Hello! It's the first day of EGX Rezzed 2018 at Tobacco Dock in London, and we think we've fixed the heating in the staff room. (Rezzed is run by Eurogamer's parent company, Gamer Network.) To kick the show off today, I'll be interviewing Tim Schafer, the head of Double Fine Productions and creator of Grim Fandango and Psychonauts - and newly anointed BAFTA Fellow - live on stage about his career in games.
A Way Out, the new game from the Swedish-Lebanese director Josef Fares and his team Hazelight Studios, absolutely insists on being played co-operatively by two players. Not just two players, but two friends. The action is followed using a clever, dynamic split-screen display that keeps the two player characters in view at (almost) all times, and the game is best experienced in local play. It can be played online, but not with strangers; there's no matchmaking and you can issue invites to your friends list only. You are, at least, granted a Friend Pass that lets your online buddy download the game and play with you for free.
To call Ready Player One - Steven Spielberg's new film, adapted from the novel by Ernest Cline - self-referential would be quite an understatement. It's a mind-warping cultural Möbius strip: a one-dimensional entity with no end and no beginning, permanently twisting in on itself. It's a futuristic work of science-fiction that is obsessed with nostalgia. It's a film about video games made by a director who was a huge formative influence on the medium, observing his own reflection in a funhouse mirror. It's what happens when fan fiction becomes dominant over the true works of imagination it pays homage to.
Hello! I'll keep this brief, because I'm sure you're itching to have a look around. This is our new home. We hope you like it.
For decades, film adaptations of video game properties have sucked - but to be fair to their beleaguered makers, they have faced some intractable problems. Early video games had great name recognition and more than their fair share of iconic imagery, but their lead characters were vacant mascots and their action often defied rational explanation, never mind motivation or plot structure. Filmmakers had to either make this stuff up as they went along, like the disastrous 1993 Super Mario Bros. film - and face the scorn of video game fans who didn't see any of what they loved on screen - or abandon any ambition to flesh out their source material and make something resembling a normal film.
Big news for Eurogamer today: after 18 years as an independent, our parent company Gamer Network has been acquired by ReedPOP. ReedPOP is an American events company that, among other things, owns and operates the PAX gaming events that Eurogamer readers will surely be familiar with. (I've included the full press release announcing this news below.)
Gamer Network - the company which owns and operates Eurogamer - will launch its first consumer games event outside the UK this year when EGX comes to Berlin.
Shadow of the Colossus, like its predecessor Ico and successor The Last Guardian, is an artist's game. Its creative lead, Fumito Ueda, is an artist and animator with an instantly recognisable style: cracked stone, bleached sunlight, smoky shadows, frail limbs and pale, unfocused, unreadable faces. The three games are notable for their minimalist design, and they are no small feats of engineering, but it is the art that makes their worlds of innocence and ruin so indelible.
I am being somewhat facetious with that subheading, not to mention self-indulgent. (For the uninitiated, it's a reference to my predecessor Tom Bramwell's classic, stinging editorial on Microsoft's misguided plans for how Xbox One software would work - plans that would eventually be ditched.) With yesterday's announcement that all first-party exclusive games would be added to the Xbox Game Pass subscription service on release date, Microsoft is not killing game ownership. It's not even trying to.
On 22nd December, as a Christmas present to Gran Turismo players - and 20 years to the day since the first game in the series launched in Japan - developer Polyphony Digital released a major update for Gran Turismo Sport. Alongside some Christmas menu music done in the series' trademark lounge-jazz style, the update added a colourful selection of a dozen new cars, including legendary street-legal racecar the Ferrari F40, iconic surfer transport the Volkswagen Samba Bus, and two models of Nissan Skyline GT-R - the 90s/00s turbo hero whose success and reputation owe a great deal, like several other Japanese sports cars of its generation, to its appearances in Gran Turismo games.
It seems a shame to end Nintendo's extraordinary 2017 on a bum note, but here we are. The Champion's Ballad, the second expansion pack for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is a workmanlike add-on that gives you a little bit more of one of the best games in years, without giving you more of what you really want.
Grey Alien Games is the definition of an outsider game developer. A husband-and-wife team based in rural Dorset, Jake Birkett and Helen Carmichael work alone with support from tiny publishers and overseas contractors. Jake isn't a refugee from AAA development, but a veteran of the unfashionable PC casual gaming scene of the last decade, when he churned out cheerful puzzle games for sites like Big Fish. They are also history nuts. Helen, who writes the scenarios, is a historian, while Jake collects coins. When making a game set in historical times, Jake likes to keep a coin from the period on his desk to turn over in his hand while he works. If you had to place them as characters in a contemporary sitcom, it would be The Detectorists, not Silicon Valley.
After Hidden Agenda, here's this week's second entry in the "sub-David Cage" category of cinematic narrative games - although that categorisation is halfway unfair to both. Hidden Agenda is boring and misconceived, but structurally innovative; Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier, by contrast, has its storytelling head screwed on, but only pays lip service to player choice. As easy as it is to poke holes in Cage's barmy plots, his vainglory and his clumsy gravitas, playing a couple of less successful imitators is a quick way to remind yourself that Quantic Dream has a rare mastery of the smoke and mirrors required to make a player feel involved in a scene.
Why is Hidden Agenda called Hidden Agenda? Supermassive Games' follow-up to its horror sleeper Until Dawn is a dark and rain-soaked police procedural about a serial killer called the Trapper who appears to strike again just as the man who confessed to the Trapper's murders awaits execution on death row. Two women, a straight-arrow prosecuting attorney and a homicide detective, investigate the crimes. The detective is a little volatile and not above suspicion, but we players know from the start that she's genuinely trying to get to the bottom of the case. The killer's motives are plain. There are no hidden agendas here - so aside from sounding vaguely thriller-ish, what's in that name?
How can you not be desperate to play this: a game which blends the casual satisfaction of clicking cards away in a game of solitaire with a tactical turn-based RPG and a story about an 18th-century highwaywoman. Oh, and it's by the developers of the wonderful Jane Austen-themed puzzle game, Regency Solitaire.
One of the more irritating facets of game consoles' generational cycle is the scorched-earth approach to peripheral compatibility. Since the business began, platform holders and their partners in the peripheral business have used new console generations as an excuse to get gamers to shell out again for new controllers and other accessories they've already bought by ensuring older models won't work with the new console hardware. It is, and has always been, a bit of a racket.
In a year when Nintendo has launched a new concept in game consoles alongside editions of its most treasured series, Zelda and Mario, it's been tempting to draw a line between the two games and dare to hope that Super Mario Odyssey could be as bracing a reinvention as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The narrative of Switch's launch year asserts itself: it is a time of rebirth at Nintendo, when conventions are swept aside and we can experience the magic as if for the first time.
If you're a regular player of Turn 10's racing games, your first reaction to Forza Motorsport 7 is likely to be: what's new? After a rare stumble with the slender and skittish fifth game, this most consistent of series hit its confident stride again with the highly polished Forza Motorsport 6, and you're forced to wonder what this sequel could really bring to the table. The initial impression is: not much.
UPDATE 3/10/17 9.20am: We asked Microsoft for more details on why Forza 7's VIP membership offering changed from previous installments and fans were not told sooner. Here's the company's response:
You're probably aware by now, but Eurogamer's Chris Bratt really loves XCOM and consequently has a bit of a man-crush on Jake Solomon, the designer who masterminded its rebirth at Firaxis with XCOM: Enemy Unknown and the recent XCOM 2.
Yesterday at EGX in Birmingham, I took to the stage with Rich Leadbetter and John Linneman from Digital Foundry to chat about Xbox One X and the future of console technology. We'd held a similar discussion at EGX Rezzed in London back in April, but back then we couldn't reveal that Rich was just back from Microsoft's HQ in Redmond for our exclusive specs reveal of the new console.
Earlier today I had the privilege of taking the stage with Andy Serkis - famed Hollywood actor, master of the art of performance capture, the man behind Gollum, Snoke, Kong and Captain Haddock for goodness' sake. He visited EGX in Birmingham to promote Planet of the Apes: Lost Frontier, a cinematic adventure game set in the world of the recent Apes movies (in which Serkis starred as Caesar), and created by Imaginarium, the UK production studio that he co-founded. (Martin recently checked the game out and discussed its intriguing multiplayer component.)
Rabbid Peach is the game character of the century. One of Ubisoft's madcap, bug-eyed mascots dressed in Princess Peach cosplay, she fuses the anarchic irreverence of the former with the queenly preening of the latter in a squat, sassy bundle of diva delight. Beat a boss and she frantically fires off selfies, attempting to catch its demise in the background. Watch her animations closely: the defiant tweaks of her wig, or the way she doesn't crouch against cover but lounges, checking her phone or skewering her foes with nonchalant side-eye. She doesn't speak a word of dialogue, but reminds me strongly of that other heroically fatuous It Girl of our time, Adventure Time's Lumpy Space Princess. She's a creature of satire, a meta-commentary on the self-referential fandom of the ridiculous game she stars in - but also an authentically hilarious badass.
Overwatch! Hearthstone! World of Warcraft? All of this and more, live from 5pm BST.
Nintendo has announced yet another collectable 3DS variant, and it's the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Edition, skinned to resemble the stylish European and Japanese versions of the 90s console.