GRID 2019 – REVIEW

Codemasters, as a developer, has long since prided itself on keeping their games, cars, tracks and mechanics as true to real life as possible, putting them more in the sim racer category than in the arcade racer one, and the same is true with the latest game from them. GRID 2019 (as it has come to being called by its fans, officially titled GRID) is the tenth game in the TOCA (touring car) series from Codemasters and is the fourth GRID game, following Race Driver: Grid, GRID 2 and GRID Autosport and was launched as a reboot of the GRID franchise. Old hands to the series will be able to pull a lot of similarities and familiarities with this game and the original from 2008. GRID 2019 is jam packed with some of the most awesome tracks and rides to keep even the most hardcore of petrol head gamers and motorsport fans up to their necks in joy for a long time.

UPFRONT

We received the GRID 2019 Ultimate Edition for review. This edition comes with the base game, VIP Pass, passes for Seasons 1 to 3 and the custom GRID Aston Martin Vantage. Overall, the download size is a little under 40GB, so not too bad by modern game size standards with some games going over the 100gb mark. So – depending on your internet line, you can start your engines within a day or so of starting the download. All included in this 40GB file is more than 60 cars, ranging from Jedi F1000s to Mini Coopers to Porsche 911s – there really is something for everyone here, as well as some of the world’s most iconic tracks and some “GRID special edition” fictional tracks from 13 different locations around the world. And all of this is just the start, the new seasons will see new cars, tracks and locations added to your game experience.

THE GAME

Upon starting the game for the first time, you are welcomed in with a video of a car accident in reverse, this is the same video used in the trailer shown below. https://youtu.be/8sieDLKUEN0 The video really shows off GRID’s insane graphics and physics and is best enjoyed in 4K goodness on top tier consoles and PCs. Unfortunately, I do not have one of those and my OG Xbox One battled through the video with a few jumps and jitters, although it all still looked really great. After chatting to a friend of mine who was fortunate enough to experience this masterpiece on an Xbox One X, he said the game ran completely smoothly with no jitters and jumps – guess I’m in the market for a new Xbox then. Once the intro is done, you are thrown right into the thick of things as you pick up the controls in three different race types that give you a taste of what you can expect in your Grid journey. One thing that does set GRID 2019 from other simulator racing games, and some hardcore fans of the genre might disagree with me here, is the fact that you can adjust the difficulty so that all players across the skills board will be able to get a good measure of fun and challenge out of this game. The settings can be changed from full sim experience with realistic damage affecting performance and no guidelines or other assistance to a more casual arcade-type experience with visual-only damage, corning lines and the works. I kept the game on its “out the box” setting, which is medium, and put the pedal to the metal. Once the tutorial is complete, you are thrown headfirst into your quest to become the GRID’s best driver and you can do so while competing in around 100 different events and races in the career mode. The six different race modes to choose from are Touring, Stock, Tuner, GT, FA and Invitational. Each mode coming with its own set of cars and, with those, its own unique set of challenges and fun in racing them. Each game mode ending with a “Showdown” event that puts the player to the test in the hardest and most challenging races of the mode. One very awesome feature that GRID 2019 has is the FA mode or rather the Fernando Alonso mode. This mode allows you to race in a wide range of cars from grippy almost go-kart type cars all the way through to actual F1 cars as you challenge Alonso himself to a showdown. Rumour has it that if you beat him, you can choose him as your teammate in races. Hopefully, he’ll be a beneficial teammate – but more on that later.

CAREER

Being more of an arcade racer myself, yes – I’m sorry, and enjoying games like Need for Speed and Forza Horizon (some will say Forza is not arcade) where you can just slam into any corner and drift your way out of it with style, GRID’s technical controls was something to get used to. Timing is everything in braking and turning into corners and straightening and accelerating out of corners – doing these slightly too early will result in an unplanned meeting with the wall or a hard brake out of the corner to correct yourself while your opponent’s fly past you, doing it slightly too late and you lose all your speed as you brake to compensate or spin out and start trying to claw your way through the pack from the back. Using your opponents as turning cushions, as I so often do, or hitting into them one time too many results in them becoming your nemesis for that race – meaning their entire strategy changes and becomes more aggressive towards you as they favour running you off the track over winning the race. This seems to be a regular feature for me as I end up having half the pack trying to run me off the road. This being said, the driving AI of GRID is definitely one of the best I’ve seen, and the racers really are good and present a decent challenge at whatever your skill level is. Each event is divided into two races and your overall times and positioning is taken into account to determine a winner for each race. Some races specify finishing in the top 3 to progress and unlock the next track. Before each race, you have the option to compete in a hot lap to determine your starting position, forgoing this will start you in, or near, the back of the pack. Personally, I found this process a little tedious, but the hot lap does give you good knowledge of the track beforehand, helping you to perform a bit better in the actual event. I elected to skip this on most races and enjoyed the climb to the top – and hitting all the cars on my way past, including my teammate. The teammate system seems a little useless to me at present as my current team mate, Nick Whittle, is not the most gifted of racers in-game and usually refuses my requests for him to attack for a higher position. This may be because he hasn’t really forgiven me after I hit him in our first race together, causing him to become my nemesis – but this is not yet proven. You can change your teammate in the menu, but I have not yet done that. Each race earns you credits, as well as losing some in costs depending on your racing style (mine is rather pricey). These credits can be used to buy other cars to race in other modes or to have more cars, and better cars, to choose from in your favourite events. My recommendation here would be to focus on one or two events out the gate and build up a bit of a monopoly before branching out into the other modes and spending too much of your credit but credits are pretty easy to earn so its up to you how you manage your budget.

MULTIPLAYER

Multiplayer is a great way to really test your skills. All tracks and modes are available to you in multiplayer, you can choose your own and invite friends to it, or join an online session. As in career mode, you need to have the right cars for the right mode, and these can be purchased through in-game credits once again. Good thing is that all resources are pooled in the game, so cars you own in either career or multiplayer is owned in the other. Venturing a little into this game mode, I played a few races with an online friend of mine who is a big enthusiast of racing games and a GRID veteran. Playing a few races with him showed me how good this game can be for someone who has really refined the skill into somewhat of a masterpiece. He showed me up in almost every race as he finished first by miles with me following far behind in third or fourth if I was lucky. It was great playing with him as he often remarked on how similar this GRID felt to the original Race Driver: Grid game.  When probed a little more on it, he said the cars were similar to those found in the original and some of his favourite tracks had returned.  The handling he said was “similar but better” and he looks forward to throwing many hours into this game, both in the career mode and in multiplayer.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Although this is a game best played on higher spec machines, it runs really well on lower spec ones too.  With only a few jitters in cutscenes – but nothing groundbreaking. This game really does stir the desire in me to get a newer console to really get a true taste of what GRID has to offer visually. Being a reboot of the GRID franchise, I feel Codemasters has really stayed true to themselves in keeping this as close to the original in what worked and really improving in what didn’t back then. The racing AI is flawless and really presents a good challenge to the player.  Except for the teammate AI – which could probably do with a little polishing. All in all, Codemasters has done a really great job in creating more than just a racing game. All of the stunning visuals, challenging tracks, awesome cars with realistic engine purrs and screeching tyres, up to date and relevant commentary from your pit crew (who sounds irritated with me more often than not).  Commentators really bring it all together as a great racing experience. This is a game that definitely has something for everyone and everyone from the casual car enthusiast to full-blown fanatic will find something worth spending time on. So – to sum it all up, I give GRID 2019 a solid 9 out 10 steering wheels (shhh… just let me have this one) GRID is available to own on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows.   And will be available to stream on Google Stadia when that is released later this year.

A big thank you to Apex Interactive for giving us the chance to review this game.

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NBA 2K20 – REVIEW

Knowing myself, I never thought I'd get excited over getting a new sports game, let alone a sport I knew next to nothing about a few months ago. But all that changed and I found myself sitting with the same anticipation for NBA 2K20 as 6 year old me did on Christmas morning while waiting for my parents to say it was time to open presents.  

At First Glance

I received NBA 2K20 on Xbox One and tapped the code into my console as soon as I could, waiting patiently for my download to start and thinking I would be able to play that evening, I was greeted with shock at the almost 80gb download size of the game, which is normal for most games on the Xbox One. Knowing my internet was not the greatest, I put off all hopes of playing that weekend. Once the download was finished, I dove head first into my first experience of NBA 2K and my ever growing fondness of the sport of Basketball. Opening the game revealed it's dashboard with various options, these include; Play Now - get straight into the action and play a quick game in any league, with any team that is available in game. MyTEAM - a collectors area where you open card packs, and have the option of buying more, to build your very own team to play with and compete against other teams online. The card packs include players - both new and legacy, ball parks, uniforms, coaches, logos, balls and playbooks from teams in the NBA. You start this mode up by naming your own team and then opening up your starter packs. Daily logins give you a pack a day to add to your ever increasing collection. There are micro-transactions available for those who want to build quickly and don't mind spending a little extra. MyCAREER - following a story line, you start as a College superstar looking to make it big in the NBA. This mode includes the MyPLAYER section where you can choose how you look, including uploading images of your own face through the MyNBA2K20 mobile app. MyLEAGUE - a sort of fantasy team area where you build your own roster and see how you match up to other players online. This mode includes a full WNBA season as the new and improved myGM mode where you see how you would cut it as a NBA team general manager, including keeping players, sponsors and fans happy. 2kTV - an ongoing talk-show that you can tune straight into from NBA2k20  

Playing the Game

Again, with my limited experience in the realm of basketball games, my lack of skill was made obvious when I was dabbling in the Play Now area. I chose my favourite team - Golden State Warriors and had a normal 5v5 match against the Philadelphia 76ers. The learning curve of this game is huge and my fingers felt stupid on the controller as I button hacked trying to figure out what I was doing. A quick look in the control settings showed me what I needed to know and I was able to play with at least answering all the shots that were taken against me. The graphics are very impressive, with big basketball stars being very easy to spot and recognise in-game (if you know who you're looking for) and the fluidity of gameplay is smooth and responsive. 2K has done a fantastic job in drawing the player into the game with realistic crowd cheering, good and fair game commentating and well place "highlight" shots of impressive gameplay moments, like dunks and 3-pointers.  

Controls and Learning the Game

As I have said, the learning curve for me was huge but it wasn't beyond reach. All in an effort to make the game more realistic, one touch defending/shooting/marking are nonexistent and timing and positioning are absolutely crucial in every facet of the game. One area that I, personally, usually struggle with in sports games is my defense, and NBA2K20 is no different. Having "mark-assist markers" on has helped me in getting into the correct position and marking the right man, because if you drop off him for even a second, a hoop is inevitable. As I got to know the controls and timing I tried to push it a bit more, with risky high press defensive tactics and ball poke steals while trying to avoid fouls. The game's defense mechanics are highly rewarding when you time it right and I did score a few fast break layups from a well timed ball poke. Timing for a shot counter and using the analog sticks to mark the pass lanes add to the complexity and realness of the game. Off ball marking is equally as tricky to master as you have to press the man and watch his movement off ball while trying to keep an eye on the location of the ball yourself. If you press him too hard he can shake you off and leave you trying to catch your balance again while he drives for the hoop. Attack all depends on your positioning and timing as well. Drive the ball up close to the hoop and go for a layup, standing in the zone will result in a 2-point jump shot and the further you are from the hoop you are, the trickier the shot (of course). If you try and shoot while being pressed - your shot will be blocked or missed, try to layup with a bigger defender standing over you - slapped down and left looking like a deer in the headlights with all pride thrown out the window.  

MyCAREER

In MyCAREER, you follow the journey of the Bay City Flames superstar who, as he's about to turn pro, falls from grace after standing up for a team mate and has to push his way to the draft. Before you can get underway in MyCAREER however, you have to make and name your own player, who will constantly be referred to as Che in the game. This player can be made by using a preset appearance, adjusting settings in game, or by uploading your own face into the game. I, of course, tried to upload my own portrait into the game because why not? This resulted in some serious frustration as I received multiple "failed to upload" messages on my app (roll all the you're so ugly jokes you can think of). I eventually succeeded and uploaded my face into the game and what a shock! Maybe it was the lighting I was in while taking more selfies for the game than most teenagers on Instagram. My "face" came out looking like a 2-tone neanderthal and I elected to rather use a preset and fine tuned some aspects of it. Appearance sorted, I moved onto the skills selection and, once again, my limited knowledge of Basketball was made painfully obvious. I chose play-maker Point Guard and basically guessed my way through the skills, physical profile and potential section of the game while promising myself that I will come back and do this all again when I know more of what I'm doing. A little more guidance through this part of the game would've been much appreciated but the hints that 2K did leave did not tell enough for the new and inexperienced players to fully grasp what they were doing there. Being pretty chuffed with the 6foot4 digital version of myself, I started the career mode and was in for a good time. You pick up the story in a crucial semi-final match, where you are the captain and hero of your college. This match is impossible to lose as the score jumps miles ahead of your opponents while you are benched during parts of the match. At the end of the match a teammate gets injured which results in him losing his scholarship. You choose to do something about this and sit out of the final - which your team loses, and you fall from grace and try to earn a spot at the NBA Draft. You go through a process known as the NBA Combine, which allows scouts to properly evaluate and assess potential talent for the league. You are asked to do various drills, which help you learn the controls of the game, and then play in a few scrimmages to increase your chances of being noticed and drafted. During this process, you are given choices to increase your rep or your skill. Choosing the one, will result in a decrease in the other and allows the game to decide your path forward as you tell it what kind a player you want to become - chasing the fame, or looking to be a NBA great. I was able to work my way up from a "late 2nd round" to "solid 1st round" pick, even though I made some serious blunders during the Combine, including completely fluffing my vertical standing jump and some of my shooting. The pressure is high during this part and I definitely cracked under some of it. Luckily - I got the invite for the Green Room and was drafted in the first round. GO WARRIORS!  

Final Thoughts

NBA 2K20 is a great game that really asks gamers to rise to the occasion in it's technical gameplay and realistic feel. The game has a lot to offer for those who are really looking for more. Loads of time can be spent in putting together your own team in my MyLEAGUE, or building dominating decks in MyTEAM and playing them in head to head matches against real players. One thing that did take away from my own personal experience was the updates. Since release date on the 6th of September, there have been 2 updates - one of which was almost 40gb and took a few days to complete on my internet line. In other countries with their big internet, these updates are not an issue, but here in South Africa - it is definitely a big point to consider. Would I recommend this game? Absolutely - if you are a sports game fan, or a basketball enthusiast then this game is right up your alley. If you aren't and, like me, like a bit of a change from your conventional gaming sessions, this game really will keep you entertained for a good few hours at a time. Special thanks to Prima Interactive for supplying us with a review copy.
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Q&A with Akromah’s Tale Developer – The Inside Scoop

I always get excited when I hear of a new game being developed, especially when that game is right up my alley in terms of what it offers - RPG, fantasy, get lost in a new world type of game. So you can imagine my excitement when I was first made aware of a new game, called Akromah's Tale, and even more so when I found out it was being developed by a South African, because local is lekker right? So we got the inside scoop with the developer of this game, Ian Jamie Pillay, and asked him a few questions about the game, himself and a couple non-essential need to know questions. And here it is - straight from the mouth of the man himself. Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you come from, what you do for a living, etc. A: Born in SA, Durban (27y/o). Studied Bachelor of Computer science, and have been making games since i was in grade 10. Currently I am a big data specialist at Standard Bank. (Machine Learning, Data & AI) Q: What kinds of games do you usually find yourself playing? A: Anything really. my favourites include Fifa, Dota2, Cod/ BF, any RPG (big final fantasy fan), MMO fan (GW, Wow, ESO etc), God of war (my best game ever) Q: If you had to choose your top 5 all time classic games, what would they be? A: Classics? Spyro, Tomb Raider, NFS Underground 2, Prince of Persia, Diablo 2 -the man has good taste- Q: As a person who is developing a game, what aspects of games do you find you most enjoy in other games? A: Fluid movement is vital, being an rpg fan, my favourite aspects are definitely the combat system (flexible impactful combat) and story narration (story driven like the new gow/ horizon/ witcher) Q: Tell us a little bit about your game. What is it about, what type of game it is, etc. A: Type of game - It is a fantasy action RPG with platforming and stealth elements. high emphasis on story narrative, and fun game play! About the game: Akromah's Tale follows a young adventurer, who lives a normal peaceful life, with his friend. Until one day the very foundation of his beliefs are ripped away from him. With only one way forward, he looks towards an uncertain future - with the intent to right the wrongs of this world. Together, Akromah and his untrustworthy companion, Tayle (whose soul is trapped inside a utility bag), will learn devastating magic and the difference between friend and foe. They will look to find peace and justice through his ideals for the world he once knew. -it's got me hooked- Q: What was the inspiration behind this game for you? A: The game actually started off as a sidescroller, but over time with my friends it grew into what it is now. aspire for a quality game that is genuinely fun. Witcher 3 for sure - quality before greed! -did he just say Witcher? Consider the game bought- Q: What type of character development does the game have? A: Levels, gear, etc. It will have levels, but cant say for sure how it will be implemented. thinking of leveling skills/ armor/ mechanics instead of generic hero levels. Q: What do you find the hardest for you in your process to develop this game? A: Time management for sure! I enjoy programming so I don't mind that solo, but managing this game and my job kinda forfeits a social life (excluding 2 the friends from high school who are helping with story line and some other niche areas) Q: What do you hope gamers will get from your game? A: Fun, emotional experience, building a legacy for the game/ the studio Q: Is this your first game? If not, what other types of games have you worked on? A: Not exactly. I've made a few horrible games during high school, and a mobile sidescroller a few years ago which gave me a ton of experience for this game. (lessons, do's and don'ts) Q: Where do you see yourself going with game development? A: Ideally full time game studio, but that isn't going to happen anytime soon - ha ha. Q: When do you expect your game to be complete and where would people be able to get it from? A: Hoping for mid 2020, Currently aiming at Steam on PC, but hoping, with the help of a kickstarter etc, PS/ Xbox consoles. -holding thumbs for console release as well- Q: What kind of specs should we be running to play your game? A: Mid to high range definitely, but still hard to improve performance (GTX 1050 + should run it well) -so fresh potato PCs should work fine- Hopefully that's gotten all of you salivating at the mouth as much as it has me. NOW! For those need to know questions. Q: Long walks down the beach or a stroll in the mountains? A: Neither, locked up in my room with my pc, internet and snacky/ concentration food. -touché- Q: Pepsi or Coke? A: tap water, gave up fizzy drinks a long time ago - ha ha -he chooses health and longevity over pure liquid enjoyment, fair enough- Q: Skittles or rascals? A: Astros -a man who refuses to colour inside the lines- Q: What’s your favourite colour? A: Fuchsia -yeah... I had to google that- Q: Do you believe the earth is flat or round? A: Round -there is hope yet- Q: If you had to choose one, Playstation or Xbox? A: PlayStation FTW -that's a pity- Q: You’re stranded on an island - what 3 things do you have with you to survive? A: unopened FedEx box, Wilson volleyball, and an Ice Skate. -uhm... ok? He's going to have to explain this one- Q: Who was your first celebrity crush? A: Kim Possible (don't judge me - ha ha) -no judgement there! I'm sure there's a lot more of you in that boat than you realise- This game seems to tickle all the right places, with diverse biomes and ecosystems, interesting sounding story and character development, mystery and intrigue, an untrusty companion, cool art style and awesome looking adversaries. I, for one, am very eager to join Akromah on his noble quest. Have a look at the final teaser for the game right here... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHktg_sA4Ao&feature=youtu.be And while you're at it, why don't you give the man a subscribe on YouTube. And if you want to follow the game on other social media platforms, choose your poison below.
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The latest from Nintendo

Nintendo recently announced the Switch Lite as the latest addition to their growing family. But what is it exactly? Now most of us are well aware of the Nintendo Switch that was released in early 2017. A console that not only links up with a TV, but also has a portable screen, a controller that breaks apart and all the other little "gadgets" that Nintendo could think of. Good thing they did, as the Switch was an absolute hit! However, the Switch is still crazy expensive here in South Africa, with the cost of it being around 6Gs at the time of this article. So is the Lite a smaller, cheaper version of the Switch? Like the iPhone XS is to the XS Max? Or is it a watered down version of the same product, like any lite/diet version of drinks? We'll let you decide that for yourselves. Before we delve into it, retail price has not yet been confirmed in South Africa, but it has been announced at $200. Don't all rush to your converters to see what we'll be paying here just yet. As is the norm, we know that it'll be a good R1500+ more than the overseas selling price. So what exactly is the Switch Lite? The Lite is a handheld console designed for the Nintendo users who prefer the portable capabilities of the original Switch. It is slightly smaller, will not be able to link up to a TV and it doesn't have the Switch's trademark break-away Joy-Cons, rumble or motion feedback. All of which lends to the "portable system" focus of the Lite. One massive improvement to the Lite's overall design and feel is the addition of a D-Pad on the left side of the device - something fans have been asking Nintendo for since the Switch was released. At the moment, the Lite is available in 3 colours - Yellow, Turqoise and Grey, but there is also a limited edition Pokemon Sword and Shield design pictured below. One other interesting point to mention is that not all current Switch games will be playable on the Switch Lite, due to the Lite's reduced functions. So you will have to check on the back of your case to see if your favourite Switch titles are playable in handheld mode. Along with the Switch Lite, Nintendo also announced a new version of the Switch which is said to have a longer battery life in it's handheld form. Not much else is known about this "enhanced" version of the Switch, except that it may feature a few internal improvements on the existing Switch model. If you are interested in getting your hands on a Switch Lite, they will be releasing in South Africa at the same time as the rest of the world (thank you Nintendo for having an established presence in our country) and will be on shelves on the 20th of September this year. Pre-order is available at select (overseas) vendors though. For more infromation on the Switch Lite, have a look at this video straight from Nintendo.
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All you need to know about E3 2019

The time that most gamers have been waiting for is officially here! E3 2019 brings us all the latest and greatest news and inside looks at some of the most highly anticipated games, and a peek at some new developments. For those that are interested, E3 2019 officially started with the EA Play event but you can watch the rest of it right here; https://earlyaxes.co.za/e3-2019-live-streams/ And the rest of the event looks like this;
  • Microsoft - 22h00 CAT Sunday 9th June
  • Bethesda - 02h30 CAT Monday 10th June
  • Devolver Digital - 04h30 CAT Monday 10th June
  • PC Gaming Show - 19h00 CAT Monday 10th June
  • Ubisoft - 22h00 CAT Monday 10th June
  • Square Enix - 03h00 CAT Tuesday 11th June
  • Nintendo Direct - 06h00 CAT Tuesday 11th June
  E3 2018 brought us a lot of awesome news, so we can only imagine what E3 2019 is going to bring! If you missed any of the conferences, don't worry! You can catch up on all the E3 news here.    

EA PLAY

The EA Play event brought us news from the gaming giant on some of their latest developments and updates to some of their current big titles. The event included information on titles such as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Apex Legends, Battlefield V, FIFA 20, Madden NFL 2020 and The Sims 4. So let's break it down and see exactly what's happening.   Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Now this is a game that I, personally, have been keenly following since its announcement a few months back. The EA Play event treated us to 15 minutes of gameplay footage and WOW! What a game this thing is shaping up to be. The game is canon and is set just after Order 66 was given so, for those Star Wars fans out there, it's set between Episode 3 and 4 and before Rogue One. The 15 minutes of gameplay showed our blue lightsabre wielding protagonist, Cal Kestis, running through spider infested levels and kicking some serious Imperial butt! We are introduced to some of the force powers swordmanship that is available in the game, and both are really impressive! We are also introduced to Star Wars' next very lovable droid (move aside BB-8) in the form of Buddy Droid 1, commonly known as BD-1. This little guy is essentially your backpack as we see him dispensing health vials, as well as projecting holographic maps and accessing power ports for you. He's a very active little guy and moves around on Cal's back as the various situation's demand it.   If you missed the gameplay footage, you can check it out here.
Once the graphics and things are polished on this game, it really is looking to be a killer! Apex Legends The next item up on the list was details on Season 2 of the latest Battle Royale game to take the world by storm. This information included a few weapon buffs, details on a new weapon, what the next battle pass will entail and a new Legend. The new weapon is the L-STAR which can only be found in care packages, so you can only know that it's going to be powerful! There are no attachments and ammo for it so you take it as you get it, kind of like the Mastiff. The biggest excitement in this part was the announcement of the new character, Wattson. She is a defensive type character, with a background in electrical engineering, that places energy type fences as barriers for her squad. Her ultimate ability can block anything coming towards her and her team, recharge the squad's shields AND accelerate Wattson's fence cooldown so she can place more. Another added bonus is that she can fully charge her ultimate ability with one Ultimate Accelerant.   Battlefield V The latest game in the Battlefield franchise got some screen time at this year's EA Play event and, in it, we were informed of a whole lot of new things coming our way. The first, and probably biggest, piece of news is a new map, called Al Sondon. This is a massive map that focuses more on the large scale battle side of things which Battlefield has always been known for. They also spoke about Marita, a new map which recently dropped into play.
We were also introduced to Operation Underground, which brings back memories of the much loved map from earlier Battlefield titles, where players have many flanking routes to get behind enemy lines as well as a more intimate, in your face, style of battle. There was also a lot of talk on the next step for the Battlefield V franchise, Chapter 5. The team is hard at work trying trying to recreate one of World War 2's most infamous battlegrounds, Iwo Jima. This include new weapons, vehicles, and possibly gamemodes that were specific to that aspect of the war.   FIFA 20 The FIFA franchise is definitely one of EA's biggest and best selling titles and fans to the game are fiercely loyal and look forward to any and all new developments in it (as all game fans do I guess). The EA Play event focused heavily on the Volta game mode that is new to FIFA and coming to FIFA 20. This game mode brings football back to its roots, the streets!
The gamemode is very similar to the FIFA Street games but, rather than being a standalone, it is now included in the main game. Volta brings with it new gear to customise your player's look and feel, as well as a female character creator. In the main game, the usual updates and modifications have been made to bring the title closer and closer to the feel of actual football (minus the gamer actually playing and getting tired - we wouldn't want that). There have also been major tweaks to the freekick and penalty systems. All of this will be seen and felt when you actually play the game.   Madden NFL 2020 The biggest conversation from this game will be the live updates (South African internet users groan) that will happen to the game during the NFL season. This is really cool as it'll keep your game as authentic to the real thing as possible! This includes player line-up changes as well as plays that the teams use in the NFL, keeping your playbook for each team as close to the actual NFL coach's as possible. Have a look at the reveal trailer here.
By the way - GO STEELERS!   The Sims 4 Now, this was a feature that surprised me! EA Play brought a new expansion for all the Sims lovers out there (myself included). Sims 4 Island living is here and is dropping on Console on the 16th of June and on PC on the 21st of June. As with all Sims expansions, you can expect new fashion and home items and a new location, which I'll talk about in a bit, but some of the really cool additions are these; There are mermaids - you can create and design them, interact with them, and they have powers. You can go underwater and SCUBA dive - time to explore the deep and dark places of the Sim world. You can befriend dolphins - that's just freaking awesome. Now, back to the new location. The Island Living expansion brings an active volcano into the Sims world. Not much is known about this yet but the possibilities in my head are endless! The Sims 4 is also taking an environmental awareness stance (big up to the creators on this one) in that if you don't look after the island, like littering and such things, the game will get worse. So pick up the litter and look after the environment - in the game and out. Take a look at this trailer for the new Sims 4 expansion.
   

MICROSOFT

 E3 2019 officially kicked off with Microsoft showing us some of the things we can expect from them in the near future and, with Sony nowhere in sight at this year’s conference, Microsoft took full use of the opening. We got details on the next generation of Xbox, codenamed Project Scarlett, and a look at the trailers of games like Halo Infinite and Gears 5, as well as when we can expect them to drop. These are just some of the things that were revealed at E3 2019 but if I told you all the secrets up front then there would be no point in writing further… So let’s break it down.   Project Scarlett After months of speculation and rumours, Microsoft FINALLY let its fans know what to expect from its next-gen console and, man, what a machine it is! This thing is said to have 4 times the processing power of the Xbox One X and manages to run at 120 fps, double that of the One X (yes – we know PC Gamers, we know). Project Scarlett also boasts 8K resolution, more photo-realistic lighting effects thanks to new and improved ray tracing (google it – I had to too). Now we can go on about all the other tech stuff but the thing that piques my attention the most is a new breed of SSD, which is said to be 40 times faster than current SSDs available on the market – hello super-fast loading times. Take a look at the reveal video here.
All of this will be coming to a store near you sometime near the end of 2020.   xCloud With streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, is all the rage at the moment, it was only a matter of time before gaming twigged onto the true essence of “cloud-stream gaming.” We’ve gotten pretty close to it with services like EA and Origin Access and Xbox Gamepass, but those are not true cloud-stream gaming services as a download of the game is still required. xCloud is Microsoft’s next big market changer as it allows the game to play a game without actually downloading it onto their device but, rather, having it stored in their own private corner of the xCloud. This service also turns your console into your own “little” cloud and gives you the ability to play games on almost any device, from almost anywhere. I’d imagine this service is going to need a pretty big and steady internet line to play (shakes head in South African) so I’m not sure how functional it’s going to be in countries that don’t have mega-WiFi – Only time will tell I guess. This new service will become available from October this year.   New Elite Controller After just releasing the Elite V2, which was a colour change with some improvements of the original Elite, Microsoft announced the launch of the Elite Series 2 wireless controller. It is said that this controller has over 30 new ways to play like a pro. Some of these ways being adjustable-tension thumbsticks, interchangeable components, tons of customization options on the Xbox Accessories App on Xbox One and Windows 10. It’s also said to have a rechargeable battery that will go for 40 hours between charge cycles. And it's damn sexy too!   Gears 5 and Halo Infinite New instalments for some of Microsoft’s biggest, and most loved, exclusive game franchises are on their way to a console near you (provided you’ve bought it). Have a look at these trailers to get some hype!
 
Gears 5 will be available from the 10th of September this year! While you can expect to see Halo Infinite in the later months of 2020 and will be launched on Project Scarlett.   Elden Ring The studio that brought us Dark Souls has given the guy, who gave us the first five books of A Song of Ice and Fire and the good seasons of A Game of Thrones, yet another reason to not finish the final two books! But you know what? I’m not even mad… George R.R. Martin (the guy) and FromSoftware (the studio) have collaborated together to bring us the fantasy game we didn’t even know we needed, Elden Ring. This game looks great! See for yourself here.
  Microsoft Flight Simulator One of the best and most iconic flight sims and games, from my childhood, is making a comeback after almost a decade of leaving a gaping whole in the video game industry.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is one of Microsoft’s longest-running product lines and has been largely regarded as one of the best flight sims available to the general public – although that might just be my own sentiment talking. Coming in 2020 on PC, you can once again take to the skies in the plane of your choice, from light aircraft to huge passenger carriers, and fly anywhere in the world, night or day, rain or shine and land at realistic, real-life airports and landing strips all over the world.   Cyberpunk 2077 A game that has already generated so much hype since it’s sneaky reveal at E3 2018 has generated even more if that’s even possible. But have a look for yourself.
No - you weren't seeing things. Yup - you really did see that! Watch it again if you don't believe me.   Surprise Game Reveal Staying true to form, Microsoft unveiled a game we weren’t expecting! The Blair Witch Project is being turned into a first-person horror game that looks a lot like Silent Hill. This game is sure to give even the most hardcore horror gamers out there a fright or three. Have a look for yourself if you don’t believe me.
Other Features The Microsoft conference was jam-packed full of goodness, if you missed some of the other games that were revealed, check out their trailers here. Outer Worlds
Bleeding Edge
Minecraft Dungeons
Battletoads
 

BETHESDA

  Bethesda, never one to leave their fans disappointed once again brought the magic...  Opening with a touching tribute and shout-out to the players, and what we as the players, mean to Bethesda. Todd Howard was first to take the stage and apologised for the rough start of Fallout 76.  Next was The Elder Scrolls: Blades, the very popular mobile game.  New features such as dragon questline and single person arena modes.  The features don't stop there, Blades is coming to the Nintendo Switch! Fallout 76 https://youtu.be/DyhceJEIhBo Fallout had a rocky start, but with tons of updates it has become a rather happy community, and now, the latest update called Wastelanders,  bringing with it Human NPC's, more main quests, choice and consequences as well as a host of new weapons and gear.  A new and refreshing game mode is also included, Vault 51 needs a new overseer, and in true gaming logic, the only way to decide that is by way of...  a Battle Royale... a 52-man fight to be the overseer, named Nuclear Winter! Ghostwire: Tokyo https://youtu.be/MZBcNP8_FVE Ghostwire Tokyo is a new paranormal action adventure game.  This title will take you to Tokyo where people are going missing, your job is to find out why.  Along the way, you will meet both good and bad spirits, who will aid or increase your struggles during your adventure.  Looking at the trailer, it would seem that a great deal of your time will be invested in trying to discover which elements are normal and which are paranormal... Elder Scrolls: Online https://youtu.be/XpfOjHzEPuQ Dragons!  Dragons have come to ESO.  Elsweyr was recently launched, allowing players to explore the homeland of the Kajhit and try out the new necromancer class.  The previous season of ESO showed us how dragons were brought to the world of ESO, now see what they are doing to the world and its inhabitants in the new world premiere!  Introducing the new order of dragon hunters that will be launched with the next expansion called Dragonhold which will complete the season of the dragon.  August will bring Scalebreaker, a dungeon-crawling release adding much-requested gameplay to the ESO game. Elder Scrolls: Legends (mobile) https://youtu.be/RlKDNzwYoSE Bethesda is really investing in the mobile game genre, and taking their biggest names and taking them mobile.  ES: Legends is a card based game coming to mobile, similar to Gwent.  ES Legends will be available for download immediately. Rage 2 https://youtu.be/1Rps7WKTYr4 With the release of Rage 2 Id Software has created what is arguably one of the best open world shooters ever, and they are not planning on stopping there.  In the near-future Rage 2 will be getting its first expansion bringing with it a host of new characters, missions, vehicles, and weapons.  The new expansion is called Rise of Ghosts.  Oh and wait, you can now drive... a Mech!!! Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot (VR) Time to head back to Europe and kill some more Nazis, this time in VR!  You find yourself in the shoes of a French hacker working for the resistance, hacking the Nazi war machines and turning them on their creators! Wolfenstein: Youngblood More weapons!  More custom playstyle and MORE NAZIS TO KILL!  What is better than killing Nazis?  Killing them with a friend!  Grab a friend and jump to the 1980s, BJ is missing, you take control of his twins on the hunt to find their dad, either doing it solo or with a friend!  This is going to be BLOODY GORGEOUS! https://youtu.be/XVGsNUnrvAI Deathloop Deathloop is a new and interesting title coming from the creators of Dishonored.  Showcasing 2 assassins stuck on an island prison/paradise, depending on who you ask, in a timeless loop hunting and killing each other over and over. With Arkane studios at the helm, Deathloop promises to bring a mind-bending story as well as providing many ways to approach and complete the task at hand. https://youtu.be/qclEO3QxclY Orion (new game-engine tech) https://youtu.be/8n61-78vBM0 With all the talk of game streaming, Orion tech can be applied to any game engine and make it more efficient for streaming!  Up to 20% faster per frame and 40% lower bandwidth,  for us, this means faster streaming of games as well as making it cheaper and less-hungry on data.  You will still be able to stream your game at max settings even if you live further away from data centres.   DOOM ETERNAL https://youtu.be/uxBQmSXrDxM DOOM is arguably the poster boy title for Bethesda, and Doom Eternal solidifies this statement!  Insane speed, tremendous amounts of blood and gore!  Doom promises bigger and better!  Demon slaying is the game, and DOOM Eternal brings the newest and best way of doing so with new map designs, new weapons and new enemies to try them on, all while finding your own way of slaying!

SQUARE ENIX

Square Enix is a powerhouse company boasting some of the biggest game names in the industry and at 2019 E3 they did not hold back!   Final Fantasy VII remake Yes, it is finally happening, after many years in development hell and many sneak peeks at previous E3 conferences, Final Fantasy 7 is finally getting some worthwhile info to share.  With visuals that are simply breathtaking, this, arguably the greatest in the Final Fantasy franchise will pull at heartstrings of new and old alike.  Final Fantasy 7 is going to be large it will spand 2 bluray discs!  New players to Final Fantasy 7 should not worry, the game has been tailored for newbies and veterans alike.  Gone is the turn-based fighting system and welcome to the FF15-style combat system. Final Fantasy VII will drop on 03:03:2020 https://youtu.be/eBZyJl7_OPM   Life is Strange 2 After Life is Strange 2 and The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, comes a continuation of one of the most emotional roller coaster rides you can possibly have in a game.  Daniel is starting to control his powers and meets up and shares it with fellow friends and foes along the way.  Life is Strange cannot be classed in words; all you can do is simply experience this narrative splendour for yourself. The latest chapter is available now https://youtu.be/yqrQ44bQdaY   Dragon Quest Builders 2 The builders have been abducted and it is up to you, and your mysterious partner to save them!  Defeat the children of Hargon and become the master builder, but wait, building is always better with a friend, now you can call on your friends to help you save the world! https://youtu.be/pBcRuaBOeX4 Battalion 1944 Battallion 1944 is getting many new features and game modes as well as new weapons!  As well as a new multiplayer system allowing for easy leagues and tournaments as well as major bragging rights.  Check out the fast-paced video to see all the newest additions to what is sure to be a classic. https://youtu.be/_-I3KsAQOtQ   Square Enix Music The music app that gamers want!  You now have Square Enix game soundtracks at your fingertips!  Simply hop onto all leading subscription services and listen to your favourite Final Fantasy soundtrack immediately!
  Final Fantasy 14 – Shadowbringers The third expansion for the immensely popular FF14 game is coming,  it releases on July 2 and brings with it enough content that would warrant a new standalone title.  New jobs, gunbreaker and the dancer, new races and even more.
  Outriders Outriders is from the creators of bulletstorm and Gears of War, from the video it seems to be a shooter set in an alien time period and sees 3 humans making a stand against an enemy alien force.  One of the human characters are seen to be using telekinetic powers.  Can this be a new challenger for the Gears of War crown?
  Final Fantasy VIII The Final Fantasy that got me into gaming is getting a remaster.  One of the biggest games in the franchise and the title that rooted a name in the Western markets is being remastered!  To the fans of the game, this will be a welcome remaster and to the new players, it’s worth every hour spent. https://youtu.be/liHKeemjdbI Avengers Finally, an Avengers game that can be excited about.  This only being a announce trailer, it didn’t give much in terms of gameplay but it sees the Avengers taking on a new enemy.  And it seems that the Avengers have lost and the human race has lost faith in them...  But they are not going to take it laying down! https://youtu.be/qpa4JXn5lVk Stay tuned for more information on E3 2019...

UBISOFT

With a much-anticipated audience waiting to see what 1 of the leading game developers had in store, we had some ups...but maybe not enough?

Ubisoft threw a varied assortment of interesting trailers and line ups at us from new additions, to a new movie to a tv show ripping on game development and a PC subscription service. Let's start with some of the lesser yet still interesting news, it involves the latest in the assassins creeds "Odessey" which is getting a story creator which allows you to create and design your own quests using a web-based tool.  And scheduled later to drop on us is "discovery mode" very similar to origins Education mode. https://youtu.be/uLJGDiATv_s We move onto some more interesting news and news some of us have been waiting eagerly for... The new Watchdogs game, set in good ol jolly England, well Britain to be more exact, and the biggest twist on the game? You can control virtually ANY character in the game from that tough looking biker to sweet old Agnus, allowing you to build up your own crew of vigilante hackers. https://youtu.be/3orYqGDSDUk Ghost Recon: Breakpoint has already been on everyone's lips but who could've anticipated that Jon Bernthal would be a prominent role in the game, he even showed up on stage with the very best doggo "bam bam", the game is scheduled for launch October 4th. https://youtu.be/P2tOLL_sAYk A Very strange and unusual announcement was that Rob McElhenney, creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is making a tv series which mocks game development and is titled "Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet", no one is quite sure where Ubisoft fits into the plot but many of us can guess. https://youtu.be/8A6eaEL2EN4 And Siege fans we were gifted with the announcement of Rainbow Six: Quarantine, its a co-op Squad based survival FPS, and is being spearheaded by a whole new Montreal Team, Will it be with new operators? will it be something similar to outbreak? we can only wait and see. https://youtu.be/DbL-ZpBle64 And another PC subscription is making its way out of the woodworks, as Ubisoft Unveiled Uplay Plus, which offers over 100 games INCLUDING its DLC and is set to hit your screens September 3rd. Kinda Exciting news of a Division movie which will be coming to NETFLIX and is being directed by Jake Gyllenhaal, Will it be able to live up to the hype the game had? and we are all dying to see who will take on the iconic roles of our beloved agents. https://youtu.be/1YuIKUJA31w Step up Sports fans as Ubisoft drops a new game title into the mix, Roller Champions is a competitive multiplayer roller Derby set in a futuristic vibe.  And will set to be free-to-play when it drops. https://youtu.be/cFdyq9I1HZo The team behind Assassins creed Odyssey is working on another yet slightly smaller project called "Gods & Monsters" which dives into Greek mythology, it actually looks pretty good, but we sit in our now butt worn seat for more info, all we know is it will be available 25 Feb next year. https://youtu.be/Egzb6_HCqQw And with that readers Ubisoft drew to a close, leaving us hungry and wanting more.  Did Ubisoft run out of ideas or are they planning to hit us with earth-shattering news in the near future, Ubisoft, in my opinion, is a well-liked and dedicated development team, with everlasting potential and a drive to keep us all entertained.  Were you all excited or let down by the Ubisoft panel? we would love your honest opinion on our FB page, drop us a comment and let us know.  
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What is the Amico console?

Now before you all think this new console is coming to compete with Google Stadia and push "the future of gaming" even further out of reach for our potato internet South Africans, it's not. In fact, it's not even really the "next" thing in gaming but rather the "previous" thing. The Amico will appeal to all the older guys in the gaming community, as well as all the retro gaming fans out there! The Amico is the latest console made by console legend from the past, Intellivision. These guys have been around since 1979 and were one of Atari's biggest competitors through the 80's. These are the guys who started the console war! Now some of you newer generation gamers are thinking why would I want a remade retro console? Well, this thing is shaping up to be pretty cool and quite advanced. It includes things like WiFi (WOW), two colour touch screen controllers, HDMI and USB ports (so it will work with modern TVs) and - wait for it - RGB LIGHTING! It can't get much cooler than that! This console will be a hit for young and old alike. It's designed to bring the social lounge aspect back into gaming and will be simple enough to use and play for even the most technologically disadvantaged folk and no-skill gamers among us. The Amico's ease of play and simplicity will definitely be a party maker, and if you have more than 2 people at your party (is it even a party with 2 people?), there's a controller app for the Amico that allows you to connect up to 8 players into a game!  They are also including competitive online multiplayer and leader boards so that you can compete with your friends for bragging rights and some unique achievement trophies. The console will be hitting the market late 2020 and will be coming in at the very tempting price of about $180, with games going for $2.99 to $7.99, every one of them exclusive to the Amico! The console will launch with several built-in titles and over 20 games in its online store, including Earthworm Jim. As they said, they are creating a console that parents will want to buy, not one that they are asked to buy. That's a bold statement but Intellivision is really working hard at making the Amico appealing, and there is definitely a large and growing group of gamers who would be into this console. This console will definitely do well on the market and will surely become a feature in most homes, with it's highly niche target market and affordability. Intellivision is doing a lot right with the Amico, but let me not bore you by going on about this console, here is a video from Intellivision themselves telling you exactly what you can expect from the Amico. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xokUnn1lBGA And if that's not enough for you, check out their website; www.intellivisionentertainment.com
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Epic Games buying up the competition

Epic Games is literally taking over the market by buying new studios to add under their umbrella. The studio that brought as many good things, and Fortnite (think of that what you will), has recently acquired the independent development studio, Psyonix, which brought us Rocket League - what's not to love with cars and giant exploding balls? This was a wise move on the side of Psyonix as it brings them more resources, both human and financial, to continue to support Rocket League's growing competitive e-sports league. They also plan to bring the game to the Epic Games store later this year. Once the game appears on the Epic Games store, it is unsure if it will remain in the Steam store but all sources and evidence are suggesting that it will no longer be available to purchase through Steam. Now what does the mean for those of you who have already purchased and logged some serious time through Steam? In a statement made by Epic, it seems clear that there are pre and post Epic store phases. Currently (pre-Epic), the game is available to purchase on Steam and it is playable and supported (obviously). Later (post-Epic), the game will be available to purchase in the Epic store but will still be playable and supported on Steam for those who have already purchased it there. However, Epic has not officially announced that it will stop selling the game on steam, it's all guessing at the moment, but that does seem like the most likely outcome as Steam and Epic are direct competitors. This buy over should not come as a surprise to anyone as Psyonix and Epic have had a long-standing partnership, dating back to the early days of Unreal Engine and games like Unreal Tournament 2004. Psyonix was even founded a short distance from Epic Games headquarters in 2001. Both companies are also well known for pushing the bar in cross-platform gaming, with Psyonix supporting cross-play in Rocket League and Epic supporting it in Fortnite (which helped fuel its rise). However beneficial this acquisition is for Epic and Psyonix, it will raise many heads as Epic continues to spend huge amounts of resources to chip away at Valve's dominance in PC game sales. Epic purchasing a studio with a hit title, and pulling that away from Steam will come as a huge blow to Valve.
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Will Apex Legends have Cross-Play?

Cross Platform gaming, or cross-play, is a topic that is hot on every gamer’s lips nowadays with gamers everywhere wanting to play with, and against, their friends on other platforms. With that being said, it will come as no surprise should Apex Legends choose to follow games, like Fortnite, down the cross-play path. And why shouldn't they? So, for those of you also asking the question around cross-play for Apex Legends, Respawn - producers of Titanfall and Apex Legends, have confirmed that cross-play is in the works but has not yet indicated when they will be adding it in to the game that has taken the Battle Royale genre by storm. Drew McCoy, the lead producer at Respawn, said to Eurogamer that they plan “to allow players to play with their friends on other platforms” at some point. This obviously generated a whole lot of buzz! It is likely that cross-play on Apex Legends will look a lot like cross-play with Epic Games, where gamers will create an account, possibly through Origin, and link their platforms to this central account, which will then be used to add gamers on other platforms and squad up with them - but this is all just educated guessing.   McCoy also said in the same interview that cross-progression will, unfortunately, not be possible because of how the game was set up in it's early days of production and this can not be reconciled. So, if you are looking to play Apex Legends with your friends on other platforms, you'll be doing it for some good old fun, and not for adding kills and wins to your counters. Apex Legends is currently free and available on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Whether it will be making an appearance on Switch, mobile, and other platforms is still to be seen. So here's to hoping that cross-play finds it's way to Apex Legends very soon! Until then, enjoy the first season, look forward to new legends, choose your drops wisely, and don't get bamboozled!  
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