Kickstarter-funded game blends physical and digital gameplay, with a stack of animals finding hybrid forms in a companion app This Christmas, don’t expect to see Sir David Attenborough balancing an octopus on top of a warthog while trying to mate a toucan with a shark. Although if the BBC needs a festive ratings boost, it’s a thought. You might see it happen on your kitchen table, though, if you own . The new augmented board game sits somewhere in between Jenga and Skylanders, with your efforts to build a tower of animals reflected in the digital world of its companion app.
This film adaptation of the successful videogame, in which Fassbender must battle Templars after the original apple from Eden, is an interminable, lifeless mess “What the fuck is going on?” mutters Michael Fassbender’s character through clenched teeth, reasonably early on in the course of this interminable film, based on the lucrative video game series Assassin’s Creed. You can imagine each of its stars – Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Essie Davis – saying much the same thing while looking through the script, before being directed to the fee on the last page of their contract. It’s an action movie, with dollops of thriller and splodges of Dan Brown conspiracy; and hardly five minutes go by without someone in a monk’s outfit doing a bit of sub-parkour jumping from the roof of one building to another. And yet it is at all times mysteriously, transcendentally boring. I bet playing the game is much more exciting. But then getting Fassbender to slap a coat of Dulux on the wall of his hi-tech prison cell and monitoring the progressive moisture-loss would be more exciting. Related:
Final Fantasy XV is not like other games. But as you marvel at its lavishness and beauty, you may start to notice the wheels coming off A tagline greets you every time you start Final Fantasy XV: “A Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers”. It isn’t that the goal itself is notable, so much as the fact that Square Enix feels the need to repeat it every time you turn on the console. After all, what game hasn’t tried to appeal to fans and first-timers? Metal Gear Solid 4, maybe. But other games generally assume their audience includes fans, first-timers, and everyone in between. Of course, Final Fantasy XV isn’t like other games. Other games don’t take a decade from revelation to release, meaning there’s rather more “first-timers” than there ever have been before. Other games don’t launch with a tie-in movie voiced by Aaron Paul and Lena Headey, or a five-episode anime detailing the lives of the main characters, widening the gap between the fans and the first-timers still further. Other games don’t get , before receiving a day-one content patch, and a follow-up content patch a month later. Other games don’t feel the need to open, not with a stunning set-piece, or a slow intro to the world, but with a weird combat tutorial/lore guide where a strange fox thing talks to you about how to fight in the game before the game proper gets going.
The hacker crime-caper sequel comes good, while Dishonored’s follow-up falls short of the original and Nintendo’s build-your-own phenomenon gets an impressive port to its handheld console PC/PlayStation 4/Xbox One, Ubisoft, cert: 18 ★★★★
Fumito Ueda’s PlayStation 4 title has been a decade in the making. From the game’s exquisite animation to its emotional intelligence, it has been worth the wait “I awoke to find myself in a strange cave.” This is the fairy tale opening of ’s heavily anticipated game, 10 years in the making and only the forty-six year old Japanese director’s third major work. But then, of course, the first two – Ico and Shadow of Colossus – are legendary. Film director Guillermo del Toro once described them as the medium’s sole masterpieces; anticipation is accordingly high.
From the lush medieval world of The Witcher 3 to the touching narrative of The Last Guardian, let’s give thanks for rich escapes from a tough year Death, disorder, confusion and upheaval: 2016 has surpassed even the most outlandish video game in its disquieting depictions. Fiction may be unable to compete with reality when it comes to whiplash-inflicting narrative twists, but it can provide a sanctuary into which the embattled and anxious may retreat. Video games in particular provide a comforting framework for the human mind. Even on the virtual battlefield, or post-apocalyptic city, few games ever betray their fundamental rules, something that can no longer, it seems, be said for politics and all the rest. These days most video games take years to build. Such is the cost and scale of the technological and artistic undertaking of interactive blockbusters that it’s unlikely we’ll see 2016’s major themes surfacing in games for another year or so. Some developers, however, successfully anticipated the events of the moment. The recently released casts you as a member of a San Francisco-based hacktivist group vying to take down a privacy-violating corporation. The hackers co-opt the power of millions of web-connected household devices – CCTV cameras, printers, kettles and so on – to overwhelm their target’s servers. It’s a storyline that pre-empted the , when great swaths of the internet, including Netflix, Twitter, Reddit, Spotify and even the UK government’s website, were successfully brought down for a few hours by as yet unidentified hackers, using the combined power of millions of online devices. Few video games ever betray their rules, something that can no longer be said for politics and the rest
The latest Pokémon games are the best yet, Sony’s new console is powerful, if not essential, and a 2D platformer brings simple unashamed fun 3DS, Nintendo, cert: 7, out now ★★★★★ This year marks Pokémon’s 20th anniversary, and this latest pair of games is a truly fitting celebration for old hands. While retaining the familiar formula of the perennially popular series, small changes create huge evolutions. Gone is the rote progression through eight gyms, battling through the Elite Four, and a final clash against your rival. In its place is a story where surprisingly complex characters weave in and out, and your journey across the Alolan Islands is marked by completing challenges that go beyond “defeat enemies”. There’s a much-needed depth that earlier games lacked.
Sequel takes place in a vibrant open world filled with wacky hactivists, which makes for a lively gaming experience As a proof of concept for a cyber-drama take on , complete with all-encompassing hacking abilities, the original Watch Dogs really worked. Where it faltered was ... almost everywhere else. The chief complaint being that its protagonist, Aiden Pearce, was a bland and unlikeable guy, someone that you never sympathised with despite his dark, guilt-ridden Max Payne-esque past. Indirectly responsible for the death of his niece and the comatose state of his sister, Aiden’s resolution was to go out for revenge. A lot of people had trouble getting on board with that. In Watch Dogs 2, developer Ubisoft Montreal not only takes the foundations of the original to build a good, fun game around its core ideas, it also births a great lead character, Marcus Holloway. He’s the most likeable Ubisoft lead since Ezio Auditore of Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood and Revelations. This sequel also leaves the drab, rain-slicked streets of grey Chicago behind. In its place, we get a glorious rendition of San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area; the overpriced suburbs of Palo Alto and the warm city offshoots of Oakland – it’s all beautifully replicated in one of Ubisoft’s most colourful and vibrant open worlds.
A show of further things to come for the franchise, and an enjoyable game, though perhaps not the blow-away title of 2016 It’s been a rough year. This summer, post-Brexit, many people turned to Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game from Niantic and the Pokémon Company, as a nostalgic and social respite from the ills and ails of the world. As if on cue, another Pokémon game – Pokémon Sun and Moon – has arrived to help numb the sting of being a person in the never-ending car crash that is 2016.
Deliciously dark stealth adventure returns to tempt players into a trap-like city of wary guards and architectural puzzles Dunwall, the briny, whale oil-guzzling capital of the first Dishonored game was a city defined by Dickensian hardship. This suited Corvo Attano, bodyguard to the empress, for whose murder he was framed, allowing him to squeeze through society’s cracks and skulk unseen among the plague rats. For this sequel the setting has changed to the sun-bronzed (and in later stages, dust-blasted) Karnaca, an archipelago whose ports might offer an enviable holiday destination were it not for an infestation of murderous insects. You play again as Attano or alternatively, the newly monarched Emily Kaldwin, a choice that must be made in the game’s opening moments and adhered to until the final credits. Both are wrongfully accused of murder (although by the game’s end, all but the most patient players will have blood on their hands). Both must flee the charges and pursue their accusers in the dark. At least Karnaca’s high sun casts long shadows to hide in. Related:
Nintendo’s new console isn’t an innovative take on gaming tech, it’s a Greatest Hits collection of classic 8bit titles, lovingly curated and reproduced It is not a ridiculous overstatement to suggest that the Nintendo Entertainment System saved the games industry. Back in early 1980s, when the company released its fledgling console in Japan (where it was known as the Famicom), the business was undergoing a crisis. A flood of competing consoles and an unregulated, uncontrolled publishing model meant that there were too many machines and too many mediocre games. Some pundits in the US even suggested that video games were just a fad and that the bubble had burst. Then came the Nintendo Entertainment System. Released in Japan in the summer of 1983, and in the US two years later, it was stocky, toy-like and not exactly over-powered. However, the product brilliantly combined the industrial design genius behind the Game & Watch handheld devices with the creativity of game designer Shigeru Miyamoto and the sheer consumer marketing genius of then-president Hiroshi Yamauchi. Instead of allowing a free-for-all for third-party software support, Yamauchi placed strict quality control measures on would-be game publishers, tying them into restrictive licensing agreements. The result was a console with excellent homegrown titles and very little shovel ware. It was a gigantic hit.
The latest role-playing fantasy from the Pillars of Eternity creators puts players into a morally ambiguous universe of tyrants and mercenaries Portraying evil in games is hard: it’s more than a shadowy figure laughing maniacally in a tower. But of all the themes that Tyranny explores, evil is one of the most successful and exciting. The latest isometric RPG from the creators of Pillars of Eternity casts you in the role of a reluctant or zealous antihero (depending on how you play), serving the Overlord Kyros, a being of immense and undeniable power who beat the forces of good and essentially rules the world. You exist to snuff out the last resistance to this tyrant but that doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person.
Headset for Android smartphones is Pixel-exclusive but kicks off firm’s play for premium, extended VR experiences with wand-style controller Google’s big bet on the future of virtual reality, Daydream, is finally available to buy, but is the Daydream View headset actually worth getting? Daydream is the new VR platform from Google. An evolution of what the company started with its Cardboard headset, it works on the same principle using a modern smartphone as both the screen and powerhouse. Pros: no wires, comfortable for longer than you’ll probably want to wear it in one go; responsive and has an easy-to-use controller Cons: drift is common, restricted to the Pixel phones for now, no killer app, no full joypad for tense games, like other VR headsets will make some feel sick
Sony responds to the acclaimed Xbox One S with a more powerful PlayStation 4 – and while it’s no looker, it opens new visual horizons for developers In August, Microsoft kickstarted the second wave of this current console generation, releasing its to a largely receptive audience. Now, Sony is returning fire with the PlayStation 4 Pro, an updated version of the standard PS4, which – like Microsoft’s machine – is designed to get the most out of the coming era of 4K televisions. Here’s how the new instalment stacks up. Pros: solid 4K and HDR performance; encouraging support from developers; small but important tweaks to controller; potential to improve PlayStation VR experience Cons: Most games will not achieve full native 4K rendering; no 4K Blu-ray player; lacklustre design; variable support from current titles
Whatever happens at least we know that these video game depictions of widescale catastrophe are completely farfetched When times are tough it’s worth remembering that at least we don’t actually live in a video game. Since the very beginning, designers have been imagining the digital demise of the human race, with classics such as Missile Command and Space Invaders pitting players against incalculable odds in seemingly futile battles for survival. But the great thing is, they’re just games, right? Here then, are some of our favourite apocalyptic scenarios from gaming history, all of them reassuringly fanciful and completely unlikely.
The latest instalment in the shooter series tries out some new ideas, including zero-gravity combat, but it is held back by well-worn conventions In the moments that Infinite Warfare has the courage of its convictions, when its various systems sync-up sufficiently, we get a tantalising taste of its true potential. These moments usually come when the protagonist, Nick Reyes, leaves terra firma and zips about in zero-gravity, course-correcting with boosters and engaging enemy soldiers against the backdrop of gargantuan spaceships smashing into one another. In between precision shots from his Ghostbusters-like energy weapon, he grapples on to a grunt and pulls the pin on his grenade before kicking him towards two buddies, who look on helplessly as he greets them with an explosion. That taken care of, Reyes grapples to his waiting Jackal space fighter and boosts off to begin dogfighting with enemy craft.
The last few instalments in the simulation series have provided major improvements. But has the Football Manager team run out of energy this year? The question every annual franchise has to answer is whether the new entry in the series expands enough on the previous title to warrant a purchase. This year, and for the first time in a few seasons, Football Manager 2017 doesn’t make enough of a step to confidently recommend it outright. Though it does build on the strengths of its excellent predecessor Football Manager 2016, it doesn’t offer enough of a change for anyone outside the hardcore fanbase to warrant an immediate purchase. This feels like a strange thing to write, because in many ways – through a series of small but positive changes to the way players interact with the game – FM 2017 offers the best experience of pretending to be a football manager there’s ever been. Although the series shares the lineage of Championship Manager, FM 2017 is getting closer than ever to abolishing that game’s reputation as glorified football spreadsheet. Related:
The first-person shooter returns with a bunch of new multiplayer modes and a lone campaign that seeks to add emotional weight to the thundering action It’s always worth remembering where Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment came from. The studio was founded by the creators of and staffed by some of the most skilful stalwarts in the first-person shooter genre; from the best entries in Activision’s behemoth franchise all the way back to 2002’s Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, Respawn’s collective has made great cinematic shooters, and this team knows how to reinvent, rethink and reignite the genre. Titanfall 2 expands the multiplayer concept established by the original sci-fi shooter two years ago, adds an incredible single-player campaign and acts as a bold reminder of how brilliant this band of veteran gunslingers really is. As with , Titanfall 2’s core ideas exist on two parallel playing fields. Firstly, there’s the Pilot, a superhuman soldier capable of hyper athletic wall-running and double-jumping, with split-second reflexes that make for unrivalled marksmanship. They are the masters of any gun, the ultimate commander of any squad, and they treat the battlefield more like a jungle gym than a place of warfare. Obstacles and debris are not safe cover in the eyes of a Pilot. Instead they are opportunities for movement in order to turn impossible odds into a cakewalk.