Editor's note: Dark Souls 3 releases worldwide today, so to mark the occasion here's our review of From Software's farewell to its fantasy universe, first published last week.
Capcom's co-op emphasis deserves more respect argues Rich Stanton.
Less mystery, more action.
Editor's note: This week saw the 20th anniversary of Capcom's Resident Evil - or Biohazard, if you prefer - and to mark the occasion Rich Stanton looks back at the original. This article was originally published earlier this week.
The best games create stories as well as telling them, and when you ask people about a Lionhead game there's usually a good one. A friend told me how, when playing Black & White, he'd found his inscrutable cow-god familiar taking a dump in the village's food supply. He went to punish it, mis-clicked, and instead petted the beast. From then on the cow went out of its way to poo on food, and no amount of beatings would dissuade it. My friend persevered with his save for days before, finally, admitting defeat and starting over - left only with the memory of handing out monotonous beatings to a bewildered, unhappy, constantly-befouled creature.
Five years ago I asked Atsushi Inaba, one of Platinum Games' co-founders, about the dire prognostications many in the west made about the state of the Japanese industry. "I don't like it when people lump Japanese developers all together into one group," Inaba answered. "Frankly I think it's a joke. What do these people know? [...] There are tons of terrible western developers, just like there's tons of terrible Japanese developers. To lump studios together in great masses misses the point."
For most of Peace Walker's development, and even in early US promotional material, this 2010 PSP title had a grander designation - Metal Gear Solid 5: Peace Walker. The absence of a number on the final product can be put down to a hundred things: simple rejection of a 'main' entry being a portable title; the PSP itself entering its final years; perhaps a concern that series fans would revolt at the radical departure from Metal Gear Solid 4. Whatever it was, that number's existence says one thing about Kojima Productions' mindset with Peace Walker. This is no spin-off.
Not a Hero is released on PlayStation 4 this week. Here's our review of the PC game, first published on 14th May 2015.
Though Pravda is well-known as the Russian Communist Party's official newspaper, it's always worth remembering that it didn't start out like that. Pravda was initially a magazine that covered the arts, literature and society-at-large, before being taken over at editorial level by Bolsheviks and becoming the organ of record for tractor production. At some point there was a fork in the road. The Westport Independent gives you, as editor of the last free newspaper in a totalitarian state, the choice of which way to go.
Despite a cast composed largely of gangsters, and a plot centring on the machinations of various families, Yakuza 5 is not by any stretch of the imagination a game about organised crime. Oh it's dressed up like that, and amidst battling endless thugs and police officers you could be forgiven for the mistake. But really Yakuza 5 is really a game about saving puppies, obeying traffic laws, and losing yourself in hobbies.
Hidetaka Miyazaki and From Software have an outstanding approach to narrative design, creating worlds where the systems and lore are intertwined from first principles. These are not games with simple stories, easy answers, or even good and bad - which is why fans find their heady brew of fact, myth, and suggestion so intoxicating.
Editor's note: This review goes into some small spoiler territory with the identity of bosses and details on locations in The Old Hunters - so if you want go into From Software's expansion with fresh eyes, be warned.
Editor's note: many spoilers lie ahead for the entire plot of Metal Gear Solid 4.
It took my Xbox One more than a day to download Halo 5 on an extremely fast connection: the power of the cloud, eh? It felt like I was back on the Dreamcast. But let's be honest, slow downloads are the least of Xbox One's problems: last week I read an article headlined 'The Xbox One is Garbage and the Future is Bulls***.' While I don't agree, it was hard to read about mandatory installs, updates, and other tiresome minutiae without some empathy. We've all been there and, in the grip of frustration, many of us react by letting rip like this.
This week saw the release of Year Walk for Wii U, a game first released in 2012. Developed by Swedish studio Simogo, initially for iOS and later for PC, this definitive version has been handled by Welsh Wii U wizards Dakko Dakko - and has the power to stop you cold. This is not, as I first thought, just a great game. This is the game that finally made me understand what Nintendo thought the future looked like when it was designing Wii U.
One of the first things that Tatsumi Kimishima, the newly-appointed CEO of Nintendo, said in his new role is that "it's wrong to lead a gaming company on numbers alone." This is the kind of thing all Nintendo fans want to hear, of course, and yet here the sentiment seems curiously out-of-place. For Mr Kimishima, the future will be numbers and little else.
Metal Gear Solid 5 has a dedicated online component that is yet to launch, Metal Gear Online, but multiplayer is already worked through the campaign's fabric in the form of Forward Operating Bases. Every player gets one FOB that exists as part of their main save, which can be customised and is basically another Mother Base. This can be invaded by others - and so too can you shoot for theirs.
Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is a dream game. It's the kind of game that, in 1987, the young designer of the 8-bit Metal Gear may have dreamed would one day be possible. It's the kind of game that players like me dream of: an enormous and deep and seemingly endless experience that's worth the investment and then some. It's the kind of game where every hand-polished element slots together into a head-spinningly ambitious structure and they combine into something you can only call visionary.
Metal Gear Solid 2 ended with an explosion of questions. In creating a game that questioned its own status as a game, Kojima had opened countless essentially insoluble plot threads. The most pressing one was: what next? Hideo Kojima initially tried to avoid directing Metal Gear Solid 3, or so the talk goes. He did not.
A game can be a mediocrity but, when it is developed by talent, that can seem like tragedy. The history of Devil's Third always suggested a difficult project, the most painful stats being six years and three different engines. The debut of Valhalla Game Studios, founded in 2009 by Tomonobu Itagaki and other members of Team Ninja, has been so delayed it may well double as a wake.
In the design document for Metal Gear Solid 2, written in the months following MGS's success, there is a section explaining the concept of 'Absolute Evil in MGS2.' "Evil in Hollywood films," writes Hideo Kojima, "has always changed depending on the time in which the film's story takes place. In the American market, where audiences like to see good triumph over evil, the absolute enemy - be it a race, country or setting - has always changed with the values of the times."
On September 3, 1998, Metal Gear Solid was released for the Sony Playstation, and games changed forever. Though an early 3D title, MGS was not the first third-person game influenced by cinema, nor was it Hideo Kojima's first time as director, and it wasn't even the first game in the series. It was a direct sequel to Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, 8-bit top-down games which had pioneered stealth mechanics, but also a fresh start - the moment when technology could realise these ideas anew.
The news of Satoru Iwata's death filled me with sadness, and a desire to return to Earthbound - the game that, without his skills, would not exist as it does. I first played it when I was a teenager, have gone back a few times over the years, and on every occasion find something new to think about. This time it was why, of all the virtual worlds I have inhabited, this cartoony 16-bit one feels the most human.
One of my heroes is Gunpei Yokoi. Nintendo's master engineer in the early years, Yokoi transitioned from designing physical contraptions like the Ultra Hand to the calculator-inspired Game & Watch and then the Parnassus of the Game Boy. Yokoi was a genius and yet, at the end of his time at Nintendo, there is one haunting image.
There are games you don't have time for, and games you make time for. Then there's the kind of game Blizzard makes, which becomes a routine. Millions of World of Warcraft players, past and present, could speak for hours of their travels in Azeroth. Starcraft players act like it's a religion. Hearthstone's disarming charm hides a monster that Daily Quests you into coy submission and devours half-hour chunks over and again.
Editor's note: this article contains strong references to child abuse which some readers may find distressing.
After winning a game of Hearthstone, you sometimes receive a friend request. It is always a Trojan Horse. The game is designed to limit communication between players to a small number of pre-canned phrases, and this frustrates the eloquence of certain individuals who want to ensure that their conqueror knows it was all down to luck. Accept the request and some variation of this will follow: lucky ******, they'll tell you, that ******* draw was ******* ******* you lucky ****.