Category Archives: e3 2017

Sony’s PlayLink links your phone to your PS4 for multiplayer minigame madness

Enlarge (credit: Mark Walton)

You'd be forgiven for wondering just what the heck Sony's PlayLink is. Rumoured to have been pulled from the publisher's E3 2017 press conference at the last-minute due to Wi-Fi issues (a problem that the poor souls trying to liveblog the event can attest to), PlayLink was instead pushed out via a press release, whereupon it was completely subsumed by the maelstrom of E3. That's a shame, because Sony's latest take on the so-called "second screen" experience—where games are played using phones and tablets alongside a TV and a PlayStation 4—is lots of fun, so long as you have some like-minded buddies to play with.

Using a phone or a tablet to enhance a film, video game, or TV show played out on a big-screen certainly isn't a new idea, though it hasn't exactly taken the world by storm either. The feature all but disappeared from the PlayStation Vita, while the most high-profile use on the Xbox (where it's called Smartglass) died a death alongside Lionhead's Fable Legends.

PlayLink differs in that it isn't an add-on to an existing game, but a collection of smaller party games explicitly designed for group play—kind of like the Jackbox series of trivia games, but much more involved. Up to five players—each with their own Android or iOS device and a copy of the free PlayLink app—can play together. All you have to do is make sure they're all on the same Wi-Fi network.

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The top ten games to watch for after E3 2017

The E3 experience this year was so overwhelming that we needed to take the weekend to decompress and filter out the wheat from the chaff in our heads. Now that we've had some time to think about it, we've settled on the below list of ten games that stood out among the crowded halls and packed booths of E3 2017. Here they are in alphabetical order. Enjoy!

A Way Out

Developer: Hazelight
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: 2018

EA's E3 press conference happened three full days before E3 actually started, and it had two huge pieces of sci-fi bombast. While we couldn't go hands-on with the stunning-looking Anthem, and while major sequel Star Wars Battlefront II looks like an improvement all-around, one tucked-in-a-corner narrative game proved more captivating than both.

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Ni No Kuni 2 ditches turn-based combat—and that’s not a bad thing

Ni No Kuni 2 combat goes real-time: Has it worked? Voice-over by Mark Walton.

Created by Professor Layton developer Level-5 and animated by the legendary Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro), Japanese role-playing game Ni No Kuni was a surprise hit on the PlayStation 3. Its story, a touching tale of childhood loss, was combined with classic RPG mechanics to great effect. At a time when the genre was abandoning its turn-based heritage in favour of supposedly Western-friendly real-time action, Ni No Kuni showed how a traditional game, with a few modern touches, could remain relevant.

Imagine my disappointment, then, when publisher Bandai Namco revealed that Ni No Kuni 2—due out on PlayStation 4 and PC on November 10—drops the excellent turn-based combat system of its predecessor to replace it with real-time combat. Having played two challenging battles from Ni No Kuni 2 here at E3, I'd be lying if I said I was totally convinced by the changes (the loss of Familiars, the Pokemon-like creatures that you caught to accompany you in battle, particularly stings). But that's not to say the new combat system is a failure—it's a lot of fun, once you understand the quirks.

But let's start at the top. Ni No Kuni 2 tells the story of King Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum (yes really), the young, fox-eared ruler of the mythical kingdom of Ding Dong Dell. While a kindly character, Evan is considered too timid to rule the kingdom and is ousted by his own people. Undeterred, Evan enlists the help of a human from the real-world—a middle-aged teacher named Roland—in order to help win back his crown (and, according to Bandai Namco, give the game a mature edge). Along the way he meets the likes of Tani, daughter of a group of pirates, along with tiny spirit creatures called Higgledies.

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E3 2017’s brightest indie games, cataloged in words and video

Record crowds, long lines, and hype-filled booths meant that much of Ars' E3 experience was spent not playing video games. We do our best to inform you about upcoming titles when we have little more to work with than promises and hands-off demos. But there's nothing like a "no time limit" chance to sit and play, play, play.

That's a big reason why we love the conference's indie-focused events. Hype has no place among gaming's small fries; you gotta have game. With that in mind, we dragged a video crew with us to some of E3's funnest events to play indies and talk to their creators. The below video wraps up many of our favorites. For more on each of the featured games (and a few gems that didn't quite fit), read our detailed explanations below.

(FYI: Game order is determined by order in the video, not ranking. Game platforms are not listed, as many developers could not yet confirm which platforms their unfinished games will launch on. Pretty much all are targeting Windows PCs, along with as many consoles as they can muster.)

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The over-the-top sights of the E3 2017 show floor

Sam Machkovech

LOS ANGELES—The Electronic Entertainment Expo isn't just about new game announcements and a chance to try out early demos of upcoming titles. It's also a chance for the game industry to make a spectacle of itself; to throw together elaborate booths and promotional events that will leave images to stick with attendees all the way until the next E3.

This was truer than ever at this year's show, the first to officially allow members of the public into the Los Angeles Convention Center for E3. Bethesda created an entire miniature Bethesdaland theme park for its press conference attendees, complete with demonic balloon figures and a Ferris wheel. Nintendo transformed its booth space into New Donk City, with painted city walls and statues of enemies overtaken with Mario's trademark hat and mustache. Other booths featured giant dragons, life-sized helicopters, and even some stray Atari 2600 cartridges 40 or so years after their heyday.

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What do E3 attendees think of mobile gaming?

 The smartphone has changed the gaming industry landscape dramatically. As our pocket computers advance, so too does the possibility of fully satisfying mobilegaming experiences. Companies like Nintendo are blurring the lines between portable and console/PC gaming with the Switch. At the same time, big studios have largely moved away from attempts to integrate mobile content into the home… Read More

Mario’s new tricks make Super Mario Odyssey a joy

Check out the infectious joy as Ars Technica's editors try Super Mario Odyssey for the first time. (video link)

As the kind of Mario fan who created a successful Super Mario Bros. fan site at age 15, I'm pretty familiar with how the series has slowly evolved over the years. It's striking, looking back, how Mario's standard repertoire of moves, abilities, and power-ups grows slowly with each new title, integrating novel gameplay that immediately feels as tried-and-true as Mario's standard jump.

Super Mario Odyssey continues this tradition with a larger-than-normal expansion of Mario's abilities, something that's apparent even in a too-short E3 hands-on demo of the game. I thought I'd summarize my time with Odyssey by going over the additions that made the biggest impression on me.

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Ars editors pick their standout games and more from E3 2017

(video link)

A show as massive as E3 is hard to condense into just a few highlights. That was especially true in 2017, as an influx of thousands of public attendees crowded the convention's halls for the first time, eager for a chance to wait in six-hour lines just to play Super Mario Odyssey.

We've done our best to provide you with a wide range of news and opinions on all the games and announcements as we fought through the show floor crowds this week (and as yours truly fought some unexpectedly severe leg pain). We'll have more interviews and coverage to sift through in the coming days as well. For now, though, you can watch the video above to get a feel for the absolute biggest standouts that stuck with us among all the hype and noise.

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Call of Duty WWII: A blockbuster shooter in need of a soul

It was 2007 when, after a decade of beach-storming and butterfly bombs, Infinity Ward called time on the World War II shooter with the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. With only a few notable exceptions—Call of Duty: World at War and Battlefield 1942 spring to mind—shooters have stuck with the modern setting. Some, like CoD, even looked to the future. But video games are just as susceptible to the fickle tastes and short memories of the fleshy humans that buy them as films, fashion, and TV shows. That's why we now have Call of Duty WWII, a return to the "boots on the ground gameplay" of the original CoD trilogy and to its WWII setting. So it goes.

The trouble with revisiting WW2, a setting adopted by dozens of different games over the years, is that it's hard to avoid treading water. EA's Battlefield 1, which is set in WW1, did a fine job of moving back to a historical setting, because it did so in a novel way. BF1's campaign balanced its glorification of wartime violence with a deeply personal story. Behind every shot and every death was a reminder that war should rarely be celebrated. While far from perfect, BF1's mature approach to recreating a century-old conflict remains refreshingly different.

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Nostalgia still marks the way forward for Nintendo

 This year’s E3 was another perfect example. There was no new hardware for the show and a number of the company’s biggest games were previously announced. Nintendo’s online presser rolled out trailer after trailer of familiar faces, and yet the showing was widely regarded as a triumph for the gaming giant by the online community and many in the press. The big takeaway? Give… Read More