E3 2017: Video Games Take Centre-Stage as Spectator Sport

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/ Getty Images North America/ AFP
HIGHLIGHTS
YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook turned gamers into online stars at E3 2017
The e-Sports matches were hugely popular at the annual gaming expo
YouTube billed itself as the biggest gaming platform with record audience
Long fiercely guarded video game industry terrain, the Electronic Entertainment Expo kicked off Tuesday with YouTube, Twitch and Facebook turning gamers into online stars.

A hot trend of video game play streamed as spectator sport and “YouTubers” becoming famous for skills or pithy commentary pervaded the annual gathering, from unveilings of titles to major ‘e-Sports’ matches staged for the first time on the show floor.

“There is a reality now that the influencers of the gaming industry are no longer the games, but the YouTube creators,” YouTube head of gaming Ryan Wyatt told AFP.

E3 2017: Video Games Take Centre-Stage as Spectator Sport

“It is smart to bring creators into the fold so the feedback is constructive, and not scathing reviews.”

Players who have risen to stardom by streaming play online took part in theatrical press conferences held by game and console makers in the days ahead of the formal opening of E3.

Unveilings of eagerly-awaited titles and new franchises were streamed live on platforms including Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube – drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers.

YouTube billed itself as the biggest gaming platform, and said that broadcasters from E3 racked up record-sized audiences.

“Before publishers caught on to the power of the creator, I think creators felt alienated,” Wyatt said, referring to players who stream game action and comment online.

“All of that has changed now. They are integrated into the show and their feedback goes into the design, marketing and promotion of games.

Outshining real-world sports
Video game competition as spectator sport is driving the industry in many ways, according to Craig Levine, chief of leading e-Sports company ESL.

Developers are building games with features to be attractive online spectator events, offerings at E3 showed.

“There are more people watching these games than playing them; it has more than crept into the design cycle,” Levine told AFP.

As competitive performance climbs as a priority, hardware makers push to field better computer chips, screens, controllers and more.

This week, for the first time at E3, there was an e-Sports zone powered by ESL where video game battles were fought and streamed online.

“ESports has one of the fastest growing audiences in not just video games but all of entertainment,” said Rich Taylor, senior vice president of communications at the Electronic Software Association behind E3.

The eSports industry will accelerate from roughly $200 million (roughly Rs. 1,288 crores) in revenue in 2015 to $1-billion (roughly Rs. 6,436 crores) by 2018, according to Baird Equity Research estimates cited by E3 organisers.

In the coming three years, the global audience for eSports was predicted to grow to a half-billion viewers, eclipsing the numbers watching traditional real-world sports, according to Levine.

And, while the focus at E3 was on games for consoles or Windows-powered computers, mobile game play is consistently in top ranks when it comes to viewing, according to YouTube.

More women gamers
The gaming community is huge at Facebook, which returned to E3 this year with an area for live-streamed chats with developers and personalities, and where visitors could share thoughts about the show at the social network and capture memories with 3D or augment reality technology that put them into game scenes.

During the past month, 43 million people have made some 115 million posts, ‘likes,’ and comments related to E3 and major titles.

More than a third of that sharing came from women, who are a growing part of the gaming community, according to Facebook.

“We’ve seen this community of gamers continue to grow and evolve each year – with women now taking a growing share of the conversation around E3,” said Facebook head of global console and online gaming Franco DeCesare.

About 800 million members of the social network play at least one Facebook game monthly, director of global games partnerships Leo Olebe told AFP.

Facebook worked with ESL, video game giant Activision and others at E3 to create content for the social network.

“The fact that the player really is at the center of everything is really powerful,” Olebe told AFP.

“As the player takes a larger role in what’s happening inside our industry, Facebook is perfectly positioned to facilitate that process.”

Destiny 2 on PC Is Exclusive to Battle.net and That’s Great. Here’s Why.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Steam may be convenient but the user experience is dated
  • Valve’s new restrictive policies don’t bode well for consumers either
  • The outrage over not using Steam goes against the PC as an open platform

Destiny 2 for PC will be available on Blizzard’s Battle.net instead of Steam. There’s been a tremendous amount of outrage from the community due to this, with many citing the inconvenience of using another client to play Destiny 2. Some people even plan to boycott the game because of it.

There are plenty of reasons for Destiny 2 publisher Activision to keep it exclusive to its own platform – thirty at the very least. That’s the percentage of revenue Activision would have to pay Valve, if Destiny 2 was on Steam. This alone is a massive plus point for Activision. However, having Destiny 2 on Battle.net will be great for gamers too.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYxVRWAJnNg?ecver=2]

For one, Battle.net is a better client. Sure, it might not have the Big Picture Mode of Steam, or the sheer number of games on sale, but the desktop and mobile apps are easier to use, sporting an intuitive design that’s slick and stylish. On the other hand, Steam resembles something that would have been cutting-edge in 1995.

If looks or usability aren’t a problem for you – and they probably aren’t for a majority of the millions of users on Steam – there is also the question of policy. Right now, Valve has been clamping down on some of the core features of Steam, such as gifting games.

Gone are the days when you could buy games and store them in your inventory to gift at a later date, nor can you send gifts via email. Valve’s also done away with cross-region gifting, which means games that weren’t available in India – such as those in the Dragon Ball Z series – for reasons such as licensing restrictions, can’t be obtained anymore either.

On the other hand, Battle.net makes gifting easier, allowing you to do so via email. This is not just just limited to games either. World of Warcraft for instance, allows users to gift pets, mounts, items, or even game time. In fact, you can even buy Destiny 2 using World of Warcraft’s in-game currency. The ease of use where it matters is what makes Battle.net a better choice for gamers.

destiny 2 squad destiny_2

Beyond that, while Steam has made strides in customer support over the years, it still trails behind Battle.net. Blizzard has been the gold standard for years thanks to its thorough approach and speedy responses. We’ve all experienced this time and again, after experiences like being locked out of the Battle.net account due to hackers, or simply forgetting the password and secret question. Regaining access usually happens in under a day and is hassle-free. Steam on the other hand, is still figuring out how to serve its users better in this regard.

Much like GOG Galaxy, Battle.net’s treatment of its users is something Valve should take notes from. Steam has its fair share of fanboys thanks to its regular game discounts, but it lags in other departments that are often glossed over. Steam Greenlight for instance has resulted in a seemingly infinite assembly line of cookie cutter games borne out of stock assets bought from the Unity Store. It’s taken Valve the better part of five years to realise the need to replace Steam Greenlight and even then, it hasn’t decided what should take its place.

With Destiny 2 coming to Battle.net, it opens the doors for other non-Blizzard games to as well, which sounds like a net positive for gamers. Sure, you might just boycott Destiny 2 on the PC anyway, but in doing so, you’re essentially casting your vote for the future of PC gaming to be utterly dominated by Gabe Newell and friends, with Steam’s restrictive practises, and poor policies, instead of the PC being an open platform, unlike consoles.

Celebrating the Music of Video Games as an Art Form

HIGHLIGHTS

  • London Symphony Orchestra will perform game music this weekend
  • Music will include songs from Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario
  • This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first game-music concert

The electronic bleeps and squawks of Tetris, Donkey Kong and other generation-shaping games that you may never have thought of as musical are increasingly likely to be playing at a philharmonic concert hall near you.

From the “ping … ping” of Atari’s 1972 ground-breaking paddle game Pong, the sounds, infectious ditties and, with time, fully-formed orchestral scores that are an essential part of the sensory thrill for gamers have formed a musical universe. With its own culture, sub-cultures and fans, game music now thrives alone, free from the consoles from which it came.

When audiences pack the Philharmonie de Paris’ concert halls this weekend to soak in the sounds of a chamber orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra performing game music and an homage to one of the industry’s stars, Final Fantasy Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu, they will have no buttons to play with, no characters to control.

They’re coming for the music and the nostalgia it triggers: of fun-filled hours spent on sofas with a Game Boy, Sonic the Hedgehog and the evergreen Mario.

“When you’re playing a game you are living that music every day and it just gets into your DNA,” says Eimear Noone, the conductor of Friday’s opening two-hour show of 17 titles, including Zelda, Tomb Raider, Medal of Honor and other favorites from the 1980s onward.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBV1MLX02fM?ecver=2]

“When people hear those themes they are right back there. And people get really emotional about it. I mean REALLY emotional. It’s incredible.”

Dating the birth of game music depends on how one defines music. Game music scholars – yes, they exist – point to key milestones on the path to the surround-sound extravaganzas of games today.

The heartbeat-like bass thump of Taito’s Space Invaders in 1978, which got ever faster as the aliens descended,caused sweaty palms and was habit-forming.

Namco’s Pac-Man, two years later, whetted appetites with an opening musical chirp . For fun, check out the 2013 remix by Dweezil Zappa, son of Frank, and game music composer Tommy Tallarico. Their take on the tune speaks to the sub-culture of remixing game music, with thousands of redos uploaded by fans to sites like ocremix.org – dedicated, it says, “to the appreciation and promotion of video game music as an art form.”

Celebrating the Music of Video Games as an Art Form

Based on the Russian folk song Korobeiniki, the music of the 1984 game Tetris has similarly undergone umpteen remixes – including Tetris Meets Metal, with more than 2.2 million views on YouTube.By 1985, the can’t-not-tap-along-to-this theme of Super Mario Bros., the classic adventure of plumber Mario and his brother Luigi, was bringing fame for composer Koji Kondo, also known for his work on Legend of Zelda. Both are on the bill for the Retrogaming concert in Paris. Kondo was the first person Nintendo hired specifically to compose music for its games, according to the 2013 book, Music and Game.

Noone, known herself for musical work on World of Warcraft, Overwatch and other games, says the technological limitations of early consoles – tiny memories, rudimentary chips, crude sounds – forced composers “to distill their melodies down to the absolute kernels of what melodic content can be, because they had to program it note by note.”

But simple often also means memorable. Think “da-da-da-duh” – the opening of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

“That is part of the reason why this music has a place in people’s hearts and has survived,” Noone says of game tunes. “It speaks to people.”

She says game music is where movie music was 15 years ago: well on its way to being completely accepted.

“I predict that in 15 years’ time it will be a main staple of the orchestral season,” she says. “This is crazy to think of: Today, more young people are listening to orchestral music through the medium of their video game consoles than have ever listened to orchestral music.”

She still sometimes encounters snobbism from orchestras: “They saw ‘Pong’ once and that’s video game music to them, you know?”

But “halfway through the first rehearsal, their attitude has changed,” she adds. “And then when they walk out on stage and the audience treats them like they’re The Rolling Stones.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first game-music concert: The Tokyo Strings Ensemble performed Dragon Quest at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall in August 1987. Now there are six touring shows of symphonic game music, Noone says.

“This is just the best way, the most fun way to introduce kids to the instruments of the orchestra,” she adds. “It may be the first time ever they are that close to a cellist, and that’s really exciting for me.”

 

Arms, Despicable Me 3, and More – The Weekend Chill

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Arms is available on the Nintendo Switch
  • Despicable Me 3 gets an early theatrical release in India
  • American Gods airs on Amazon Prime Video

Last Friday, Marvel released the first teaser trailer for Black Panther during the fourth game of the NBA Finals. Starring Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa aka Black Panther, who reprises his role from Captain America: Civil War, the teaser provides a look at how director Ryan Coogler has dreamed up the technologically-advanced African nation of Wakanda. Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis star alongside. Black Panther opens February 16, 2018.

On Saturday, Star Wars’ John Boyega showed up at EA’s pre-E3 2017 event via a recorded video to announce that Captain Phasma and his character Finn would be present in Star Wars Battlefront II. The game’s multiplayer will span all three eras of Star Wars, and unlike the original, it will have a single-player campaign that will bridge the gap between Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Star Wars Battlefront II releases November 17.Arms, Despicable Me 3, and More – The Weekend Chill

Netflix has added two new cast members for the second season of A Series of Unfortunate Events, in Nathan Fillion (Castle, Firefly) and Tony Hale (Veep, Arrested Development). While Hale’s role is unknown, Fillion will play Lemony Snicket’s (Patrick Warburton) older brother, Jacques Snicket. Production is now underway on the 10-episode second season, with a Q1 2018 scheduled release.

Game of Thrones’ seventh season is just a month away at this point, and HBO’s marketing wheels has given us an official look at the special effects behind the new season. Meanwhile, new promotional images have popped up as well, giving us a look at Bran Stark, Samwell Tarly, Podrick Payne, and Tormund Giantsbane among others.

Thanks to Sony’s PlayStation event at E3 2017, we got an extended look at the upcoming Spider-Man game on Tuesday, which seems to be taking its cues from Batman: Arkham series. There are some stealth-based moments here, followed by a long helicopter chase that stretches Spidey’s capabilities. The game doesn’t have a specific release date, just 2018.

Despite the disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse, Fox is moving forward with a new entry titled X-Men: Dark Phoenix. It has now decided on a director in Simon Kinberg, who has been a writer on three of the last four X-Men films, in addition to the failed Fantastic Four reboot. Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, and Sophie Turner are expected to return. Dark Phoenix will be a directorial debut for Kinberg, which is currently scheduled for November 2, 2018.

After the turnaround to the reception for films in the DC universe with Wonder Woman, DC Films co-chairman Geoff Johns has agreed that their initial grittier approach might not have been the best idea. In an interview with The Wrap, he described their future vision as: “Get to the essence of the character and make the movies fun. Just make sure that the characters are the characters with heart, humour, hope, heroics, and optimism at the base.”

Lastly, after two weeks of teasers, director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) has released the first in his series of short films, Oats Studios. The 22-minute film, starring Sigourney Weaver as a resistance leader, is called Rakka. In it, an alien race arrives on Earth to conquer the planet, enslaving and torturing people, while a group led by Weaver puts up a fight. Rakka is available for free on YouTube and Steam.

That’s all the entertainment news for this week. Welcome back to The Weekend Chill, your one-stop destination for what to watch, play, or listen to this weekend. Here are the best picks:

TV:
The Handmaid’s Tale
Hulu’s new original – from creator, showrunner, and executive producer Bruce Miller – is based on Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel of the same name. It’s set in near-future New England where a totalitarian military dictatorship has overthrown the United States government, and established a rigid system that subjugates women in the name of declining fertility rates.

The show follows a handmaid named Offred (Elisabeth Moss), who is enslaved to produce a child for Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), while protecting herself from the ills of the society around her. Handmaids are supposed to not speak up, or read in Gilead, and Offred follows the rules without a meep so she can one day find the daughter taken from her.

It’s easily one of the best shows to come out this year, and has developed beyond Atwood’s book during the first season. If you’re the kind who likes to wait for the season to get over, and then binge-watch it at once, you can do that now with The Handmaid’s Tale.

How to access: Hulu
Time commitment: 10 hours

American Gods
Based on Neil Gaiman’s multiple award-winning book that brings together Americana, fantasy, and ancient and modern mythology, American Gods tells the story of a war brewing between the Old Gods and New Gods, as the former fear becoming irrelevant, as their believers are dying off or being seduced by the money, technology, and fame offered by the latter.

The story is told through the viewpoint of Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), an ex-con who becomes bodyguard for conman Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), even as Shadow reels from the recent death of his wife. Created by Byran Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049), with Gaiman serving as executive producer, the show brings the meticulous visual style that Fuller developed during his Hannibal years.

American Gods airs its final episode of the season on Sunday night in the US, so it gives you the perfect excuse to catch up before that. The show can be quite confusing at times, so we’ve got episode by episode recaps if you need reading material during your journey.

How to access: Amazon Prime Video, or Starz
Time commitment: 8 hours

Movies:
Despicable Me 3
Two films and $1.5 billion in, the studio – including franchise veteran writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul – has developed a blueprint that it knows will work, surrounding its protagonist Gru with his three adopted daughters, and the beloved Minions. With Despicable Me 3, the film gives the villainous Gru two more characters to bounce off his idiosyncrasies.

There’s new villain, Balthazar Bratt (South Park’s Trey Parker), a former child star who’s obsessed with his 80s-style character. See his last name for added emphasis. And the second is Gru’s twin-brother Dru, who is everything Gru isn’t. After Gru and Lucy are thrown out of the Anti-Villain League for failing to stop Balthazar, they enlist Dru’s help.

Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, and co-directed by Eric Guillon, Despicable Me 3 has received average ratings from early reviews. Of course, that’s not going to matter to the film’s target audience: kids.

How to access: Out in cinema halls
Time commitment: 1 hour and 30 minutes

The Lego Batman Movie
After Will Arnett’s satirical portrayal of the Dark Knight won many fans in 2014’s The Lego Movie, Warner Bros. and DC gave him the natural upgrade – a standalone spin-off film, where audiences would get more of the zany version of Batman, who only “works in black, and sometimes very, very dark grey.” That’s what The Lego Batman Movie is ultimately about: it lets loose his egomaniac personality, and the seeming obliviousness to anything around him.

The good part? It works, and works great. Supporting Arnett as part of the voice cast are Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, the butler; Michael Cera, who plays Dick Grayson, Batman’s adopted son who adopts the codename of Robin; Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon, the new commissioner of Gotham City; and Zach Galifianakis as the crazy Joker, Batman’s arch enemy who wants acceptance of the very thing.

The Lego Batman Movie takes place at a frenetic pace for the most part, but is still clever enough to know when to insert clever pauses that add the requisite emphasis. Kudos to director Chris McKay, and the three editors – David Burrows, Matt Villa, and John Venzon. Now available on Blu-ray, it comes with several animated shorts, making-of featurettes, and deleted scenes.

How to access: Amazon US, Amazon Video US, iTunes US, Microsoft Store, or YouTube
Time commitment: 1 hour and 46 minutes

John Wick: Chapter 2
In the 2014 original, Keanu Reeves’ eponymous character – a retired expert assassin – navigated grief over the death of his wife by connecting with a puppy she left for him as a posthumous gift. So when a bunch of thugs break into his house and kill the dog, Wick is furious. You wouldn’t know it from his demeanour, but his actions are the obvious proof. And that’s what made the movie so exciting – the well-choreographed action.

That film ended with Wick narrowly escaping death after a bounty had been placed on his head. The sequel picks up shortly after, with Wick forced back out of retirement – it just keeps happening to him, doesn’t it? – to help stop a former associate from… let’s be honest, it’s not like anyone cares about the plot anyway.

John Wick: Chapter 2 was rated at a similar level as the first film, with the successor cranking up the action and gore, but with the originality factor dissipating. If you get the Blu-ray, you’ll get access to a commentary track with Reeves and director Chad Stahelski, a fight choreography featurette and fight rehearsals, and deleted scenes.

How to access: Amazon US, Amazon Video US, Google Play Movies, iTunes US, or YouTube
Time commitment: 2 hour and 2 minutes

Neruda
From Chilean director Pablo Larraín – who directed Natalie Portman as JFK’s wife in Oscar-nominated Jackie – comes the story of a Chilean poet with whom he shared a name: Pablo Neruda. Neruda wasn’t just a Nobel Prize-winning poet but also the most famous communist in post-WWII Chile during his life. With Chile’s political allegiances shifting, Neruda disappeared from public life to protect himself.

Neruda, the film, follows a police inspector Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) who hunts down the poet (Luis Gnecco) in his home country. Meanwhile, international pressure grows as Pablo Picasso leads European artists to call for Neruda’s freedom. The poet takes it upon himself to create a game of cat-and-mouse, all while becoming a dual icon of liberty and literature.

Larraín’s film was well-received by most critics, with praise directed towards Gnecco’s performance, and the director’s soft touch and his mastery at delivering a superb third act. Neruda is a film that raises many questions, but doesn’t offer any easy answers.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoLK73Uj-C8?rel=0&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=1]

How to access: Amazon Video US, Google Play Movies, iTunes US, Microsoft Store, or YouTube
Time commitment: 1 hour and 47 minutes

Video games:
Arms
After delivering updated versions of titles designed for the Wii U, Nintendo has finally come out with its first new IP for the Switch. It’s called Arms, and that’s because characters have specially-designed extendable, well, arms that help punch and beat their opponents in a closed arena. Designed to be played using a mix of button presses and quick hand motions, Arms is being called “the first fighting game of its kind”.

Since it’s all about the punch, there’s a lot you can do with them: guide them mid-flight, avoid incoming attacks by dashing, powering-up for extra damage, curving fists around obstacles, and most importantly, fill up a special gauge so you can deal out combinations for a finishing move. But whatever you do, don’t forget to grab your Joy-Con and put on the wrist grip.

The team behind Arms has spent a lot of time trying to give each character special attributes, with different types of arms meant for different styles of play. The game has been generally well-received by most critics, with it being accessible to newcomers, and adjustable to more dedicated players.

 

PES 2017 Mobile Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • PES 2017 is now available on Android and iOS
  • The game is free-to-play, with optional in-app purchases
  • It uses the same game engine as the console series

More than eight months after the release of Pro Evolution Soccer 2017, Konami has brought the game to mobile devices worldwide. Unlike the iterative and standalone strategy devised by EA for FIFA Mobile, which chopped and changed football’s format, PES 2017 Mobile retains the full console experience, right down to the soundtrack and commentary. If you’re wondering (much like us) why we are only getting this now, given we’re barely four months away from the release of PES 2018, that’s thanks to a protracted development and release schedule. The game has been available in various beta phases since December, but is only now getting a full-scale launch, available free on both Android and iOS, with optional in-app purchases.

PES 2017 Mobile Review

From the get-go, you can tell that Konami wanted to hew as close to its console cousin in how the game looks and plays. Of course, mobiles still can’t compete with consoles in terms of power, but PES 2017 Mobile can definitely pass for an older PES console entry at first glance. More importantly, it works smoothly always, without taxing your phone to the point where it starts to heat up. And since the aim is to provide the full PES 2017 experience, the mobile version comes in at a hefty 1.5GB download. Match commentary isn’t included in that, which is a good thing since it’s available in half a dozen different languages. Instead, it waits for you to select your preference, and then downloads the (around 250MB) pack in-game.

As with any mobile title, PES 2017 Mobile starts you off with a tutorial, teaching you the basic controls for dribble, pass, shoot, and pressure. There are other advanced tutorials as well, for lob pass, through ball, slide tackle, and more, but in the interest of getting you into the action quicker, they aren’t shown at the start. Konami has come up with a new control scheme to suit the mobile play-style, which involves swiping on the screen in different ways. You can switch to the classic on-screen buttons if you prefer, but we found ourselves warming to the new controls quickly.

pes 2017 mobile barca dortmund PES 2017 Mobile

Once you get the hang of the basic controls, the game lets you pick your favourite team, with the same number of licenses as the console version. You’re thrown into an exhibition match right after, against the likes of FC Barcelona, and Borussia Dortmund. We won the game very easily (8-0, to be precise), and figured there would be a difficulty option to choose from later. But to our dismay, PES 2017 Mobile doesn’t have one.

Instead, difficulty ramps up as you progress through the game’s Campaign mode. Think of it as FIFA’s Seasons, except you play against computer-controlled teams instead of other users. Each campaign season is 10 games long, and you need a certain amount of points to qualify for the next one. There’s a simulation version of Campaign, where all 22 players are AI-controlled, and you only handle the management.

It could be beneficial for rookies, as they could learn something from the way the AI plays. You can also take part in local and online games, where you match up with others in real-time. We didn’t face any troubles with matchmaking (on Wi-Fi and cellular data), though it’s possible games will drop if your connection in unstable.

The last remaining, and most prominently displayed, game mode is called Events, which are challenges available for a limited time, some for a week, and others daily. Konami will also have challenges set around real-world happenings, such as the upcoming UEFA Champions League final. The more events you play, the tougher challenges you can unlock. Konami allows you to repeat these challenges, with the first attempt netting you some myClub Coins and GP, with future plays only providing more GP. More on those two later.

pes 2017 mobile myclub PES 2017 Mobile

Stripped down
Although it’s called “PES 2017”, for all intents and purposes, the game’s mobile version essentially retains one of the (money-making) aspects: myClub, which is Konami’s answer to FIFA Ultimate Team. After you’ve had the luxury of playing with a top team in the opening exhibition, you’re given a poor lot of players (usually in mid-60s, rating-wise) whom you must improve and win games with to better your squad. As you continue to play, you’ll build up two values that matter: GP, and myClub Coins. Both can be used to sign new players, buy agents, renew contracts, and so forth.

While GP is earned only via playing, myClub Coins can be earned through achievements upon completing a specific task, or bought with actual money (i.e. in-app purchases) from an in-game shop, starting from Rs. 80, and going up to Rs. 7,900. Since it’s a free-to-play title, it’s obviously much quicker to collect more coins by paying. If you’re willing to pay up, you can even buy a “Special Agent” with myClub Coins, which will help you sign “special players”, and get on the road to glory easier than everyone else.

Plus, signing a new player is restricted to a lucky draw of sorts, where a carousel of white, silver, golden, and black balls scroll across the screen at a high speed, with a selection circle in the middle. Depending on when you touch the screen, it’ll slow down and come to rest at one of the colours, and get you that level of player. White is the lowest, with black being the highest. You can get new players from agents or scouts – the former costs 10,000GP after the first time, and the latter are earned through playing.

pes 2017 mobile player PES 2017 Mobile

There’s even a limit on how many matches you can fit in back-to-back, which comes by way of an Energy Bar (100 when full) that depletes by 20 with every game you play. It takes 15 minutes for it to recharge by one – excruciatingly slow, intentionally – which is supposed to incentivise spending on energy recharges (read: myClub Coins) in the shop section.

The bigger disappointment, in the light of the focus on myClub in PES 2017 Mobile, is that it takes away the option to play exhibition matches using real-world clubs by yourself or with your friends. The charm of mobile gaming, after all, is that you can play any time, and enjoy it without needing a specialised machine. We wish that Konami had allowed for impromptu Champions League games between the biggest European clubs, though it’s understandable why it would hesitate to, given the free-to-play nature of the game.

Verdict
Even though PES 2017 Mobile will be too easy (and in turn, boring) for players with any sort of experience, it’s still commendable that Konami could provide the same game engine – albeit an optimised one – used in the original console version, which provides for fast, attack-heavy arcade play, something PES has come to fully embrace, while EA Sports’ FIFA has gone the opposite route. Compared to FIFA Mobile, it’s in a league of its own, albeit with some constraints and frustrations inherent of free-to-play titles.

If you’re looking for football action on the go, you could do a lot worse.

Pros:

  • Runs great
  • New control scheme is well-thought
  • Commentary and soundtrack

Cons:

  • No way to change difficulty
  • Can’t play with real teams or clubs
  • Signing good players is down to luck
  • Energy Bar takes a day to fully recharge

Rating (out of 10): 7

We played PES 2017 Mobile on an iPhone 6 Plus. The game is free-to-play with in-app purchases on Android, and iOS.

Tokyo 42 Review: Bringing Together the Best of Grand Theft Auto, Monument Valley, and Hotline Miami?

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Tokyo 42 has you in the role of an assassin
  • The gameplay is similar to earlier GTAs and Hotline Miami
  • It’s the debut title from developer SMAC

Tokyo 42 is a game that wears its inspirations on its sleeve. The art direction is reminiscent of Monument Valley, while its open-world and interactions are derived from earlier Grand Theft Auto games, and its combat has a lot in common with Hotline Miami. However the end result is greater than the sum of its parts.

In Tokyo 42, you’re wanted for a murder you didn’t commit. To clear your name, you become an assassin and murder a huge number of people. Video game logic at its finest.

Tokyo 42 Review: Bringing Together the Best of Grand Theft Auto, Monument Valley, and Hotline Miami?

Nonetheless, the irony does little to take away from the gameplay. Tokyo 42’s core loop has you traipsing across a densely layered isometric cityscape replete with neon hues, and civilians going about their routine. You’ll pick out targets assigned to you, kill them, and then proceed to a specified location on the map to complete a mission.

Tokyo42 t DayMultiplayer tokyo_42

Regardless of your play style, you’re treated to responsive controls and a reactive world that strikes back as hard as you hit it. With weapons ranging from silent kill katanas, to noisy rocket launchers, how you deal with a mission is entirely up to you.

Fire fights evolve into intricate ballets of bullet hell madness akin to R-Type, or Ikaruga, and death is usually instant, with a single hit being enough to have you starting a mission again. Thanks to a wealth of checkpoints disguised as coffee vending machines, you’re never too far from where you left off.

While trying to complete an objective with outright violence rewards agile reflexes, playing Tokyo 42 stealthily demands patience. You’ll learn enemy patterns, how to avoid them, and tip-toe behind your target to land a killing blow. Get spotted by a foe? Just change your skin with the tap of a button, and move to another location.

Tokyo42 Stealth1 tokyo_42

It sounds simple enough, particularly when you consider that other titles such as Hitman and Dishonored have a similar premise. In fact, it should be downright boring – but it’s not.

The art style may be akin to Monument Valley, but the sheer burst of colours give this interpretation of Tokyo a look of its own. Taking down targets is similar to Hotline Miami, and it never feels frustrating thanks to the game giving you ample opportunities to complete a mission in stealth or guns blazing, while its music has a calming impact on the proceedings. So much so that despite dying multiple times, we never felt anything close to rage. Quite the opposite really, wherein starting where we left off was refreshing, rather than the mental toll other isometric action titles with a high difficulty tend to be.

Throw in pun-laden dialogue and references to the likes of Die Hard, and Blade Runner, and Tokyo 42 is an entertaining romp. The single-player campaign clocks in at five hours, and there’s multiplayer to look forward to as well. This ends up being an elaborate game of cat and mouse, having players build up their arsenal before being spotted by others – throw in the Trackacat – a recon robot trained to sniff out assassins – and you have just the right amount of depth to it across five different maps ranging from crowded marketplaces to open-air surroundings.

Tokyo42 Action1 tokyo_42

It’s hard to believe that Tokyo 42 is the debut title from developer SMAC as its an extremely polished and enjoyable. At $20 on Steam and Xbox Live (approximately Rs. 1,290), it’s well worth a purchase.

Pros:

  • Responsive controls
  • Tokyo’s open-world is gorgeous
  • Gameplay stays fresh

Cons:

  • Throwaway story

Rating (out of 10): 9

We played a review copy of Tokyo 42 on PC. The game is available on the PC and Xbox One for $20 (around Rs. 1,290). It will be available on the PS4 in July.

Minecraft Nintendo Switch Cross-Platform Play Uses Xbox Live Sign In; Could Explain No PS4 Support

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Nintendo Switch Minecraft users will have to sign in with Xbox Live
  • This is needed for Minecraft cross-platform play
  • It could explain Sony’s reluctance to support it

According to Mojang CEO Jonas Martensson, to use Minecraft for cross-platform play Xbox Live is required even on the Nintendo Switch. In an interview with Pressfire.no translated on popular gaming forum NeoGAF, he stated that Nintendo has agreed to this and have been “pretty pragmatic and understanding.”

“We’re tying everything together with Xbox Live. So you log in with Xbox Live…,” he trailed off, further being pressed by the website if this would include the Nintendo Switch to which he said:

“Yes. That’s pretty unique as well! But everyone that’s in on this, all the platform holders, have been pretty pragmatic and understanding of that what we’re trying to do is create a good experience for the players. We needed a good system to connect everyone, and Xbox Live is a good system.”

Later in the interview he goes on to say that Nintendo has been “very open when it comes to working together” and the process of incorporating Minecraft cross-platform play on the Nintendo Switch has been “very smooth.”

Minecraft Nintendo Switch Cross-Platform Play Uses Xbox Live Sign In; Could Explain No PS4 Support

Over the week, Sony has been on the receiving end of criticism for not supporting Minecraft’s cross-platform play functionality. This would have ensured all consoles, mobile devices, VR, and PC can all play together online. If this does require an Xbox Live account to sign in, it would add to Microsoft’s tally of daily active users, essentially driving its business forward.

Understandably, Sony wouldn’t be interested in exposing its consumers to Microsoft’s ecosystem, which could explain Sony’s Jim Ryan using a rather flawed defence that essentially harks back to Nintendo’s overprotectiveness in the 1980s and 1990s. Martensson stops short of saying this when asked, rather replying with the more diplomatically acceptable “you’d have to ask them [Sony].”

 

This isn’t the first time Sony has been unwilling to bring cross-platform play to the PS4 with football meets cars multiplayer title Rocket League not getting the nod for Xbox One versus PS4 play.

“We’ve been doing that with PS3 and PC, PS4 and PC most recently with Street Fighter 5 and Rocket League and other games. That’s nothing new for us, in terms of working with developers and publishers to allow cross-platform play between PC and PS4,” said Sony Worldwide Studios’ Shuhei Yoshida to Eurogamer at the time.

“Because PC is an open platform it’s much more straightforward,” Yoshida continued. “Connecting two different closed networks is much more complicated so we have to work with developers and publishers to understand what it is they are trying to accomplish… We also have to look at the technical aspect – and the technical aspect could be the easiest. We also have to look at policy issues and business issues as well.”

Eventually Rocket League was made playable for PS4 players to play with those on the PC and not against Xbox One owners. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft is open to a similar arrangement for Minecraft.[“Source-ndtv”]

Tekken 7 PC Performance Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Tekken 7 on PC is cheaper than it is on PS4 or Xbox One
  • Its graphical settings are barebones
  • Tekken 7 PC specifications are lenient

Tekken 7 is the first mainline entry in the long-running fighting game franchise to see a release on Windows PCs. With its debut on the PS1 in 1995, developer Bandai Namco has kept the PC gaming community waiting almost 22 years. Has the wait been worth it for PC gamers? We tell you everything you need to know about Tekken 7 on Windows.

Tekken 7 PC price

Unlike most new releases on Steam that have been priced similar to their console counterparts, Bandai Namco seems to have taken a more generous approach. Tekken 7 PC price for Indian gamers is Rs. 989, while the Tekken 7 PC Deluxe Edition costs Rs. 1,608. The latter comes with the base game, a new character called Eliza, and access to the game’s Season Pass that brings a host of cosmetic items. In the US, the game costs $50 for the standard edition and $75 for the deluxe edition. This makes Tekken 7 cheaper in India, especially when compared to Bandai Namco’s previous releases such as Dark Souls 3 and Tales of Berseria that were priced at Rs. 4,299 and Rs. 3,284 respectively.

Tekken 7 PC Performance Review

Tekken 7 PC minimum system requirements

•CPU: Intel Core Intel Core i3-4160 @ 3.60GHz or equivalent
•GPU: GeForce GTX 660 or 750 Ti, or equivalent
•RAM: 6GB
•OS: Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (64-bit versions)
•HDD: 60GB free space
•DirectX: Version 11

Tekken 7 PC recommended requirements

•CPU: Intel Core i5-4690 3.5 GHz or equivalent
•GPU: GeForce GTX 1060, or equivalent, or higher
•RAM: 8GB •OS: Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (64-bit versions)
•HDD: 60GB free space
•DirectX: Version 11

tekken 7 settings pc tekken_7_pc_review

Tekken 7 PC graphics options

It’ll be clear from the above-mentioned specifications that you don’t need the latest and greatest to run Tekken 7 on PC. Nonetheless, the level of customisation on offer isn’t that huge as recent releases such as the excellent Prey. As you can see from our screenshot of Tekken 7’s in-game settings, it seems to have the bare minimum you’d expect from a game on Steam. There’s nothing out of the ordinary and in some cases with just three options of anti-aliasing (off, low, and high); while the lack of support for the 21:9 aspect ratio being down right anaemic.

Tekken 7 PC frame rate and image quality

On our test PC consisting of an Intel core i5 3470 at 3.2GHz, 16GB RAM, 500GB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 8GB, obtaining a fluid 60 frames per second at 1920×1080 (1080p) was easily achieved at Ultra settings. Ramping it up to 3840×2160 (4K) we saw a consistent 45 to 47fps with minor dips to the high 30s when special moves were being executed. Be it fur on characters like Panda, or the coat on the game’s central character Jin Kazuma, Tekken 7 looks good enough with very little out of place. Even the stages, ranging from the icy almost desolate Arctic Snowfall to Arena – a vibrant octagonal ring complete with a vociferous audience are graphically superb. However, the level of detail and difference between Tekken 7 PC at 4K and 1080p wasn’t tremendous and we found ourselves reverting to 1080p for a consistent 60fps experience.

One crucial option that’s nestled in the display options and not the graphical settings is motion blur. Switching it off nets you additional frames. Useful if your gaming PC is on the lower side of Tekken 7’s PC requirements.

Tekken 7 PC controller support

We tried Tekken 7 with three different controllers and came back with mixed results. As you’d expect, the Xbox One controller worked fine, as it does with most PC games. Our PS4 controller, however, was not fully recognised. While button presses register, navigating with the use of the directional pad or analogue stick did not work. Surprisingly plugging in a Nacon Revolution Pro PS4 controller worked just fine. But much like most PC games, controls are displayed only for the Xbox One controller. This means you won’t see the familiar set of cross, triangle, circle, and square icons, only A, B, X, and Y. You’d think that with Steam supporting the Dual Shock 4 natively, more game creators would as well, but evidently this is not the case.

tekken 7 rage mode tekken_7_pc_review

Is Tekken 7 worth buying on PC?

Given how cheap the game is in India (starting at around $15), it would seem like a no-brainer purchase if you live in a country where Tekken 7 is more affordable than what it costs in the US (starting from $50). Having said that, there are some strings attached if you decide to get it on PC.

For one, if you’re the sort looking to play it competitively, most of the fighting game community is on the PS4. Granted there’s the Tekken World Tour Mode that has events for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC but given how Street Fighter V and Killer Instinct have fared – it appears that the console version of fighting games tend to outlast their PC equivalent.

If you’re not a pro player, there are some other disadvantages. VR mode is exclusive to the PS4 and Xbox One owners get Tekken 6 free with purchasing Tekken 7. There’s no sort of uniqueness tied to the PC version of the game in terms of content. It doesn’t help matters that Tekken 7 on day one does not have Survival or Battle Modes, two well-received inclusions from previous games.

With threadbare customisation options, a lack of content, and questionable controller support, Tekken 7 PC’s price and performance are the only things it has going for it, making it feel like the best and worst version of the game at the same time. The lower price alone could be enough for many. If you’re a little more discerning though, you might want to give Tekken 7 on PC a miss.

Microsoft's AI Mocks Humans by Notching Up Perfect Score in Ms. Pac-Man

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Welcome our new Ms. Pac-Man overlords
  • The AI program scored nearly 1 million points in Ms. Pac-Man
  • Previous recorded high score (by a human) is 266,330

If there was ever a doubt that artificial intelligence could one day overtake humans, then what follows should be sign enough that the day isn’t too far away. Microsoft’s AI has managed to hit the one million mark in cult-classic game Ms. Pac-Man, something humans never managed to achieved in the 35 years of the game’s existence.

Maluuba, a deep learning startup that was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year, created an AI system that learned the ways of the game to reach the coveted score of 1 million points by level 201. So, not only does Microsoft’s AI manage to achieve the highest possible score in both human and AI history, it managed to do so before hitting the all-too well known level 256 glitch. In a video posted by Microsoft Research, you can see the AI reach the game’s maximum point value of 999,990 on Atari 2600, after which the game seems to start over.

Microsoft's AI Mocks Humans by Notching Up Perfect Score in Ms. Pac-Man

It will also interest you to know that the highest recorded score in Ms. Pac-Man – by a human, of course – is 266,330 points, as recorded by HighScore.com. This makes Microsoft’s AI look truly remarkable and gives us a glimpse at how machine learning has evolved over time.

Maluuba was able to set the new Ms. Pac-Man record using machine learning and breaking up the game into small problems with “a separate reinforcement learning agent for each problem,” which the team calls Hybrid Reward Architecture. Here, individual agents are rewarded based on their assigned task. Through this ‘divide and conquer’ method, the top agent gets a feedback from the little agents to understand which is the best route for Ms. Pac-Man to take to avoid being eaten by ghosts, the video explains.

Recently, Google’s AI AlphaGo once again defeated a human, Ki Jie, at the ancient game Chinese game, Go.

Games like Ms. Pac-Man and Go, though quite old, are revered for their complex gameplay, which is why companies in the field of AI test out their machine learning algorithms on them.Maluuba sees an expansive, practical real-world applications though the Hybrid Reward Architecture used in the game, like helping a company predict which potential customers to target, or advancements in natural language processing.

Sony’s new PlayLink brings mobile and console gaming together

Update: We’ve had a chance to try four of the five games Sony is releasing for PlayLink out for ourselves on the show-floor at this year’s show. Check out our impressions of That’s You!, Hidden Agenda, Frantics, and Knowledge is Power down below. 

Article continues…

At its E3 conference this year, Sony has announced a new collection of smartphone-controlled games designed to entertain the whole family, including those who might not usually play games.

Under the umbrella PlayLink, these games are played on the PlayStation 4 console, but controlled via an iOS or Android smartphone rather than the DualShock controller. The concept is fairly similar to Jackbox Party games, which allows several players to connect over their smartphones and play short but addictive party games together.

The lineup of games at the moment is fairly small but includes the quiz games That’s You!, and Knowledge is Power. There’s also a Heavy Rain style adventure game called Hidden Agenda.

Meanwhile, Frantics is a multiplayer platform game where you tilt your phone to control a character on screen, and there’s also a new Singstar title called Singstar Celebration.

Mobile madness

We had a chance to try out four of the five games on the show floor.

First up was Hidden Agenda. Along with three other players, we played a mission as a cop investigating a missing person. Initially the demo started by offering us simple choices of how to proceed in the mission which we would each vote on using our phones.

However, before long one player had been secretly shown a ‘hidden agenda’ on their phone screen, which meant that they were trying to influence the story in a certain direction without giving this away to the rest of the group.

Although the game story’s mature themes seemed a little at odds with the group of us using our phones to vote, Hidden Agenda feels like it has a lot of potential for sabotage and intrigue.

Next up was Frantics, a game where you tilt your phone to control a character on screen as they compete with three other players. While the games were fun overall, we didn’t feel as though the control scheme particularly suited the smartphone controller, and there were points where we wished we were using a standard PS4 controller.

Knowledge is Power was a particularly strong game in the lineup. At first glance it appeared to be a fairly simple quiz game were everyone used their phones to pick between four available answers to each question, but after each round players would gain special abilities to disrupt their opponents.

Finally, That’s You! was a quiz game where players were asked subjective questions about each other. Points were gained not for getting the answers right, but for guessing the same answer as everyone else. One standout question was simply, “Who is most likely to taser themself while attempting an arrest?” We could imagine this game being especially fun with friends.

It’s definitely an interesting mobile approach from PlayStation (one that actually seems like something Nintendo should have considered rather than its IP-driven standalone titles).

Many of the games really benefitted from giving each player their own screen, and being able to play with phones rather than controllers should help larger groups play, rather than needing to rely on people having a large number of controllers.

That’s You! will be the first game to be released free to all PlayStation Plus members on July 4. You can see the trailer for yourself below:

  • E3 is the world’s largest exhibition for the games industry, stuffed full of the latest and greatest games, consoles, and gaming hardware. TechRadar is reporting live from Los Angeles all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated E3 2017 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar’s world-class analysis and buying advice about the next year in gaming.