Gamers are the winners from E3 2015

e3Throughout the years, with the conclusion of each E3 event, there has been a growing notion that there has to be an outright winner amongst the video game industry’s leading competitors.

In 2013 Sony drew the plaudits with their ‘For the gamers’ centric presentation, whilst last year’s showcase seemed to tip the balance of favour into either Microsoft’s or Sony’s corner, depending on which ‘fanbase’ gamers belonged to.

2015 was no exception to this growing and slightly peculiar trend. This time around, however, it wasn’t a developer, publisher, or giant within the industry who could stand proud knowing that they had won the acclaim of those lucky enough to attend gaming’s most glamarous convention.

This year’s winner was, in fact, the gamers.

And with good reason. The glut of video games that are set to appear on any and all platforms in the next six, twelve, eighteen months and beyond lends credence to the claims that E3 2015 has had the best lineup of titles in the expo’s entire history.

Fallout 4, Halo 5: Guardians, No Man’s Sky, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Star Fox Zero, Tom Clancy’s: The Division, Star Wars Battlefront, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Just Cause 3, Rainbow Six: Siege, Yoshi’s Woolly World and the Final Fantasy VII remake are just some of the multitude of visually stunning, high quality developed titles that will leave gamers sweating over the diminishing funds in their back accounts.

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And that’s just the triple A publications on offer. The indie gaming scene has never looked stronger as well, with the likes of Below, Cuphead, Dreams, Beyond Eyes, Unravel and Anno: 2205 being praised for their gameplay and ingenuity.

Couple these with developments in both virtual and augmented reality (how mindblowing was Microsoft’s Hololens demo?), alongside the revelation that Microsoft has achieved backwards compatibility to enable the Xbox One to play Xbox 360 games (Sony could potentially follow suit in the future), and console gaming looks destined to enjoy a substantial fruitful period.

PC gaming also looks to be in fine health too, in spite of the inaugural E3 PC Gaming show seemingly lacking much charisma or much in the way of genuine gaming reveals, compared to the other seven main stage shows. With many titles destined for consoles also coming out on PC, the ever growing popularity of the Steam community and the ability to pretty much mod any game (Bethesda did hint at bringing mod support to Fallout 4 on console versions during E3 too), computer enthusiasts have no reason to fear missing out on any of the best up and coming titles nevertheless.

Of course, many punters will point to the glaring issue that trailers and demonstrations during E3 are made to look more aesthetically pleasing, and include features that tend to not appear in the final version of the game, in a bid to elevate the hype and excitement enough to pressure gamers into pre-ordering games months in advance of their release.

It is a point worth making. Gamers have been burnt in the past by promises of seeing their most anticipated games running at reduced frames-per-second than was first revealed, or with graphics dumbed down to help games run smoother, or seeing elements of gameplay completely stripped from the final product once games have hit both physical and digital stores. Such revelations can and have led to skepticism amongst the gaming fanbase, with many reluctant to part with their hard earned cash until final versions have been released and reviewed.

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The fact remains, though, that this year’s plethora of announcements, demos and press conferences have showcased what appears to be the most diverse and rich offering of video game titles for a long, long time. If a high proportion of developers and publishers can stick to their E3 promises, the next few years have the potential to be the gaming industry’s biggest and brightest era since the dawn of video games themselves.

E3 may have come and gone once more, but there is plenty to be optimistic about. It’s a good time to be a video gamer, that much is certain.

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E3 2015: What can we expect?

e3It’s that time of year again. June has finally rolled around and, as has become the customary arrival of the midway point of the calendar year, the video game industry’s best and brightest have begun filing in to Los Angeles ahead of 2015’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 for short.

The 3 day long convention has seen a momumentally exponential growth in the past ten years as gaming has burst its way into modern day mainstream culture, and 2015 looks to be bigger and bolder than ever, with no less than seven companies looking to win over gaming fanatics with their wide array of games, tech and bold press conferences (eight if you include Oculus’ pre-E3 conference from June 11th).

And, before the task of receiving more news than is possible to memorise and write up about kicks off, it would be wise to take a look at the seven main contenders who are looking to ‘win’ this year’s event, along with what particular titles are likely to be on show during the event.

Microsoft

The technology giant recovered from a below par-2013 E3 showing last year to reclaim some semblance of respect amongst gamers in particular and, fronted once again by Xbox chief Phil Spencer, will be looking to have an even stronger press conference than 2014’s.

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Spencer has already revealed that time constraints have ensured that three Xbox One exclusives in Scalebound, Quantum Break and Crackdown will not be presented at E3 – the trio will be given coverage at Gamescom in August – which, considering how anticipated these titles are, is a strange move on Microsoft’s part. One can only assume that Spencer et al belive their E3 lineup is strong enough without such exclusives. Only time will tell.

What we can expect to see: Halo 5: Guardians, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Forza 6 and the Gears of War remastered collection. It is also possible that MS will briefly touch upon their collaboration with Oculus Rift, following yesterday’s announcement that the virtual reality headset will ship with an Xbox One controller, as well as companies such as Insomnic Games creating content for the device.

Press Conference date and time: 15th June – 9:30am PT / 12:30pm ET / 5:30pm BST

Sony

After stealing the show from Microsoft back in 2013 and winning over fans the world over with their “It’s just a games console, and nothing else” pitch, Sony’s 2014 showing was a little more hit and miss with the company preferring to showcase technology, such as Playstation TV, over games – a complete role reversal to their conference the year before.

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Still, the Japanese conglomerate will likely push a wide variety of its first party content during this year’s presentation as they look to continue their strong hold on the gaming market.

What we can expect to see: Unchartered 4, definitely. Unchartered: The Nathan Drake Collection is also very likely to be officially unveiled, alongside other first party titles such as Until Dawn, No Man’s Sky, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, and a number of JRPGs. Project Morpheus – Sony’s own in house VR device – will potentially figure heavily throughout their presentation.

Press Conference date and time: 15th June – 6pm PT / 9pm ET / 16th June – 2am BST

Bethesda

The American games studio behind the much loved Elder Scrolls and Fallout series is holding its inaugural E3 press conference at this year’s event.

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Not much is known as to what the publisher will show but, after teasing the likes of Fallout 4 and a Doom reboot in recent weeks, do they need to showcase anything other than two of the most hotly anticipated games in recent memory?

What we can expect to see: Fallout 4. Lots and lots of Fallout 4. Also on the agenda will be the Doom remake/reboot, as well as a further look at last year’s tease for a new IP in Battlecry.

Press Conference date and time: 14th June – 7pm PT / 10pm ET / 15th June – 3am BST

Electronic Arts

Often barracked in some quarters for its over reliance on the production of sports based video games during these types of presentatinons, EA have branched out and away from that position in the gaming industry a lot more in recent years.

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Naturally, a company that distributes the likes of FIFA, Madden and NBA will see a good portion of its showing taken up by sports based titles, but the California-based organisation has some potentially outstanding non-sports brands to show off this year. Expect these to draw the punters in.

What we can expect to see: Sports games. Lots of sports games. If that’s not something to whet your appetite, perhaps the Star Wars: Battlefront reboot, a new Mirror’s Edge game, Need for Speed or Mass Effect 4 will do nicely.

Press Conference date and time: 15th June – 1pm PT / 4pm ET / 9pm BST

Nintendo

The Japanese based corporation is set to hold another digital event, in much the same vein as last year’s weird-but-slightly-funny presentation, but it remains to be seen what the giant will actually showcase during its event.

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It has already been confirmed that the Legend of Zela Wii U title – so brilliantly teased at the 2014 event – will not be making an appearance. Nor will Nintendo show off its supposed new hardware, currently codenamed the Nintendo NX, so it could be safe to assume that the Mario makers could exhibit the likes of the new Star Fox game and demonstrate more of what we might see with regards to their venture into the mobile gaming world.

What we can expect to see: Star Fox, Mario Maker and Yoshi’s Woolly World look set to hold the stage, but Nintendo is reknowned for its surprises so expect to see a few unannounced tidbits from them.

Press Conference date and time: 16th June – 9am PT/ 12pm ET / 5pm BST

Square Enix

The Japanese video game developer, publisher and distributor will have the likes of Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts 3 and Rise of the Tomb Raider featured in Sony’s and Microsoft’s own press conferences, but the Tokyo based company will no doubt hold back some exclusive detailings in these titles for their own conference.

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Those games aside, expect to see multiple JRPGs on show, as well as future releases including Star Ocean, Nosgoth and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, alongside a raft of mobile only games.

What we can expect to see: Final Fantasy XV, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Kingdom Hearts 3 and Rise of the Tomb Raider will be the big hitters for Square Enix, but expect a whole host of other anime-inspired titles to be showcased.

Press Conference date and time: 16th June – 10am PT/ 1pm ET / 6pm BST

Ubisoft

The French-Canadian based company has almost become synonymous with its Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed series that it’s easy to forget just how many other projects they’re working on, and it looks like this year could be another keenly anticipated showing from the Montreal based corporation.

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Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and Tom Clancy’s The Division will hopefully be present at the convention, in addition to other hotly tipped titles such as Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege, Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 and a number of indie developed games that Ubisoft have spawned in recent years to critical acclaim.

What we can expect to see: Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege are the main draws for Ubisoft this year, and any indie titles that catch the eye (much like Child of Light or Valiant Hearts) will once again end up front and centre by the year’s end.

Press Conference date and time: 15th June – 3pm PT / 6pm ET / 11pm BST

Who do you expect to come out on top at this year’s E3? Sound out in the comments with your opinions!

The Everton End of Season Report (Part 2)

After 10 months and 380 matches the 2014/15 Premier League season came to an end last Sunday afternoon and, with it, came a sigh of relief from Evertonians across the globe.

Fans of the men in the Royal Blue jersey have watched on as Roberto Martinez’s charges struggled domestically to finish outside of the top 10 in the league standings for the first time since the 2005/06 season – as well as bow out of both cup competitions at the first hurdle – and whilst the Toffees’ Europa League adventure ultimately ended in failure thanks to a last 16 defeat at the hands of Dynamo Kyiv, it remained the only slight positive from an overall insipid campaign.

And with Everton’s first team squad now jetting off around the world until they report back to Finch Farm at the start of July, what better time to look back at each individual’s form, performances and statistics from the outgoing season.

Part 1, concerning the Blues’ goalkeepers and defenders, can be found here, and in this second article it is the turn of the Toffees’ midfielders and forwards to be reviewed:

Gareth Barry: After a successful season long loan spell, big things were expected of the veteran midfielder in his debut season as a permanent Everton player. Injuries to fellow centre midfielders ensured that Barry played more matches than both he and manager Roberto Martinez would have liked and, as a result, his form dipped for much of the campaign. Showed signs of recovery during Blues’ mini late season revival, and like many of his team mates Barry will have to perform better come the 2015/16 season. Rating: 5/10

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James McCarthy: A hamstring injury between November 2014 and February 2015 cut a huge swathe through the Republic of Ireland’s season – a four month spell that coincided with the Toffees’ horrendous run of results that produced a miserly 2 wins from 15 games before his return. Combative and effusive as ever, the 24 year old enjoyed a fruitful-by-his-standards scoring run in a more advanced role during the Blues’ late sequence of unbeaten matches. Would have vied for the Player of the Season award had he been fit for the whole campaign. Rating: 7/10

Darron Gibson: Niggling injuries continue to prevent the 27 year old from stringing a number of matches together but, when the former Manchester United man figured, he played a key role in helping the Toffees overcome their treacherous run of form throughout the festive period. Question marks remain over his future due to constant presence in the treatment room, however. Rating: 6/10

Muhamed Besic: The £4m summer signing from Ferencvaros became somewhat of a cult hero amongst sections of Evertonians in his debut Everton season, with his bustling, all action performances providing bite to the midfield areas. Hot headed both with and without the ball, however, and will need to work extremely hard to push Barry and McCarthy for a more regular starting berth next campaign. Promising. Rating: 6/10

Leon Osman: A tendon injury prevented the diminutive midfielder from figuring in the early months of 2015, but the 33 year old returned to produce some impressive performances out on the left wing as the seaosn drew to a close – his stunning equaliser at West Ham United in the 2-1 win capping off a particularly stand out display. Will remain an important squad player under Martinez for a couple more seasons to come. Rating: 6.5/10

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Steven Pienaar: Severely restricted by injuries this season, the former South Africa international only managed to feature once in the latter five months of the campaign. His partnership down the left with Baines was sorely missed this season, and has a battle on his hands to recover his starting position after a season of frustration. Rating: 5/10

Christian Atsu: Hugely disappointing loan spell on Merseyside. Featured just 4 times in 2015 for the Blues – the last of those appearances coming in the 5-2 defeat to Dynamo Kyiv in the Europa League – and never managed to light up Goodison Park, despite his undoubted talents that have been showcased time and again for Ghana. Will most likely receive more game time on loan at newly promoted Bournemouth next season. Rating: 4/10

Aiden McGeady: Like many of his midfield contingent, the wideman suffered from injury that restricted his involvement in the second half of 2014/15 as a back niggle ensured McGeady made just 6 appearances in 2015. Bagged 1 goal and 4 assists for the campaign, but inconsistency on the field and a rare red card in the FA Cup made certain of a below par season, and did little to keep away the detractors. Rating: 4.5/10

Kevin Mirallas: The Belgian’s splendid 2014/15 came to a shuddering halt thanks to his brazen, selfish act with regards to the penalty incident in the 0-0 home draw with West Bromwich Albion, before a hamstring niggle kept the winger out for a month. Enjoyed his most productive spell as an Everton player – 12 goals and 2 assists – but the penalty event, coupled with the 27 year old constantly stating that his future would lie away from Goodison come the summer, has left a sour taste in the mouths of Everton fans. Rating: 6/10

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Aaron Lennon: The Blues’ only January transfer activity saw the arrival of the pacy winger on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, and after an initial bedding in period the 27 year old helped revitalise Everton’s stuttering season. His work up and down the right wing – both offensively and defensively – endeared him to the Goodison faithful, and built up a good understanding with right back Seamus Coleman as the months went by. Could be back in the Royal Blue jersey if the Blues can strike a permanent deal with Spurs. Rating: 7/10

Ross Barkley: The youngster’s knee ligament injury on the eve of the 2014/15 season opener meant that the England international did not feature until mid-October, but despite an outstanding performance in his first apppearance of the campaign – the 3-0 win over Aston Villa – the 21 year old’s season never really got going. Registered just 2 goals and 3 assists in a season where he struggled to replicate last season’s form. A summer break will no doubt do him the world of good. Rating: 5.5/10

Steven Naismith: The Scot struggled to reproduce his best form in the second half of the 2014/15 season, but his efforts throughout the first 4 months of the campaign will ensure the 28 year old can look back and be personally pleased with his contribution to the cause. Will never lack fight and desire for the Toffees cause, and is a worthy option in the latter third of the field should Martinez look to utilise him. Rating: 6.5/10

Arouna Kone: Appeared to have finally turned a corner in his Everton career, with his 1st Toffees goal coming against Newcastle United before the turn of the year, but found it difficult to figure such was the form of Romelu Lukaku. Seemed to be developing a promising partnership with the Belgian in the last few games of the season, but failed to showcase much to prove he would be a valuable option for Martinez. Could end up being 3rd or 4th choice striker come the start of 2015/16. Rating: 4.5/10

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Romelu Lukaku: A completely different player to the one that was dropped during the festive period. 2015 saw the 21 year old bag 13 goals and 4 assists – including his first Everton hattrick in the 4-1 win over BSC Young Boys – as the striker overturned a lacklustre first half of the campaign to become a stand out performer for the Toffees. Still has areas to improve upon, but if Lukaku can take this form into 2015/16 he’ll be one of the Premier League’s most feared strikers. Rating: 7.5/10

And the manager…

Roberto Martinez: The Catalan’s second season in charge of Everton was in stark contrast to his first. Questionable tactics, a stubborn refusal to change his mantra and philosophy until the Blues were truly in the mire, and with reported fallings out with the likes of Sylvain Distin, Samuel Eto’o and Luke Garbutt, Martinez’s management syle has been called into question too often this campaign. The 41 year old has divided opinion amongst Evertonians throughout the 2014/15 season, and has a big summer ahead to haul the Blues back into the upper tier of the Premier League next season. Rating: 5/10