So, that went just okay. I need to learn how to talk more. And probably get a mic. I’ll get a better mic if 50 people comment on this exact page. Good Luck. Anyway, watching me watch something other people are also watching is fun and all, but what if you want to just get to the nitty-gritty? I’ve got you covered.
This is the list of games that made an appearance on the show. Each title will have initials indicating repeated features throughout the presentation, such as:
WP – World Premiere
XGP – Xbox Game Pass
SD – Smart Delivery
The first 3 are pretty self explanatory but just in case, let’s go over that. World Premiere means the game has officially been revealed. Xbox Game Pass is a monthly subscription service where you can play a rotating selection of over 100+ games, and all Xbox Exclusive titles end up on it. Smart Delivery is the new big thing. Anyting denoted with Smart Delivery means if you own it on Xbox One, you also own it on Xbox Series X. The game will most certainly be a higher quality experience on the XSX. It may sound mundane but this is the first time this has ever been done for consoles Alright, let’s see what we have…
Senua’s Saga: Hell Blade II
They didn’t actually announce anything. They just wanted to remind you that Microsoft owns Ninja Theory now and is looking promising. Here’s last year’s E3 trailer if you wanna know more on that. Fun fact, the song being chanted is a real European folk band called Heilung. XGP
Bright Memory Infinite
An FPS game with wallrunning and a grappling a hook, and that’s all you need to know. Okay maybe I should point out it looks absolutely awesome and was made by one person, Zeng Xiancheng. Check it out, great gameplay demo, albeit a short one. SD
Dirt is the top dog of the rally racing game scene, and this one looks spectacular. There’s not much else to say. You have all the new features the other racing games are doing, various weather conditions and times that affect the tracks in different ways. Oh, also it has four player LOCAL multiplayer, that’s a novelty! WP SD
This is a game that disgusted me so much I had to mentally bleach it from my brain. Then this presentation reminded me the game exists. It is genuinely too grotesque for me to play. Not much is really known about it gameplay-wise. XGP
It’s Starfox but with creepy cult scifi tones Lots of dark red and black contrasts with level design that reminds me of the Astral Plane from Astral Chain and Control. WP SD
Fuck off EA. WP
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2
Thanks to the internet, this cult classic is finally getting the sequel fans have been craving. Appears to have the same game mechanics as the prior title, only better in some way. Can’t tell, the trailer is another pre-rendered cinematic. SD
Call of the Sea
This game appears to be a narrative experience game (AKA Walking Sim). It takes place on an island, has wonderfully rendered artistic graphics and… that’s it. The trailer was pretty vague. WP SD
A cyberpunk twin-stick shooter. Yeah that doesn’t really narrow it down. It’s very mech and exo-suit oriented. WP SD
The latest horror game from Bloober Team, who overall have a good track record. They appear to be branching out, as they’ve brought AkiraYamaoka of the Silent Hill soundtracks, to do the sound and music for this one. WP XGPSD
What if I told you the next Platinum Games game has you playing as anime characters fighting living breathing ferocious house plants and gardening creatures? Well, it’s not Platinum, it’s Bandai Namco, and it looks dope. WP SD
Presenting, the Turok/Dino Crisis spiritual successor that you never asked for. This game has dinosaurs, guns, and what appears to be 4 player co-op. WP SD
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
And now, the new Yakuza game that has been fixing to shake up the formula. From what we see in the trailer, it is still definitely a Yakuza game, but there are plenty of elements that make it unique. SD
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
In case you didn’t hear the hubub, Ubisoft said they were premiering the first “gamplay trailer” for the game. This was a lie. It most certainly contains in-game animations, but still has not shown anything representative of how the game actually plays. Either way, the trailer is still very cool and of course the graphics look amazing. SD
That’s it. I saved you some time, you’re welcome.
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Hate reading? The audio version can be found HERE.
Transference is a first-person sci-fi horror experience for VR. It was developed by SpectreVision and published by Ubisoft. It was heavily advertised as a psychedelic adventure and was heavily promoted by Elijah Wood during E3 2017 & 2018. The plot focuses on your navigating through a computer simulation of the minds of a three-person family. Depending on whose memories you explore, the layout of the house in which you spend the majority of the game will rearrange itself. Surprisingly, when the game came out in late September, it was largely ignored with no fanfare or ads. It also released on Xbox One and PC, despite being slated as a VR-only title. It’s quite possible that VR would enhance the experience, but the game still has to hold up on its own merits. This copy was reviewed without the use of VR, but still on PS4.
This is definitely a case of style over substance. The game has a great array of really good looking lighting FX, visual glitches, transition sequences, and mocap. There are also several scenes that blend 2D videos into the 3D environment in interesting ways. The problems this game has come from a technical standpoint. Despite the spectacular use of props, colors, and layouts to represent different psyches, one thing takes you out of the experience. The texture quality is just abysmal. Cables look like squares, a jar of sand had jagged edges, a cassette tape looks like a blown-up JPG. That’s really too bad because it definitely shows that a lot of detail was put into everything else. You can pick up props and look at them but the details are muddy. Still, the overall look works.
Absolute drivel. The story of this game is about a family man who went crazy and digitized the minds of his wife, child and himself onto a computer. But the context of why you’re experiencing these memories in the first place is never made apparent. You’re just there to stop in and look at some things that happened to this family. The kid had a dog he loved, and honestly, I can’t remember the actual fate of the dog. Just that something bad happened. The wife is sad because she thinks she gave up her career to be with this man, but I’m not really sure what it was he did that made her have to give everything up.
You never really feel like you’re in danger, and these NPCs are at worst a minor inconvenience…
And the husband? Well, he went crazy. Why? I don’t know, it appears that he just did. The game has several points where you get to watch camcorder footage of the family to get a better idea, but it felt very inconsistent. In one scene, they are at a park having a birthday party and the dad is acting just okay. You find another video later that appears to be the same time and location, but the dad has turned a complete 180 and was acting like a drunken abusive asshole. Why? I don’t know, it looks like he just did. Maybe the truth was hidden on one of the collectibles? That might be the case but it’s not much of a story if it’s mandatory for me to pick up every single object in every room. Also, the less said about the “acting” in this game, the better.
Despite the terrible script and bad acting, the quality of the voice work is well implemented into the game. Several wonky features are added to the voices of the family, distorting them, echoing them, and burning them. This game dives into the reality of horror for the most part, and this game expertly implements the “horror atmosphere” that many scary games excel at. It has everything, cramped spaces, hums, random noises, door knocking, clock ticking, music boxes, the usual. This is amplified with a soundtrack that blends into the scenes you encounter. There are heavy padded synths feeding through distortion tubes as scenes get more and more intense. Zero complaints about anything in the audio department of this game.
This is a relaxed horror experience if that makes any sense. You enter an apartment, and spooky things happen. You will walk around, look at things, watch video logs, and avoid walking afoul of the enemies in the game. These phantoms you encounter look like the Endermen from Minecraft. If you touch them, you just get sent backward a little bit. You never really feel like you’re in danger, and these NPCs are at worst a minor inconvenience and one of the least scary things about the game. Thankfully, there really aren’t any jump scares. The biggest problem was that there were a handful of puzzles that either stopped the game dead or were extremely easy. I won’t be able to forgive this game for the “piano puzzle” sequence any time soon. Some of the puzzles made sense plotwise, while others were real head-scratchers.
VR: That said, VR might have enhanced the scares just a little bit. This is literally the only section that VR could have improved the experience. It might have been scarier to walk around this cramped place in a fully immersive manner.
The couple of puzzles that stopped me dead in my tracks were rather annoying. Once I did figure them out, I didn’t feel smart. I just felt “Oh really? Just that? Okay then.” My interest in the fate of this family diminished by the minute. When the game rolled into its conclusion about 2 hours in, I was glad it was over, because I didn’t want to play it anymore. Even then, the ending is incredibly abrupt and completely unfulfilling, accomplishing nothing. You basically just rode around on a haunted mansion ride until you had to get off. The game just shrugs and says to me, “Yup, that’s it. Have a nice day I guess.” Maybe it’s my fault for having high expectations, but I’ve had these expectations for other games in the SciFi/Horror genre that live up to the hype. This one doesn’t.
This whole experience is basically a shaggy dog story about a broken family. Transference is content with itself; it tells you about a series of unfortunate events (which is a crap book series, fight me). This generation of gaming is finding more and more “AA” experiences resurface and make for some high-quality adventures. We got tales like Hellblade, Get Even, Soma, and several other games that serve as an experience on top of being a game. This particular title doesn’t really make the cut.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a genre-blending action and puzzle game developed and published by Ninja Theory. Originally out on PC and PS4 last year, the game has recently been ported to Xbox One. In it, the titular young Nordic woman finds herself coming to wits with a bad case of psychosis while trying to fight her way into the mythological dimension of Helheim in order to fulfill a promise. The game strongly encourages the user to play with headphones, as many recordings of people speaking to you using binaural audio techniques highlight the struggle Senua has against her own mind. In a time before mental illness was truly understood, you have to deal with voices that are constantly criticizing everything that you do while battling the Northmen who guard the realm in an immersive melee combat setup. The game put a lot of work into verifying the historical accuracy of the Norse Mythology being utilized along with having several medical professionals on board to accurately depict the psychosis. It’s an ambitious project from what used to be a AAA developer who decided to carve its own path on the game-o-sphere.
Dour and grim, the high fidelity graphics are exactly what you would expect out of a big budget game, only done on a much smaller scale. As a far more linear game, a lot of craftsmanship went into every location. This was especially important when various uses of lighting were implemented, having some sections make you navigate successfully from near pitch black environments to dark and stormy vistas and bright and sunny vales, and then swim in a terrifying river of blood. The Northmen NPCs who you fight all had a lot of care put into their design and animations, with enough detail to make them as imposing as they are every time you encounter them. And then there’s Senua herself, mo-capped and acted in the performance of a lifetime by Melina Jeurgens, whose motions and behavior are so jarringly true to life, it many times puts the big budget games to shame. The graphics never broke, the immersion was constant, and everything meshed perfectly.
It’s really hard to talk about the plot without spoiling it, so I’d prefer to just expound on the game description and what it means for the future. This game is a physical and emotional journey wherein the deeper and deeper Senua gets into Hell, the deeper and deeper her traumas manifest. The ending will give you some thinking to do with some final actions that may leave you puzzled, but that’s not all. Upon completion of the game, you are informed that if the game had any psychological impact on you, then they strongly recommended you to go to a website to either contact a hotline or take several brief mental health screenings (only one page of questions) for anxiety, depression, psychosis, eating disorders, and several others. It’s poignant that this game is boldly going places that other games only scraped the surface of (Get Even or Life is Strange come to mind). Plus in terms of the sheer intensity of the experience and the impression it leaves, I have to say that this is the true video game equivalent of Dante’s Inferno. That’s the book, not the game EA put out in 2010.
Another masterwork is the audio. As stated above, the game utilizes binaural sound in order for it to sound like there are voices talking to you in your head coming from any 360-degree point. Jeurgens herself nails every emotion and line the game gives her flawlessly. It’s one thing to be able to handle the script you are being given; it’s another thing to express every grunt, flail and scream with raw power every time. The sound design intertwines with the soundtrack, frequently warping ambient noise slowly into some roaring nordic chants and chamber orchestrals as if someone took the Skyrim soundtrack and then Hans Zimmer asked Satan himself to do a remix. Also of huge importance is hearing the voice of one of the antagonists, whose booming timbre comes in about a third of the way through the game to recite a soliloquy about Senua and the inevitable end of her journey. Truly a masterwork.
With nothing in the way of a HUD or tutorials, this game throws you in, but it’s easy enough to understand what you need to be doing to figure things out (And you can always just check the menu for key bindings). The immersion is great and requires you to listen to your surroundings while occasionally relying on the voices to help you, even if they sometimes lie. There are about 3 forms of gameplay: first, there is the melee combat in which you fight the Northmen, in a very satisfying and intense fashion with an automatic difficulty scaler that keeps the challenge just right, so that every encounter you get, you need to be at your best. Then, some levels have a gate with runes on them and the only way to unlock the gates is to find the runes in your surroundings, often using forced perspective or looking at certain objects at unique angles to find them. Finally, there are environmental puzzles where the challenge you must complete in order to continue isn’t always spelled out for you. All in all, the runes can sometimes be a pain but you will always eventually figure it out because the game helps you at least know where you need to be to find them. This game is one of the many new games out there that manages to find balance in using different forms and genres of gameplay that create a cohesive experience. Ever pushing you forward to fight nightmare after nightmare, this game can create a true force of willpower in the player, egging you on no matter how difficult or scary it gets.
The game never disappoints, is almost completely devoid of bugs and glitches (a couple major ones were fixed from the original launch) and just keeps you going forward, eager as ever to explore this horrendous land of anguish. The game isn’t ever outright a horror game and there are no cheap horror tricks employed throughout the length of the adventure. But it’s also hard to call this game fun. It is a game that will leave you in awe, dread, and discomfort. It might even evoke some self-discovery, again, as the game draws to a close. Overall, this game is a modern masterpiece that deserves to be played, but be prepared before doing so- it’s not easy to stomach some of the things you’ll see.
Very few games will be able to evoke what makes Hellblade such a good game, but this game along with several other unique experiences are paving the way to a new genre of gaming that far extends the “walking simulator” monicker of its predecessors. It’s also one of the greatest arguments for video games as independent works of art, as this experience would not be even close to the experience if put onto any other medium. Unless you are particularly squeamish, do not pass off on this game. And of course, if you yourself feel in the grips of mental distress, a game like this may offer you a new perspective on your whole life.
In this waking nightmare where all dreams come true, you searched for control. A way to pull through. When you were in love you left him in tears. To smother your furies and banish your fears. But in darkness they came, through stormy black seas, they raided these shores. Do you still hear his screams? And now that you’re home he’s so far away. They’ve taken his soul. To these gods you cannot pray. They can break you, but not your promise. Even death won’t keep you apart. Through this darkness, you will find him. In your sword still beats a heart. You fought for love unspoiled. By your darkness within. You fought for your dreams, now there is no way to win. In the head of his corpse lies the seat of his soul. So you must carry his vessel and bring him back home.
With the resurgence of the “AA” game being made possible through many avenues and possibilities of the new gaming environment, several games are starting to challenge the play on an emotional level, rather than how good they can point a gun at things. Listen for more.