vancouver Titans, whose roster is a former title winning team in Korea called Run Away. This synergy could see them make a great start in 2019.

Personally my tips for the 8 playoff slots would be London Spitfire, New York Excelsior, Boston Uprising, Philadephia Fusion, LA Gladiators, LA Valiant, San Francisco Shock, Seoul Dynasty and Vancouver Titans. We’ll have to see as the season progresses!

OWL London

With some teams starting to play in their hometown this season, and everyone doing so in the next few years, the league will no doubt be looking to get more teams involved from around the world. I would love to see teams from places like Russia, Brazil, Sweden, Australia or Germany. Overwatch is a global game so it makes sense the league would look to try and get teams started in as many places as possible, especially if they will playing matches locally. I can’t wait to see the Spitfire play in London at some point, it would definitely help increase the bond with the team.

So there you have it, an overview of what to expect from the OWL in 2019. It starts on the 14th/15th February and the league has a deal in place with Twitch to show all the games live so head to http://www.twitch.tv/overwatchleague to catch up on all the action!

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Grand Operations – Should DICE Advance or Retreat?

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Battlefield V launched back in November of 2018 without much fanfare and alongside a bunch of negative headlines (Eurogamer: “Battlefield V physical sales down more than half on Battlefield 1” / VG24/7: “Battlefield 5 drops down to $30 in new sale“) which did a good job of killing most of my expectations for the title. So I was surprised, when I picked up a copy, by how much I enjoyed the online action in the game.

The big, main mode, alongside series staple Conquest, is Grand Operations. A new version of Battlefield 1‘s Operations mode. In that title you had a few attempts to take ground against your opponents, and the losing team was able to call in a Zeppelin to try and turn the tide. It was a fun mode, which I liked playing. In Grand Operations you play across three ‘days’ of various game modes, although Day 3 is always Conquest. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played of it so far but there are some under-lying problems that leave me concerned about the longevity of the mode.

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So what are the issues and what can be done to fix them? It’s a tough question because how do you make online play fun over a long period of time in a title where the individual player has such a small influence? In something like Overwatch or Rainbow Six: Siege, you are part of a team of 5 or 6 and your actions, such as the use of a gadget, skill or ability, can directly win a round for your team. In Battlefield V, while you have a squad of four, there are 32 players on each side and your actions rarely impact dramatically as events unfold.

Let’s start with the positives and what Grand Operations does right. It evokes memories of the excellent, and similarly titled, Killzone 3 Operations mode – especially with the parts where you’re aboard a plane before rounds start and you’re waiting to jump down into the action. I’d like to see more cut scene variations between the days if possible but what we have is a decent enough start. Grand Operations certainly feels grand in terms of time – rounds can last between 45 minutes and an hour depending on how close they are. It’s interesting to move through different sections of the map on each day and generally rounds do seem to finish quite close for the most part, which gives it the sense of a thrilling battle.

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Grand Operations is likely the best mode in the game… if you have the time. Conversely, on occasion the rounds seem to drag out – especially when the victor is obvious. The first two days are almost pointless as only victory/defeat on the final day decides the battle. This would be fine if the first two days counted for anything on both sides. Attackers do get benefits if they win the rounds (extra respawns etc.) but the defenders don’t, they just stop the attackers gaining an advantage. There’s nothing quite as disheartening as, while defending, winning the first two days and then losing the final day to be greeted by a ‘Major Defeat’ screen. The game is also glitchy during gameplay and cut-scenes, including instances of Day 3 just being a black screen, meaning you have to quit and lose your progress. Also people quit (or perhaps can’t join due to technical issues) between days, leading to wait times between rounds and sometimes completely uneven sides.

I have some ideas to remedy these problems and make Grand Operations the go-to mode for Battlefield V. Some are simple fixes and others more complex suggestions but let’s get into it.

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My first suggestion is the easiest to call out as a player, though only the developers will know how much time/resources would be needed: fix the bugs. This isn’t exclusive to Grand Operations but it would make a huge difference. Unlocks not happening, players dropping out of games, standing in the plane literally INSIDE another player – tidy it up please DICE. Secondly, give more rewards for playing Grand Operations. Maybe it is exclusive outfits or even a special gun. Anything would help bring people into the game mode.

DICE have to change how the ‘Days’ system benefits each side. My suggestion would be to scrap the respawns and make each day count as an automatic flag capture on the final day. So, if one team wins both days on Day 3 they start with two flags already captured. Currently if you’re defending, the first two days seem quite pointless. While the extended sessions are great, perhaps the addition of a ‘Mercy’ option like the one in Destiny could help. In that game the ‘narrator’ character ends the game early if one team is completely dominating. Given the World War II setting this would be in keeping with the atmosphere of the game if your ‘commander’ called for you to retreat. In one way it saves you the humiliation of spending another 10 or 15 minutes in a fruitless battle but brings the embarrassment of having to retreat.

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My final idea, and likely to be the most controversial, is to make Grand Operations the ranked/competitive mode of Battlefield V. Firstly, it would stop people quitting out between rounds. If you couldn’t play another round until the one you quit finished or you rejoined, it would be a good deterent for quitters. Assigning a specific ranking to performances and having you climb the ladder season to season in the mode would keep people interested for longer. This could tie in with the extra rewards I mentioned and could possibly involve the Tides Of War side mission content. If they actually fixed the issue I mentioned above in regard to balancing rewards for Days 1 and 2, Grand Operations could even be the mode that EA utilize for Battlefield V’s esports angle. It seems like it would be a great fit with potential rounds of up to an hour and I’d love to see what sort of tactical plans teams and squads could come up with, given advance preparation time. I suspect EA will more likely be looking at their Battle Royale mode for that but I think this could be a much more enticing option.

So there you have it, some ideas to help enhance what is a promising game mode. With a few changes here and there Grand Operations could be a stand out mode and Battlefield V’s trump card. We’ll have to wait and see how it pans out as 2019 progresses.

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GregHorrorShow’s Year In Gaming 2018

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It seemed 2018 was as good a time as any to mix up these end of year posts, mainly due to the way a lot of games are becoming sprawling services that span years of content as opposed to annual franchises. A lot of what I played this year wasn’t released in the calendar year but that seems to matter less and less as time goes on. I’ll list the release date next to anything not from 2018.

For anyone interested here is the non-gaming round up in case you missed it. For now though let’s delve into last year’s gaming…

hitman

I know Hitman 2 came out in 2018 but let me tell you about Hitman (2016). This was a game, like Life Is Strange, that really nailed the episodic format. It was a joy to jump into a new level (each with varying locations around the world) and spend a good chunk of time messing around, trying to find a stealthy way of taking out a target. Then I’d be happy to put the game back on the shelf and return to a new area in a few months. 2018 was the year I finally finished the last of Hitman’s content and I would definitely recommend giving it a shot.

I played A Way Out in full co-op with a friend and had a blast with the game. I’m not sure it would’ve been as much fun playing solo and while the story was fun it wasn’t the greatest narrative I’ve ever played through. This year I also played This War Of Mine: The Little Ones (2016), a title I’d been keen on for a while. It tasks you with scavenging to survive in a war torn country and really gives you a sense of how tough that kind of thing can be. The mental effects can completely change the game, if the characters become too scared or depressed you can lose control of them and they won’t respond to commands. It was tough watching my little group of survivors deteriorate until they fell apart, a rough but worthwhile gaming experience.

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VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action was a game I was super excited for and I really enjoyed taking on the role of a cyberpunk bartender, despite not being the best at remembering the drink combinations! Luckily there is a recipe book on hand to help. This is a visual novel on Vita so it’s a lot of reading, with a small gameplay element of mixing the drinks – giving customers different drinks can alter the storyline, which is cool. Hue was another Vita game that I put alot of time into, the puzzle solving was good fun and the use of colour was interesting.

Two games that took me an age to finish were Assassins Creed: Origins (2017) and Fallout 4 (2015). I wrapped up both this year and they were enjoyable for different reasons. Origins was a real high point for Assassins Creed, with a good story and lots of fun gameplay additions. I’d still rather they lost the current day set up as I find it really detracts from the main story but maybe there will be a payoff for that stuff at some stage? Fallout 4 left me in a frustrating spot so I didn’t ‘finish’ the game in terms of seeing the credits but felt I’d told my characters story to it’s conclusion, the game was exactly what I wanted from it and I look forward to playing the next numbered Fallout title when it arrives.

I also played through The Walking Dead: New Frontier (2016) and finished that a week or so before the sad news that the game studio behind it was shutting down. While the technical cracks were showing throughout the game I still enjoyed spending some more time with Clem and watching her grow over the course of the five episode arc. I didn’t play much of Gran Turismo Sport (2017) but the hours I put in were really enjoyable. I’m terrible at the game for the most part but as usual the joy of the game comes from heading to the car dealerships and picking up lots of different cars to race.

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In terms of online gaming its difficult to talk about 2018 without mentioning Fortnite. I’ve dropped off of the game in the last 3 or 4 months but I imagine I’ll be back at some stage to play some more. I enjoyed the tense, high stakes gameplay of solo the most, although it was definitely fun with friends as well. FIFA 19 is, finally, a more than cosmetic update of the yearly title. I think the changes they have made are certainly for the better although the issue of ‘rubber-banding’ (allowing slower defenders to catch up to attackers and tackle them) needs to be addressed as it can completely break the game flow and seems totally unrealistic. Another fun multiplayer game was Laser League (2017), which I picked up as part of PlayStation Plus. This is a futuristic sports game where you turn lasers to your colour on the playing field. If your colour laser touches an opponent they are taken out of play – it’s a really interesting idea that is well delivered.

My favourite online games from 2018 though were Battlefield V, Overwatch (2016) and Rainbow Six: Siege (2015). As a Battlefield veteran (from Bad Company on) I’ve enjoyed but not loved the recent titles in the series. I think Battlefield 4 was the last one I really put a lot of time into. Hardline was something different and Battlefield 1 was good but didn’t hold my attention. However something about Battlefield V just clicked with me – possibly it’s the heavy emphasise on squad play but this, for me is the best Battlefield since the Bad Company 2 days. It certainly has some issues but overall a really solid title. I absolutely love Overwatch. I still play regularly and have a great time with it – the updates with new maps and characters help keep the game fresh and with the newly launched Overwatch League, it seems the game is here to stay. That works for me.

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Having said that my pick for online game of 2018 is 2015’s Rainbow Six: Siege. The recovery of this game from a troubled launch is astounding. It has a vibrant esports scene and the continued release of maps and content (now stretching into the game’s fourth year!) makes sure the game is constantly evolving. It’s similar to Overwatch in that two small teams face off in a map with one objective and the teams take turns attacking and defending. Another familiar aspect is that a roster of characters each have different specialisations that can be used to gain an advantage or swing a fight. While Overwatch is like a bombastic, Saturday morning cartoon, Rainbow Six takes things a bit more seriously, although some cosmetic options allow you to lighten the mood a bit. The gameplay is finely balanced and it’s really unforgiving but definitely worth your time.

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In terms of single player games Detroit: Become Human was a highlight. While it was maybe heavy handed with its messaging I found the game itself to be enjoyable and the sheer amount of choice, in terms of the branching storyline, was hugely impressive. David Cage has done this before but each game genuinely improves on the last. The fact I can talk to other people who played it and we have very little in common in terms of the story of the game is actually quite astounding. One of my other favourites from this year was The Sexy Brutale (2017), a really clever puzzle game in which you relive the same day over and over, trying to stop a bunch of murders. It’s a touching, smart title with a great graphical style and some excellent music. A real joy to play through.

I’m still making progress through Persona 5 (2017) and loving that. The story is starting to build and I’m adding more characters to my roster of crime-fighters. The Persona games always have a lovely sense of style and this is no different – the music is as amazing as ever and graphically it looks brilliant. Another superb title I’m still finishing off is God Of War. This is one of those titles that really show off what a PS4 can do and also give a good reference point for non-gamers to see how games are progressing. It’s a tour de force really, while still maintaining a fragile father and son story that doesn’t feel melodramatic or forced. The script and voice acting help with that, it’s a game I can’t recommend enough.

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There is only one game that can be both my favourite thing from this year and also the best game I’ve played in years. Red Dead Redemption 2 arrived after a seven year wait but it was worth it. A prequel to the original title it tells the story of Arthur Morgan, a member of the same gang as the first game’s protagonist, John Marston. This is a huge game with so much content it’s likely I won’t experience much of it at all in the grand scheme of things. I’m about 25 hours in and still only midway through, I’ve spent a bunch of time just living in the game world, hunting, playing cards and fishing while completely ignoring missions. The world feels alive and there is always something going on just around the corner. I haven’t really touched the online beyond setting up a character but I’m also looking forward to getting more into that in the future. Red Dead Redemption 2 is my game of the year for 2018.

division 2

There was a lot I didn’t get around to playing that I want to try – Spider-man, Hitman 2, Iconoclasts and Life Is Strange 2 to name a few. As my backlog builds there is also plenty to look forward to in 2019. I think The Division 2 (above) is my most anticipated title, although if The Last Of Us II does get confirmed for this year that might just pip it. As well as games, it seems like another generation of new consoles are also on the horizon which should lead to some interesting announcements and game reveals.

Exciting times ahead in the world of gaming!

The Everything Else of 2018

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I’ve decided to mix things up a little bit with my end of year round ups, for a start I’m moving away from the ‘award’ format itself but also I’ll be splitting things in a more simple way. One round-up for games and another for ‘Everything Else’.

So without further ado, let’s get into The Everything Else of 2018!

Musically it’s been a phenomenal year – full of big beats, guitars and wonderful pop. My Spotify round-up playlist is embedded below but some highlights were: Jade Bird, who continues her rise as one of the UK’s most under-rated female singer/songwriters, Billie Eilish, who delivers material well beyond what you’d expect from a 16-year-old, Sigrid, who is currently one of the best pop stars out there, Greta Van Fleet, who are on a mission to bring fun guitar music back, Robyn, who returns with another stunning single, Bobby Sessions, who brings a sense of levity and some political musings to proceedings and Carly Rae Jepsen, back again with a huge slice of pop goodness in ‘Party For One’.

I managed to do quite a bit of reading last year, a mix of fiction, fact and some great graphic novels. Of course the Overwatch graphic novel series continued with some really fun moments that help to flesh out the back story of the world and characters. The first volume of Lumberjanes was super fun, a nice collection of characters, it’s all about a group of girls at a summer scout camp. Everything is not as it seems though as strange creatures and otherworldly events transpire.

My favourite graphic novel this year though was Reborn from Mark Millar. Telling the story of Bonnie Black, an elderly lady who passes away on a stroke ward and suddenly finds herself in a new, younger body in a weird place called Adystria. Not only is this world some sort of limbo, it looks like she is the chosen one – here to save the world. It’s a standard fantasy set up but the art is lovely and its a clever idea. Word in the Summer was that Netflix have optioned Reborn as a TV series/film, should be an interesting watch!

Reborn

In terms of factual books, I thoroughly enjoyed Blood, Sweat and Pixels by Jason Schreier – a fascinating look behind the scenes on some of the industries biggest and most interesting titles. If you’re into games, this is definitely worth your time. But it’s hard to look past the epic tome that is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a big read but this look at how the world has been shaped by Humans is in equal measure spellbinding and horrifying.

Once I got past the heavy cockney accents in Gaie Sebold’s Shanghai Sparrow I found it be a really great read and look forward to exploring more titles in the series soon. I managed a double-header of Lee Child books in 2018; Night School and The Midnight Line, both of which I thought were good. It’s nice to see Child has diversified slightly from his well-worn (if enjoyable) formula to mix things up a bit. Another double was parts 2 (Authority) and 3 (Acceptance) in Jeff VanderMeer’s fantastically creepy trilogy that had started with Annihilation. I loved these and would recommend to anyone looking for something a little bit different. Probably my favourite books of the year, despite their unsettling nature.

I also stepped up my reading of some classics: Old Man and The Sea – Ernest Hemingway, The Trial – Franz Kafka, Chess – Stefan Zweig, Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton and Chronicle of a Death Foretold – Gabriel García Márquez. These were all great (they are classics for a reason!) but for me Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton was my favourite. I also really liked Chess and The Trial but the ending of Kafka’s story was just too much of a let down for me personally.

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On the TV front it was another great year. I enjoyed Erased, a Japanese show about time travel but wasn’t sure about A Discovery of Witches, which I just struggled to get into. There were plenty of shows that continued to be a good watch – Jessica Jones, iZombie, Legends Of Tomorrow and Blindspot all veered between the sublime and the ridiculous but kept me entertained. While I enjoyed Legion it definitely felt like a hard watch at times, the confusion from the first season continued but this season was even darker than the last. I caught up on seasons 3 through 5 of Marvel’s Agents Of Shield which, while still enjoyable, has got weaker as time goes on. The flip to space lost me but (as usual!) it is the time travel stuff that keeps me on board.

My favourites from the year though were The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, The Bodyguard, Glow, The Good Place, Howard’s End and Dark. Sabrina had the right amount of camp and scares for me, The Bodyguard was intense and full of twists, Glow was depressing and hilarious in equal measure, The Good Place continued to be a highlight, Howard’s End was a completely unexpected delight and Dark was a German language sci-fi show that crossed genres in different and strange ways.

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Film-wise I saw lots of interesting things this year. I loved the book so was really excited for the film version of Annihilation. While it was definitely a visual spectacle I really felt that perhaps Netflix might’ve been better to do the whole trilogy as a TV series. The Aftermath was a brilliant film, with great performances from Keira Knightly and Alexander Skarsgard. I thought Lean On Pete, the story of a young kid who gets into horse training but can’t let his horse go, was heartwarming. The London set musical Been So Long was a vivid, vibrant look at life in the capital. Meanwhile, Blue Iguana was a crime thriller with a more grounded trip to London.

I was also fortunate enough to see a couple of films that will be out in 2019 but were screened at festivals in 2018. Driven, the true story of DeLorean creator John DeLorean and Wild Rose, the fictional story of a country singer from Glasgow who dreams of visiting Nashville. I thought both of these were great but I did work on them music-wise so take that as you will 🙂

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I loved Bohemian Rhapsody, it was a really uplifting look at one of the world’s biggest bands. Just before Christmas I saw The Grinch, which I thought was a fun festive film and The Christmas Chronicles, in which Kurt Russell delivered the Santa I never knew I needed! I really loved this and suspect it will become an annual viewing experience in my house. My absolute favourites of this year though were The Incredibles 2 and Wreck It Ralph 2, both of which I thought had some great writing, music and (of course) visuals.

So there you have it – 2018 in a (large) nutshell. As always feel free to comment or reach out on socials to let me know what your highlights have been from this year and what I missed but should check out.

 

MOST WANTED – E3 2018 EDITION

MW E3 2018 Main

As 2018 continues to race on, we find ourselves with another E3 just around the corner. It’s the time of the year that the gaming world fills with rampant speculation and expectations soar.

So it seemed as good a time as any to take a look at which titles I’m excited to see more of at the conference in early June.

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BORDERLANDS 3

MW E3 2018 Borderlands

I was a big fan of the previous Borderlands games, their mix of stylised graphics, humour and sheer volume of weapons made for a fun experience that you could shape for yourself, depending on how you upgraded your character. So I’m looking forward to seeing what Gearbox reveal – the gaming landscape has changed massively since the last time Borderlands hit the shelves, might the new title even be a ‘games as service’ type affair?

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NEW DRAGON AGE

MW E3 2018 Dragon Age

It may have taken me until last year to finally finish Dragon Age: Inquisition but the game originally landed in 2014 so we are long overdue some fantasy, tactical RPG goodness. Confirmed to be in development but not officially announced, I’m hopeful we might get a teaser or some sort of update at the EA conference this year.

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LAST OF US II

MW E3 2018 Last Of Us II

The last footage we saw of Last Of Us II was harrowing and pretty disturbing. In lesser hands I might’ve been concerned but Naughty Dog’s track record speaks for itself and I suspect, in context, the violence will be in line with the tone and feel of the game and world. The first title was a game changer and, after the amazing Uncharted 4, I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

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GHOST OF TSUSHIMA

MW E3 2018 Ghost

I’ve been saying for years, we need a new Samurai game! I thought it would be the history-hopping Assassin’s Creed that would deliver but instead it’s Sucker Punch, of Infamous erm… fame, that are bringing some Katana action to our living rooms. For all their faults, I enjoyed the Infamous games and I think Sucker Punch could really deliver something special with Ghost Of Tsushima.

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DEATH STRANDING

MW E3 2018 Death Stranding

Ah Death Stranding, three trailers in and still no sense of what this game is actually going to be. From the creator of Metal Gear Solid, it appears you’ll be playing as a character attempting to protect a baby from supernatural forces in a post apocalyptic world. Or is it all a Dallas-style dream? Who knows? It has all looked great so far though, now I’m hoping we get to see some actual gameplay on stage.

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CYBERPUNK 2077

MW E3 2018 Cyberpunk 2077

We still don’t have many concrete details about Cyberpunk 2077 but E3 2018 looks set to change that. The makers of the successful Witcher series have a large presence planned on the showfloor – could this mean a playable demo? Or is it too early? Details are sparse but we’ve been told the game may take some cues from Deus Ex and is set to take place in Night City, an existing location in the Cyberpunk pen and paper RPG game on which this title is based. The biggest game at E3 this year? Quite possibly.

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So those are some titles we already know about but where’s the wild speculation I mentioned earlier? Oh ok, here are a few ‘long shots’ – not completely random but games that are probably very unlikely.

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DISHONORED 3

MW E3 2018 Dishonored

It might be too early for this announcement but as a fan of the last two games I’d love some more Dishonored. The universe is so rich and different to anything else around, it’s a real pleasure to explore, not only the city itself but also the game mechanics and different ways of interacting with the world.

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NEW GUERRILLA GAME

MW E3 2018 Guerilla

I loved the Killzone series and Horizon: Zero Dawn knocked it out of the park last year. So what are Guerrilla working on now? Well I’d really love to know, so fingers crossed for at least a tease at E3. I suspect it might be more Horizon, given it’s success but something new – or even something Killzone – would be most welcome.

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NEW SKYRIM

MW E3 2018 Skyrim

Skyrim came out over six years ago. Six years! And it’s now available on every platform possible. Surely it’s time to bring us some new adventures, potentially in a different region of the Elder Scrolls universe. It would be amazing if we got a glimpse of something new at E3 – fingers crossed!

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THE ORDER 1887

MW E3 2018 Order

This is probably the longest shot in here, given Santa Monica studio only recently wrapped on the well received God Of War reboot. The Order was a game with a phenomenal look, some great acting and a decent story. At times it played well but for the most part the combat was rote and it descended into moving from one ‘shooting gallery’ to another. If they revamp the combat and design more interesting combat encounters, a new Order game could be amazing. It’s time may have realistically passed but I would be really happy to see a sequel.

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So, there you have it! Early June is right around the corner, I can’t wait to see what surprises are in store.

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GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2017

Game Awards 2017

2017 was a stand out year for games, with some amazing titles hitting shelves. Whether hunting robot dinosaurs in Horizon: Zero Dawn or teeing off on the 18th hole in Everybody’s Golf, there were plenty of great games for all types of players.

As usual there were some games I didn’t get to, Assassin’s Creed Origins and Wolfenstein II to name a couple. Also I hadn’t played enough of Persona 5 to judge it on much beyond graphics and music.

So here are my favourites from 2017 but first another awesome title from 2016…

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MISSED GEM OF 2016

Dishonored2

I got this for Christmas 2016 so it wasn’t until early last year that I really got going with it. A follow up to Arkane Studio’s 2012 title, it picks up some time after the end of the first game. Once the opening scene plays out you are given a choice of whether to continue as the original games hero Corvo or as Emily Kaldwin. Both have different powers and I’m really looking forward to going back and replaying this with different abilities. A mixture of stealth and action, the game has a wonderful sense of style and the soundtrack gives it a distinctive flavour as well. Plus one of the levels, The Clockwork Mansion, is a true feat of design, seeing the entire level shift around you depending on which levers you pull. Great stuff.

WINNER: Dishonored 2

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MOST IMPROVED GAME

OverwatchGA2017

As games become more of an ongoing service than ever, I thought it might be worth keeping an eye on which titles have evolved over the last 12 months. On the single player front No Man’s Sky is almost unrecognizable from the game it was at the time of release, with base building and a more detailed story now featured. It also features lots of ways to play the game, whether you want a punishing survival adventure or a more relaxed, exploration based experience. It’s worth checking out if you haven’t been back to it for a while. One surprise was The Division‘s recent update which added a ton of more content including a horde mode and more player v player options. This is in addition to the extra end game content and systems already added during the year. There were also a few paid for DLC packs that added more scenarios and areas. Battlefield 1 added a handful of more free maps and an awesome mode called Operations, which is a sprawling battle across numerous areas – definitely something for players looking to get into longer, more intense matches. Most of the Operations are available to all but some are locked behind the Battlefield Premium pass, along with a good number of maps. Overwatch continues to change as time goes on, alongside balance changes players have also received 5 new characters and 4 new maps. In addition the game has added tons of new modes in the arcade rotation, including Deathmatch, Elimination and Duels. There were also the event related modes like Junkenstein’s Revenge, Capture The Flag, Lucioball and Yeti Hunter, which all added to the variety of content. Uncharted 4 delivered more arenas and a huge of amount of characters and customisation. The addition of a horde mode and a much requested ‘Classic’ mode were most welcome and the game still feels great to play. All of these games have shown a strong development over the last year but I feel like Overwatch by adding, for free, such a big amount of heroes and new areas alongside balancing and entirely reworking existing characters gets the nod here. The fact you can buy the game now and have access to everything in the game content wise is fantastic and it has continued to suck up a lot of my time in 2017.

WINNER: Overwatch

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THE JOE DANGER AWARD

EverybodysGolf

I really enjoyed Everybody’s Golf on the Vita so I was looking forward to the PS4 version, thinking it’d be fun to play with friends and just online in general. I didn’t imagine the single player, with it’s golf carts, fishing and quizzes would draw me in but it did and I spent a lot of time working my way up the rankings and challenging the ‘boss battle’ style golfers to unlock more progress. It’s also a really relaxing game and can be great to play to just unwind a little.

WINNER: Everybody’s Golf

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2018

RedDead2

Could it be anything else? Without doubt one of my favourite games of the PS3 era, Red Dead Redemption was a stone cold classic that delivered an epic story and a really solid multiplayer offering. As much as I can’t wait to see the story Rockstar have planned for us it’s the multiplayer I’m most excited about. I loved it before but seeing what Rockstar have done with the online for GTA V makes me hope that this could really be something special.

WINNER: Red Dead Redemption 2

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BEST TRAILER

DeathStranding

I’m still not entirely sure what Death Stranding is even about but with each trailer Hideo Kojima reveals a little more of the characters and setting. His next project post Metal Gear Solid is shaping up to be like nothing else we’ve ever played. The trailer shows a world in disarray and people trying to protect a baby from supernatural forces. Graphically it looks great and he has both Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelson on board, so I’m really hopefully he will continue his run of amazing, and amazingly crazy, games. Watch the trailer HERE.

WINNER: Death Stranding

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BEST VITA GAME

SteinsGate

Steins;Gate is an older title but was far and away the best Vita game I played in 2017. Unfortunately with support outside of the indies drying up for the Vita there wasn’t a huge amount of new stuff I played on the system. However I’d definitely recommend trying this title out, the tale of a time travelling ‘mad scientist’ who has to battle a series of other outside influences in an attempt to use his time travel for good and save his friends. This visual novel goes dark in places but man, what a ride!

WINNER: Steins;Gate

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BEST GRAPHICS

Hellblade

This was a crowded category in 2017 with plenty of amazing looking games arriving, whether it was the anime styling of Persona 5 or the photo realistic universe of Battlefront II. Naughty Dog delivered a wonderful looking game in Uncharted: Lost Legacy, with impressive vistas and Horizon: Zero Dawn‘s lush, beautiful expanses were a bit to play in. But I’m giving this to Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, a mid price game that gave us a well paced 10 hour experience that looked stunning considering it was made on a much smaller budget than the other games mentioned here. It was a darker world than the other games here but still absolutely stunning.

WINNER: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

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BEST STORYLINE

HorizonZD1

I really enjoyed playing through Senua’s troubled story in Hellblade, it was a difficult experience at times but the pay off was worth it and I’d definitely recommend giving it a shot if you haven’t played it already. Unfortunately I only had time for one playthrough of Nier Automata this year, so while I know I still have story beats to come, I felt the game deserved a nod even just for the first run through. Naughty Dog did an amazing job of giving us another Uncharted title but with different protagonists, Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross, giving us a unique vibe. It worked a treat and I enjoyed the story here, the pacing was excellent. However, this year’s winner is Horizon: Zero Dawn which gave us a story told on several levels and with a few great twists along the way. Guerrilla Games did really well with this, especially after the story of Killzone: Shadow Fall, which didn’t really deliver.

WINNER: Horizon: Zero Dawn

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BEST MUSIC (SCORE)

Persona5

There has been some wonderful music made for games this year, Henry Jackman’s score for Uncharted: Lost Legacy was sublime and really added to the atmosphere of the game. Likewise Horizon: Zero Dawn had a great score which felt like a real part of Aloy’s world, especially the contrasts between battle themes and more peaceful moments. I’d actually thought Nier Automata would take this category as Okabe Keiichi’s score is hauntingly beautiful but although I haven’t finished the game I’ve spent enough time with Persona 5 to know a killer soundtrack when I hear one – that end of battle sting brings a smile to my face every time! Wonderful stuff as usual from Shoji Meguro.

WINNER: Persona 5

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BEST MUSIC (LICENSED)

Ruiner

Full disclosure, as anyone who follows me on any socials will know, I helped to select the soundtrack for Dirt4 but I genuinely believe it’s a great soundtrack with a strong mix of old and new artists. Uncharted: Lost Legacy nabs a spot on the nominations list solely for a glorious and truly fitting use of M.I.A and FIFA 18 delivers another great selection of new music across genres. But the winner here is the absolutely brutal soundtrack put together for Devolver Digital’s cyberpunk title Ruiner. Featuring artists like Susumu Hirasawa and Zamilska I’d recommend giving it a listen if you’re not familiar. A perfect match to the dark, unrelenting action on screen.

WINNER: Ruiner

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BEST VOICE ACTING

LostLegacy

Melina Juergens has rightfully earned a lot of plaudits for her voice acting as Senua in Hellblade, she made the character believable and vulnerable, while still maintaining a rough edge along the way. I also thought Ashly Burch was great as Aloy in Horizon: Zero Dawn, unfortunately she was the best of the bunch, although there were a few other good performances scattered among the rest of the cast. There was more story in Destiny 2, which of course brought more voice acting, though not from your mute character – I really do wish they’d go the Mass Effect route and have the character voiced but I digress… What you do have is great work from Lance Reddick, Gina Torres and Nathan Fillion. Is Cayde-6 a little overplayed? Yes, but having some extra personality is better for me than none at all. There was plenty of personality in Uncharted: Lost Legacy, which takes home the award. It was fantastic to see the development of the relationship between Chloe and Nadine as the game went on and you really did feel a bond established between them. Just the right mix of quips and seriousness meant I didn’t miss Nathan for a second.

WINNER: Uncharted: Lost Legacy

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BEST SINGLE PLAYER GAME

HorizonZD2

First off a shout out to Call Of Duty: World War II which was, admittedly, dire and relentlessly depressing for the most part but delivered one of my favourite levels of the year with a great set piece that sees you infiltrate a Nazi base as a Resistance member. Fun and different. Again, I’ve only played through Nier Automata once but I really enjoyed what I did and thought the story was interesting – I know there is more in store for me on further playthroughs so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s on offer. Uncharted: Lost Legacy gave me exactly what I was hoping for, a story in the Uncharted universe that didn’t revolve around Nathan Drake (as much as I love him, Uncharted 4 rounded out the arc perfectly). It was really well paced and looked absolutely gorgeous. But I have to give it to Horizon: Zero Dawn. What an amazing game. Robot dinosaurs was the premise, hunting them and having to take them down. The developers really delivered on that promise and then some. There is so much more to the game. So much in fact that a hint on the loading screen after I’d finished the game told me about a type of weapon I hadn’t even known existed! Horizon really is a game you can lose yourself in, if you haven’t already grab yourself a copy now.

WINNER: Horizon: Zero Dawn

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BEST MULTIPLAYER GAME

Destiny2GA17

2017 was a weird year for multiplayer. As I mentioned in an earlier category, a lot of big games from the last few years stepped up and gave us more, sometimes different, content. I played more Overwatch, Rocket League and Battlefield 1 this year than I did any of the games on this list. Everybody’s Golf turned out to be a title that I stuck more time into offline than online. But I had great fun playing with friends and doing the online challenges. FIFA came back with a bang and I reignited my Ultimate Team career after barely touching it the previous year. The only issue is that it’s very easy to pay-to-win using real money so sometimes it’s just not that fun if you haven’t spent cash yourself, I’ve been on the end of a fair few 7 or 8 goal thrashings that I imagine might infuriate more volatile players. Speaking of pay-to-win, I was tempted to give the award this year to Battlefront II. I don’t think it’s a popular opinion but putting aside the loot box shenanigans (at the current time you can’t actually pay real money to win) I’ve genuinely enjoyed the time I’ve spent with the game. It handles well and, for the most part, has felt fair to play. Having said that, Destiny 2 handles like a dream. Being able to play through the story with friends and then get online for some crucible action has been more than enough of a value proposition for me. I loved the PvP in the original Destiny and I love it here. The mix of weapons and abilities gives a flexibility you don’t always see in online shooters. And the shooting feels so good you won’t want to stop.

WINNER: Destiny 2

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BEST OVERALL GAME

HorizonZD3

When Guerrilla Games announced they would be making something completely new after our Killzone titles, I was caught in two minds. I love Killzone (and hope it comes back at some stage) but something fresh could be great. Then they announced Horizon: Zero Dawn and I was blown away. Blown away and a little worried. I had faith in Guerrilla but moving from a gritty, first person environment to a third person, open world RPG? Added to that was the fact that, while the multiplayer delivered, the last Killzone’s game story was a big let down. Could they give us a story over tens of hours that would stand up? I need not have worried at all because they smashed it out of the park. Horizon: Zero Dawn is up there with the very best open world games I’ve played – GTA V, Metal Gear Solid V, Red Dead Redemption, Aloy’s wondrous journey is on a par with these gaming masterpieces. The robots themselves are so brilliantly designed that I loved working out ways of taking them down. The story is fantastic, the world building is great and I always felt like I was doing something and not just grinding for XP. Aloy’s character is subtle and, as a rare female lead, treated in exactly the same way a male version of her character would have been. It shouldn’t be impressive but it can hopefully pave the way for more games with female leads. I can’t wait to see what Guerrilla Games do next but I’m there day one.

WINNER: Horizon: Zero Dawn

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So there you go, another fantastic year done and 2018 looks to be another good one with Red Dead Redemption II, Far Cry 5, Anthem, Detroit: Become Human, the God Of War reboot and a title I’ve been looking forward to for months – VA-11 Hall-A, a cyberpunk game in which you play a bartender. I can’t wait!

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GregHorrorShow: The TV Of 2017

Timeless2017

It’s been another huge year for TV as people’s appetite for binge watching new shows remains at an all time high. Services like Netflix and Amazon have completely changed how we consume our television and are delivering extremely high quality shows right into our living rooms and onto our phones.

12 Monkeys returned for it’s third season with a bang, several bangs in fact followed by a nice rendition of Nena’s “99 Luftballoons”. While the show has moved away from the plague threat of the initial two seasons it remains a much watch, especially if you have any interest in time travel. I thoroughly enjoyed the second season of Agents Of Shield, the way they handled the transition through the season of switching enemies was great and there were a few good twists in there as well. Keeping things Marvel, I thought Iron Fist was pretty good but still the weakest of the four ‘Defender’ arcs of the Netflix shows. Was great to see some good Kung Fu but it didn’t deliver the same character investment for me as the other shows. One Marvel show that did deliver was Legion, despite me not really knowing what the hell was going on for the first 4 or 5 episodes. It’s a complex, sometimes disturbing, show but it’s a visual spectacular and as a music fan it was great to listening out for the various end credit tracks, all linked lyrically to each episode.

12Monkeys2017

Although its run is still continuing The Gifted is a fun watch. The story of X-Men mutants from their perspective as an oppressed minority is interesting if a little heavy handed at times. Killjoys was another cheesy show that I’m on the fence about, will probably stick with it and see where it goes. DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow remains fun and an easy watch, the chemistry between the crew is keeping me on board and the show is doing interesting things with the idea of time travel catching up with you. Arrow (Season 3) is plodding along, it’s nice to see the team expanding which changes up the dynamic a bit. It’s been a poor season but any opportunity to watch Paul Blackthorne chew the scenery as Quentin Lance is one I’m happy to take. (His ‘Laurel, honey/sweetheart…’ has saved many an episode!)

I found the second season of Quantico difficult to get in to, the sense of deja vu is a bit much for me. It feels too similar to the first season with just a bunch of new recruits thrown into the mix. Orphan Black returned for a final season and what a ride that turned out to be. Another tour de force from Tatiana Maslany, this was definitely a show you should check out if you didn’t get a chance previously. Travellers, a tale of people sent from the future taking over the bodies of people who would’ve died at that moment otherwise, was a nice idea but it really ran out of steam.

The Good Place kinda came out of nowhere and stole my heart. The show has so much going on, commentary on our, sometimes, self centred desire to help others or ideas about death, it’s a truly great watch with some wonderful twists and turns along the way. Ted Danson is particularly good but the whole cast is great. On the other end of the emotional scale was The OA, which is the story of a girl who returns home after going missing and the, sort of, cult that grows around her. It was a harrowing watch but definitely enjoyable.

iZombie2017

Blindspot returned and while the main plot gets more ridiculous as time goes on (how many layers can Jane’s tattoos have?!) the team dynamic and individual stories are what keeps me coming back. Plus I love that Patterson created a wildly popular mobile game while the team took some time off! Another returning show was iZombie, last year’s best show winner. It was another stellar season as the story becomes more about the upcoming human/zombie war as opposed to the previous seasons which focused on trying to keep the zombie secret.

Going back to time travel, what a year it’s been for shows that shift through the timeline – maybe with everything going on in the real world people like the idea of rewinding the clock. Another time travel show was Timeless which follows the well trodden Assassin’s Creed style of time travel, where you end up taking part in massive historical events (tipping tea off the boats at the Boston Tea Party in Assassin’s Creed III anyone?). It was fun watching the characters, often accidentally, help shape huge cultural events. It had some nice twists and one particularly savage gut punch in the mix – roll on season 2! Frequency took a different tact and focused on a different type of time distortion. The main character Raimy discovers she can communicate with her deceased father in the past via a ham radio. Can she help him avoid his death? Should she reveal who she is? It was a novel set up and while it was definitely cheesy at times I think it did enough to keep me hooked.

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BEST NEW SHOW

Legion2017

There have been so many great shows this year I literally had three nailed on options for these two slots, it’s a testament to the quality of TV that this is so tough. I thought Legion looked interesting but I had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. What an amazing trip, a confusing, colourful (organised) mess that delivered something new with every episode. The cast were great, Dan Stevens really bringing it as David and Aubrey Plaza was perfectly insane as Lenny Busker. My one recommendation would be not to binge watch this one, having a few days between each episode really lets you digest what is going on. I’m also giving a huge shout out to Timeless, which was the other show in the running here. It was better than it had any right to be.

 

BEST SHOW

TheGoodPlace2017

The Good Place is one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages. The wonderful premise, the great acting and really strong writing make for a really cool show. Eleanor’s (Kristen Bell) horror as she realises they’ve let the wrong Eleanor Shellstrop into heaven is quite something to behold. As she unravels with the fear of being exposed… well it’s just great. I don’t want to spoil anything but I will say that the show pivots in really interesting ways to stay fresh. I can’t wait to watch more of this.

 

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