It’s a big year for Star Wars: not long now until the long-awaited sequel hits cinema’s and we’ll be back exploring that galaxy long ago and very far away. Of course that means we’ll have lots of Star Wars games and merchandise to look forward to and the first of that new batch is Star Wars Battle Pod.
The game came as quite a surprise and was first shown in 2014 then last week it was revealed at the 2015 EAG Amusement show in London. The game features an impressive 180 degree wrap around screen and puts the player directly in the action. This is supported with a suitable sound system and fan for blowing the player when moving at speed; it's all very effective. I took a few moments to interview the Vice President of Bandai Namco Amusements America Frank Cosentino about the history of the project and how it came to fruition - you can see that in the video below:
Star Wars enjoys a long heritage of video games, albiet it of a mixed quality, but in terms of the arcade, the original Atari vector graphics title stands tall. An incredible experience for its time, it maximised the 3D gameplay and was supported with speech clips directly from the movies. This experience had always formed as the benchmark in later years. While Sega’s Virtua Star Wars was impressive, the visuals failed to match its ambition. Then in the late 90’s we saw the new Star Wars Trilogy Aracde, which great selection of visuals but marred with imprecise gameplay, making for an impressive and fun, if ultimately dull, experience.
This new title aims to combine several elements from all previous titles, granting the atmosphere and incredible visuals but with gameplay that is simple yet intuitive. It might not be the deepest or longest arcade adventure, but it’s certainly the most impressive and will leave you walking away having experienced the true magic of the Star Wars universe. Check out the video below to see all of the initial levels. Suffice to say, if you see one in the local arcade get on it now and may the force be with you.
The enormity of expectation of the E3 Conferences never fails in producing a fever-pitched audience. †The hype, the buzz of excitement that fills the air waiting for new multi-million dollar franchises to be revealed. †That wave of excitement is renewed every year as we see new hardware or new developments pushing older hardware to previously unattainable levels of performance.
This yearís E3 features the first proper showing for the new generation of consoles and with the market moving quickly itís important for hardware companies to establish ground at an early stage. Though itís a very different battleground to 12 months ago, the perceived mishandling of the Xbox One launch leaving an open door for Sony to gain lost ground and retake their position among hardcore gamers as top dog.
The Conferences kicked-off with Microsoftís Xbox event, a show that would need to define the course of the system without Kinect while offering a conference that lets the games do the talking, and they achieve just that. Hereís the entire conference in 4 minutes.
No Celebrities waffling or Company Directors spouting stats, just wall to wall games. The conference ran at break-neck speed and was packed to the rafters with content. So in terms of approach this was a perfectly handled event, but did it score big?†
Answer is a solid result, good software and a solid year ahead, Forza Horizon 2 continues to capture the racing genre while FPS fans can look forward to the Halo Master Chief Collection, probably the most exciting announcement of the show and a great surprise, †whatever the systems perceived graphical limitations they werenít showing yet. No new Gears of War and nothing which truly blew anyone away but Microsoft can walk away with a solid job well done, now the battlefield moves to GamesCom and TGS.
The EA conference was a mixed affair, outside of the usual sports titles they appeared to be stuck between generations, developing new technology and ideas, keeping investors happy for now while giving a glimpse to potentially huge hits of the future. Star Wars Battlefront could be the biggest game of 2015; while the next Mass Effect is hugely ambitious and all of the current sports range has had considerable visual and physics enhancements. Again not a classic show but a solid event which demonstrates the challenge to the industry in moving to and taking advantage of this new generation of technology.
Always one of the most exciting conferences, Ubisoft are never afraid to break the mould with new developments and they always think big, really big. With a wide range of titles featuring massive open worlds. Highlights include The Division, Far Cry 4, The Crew, Assassins Creed Unity and with the welcome return of Rainbow Six Siege. All of the titles featured advanced visuals and will feature multi-format releases.
The longest and often fattest of the Conferences, Sony having always been slow getting with the times and style required for presentations like this. Their style harks back to the Ďtrade-onlyí events of the 1990ís, including sales stats and information relevant purely to those involved with the retail and distribution sectors. But in recent times theyíve become ever more aware and though weighing in at a hefty two hours this was certainly one of Sonyís better conferences in terms of structure if not software on display.
†Of the titles featured, Batman, Metal Gear Solid 5 and Far Cry 4 were all exciting; Little Big Planet 3 will no doubt be a huge hit with PS4 versions of The Last of Us and Uncharted 4 to wet your appetite. No demo of Project Morpheus in action was disappointing, with no mention of DriveClub or Project Cars, despite all being on the Sony stand. Some interesting omissions but the business of Sony TV and ĎPlaystation Nowí forges ahead with the console in good shape. If it ainít broke, donít fix it, as Sony is keen to keep up their recovery to their previous heady years dominating the market.
Choosing for a low key event via Ďliveí internet stream it gave the opportunity for a more intimate approach. The Wii U has performed abysmally in sales terms and despite the excellent performance from Mario Kart 8, the hardware fails to impress many gamers, however the quality of Nintendoís software is always unquestionable. New Pokťmon titles and a free roaming Zelda game on the way, along with Mario Maker, Captain Toad , Yoshiís Woolly World title shown and one of my particular show highlights Splatoon to name but a few. Itís at times like this itís such a shame to see such great titles limited to one format that simply canít compete on installed base outside of its native Japan.
Overall, an excellent show in terms of solid software and expectation for the future, it reveals the changing tide in technology and though not the most exciting opening to an E3 ever it paves the way for a whole new direction in technology for the future. †E3 2015 is already shaping up to be a cracker. read
Itís been a while since I've written a blog, a combination of working long hours and the insatiable appetite of YouTube viewers to see more content on daily and sometimes hourly basis. But Iím settling back into a rhythm, planning out the year and enjoying my new PC rig.
Getting it all set up, sorting the pesky bezel correction and getting my head around the triple screen layout all takes longer than you might think. From finding a comfortable field of view besides initial feelings of motion sickness it all takes some getting used to. But once together its great seeing all of these games in triple screens, all of those games you had wanted to see besides exploring the newer titles such as Titanfall just simply add some atmosphere where as for iRacing it is integral to the experience.†
Now all built I've showcased some pictures on the VVV facebook page†http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.687740771248691.1073741829.167411273281646&type=3 †
Some will suddenly highlight Oculus Rift but I will often point out that the OR is better used in shorter sessions and being cut-off completely from the outside work for long periods could be quite unsettling, weíll have to wait and see. Either way the GoPro cam works perfectly for YouTube and gives a fair indication of the in-game experience.
The intention is always to make a more regular written blog and as ever I hope to follow this up more regularly in the future, however more on that to follow, first I wanted to share a couple of choice videos.†
Itís been another busy week as I plan for Gamescom, while also arranging content for the final quarter of the year and continuing to knock out videos. It can be a frustrating time when the backlog is so steep and workload so high reducing output, but I always prefer quality over quantity where possible and remind myself that itís not always about views but making great content that is important.
This week has revolved around creating a new channel trailer, part 1 of an insightful interview with the 2011 GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough and an interview with Eutechnyx COO Darren Jobling, that also forms part of the YouTube Geek Week campaign. The latter delving more into my personal gaming passions and something which I hope to find more time for next year as I hope to introduce new presenters on the channel. Of course these are all complex and timely videos to produce yet highly rewarding in execution even though they aren't necessarily the type that generate the most views.
Now I'm planning out video production for the week ahead while juggling my time between projects to clear everything up before the end of the month. There has never been a time when so many high profile driving games have been coming out within such a short time frame, itís certainly going to be a busy few months and Iíll be working hard to get as much content out as I can manage.
It has certainly been a busy week for racing Journalists, the long awaited new update on iRacing introducing a new circuit the legendary Lotus 49 , new videos for Assetto Corsa, new DLC for Grid 2, the US release of Nascar The Game besides the much awaited announcement of F1 2013. A game which has received a mixed reception and you can read more on that in my recent Huffington Post blog.†
It is always difficult for developers to meet expectation; even then any product needs to be supported by a solid Marketing and PR campaign. Electronic Arts is one such company that has got it down to a tee. †Every year we see a new Fifa and every year it sells whatever the quality of the final release. Sure right now it is finally a critical and commercial success but in years gone past they were often sub-par and with the World Cup editions virtually identical it felt a somewhat cynical approach. But Footie fans will never complain, the game remains largely the same and in all fairness it is 22 guys kicking a ball around a pitch. F1 on the other hand features new cars, drivers, circuits, modes besides general evolution. But yet itís never enough, part of that has been down to the bugs apparent in the previous versions but a bigger part is in consumers feeling like they aren't getting value for money.
Fifa works because the gamers are satisfied in their investment, the sales gimmick works and once you get the hardcore on board they do the rest of the work promoting the title to their friends as a Ďmust haveí. †That starts with the faces of the real players getting the ball rolling whereas the F1 drivers stay largely separate to the F1 game campaign, but overall itís about creating a positive vibe. I canít stress how important this year could be to the F1 franchise and the Classic Edition is a great addition to the package but will it be enough?
Often gamers feel the grass is greener with another publisher at the helm but could EA really do a better job? Their last approach on the franchise didn't fare too well and there are only a handful of publisher that could do the license justice let alone afford it in the first place. Of course the best solution would be for a publisher to license it out to an external developer, thus introducing a whole world of potential talent. †But with the license costs being so high that is unlikely, leaving it down to the same structure we see currently.†
Iíll add more thoughts on this in my coming blogs and †if you havenít seen my recent F1 videos do check them out and Iíll have more F1 2013 content following Gamescom.
So there are 11 races in this initial GT Academy challenge, two slow ones to start you off, two in the 370z in increasing the pace, onto the main GT Academy events before some bonus 15th Anniversary content in a Nissan GTR.
It's all straight forward, brings up the difficulty level †and gives a fair indication in the level of skill required. Suffice to say the competition is stiff and more competitive than ever. I ran my laps as you'll see below on the first day of competition but since then the bar continues to fall. Suffice to say I enjoy the driving but wouldn't enjoy the constant laps trying to squeeze out performance, as with all things they reach a point where it just isn't fun any more.
I think that's the problem with competitive gaming, there will always be a top 10 - 50 players who are just a cut above. Be it talent or age, there is a point in life between 16 and 25 where your reactions are at their peak, combine that with gaming experience and you've got that edge all bundled with some youthful self belief. I'm sounding like an old man now but I know my limitations and the work involved in achieving results, could I do it? Quite possibly. Would it be a worthwhile use of my time? Probably not. Either way its good fun and I'll enjoy a few casual laps just enjoying the new physics.
So here are today's videos with those early laps.†
This week the 2013 GT Academy launched in the UK, the winner of which will gain a place in a real GT racing team and become a fully fledged professional racing driver. It sounds straight forward but becoming the best is a lot tougher than many may think. From the hours of practice, to the physical training required for those that make the grade. This is a complete challenge only for the most committed players.
The GT Academy demo is for many a first look at the forthcoming Gran Turismo 6 and a test of the graphical refinements and improvements announced to the handling model. Starting the demo in the electric Nissan Leaf, players progress on to the more powerful Nissan 370z before moving up to the Nissan GTR. Slower cars progressing to more powerful ones in gradually building the skills of the player. The final GT Academy challenge being a lap around the home of British Motorsport, Silverstone racetrack.
If you want to be in with a chance of competing, you'll need to use a wheel, turn off TCS onto a low level, find a balance on the ABS and be prepared to do a lot of laps building consistency while finding speed. Then look online at the top players, that will give you gearing and braking techniques, applying those to your driving will generally knock off up to two seconds per lap. After many laps refining your time it will become apparent whether you have what it takes to make the grade. If so you'll need to look at physical training, some PR training and perhaps some regular karting to also aid in fitness as the final winner will be expected to be a complete product ready to race and thrust into the public eye.
I've been making selection of videos for the Team VVV Youtube channel and you can see one of those below, subscribe at†http://www.youtube.com/TeamVVV†for more.
It's been a while since I was last on here and a busy year too, besides luanching my new website and running VVVGamer I've been going through all of the usual difficulties of maintaining an independent gaming website.
Last week I was at the Golden Joysticks and made a little video blog of my time there along with other randomness.
But if you love your R-Type the intro for the show was very impresive indeed.
After years and years of anguish GT5 is finally given a date, new trailer looks awesome so I've bunged a few screen shots below. It's been a good show so far, lots to catch up on, I'm also really keen to see Vanquish, so added a few shots for that too. :)
Vanquish from Sega, big awesome mech robot man action with big guns, it looks great, take a close look at the thumbs below.
It's been a while since my last blog post, a busy year but it hasn't quite held all I've been hoping but with E3 coming up it's good to regain that excitement. This years E3 represents a step very much into the unknown, yes we know Natal (or whatever it will be called) will be there along with Move and 3D-DS but the software is completely unknown at this stage and I'm hoping for a few surprises.
On the racing front it's all GT5 but word is that the Criterion Need For Speed is shaping up nicely and then Codies with their ever popular F1. So I'll be on for the conferences, those usual dulcet tones from Reggie as 50cent comes on to show how cool the new Gameboy is, :P so I'm going to get ready, hard work ahead and if you haven't been, always feel free to check out my rambles at www.VVVGamer.com
So Christmas has come and gone and we enter a new year with all of the hopes and aspirations it brings. For me I'd like to expand my local gaming community, arrange meet-ups and talk about my passions so if you'd like to learn more, keep reading :)
VVV Gamer is all about every aspect of automotive gaming, from Forza to Outrun, Virtua Racing to Gran Turismo, Mario Kart to iRacing, basically racing on any format, if you love it, we love it. We also cover the motor industry, meeting racing stars and discussing their careers, below are a few VVV stars from 2009.
Right now we're looking to grow our community team and an our community staff in general. In particular we're looking for London UK based (or near to London) racing fans who are over 18. As well as the online action I'm keen to build a group where we can meet up, go for a few beers and discuss our racing passions, giving a personal edge. You don't have to be the best player in the world (of course if you are its a bonus haha) but personality and getting involved on the site is what we're all about.
Of course running a site like VVV requires a lot of work and so we're looking for community staff, helping with competitions, or writing articles, of in you're concerned about your writing skills, whack up a few blogs? And who knows, if you put the work in, you may get some opportunities in return? Some VVV members already have.
A passion for cars or bikes? Show us your ride? If you've got a gaming set-up you want to show off, lets see that too and don't forget to add us on Facebook, Twitter or Youtube!
The key thing is no pressure, just a relaxed place to talk about your passion with like minded people and have an active hand in developing the site. So we welcome all new comers, please feel free to say hello on our forums and get stuck in!
Well another year passes, another Christmas comes and goes, rather typically I've been burning the candle at both ends and ended up being run-down on the big day. No new games on Christmas day for me this year, its the first time thats happened for as long as I can remember, becoming a fulltime gaming journalist meaning I get many of the titles as they're released. But then things are different, not like say 20 years ago when I only ever got games at Christmas.
But I'm still having never ending fun on the Gran Turismo Academy Demo, the more I play it, the more I realise how subtly brilliant the handling really is. It's important I remember my gaming routes though, always helps in keeping that passion, a few games of ThunderFore 4 I needed I think, though nothing on XB Live arcade is grabbing me at the moment, lets hope Raiden Fighters gets a UK release soon.
About VVVGamer One of us since 7:25 AM on 02.15.2009
All round gaming fan, visit my site at www.TeamVVV.com the site is aimed both at the motor racing enthusiast and the gamer, we'll strive to cover every racing title on every format both past and present in unrivalled depth supported with both guides and analysis. So if you're a gamer or a motor enthusiast new to gaming, everyone is welcome to get stuck into the community and share the passion be it 2 wheels or 4. Team VVV will be following all key racing titles through their release and beyond maintaining the community and aiding developers with feedback and support. This will combine with news on all of the major racing, a monthly round up of notable news in both cars and bikes while focusing on major events surrounding both industries, we'll also be cherry picking the best from the world general gaming. Offering news, in-depth features and interviews with major players from both the motor and games industries asking the questions you want answered and putting real gamers and motor enthusiasts in front of the new products rather than just journalists who have no real passion at ground level.