The Boxtrolls | Review | Film

The BoxtrollsThe Boxtrolls posterBased on a book by Alan Snow, The Boxtrolls is the latest release from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman, both excellent films with unique animation and more than enough of a dark side to be totally acceptable adult viewing at the same time. Boxtrolls is similar in this respect, but is it a worthy follower?

The film opens in the Victorian city of Cheesebridge, where we are introduced to the film’s antagonists, Lord Portely-Rind and Archibald Snatcher (Jared Harris and Ben Kingsley) discussing how to remove the city of the Boxtroll problem, Snatcher agrees as long as upon completion he earns a white hat like that of Rind’s (the ultimate sign of status in this society).

Soon we meet the elusive Boxtrolls and the rather un-troll like baby Eggs, the star of this tale. The trolls are harmless humanoid creatures in cardboard boxes rooting through people’s rubbish trying to find items of interest, their scavenging is interrupted however when Snatcher and his cronies burst in and capture them, with just Fish and Shoe escaping (the trolls are so named after what their box once stored).

The film uses the same stop motion style of animation as its forebears, though they have possibly peaked here – everything looks so good, the movement is fluid and everything manages to feel alive. The character models are incredibly detailed, and they all managed to have their own expressions and personality. The Boxtrolls for example, may not speak English, but they are identifiable by their box, and how each one behaves.

Character models are very exaggerated and somewhat grotesque, though this allows them to be quite unique and expressive, Egg for example can speak English (inexplicably, given none of the trolls speak it) but shows a lot of his emotion through gestures and expressions, there is a particularly amusing scene where he gets shown how to politely introduce himself, but takes the advice too literally (“Nice to meet you, even if I don’t really mean it”).

The characters themselves are generally decently done, Eggs (Isaak Hempstead Wright) is a fairly typical star, being honest and wanting the best for his friends, he’s also joined by Winnie (Elle Fanning) an stuck up rich girl, who is ignored by her parents and yearns for more. At first she’s fairly cold and haughty but soon warms to Eggs and his troll friends). Her father, Lord Portely-Rind, is very cold to her – almost to the point of being dismissive.

The BoxtrollsSomething I took from this film is that, despite the cute posters and toy/merch lines available, I’m not sure this is actually a children’s film. It is quite dark in places, and the grotesque imagery (the aforementioned cheese bit is somewhat uncomfortable to watch) and dark atmosphere will doubtless prove quite scary for some children, as well as a few scenes that seem completely hopeless for our Eggs and his friends. There is little in bright colours and the locations are mostly dark and gloomy. Despite all this, there is humour, though – slapstick is frequent in scenes involving Boxtrolls and there is some witty dialogue between our two young heroes.

The film reaches a conclusion a little too quickly perhaps, with Snatcher revealing a rather unlikely method for seizing his white hat after Eggs manages to thwart his deal with Portely-Rind. It had been hinted at but seems somewhat far fetched. His actual downfall comes shortly after, and is suitably gross. The film ends happily, and it is worth sticking around for the credits as they are very well done, along with a short forth wall breaking bonus scene.

An enjoyable film, it’s something that kids will enjoy for the slapstick and cute Boxtrolls while adults can have no shame in watching for its great animation and refusal to compromise the dark aspects of the story.

Rating 4/5

Jordan Thomas

Gone Girl | Review | Film

Gone GirlGone GirlThey always say marriage is about compromise, but when your other half tries to kill you, it’s often hard to find the middle ground. From the first moments of Gone Girl, you can tell this film is something a bit different to what expected. You find yourself saying: “Did he really say that? That can’t be what he meant, can it?”

Ben Affleck stars as Nick Dunne, a man having a really bad time when his wife is taken…sorry, gone…one morning when he returns from his bar (imaginatively known as ‘The Bar). What has actually happened is a mystery, which unravels unexpectedly throughout the film. To say that the film contains a twist might be considered a twist for most films, but in this case, there are so many twists and turns you’ll be amazed that you haven’t ended got a headache.

…Because I’m Bat-fleck

Gone Girl
The grin on Neil Dunne’s (Ben Affleck) turns out to be bad for the cameras

Affleck brings the feeling in this film, in a role which shows a lot of emotional depth – admittedly already evidenced by his excellent work in films such as Argo – which gives a lot of hope for his turn as The Caped Crusader in Batman vs Superman next year. Watching the story unfold in front of you through Affleck’s eyes just forces you to route for him, even if his character might not be as straightforward as your first impression might have thought.

Female lead Rosamund Pike as wife Amy is just as complex a portrayal as Mr Affleck, although some male viewers might find it hard to relate to her just because of how strongly her gender runs through her character – you don’t feel as though if the genders of the two leads were reversed that the film would have unfolded in the same way.

Deface-book

Rosamund Pike is Amy Dunne...but is she still alive?
Rosamund Pike is Amy Dunne…but is she still alive?

If director David Fincher had a word in mind when he was directing this film, it must have been ‘tension’. The film is dripping with it, so much so that you may not have any fingers left by the time the credits roll. Like The Social Network before it, Fincher’s understanding of the subtleties of close personal relationships shine through here, causing no surprise at all when the characters interact naturally together.

Part of the credit for that must go to screenwriter and author of the original book Gillian Flynn, who’s tale ups the ante at every stage as we delver deeper into its characters with each revelation. Even Desi Collings, the most misunderstood character of the piece, who Neil Patrick Harris gives you no choice but to feel sorry for, is written sharply enough to draw blood, despite a relatively short span on screen.

Bite the hand that feeds

A picture can make the past look perfect
A picture can make the past look perfect

As usual, Fincher’s musical meastros Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross bring the rich soundtrack which set the stage, and highten the uneasiness of the characters on multiple occasions. The visuals by comparison are generally low-key, with straightforward production and set design keeping the film grounded despite the fluctuations of its plot, though occasionally there is effects work which makes you stop dead and then squirm in your seat.

There’s a strong feeling of balance with this film. Let things slip too far into the surreal and you could lose your audience, but the way it is knotted together by Fincher (often with stubborn, ugly knots which can’t be unravelled) makes it strangely compelling viewing. More than once there is a moment where you feel like the story could finish, but then the film steps up a gear to push the audience even closer to the edge.

There might not be a right time or a right place to take in the story without drawing comparisons to your own life, but in truth this just emphasises what a strong example of the medium the film is. Not one for the faint-hearted, but undeniably a quality experience.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

Maroon 5 and The Script – V and No Sound Without Silence | Double album review | Music

The Script and Maroon 5 double album reviewIt’s not every day new albums come out which you actually care about. Unfortunately there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to ramble about them all (far less than usual actually, sorry about that lone fan), and so slamming two together in what could be described as, but isn’t really, a head-to-head seemed like a fun option.

The reason Maroon 5 and The Script together sit together nicely is because they are bands in similar areas of the industry (though the Maroon 5 boys have a few more years and albums under their belt), but they are different enough to listen to back to back.

Maroon 5 – V

Maroon 5 - VWith their fifth album – however did you guess… – the boys have taken the dancier sound from Overexposed and refined it, bringing a bit more instrumentation back in as well as using more of their layered vocals from Adam Levine which made Songs About Jane stand out.

Opener and lead single Maps is a perfect blend of the band’s catchy melodies and memorable guitar style. There aren’t many bands who can get away with repetition, even in a clearly pop-focused single, but Maroon 5 are excellent at taking a simple idea and elaborating on it through a song, driving it forward.

Animals continues the theme in style, before It Was Always You mellows things out a little, dialling up the dance beats a notch.

Levine’s vocals contain some of the highest notes we’ve heard and his various grunts and oohs build to screeches as the music swells, but in a way which refuses to step over the line into a piercing noise, similar to how Michael Jackson got away with it on many tracks.

Maroon 5 - VWith a mixture of ballads with a beat and catchy numbers, the rest of the album plays out much as you might expect, with the odd 80s nod in the synth drums. It’s a collection of songs that hangs together well without any sticking out too far, but it may prove too middle-of-the-road for some as a result.

No doubt there are top ten hits here waiting to be unleashed (so many in fact, that you could easily make a sweepstake out of it), but it’s only a small step from Overexposed compared to where the band began the consistency has improved but undoubtedly the edginess that made them most endearing when they crashed onto the scene has dulled slightly.

That said there’s an awful lot to enjoy on this album, particularly for crowd singalong moments, and where Overexposed dragged its heels in the middle and became uninspiring, V never does.

The Script – No Sound Without Silence

The Script - No Sound Without SilenceThe fourth album from the Irish pop-rockers is a similar continuation on a theme, with the catchiness and excitement of #3 taken up a notch with lead single Superheroes. First track No Good In Goodbye has some excellent plays on words, including “Where’s the us in trust gone?” and “Can’t take the ache from heartbreak”, cementing the band’s position of one of the best lyrical groups in the charts.

The sound overall has good mix of upbeat and more reflective songs, far more laid back than V certainly, but you do find yourself longing for one more singalong classic along the lines of Breakeven or The Man Who Can’t Be Moved.

There are influences here of other bands like Coldplay, Bastille and even The 1975, but never more significant than the odd moment.

The themes of the songs are still quite personal, but generally more aspirational and uplifting then they have been in the past. The Energy Never Dies and It’s Not For You both insist that you don’t have to take the situation you’ve ended up in and leave it at that, instead you can at the very least choose your attitude to it.

The Script - No Sound Without SilenceMusically the band’s use of piano is much more natural this time, but otherwise it’s hard to find many stand out moments, it’s more just that the entire mix – particularly the interplay of vocals between all three of the brand members – is really impressive and at several moments really makes the tracks something special, to the extent that you can feel the odd goosebump.

It might not have as much ammo for the charts as previous efforts but the songs are well crafted and fit together beautifully, creating an album you can just sit back and relax to or jump around the room with here and there.

In short, both these albums deserve your attention, do yourself a favour and at least pick, but, if you know what’s good for you, choose both.

James Michael Parry

My week with Destiny | Review | Gaming

DestinyTruth be told, I haven’t played enough of Destiny to give it a traditional review. Not just because it is a game with a lot of different elements, but because the best experience of the game is the one you make yourself. Much like I imagine is the appeal of Skyrim, your memorable moments in Destiny are just as likely to be pottering about on the surface of the Moon as they are tackling a tricky Strike mission (the Raids, at the time of writing, are still to come).

The best is yet to come

Destiny
Competitive multiplayer in The Crucible is a nice addition, but nothing to write home about.

Destiny is definitely a game, that much we can be sure, a computer game even (or video game, if you want to be all American about it…), but past that it can fall into half a dozen specific genres of game – FPS, RPG, MMO…the acronyms go on and on.

The other thing we can definitely say is that it is good fun. Even those who take exception to the fact that the story is light touch generally concede that the gameplay has some fun bits in it – however short-lived or repetitive they turn out to be, and there’s potential for a lot more from a title which is supposedly designed as a franchise to be expanded over the next decade.

The game I find easiest to compare Destiny to is Sega Dreamcast classic Phantasy Star Online (no, not Final Fantasy, different thing, trust me). Comparing the two games, the amount of content available is a massive step forward, particularly considering PSO required a hunter’s licence to play (about £5 a month) and initially was around when internet speeds were cripplingly limited by modern standards – it’s a surprise the game ran at all.

Fast forward to the world of Destiny and persistent online play is a completely different kettle of fish, but that said it is still a kettle and they are still fish at the end of the day. Failure to ‘get over’ the fact that this game is being made Bungie’s way and no one else’s is essential. That’s not to say that they won’t respond to player feedback – they already have in many areas, such as the questionable voice acting from Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage – but changes which are made will be to improve the experience for the gamer rather than change things fundamentally.

The aforementioned Raids for example, an ultra-hard game mode which is only unlocked once you have finished basic ranking and got some snazzy gear, requires a party of six friends to complete and that will always be the case. There is matchmaking in Strikes, the Raid’s younger brother, but we are definitely expecting something altogether more complex from Raids, a bit of depth to missions, which at present tend to involve a lot of killing things and waiting for Dinklage to scan and/or hack things.

We need a hero

Perhaps not legend, but your character is at least your own
Perhaps not legend, but your character is at least your own

The central excitement of the game might come from frolicking about with others, but it’s the gear and levelling up which will keep you coming back for more. Although the initial level cap is a mere 20, light even by PSO standards, levelling continues above that by acquiring ‘motes of light’ which are derived from equipping rare items and other general looting, which forces you to play the game very differently, and, according to Bungie, it’s where the game really begins.

As I sit on the cusp of level 20, with all the excitement just around the corner, I still don’t feel like I’ve really got to the bottom of what the game is all about. I’ve still got a planet to visit (Mars), but otherwise the areas themselves are discovered, and explored to varying degrees. There are three (or so) alien races, who have various different monsters and creatures up their sleeve (or robots in the case of the Vex), and three classes to choose from (with two subclasses each) and three races to play as within that.

Of course, for the sake of the (admittedly vague and fairly limited) story, you ARE human. My Awoken Male Warlock (race, gender and class respectively) seemed to get very confused when the story led him to visit the Awoken Queen and he had lots of questions such as ‘Where do they come from?’, which you would expect he might know…

Regardless the prospect of replaying as a different class at least is appealing, since different classes and subclasses (which can be changed at any time) do have a different playstyle.

The game certainly isn’t for everyone, however much Bungie would like it to be, and for every soaring climax of the fantastic soundtrack there’s a niggle that crops up, but it doesn’t stop it being a thoroughly enjoyable with lots to do and discover. Become legend? Perhaps not, but, at the very least, it’s memorable.

James Michael Parry

Five reasons to get back into Doctor Who | Opinion | Television

Doctor Who series 8You’ll have heard that Doctor Who is back, that there’s a new guy holding the sonic screwdriver and scampering about in the TARDIS, but perhaps you haven’t managed to watch any of the new episodes just yet. “He’s a bit old,” you might say. “I liked David Tennant for a while but then the stories got all angsty and romantically awkward…”

As a big fan myself, I can admit that the series has its ups and downs, just like anything on TV (except some of the top quality shows on Netflix which are near flawless), but whether you enjoy Doctor Who or not comes down to one thing – suspension of disbelief.

Letting yourself be absorbed into that world is crucial to enjoying it, as you have to remember that this is a children’s show after all, aimed first and foremost at 10-12 year old boys (though probably any youngsters are in the cross-hairs these days).

So, without further ado, This Is Entertainment presents five reasons you should boot up BBC iPlayer (or, in fact, most of your favourite on-demand streaming services) and begin your time travel adventure once again.

The companion isn’t just a damsel in distress

Jenna Coleman has really brought her companion's character forward this series
Jenna Coleman has really brought her companion’s character forward this series

Ever since Doctor Who came back in 2005, the companions have been the audience’s window to the Whoniverse more than ever before, meaning, more often than not if you don’t like the companion, you don’t like the show.

Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald, who is the current hanger-on, has managed to really add depth to her character this series. Gone is the slightly painful and teenagery love angle and Clara is finally a force to be reckoned with, standing up for herself, getting out of trouble without the Doctor needing to swoop in and even telling the Doctor off when he gets a bit over-excited, like a hyperactive dog getting a tap on the nose with a copy of The Sunday Times.

There’s still a lot more developing which can be done, and the seeds of a new romantic entanglement have already been sewn, but the early signs look good, and at least a little more believable than they were before. Plus the fact that her everywoman identity isn’t central to the plot this series helps take some of the pressure off as well.

The Daleks are scarier than ever

Outstanding retro poster from designer Stuart Manning (Radio Times)
Outstanding retro poster from designer Stuart Manning (Radio Times)

OK OK, so some people find Daleks scary, others don’t, and certainly this series isn’t out to change your mind if you’re dead set against it, but Episode 2 story Into The Dalek is a really interesting take on ‘a Dalek episiode’ which effectively calls back to the end of 2005 series 1 – the fact that the Doctor would make a good Dalek.

For all our relating to the companion in the show, we really all aspire to be the Doctor himself, meaning any suggestion that he might not be a good man makes us feel uneasy. It’s times like that that the show uses its emotional resonance to its fullest effect however, making us question the morality of our hero.

Already this series the Doctor has dealt some hefty emotional blows to Clara and even abandoned her in a helpless situation – this is not something you’d expect from a hero.

In meeting broken Dalek ‘Rusty’, the Doctor’s tendency to want to fix and control everything around him gets the better of him and, inevitably, it costs lives. The Dalek voice, provided by show veteran Nicolas Briggs, is definitely silly, but nonetheless still menacing, particularly when the things he says really hammer home how dark the Doctor really is.

Someone remembered that fun is fun

The TARDIS takes an arrow in Robot of Sherwood
The TARDIS takes an arrow in Robot of Sherwood

Heavy storylines are all well and good, but some of the most memorable moments in the past few years have been comedy-based rather than drama, such as Matt Smith and David Tennant’s screwdriver standoff (complete with Doctor inspecting glasses) or Smith attempting to fend off the Daleks with a jammy doger.

This series might have been described as more dark, which it probably is, but there also seems to be an injection of much needed fun into proceedings after some heavy storylines at the end of Matt Smith’s run.

Robot of Sherwood portrays this most outwardly, but each episode so far has built in a strong element of comedy, much of which comes from Capaldi himself – swordfighting with a spoon is probably my favourite idea so far.

Of course it isn’t all about comedy, but when you’re sitting down with the family on a Saturday night for some entertainment you want something which is fun and you don’t necessarily wangt to have to pay attention to every tiny detail to get it, which leads neatly on to…

You don’t need to watch every episode to ‘get it’

The new titles are a bit different but they grow on you
The new titles are a bit different but they grow on you

In series 6 and 7 things got a bit complicated, let’s be honest. Series 5’s cracks in the wall (which admittedly reappeared later) were a fairly consistent thread running through that series, and another great example of Steven Moffat taking something everyday from his children’s childhood (i.e. a crack on the wall) and making it something to be really afraid of, a formula Moffat returns to for Listen.

The reason 6 and particularly 7 with its ill-advised mid-series break struggled is because there were too many long-running plot threads and the audience couldn’t quite keep their head around what was going on. The beginning of 7 part 2 is the biggest example of that in that it’s a struggle to remember why our heroes are on the run, let alone why they are in random different parts of America.

The stories for this series are far more self-contained, and so it makes the show far easier to dip in and out of. Obviously you should already be religiously tuning in to every episode, but if you’ve made it this far down then you either are already and are just enjoying my ramblings, or you like the show enough to be engaged with it but it can occasionally have problems holding your attention.

Already in the series we have had an introduction, a dark episode and a light episode, plus there’s been the customary introduction of a figure from history – although this time around it is the (possibly) fictional Robin Hood. There’s plenty of scope to delve deeper into the characters as the series goes on, but so far the balance between action and reflection has been spot on.

Peter Capaldi is just fantastic

Capaldi wrote fan scripts and letters to the show as a child, and his passion and love for the show shines through
Capaldi wrote fan scripts and letters to the show as a child, and his passion and love for the show shines through

For series 8, a new doctor provides a clean slate. Personally I have a lot of love for Matt Smith (as if you needed to ask) but Peter Capaldi brings the gravitas which not only comes with age – a fact which is played on nicely in the show – but also just his manner in the part. Capaldi’s long-term love affair with the show itself is well documented, and the passion he has for the role is already showing through strongly after only a couple of episodes.

The first episode is always a rag-tag of different emotions and feelings as the Doctor as a character finds his feed after changing every cell in his body by regenerating (sounds painful…). The initial quips – “Who invented this room?! It doesn’t make any sense; it’s only got a bed in it!” – give way to a realisation that The Doctor isn’t sure who he is, setting the tone of self-discovery for this series and leading to a line of comparisons between The Doctor and other characters.

Capaldi sells this instantly, unashamedly calling out things as silly or ridiculous, just as the audience might when faces with the sort of fantastical which is bread and butter for The Doctor. Due to his love of the show, Capaldi fits into both the stylish costume and mannerisms of his doctor quickly, making the character equal parts likeable, mad and dangerous.

There’s always the next story to look to with Doctor Who, but the series has made a strong start (not least for wisely self-containing the introduction in a near feature-length opener) and stands to get better and better as it continues. Here’s hoping the payoff at the end matches our collective anticipation.

James Michael Parry

The IK Prize : After Dark – An interactive experience of a life time | Opinion | Culture

After dark

In a guest post, art student Alicia Bedden reflects on a new way of experiencing art, using the power of technology…and robots…

As a designer we’re always trying to find new ways to interact with our audiences, finding that key aspect that will keep people interested and want to tell other people about their experience, that excitement. There is a constant sense of thriving for designers to create that experience.

A great example of this state of mind as a designer, is an art installation where the audience is guided around by ‘angels’ and forced to walk at a certain pace, such as Robert Wilsons ‘Walking’. An installation like this, allowed the audience to travel around without any of their belongings to worry about, giving them a chance to actually concentrate and delve into their surroundings. (Look it up, it will make you wish you were there like I did.) It’s a constant thought in my mind as a designer, what is it that the audience want to take from the experience? Do they actually know what they want? It’s what you get taught by your University tutors to think about.

With all this in mind, a recent event at the Tate Britain was one of those events, that as a designer you ‘squee’ over, wishing you’d thought of that. ‘After Dark’, the winning project in the 2014 IK Prize was revealed at the Tate Britain. Where the concept of robots taking over was no longer a theory but a reality. They let four robots lose around at night, letting people on the internet, from all-over the world, control them. Sounds pretty cool right? I know.

The robots are equipped with lights, a camera, sensors and motors allowing them to sneak through the galleries in the dark. An onboard computer streams their vision through the internet in real-time and responds to commands.” – Tate Britain

After Dark

The idea of it just makes me tingle. Imagine being the one controlling one of the robots, remotely driving it around the museum at night, where all you can see on your screen is what’s caught in the lights of your robot, maybe even catching a glimpse of another robot whizzing past in another room. It’s that sense of curiosity, exploration and excitement that attracts me to the idea. Here watch this video, let it excite you even more. (Watch the making of video).

“The robot and your hands just become an extension of your mind, that’s how technology ‘aught to be.” Colonel Chris Hadfield, the first person to navigate the robots, from his home in Toronto. Such an interesting concept don’t you think?

The robots themselves are just an extension of you, letting you be the one exploring the gallery, going where you want to go, seeing things you want to discover. Actually getting the chance to test the robots, seeing how they moved, made me realize that after I while I did forget I was remotely controlling this robot. I was being enveloped by the experience, my movements are the robots, the robot and me are exploring as one. Sounds crazy? Maybe, but unless you were one of the few that got the chance to control them, you’ve missed out on an experience of a life time I can tell you. Being in a room filled with other people all excited to test these robots, I knew that the idea was a success before it had even begun.

The design of the robots give you the freedom to explore as though you were there yourself, they move at walking pace, with the ability to look up and down, with the lights being their eyes of sorts. The only main difference being the height, as these lil’ fellas are 1200mm tall, unlike the average height of a person which is roughly 1500mm. Even though they look like a distant cousin of the Disney’s Wall-E, these are truly spectacular pieces of technology.

It excites me to imagine all the possibilities that this technology and interaction with the audience, can do to future events such as this. According to Jane Burton, Creative Director, “its not for commercial gain, we’re trying to bring art to an ever wider audience.” That’s all we ever want to do, right? Explore the world further?

Alicia Bedden

Five things you should already know about Gamescom | Opinion | Gaming

Gamescom 2014By now you may have heard that a European games conference took place this week, but if you haven’t had time to catch up on everything, here are the key facts.

1) Microsoft finally ‘beat’ Sony

Xbox One Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Edition
The 1TB hard drive with this custom console will be the draw for those who to shop digitally

They love to say it isn’t a competition and pat each other on the back (well…Microsoft have paid a few compliments to Sony this year at least…), but really it’s war.

As we approach a year since the latest battle between Sony and Microsoft began – sorry Nintendo, you’re benched – competition is fierce as each console has hit its stride.

MS began their conference strongly with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, including a custom Xbox One console (above), which interestingly is missing Kinect, alluding to one of the many things about where Xbox One is now which differ from day one.

The last few months may have seemed to be backtracking, and they are, but they are also offering a slew of new and exclusive games both in the rest of 2014 and beyond, while Sony’s initial momentum, and impressive initial sales numbers, appear to be slowing.

Exclusive PS4 title Hellblade, from Ninja Theory, is one game which has been announced which isn't as 'indie-ish'
Exclusive PS4 title Hellblade, from Ninja Theory, is one game which has been announced which isn’t as ‘indie-ish’

It’s not quite the tortoise and the hare, a LOT of people have and are buying a PS4, but there’s increasing feeling that the console hasn’t perhaps leapt the industry forward as much as it could have, focusing on power (as usual) rather than innovation.

That could change when Morpheus, Sony’s answer to the imagination-grabbing Oculus Rift, properly launches, but for now the company is focusing on its game streaming service: Playstation Now, as well as system updates and indie games.

The lack of triple-A franchises shown off prompted many to award the win to MS, who, by comparison, filled their presentation to the brim with exclusives and as usual got the multiplatform games out of the way quickly so they could show only exclusive games for the rest of the show.

2) Exclusives = arguments

Rise of the Tomb Raider
Lara Croft’s latest outing is proving to be the latest argument-bait online

Slightly controversially, Rise of the Tomb Raider (above) was announced as Xbox One exclusive, though unsurprisingly only for a limited time, and there was plenty from the big MS exclusives: Sunset OverdriveForza Horizon 2 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

The mention of Tomb Raider itself was fairly quick and painless, but it’s been the subject of a lot of internet debate since the event, with some PS gamers feeling scorned for being ‘denied access’ to a franchise they have put time into.

The first game in the series famously made the first PlayStation (while destroying perceptions female protagonists in games for a decade), so you can sort of understand why people are miffed, but are so much anger and tears really justified?

The debate calls back to discussions around the Destiny Beta, which had three extra days on Playstation, not to mention the final game having timed-exclusive DLC.

With Bungie having worked with MS for so long on the  Halo series, it seemed to some entitled people that they deserve to play Bungie’s games forever more, as if they aren’t a business.

The subject of what ‘exclusive’ really means as a term is already blurred as it is, expect further musings on the topic before the end of the year.

3) Watching pirated films is easy

Halo Channel
The Halo Channel is one way MS is bringing its video and gaming content together

A feature which wasn’t present during MS’s conference but did come out during the week was the fact that they are increasing the number of video formats which the Xbox One can play, opening up people’s ripped DVD and Blu-ray collections to be played using the device.

If you’ve downloaded them from the internet (legal or otherwise – for shame!) then you’ll be able to enjoy them from the comfort of your sofa without awkwardly balancing a laptop on top of you or scrambling for the right HDMI cable to plug it into the TV.

Since Xbox was always intended to be the ‘hub’ of the living room this enhancement makes sense, and is supposedly in response to players’ feedback, plus there’s plenty more system updates coming to the One monthly, unlike Sony who have only managed a handful of steps forward with their software.

4) You can’t escape Assassin’s Creed

It's easy to forget that PS3 and Xbox 360 games can still look really good
It’s easy to forget that PS3 and Xbox 360 games can still look really good

Not one, but two games, and lots and lots of trailers now plague the internet in the wake of Gamescom, giving both current and past gen gamers something to brutally kill people in with their hands.

The franchise appears to be drifting apart, not unlike the fancy pirate-y ships which serve as a key mechanic in new announcement: Assassin’s Creed Rogue.

Unity, which was announced ahead of E3 earlier in the year, ditches the nautical side completely and focuses instead on co-op play as it’s key USP.

At a total of seven main titles and a handful of handheld and other games, the franchise is reaching the stage where it is at risk of growing stale if it stands still and so it makes sense to pursue to different styles (and largely different markets) with these two games.

Due to its popularity, it isn’t a series which is likely to fade away any time soon.

5) Online multiplayer isn’t going away, but neither is single player

Come September, become Legend (lag permitting...)
Come September, become Legend (lag permitting…)

There’s lots of games coming out in the next year, shocker I know, but people seem to be coming down on one side of the proverbial playstyle fence or the other at the moment.

The fear is that as MMO games begin to gain momentum on consoles, developers won’t spend time developing ‘proper’ single player games.

It’s understandable, since more players mean more money, and we know publishers in particular like money, but is it going to happen? No, no it won’t.

No matter how social you are as a gamer, there’s always times when people feel like being on their own, and gaming has always been one of the safest havens when you are in that mood and because of that passion, single player will continue to be an important part of console experiences for a long while yet.

The recreation of New York has some creative licence but is packed with detail
The recreation of New York has some creative licence but is packed with detail

Even if Destiny and The Division are a commercially success, they will never match the renown of something like Skyrim as it has to many stories which people can share and talk about, for Destiny these experiences will be few and far between.

Different people like different things, and gaming now is more diverse than it ever has been, plus technology and innovation has made the escapism you can reach when you are absorbed by an amazing game is second to none.

James Michael Parry

Film, Music, Gaming, Technology and Cyberculture

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