By ANDY EDDY and WILLIE CLARK
The award-winning definitive authority on all things visual effects in the world of film, TV, gaming, virtual reality, commercials, theme parks, and other new media.
Winner of three prestigious Folio Awards for excellence in publishing.
By ANDY EDDY and WILLIE CLARK
Traditionally, summer is not a great time for gamers seeking new wares to pass the time. However, every year there is generally a handful of games that come out at other points on the calendar – perhaps to take advantage of the lack of competition or because they’re not blockbuster games. Indeed, the summer of 2017 seems to have brought some high-profile and recognizable names that are worthy of consideration.
Growing up, countless kids imagined they were superheroes fighting crime and saving the world as Batman, Supergirl, Superman and Wonder Woman, taking on the worst villains, such as Bane, Harley Quinn, Joker and Poison Ivy. Then in 2013, WBIE and developer NetherRealm Studios brought us a video game version with Injustice: Gods Among Us, enabling us to pit DC Comics’ characters against each other.
This summer, gamers will have a chance to keep the fighting going with the release of a sequel, Injustice 2. NetherRealm – which was founded by the creators of the Mortal Kombat franchise –wanted to offer extremely competitive combat, but also wanted this new version to offer some variety. The studio is accomplishing that by enabling player customization and enhancement of each combatant on the roster. Steve Beran, NetherRealm’s Director of Art, explains that the “robust Gear System” is a feature that’s unique to fighting games, though implementing it provided the studio with design and implementation tests.
“To be honest, [the Gear System] was the biggest art challenge we faced in this game. Each character has hundreds of pieces of gear that are earned throughout the game,” Beran says. “This was a massive undertaking and I am extremely proud of our team for nailing it so perfectly.”
While roundups are usually filled with sequels and recognizable brands, there is usually one unknown entry that kind of sneaks in out of nowhere. Bandai Namco’s Get Even certainly qualifies for that honor this summer and is a sleeper that will be getting gamers’ attention.
It’s a first-person shooter (FPS), but hardly in the mold of veteran FPS franchises, such as Battlefield, Call of Duty, Gears of War or Halo, which are generally fast-paced run-and-gun affairs. Get Even has an FPS-style foundation, but blends in investigative and thriller components that require the player to be much more deliberate and pay more attention to the surroundings.
“We play with a sense of reality and do tricks on player’s perception, so we try to create as realistic visuals as possible. That is why we use photogrammetry scanning everywhere: characters, buildings, decorations and outdoors. Using 3D scan technology, we re-create the real places and objects pixel by pixel, and all the dirt stains, graffiti on the walls, wrinkles on the skin are exactly like in reality.”
—Wojciech Pazdur, Creative Director, Get Even
Get Even’s visual design has also been carefully crafted to be an integral part of this experience, with The Farm 51 studio methodically constructing the game world in elaborate detail.
“We play with a sense of reality and do tricks on player’s perception, so we try to create as realistic visuals as possible, says Wojciech Pazdur, Get Even’s Creative Director. “That is why we use photogrammetry scanning everywhere: characters, buildings, decorations and outdoors. Using 3D scan technology, we re-create the real places and objects pixel by pixel, and all the dirt stains, graffiti on the walls, wrinkles on the skin are exactly like in reality.”
Star Trek has been a bellwether in the entertainment industry for over 40 years, with numerous TV shows, movies and video games building a rich canon that grows with new additions every year. Now Ubisoft is chipping in its own entry to the Star Trek universe – and it’s a unique one that should raise some eyebrows.
STAR TREK: BRIDGE CREW
Star Trek: Bridge Crew has been specifically crafted to be experienced via one of the current VR headsets, which will fully immerse the player in learning and mastering all of the critical systems on the bridge of a new Federation starship, the U.S.S. Aegis. Your mission is to explore The Trench, a mysterious stretch of space, for a place that can be colonized by Vulcans. Of course, there’s the constant threat of a sudden Klingon ambush that always looms over the ship’s crew.
Bridge Crew will support a cooperative mode for up to four VR players, which should provide some unique challenges for interaction and collaborative crew work (and, visually, the game’s use of full-body avatars and real-time lip synching should add to the immersion). Additionally, the game’s designers have included a mode that will offer procedurally-generated missions, which will enable players to enjoy limitless gameplay challenges.
Will seven be a lucky number for Tekken fans? The seventh installment of the Tekken fighting-game franchise heads to home consoles and PC this summer, and there’s reason to believe. The game is being developed by Bandai Namco’s Tokyo studio, with the series’ director Katsuhiro Harada leading the fray.
Under the hood, the game is employing the state-of-the-art Unreal Engine 4 as its software foundation, and, according to Bandai Namco, it “sets a new standard in graphics quality for the series, featuring highly detailed characters and dynamic environments.” The Tekken games have always pushed the visual envelope, but judging by the images and gameplay trailers we’ve seen of Tekken 7, the game makers followed through on that promise with a solid coating of sweet eye candy on everything, right down to detailed facial blemishes and wrinkles on character models. Particle effects are plentiful, as well, to give fight scenes some added pop.
When Crash Bandicoot first came out on Sony’s new PlayStation game console in September 1996, it was lauded for its 3D graphics at a time when most gamers were used to “2D platformers” (such as Super Mario Bros.). And then it went on to become one of the best-selling games on the system. Looking back two decades, what we all thought was incredible now looks quite dated – as you’d expect.
CRASH BANDICOOT N. SANE TRILOGY
Well, the original Crash is back … sort of. Everybody’s favorite marsupial returns, this time on the powerful PlayStation 4. And a lot has changed in game hardware and GPU power since we first saw Crash, especially where visuals are considered.
The N. Sane Trilogy brings back the first three Crash games – the original Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot: Warped – but with each having been fully remastered in HD, so don’t expect any of the PlayStation-era aliasing and artifacting here. Everything in the original games is there, but with a massive increase in resolution, detail and color.
No, no, not the Age of Aquarius. This is the Zodiac Age. Square Enix is giving us the opportunity to return to the battlefields of Ivalice for some intense confrontations and combat. Try not to be too distracted by how the developers have taken the graphics from when the classic role-playing game was originally released on PlayStation 2 in 2006 (where it was one of the best-selling titles on the system) and reworked them to shine on the present-generation PlayStation 4 console.
FINAL FANTASY XII: THE ZODIAC AGE
For this new HD version, every aspect of FFXII has been fully revamped: All characters and cinematic scenes have been remastered, and there have been significant improvements made to the combat system, which enables you to fully control your party in each sortie. It will also feature the improvement on the job system, so you can customize how your in-game characters level up through the journey. But the game is also going to be a treat for your ears, too: It will run in 7.1 surround sound, so you’ll feel like you’re right in the middle of the action.
Gameplay completionists should enjoy the fact that the game has also been updated with PlayStation 4 trophy support, as well as an auto-save component.
Everybody knows you can’t simply walk into Mordor … but that doesn’t mean returning to visit is out of the question, apparently. In this follow up to the 2014 hit Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor, WBIE and its Monolith Productions studio in Seattle again take us back to J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary locale that is Middle-Earth for more adventure and intense action.
MIDDLE-EARTH: SHADOW OF WAR
Talion and Celebrimbor return from the first game, as does the game’s Nemesis System – though in this sequel, the technology layer within the game that enables you to scope out your enemies’ strengths and weaknesses before a battle, which makes your game story unique and personalized, has been expanded from what existed in the first game.
Also, while it may put you at momentary risk before you kill your foes, take a close look. Check out the sheen and detail on that skin. Monolith’s art team made sure characters and surroundings will be nearly photorealistic, which raises your immersion into this fantasy world.
Before the battle for Middle-Earth begins anew, it’s best you sharpen your swords … and keep an eye on that ring finger. You wouldn’t want to lose it in a volcano.
Publisher Activision and development studio Bungie are again teaming on a new Destiny release, the second in the series that follows almost exactly three years from the release of the first Destiny game.
Unfortunately, not much was known about Destiny 2’s story and gameplay at the time this article was being put together, but apparently, player-controlled Guardians will have their powers stripped and they’ll be forced out of The Tower safe zone. The sequel will require investigation of “mysterious, unexplored worlds” so players can “reunite humanity’s scattered heroes, stand together and fight back to reclaim our home.”
Destiny 2 will be on current-gen console platforms, but also on Windows PC for the first time. However, Sony has negotiated for at least a year of timed exclusive content for PS4 players. And though gamers will look at the September 8 release date as giving them most of the summer off, they might want to reconsider their beach plans as a beta is planned for earlier in the summer.
“A technology jump was needed to achieve (the development team’s) goals. ”
—Tom Burlington, Technical Art Director, Destiny 2
Though not much is known about how the new game will look, some advanced tidbits were offered by Tom Burlington, the game’s Technical Art Director. He reveals that the development team has made strides in art, but “a technology jump was also needed to achieve their goals. We made huge leaps forward in our rendering, lighting and particle systems.” Some improvements involve “a new physically-based rendering engine, the artful use of technology, like volumetric lights, 3D gels and area lights, overhauling our particle system to support 20 times more particles, and a new system for motion fields and forces was created enabling artists to simulate the evocative swirling orbital elements of a Nova bomb as it is dynamically influenced by a nearby grenade’s detonation.”