WHAT i’M PLAYING/iReview – Lara Croft GO

Lara Croft GO is a fun little mobile game developed by Square Enix. Similar in style to their previous game, Hitman GO (which I haven’t played yet, but will next).

The game is a puzzle platformer, and turn-based. Very striking up front is the visuals. Flat colours, but bright with some atmospheric lighting. Everything looks smooth but with great detail. The sounds are very soft and ambient.

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Designed for a touch screen, the controls are very simple. Each level has a pre-defined path as it is turn based, and as Lara, we can navigate anywhere along this path. A lot of times there are enemies in the way, and each enemy type has its own behavior, for example: snakes don’t move, and can only be attacked from the side or behind. The levels also have traps, obstacles and switches en route to the end of each chapter. In the turn-based fashion, we move Lara in a diagonal direction, and then everything in the level follows suit and moves along their defined path.

Progressing through the game is pretty straight forward. There are 5 chapters totally about 40 levels. The game starts off slow, almost a tutorial, but then picks up speed, and gets consistently more challenging through each completed level and chapter. There are also numerous collectibles to be found, and you can replay each level to ensure you’ve found them all. These will unlock alternate costumes.

lara croft go screen

Lara Croft GO is a fun simple game that allows you to drop in and play a level or two, and then move on to more pressing business. The game only supports landscape mode, but is a great homage to the Tomb Raider games, Lara Croft, and puzzle games in general. Supported on both iOS and Android for roughly $5.

-iRogan

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Gamescom 2015: Cologne, Germany – Xbox Press Conference

MICROSOFT Gamescom 2015 Media Briefing:

August 4th, 2015 – 7am.


-Press conference starts with a highlight reel trailer featuring Rise of the Tomb Raider, Halo 5 Guardians, Forza Motorsport 6, and Gears of War – with the tag line: “Jump in”.

-From Microsoft’s Headquarters in Germany, Gregor Bieler takes the stage and thanks publishers and fans alike for attending the show, and announces that Gamescom 2015 kicks off with the Microsoft Press Briefing here in Cologne, Germany. Says thank-you and announces the head speaker, Phil Spencer.

-Phil Spencer takes the stage and reaffirms that Microsoft and the Xbox Team are committed to delivering the games that fans want to play, on the devices we want to play them on, whether we are an Xbox Gamer, a PC gamer, or both. Microsoft has the most anticipated games, and best hardware, accessories, and social environments, with Xbox Live.


rareware-4e26145007227RARE Replay

-Phil Spencer announces that the Rare complication, RARE Replay is available today. The game showcases three decades of hit games and iconic franchises across multiple platforms. The compilation is a testament to the studio and heritage of their games.


-Phil Spencer reiterates that 2015 has been and will continue to be the best line up in the history of Xbox with a growing investment in first party franchises like: Fable, Gears of War, Tomb Raider, Forza Motorsport, and Halo.


Quantum Break

-An Xbox One Exclusive trailer starts: Shawn Ashmore, Aidan Gillen and Dominic Managhan. This is Quantum Break.

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-Gameplay reveal showing a warehouse facility, with the hero, Shawn Ashmore’s character, being flanked by enemy soldier. Gameplay  shows area time freezes, directed time freeze bombs, sped up attacks and navigation. Gorgeous cinematic gunplay.

-Gameplay against enemies that also have the time changing ability, and can move within the frozen zones. All world objects are affected by gunplay, and move realistically, but in slow-motion. The whole area warps and shifts while in the frozen zones. Time lapse gameplay and time puzzles are mentioned.

-Sam Lake, Remedy Director takes the stage to discuss Quantum BreakRemedy has always made cinematic story-driven action games. Quantum Break breaks into new territory with a game and a live-action TV show fused together. Shawn Ashmore takes the stage to discuss the show. The game is about the heroes, and the show is about the villains. Quick TV trailer showing Aiden Gillen’s bad guy character. Release date: April 5th, 2016.


Crackdown 3

Crackdown+3+Teaser+Art-Dave Jones – Reagent Games Director comes to the stage to discuss Crackdown 3.

-Jones discusses the massive new city,  and the new vision for the game. A development video is shown, showing some behind the scenes development, the new city, and how everything is connected. Jones announces that the new online multiplayer modes with showcase 100% destructible environments.


Scalebound

– Hideki Kamiya, PlatinumGames, takes the stage. Game Director for Scalebound. Kamiya announces that Scalebound is the largest open-world game that PlatinumGames has ever built. Gameplay trailer:

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-Demo starts with the hero flying in on a huge dragon, and then unceremoniously dumped off. Snarky talk from the hero to his dragon. Sword play and bow and arrow gameplay are shown, and dragon attacks are at the command of the player. Hero takes out a few enemy garrisons with the help from the dragon.

-Dragon bounds off through some trees and then a huge monster shows up. The hero has a dragon arm, and can take on a scaled, armoured form to fight large monsters. Hero and Dragon take on the monster with aerial sword attacks and large mines with explosive bow and arrow gameplay.

-Demo ends with the announcement that the game will support 4 player co-op. Release Holiday 2016.


-Xbox Platform Hardware time. Free-to-air HD Television will soon support DVR to record live TV. Through the Xbox TV Guide, you can select a show, and record an episode or series. Supports Instant-On to schedule recordings. Once recorded, shows can be streamed to a supporting Windows 10 device, or can be downloaded onto a Windows 10 device to take on the go. From a Windows 10 device, you can also schedule recordings away from home. Subscription free, coming early 2016.

-Xbox Chat Pad available soon. Has audio controls similar to the Xbox controller media adapter, and has 2 programmable buttons as well. Chat pad also has the microphone adapter plug-in.

-Backwards Compatible available for everyone November 2015. All Games With Gold will be backwards compatible available at launch.

-Shannon Loftis – Head of Xbox Publishing takes the stage to discuss Killer Instinct and cross-platform play. Season 3 kicks off March 2016 and will support cross-platform with Window’s 10 devices, and will support all fight sticks. In conjunction with RARE Replay, Rash from Battletoads is available now in Killer Instinct as a playable fighter.


ID@XBOX

-Chris Charla, ID@ Xbox head comes to the stage to discuss some of the new indie titles coming soon. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a cross-play 2.5D side-scrolling action game with heavy RPG elements. City: Skyline will makes its console debut on the Xbox One, as well as Train Simulator. A new Worms game, titled W.M.D will be released by Team17, and goes back to its 2D animated days.

-Two new games for Xbox Preview were announced. First: Sheltered, available for Preview today, and ARK: Survival Evolved will be available for Preview this holiday. We Happy Few – super creepy game from Compulsion Games was also announced for Preview.


-More hardware and engineering stuff. Jasmine Lawrence hits the stage to discuss more Windows 10. Windows 10 supports DirectX 12 and it’s built into the architecture to support game developers. A tech-demo from the Final Fantasy team is shown, highlighting refraction and bloom light effects, time lapses, hair and face design, textures and hair opacity, and field of view.

-Windows 10 will support game DVR similar to the Xbox One, without any addition software or hardware. Announce the Xbox App, and she discusses Cloud Saves that work cross-platform. Cross-buy and cross-play both supported on Xbox and Windows 10. And streaming Xbox One over to a Windows 10 PC on the same network.

-Director of the Windows 10 version of Minecraft came out to discuss the game a bit, and announce his own new game – Cobalt. A 2D side-scrolling shooting game that has couch multiplayer.


lfihx3yuplrl4pibk0ujDark Souls III

-New trailer showing some of the new locations and enemies for Dark Souls III – From Software. Release is in 2016.


Homefront: The Revolution

-This is the game that has me the most excited, as I loved the story of the first. C.J from Dambusters Studios hits the stage to show off the new open-world Homefront game. Trailer shows a child reach the stage and to prepare a speech thanking the glorious republic of Korea and the Korean People’s Army. The game is an open-world shooter, and we play the role of the resistance. Following the events of the first game with North Korea invading the United States and takes over.

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-The trailer and gameplay showcases guerrilla warfare. Multiplayer beta available first on the Xbox One this Winter. Single player campaign gameplay reveal:

-First person shooter. Demo starts on a motorcycle driving through the open world. Lots of ramps to drive over. Definitely a makeshift revolution town supporting lots of maneuverability. Player reaches an enemy checkpoint and brings out the RC bomb car to blow up the blockade ahead. Demo shows on-the-fly weapon modification where you can add or remove scopes, or silencers.

-Capturing areas and checkpoints unlocks new support in the region, and reveal hideouts and weapons caches. Game looks awesome.


FIFA 16 & EA ACCESS

-Quick promotion for the upcoming FIFA title which now supports the Woman’s National Teams. Promoting the FIFA Ultimate Team mode which supports FIFA Legends, and the benefits of being an EA Access subscriber.


h5-secondary-teaser-thumbnail-542x305-b415c449330045f7bbb09db7cb6caab7Halo 5: Guardians – Multiplayer

-Halo 5 Guardians promotion time, focusing on Multiplayer and eSports. Two of the Halo shoutcasters hit the stage to discuss the making of the multiplayer, the 2 new modes, and new abilities. While testing the multiplayer, the top USA team and the top Europe team were brought in to test of the new game and play a series of competitive matches. The last round replay was shown:

-Arena Mode for eSports – 4 V 4. Playing Capture the Flag on the new Coliseum map. Primarily magnum pistol use. Flag juggling has returned.

-Josh Holmes, Executive Produce from 343 Industries hits the stage and announces the new Halo World Championship eSports tournament with a grand prize of 1 million dollars.


Just Cause 3‘s new destructive gameplay trailer is shown next. Dec 1st release date. The game is starting to look quite enticing with the new abilities. Might have to pick it up after all.


Forza Motorsport 6

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-Forza time, as Turn 10’s head hits the stage and states that 2015 is the 10 year anniversary of the Forza franchise.

-Forza Motorsport 6 will have 450 cars supporting full cockpit view, full damage and customization. 26 world famous destinations and 24 player online races supporting dedicated servers.

-The new career mode supports night-time racing and real world rain physics. 1080P, 60FPS.


-Quick Germany based trailer for Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege. Release is Oct 13th.


Rise of the Tomb Raider

-Brian Horton – Crystal Dynamics – hits the stage to discuss Rise of the Tomb Raider. The open-level design and traversal space is 3x larger than any locations in prior Tomb Raider games.

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-New gameplay trailer shows Lara sneaking up on a team of mercenaries in the middle of a stormy night. The gameplay shows swimming take-downs, aerial take-downs off shacks, and new distraction techniques by throwing cans and bottles.

-New double arrow kills and poison arrows. And a new crafting mechanic is introduced. Similar to The Last of Us, you can build little nails bombs from a car, or molotov cocktail.

-Brian Horton comes back and says that the new guerrilla combat encourages experimentation and choice. The game also has a heavy focus on tombs. Release Nov 13th, 2015.


-Phil Spencer comes back to the stage to close up the show. 2015 has the best lineup of Xbox games in the history of Xbox, with some greats to close out the year: Halo 5, Tomb Raider, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Fable Legends, Forza Motorsport 6, Gigantic, and RARE Replay. And 2016 is only looking better with some new exclusives: Killer Instinct Season 3, Gears of War 4, Crackdown 3, Scalebound, Sea of Thieves, Quantum Break, and ReCore.

-One last announcement…


Halo Wars 2

-Bonnie Ross, head of 343 Industries hits the stage to thank all the fans for their passion and support. She states that Halo 5 is not the only Halo game that continues the story, as there’s another story that needs to continue, one highly requested by fans: Available on the Xbox One and on Windows 10 in the Fall of 2016 – Halo Wars 2.


Quick sizzle reel to wrap up the show.

-iRogan.

iReview – TOMB RAIDER

I’ve always followed the Tomb Raider games, playing them at friend’s or at school during my lunch hours in grades 7-8 (’97 – ’98), back in their PC origin days with grid-by-grid movements, an emphasis of timing to avoid Indiana Jones style rolling boulder traps, and a female explorer that somehow had the core muscles to do a handstand dismount while pulling herself out of a pool (probably before yoga was even invented), in Lara Croft.

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I’ve been actively playing the TR series since The Angel of Darkness, 2003, when I had the PS2. Angel of Darkness was kind of a reboot unto of itself, moving the gameplay to a freer running mechanic, and darker city based story. This game also killed off the TR series in a lot of people’s eyes.

Enter Crystal Dynamics a couple years later, and TR is revitalized. Lara was back to her tomb raiding roots, and the new, energized, development team brought life into the series again, with TR: Legend, a second game, which was a throwback anniversary edition of the original game with the new engine, and a 3rd game in TR: Underworld. They tried new mechanics and built on the free running platform mechanics, introducing rope swings, and some quick time events. Crystal Dynamics also made an arcade-like TR game, TR and Guardian of the Light, which was a quality cooperative puzzle/action game. To sum it up, Crystal Dynamics has done will by the TR series in my eyes.

So in late 2010, when the game was announced as a reboot, all I needed was the one page cover concept art, and I was excited.

Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series with Nathan Drake took a lot of influence from the TR series of old, and gave us a look at what a really polished adventure/platforming game can be. It had the combat, the characters, the story, the action, and a cinematic style of presentation. And it had buckets of polish. It was perfected over the next two titles. And like Uncharted borrowed from TR, TR has now borrowed back. TR has taken everything that’s great about the Uncharted series and added the exploration element, and a lot more depth to the combat.

The game starts you off with a bow and arrow, which aside from its combat purposes, also acts as a rope bridge tool and long range fire starter. Unlike Uncharted, where you pick up weapons from enemies, in TR you find weapons and tools throughout the game, and they stay with you. You also find parts for your weapons and tools, allowing you to upgrade them, for combat and gameplay purposes alike. The game provides some large levels that require exploration, and like its predecessors, Lara can still run, jump, swing, and climb. You find a pick-axe that allows you scale walls, and the shotgun allows you access through troublesome walls. And if you so choose, you can go back to any part of the island you’ve previously been, to re-explore as you unlock new tools.

There are some elements that do require attention though. Uncharted introduced active set pieces and levels that literally get destroyed around you as you’re trying to escape, be that a moving train, an old mansion that is literally burning out from under your feet, or a flying cargo plane, that you’re desperately trying not to fall out of while its crashing. TR tries to emulate some of these set pieces that get destroyed around you, and they are great, but don’t quite hold up. That being said, TR had us trapped on an island, Uncharted had us spanning the globe, so story wise, they had a little more freedom. The foundation is there, and Crystal Dynamics can improve on it a lot if they plan to make more.

Secondly, for a game called Tomb Raider, the actual tomb raiding is an afterthought. Granted, you could consider the whole mystical island with its gods and supernatural aspects as a big tomb, but the island is really just made up of smaller shanty towns and villages, and a couple temples and shrines. The game does provide a few OPTIONAL mini tombs worth exploring, and worth mentioning, this is where you’ll also find the bulk of the puzzle aspects of the game, which is insufficient.

And finally, I’m not going to review the graphics, as the game looks great on the PC (especially with the hair physics), but I played on the aging Xbox360, which can’t hold up, so I can’t comment. I can comment on the animations, which are great, but not as good as they could be. For a game that was seemingly trying to build on what Uncharted had perfected over its past 3 games, they can’t compare. They tried and nearly got it right, but the Uncharted games used motion capture for A LOT, not just cut scenes, and you can’t compete using key frame animation. It’s a shame because Crystal Dynamics hired Camilla Luddington for the cut scene motion capture and voice-acting; why not use her for some of the gameplay animations. The game’s polish just can’t compete with Naughty Dog’s franchise, either due to time constraints, developer experience, or budget.

All that being said, Tomb Raider has its ace, its lead protagonist, its heroin. Lara Croft. You can’t go wrong. Lara’s story is retold through this reboot, her first adventure. She’s younger, and shes fit. She more realistic looking and handling. Starting as a naive explorer trying to follow the footsteps of her father, she joins an archaeology group on a boat. The boat crashes, she loses her friends along the way, and from then on she’s basically forced to react to everything the island can throw her way as she tries to find a way off. The island inhabitants are really in the same pickle, but Lara, her first kill out of the way, doesn’t really give them a lot of time to share their thoughts. She’s a ‘survivor’ and they are in her way. Losing her friends and companions left and right leaves her no real choice other than kill to survive. Starting innocent, she ends her journey scarred, burned, and with a different darkness to her eyes, knowing she’ll never return home the same person, if she ever does decide to go home.

The game is fantastic throughout, and understandably it was delayed to add additional polish, but maybe they should have scrapped the ill-thought multiplayer and delegated the time and resources to an additional coat.

-iRogan