MOST WANTED 2021 EDITION

I’ve been wanting to get another selection of upcoming games I’m excited about up on the blog for a while but games kept getting announced or revealed and adding to the list! So I’ve narrowed it down to ten, as below, in no particular order.

In addition I’d like to quickly highlight a handful of other titles that didn’t make it onto the shortlist – namely Back 4 Blood, Cris Tales, Goodbye Volcano High and Ghostwire Tokyo. All games I’m really looking forward to checking out.

Not all of the below are out in 2021 but here’s the list!

Aliens: Fireteam

I know after the Aliens: Colonial Marines debacle a few years back I shouldn’t get my hopes up for a squad based Aliens game but I just can’t help myself. Alien: Isolation nailed the horror aspect of the first Alien film, might Fireteam finally be the Aliens game we’ve always wanted? The footage shown so far looks promising and I am keeping everything crossed for this title. Release date is currently scheduled for mid 2021 but we’ll have to see if it actually makes it out this year.

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Horizon: Forbidden West

The first Horizon game was a fantastic achievement from Guerrilla Games (the studio previously known for the Killzone series) and went on to have such huge success that a sequel was more or less inevitable. We are back with Aloy in Forbidden West and I’m interested to see how Guerrilla deal with the age old problem of an end game level hero starting out on a new adventure. The trailer looks excellent and I can’t wait to get my hands on this title.


Lemnis Gate

This intriguing title comes from small indie developer Ratloop Games. It’s a tactical 1v1 first person shooter in which you take turns of 25 seconds to play. With each turn the time loops over and starts again, taking into account your new actions. So for example if an enemy captured an objective on their previous turn, you might position a sniper to take them out when the time loop starts again on your turn. On the new run your enemy will no longer complete their objective but again, now it’s their turn to control the round. Sounds complex but fun and with a host of characters/abilities to use it might be a nice change of pace from your average shooter.

Division Heartland

While I’m still to fully get to grips with The Division 2, I really liked the first game. Although it was a bit light on story the gameplay was excellent while the gunplay felt tight and responsive. Mixing abilities and weapon tech into the equation gave the game a different feel from other third person shooter games out there. So perhaps a free to play version of the game, possibly with shorter, story based seasons within the larger mode could be a really smart move for Ubisoft. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on news for this one.


Cyberpunk 2077 (PS5)

I know that this might be a slightly controversial pick with everything that happened around it’s original PS4 release last year but I’m hoping the technical issues will have been ironed out by the time the official PS5 version of the game arrives. Whether that will be enough to gloss over the other problems people had with game length and story content is something I’ll have to wait to find out. The idea of this game is something I’ve lived with for so long I feel like I have to at least see how it turned out.


Circuit Superstars

This title is a throw back to the pre-pandemic days for me. I played it at the big EGX event back in 2019 and had an absolute blast with it. Reminiscent of classic racing titles like Super Off Road and Micro Machines this is a really fun driving game in which nailing the fastest lap time is the aim of the game. The cars handled so well and it had that ‘just one more lap’ vibe that is so important for games like this. What I played was an early version of the game but was full of promise so hopefully the final product can add to what was there and deliver a top notch driving experience.


Overwatch 2

Come on, you must’ve known this one would be on the list ūüôā As someone who still regularly plays, and enjoys, the original Overwatch some 5 years after it’s release, I am very excited for the sequel. A switch to 5v5 (as opposed to the first game’s 6v6) has me interested but the reduction in the number of tanks does concern me a little. Graphically the game looks great and the new maps seem to be well designed. They need to deliver a really strong package to pull people away from the first game but fingers crossed they can pull it off.


Deathloop

I was a big fan of the Dishonored series and Deathloop looks set to follow in it’s footsteps but with a fresh setting and a cool time loop mechanic added into the mix. The style of the game is a really big plus for me and the gameplay looks very strong. In a way it also reminds me of the recent Hitman games, in which your first objective is often to work out your target’s routine and see when is the best opportunity to strike. Another delay (from May of this year) will hopefully mean a very polished game and, with Microsoft having bought the developer, a nice swansong to end my relationship with Arkane Studios game titles.


Battlefield 6

I think I’m in the minority but I really liked Battlefield V. I still play it regularly and it feels fantastic. While I do believe Dice bungled the ‘Grand Operations’ mode (see here for what I felt it could’ve been), the general moment to moment gameplay is very rewarding. With the promise of an upgrade on PS5, the content of which at this stage hasn’t been confirmed, I’m hoping for an improvement in scale, player count and destructability as well as graphics. The vehicle play and map size really marks Battlefield out from the competition so I’m excited to see what advances the developers have made with the new consoles.


Dark Pictures Anthology: House Of Ashes

Supermassive Games make great narrative titles that often host a wide variety of dialogue options and branching storylines. The latest episode in the Dark Pictures Anthology is House Of Ashes, a horror story with a slightly different background to previous titles. Taking place in Iraq during 2003, two opposing military factions fall down sinkholes during an earth tremor. They find themselves stranded in an old temple as an ancient evil awakes to greet them. The games are known for their choice based gameplay and it will be interesting to see what changes are made now that we will be handling trained military people as opposed to the regular civilian characters we have controlled previously.


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As well as everything mentioned above I’d also like to quickly highlight that I am SUPER excited to keep tabs on whatever both Jade Raymond and Amy Hennig announce via their new studios. Two industry legends that are long overdue a game release!

So, there you have it! Anything else I should be keeping an eye out for? As always feel free to give me a shout on Twitter @greghorrorshow





Top 10 Multiplayer Games – 2021 Edition

As we head into the twilight years of the PS4 and the new beginnings of the PS5, I thought it would be worth taking a look at my favourite multiplayer games, the titles that still pull me in regularly for a few rounds of immersive gameplay. Here’s my top ten games to play, if you haven’t given them a spin already.

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10. THE LAST OF US REMASTERED

My love of The Last Of Us is no secret and I’m super excited to see what the new multiplayer offering will be when it lands (hopefully this year!) but there is still a solid (albeit highly skilled) community playing the original title’s multiplayer component. My favourite mode is Survivors, a 4v4 game played over numerous rounds in which you don’t respawn when killed. The tension is unreal and leads to some fantastic fights. The gameplay is as strong as the single player game and the online is also quite dark and brutal. It’s like no other online offering so I highly recommend it.

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9. UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END

The Uncharted series is, quite rightly, known for it’s great single player story mode but over the numerous titles in the series the multiplayer offering has been much improved. The online brings in the supernatural element that the series is known for by including mystical abilities, such as the healing Cintamani Stone (that originally featured in the Uncharted 2 single player story), along with interesting climbing and rope swinging mechanics to really make the game feel different to other online titles.

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8. STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT II

I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan in the world but the appeal of a shooter in that universe is something that could pull in even the most casual of gamers. The cool thing about this title is that you play mostly as a low level soldier but can cash in points you’ve earned during the round to take control of a well known hero or villain that has special abilities, for example Princess Leia or Darth Vader, for a short time. The shooting feels great and the game can be played from a first person or a third person viewpoint, depending on which you prefer. Also it looks glorious and the attention to detail in level design and style is fantastic.

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7. RED DEAD ONLINE / GRAND THEFT AUTO ONLINE

I’ve been a bit cheeky here and included both of these massive titles in one entry. The reason for that is I suspect your choice will be based more on the setting than the gameplay. Both of these feature huge, living, breathing worlds for you to explore – with different missions to take on, characters to meet and a huge variety of activities to take part in. So the question really is do you want to take on heists, armed robberies and car races in Grand Theft Auto? Or would you prefer to track down errant stage coaches, shoot down rival wild west gangs and maybe hunt down animal pelts in Red Dead Online. I’ve enjoyed both titles and would certainly recommend giving them a shot if you want to get lost in a massive game world, whether that’s the urban sprawl of San Andreas or the open vistas of West Elizabeth.

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6. FORTNITE

Fortnite continues to be a goalith in the gaming space and for good reason. Aside from some very clever marketing and promotion outside of the actual gameplay, the reason is that the on screen action still holds up really well. It’s one of those games that you can not play for weeks, then jump back in and it’s like you’ve never been away. The shooting feels great and the ability to traverse terrain via building/construction is as strong as ever. Fortnite remains the best Battle Royale out there – jumping out of a plane and fighting to the death for victory remains a thrilling prospect and map updates and in game events help to keep things from ever feeling too stale.

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5. DESTINY 2

Destiny 2 has had plenty of issues across its life cycle so far but one thing that has never been in doubt is just how glorious the moment to moment shooting/traversal gameplay feels. For a lot of people the story quests and cooperative modes are where they spend the most time but I love the player vs player Crucible modes. I’ve had some thrilling rounds of Control and its great to see the different abilities and classes playing off each other. Whether you’re chaining lighting attacks or hitting people with void energy, the abilities combined with the amazing gunplay makes for a brilliant online experience.

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4. BATTLEFIELD V

For all the missteps that the Battlefield series makes, often a necessary evil for online focused titles, there is a time in every title’s life where it just feels‚Ķ truly fantastic to play. When you get into the flow of Battlefield its pull is immense. While I’m ready to move back to a current day setting, Battlefield V’s version of World War II was a brilliant sand box that really stands out when it works. Dodging incoming fire and taking enemies out before jumping into a jeep and speeding to the next objective is exhilarating but the freedom of play does come with a downside. Being repeatedly killed by the same plane pilot over and over again can be an issue if you come up against an expert plane player and sometimes matches can be very one sided. Having said that, as I mentioned above, when it works there really isn’t anything else like it, certainly in terms of scale.

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3. ROCKET LEAGUE

Speaking of games there isn’t anything else like‚Ķ in Rocket League you play football with turbo charged cars! It’s a lot more nuanced than it sounds and can be a highly skilled game but even if you’re a more basic player like me this is an extremely fun game to play. Whether you’re playing solo or with friends, Rocket League brings some much needed hilarity to the table as crazy or unusual things happen throughout the game. It’s also wildly competitive and very addictive. The games are short so it’s definitely a title you can pick up and play in smaller bursts and the skill level is insanely high if you want to get more into the mechanics of play. Added to that the game is now free to play so there’s no excuse not to check it out.

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2. RAINBOW SIX: SIEGE

Rainbow Six: Siege continues to go from strength to strength, after a shaky start following release back in 2015. This online shooter is grounded in reality, despite some outlandish near future technology, and if you get shot you are more than likely dead. The game is 5v5 with one team holding a section of a building (usually a room or two) and the other side infiltrating/attacking the space. Each character has their own special equipment, things like toxic gas grenades or proximity alarms that trigger when enemies are nearby. With a whole host of characters this leads to a meta-game of who has picked which characters, which definitely plays a part but as I said earlier if you get shot no grenade or alarm will help you out. At times it does feel brutal, you can be shot and killed with no warning and this is a game in which you have to think about every step you make. The fact it is so good is what pulls me in for Just. One. More. Round.

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1. OVERWATCH

Anyone who has read my blogs previously will know what a huge fan of Overwatch I am. It is without a doubt the game I’ve played the most in my gaming life and I still play every season competitively, as well as copious amounts of the other regular modes. Overwatch is a 6v6 objective based game in which each team tries to achieve something, or stop the other team getting to their goal. Every character has different abilities and there is a large selection of colourful heroes to choose from. Not every character shoots weapons, some are healers and some are tanks – large stocky characters used to shield the rest of the team. While you have two ‘regular’ abilities that can be used every few seconds you also build up an ultimate ability which can be devastating when triggered and turn the tide of a fight. This can be something offensive, like a large explosion but just as easily something defensive like a shield or increased healing for your team. The mix of heroes and abilities is what drives the game and keeps people playing – it helps that the characters are well designed and memorable as well. Think 80’s/90’s Saturday morning cartoons and you’re in the right ballpark. For me, Overwatch makes it really easy to get into a flow state but even for new players the game does a good job of getting you on board quickly – trust me, you’ll be landing the coveted ‘Play Of The Game’ highlight reel in no time!

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So there you have it, as always interested to hear what games you’d have on your list or which titles I’ve missed that are still active. Shout below or on Twitter.

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Playstation 5 – Reveal and Games

PS5 Console

On 11th June we finally got a chance to see the Playstation 5 and had an opportunity to see some of the games that will be coming to the console over the next few years.

After Microsoft got some criticism for a lack of games at their new console launch event, Playstation was taking no chances – showing more than 25 titles that would be coming to the PS5. The official Playstation YouTube channel has got all the trailers shown in one playlist HERE if you haven’t seen them already, or want to check out something specific from the below.

PS5 Controller

More good news came in the form of backwards compatibility. While not as broad as Microsoft’s offering, Sony confirmed the top 100 PS4 games would be playable on PS5. Obviously it would be great to have everything working backwards but I suppose if you’re limiting your efforts then the top 100 games is a good amount of titles.

I won’t be going too deep on all the titles shown at the event, especially already existing ones, but I thought it would be worth having a look at some of the games that caught my eye during the presentation.

PS5 Ratchet

Let’s start with some game series we were already aware of. Spiderman is back with a stand alone game featuring Miles Morales, which is great. Look forward to going back to the city and slinging some webs! It wouldn’t be a Playstation launch without Gran Turismo and, as usual, the racer looked phenomenal. Ratchet and Clank (above) are back, with a new time/dimension rift mechanic that shows off what the PS5 can do.

Sackboy returns in his Big Adventure, which should be fun. The trailer looked colourful and the four player co-op could be awesome. I loved the previous games so Hitman III was a highlight for me. More of the same but using the power of PS5 to create even better environments for assassinations! I haven’t been in the world of Resident Evil since game 5 but Resident Evil 8: Village looked interesting and might tempt me back.

PS5GoodbyeVolcano

There wasn’t a great deal shown for Project Athia but I thought the trailer, which showed a young woman in a fantasy setting with dragons and magical wolves, looked impressive. I’m not sure whether Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a game I’d pick up, it certainly looked stunning, almost like an animated film but the Pikmin-style gameplay didn’t really interest me. I did love the style of Goodbye Volcano High though, can’t wait to see more about that title.

I thought Ghostwire: Tokyo continued to look encouraging, for me it’ll probably come down to how the game handles and the moment to moment gameplay. Solar Ash had a great sense of style and the developer has made cool stuff in the past. We didn’t really get to see much of what Pragmata was about from the trailer, I enjoyed it but would like to see more on the game and what it actually is.

(Contains bad language and violence)

Deathloop (above) was the highlight of the show for me. Knowing the studio’s track record with the Dishonored series, I cannot wait to see a similar game in a different setting/world. The trailer exuded Tarantino vibes and I love the look and style of the game. Horizon 2 was also a huge highlight as I loved the first game and can’t wait to see what new things we will be facing off against and exploring. Bugsnax (below) was an unexpected surprise, coming from the makers of the brilliant Octodad. While I don’t know if I will play it personally, my kids are hyped so I expect it to get a lot of playtime in my house!

PS5 Bugsnax

I think Little Devil Inside could be awesome, it looked bizarre enough and stood out from a lot of other titles. Stray, in which you play as a cat in a robot world, looks fantastic and could be brilliant, depending on how the gameplay works. Returnal had an impressive trailer (still can’t decide if I like the game title though!) and anything with a recurring time theme definitely has my attention. The other game to make an impression on me was Destruction Allstars (below). It’s been a while since we had a fun, multiplayer racer so I’m keeping this one firmly on my radar.

PS5 Destruction Allstars

And of course they showed us the actual console, which… wasn’t what I was expecting. Having said that I like the design and don’t have a problem with it being bigger if it means the console is quieter. At times my PS4 sounds like it’s on the verge of taking off! It’s also interesting that there will be a disc-less digital only version as well.

So there you go, all that’s missing is the price. There’s been a lot of talk from Playstation about the value the console will bring, so my thoughts are that it will be expensive. I’d been hoping (perhaps unrealistically given the power of the new consoles) that ¬£399.99 might be an option, or even cheaper, but I suspect we are now looking at ¬£499.99 at launch for the PS5.

We’ll just have to wait and see!

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GregHorrorShow‚Äôs Year In Gaming 2019

Apex_Legends.0

It’s been a strange year for gaming, as I mentioned in my EGX round up – with both Microsoft and Sony in a holding pattern until new consoles land in 2020, the gaming landscape has been a lot quieter than usual. Luckily some stand out titles arrived through the year and we had plenty of ongoing games to keep us entertained.

For anyone who missed it my non gaming round up of 2019 can he found HERE.

Valiant

I started the year with a few titles left over that needed to be fully finished, namely Red Dead Redemption 2, Valiant Hearts and Lara Croft & The Temple Of Osiris. Red Dead I discussed last year and it was deserving of all the plaudits but I also thought Valiant Hearts was an excellent game, helping to give some further insight into World War 1. The Lara Croft spin off was ok, probably better played with friends but perfectly serviceable solo.

Pyre1

A lot of the year was spent on catching up with other titles I’d missed and I finally got to play Firewatch, What Remains Of Edith Finch and Pyre. All of these were brilliant and had great stories to tell but the one that stuck with me the most was Pyre. In addition to the fact the game makes you learn a new sport, the story and characters are so well written it was a joy to spend time with them and see how their tales developed. Apparently there are a lot of different ways it can play out, great fun.

gwent-screen-07-ps4-us-14nov18

2019 was the year I ended up switching from FIFA to PES, though in general my playtime for football seems to have dropped off slightly as well. PES is enjoyable and the realistic physics mean you see a lot of different types of goals, which is good. While it’s not a sport per se, I also found myself hooked on Gwent in 2019. A fictional card game from The Witcher games, Gwent is a deck building title that I had a huge amount of fun with. The tactics involved led to some of my favourite competitive gaming moments of the year.

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Other games I finished this year were Telltale’s Batman (which I thought was a good spin on an old, well told story), Overcooked (a hilarious co-op cooking game) and The Witness (I mean, I say finished but mean met my limit for puzzle solving). I also played through Spiderman, which I thought was absolutely brilliant. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do with the next title on PS5!

Honor

In terms of ongoing games I continued to play and love Overwatch, Battlefield V, Fortnite and Rainbow Six: Siege. All of these are among the best online games I’ve played and would still recommend them all to anyone who hasn’t dived in yet. In addition I also jumped feet first into For Honor and¬†Warframe. For Honor is complex but very fun, my main issue is that it can sometimes find an age to find a game. Having said that when you get into a game it’s unlike anything else I’ve played. Warframe has been interesting, it reminds me of the horde side content in Mass Effect, which is no bad thing. I’ll probably stick with it and keep investing time.

hitman-2-ps4-playstation-4.original

I finally got around to playing Hitman 2, which I thought was just as good as the first game. The set pieces were spectacular and although I mainly just used my own direction and a silenced pistol the first time through, I imagine I’ll dip back in and replay the levels to see some of the clever set ups included. 2019 also saw the best stealth drop of a game in recent history when Apex Legends appeared out of nowhere to steal Fortnite’s Battle Royale crown. A three player, squad based first person shooter that hit the ground running from the start. It is a brilliant game and well worth checking out if you haven’t tried it already.

FAnne

As you know if you’ve read my blog previously, I love games where the story changes based on your decisions. From the makers of Until Dawn, Man Of Medan landed this year – giving me an opportunity to try and guide a group of kids through a haunted ghost ship. Thankfully I didn’t kill everyone, so I considered my playthrough a success! I’ve written about Forgotton Anne before but when looking back on my year of gaming it was very almost my game of the year. The story was excellent and the animation, along with the music, was top notch. It’s a game I found myself thinking about long after I’d finished it, always the sign of a great title.

control-screen-03-ps4-us-11jun18

There was one title that stood out slightly more than the others in 2019 though, Remedy’s Control. The story of Jesse Faden, who turns up at a kooky federal building looking for her long lost brother. The building in question hosts the American supernatural service, which means all bets are off as you begin a stunning mission to uncover what is going on. The writing here is brilliant and the design of the game, in terms of the levels and just stylistically, is phenomenal. One part of the game haunted me for a while due to the great voice acting. It isn’t without problems though as the performance of the game really does suffer at times, with action stuttering and slowing on screen if a lot is happening. Once I’d finished the main story I even went back and played another 2 or 3 hours to wrap up a few side missions and reveal more story beats. Control is my game of the year for 2019.

I’m excited for 2020 and the chance to see another round of new consoles. I can’t wait to see what the PS5 brings (hopefully less fan noise!) and fingers crossed we also get a bunch of great games announced for it this year.

EGX 2019 – Round Up

Main EGX

There was a strange vibe to this year’s EGX – not a bad one, just different and a little muted. With the major companies prepping their new consoles for late 2020 it meant that there was a lack of big, playable games.

Avengers was probably the biggest playable draw but with a queue time of between 90 minutes and 3 hours it wasn’t something I got a chance to play.

Death Stranding was here but wasn’t playable, despite the fact it is coming out later this month. Cyberpunk 2077 was the hot ticket (more on that later) but that was only a hands off demo of the game.

Predator

The move to the Excel centre seems to have created more space for Indies, which is great. There was certainly a huge amount of games to experience at EGX this year and plenty where you were only waiting 5-10 minutes to play.

I quite enjoyed Predator: Hunting Grounds but, certainly playing as a marine, it felt a little generic. Perhaps some more polish will help.¬†Journey to the Savage Planet seemed fun but like War Groove it felt like a game you’d need to play at home to get the best of, rather than at an event like EGX.

BeyondSteelSky

First person space shooter Boundary was cool, although graphically it didn’t look amazing, which was an issue when you are trying to shoot enemies at a distance. Speaking of shooting enemies, Zombie Army 4 was a messy, blast of a game. I also got to play the new DayZ map but didn’t encounter anyone else or any zombies so it felt a bit TOO sparse.

Although I didn’t play the first game, Beyond The Steel Sky looked interesting, with a good style and some nice puzzle mechanics. Ready Set Heroes was quite enjoyable, a sort of party game with dungeon crawler pre-match set up. I’m wondering why they didn’t use characters from the PlayStation Universe for this one though?

ZombieArmy4

Some hands on time with Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare‘s multiplayer confirmed it was the usual, fast paced FPS action. If you like COD, you’ll love this.

But there were a handful of games that stood out for me, starting with the title everyone wanted to see…

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CYBERPUNK 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 was talked of amongst my most anticipated games of 2014 following its announcement. 5 years later I finally got to see what the game looks like with my own eyes, though it still isn’t out until 2020. It looks as polished and detailed as you’d want from a game that has been almost 10 years in development. With a Cyberpunk flourish throughout, there were the usual character options; stealth, action, hacking etc. However the skill tree looks to be huge and this is going to be about experiencing the world the developers have created. That world looked fantastic, full of neon and the tropes you’d expect. The violence was full on at times but I feel like that is a decent reflection of the game world, even if during the demo it felt a little like playing to the crowd.

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CIRCUIT SUPERSTARS

Circuit Superstars was probably my favourite title of the games I played at EGX. Similar to the old Micro Machines games from back in the day, this is played at an angle slightly behind the car as opposed to directly above. It also reminded me of one of my favourite Vita games, Motorstorm RC. This could be genuinely the racing game I’ve been waiting for. I spent every lap fighting to shave milliseconds off my time, which is always a great sign. Hopefully the online will hold up and if the developer can add in some different race types this might become a mainstay of my gaming time.

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STREETS OF RAGE 4

When they announced Streets Of Rage 4 I was really hopeful it would be good. Finally, a follow up to one of my favourite Mega Drive series. The good news for me is that this plays like a Streets Of Rage game and, even with a new art style, manages to capture the vibe of the original game. I feel like the demo here was set to easy as there wasn’t a huge challenge but that makes sense in an environment where they want to try and attract a wide audience. If the finished product has a decently sized campaign and a scaling difficulty, this could be one to watch.

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CRIS TALES

Cris Tales is one of those games I mentioned earlier where you really need to play it at home, in a comfortable environment, rather than a packed and noisy event space. Having said that there was something about the whimsical character design and writing that pulled me into this title. The game is a party based battle title, meaning you will be exploring the game world and then jumping into turn based fights on the fly. There is also a time travel/multiverse angle, which I didn’t get to in the short time I played. With the right price point I could be very tempted to pick this one up.

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So there you go, EGX 2019 is in the books. It certainly had a different flavour, the mix of a new venue and lots more stuff to do besides games (talks, speedruns, cosplay competitons/talks and live programming) meant that there was always something to see or do.

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Rule #32 ‚Äď Enjoy the Little Things: A Selection Of Smaller Titles To Consider

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I recently picked up Forgotton Anne, a game I’d been meaning to play for a while. It was on sale on the PSN so I finally caved and bought it. What followed was a whimsical 5 or 6 hours of gameplay that I thoroughly enjoyed. Was it the best game I’ve ever played? No. Did it have something interesting to say? Yes. Was it worth checking out? Most definitely.

That got me thinking about smaller, shorter game experiences from the last few years that people might’ve missed. So here are some games I’d recommend that are not as time intensive as some of the bigger titles on the market.

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FORGOTTON ANNE

ForgottonAnne

I had to start with this one! Forgotton Anne is a puzzle/platformer in which you play as the aforementioned Anne. She is an enforcer in the game’s world, which is a place when forgotten items (odd socks, old light bulbs etc.) end up. Everyone in the city is working together to build a bridge back to the human world, until a group of rebel ‘forgotlings’ try to sabotage it. Cue lots of jumping, climbing and pulling levers. The big selling point of this game is the animation, which is glorious.

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THE SEXY BRUTALE

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This hidden gem was one of my favourite games of last year. You play as Lafcadio Boone, who awakes during a friend’s annual party to find himself stuck in a time loop. The aim of the game is to save all the other party guests, who meet grizzly fates otherwise. You play through the day and then the clock resets, letting you explore further or use the knowledge you now have to influence events. It’s a game with a fantastic sense of style and is great fun. I was pretty sad when I finished this but it was a game I’d recommend to anyone.

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PYRE

Pyre

I wasn’t sure about Pyre when I first heard about it. A game that had created it’s own fictional sport? Sounded like more hassle than it was worth. However, once I started it up I got sucked into the world and its wonderful cast of characters. You play as The Reader, a type of coach if you will. Your team, The Nightwings, need to win matches to earn their freedom from the land they dwell in, a kind of purgatory. The sport itself, while fun and well designed, plays second fiddle to the character development and story here. I haven’t quite finished the game yet but I am thoroughly enjoying my time with it.

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THIS WAR OF MINE

ThisWarOfMine

This War Of Mine is a really bleak game. You take control of several characters that share a house in a war torn area. You have to defend your house from looters, while also going out and scavenging yourself. Everyone’s game will be different, with various characters and events, on each playthrough. This is a very serious title that treats issues like violence and desperation with the respect they deserve. At one point a character had to kill someone while scavenging, it was him or them and so I had him kill the other guy. My character then went home and basically sat on the floor, crying and wouldn’t move. He was broken by that experience, nothing I could ‘press’ or do would get him out of it. Shortly afterwards it was ‘game over’, when another gang broke in and killed everyone in my house. A brutal but essential game.

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ICONOCLASTS

Iconoclasts

When I think of the title screen and music for Iconoclasts a big smile spreads across my face. A 2D title in the same vein as Sonic or Castlevania, Iconoclasts see you play a mechanic called Robin in a world in which access to machinery is strictly limited by the government. This is a platformer very much inspired by older games. You will be backtracking a lot, finding keys and unlocking new routes to different areas. All in glorious, bright colours accompanied by some excellent music. The writing is pretty good too and does a nice job of bringing the characters to life.

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FIREWATCH

Firewatch

Speaking of characters, a game in which the majority takes place with only two people talking doesn’t necessarily sound like it would be a gripping title but Firewatch manages to keep things interesting until the very end. You play as a man called Henry, who has taken a job as a fire lookout at a national park in the US. I don’t want to spoil anything but what unravels from there is a tense and, at times, sinister story which focuses on grief, isolation and paranoia. It’s also lovely to look at, with a very nice art style.

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So there you have it, a few titles you might not have heard of to check out. Hopefully if you give any of these a try you won’t be disappointed!

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Games As A Sevice – The Future Of Games?

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As technology has advanced, a lot of games have moved away from simply creating a product, selling it and then making extra content to be sold for it in batches. Being able to regularly update games via downloadable patches has meant that titles can now have a lifespan long beyond traditional game releases.

This means that older games like Overwatch (2016), Rainbow Six Siege (2015), For Honor (2017) and Battlefield V (2018) can have very high engagement rates and keep players coming back to discover new content, whether it’s new maps, characters or game modes.

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But as a large amount of titles look to move towards becoming what is known in the industry as ‘Games As A Service’ (GAAS from here onwards), what benefits – and drawbacks, are there for gamers?

One of the biggest positive effects of this trend is the fact that it can really help keep games fresher for longer. Take Overwatch as an example. In the old days, a character based Mega Drive game like Eternal Champions would release and if the characters were unbalanced or disliked you were stuck with the game as it was. Now if a character isn’t being used because people feel they are ineffective (Symmetra in Overwatch, for example) the developers can tweak the character to make them better or, as in the case of Symmetra, completely rework her ability toolset. This allows the game to evolve, rather than being stuck in a static state.

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These changes can help mould the game around the desires of the players. Although it must be said, depending on the game this could also be a negative because pandering to your audience doesn’t always bring the best results.

Something else that often gets raised when talking about GAAS is the ability to bounce back from a rocky release window. As a developer if you continue to support and tweak your title following a negative or disappointing release you can still find an audience. Rainbow Six Siege and For Honor are both great examples of this, titles that struggled at release but have gone on to be very successful and popular titles. On a personal level I started playing Rainbow Six Siege TWO YEARS after it released!

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Another reason people sometimes like GAAS is that you often feel you are getting a lot more value for your money. That depends on the game though, as if you’ve played full price for something you might feel the value proposition is less than a free to play game that gets constant updates.

Which brings us onto the negative aspects. The first of which is the flip side of the final positive point – sometimes GAAS can feel like a complete rip off. If you’ve paid ¬£50 for a game there is an expectation that extra content will arrive without further cost but that often isn’t the case, especially with games that feature microtransactions, even ones just for cosmetic goods. This also plays into the Loot Box conversation and whether blind boxes are ever a good thing. I don’t mind them as a mechanic in games if I can also use in-game (earned) currency to unlock the same items. I do find them a bit sleazy if they are the only mechanic to unlock items.

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Another issue is regarding the care of workers and the people making the game. The more updates and changes the developers have to make, the harder and quicker people are expected to work. This has recently led to a series of articles about the poor work environments on some games:

The developers of the game Cuphead¬†have also announced they are delaying new content exactly for this reason. Although it isn’t a GAAS, I still think this is great. It also leads us to the question of whether a GAAS will ever be truly finished? And if that even matters any more?

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The most valid criticism I’ve heard was actually around the game Overwatch. It was recently leaked that the game will be moving to a 2-2-2 locked format. Currently there are 30 characters formed into three ‘classes’: Damage, Tank and Support. At the moment you can play any characters you want – 6 Supports? No problem (although you’ll likely lose the game). The developers feel that having 2 characters of each class will better balance matches and gameplay.

As someone who plays the game a lot this makes sense to me, a balanced team is more likely to get results and probably has a higher chance of playing closer, enjoyable matches. But where this is a problem (along with the point I made earlier about tweaking and changing characters) is that the game can feel very different and might end up completely unrecognisable to the one you bought at launch and had enjoyed up until the changes. Perhaps you had a favourite character and now, months or years later, they now don’t match your playstyle and have completely different moves and abilities – I can imagine it would be really disappointing.

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So there are definitely positives and negatives to Games As A Service. Most of my experiences so far have been good but I can certainly see why some people might have reservations about them. I think my biggest concern is that every title might try to be a GAAS which would leave gamers worse off both financially and in terms of the actual time we get to play games.

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Talking ‘Bout My (New) Generation (Of Consoles)

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It doesn’t seem that long ago to me that I rushed home with a massive, shiny 60GB Playstation 3 and plugged it in for the first time. It was, in fact, almost 12 years ago. Even the excitement of bringing home my Playstation 4 was 6 years ago. It almost feels too soon to be thinking about a new generation of consoles but here we are at the start of 2019 with rumours already swirling.

It’s been widely reported that Sony’s own first party developers, such as Naughty Dog (Uncharted, The Last Of Us), Sony Santa Monica (God Of War), Insomniac (Infamous, Spiderman) and Guerrilla Games (Killzone, Horizon: Zero Dawn), have already shifted focus to working on the new platform. IGN recently reported that both Bethesda and Square Enix are confirmed to be working on next gen titles so logically it’s likely that Ubisoft, Activision and EA won’t be far behind.

But what does a new console look like as we head into the 2020’s?

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For all the talk of the future being completely digital, this next round of consoles will most likely be similar to the current generation – you will have a box under your TV that you pop a disc in/download games to. In the future I can imagine streaming games rather than buying them to download but I think we’re still a little way off that technology running smoothly for people around the world.

An interesting aspect of the new generation of consoles will be the idea of streaming creeping into more widespread use. As services like Spotify and Netflix become the norm will Playstation increase the cost of of its Playstation Plus subscription and offer streaming as part of the package?

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Recently a patent was uncovered that seemed to indicate Playstation were exploring a much deeper implementation of emulation. It looks likely you might be able to play your old Playstation 1, 2, 3 and 4 games on the PlayStation 5 – which would be massive. At the very least the PS5 needs to be able to play PS4 games or uptake will be limited. Especially as forthcoming stand out titles like Last Of Us II and Ghost of Tsushima are both scheduled for PS4.

Aside from backwards compatibility there are several other things I’d love to see from a new console. Of course the most visual of aspects would be a boost to graphical capabilities, full 4k at 60 frames per second and HDR for every game would be brilliant but I’m not sure how realistic that will be. As mentioned above I think more options for streaming would be great – perhaps offering a form of Playstation Now as part of the regular monthly subscription would be a good start.

The other big thing for me is how much of the PS5’s power can be used for A.I in games. Nothing ruins a game quicker than amazing looking enemies who proceed to just stand in the open taking fire. I’m hoping for another big leap, similar to the one we got for Killzone 2 on the PS3. I’d love to think improved and challenging enemies will be the standard for next generation… we’ll see.

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Of course the main tipping point for most people on whether to jump to a new console is price. While the PS3 weighed in with a whopping price tag of ¬£425, the PS4 was a more respectable ¬£349. I’d expect around the same again if I’m being honest. In a dream world it would be ¬£299 but I’d hazard a guess it’ll be ¬£329. A little more I could stomach but if it tips above ¬£400 again I think PS5 will see sluggish sales beyond the initial die hard fans.

In terms of release date – I expect we’ll hear more about the console at an initial reveal this year with the launch date looking like mid 2020. Pure speculation but this guessing game is sometimes the most fun part of the run up to a new console generation!

Whatever happens it looks set to be an interesting and exciting time in the console space. I definitely feel like the PS4 has a year or two left in it but am really looking forward to seeing what Playstation deliver with their next console.

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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.

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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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