Category Archives: Gaming

First Thoughts: Apex Legends

It’s been a while since I’ve wanted to play a single game all weekend, but that’s what I spent most of my Saturday doing with Apex Legends, the new battle royale game set in the Titanfall universe. It’s the combination of Titanfall’s terrific gunplay and fast-paced movement – despite the game lacking the series’ signature wall running mechanic – and interesting mechanics and map design that kept me going back.

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Nintendo Switch: Has Nintendo Set It Up To Fail?

On January 13, 2017, Nintendo held a press conference live from Tokyo, providing new details about the video game console it announced in October 2016, the Nintendo Switch. I’ve now had some time to dissect all of the information from the conference and press opinions from the subsequent preview event. In summary, I think the Nintendo Switch is an interesting piece of hardware that could succumb to the same fate as its predecessor if third parties fail to show support.

The Hardware

The Nintendo Switch’s multiple modes of play make it an interesting piece of gaming hardware. The device can be plugged into a TV and used like a regular gaming console. It can also be played on the go like a handheld device by taking the screen out of its dock and plugging in the two controller parts (called Joy-Cons) to either side. Or you can use the kickstand on the device and pass one of the Joy-Cons to a friend for multiplayer games.

The controllers themselves are intriguing, drawing on the success of the Wii’s motion controls, while also appealing to the typical gamer who prefers playing games with a standard analogue controller.

In a way, I think the Nintendo Switch is a final realisation of what Nintendo envisioned the future of its hardware would be, with the Wii U being the initial test. The Wii U, released in November 2012, brought Nintendo into the high-definition world, and laid the foundation for a gaming console that you can play on your television or hand-held in your home. The Nintendo Switch takes that vision a step further by becoming completely hand-held – albeit for 2.5 to 6 hours depending on the game.


Despite no official specifications detailed, it’s plausible the Nintendo Switch will not be as powerful as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. That’s not Nintendo’s aim though. The company has a legacy of creating its own terrific games that preach gameplay over cutting edge graphics.

Games At Launch

It’s not the hardware that Nintendo has to worry about, rather it’s the games that will be released on the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo is relying on a small library of titles to entice initial adopters. Breath of the Wild, the new hotly anticipated Legend of Zelda title is the stand-out. It will be the first game purchased with most systems.

Other choices on launch day are Super Bomberman R, 1-2-Switch (a collection of mini-game tech demos), Just Dance 2017 and Skylanders Imaginators. Apart from Breath of the Wild, it’s not a great launch line up, with Nintendo banking on the world wide appeal of The Legend of Zelda franchise rather than the more recognisable Mario franchise.

The absence of a Mario launch title is confusing, considering he is basically Nintendo’s mascot. The Wii U launched with New Super Mario Bros. Wii U, but Nintendo Switch owners will have to wait until Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on April 29 for a Mario game to play on Switch. It would have served Nintendo better to release Mario Kart 8 on launch day, considering it is a title already available on Wii U.

Nintendo appears to be spreading its internally developed games across 2017, with fighting game Arms (Spring 2017, North America), shooter Splatoon 2 (Summer 2017, North America) and a new open-world Mario game Super Mario Odyssey (Holiday 2017), all scheduled for later this year.

The issue with the Switch, as evident from the Wii U before it, is not first party titles, but third party titles – games published by companies other than Nintendo such as Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. The Wii U launched with 32 day-one titles in 2012, only four of those published by Nintendo. Another 23 games were released during the six-month launch window ending in March 2013 (IGN).

It was a strong start for a console attempting to claw back some of the market that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 had captured. However, most third-party support stopped in November 2013 once the more powerful Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were released. Wikipedia’s list of Wii U games sorted by release date is a wonderfully stark realisation of this fact.

The market demands great graphics and feeds off buzz words, and because the Wii U didn’t carry as much power as the current consoles, third parties stopped creating games for it. Nintendo’s initial reveal trailer for the Nintendo Switch highlighted the third party support coming to the Nintendo Switch, but the launch line-up for 2017 fails to represent that thus far.

Third-party partners from Nintendo Switch reveal video, October 2016.

Nintendo could be facing a chicken or the egg scenario again with the Switch. A console needs games to sell units, but developers won’t invest in a console that has no owners. The Wii U shows that quality third party content is extremely important for the on-going success of a console, but at the moment Nintendo is hoping its strong internal catalog of games can bring the Nintendo Switch success. It is a big gamble that has already failed once.

I believe that the Nintendo Switch will be a great piece of gaming hardware. However, I can’t see it gaining mainstream appeal if it becomes another Nintendo console where you can only play Nintendo produced games, regardless of their track record for creating amazing experiences. Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong.

Nathan is the founder of Think First Entertainment. You can chat to him about the Nintendo Switch in the comments below, or you can find him on Twitter @Nathan_M96.

My 5 Favourite Games of 2016

Wow, has 2016 come to an end quickly! Compared to other years, I feel like I played less games this year, but the ones that I did play I spent more time with. With that said, I’d like to share with you my five favourite games of 2016. It’s important to note that these are not necessarily the games I felt were the best made games of 2016, rather they are the ones I enjoyed the most for various reasons. Check back tomorrow for my five favourite films of 2016.

Quantum Break (April, 2016)

You could definitely call Quantum Break an experimental game. It attempted to tell a story by mixing a video game with a live-action television series. It largely worked. While the video game segments focused on time-altering protagonist Jack Joyce, the television segments fleshed out the narrative by focusing on the actions of some of the supporting cast.

Despite becoming somewhat convoluted, the story about manipulating time was interesting and the acting performances were engaging. The technology powering Quantum Break’s video game segments was amazing, allowing known actors like Shawn Ashmore (The Following, X-Men) and Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones) to have their likeness represented in-engine. This created some of the most realistic and smooth animations I’ve seen in a video game.

Gameplay wise, the time-manipulation powers were fun to use and encouraged the player to experiment with their application. This time manipulation also led to one of my favourite set pieces in a game this year. If you’ve got an Xbox One or a powerful PC, I’d recommend it if you want to see the possibilities of a con-current story across two mediums.


Overwatch (May, 2016)

When I said that the games on this list would be the ones I enjoyed the most in 2016, rather than the games I thought were critically the best, Overwatch was the one exception. Not only is Overwatch my favourite game of 2016, I believe it is also the best. As I said in my review on Analog Addiction, Overwatch succeeds because every design decision is simplistic, but also smart and balanced.

It is simple to pick up and play, and there are not too many complicated systems to understand. Every design choice is smart, from the way the maps have been designed, to the playable character’s abilities, to the attacking and defending tug-of-war that takes place on each map. This culminates in a well-balanced game that feels great to play and is a loads of fun.

That has only improved throughout the year as developer Blizzard Entertainment has provided constant updates to the game to introduce new characters, maps and game types, as well as tweak characters to ensure the game stays balanced and every hero is fun to use.

Overwatch is the game in 2016 that I keep going back to, and I expect it will remain that way for quite some time.


Rise of the Tomb Raider (October, 2016 [PS4])

I’m putting this here on a bit of a technicality. Rise of the Tomb Raider was released last year on Xbox One and PC, but this year on PlayStation 4. While I was given the game in 2015, I didn’t start playing it until 2016.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of my favourite games of 2016 because it feels great to play. The exploration mechanics add weight to Lara’s movements and unlocking new tools encourages returning to old areas to explore. Combat forces Lara to be resourceful as she evades attackers before putting an arrow or ice pick through their skulls. And the puzzles find the right balance between being too difficult and too easy.

Lara Croft is much more experienced tomb raider compared to the 2013 reboot, and she actually gets to raid tombs this time. The locations are more varied this time around, and the extra power of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 make Rise of the Tomb Raider look superb. It’s one of the best looking games on the systems.

Lara clings to an ice wall with her red pickaxe, preparing to make a big leap.

Battlefield 1 (October, 2016)

The Battlefield franchise does a terrific job at making players feel like they are in the middle of a war zone. The franchise began in World War 2, and up until this year had moved into modern times. However, the newest entry in the long standing franchise went back in time to the rarely explored period of World War I.

As has come to be expected of the franchise, Battlefield 1’s multiplayer is extremely fun. There’s always something happening on the map, with players fighting for control of the skies in planes, rolling up in tanks to capture control points, or overwhelming enemy positions with greater numbers as infantry. Most of the time, all three are happening at once, you just have to choose which part you want to participate in.

Bring a solid sound system or pair of headphones and you’ll hear tank shots going off in the distance or that sniper who just missed your head. Battlefield 1’s multiplayer is a sensory experience unlike any other.

However, it’s the single player ‘war stories’ that won me over. Rather than telling a heroic tale about characters in the Great War, Battlefield 1 depicts the horrors of war that many volunteers experienced. This is demonstrated instantly, as solider after soldier you control meets a gruesome death. It’s effective, and also a fresh take on a genre that loves explosive hero tales.

Titanfall 2 (October, 2016)

Following the multiplayer-only Titanfall, it became evident that Titanfall 2 required a quality single-player campaign to be successful. Coming from the team behind the highly regarding Modern Warfare series, Titanfall 2’s single-player campaign was a thrilling journey that brought us some of the best level design in 2016.

The time-line changing gameplay in the ‘effect and cause’ mission instantly comes to mind, as does the level that sees a house being manufactured around the player before they have to wall run and jump through it to get to safety. Respawn Entertainment uses the wall running and jump jet mechanics in smart ways, making Titanfall 2 feel more dynamic than a typical run and gun shooter campaign.

On the multiplayer side, Titanfall 2 took the wonderful mechanics from the first game and refined them to create a similarly enjoyable experience. Getting a titan is now based on how well you play in a match, rather than on a timer, so better players are rewarded more. Map design also appears to favour titans, with more open areas for titan fights and less places to hide as a pilot.

While I think the maps in Titanfall 1 were better, I prefer the mechanics of Titanfall 2. Respawn Entertainment slowed down the pilot’s movements so that wall running and chaining together several slides, jumps and sprints feels less disorientating while still maintaining the fast-paced nature of the game.

It’s a shame that the appeal for the game isn’t strong, which is evident from the heavy discounts on the game so soon after launch. A Titanfall 3 looks unlikely at this point, but the series is still one of my favourites of this console generation.

Honourable mentions

Enter the Gungeon (April, 2016) – Bullet hell shooter meets rogue-lite dungeon crawler

Doom (May, 2016) – Fight a horde of demons with a huge arsenal

Madden NFL 17 (August, 2016) – The best Madden NFL entry since Madden NFL 16

Destiny: Rise of Iron (September, 2016) – Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in

Watch_Dogs 2 (November, 2016) – A fun open-world to explore and hack

Lara Croft Go (December, 2016 [PlayStation 4, Vita]) – Turn-based puzzle game with smart mechanics

What were your favourite games of 2016? Is there something you think I should have played? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @Nathan_M96.

Watch_Dogs 2 Review – Hacking is a Fun Weapon

The hacking tools in Watch_Dogs 2 have made it one of my favourite open worlds to explore and goof around in. I’m not one to mess with civilians in open world games, but it was hard to resist hacking a car to make it uncontrollably speed forward and cause a traffic jam.

Furthermore, collecting money bags and research points (read: skill points) encouraged me to think out of the box to access seemingly out of reach areas. Can’t use the game’s fun parkour traversal to get to the top of a building? Why not hack a forklift, pick up a pallet and make your own ladder.

My enjoyment of the hacking tools increased when I unlocked better skills that allowed me to hack every car in the area, or call the police or a gang on an unsuspecting civilian and watch as they tried to protest their innocence. Diabolical, yes, but also highly amusing.

Protagonist Marcus Holloway

Guiding this gameplay is a narrative about the potential exploitation of our data by big tech companies such as Facebook, [insert your social media platform of choice], and Google (called !NViTE and Nudle in Watch_Dogs 2’s depiction of San Francisco and Silicon Valley). The hypothetical results of entrusting corrupt companies with our data are scary, especially when the approach is grounded in reality. Like this report that Facebook could change the emotions of its users by altering what shows up in their news feed.

We trust corporations with our data because they promise to keep it to themselves, but Watch_Dogs 2 explores scenarios where our data is manipulated and sold at will and not just to create personal advertising. One particularly relevant mission involves the social media company !NViTE altering people’s social media feed to influence them to vote for political candidate.

Unfortunately, that message starts to wear thin as the lengthy story progresses and it becomes excessive. Big data in the wrong hands is bad news, I got that after the first ten hours, yet it was still the only message being stressed towards the game’s conclusion at the 24 hour mark.

With that said, Watch_Dogs 2’s protagonist, Marcus Holloway, and the supporting cast of hacktivist group Dedsec made the story an entertaining ride. It was great to see the group grow together throughout the course of the story, and the writing made me care about their plight. The dialogue between the quirky characters was engaging, and felt genuine. However, the decision to write out one of the characters mid-way through the story felt out of place given the overall tone of the narrative. It felt like the writers were trying to tick off an open-world game checklist.


Where Watch_Dogs 2 shines is in the variety of tools available to players when taking on a mission. Most of the main story threads follow a similar structure: gather information on a person or organisation who is doing shifty things with people’s data, and then head to a location to extract evidence to share with the public.

Often, this will include infiltrating a well-guarded area. Non-lethal and lethal options are available, but taking a stealth approach is by far more enjoyable because Marcus cannot take many shots before he’s dead. It also feels more suited to Marcus’s character. The cut scenes don’t portray him as a violent killer, so to give him such a large arsenal feels out of place.

There are always multiple ways to complete the same mission objective, and each scenario encouraged me to experiment with the tools I had available. You can use a two wheeled RC jumper drone and a flying quadcopter drone to scout the area, hack guards for door passwords or trigger environmental traps. Or, you can pull out your stun gun or electro-shock grenades to put any guard you see to sleep.

Hacking is your weapon

When you unlock more skills, mass hacks allow you to plunge a room into darkness, or hack every guards’ mobile phone to distract them while you sneak by. In some cases, you can use your tools to complete an objective without ever having to by-pass the guards.

One of my most memorable moments came later in the game inside a space ship manufacturing facility. I had to access a computer on the other side of the factory and it was filled with guards. Rather than silently working my way through the guards, I hacked a massive crane-like machine that was carrying a freight container, and rode it above all of the guards until I reached my objective. I felt resourceful, like I had somehow cheated the system, but in reality Watch_Dogs 2 gave me the tools to make it possible.

Taking the quick way up

Gameplay, however, is not without its issues. In particular, the AI alert mechanic feels unfair at times. When you are spotted, guards start calling for reinforcements unless you can stop them in time. However, usually it’s not the guard that sees you who calls for reinforcements, but a guard around a corner. Until you unlock the mass disruption hack, accidentally getting spotted turns into a fire fight that will most likely mean death.

To break up the main mission structure, there are ample side quests that offer different activities such as kart racing, messing with people’s ATM transfers, or hacking a CEO’s bank account to deposit money into leukaemia research after his company raised the price of the drug. I’d recommend doing a few of these early on in order to earn enough followers (read: experience points) to unlock new skills.

If we see Watch_Dogs as an idea, Watch_Dogs 2 is the realisation of that concept. The hacking has been expanded, bringing more tools and choices to each mission. The protagonist Marcus Holloway is a much more likeable character, despite the game’s narrative suffering from a weak antagonist and a plot that loses momentum towards the end. And the traversal mechanics and more colourful visual palette make San Francisco a much more enjoyable world to explore than its predecessor’s Chicago. If you’re looking for a fun urban open-world game, consider Watch_Dogs 2.

Nathan is the founder of Think First Entertainment. You can find him on Twitter @Nathan_M96.