Ponderings on Microsoft’s decision to do a complete 180

If you’re a fan of games, you will no doubt have seen the news last night that Microsoft have reversed some of their initial decisions about the Xbox One and its policies. This has clearly seen some backlash from the consumer, once again, but it’s not all doom and gloom.

I was one of the people who was dead set against many of the policies put in place by Microsoft. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, the policy about Kinect having to be connected and on at all times is still in existence, but some of the more anger-inducing policies have been completely reversed in response to ‘consumer feedback’. Whether that’s true, or whether it’s in response to Sony, or indeed the poor Xbox One pre-orders, still remains to be seen. It will also be interesting to see if it is ever revealed to us who actually decided to reverse the policies.

Personally, I couldn’t believe how much of a hole Microsoft have been digging themselves this past month. First of all, they completely ignored the massive consumer backlash on the internet, and then Don Mattrick proceeded to tell those who couldn’t get an Xbox One, to simply buy an Xbox 360. Now, I’m not saying companies should cave into all consumer feedback, but when it’s that angry and adamant, it was a bit stupid not to.

However, I think the biggest problem is this; it’s been a whole month since these policies were announced, and this reversal is simply a little bit too late for some. There are some comments I have seen online that have indicated that people will now buy the console due to these reversed policies, but I am not one of them, and I know I’m not alone.

Xbox_Consle_Sensr_controllr_F_TransBG_RGB_2013I admire Microsoft for doing this, don’t get me wrong, but for me it’s too little, too late. Crisis management a month after the initial fallout is just too late. I thought back to Jack Tretton’s heart breaking apology on stage at E3 2011 about the PS3 being hacked, and it really made me feel for the company. Putting a human face up on a stage, and apologising in such a heartfelt way really helped Sony out of a bad situation. It may not have been their fault, but they took responsiblity for it, and regained the loyalty of fans. However, this press release on the Xbox site just doesn’t feel the same. Personally, if Don Mattrick, or any Microsoft executive, were to post a video saying the same thing, then I think it would have received much more sympathy, and fan loyalty. Words on a page mean very little when it comes to things like this.

As nice as this policy reversal is, it still doesn’t alter the £80 price different between the Xbox One and the PS4, and also the compulsory nature of the Kinect. Some people like Kinect, some don’t. I think it should still be an option, not a necessity. For those two reasons the Xbox One is a no go for me, at least until there’s a drastic price drop.

What do you think? Are you going to buy an Xbox One now? Or has the damage been done?

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The Highs and Lows of E3 2013

I’ve had my 6 hours sleep after E3, and it’s safe to say I’m still reeling off the excitement of the Sony conference last night. It wasn’t a perfect conference, suffering from the usual delay which enraged the 2AM British crew watching online, and experiencing at least one technical hitch, but that doesn’t alter the fact that Sony have easily won E3 for me so far. Jack Tretton essentially punched Don Mattrick to the floor, and continued to kick him while he was down, and I think Sony deserve every ounce of praise they get for that. It wasn’t all about Sony though, and it’s not all about the console war. Here are my personal highlights, and lowlights of E3 2013, including games as well as hardware.

Microsoft had the tough job of opening the show after a less than warm reception to their new console, the Xbox One. They did however stick to their promise of keeping their conference all about the games. In a bold move, slightly copied from Sony, Xbox 360 gold members are going to be treated to two exclusive, free games each month up until the release of the Xbox One, Assassin’s Creed 2 and Halo 3 are the only titles confirmed for this so far. Microsoft Points are also changing into local currency, so you can now buy your games in GBP, USD etc without having to pay for more than you need in MSP.

Onto the new games however, and Microsoft had a lot to be proud of. Max The Curse of Brotherhood looks like a fun side scroller for the Xbox 360, while the Xbox One will be getting Ryse Son of Rome, as well as the intriguing Sunset Overdrive, to mention just a few. Project Spark made use of Kinect, allowing you to build your own game world starting with the landscape, as well as your own characters, villages and monsters. This will appeal to fans of games such as The Sims, and those who dream of building their own games and it does look like a lot of fun.

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Sunset Overdrive looks gruesome in a fun, cartoon-y way

Unfortunately, Microsoft came out with a rather high price point for the Xbox One, coming in at $499 and £429. I will never understand the inability to be able to convert currency efficiently in the games industry, but that’s steep by anyones estimations.

Next up were EA, the home of sports games and some truly incredible gaming franchises. Choosing to open with Plants VS Zombies Garden Warfare was an inspired move, opening the conference on a light-hearted note, and it does look like serious amounts of fun. Peggle 2 was also announced, pleasing the Popcap fan base immensely.

Next up was Need for Speed Rivals, a title which I am very excited about. As long as this performs better than Most Wanted I’ll be happy. Another title I was thrilled to see was Dragon Age Inquisition. Though it may have been brief, it certainly looks exciting, and if Dragon Age 2 was anything to go by, this could be an utterly astounding title in 2014.

Unfortunately, EA Sports just had to take up a big chunk of time with their ‘new’ games. I know I’m in a minority when I say I couldn’t care less, but I do appreciate the graphics that they showcased with titles such as Madden NFL and UFC. They’re just not for me.

Finally, the moment everyone had been waiting for finally happened; Mirror’s Edge 2 finished off the conference with a very stylish trailer, showing the classic gameplay fans of the original have grown to love, as well as improved graphics. The roar of excitement from the room was incredible.

The third conference slot was taken up by Ubisoft. Unfortunately for Ubisoft, they chose to use the same awful host from last year, thinking it was a good idea to promote the hash tag #girlwood from last years equally cringeworthy conference. The host was terrible, not funny and unnecessarily crude at times. I want to hear about games, not someones sexual promiscuity.

Anyway, Ubisoft had a few surprises up their sleeves with PC title The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot which looks a little bit like Torchlight on speed if I’m honest, and that’s a good thing. They also went on to showcase new racing game The Crew, which puts a bit of a unique spin on the racing genre. The clue is in the title, you are part of a crew of racers battling to infiltrate and take over criminal organisations in an incredible open world. You can also tune your car as much as you want, from the inner workings to the shiny exterior, as well as using SmartGlass to craft a car while out of the game. It looks new and exciting, and I can’t wait to see more.

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The Crew looks fun and new

Assassin’s Creed 4 also had an interesting, if not slightly laggy live demo, which leads me to believe that it’s going to infinitely better than Assassin’s Creed 3. The usual suspects like The Raving Rabbids and Rayman made an appearance too with some pre recorded gameplay, and two new Trials games were announced; one for console, and one for mobile devices.

Finally, the conference we had all been waiting for, Sony. Sony had kept quiet about their stance on the used games argument, always online etc, as well as the look of their console. Early on Sony had unveiled their new console, which bore a striking resemblance to the Xbox One, but appeared to be much smaller. I’m not sold on the design just yet, but I’ll need to see more images, and maybe a size comparison with Xbox One.

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It’s not a pretty console, but it’ll do

True to form, Sony went straight in with the games, and my goodness do they have some good games coming up. The only company to announce the new episode of The Walking Dead, titled 400 Days, is coming to Vita, as well as their promised HD versions of games such as God of War 1&2, as well as FFX & FFX-2. They carried on at a quick pace, blasting us with trailer after trailer for new games. No talk, just games. Games such as Puppeteer, Rain, Beyond Two Souls and Batman Arkham Origins, all for the Ps3.

Then onto the PS4 titles; The Order 1886, Drive Club, Infamous Second Son and Knack. And then the first blow to Microsoft came; high support for indie developers. A stage full of indie developers playing their games live, screens behind them, looking glorious. Titles such as Mercenary Kings, Don’t Starve and Oddworld New ‘n’ Tasty were just a few that were mentioned.

A personal favourite moment of mine is when Square Enix finally gave us a new trailer for Final Fantasy Versus XIII. But here’s the kicker; It’s no longer called Final Fantasy Versus XIII, but is being developed as Final Fantasy XV. I’m not so sure about the gameplay so far, it has a look of Crisis Core, but the graphics looked beautiful, and so undoubtedly Final Fantasy. The next shocker? Kingdom Hearts 3. Finally, Kingdom Hearts 3 is happening. I was getting so overjoyed at all this news that I forgot to update my live blog for a good ten minutes (That, and sleep deprivation). Squeenix really knew what to announce to get their fans back.

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Final Fantasy Versus XIII becoming Final Fantasy XV is probably a good move

And finally, the glorious moment for Sony was this; PS4 supports used games. Want more? Ps4 users can lend their games to anyone, at no extra cost. More? PS4 doesn’t need to be online to play your games, and there are no authentication checks along the way. The best part? $399, £349 pricepoint. Sony listened to the consumer, and the crowds cheers of excitement are testament to Sony’s success this year.

So those are my highlights and (minimal) lowlights of E3. What about you? Do you think Sony stole the show, or is there more to this than meets the eye? Are Microsoft still your favourite, or are Nintendo going to sneak in through the back door with their Nintendo direct later on? Let me know in the comments, and stay tuned with Ramblings of a Gaming Girl for live updates from the Nintendo direct at 3PM BST.

 

Alpha Impressions of Need For Speed Most Wanted on PS3

Today I decided to take a trip to Manchester in search of inspiration (and a plethora of leaflets) for my PR project at university. I trawled up and down Manchester trying to find horror themed leaflets, memorabilia, locations and tried (and failed) to get some free stuff. Of course I added in a little bit of shopping because it would have been rude not to, and I purchased a new book that will no doubt make its way to my ‘pile of shame’.

I’m rambling though. The point of this is that today I got play Need For Speed Most Wanted in a little pop up booth in Manchester. The game isn’t out until November 2nd, but there it was, available in multiplayer and single player. The game was only in its alpha stage so of course it wasn’t perfect, but it was close enough.

The guys at EA were very friendly and explained the whole concept of the game to me. I’m not used to playing racing games on the PS3, so I slightly missed the clunkiness of my Xbox controller, but I got on with it. After an initial console crash I got stuck into single player, swiftly plowing straight into a wall and wrecking my car instantly.

The first thing I noticed once I got into it however is that the cars I drove were very smooth handling. Almost a bit too smooth for my liking at times, but then that could have just been first time nerves and my lack of knowledge about the track. I played a few races to get used to the terrain and the controls. I have not played the first Most Wanted, but the closest I can compare this game to is Undercover in terms of visuals. It has a very arcade feel to it which is nice for those of us that do not like simulation racers and just want some fast cars in our lives.

The multiplayer took the form of a 3 stage competition. Whether this is what will happen in the released game I do not know, but this is what we did today. Our first event was a speed test which I am pleased to say I came first in with excessive use of NOS. Our second event was a race against each other. I believe I came fourth in that as there were some much better players there than me and I was once again far too busy nosediving into buildings to come first. Our final event was a jump test, but I believe I didn’t reach the meet point in time as I had been too busy driving off into the distance and getting some drifting action going on.

So far I don’t think that the Most Wanted looks as good as Hot Pursuit, but then I just love that game and it’s all about personal preference. When it comes to November 2nd I will definitely be giving it another go and seeing how much stuff I can destroy and how many drift points I can rack up.

Classic VS Modern…FIGHT!

It’s been a week of classic and modern gaming for me, not just in my own personal gaming experiences, but also in the news. I’ve bought an old and a new game for a total of £7, and my two biggest news stories have involved a new game and a classic favourite of mine.

Lets start with my most recent purchases. Wild Arms is a PsOne Classic on the PSN that I snapped up for £3.99 earlier this week. Anyone who knows my love for JRPGs will appreciate why I just had to have this. I’m going to attempt to write a retro review of it when I’ve finished, but I’m only about 10 hours into it at the moment. Anyway, it’s a really good classic JRPG, and I remember my parents playing the Wild Arms series when I was much younger, so I never really dipped my toes into it. I’m glad I spent the money though as it gives a real sense of nostalgia and joy being able to play a sprite animated, turn based, “oh my God the world is ending!” style game for the first time in a while. The story isn’t really anything to write home about (yet), but it’s entertaining nonetheless to pass the time with.

Don't judge Wild Arms by its graphics alone

Don’t judge Wild Arms by its graphics alone

There is also a new Kairosoft game on the Android store which I discovered at 2AM on Wednesday morning. Needless to say, £2.99 and several hours later I was very tired, but it was so worth it. The latest sim-style gem from Kairosoft is called The Sushi Spinnery, and lets you take control of a new Sushi-belt restaurant. Yes it’s pretty much the same concept as every other Kairosoft game, but that’s not the point. They’re fun, they have different things to do in each one, and well, I just love sushi. Playing this game did make me want to go and make some sushi, so if sales of nori sheets and sushi rice suddenly increase over the next week or so I won’t be surprised.

Persona 4 Arena looks stylish and well thought out

Persona 4 Arena looks stylish and well thought out

Now we move onto the news that excited me;  Persona 4 Arena on X360 and PS3. Of course I’ve known about the game for a while, but new videos have surfaced, and it looks amazing. I’m a massive fan of the Persona series, but I was a little scepitcal about this when it was first announced, but I have to say it’s looking pretty awesome now. I love that they have included characters from Persona 3, and watching some of the videos from it the battle system looks completely insane. It’s oh so Japanese, and that makes it even better. Aigis suddenly pulling giant guns out of nowhere, and Mitsuru casting Mabufu on an unsuspecting enemy. I need this in my life.

On a final note, there has been something in gaming news that doesn’t so much excite me, but I do have my own thoughts on it; Final Fantasy VII re release on PC. Now, everyone knows I love Final Fantasy VII more than any other game on the planet, but I’ve always been dead set against any sort of remake of it. I was even a little iffy about Advent Children because of it clearly having voice acting int it, but they pulled it off quite well. This PC re release isn’t a remake though, it’s exactly what it says on the tin; a straight re release of a game that’s already available on PC. Admittedly the original is probably not able to run on current Windows systems, but it still seems kind of pointless to me. I still have my original PSOne copy from 1997, and if I really wanted to I could download it onto my PS3 or PSP. I just don’t see point in the straight re release when they’re not even offering much in the way of new content either. They are including something to boost your stats to the max which to me is just cheating. FFVII is not a difficult game to level up in. As long as you know the best place to go and level up in then you’re sorted. There is no challenge in a game that allows you reach level 99 straight away.

Please stop cashing in Squeenix

Please stop cashing in Squeenix

I guess it’s just me but I’d rather they left FFVII on it’s pedestal and stopped bringing it down to cash in on it.

Day one of E3; The highs & the lows

So the first & biggest day of E3 is over and done with, and in a way I could not be more relieved. Living in the UK meant that I was up until 3am watching everything, and had been watching it for 10 hours straight after a morning at work as well. I have never wanted to just curl up and die in bed more so than I do today. Anyway, yesterday had some highs for me, but also a lot of lows. Here’s a brief look at what I reckon to E3 so far;

The Highs

  • Dance Central 2 is getting a campaign mode. I mentioned that I wanted something like this in my Dance Central review previously so I am quite excited to try this out.
  • Need for Speed; The Run. I’m not a massive racing fan, but the NFS games have always intrigued me and this just looked stunning. I’m not sure about the QTE’s in the out of car sequences, but we shall see.
  • The new SSX looks awesome amounts of fun. I haven’t played SSX since the N64, so this had better be good.
  • Overstrike announced by EA. Looks like a fun to play TPS, capable of four player co op.
  • Battlefield 3. this looks amazing even though I haven’t played any of the series before. Infinitely better than COD already in my books /controversy
  • Raving Rabbids coming to the Kinect. I don’t like the Kinect, but I like Raving Rabbids. Instant win for me.
  • Assassins Creed Revelations. A gameplay trailer was shown and it looks like an incredible ending to an incredible series. I just hope we get to find out what it’s really all about in Ezio’s final chapter.
  • Cross platform functionality between the NGP/PS Vita & the PS3.
  • YouTube partnered with XBL.
  • New Tomb Raider. Live demo was shown & it looks incredible, although they may want to consider investing in a new voice actor for Lara.
The Lows
  • Way too much emphasis on Kinect. Not everyone wants this peripheral, nor do they have the money to afford this peripheral.
  • Fable with Kinect. This looks awful. Who the hell wants an on the rails RPG adventure game in 2011? I don’t care if it has motion control, it looks terrible.
  • Just Dance 3 is going multi platform. This might be a good thing, but I’m unsure. Just Dance on the Wii has unresponsive controls and a tiny catalogue of tracks that come with the actual game. Will they learn from this mistake on the other consoles?
  • Driver San Francisco. This wasn’t so much a low for me, as a bit of a confusing moment. Only because I remember playing a demo of this in London a year ago. I honestly thought this had been released already. Old news.
  • Cross platform functionality between the NGP/PS Vita & the PS3.
  • The Sims Social. I was initially excited about this last night, but I think I’ve changed my mind. It’s a little bit stalker-ish and looks like EA’s answer to Habbo Hotel.
  • ME3 uses Kinect voice recognition. Some people were excited, I thought it was pointless. Don’t be so lazy and just use the controller.
  • Kinect Disneyland Adventures. Enough said.
  • Bing partnered with XBL.
So far there are few things that have wowed me without then delivering some form of disappointment. I am interested to see what Nintendo pull out of the hat today though as so far Microsoft have failed me miserably, and EA & Ubisoft are beating the top dogs.  I won’t be impressed with the Wii 2 if that is announced, nor do I care about more remakes for the 3DS.