Headline Of The Week

Sega have announced a new spin-off universe for the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise called Sonic Boom; which will incorporate Wii U and 3DS games (the final game in an exclusive deal with Nintendo which has also produced Sonic: Lost World), a new range of toys and a 52-episode CGI TV series to debut on Cartoon Network. While Sonic Boom will not replace ‘Modern Sonic’, it has led to a redesign of the cast of Sonic characters – with everyone getting taller and Knuckles the Echidna developing an addiction to steroids.

You can hear the gears of the infamous ‘Sonic Cycle’ begin to turn even now…
You can hear the gears of the infamous ‘Sonic Cycle’ begin to turn even now…

The game is being handled by Big Red Button Entertainment rather than Sonic Team, and will serve as a prequel to the TV series focusing on ‘collaborative gameplay’. The show is collaboration between Sega and (the obviously French) OuiDO! Productions, and TOMY will be handling the new line of toys. Speaking at the reveal event, chief content officer Hiroyuki Miyazaki had this to say on the project:

“SEGA is constantly looking to feed the appetite of Sonic fans, new and existing alike…the various pieces of the Sonic Boom project, such as its unique look, mix of comedy, and action and its focus on the whole ensemble with Sonic as the star, offer another exciting part of that universe for people to explore and enjoy. It will be at once familiar but also new.”

In other words, it’s still not the Sonic game that you want.

In Other News…

Former E3 showstealer Watch Dogs has been off the news radar since it was announced that it was to be delayed; but Ubisoft’s highly promising open world hack-em-up is back in the headlines after the company seemingly abandoned the trademark for no reason.

On 1st February the company was notified that it had apparently filed a request for ‘Express Abandonment’ and needed CEO Yves Guillemot’s authorisation to pass it through, sparking rumours that the game was either dead in the water or was changing its name completely (suggestions of a modern day setting for Assassins Creed V included). Ubisoft has since taken measures to rectify the situation, claiming that the request was fraudulent and that the trademark would be activated again by the end of the week. Crucially, the company also quoted that ‘the matter has no impact on the development of Watch Dogs’ – meaning the game should be with us sooner rather than later.

In bonus Ubisoft news, the Freedom Cry DLC expansion for Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag is getting a standalone release for PS3 and PS4 on February 19th, with a PC version following on the 25th. Expect it to cost around £10.

The DICE Awards 2014 have been presented by The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences in a ceremony at Las Vegas, with Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us walking away with an astounding TEN accolades.

It was voted both Adventure and overall Game Of The Year, and picked up awards for Outstanding Achievements in Animation, Art Direction, Game Direction, Innovation, Gameplay Engineering, Story, Sound Design and Visual Engineering. Ashley Johnson also walked away with Outstanding Achievement In Character Performance for her portrayal of Ellie.

Elsewhere Bioshock Infinite took the gongs for Action Game Of The Year and Outstanding Musical Composition, Plants Vs Zombies 2 was voted Mobile and Casual Game Of The Year, and Rockstar Games trio Leslie Benzies and brothers Sam & Dan Houser were inducted into the Hall Of Fame following the runaway success of Grand Theft Auto V.

Winning the race for most bizarre headline of the week, a deaf Japanese composer who created scores for Resident Evil and Onimusha: Warlords had admitted that he is a fraud. Mamoru Samuragochi (described as ‘Japan’s Beethoven’ and famous for his Hiroshima Symphony No.1) this week confessed that he has not composed his own music since 1996 (predating both of the aforementioned games), relying on an unnamed composer as his hearing gradually deteriorated.

Samuragochi’s solicitor has apologized on his behalf, claiming that the composer was ‘deeply sorry as he has betrayed fans and disappointed others’ and was ‘mentally distressed’. His record company Nippon Columbia has reacted differently saying they are ‘flabbergasted and deeply infuriated’ by the reveal of the news.

Let’s face it; no-one eats a McDonald’s Happy Meal for the exquisite taste – you buy them for the toys! Most of the time Happy Meal toys are tie-ins for the latest kid’s film in cinemas, and once in a blue moon you will get a set of toys based around a game (off the top of my head, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh and Sonic have all had the meal deal treatment in the UK). In a move which coincidentally follows recent announcements from Nintendo that they want to license out their IP’s more frequently, next month’s toys are all based on Super Mario!

It would be a fair guess to say that the toys that will be popping up in your local branch will be similar to the Mario toys recently available in German McDonald’s stores, and I must admit they actually look quite decent. I reckon I could endure a Happy Meal for that Donkey Kong figurine…

Some clever chap managed to make the pop-up Mario in a pipe into a new handle for his bog. True story
Some clever chap managed to make the pop-up Mario in a pipe into a new handle for his bog. True story

The Pokemon Bank application for Pokemon X & Y is now finally available in Europe, North America and Australia. It was originally intended to come out before the New Year, but the strain on Nintendo’s servers caused by demand from Japanese Pokemaniac’s made this impossible.

Accessible from the 3DS eShop, the Bank allows users to transfer your favourite monsters from Pokemon Black & White/Black 2 & White 2 to the new titles and gives additional storage spaces for hardcore breeders. The app costs £5, but if you download it before March 14th then it comes with a 30 day free trial, and if you use the service before September 30th then you will receive a free gift of everyone’s favourite disposable legendary Pokemon, Celebi.

As part of its ongoing desire to break up the console monopoly with its SteamOS, Valve is looking to integrate music playback from local libraries of songs. The Steam Music service will allow users to play and queue music via Big Picture, and the overlay will allow playlists to be created as well. A beta for the service is expected to be rolled out in the next couple of weeks, and will be the first practical example of the desire for SteamOS to operate as a full entertainment suite as a potential rival for the PS4, Xbox One or a standard PC with Steam already installed.

One of the selling points of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII that Square Enix have been heavily promoting is the ability to dress up the titular heroine  in-game with a range of different garbs that will grant her various different powers in battle and can be fully customised (no doubt appealing to the cosplay scene). To try and sell sceptical fans on the idea, Square have offered various costumes harking back to the old days as DLC options: so Lightning can equip herself with Cloud’s Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII, or Yuna’s summoner outfit from Final Fantasy X or…dress up as Lara Croft???

Yep; you can equip Lightning with the outfit that Lara wears in the Tomb Raider reboot complete with muddy face, pickaxe and riot shield. While it is a daft option, it’s not completely mad – Square Enix at least published Tomb Raider, whereas the N7 armour from Mass Effect that you could download for Final Fantasy XIII-2 made no sense at all.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is out in the United Kingdom on February 14th – based on the strength of the demo I played at Eurogamer (and because I’m an idiot) I’ve got a pre-order on it; so expect a review sometime in the future.

Speaking of Lara, I called it last week! Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition has ended FIFA 14’s reign of terror at the top of the UK Game Sales Charts…but only just, by a margin of under 500 copies.

Should FIFA reclaim the top spot next week, it will join a exclusive club of just eleven games to have spent 10 weeks or more at the summit.

Top Ten For Week Ending 1st February 2014 (from GFK/Chart-Track)

1 – Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (Crystal Dynamics)*

2 – FIFA 14 (EA Canada)

3 – Call Of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward)

4 – Battlefield 4 (DICE)

5 – Lego Marvel Superheroes (Traveller’s Tales)

6 – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft Montreal)

7 – Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition (4J Studios)

8 – Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar North)

9 –  Need For Speed: Rivals (Ghost Games)

10 – Killzone: Shadowfall (Guerrilla Games)

(* signifies a new chart entry)

And Finally…

Survival action games such as Rust and DayZ are all the rage right now, with people across the world displaying how vindictive they can be in a bid to stay alive. A small studio comprised of two former developers of Assassins Creed and Far Cry is now looking to take the genre one step forward; instead of randomly generated landscapes though, they plan to use drones to map out the entire Earth.

The studio in question is Pixyul, founded by Julien Cuny and Louis-Pierre Pharand. Their massively ambitious plan for a game called ReRoll involves sending out autonomous drones with HD cameras to map out the environment across the globe with photographs, which can then be recreated as 3D objects. On top of this, they also want locations to have real life weather conditions – so for example if you live in London and it’s pouring down outside, the same rain will be replicated in game.

Pixyul are well aware of just how crazy their plans sound; they have acknowledged that some areas including many parts of the United States will be off limits to send drones over (and have sensibly realized that because 71% of the world is ocean that they can get away with making it procedural), and the plans for an early build in 2015 will only cover a few square miles of terrain. There is then the issue of cost; sending out loads of drones is far from cheap and the pair have turned to crowd funding to try and ease the burden.

It may well never come to fruition, but this is the sort of project that I find myself intrigued by – as fun as it is to mess around in a well crafted sandbox (i.e. Grand Theft Auto V) I’ve always believed that being able to play in a simulated nearby location nearby would bring that experience closer to home and blur the lines between reality and game much more effectively. Check out the video below to see the project’s ambitions in full.


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