Category Archives: E3

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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A remaster with no old code: Crash Bandicoot was rebuilt nearly from scratch

Enlarge / Recovered 3D meshes help, but pretty much everything about this Crash remaster image had to be rebuilt from scratch. (credit: Activision)

LOS ANGELES—The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy lands on consoles next week, and, from what I can tell, the game will offer very little in the way of surprises. All three of the series' original PlayStation 1 games are coming back in a single package. From what I've played at multiple events, every brutally tough platforming level seems to be returning with faithful controls and substantially redrawn, HD-friendly graphics.

Activision invited Ars to check out the near-final game one more time ahead of its June 30 launch, and, for some reason, they thought the most exciting news they had to offer was a new playable character. (Crash's sister, Coco, will be playable in all three games, but she's a cosmetic swap with zero unique moves.)

But after hammering developer Vicarious Visions with question after question, I got something more interesting out of the team: the amount of from-scratch work that was required to make this remaster.

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HDR and video games: Ars leaves E3 with more questions than answers

Enlarge / This high dynamic range mock-up does not truly represent how HDR images look compared to SDR ones. Sadly, our experiences on the E3 show floor didn’t offer much more for anybody confused by the standard. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

LOS ANGELES—4K was on everyone's lips at this year's E3. We heard this buzz term (which has come to mean 3840x2160 pixel resolution) so many times that we almost made a drinking game out of it.

But the other buzz phrase for new TV sets, HDR, turned out to be a lot less prevalent.

I went to E3 expecting Microsoft, Sony, and other major game-hardware companies to pound on tables and emphasize how awesome their newest products looked with HDR features turned on. Instead, I left E3 wondering when the technology's most likely ambassadors will get around to converting the confused masses.

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Nintendo Switch’s dumb dock gets beaten by hyper-portable Nyko option

Enlarge / This tiny $45 Nyko dock will transform my portable use of the Nintendo Switch. (credit: Nyko)

One of the Nintendo Switch's biggest issues is about to get fixed—by Nyko, of all companies.

You read that correctly. The company best known for unofficial gamer accessories like rubbery controller condoms and bulky console carrying cases has emerged with a rare burst of engineering genius: the Portable Docking Kit. It's basically the Switch Dock, only a lot smaller—maybe a tad smaller than a deck of cards.

Nyko announced this Nintendo Switch accessory during E3, but I wanted to be sure it was worth recommending, so I stopped by the company's E3 booth and demanded to see it in action. In the process, I regretfully ordered a grown man to dive into a pit full of colored, plastic balls.

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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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