EA’s E3 2018 press conference has started delivering reveals and, to no one’s surprise, FIFA 19 is coming out later this year on September 28th. However, what was a surprise was the reveal that the next instalment will include the UEFA Champions League for the first time.
FIFA 19 will embed the UEFA Champions League in Career mode, Story mode and Ultimate Team, allow you to experience the thrill of chasing that cup anyway you fancy.
Beyond this, FIFA 19 will feature the usual refinements we’d expect from the annual sports title, but this year EA have made a point of mentioning that they have taken feedback from the community and FIFA pros to create a better, more fluid, responsive and intuitive experience. We’ll find out how this translate to play in September. Check out the trailer below:
Steep needs no storyline. It needs no larger than life characters or fantastical course layout. Steep is to SSX what Skate is to Tony Hawk. It’s about finding that perfect ski line and smashing the medal targets for each course. It’s about dominating your friends during an online session. And most importantly. It’s about losing yourself in the open-world of the Alps.
If you hadn’t figured it out by now, Steep is a far throw from the antics of SSX. It’s about the winter sports of Skiing, Snowboarding, Paragliding and Wingsuiting, and for that, it manages to create some of the best alpine escapism I’ve experienced in a game, and if you really want to immerse yourself, there’s a first person mode, which looks great, but made me nauseatingly dizzy.
Starting off simple, you’d be forgiven in thinking that Steep is just a leisurely slide to the bottom of each course. Sure, this is the main crux of the game, but it gets pretty hard pretty quickly and it does it so perfectly. The pace of ramping up the difficulty is wonderful, that is, if you don’t rush off to the more advanced mountain ranges. By the time you progress to the harder courses, you can fly your wingsuit through a craggy cave and tight holes (steady on Greg) and you’ll do so with the greatest of ease. OK, so I’m being kind. It’s bloody hard, but Steep nails that ‘just one more go’ mechanic.
There are a variety of events to take part in, and for the most part you can choose to tackle them in any of the four sports. Each course and challenge is built around getting to the bottom in the fastest time possible or by scoring enough style points. There are some zany ‘Stories of the Mountain’ which inject some humour and a bit of narrative to the game, but Steep rarely strays from that real-world experience.
Rather than hide events away until you’re a high enough rank – although there are prerequisites for some – events must be found by exploring the mountain. Stumbling across them as you blast down a slope, or stopping at key points in order to whip our your binoculars to scout for hidden base camps is all part of getting lost in the wilderness of the Alps.
Some events are so open that you can navigate to the finish line via any route you see fit – with the exception of hitting checkpoints – so it’s quite easy to get lost during each course. Thankfully there’s a helpful white line guiding you roughly in the correct direction – it is only a guide though – following it will rarely reward you with a gold medal.
Travelling around the Alps is easy. There’s a 3D mountain map that allows you to jump to new events, which are labeled so you can see where you need to go next. First you need to scout each new location or unlock them by accruing enough XP. Scouting is done by pulling out your binoculars to search out areas that look like they could be drop zones and then you simply get close enough for them to unlock – it’s a more manual version of the towers of Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed. You can also use your binoculars to fast travel to any location that you see.
The map can be a pain in the ass though. I constantly wrestled with navigating the mountains to find where I should head next. It desperately needs the option to flick through each event rather than aimlessly dragging your pointer about. There’s also no filter option. Ubisoft is hardly a stranger to open-worlds full of things to do so it bemuses me as to how they’ve got the map of Steep so wrong.
The map is far from useless though and the most useful mechanic is the ability to display trails, either your own or ‘trails of the day’, you can then warp to any part of the trail – ideal if you made a wrong turn.
While there are opportunities to bust out some tricks, they are relatively safe and far from the over-the-top antics of SSX. Each trick could easily be performed by a pro. As you trick and zoom down the mountains at speed, you must constantly battle G force, hit a rough patch of snow/rock/ice or land a trick wrong and you’ll be exerted to extra pressure that will, if continued, throw you off your skis or board and ragdoll your rider down the mountain.
Taking to the air via wingsuit or paraglider, you can scope out each mountain to spot new events or hidden basecamps. There are also some activities, but these are damn tough and will take perseverance if you want to master them. Wingsuiting is particularly fun and fast, the hard courses are exhilarating as you fly close to the ground and through cave networks. Paragliding on the other hand (even after you work out the flying mechanic) is just rather dull.
Similar to larking about online with mates on Forza Horizon 3, Steep is equally as much fun, although setting challenges for others wasn’t something I had much interest in, so unless a mate was about, I pretty much played on my own which rendered the need for being connected online useless, and yet you need to be connected to Ubisoft’s servers all the time – if they’re down, then you won’t be able to play.
Other than visual customisations, there’s nothing you can do to change your rider. There are no stat boosting equipment or skills to equip as you gain XP – the clothes and skis you start with can take you from the easiest slope to the hardest – it’s all about finding that perfect line and having the skill to navigate down the slope.
While stopping short of a full simulation, Steep captures the alpine life of hurtling down a ski slope without the expenditure (and more importantly) the risk of breaking a few bones in the process. It will certainly appeal more to those who holiday in the snowy regions of the world.
Paragliding is the least intuitive of the sports. Only by straying from the white guiding line and having an understanding of how the wind manipulates the parachute, will you be able to conquer this mode. Even when you do, it’s the weakest of the four sports – with fussy controls and a slow pace – if you mess up you will be in for a long haul back through the course.
Rather than snuggle up to SSX for warmth, Steep has instead jumped into bed with Skate, which if you enjoyed, you’ll sure find comfort in the icy embrace of Steep’s many slopes. No over-dramatisation, no over-the-top tricks, Steep is just pure fun.
NHL 16’s enhanced movement and puck control, along with its new tutorial system, makes the sport more accessible than it has been for years, and this dedication from EA Canada to create the ultimate ice hockey title has paid off spectacularly.
Dave Moran described NHL 16 in his review as:
NHL 16 has certainly returned to form with this excellent title, players new or old will instantly feel comfortable with how the game plays and with a good selection of teams and modes to play through you’ll be well entertained this year.
Indeed NHL 16 has received precisely the kind of enhancements that it needed to once again become an ice hockey fan’s ideal digital facsimile of the real thing, allowing it to glide into second place in our Sports Game of the Year awards.
for me it’s all the little changes that make FIFA 16 great.
Says Dave Moran in his review of FIFA 16, and it is indeed these small enhancements that EA Canada continue to make each year to FIFA that keeps it on top.
Finally women’s teams have made an appearance, passing is more crucial than ever, the physicality and animations are smooth and accurate, and the whole experience feels that much more realistic and tactical, as Dave goes on to say:
I spend a lot of time passing the ball back to defence to restart an attack, it feels so much more realistic and tactical.
And because of the continued efforts to make the FIFA titles more realistic, and representative of the beautiful game, it’s no surprise that it take this year’s first place ribbon as TiX Sports Game of the Year.
ClusterPuck 99 takes the simple premise of team-based competition of scoring goals against each other, adds some bumpers, spikes, speed boosts and deadly drops, and taps into the insane fun only video games can achieve. And whilst the lack of an online option does restrict this fun to local only, it’s still a terrific game.
You need to score more goals than your opponent to win, but precisely how many goals or to what time limit is dictated by you when the match is set up. A time limit simply declares a winning team based on who scored the most goals come its end, whilst a score limit provided a specific number of goals for each team to strive for. But it’s not as simple as guiding your circular shaped avatar across an arena, tackling opponents for the puck, passing and then shooting at goal, there’s so much more to it.
Well there can be more to it, a humorously titled arena called Boring provides a basic arena with a goal each end, but the majority are complex shapes surrounded by walls or nothing but a deadly void to fall in, with additional obstacles littered around the play-area. This is where the difficulty is raised to new heights, tactics and strategies are concocted to conquer your opponents, and the fun is elevated to insane.
Bumpers when touched propel you intractably in a direction, releasing the ball if you were holding it; spikes destroy you, leaving your team a member down for precious seconds that feel like an eternity; meanwhile speed boosts launch you at speed in a straight line; add to that the possibility of falling off the arena and you’ve got a terrific collection of obstacles that work splendidly in tandem. With some practice these can be used to your advantage. Utilising the speed boosts can provide the space you need to attack goal or make a crucial pass, meanwhile, colliding with an opponent and checking them into a spike or bumper can destroy or disorient them respectively as well as release the ball from their possession. Furthermore, once you’ve adapted to the physics you can pull of some pretty spectacular shots with a charged hit of the puck bouncing off walls.
It all comes together to provide a brilliantly compelling sports title that’s easy to pick up and play but with enough scope for more advanced tactics to be developed by veterans. Moreover, it’s stupidly fun to play with other people, and up to eight can gather round the console for shenanigans, if you have the controllers to spare.
Unfortunately, however, there isn’t any online options, so the fun is restricted to solo play or local play, but you can add AI team mates and opponents to compliment your rooster of human players at least. You can also complete a small but challenging collection of solo challenges if you’re ClusterPucking alone, which helps hone your skills.
Of course playing with others is the best way to experience ClusterPuck, and a large collection of arenas cater for all player numbers. Furthermore, an editor allows you to build your own devious arenas, so whilst the lack on online play is a shame and solo play can only amuse you for so long, it’s superbly built for local play and comes highly recommended if you’ve got the some coach competition friends.
Thanks to Xbox and PHL Collective for their support
Take Two President, Karl Slatoff has announced that the next in the WWE 2K and NBA 2K series’ will be released on the Xbox One. This is double the excitement for fans of the WWE games as it will enable 2K Sports to get over all the hindrances that were in place on the Xbox 360. For example, having more than six people in the ring was unachievable on the previous generation, and the roster number can certainly rise this time. Leaves more room for undercard greats like Tyson Kidd to make an appearance. It also marks 2K Sports’ first true WWE game. As WWE 2K14 was all but shipped while they were under the THQ mantle.
Speaking during the companies latest earnings call, Slatoff said, “During fiscal 2015, consumers can look forward to exciting next generation releases from our NBA 2K and WWE franchises as well as other unannounced titles that promise to raise the bar for excellence.
“Our WWE franchise has quickly proven to be a successful addition to our portfolio,” added chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick.
“Sales of WWE 2K14 have exceeded our expectations and the title is being supported with add-on content including a Season Pass featuring many of fan-favorite WWE superstars and legends.
“We believe there is a meaningful opportunity to grow this series by further leveraging 2K’s marketing power and development expertise.”
It was also revealed that Borderlands 2 is officialy 2K Games’ most successful game in their history, outselling the entirety of the Bioshock series.
As for NBA 2K15 and WWE 2K15, assuming that is what they will be called, you can expect NBA 2K15 around September, and WWE 2K15 during the 1st week of November, as is tradition.
EA came out today in force for fans of MMA and the UFC franchises. Five new fighters have sauntered into the foray with amazingly beautiful, photo-realistic imagery. Your new warriors are as follows:
First up is the former Heavyweight Champion, Frank Mir. Frank Mir is definitely the most well-known of today’s announced fighters. This is mostly due to his astounding mat-work and a memorable feud with current WWE superstar, Brock Lesnar. The others fighters are Jose Aldo, Ricardo Lamas, Cung Le, and Joe Lauzon. Check out all of their details down below.
Current Record: 16-8-0
From: Las Vegas, NV, USA
Fights Out Of: Las Vegas, NV, USA
Height: 6’3” (190 cm)
Weight: 240 lbs (109 kg)
Strengths: Great Submissions, Improved Striking, Two-Time Heavyweight Champion
Stepping into the Octagon for the first time in only his third pro bout, Frank Mir has been a staple of the UFC’s Heavyweight division since 2001. After winning the Heavyweight title from Tim Sylvia in 2004, Mir was sidelined for 20 months by a near career-ending motorcycle accident. His return to the sport is recognized as one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history, with Mir managing to fight his way back to become the division’s interim champion in 2008. An impressive ground game has helped Mir secure devastating submission wins over, Sylvia, Brock Lesnar, Cheick Kongo and Minotauro Nogueira.
Current Record: 23-1-0
From: Manaus, Brazil
Fights Out Of: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Height: Height: 5’7” (170 cm)
Weight: 145 lbs (65 kg)
Strengths: Very Strong Ground Game, Knockout Power, Stamina
Jose Aldo became the UFC’s inaugural Featherweight champion on Nov. 20, 2010 and hasn’t let the title go since. Following his first UFC title defense against Mark Hominick, the former WEC champ hasn’t looked back, defending it five times against some of the division’s top talent, including Kenny Florian, Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar. Considered one of MMA best pound-for-pound fighters, Aldo is an adept finisher with 15 of his 23 career wins coming by way of knockout.
Nickname: The Bully
Current Record: 13-2-0
From: Chicago, IL, USA
Fights Out Of: Chicago, IL, USA
Height: 5’8” (172 cm)
Weight: 145 lbs (65 kg)
Strengths: Explosiveness, Power
Since making his professional debut in 2008, Ricardo Lamas has been hard at work cementing his status as a fighter to watch out for in the Featherweight division. After racking up a 4-2 record in the WEC, Lamas transitioned into the UFC in 2011, scoring a first-round TKO win over Matt Grice in his debut. The Bully would go on to log a Submission of the Night performance against Cub Swanson at UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos and went undefeated in his first four UFC bouts.
From: Saigon, Vietnam
Fights Out Of: San Jose, CA, USA
Height: 5’10” (177 cm)
Weight: Weight: 185 lbs (84 kg)
Strengths: Striking, Takedowns
A gifted striker possessing some of the most powerful kicks in his division, Cung Le stepped onto the pro MMA stage for the first time in 2006. After debuting with Strikeforce, building a record of 7-1 and briefly holding their Middleweight title, Le made the jump to the UFC in 2011 likening his contract with the company to getting his black belt in MMA. The Taekwondo black belt, most recently scored an impressive KO victory over Rich Franklin and is currently the Mentor and Chief Coach of The Ultimate Fighter: China.
From: Brockton, MA, USA
Fights Out Of: Bridgewater, MA, USA
Height: 5’10” (177 cm)
Weight: 155 lbs (70 kg)
A true MMA veteran, Joe Lauzon has 33 professional fights to his name despite being only 29 years old. A submission specialist, Lauzon is known for his tendency to be involved in exciting bouts, win or lose, and holds the distinction of currently being tied with Anderson Silva as the all-time UFC Fight Bonus leader with 12 awards. After suffering back to back losses for the first time in his prolific career against Jim Miller and Michael Johnson, Lauzon wasted no time getting back to his winning ways, closing out 2013 with a victory over Mac Danzig.
EA Sports brings eight-sided hell to your Xbox One this Spring.
The next deal in the Xbox Store ‘Countdown to 2014’ Sale has gone live and today you can find the theme is Sports Games. These reductions are only available for one day before being replaced by the next deal.
Tis the season for the next generation. What this means is that the Xbox faithful have an entirely new version of FIFA to dive right into. FIFA has been available on the 360 since September, but with the promise of gameplay improvements that aren’t on the previous generation, I and many others have been excited to see how things panned out. Now there are improvements to the game. But it doesn’t really change that much to be honest. Read on to find out how it all panned out.
Let’s jump straight into what matters most, the gameplay. I’ve been very vocal about the fact that I feel they may have ruined what they were getting so close to with last year’s game, even since I played FIFA 14 on the Xbox 360. The game is trying to become as real as a football sim has ever been. Not to say it’s not realistic, it’s just that some things have been thrown in that do not compliment what made FIFA 13 such a great game. For example, rubber-banding appears to exist now. Rubber-banding is a term that would only be familiar to avid fans of racing games. What it means is that when you, the player controlled driver is way out in front with no chance of ever being caught up, the game will automatically make trailing cars speed and turn outside of their capabilities to constantly make it a close race. EA Sports have adapted this to the defending. Defenders as slow as say Per Mertesacker will blister towards a player with lightning pace like Theo Walcott from out of nowhere. Essentially what I’m getting at is, if you initiate a through-ball to an extremely fast player, he will fumble his first touch slightly and do a light jog no matter how hard you hold the sprint button. Whereas the defender will Usain Bolt this newly crippled gentleman right down to the ground. It’s all in the name of balance, but if EA Sports want to go for realism, balance just doesn’t exist in football. There’s only skill, momentum, and luck. It’s still a very, very good game. I just feel that it has taken a step back from FIFA 13.
Those are my thoughts on FIFA 14 in general. Let’s talk about what’s specifically new to the Xbox One version. The very biggest in terms of gameplay changes are the amount of players that can now challenge for a header. It’s no longer attacker vs. defender. I have even been anticipating a header and had my own CPU players nab my chance from the air for a goal (not that I’m complaining). You can even beat goalkeepers to the ball now. It has been a pet peeve of mine for years that a keeper would automatically win the battle if he went up for it. EA Sports have remedied my concerns in this aspect, and I hope it’s a feature that stays forever. When the player impact engine arrived in FIFA 12, I was very excited. Finally players would react as they should and fall over when they should. Of course it was a mess that had the Fus Ro Dah effect. It has however been perfected here. Players completely react to every collision as they should. You might wonder why I’ve highlighted this since it was apparent on the Xbox 360 version. There is absolutely no clipping whatsoever in any challenge in the game. Not one arms slips into another player’s arm. No legs sinking into the opposition player’s stomachs. It’s just perfect and is quite wonderful to watch. The game also boasts hundreds of new animations motion captured by players such as Gareth Bale and Robert Lewandowski. The only ones that I frequently see are a new long ball that is executed when you attempt to switch flanks. I have noticed some new clearances. But with the literal thousands of situations and angles that you might find yourself in, you’ll certainly see many of these animations on your journey.
It’s strange that the absolute best improvement in this game is one that I would hear about and shun immediately. Ah hell, it’s not just the best improvement, it’s the best part of the game, period. EA Sports’ new Ignite Engine adds so much to the beautiful game that you cannot even imagine. It truly needs to be experienced to understand how amazing it really is. Ignite is an engine that claims to make the sport feel ‘alive’. Crowds are no longer pasted cardboard drones. They are living 3D people who will react to every situation with cheers and boos. The sound that it gives out is astounding, the booming roar when you score an important goal in career mode is especially gratifying. It’s not just the crowd that reacts, the players themselves do. Let me throw out a situation. You’re losing 1-0, and have just equalised to make the score 1-1 with ten minutes to go. Your players will put in the extra effort, they will run themselves ragged to get a goal. If the ball is out of play, they will sprint to take the throw-in or corner to get the ball in-play as quickly as possible. EA have even been working with Sky to configure how the camera angles should work for replays. Man is it ever beautiful. I actually find myself watching almost every replay as I hear people scream through my Kinect to skip the little scene. The cameras will highlight important players, more so in career mode than anywhere else. It will even show another replay of a goal you’ve scored way into the match, just as it would in a real game. EA’s presentation in FIFA 14 for the Xbox One is the best it ever has been, for any game, ever. Have a look at the Ignite trailer to see just how good it is.
One big question that was on everyone’s lips these past few months is will it actually look any better on the Xbox One than on the Xbox 360? In short, yes and no. If you’re expecting the players likenesses to look any more realistic, you will be left disappointed. However, with most of them now being scanned with the new Starhead technology, they look as real as they ever will. Now that it is rendered in 1080p and at 60fps, the game finally looks as it should. It’s a beautiful, glossy, ultra-realistic affair that shouldn’t be missed. I’m way more invested in the story being told on the pitch than the actual game itself. If I sign a player on career mode, I want to see that highlighted during the pre-match presentation. I want to see the close-ups of my new star as Alan Smith gives his terrible opinions on any and everything. I mean, god damn everything about the presentation of this game is so spot on it even makes me want to try out Madden and NBA Live which is certainly not my bag.
The rest of this review will be focused on the features of the game that are already available on the Xbox 360 version. So if you’re familiar with FIFA 14 already, just skip on down to the summary. Career Mode makes a triumphant return to the foray. It’s more or less the same, except for the way transfers work. Now there’s the Global Scout Network. This is a feature that enables you to send your scouts out to certain countries and look for players with the credentials that you need. You can no longer see player ratings before you bid on them unless they are prolific stars such as Lionel Messi where everybody knows the talent that he beholds. The scouts give a prediction of the players stats and will even give an estimation of the amount you would need to bid on them to have a bid accepted. An annoying feature returns from previous years. If a player is 30 or over, it takes but one season for them to lose every bit of skill they ever had. I understand players declining in talent as they grow older, but the amount that they do in FIFA 14’s Career Mode is far too drastic and unrealistic. The way that the Ignite Engine uses the cameras to focus on players in Career Mode is particularly titillating. It will focus on players who might be making a debut, or have cased disruption in the changing rooms, or even just players that are currently in-form. It then accompanies this with a quick quip from the commentary team. This all adds to the experience and makes it feel more real.
Ultimate Team is another entry that makes a return to the FIFA franchise. Of course it would, it is the cash cow of the entire game. There are only minimal changes to this mode but they are definitely for the better. You no longer need to have matching formations for your players to have better chemistry. You can also now invite your friends to an online friendly to play their Ultimate Team squad. Why this was never implemented in the first place is beyond me. That is where the changes in the mode lie, it doesn’t require much to improve it to be honest. There is another new entry that is exclusive to the Xbox 360 and Xbox One version, however. Legends are now present in the Ultimate Team. Amazing players like Dennis Bergkamp and Gianfranco Zola are now a part of this wonderful, soul-draining game mode. I do think it was a little bit cheeky advertising the legends as such a big deal for the console exclusivity as the rarity in achieving the players is extreme. As rare as getting a Ronaldo or Messi in a pack if not more.
To sum up, there are many improvements to the next generation iteration of FIFA 14. It’s definitely better than the previous gen version. Some of the gameplay has taken a dive from FIFA 13’s excellent play. In the words of Paula Abdul, it took two steps forward, and two steps back. This doesn’t stop it from being a top notch game, however. I think that EA Sports will have achieved the dream of having the very best ultra-realistic football game that has ever and will ever exist by FIFA 15. I definitely recommend this one to the legions of fans that follow the sport. Its value is also lowered by the fact that many hundred thousand day one editions came bundled with a free copy. So pick this one up for a price as cheap as chips. Chips in Central London that is.
EA Sports have today announced that the 4 year hiatus of NBA Live will be ended with a demo that comes out next Friday.
In the demo, you’ll be able to take control of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks and the Golden State Warriors. Their live stats will be updates in the demo just as they will in the full game.
The NBA Live 14 demo hits the stores on Xbox One next Friday the 22nd of November.