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.
EGX 2017 - the gaming show owned and operated by Eurogamer's parent company Gamer Network - will be the only opportunity in the UK for the gaming public to try Xbox One X before its release on 7th November.
Raiders of the Broken Planet is a sci-fi action game from Spain's MercurySteam, developers of the well-liked Castlevania: Lords of Shadow games and next month's Metroid: Samus Returns on 3DS. It features an intriguing mix of storytelling and 4v1 asymmetrical multiplayer gameplay, and also apparently has four campaigns. Sounds like there's a lot going on here.
Sometimes it's good to take a step back. Naughty Dog's Uncharted games were conceived as lighthearted, almost flippant action spectaculars, as knowingly pulpy as their chief inspiration, Indiana Jones. But they ended up with baggage that Indy didn't. Thanks to a deluge of critical acclaim and an overflowing of corporate pride, they took on a level of importance, almost gravitas, that sat awkwardly with their insouciant style. As the series progressed, the games' plot lines became more involved and soapy, and have-a-go-hero Nathan Drake got saddled with brooding backstories that Dr Jones would have dismissed with a sardonic shrug. Uncharted 4 was the most sophisticated and smoothly paced of the lot, but it couldn't quite reverse this trend, and the best thing it could have done - and did - was to set Nate's world to rights and then send him packing.
Rez Infinite, last year's VR-enabled update and expansion of Tetsuya Mizuguchi's classic 2001 head trip, now has a PC version - and it's released today on Steam.
When I fired up No Man's Sky last week, with an eye on today's anniversary of its release, my save file showed that the last time I played the game was in late August last year. I had reviewed it and kept playing for a couple of weeks afterwards; despite the storm of controversy and disappointment that raged around the release of Hello Games' sci-fi exploration game, some of it justified, I had enjoyed myself. It struck me as a hypnotic curio, built on moonshot technology, that deserved neither the slating it got nor the outsized hype that had raised expectations of it to the realm of fantasy.
On the surface, Pikmin is one of Nintendo's most adorable creations. A tiny spaceman called Captain Olimar marshals an army of even tinier plant sprites which swarm and scurry around an environment that looks, to him, like an exotic alien planet, but to us like our back yard. Even its inspiration is bucolic: the idea came to Shigeru Miyamoto's whimsical imagination as he pottered in his own garden.
Diablo 3's Ultimate Evil Edition is available for free on Xbox One this weekend for Xbox live Gold subscribers, as part of Microsoft's Free Play Days promotion.
An individual escapes his fate in an oppressive dystopia, moving across a landscape defined by monolithic yet crumbling industry: train yards, ironworks, storm drains and sinister research labs. The machine seems to produce nothing but grinds on, using people like meat. It's all stained concrete and rent steel, described in hard blue light, long shadows and little, glowing pinpoints of detail. Swathes of darkness and empty space dominate the small characters. There are many devious obstacles, but problem solving, subterfuge and ingenuity might just take our hero out of this nightmare.
Blizzard says the Necromancer, which arrives as an add-on for Diablo 3 today, is one of the most-requested characters in any of its games. That's no surprise - it's an iconic player character and a fun class to play, and it was always very popular in Diablo 2. But perhaps there is something else going on behind the public demands for the Necromancer's apt resurrection, because the class is pure Diablo 2: none more Gothic, not so much dark as sepulchral, stitched together from sackcloth and bone, pentagrams and guttering candles. A dry, death-metal kind of fantasy horror.
Blizzard has announced that the Rise of the Necromancer pack for Diablo 3, which adds the much-loved Necromancer character class from Diablo 2 to the younger game, will be released next week on 27th June.
Wow, that was a long one. E3 2017 began for our away team on Friday last week, for those of us back in the UK on Saturday night, and has barely let up since. I've already mentioned that the volume of hype is now out of all proportion to the number of brand new game reveals, and that this is creating the impression of a flat show - but that impression isn't a wholly accurate one. The buzz from the show floor has been positive - thanks in part to the raw enthusiasm brought by the decision to admit members of the public. And, as ever, there has been a ton of games to see. And many of them have seemed excellent!
That E3 is suffering an identity crisis is nothing new. The video game industry's yearly jamboree has faced accusations of declining relevance for a few years now. The ascent of Steam, esports, the indie scene and online PC gaming have barely been reflected at all at a show that can't escape the slowly withering grasp of retail. Meanwhile, publishers have found it easier to communicate with gamers on their own social platforms, and through influencer surrogates on YouTube and Twitch, than by participating in the hucksterish competition for the attention of the world's press at E3.
The Crew 2 is due out in early 2018, and though it still features the giant coast-to-coast map of the USA that made its predecessor stand out, it has a very different theme.
Surprise? Lucky's Tale, the polished, cute platformer that was a VR launch title for Oculus Rift, is getting a sequel for normal screens.