Get Hyped For: Afro Samurai 2

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Afro Samurai 2 is looking to right the wrongs of the first game and after seeing some early B-Roll footage at Gamescom 2014, Redacted Studios might actually pull it off…

The original Afro Samurai did a lot of things right. The original anime shone through in its art style, sound track and the slick combat was something of a revelation at the time. Its issues stemmed from a lack of variety. As exciting as it was to play as Afro for the first half of the game, slicing enemies in 2 and watching blood spurt everywhere, this eventually started to grate as the game degenerated into a cycle of walk, fight, walk, fight. Rinse. Repeat.

David Robinson, president of Redacted Studios, the developers of Afro Samurai 2, knowns this. He knows the short comings of the first game and he is determined to make things right with the follow-up. During my time in Gamescom, David was the most passionate games industry individual I spoke to. His love for the Afro Samurai anime series and the original vision of Takashi Okazaki was evident. No other developer, CEO or executive looked as excited or enthusiastic about their game than David did. He was brimming with energy.

David conveyed his vision perfectly – Afro Samurai 2 will keep all of the aspects of the original game that worked – the art style, the combat, the hip hop & soul soundtrack – but will follow a different characters journey and have a bigger variety of game play. He wants desperately to make the Afro Samurai game that the anime series deserves and through all of his PR talk and enthusiasm, it sounds like he knows how to get there.

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Afro Samurai 2 follows a fan favourite from the animated series – Kuma – but there will also be the opportunity to play as other characters from the franchise as the story line flashes back to key moments in the past. Kuma is hell-bent on revenge against Afro but will have to cut his way through a myriad of enemies on this conquest. Of course, to avoid falling into the same pit falls as the original, hacking enemies will not be the only thing standing in Kuma’s way. This journey will be treacherous and the B-roll footage we saw at Gamescom showed Kuma plummeting off a broken bridge before stabbing one of his dual swords into the falling wood to save himself. From here he clawed his way up using his swords as hand holds. This Uncharted-esque game play added a cinematic edge to Afro Samurai 2 which was sorely missing from the original. David described it as “the love child of Batmans Arkham and Tomb Raider”.

One of the most interesting aspects of Afro Samurai 2 is “the face of death”. When ever an enemy shifts Kuma off of his mortal coil, the camera will switch to the view-point of the enemy giving you a different perspective. In 20 years of gaming, I have not seen a game take this frankly unique step to give you a view through the eyes of your enemy as they watch your demise. I am not sure whether this will pay off but, personally, I can’t wait to see this in action.

David Robinson and the Redacted Studios team know what they need to do to make Afro Samurai 2 a success. They know what worked and what didn’t in the first game and they are determined, enthusiastic and excited about making a game they can be proud of. Takashi Okazaki is fully behind the project and is being consulted on aspects of the game – which can only be a good thing because that man is a genius. Wu-Tang Clan member RZA is returning to piece together a soundtrack filled with a mix of classic hip hop and underground talent. The pieces are all falling into place to make Afro Samurai 2 an exciting prospect for fans and newcomers to the series alike.

Afro Samurai 2 will be coming to the PS4 (Xbox One and PC) in 2015.

Get Hyped For: Toren

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Ever since Gamescom 2014 there has been one game that has repeatedly and randomly floated through my thoughts. I don’t purposely think about this game but every so often, I am reminded by how excited I was about it. That game is Toren.

Coming from Brazilian indie developers Swordtales, Toren is a story driven puzzle adventure game about a girl called Moonchild who is trapped in a tower. To escape, she attempts to climb to the top, growing older as she ascends, all the while fending off the attacks of a dragon – but all within a single day, because once tomorrow comes, she turns to stone and she has to begin the challenge all over again. Blended with poetry, symbolism and, even though the build of the game I saw was a little rough around the edges, gorgeous visuals, Toren is instantly likeable.

So, why does this game keep randomly popping into my head? Well, you have to go back to a little game called Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons to explain that.

Brothers-A-Tale-of-Two-SonsBrothers was one of my favourite games of 2013. Not because of the innovative dual character twin stick controls. Not because of the pleasantly presented visuals. It was a combination of the deep story line and game play mechanics and the synergy that they created together that really won me over. Without spoiling the game for anybody who has not played it, there were points in the game where the storyline, game play and controls all become one and the same. They all blend together to create something entirely new and different, where the controls and game play tell parts of the story. It was incredible to play through for the first time.

This is how I feel about Toren. I get the same giddy feeling of excitement about this game as I did when playing Brothers. As Moonchild climbs her tower prison, she grows older. Initially she is nothing but a babe and has to struggle just to climb small obstacles. As she progresses, she grows, gets taller, stronger, obtains new abilities, all in line with the growth of a magical tree that grows within the centre of the tower. The fates of the tree and the girl in Toren are intertwined – the tree needs Moonchild to provide water or light to help it to grow which in turn helps her reach a higher level of the tower and allows her to grow older. The game play and story line of Toren blur the lines between one another as the story progresses, not like most games that throw new abilities and powers at you on a whim, Toren evolves naturally with the story and game play hand in hand.

Toren has the potential to be the next big indie adventure game because of this reason. Its design is intelligent, intuitive and, if the visuals are shored up, Toren could become an overnight sleeper hit like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons did before it. If this isn’t on your radar right now and you like to get your teeth into something a bit different and artistic every now and again, this game is definitely one for you.

Toren will be arriving on the PS4 as well as PC (and possibly Xbox One) in Q1 2015. Get hyped.

Project Morpheus Heads-On Preview ~ From VR sceptic to excited convert in 3 demos.

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Before attending Gamescom 2014, I was a VR sceptic. My previous experiences with virtual reality only extended as far Lawnmower Man-esque arcade games from the 90’s, which were ludicrously expensive to play (£5 a go at the local arcade) and less than impressive. The controls felt clunky, the graphics sub-standard compared to the other games in the arcade and they were not very immersive experiences. Each time I read “VR is the future of gaming” I jokingly scoffed at the prospect – that was until I got my hands (and head) on 3 Project Morpheus demonstrations at Gamescom 2014 and now I am a converted VR optimist. Here are my thoughts on what I got to play.

The Set

The first thing I noticed when picking up the Project Morpheus headset was the weight. The headset is surprisingly light – lighter than it looks. It still has some weight in it but considering that the set contains screens, head phones, cables and straps to keep it in place, it felt sturdy but light.

Putting it on to my head, I was impressed with how well the Project Morpheus head set is balanced. I expected the screens to weigh down the front and for it to be putting pressure on the bridge of my nose but the back strap holds the head set firmly in place. The set didn’t move too much as I wobbled my head and the screen always remained in view.

The one tiny irritation was the wiring. For something which is meant to be totally immersive, the wires felt a little out of place. As you play, you can often feel them touch your shoulder and it breaks the feeling of being totally “in” the game.

Overall, the head set felt… expensive.

Eve: Valkyrie

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Eve: Valkyrie was the first Project Morpheus demo that I managed to get my heads-on and it was by far the best game I got to trial. Sitting down and sliding on the headset I was greeted by a gloriously detailed cockpit sitting in a tunnel. The attention to detail really shines through on the Project Morpheus’ 1080p screen and the movement tracking means you get to look around all of the buttons and levers.

Hitting the acceleration, you blast along the tunnel at an astonishing speed, lights whizzing by – none of which caused any screen ripping, frame slow down or juddering, even though the screen is only centimetres away from your face.

Once you blast out of the tunnel, you can control the ship around a vast and beautiful battlefield using the Dualshock 4. At first, the divorce between the controller and the head set – controlling your view with your head instead of the thumb sticks – was a little disorientating and I found my head dropping involuntarily, making me look at my feet rather than the enemy ships. After a few minutes I have managed to get the hang of keeping my head up  to realise how good Eve: Valkyrie really is. Swinging my fighter around to train my cross-hairs on an enemy, the red reticule highlighted then as they rounded to face me and I unleashed hell on them with everything I had. Missiles. Lasers. Every button I could mash. The following explosion was as satisfying as it was impressive. Flying through the missile smoke trails, I picked up another boggie and proceeded to blow the ass off of them too. A few minuets later and I was convinced I was now Star Fox meets Buck Rodgers  and nothing could touch me – until I smashed into a floating structure and blew myself up that is. Dope.

Eve: Valkyrie will be a system seller for Project Morpheus. There didn’t appear to be much depth to the game but the thought of getting this game for multiplayer and having massive Strike Suit Zero-esque battles with friends is certainly enough to whet the appetite for VR.

Morpheus Castle Demo

Those PS Move controllers might just have a late come back in them based on my experience with Morpheus Castle. This short demo has you play as a knight in training as they beat down a dummy using 2 PSMove controllers which respond to your hand movements. Pulling the PS Move triggers grasp what ever in reach. First the game presents a dummy and a weapon rack with a sword in it. Holding your hand out in the general direction and grasping picked up the sword and then you could slice and dice the dummy however you see fit. Next you are given a crossbow. Pulling the trigger lets loose a bolt. Lastly, a dragon eats you. I wasn’t sure if there was anything I could have done to prevent getting eaten by the big lizard but it happened nonetheless.

Project Morpheus Castle is an excellent example of how the PS Move controllers can be used to present your own hand movements in VR. The interactions were very simplistic and no real accuracy was needed to pick up the sword but as a concept demo, it worked perfectly.

The major disappointment of this demo was the graphics. I asked whether this game would actually be releasing for Project Morpheus and was told that no decision had been made but if it is to see the light of day, some serious work will need to go into making the game look presentable. The graphics are simplistic, blocky and thoroughly undermining after playing Eve: Valkyrie.

The Deep

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Just before stepping up to play The Deep I was informed that the version I was about to play was a new build and the improvements were obvious immediately compared to the direct feed I had seen of the E3 demo. The detail and lighting were impressive right from the off as I descended in my cage into the deep-sea, ready to face off against my toothy Selachimorpha hunters.

The Deep is an excellent example of how Project Morpheus and VR in general can enhance experiences past what is possible on a TV and couch. The demo is scary – next level terrifying – extremely immersive and uses all of the survival horror tricks, especially when it comes to the sound, to brown your under garments. Much like Dead Space, you can hear danger closing – water swoosh around you – but when you look, you only catch a glimpse of a shark. Other times, Sharks appear out of no where and are biting the side of your cage – real jump out of your skin moments.

The Verdict
Having not played around with an Oculus Rift, I cannot compare Project Morpheus to its competitor but what I can say is that, with a few tweaks in ergonomic design and some similar but improved support in terms of games, I will most definitely be queuing up to hand over cash on day 1.

Project Morpheus proved to me that VR has come a long way since my arcade days and that the supporting technology has now caught up enough to make this a viable and exciting experience. It is immersive, responsive and beyond my expectations in terms of graphics. I honestly thought, before trying out Project Morpheus, that I would be happy enough to pass over Sony’s VR offering but now, I know I had better start saving because VR really is the future of gaming.

Op-Ed: The exclusivity of Rise of the Tomb Raider could inadvertently end the Xbox One

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Microsoft announced a bombshell at Gamescom 2014 which took us all by surprise. Rise of the Tomb Raider will release “next holiday exclusively on Xbox” (Phil Spencers exact words). It is a smart move by Phil and the Xbox team. Tomb Raider is a household name. The IP may have been through a recent reboot but Lara Croft is a recognisable face amongst most gamers and the game won’t need much marketing. It is an obvious plan to toe-to-toe with Uncharted 4 which is rumoured to be releasing in the holiday season 2015. Ever since the announcement I have been mulling it over and it is a big coup by Microsoft but (and this is a big BUT) there is a possibility that the timed exclusivity of Rise of the Tomb Raider could backfire and cost Microsoft and the Xbox One big time. I know – bold claims but hear me out before calling me a Sony Pony or a troll in the comments section.

Performance differences leak on-line

tomb_raider_game_informer_cover_art_mediumThe visual fidelity differences between the Xbox One and PS4 are widely publicised and one of the major talking points in the start of 2014 was Tomb Raider: The Definitive edition. The game released for both the PS4 and Xbox One but the gulf in visual differences were massive. While the Xbox One was hitting 30 frames per second at 900p, the PS4 was pushing 1080p at 60 frames per second which helped the game sell twice as much on Sony’s machine as it did on the Xbox One. It is unlikely that the same will happen again with Rise of the Tomb Raider – Crystal Dynamics will have had a year longer with the Xbox One to develop what ever visual trickery they need to to ensure it hits 1080×60 – but what if it does? What if, even with the extra development time, CD are still unable to get the game up to scratch? That news alone would be a hot topic and the subject of another probable flame war, but what if details about the inevitable PS4 version leak and those are better? A total disaster. Microsoft’s big coup turns into a damp squib that people are willing to wait for the superior version of.

The “Timed exclusivity” is too short

The wording around the Rise of the Tomb Raider timed exclusivity is being deliberately ambiguous. “It has a duration” is all that Phil Spencer would add and Square Enix & Crystal Dynamics have not mentioned anything more – wisely so. So what do we know? It will be releasing “next holiday, exclusively on Xbox”. Now “Next Holiday” could mean any time after October 1st to be in time for Christmas. And what of the PS4 and PC version? Well, once January 2016 starts that is “next holiday” over and done with. (I hope) Microsoft were not dumb enough to secure exclusivity for only a few months but no one outside of Microsoft, Square and Crystal know the specifics of their deal. If the timed exclusivity is too short, and these details make their way on-line, this could dampen the sales of the Xbox One during that holiday season. What sounds more appealing? Rise of the Tomb Raider or Uncharted 4 followed by Raise of the Tomb Raider a few months later? I know what would get my vote.

The game is bad

Probably the least likely of the reasons on this list is that Rise of the Tomb Raider is a bad game. Crystal Dynamics have a great track record with the Tomb Raider games and if it is anything like the 2013 reboot, it should be hailed as a success – but what if something goes wrong during development? We see it all the time – projects that start off with great potential but end up finding the middle of the road or try to please everybody and end up pleasing no one. The fact that Microsoft have gone out of their way to secure exclusivity hints that they are concerned that they don’t have another game to push the platform next holiday season and if Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn’t live up to the hype it could result in a bare looking release schedule.

The game bombs

image_40556_fit_940We see it year in, year out. Great games get released and don’t sell anywhere near what they deserve. This unenviable situation is usually reserved for PlayStation exclusives (Tearaway, The Puppeteer, MotorStorm – the list goes on) but what if this happens to Rise of the Tomb Raider? What if it gets swamped by the inevitable multi-platforms and annual instalments that will be hitting the market at the similar time? The impact of this could be far more devastating to the Xbox One in the long run, purely because of the kind of deal that it is. Third party exclusives are rare these days because of the risk involved (even though we have seen a recent resurgence of them with the launch of the now-gen) and if a Tomb Raider game, a series with mass market appeal and an established fan base, fails on the Xbox One, do you think many other developers or publishers will be lining up to talk about exclusivity (timed or otherwise) with Microsoft? No. No matter how many zeros Microsoft write on a cheque, if a game like Tomb Raider bombs, potentially doing irreparable damage to an established franchise, it could put a lot of other companies off working with the American giants and could push them in to the open arms of its competitors. This, in turn, will have an obvious effect on potential future sales.

Of course, the probability is that Rise of the Tomb Raider will be fantastic, the game will sell by the truck load and we PlayStation, PC and Nintendo gamers will have to put up with insufferable trolling from Xbox One owners until it arrives on our platforms – and I don’t blame them. Xbox One owners should be optimistic about Lara Croft’s next outing, but it should be cautious optimism because if Rise of the Tomb Raider fails for any of the above reasons, Microsoft and the Xbox One will be picking up the pieces.

Hands on with Alien: Isolation – “I think I just sh*t myself”

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There have been over 20 games released relating to the Alien franchise. Twenty. There have been highs and lows in the 20- long back catalogue ranging from the excellent Aliens 3 to the shameful Colonial Marines but one thing that none of these games had ever been able to do is emulate the look, feeling and atmosphere of the source material. Sure they have come close on occasion but never quite got it right – until now. Alien: Isolation is the Alien game we always dreamed about.

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“I think I just sh*t myself” was the only distinguishable English words from the crowd coming out of the Gamescom demonstration before mine and, after playing the game, I echo their sentiments. Alien: Isolation is terrifying. The first second that you see that alien stomp across a corridor, each footstep reverberating through your headphones and controller, you will freeze. You will panic. You will just stand there and let it walk by, hoping that it won’t catch sight of you – and that is the beauty of Alien: Isolation – because he “could” see you.

Unlike most horror games that guide you down a set path full of scheduled scares and jump moments, the Xenomorph in Alien: Isolation is a free roaming entity that reacts to what you do. During the few attempts I had of one perticular challenge, the Alien did completely different things each time, based on what I was doing.

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On my first try, I decided to try to go in all Gung Ho, using the flame-thrower to blast the Alien. What a mistake. I crept up behind the Xenomorph that was searching for me, fired up the flamer and let rip. I expected to find a smoking carcass once the flames had subsided, but I was sorely mistaken. In the distance, I could see the alien climbing up into a portal on the ceiling. Standing there, out of flame-thrower fuel, in the open, it wasn’t long before I got dragged up through the holes in the roof.

Time for a change of tactics. I now knew that this alien was not to be trifled with and my best option was to avoid it at all costs. I crept into the level, motion tracker in hand. The trademark “mew mew mew” sound spurred on my movement as the motion tracker showed the alien to be getting close – a little too close. I decided to hide in a locker. I stayed in the locker for 3 minuets, terrified to get out. Each time I decided to try to get out and make my way to my objective, my motion tracker sprang to life again and warned me against it. It was tense, but eventually I just gambled and went for it. The alien followed of course because I made an almighty racket knocking things over in my scared hurry. Crouching, staying low and going under desks seemed to work and it lost me. Eventually, I made it to a generator, my objective which required me to mash the X button. And then again. I was convinced that the sound of my messing with this generator would attract the alien but I peeked around and it was no where to be seen. I had to interact with the generator one more time and this is when all hell broke loose. The lights went off, alarms started blaring and the alien dropped from a hole in the ceiling right next to me. This was, by a big margin, the scariest moment in gaming I have ever experienced. Scarier than Silent Hill. Scarier than Resident Evil. Scarier than Outlast. The darkness, alarms, flashing lights and menacing, imposing but quick figure of an alien combined to make my head go “pop”. I ran backwards, not even knowing where I was going, flame-thrower at the ready, through steam filled corridors until I stumbled onto a dark corner where I could hide. I noticed I wasn’t too far from the lift, in which I could make an escape and made a run for it. And there it was. Running in my direction. I drew my flame-thrower and let loose the flames, in hope more than any real attempt to kill it. It reeled back, giving me a momentary reprieve. I dashed to the lift and with a thankful sigh, pressed the X button to exit the level.

In 18 years of gaming, no game has ever “got” me like Alien: Isolation has. My only complaint was that the controls felt a little counter-intuitive (felt like the Motion tracker should have been mapped to one of the triggers rather than the shoulder buttons) but I imagine this will be changeable in the full game anyhow. The game looked fantastic, even in the Alpha stage that we played. Just look at the game environments and you know this is an “Alien” game but the game play finally delivers the feeling, anticipation and tense build up that does justice to the Ridley Scott masterpiece. I could almost hear chains clanging together and somebody shouting “Jonesy”. I walked out of the booth grinning and shaking my head and knew it was going to be a long wait until the game releases in October. Alien: Isolation is the arrival of Next-Gen horror and it can’t come soon enough.

11 minutes of Assassin’s Creed Unity gameplay

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The biggest and most impressive looking Assassin’s Creed to date is Assassin’s Creed Unity. Well it is from the carefully released videos that we have seen so far. Well as it’s Gamescom this week, it’s a given that some actual gameplay footage will be released. and we have it for you right here.

I mean, it just looks incredible. The video shows just how fluid traversing the town can be, with multiple options given to player depending on their skill level.  My favourite part, as silly as it sounds was the smoke bomb, it actually looks like smoke. Simple things for simple minds eh. Check out the trailer below.

Here’s how the digital game sharing (SharePlay) will work on PS4

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One of the many wonderous Sony announcements at this years Gamescom was the new  SharePlay. This will be rolled out on in the upcoming 2.0 update and allows your friends to play games without owning them. Is that like the holy grail or what?

Speaking in Famitsu Sony Worldwide Studio top brass, Shuhei Yoshida explains

“How it works is, for example, say, a friend has a game that I don’t. I ask them to let me play it, and if they send me an invitation, I can access their PS4 and play while watching the video that is streamed. You could call it a mini PlayStation Now.”

Thankfully the service is going to be a whole lot cheaper than PlayStation Now’s ridiculous prices, in the fact that it’s free of course. The service isn’t limited to developer specific functions either, any PS4 game you have can be used with the service, Any game that doesn’t use the PlayStation camera that is. Basically if it uses the DualShock 4 it’s in.

“There is no need for developers to do anything for their games to be compatible with SharePlay.”

What makes this new service even better is that people who are sharing their friends game can save date to their own PS4, so if they liked the game, they can go out and buy it and continue from where they left off. Brilliant.

“You can save your save data to your own account, so if you like a game you played via SharePlay, you can buy it for yourself and continue where you left off. Or, if you get stuck in a game, or there’s an enemy or stage you find difficult, you could hand over the reins to a friend for those areas.” Yoshida explained.

The only downside to the service is that because you’ve basically taken over your friends PS4, they can no longer use it for the hour or so, But that’s fine, while you wait you can go cook the dinner or do other mundane things until your friend is finished. The streaming time is said to be caped at 60 minutes, which seems very reasonable to me.

SharePlay will be one of many new features heading to PS4 in version 2.0 which is released some time this year. I’m excited.

 

Get your eyes treated to 18 Bloodborne screens

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One game that stood out amongst the crowd at this years Gamecom was the PS4 exclusive Bloodborne. A brand new IP from Hidetaka Miyazaki and From Software the very sam folk who gave you Demson’s Souls and Dark Souls.

Bloodborne is an all-new action RPG set in the ancient city of Tharnam, cursed with an endemic illness that’s spreading throughout the world. Check out the beautiful high-res screens below

Turns out Rise of The Tomb Raider is a timed exclusive after all.

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Yesterday was a sad day for gaming, or so I thought. During the Microsoft Gamescom press conference, Microsoft shouted from the roof that Tomb Raider was an Xbox One Exclusive. Naturally we were furious. The thought of not being able to play the new Tomb Raider, sequel to on of last-gen’s best games was devastating.

Turns out however that Rise of the Tomb Raider is indeed a timed exclusive, as admitted by Microsoft themselves the sneaky gits Phil Spencer had a sit down with Eurogamer and told them exactly what was going on. Of course he couldn’t speak on behalf of Square Enix, but he could elaborate a little on the deal they have.

There was a lot of talk about the deal and how happy he is that Microsoft have a good relationship with Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics, but the important information that game out is this:

“Yes, the deal has a duration. I didn’t buy it. I don’t own the franchise.”

I guess it was a given really when you listen to the announcement, There was a lot of repetition of  Tomb Raider being released exclusively during the Holiday Season. But still, it’s nice to know that the big M isn’t going to get all good stuff. It’s still isn’t clear if we’ll see Rise of the Tomb Raider on PS4, the timed exclusivity could be that it will eventually make its way to PC just like Dead Rising and Ryse (both of which are unavailable to our favourite console) It’s looking promising though.

Source: Eurogamer

Here’s whats been happening at the EA press conference.

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EA has just finished their press conference, far to early for my liking but here at PSGamer we were wide awake ready to bring you all the action from the press conference.

What we hoped to see was some new footage from Star Wars: Battlefront and Mirrors Edge 2, but as expected EA focused their attention on the games that are well on their way to completion. FIFA 15, and Battlefield Hardline were the main stars of the show, plus, finally the big reveal of Bioware’s new game they have been teasing for the last few weeks, Shadow Realms.

As is our style, here are all your trailers in one easy place so you can see all the action and miss out all the boring stuff.

Battlefield Hardline took up most of the presser with EA revealing the single player campaign, which is a bit of a break from the Battlefield norm, and actually looks quite interesting.

Battlefield Hardline Single Player:

Bioware’s new game Shadow Realms, this is a online multiplayer game that pits heroes against a diabolic shadow lord, I guess a little like evolve. At the moment it’s only been announced for PC but other versions are likely.

FIFA 15 Goal Keepers trailer (free trial coming next month)

Sims 4:

Dragon Age: Inquisition: