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Editorial

Seven Enormous Open-World Games in 2018

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Welcome to 2018. The new year looks filled with huge single player games, and these certainly count among the biggest!

INSOMNIAC’S SPIDER-MAN

From the developers of the Ratchet and Clank series and the top-tier Xbox One exclusive, Sunset Overdrive comes everyone’s friendly neighbourhood web-slinger.

Spider-Man already has a positive history with gamers, thanks to the legendary Spider-Man 2. Since then, despite apparently tight budgets from Activision, Beenox was able to keep the series going with some above-average entries while the Amazing movies stumbled, so the brand has remained relatively untarnished. Now, though, the character has made his way to the main Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the game license has passed to Sony. Hopefully, these changes spell a bright future for the franchise and can improve on the mixed success Insomniac has had when branching out from Ratchet and Clank in the past.

Insomniac Games’s previous open world adventure was hamstrung by an at-the-time small Xbox One install base, as well as admittedly abrasive ‘90s-try-hard humour. Despite its acquired taste, Sunset Overdrive was also one of the most exciting and creative spins on the ‘wreck a city’ genre since Saints Row 2, deserving a lot more than ‘cult’ status. That the team is now tackling Spider-Man should be of tremendous excitement to fans of the property, even though cynics might argue they have simply traded one type of juvenile humour for another.

In any case, 2017’s one-two-three upset of Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Assassin’s Creed Origins has the game-playing public calling for brave and less formulaic open-world games—exactly the kind of game sure to come from the people who delivered Sunset Overdrive. If the final product lives up to the promise of its trailers and gameplay demos, Spider-Man will be a game for fans of the character and great open-world action games alike. Also, one must not kid oneself—this game will sell ridiculously high numbers whether it is good or not.

At least the art design looks crash-hot.

DAYS GONE

From the most anticipated to perhaps the least, Days Gone is also a mystery, as of writing, that the other games here are not. Bend Studio’s solid track record notwithstanding, the fact that yet another studio is developing a sombre, American, post-zombie road trip (after Naughty Dog with The Last of Us franchise) makes holding on to much excitement difficult.

On the other hand, open world games like these are often difficult to pin down prior to release. The bad news is that, without the franchise power of a Ubisoft juggernaut or even the above Spider-Man tie-in, Days Gone lacks a bold, confidence-boosting PR angle. The good news is that the game itself has few negatives and a whole bucket of opportunities between now and release to entice potential players.

Firstly, Bend has a track record of delivering technically-accomplished action games stretching back to the original PlayStation; the team are not new at this. Secondly, Bend’s last full game was Uncharted: Golden Abyss in 2011, meaning Sony Interactive Entertainment—well known for closing studios that are not working to its quality standards—has enough confidence in Bend’s ability to deliver a worthwhile product that the team can go without releasing a game for seven years.

After the smash success of Guerrilla Games’s Horizon, the prospect of another wilderness-set open-world adventure a little over a year later should be plenty promising for PlayStation fans. Still, Sony will have to work twice as hard to prove to the wider gaming public that yet-again-it’s-zombies can be as fun as robot monsters.

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METRO EXODUS

Fans of Bethesda’s recent Wolfenstein games probably already know of the Metro games—similarly deep and story-driven shooters with some high-concept sci-fi mixed in for good measure. Based on a popular series of Russian novels and developed by the formerly-Kiev-based 4A Games, Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light combine FPS with survival mechanics in a more linear enterprise than their sister series, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

As in the first two games, players will progress from level to level in a post-apocalyptic Russia, only, this time, many of the levels in question are wide-open sandboxes. Indeed, 4A Games’s description ( http://www.metrothegame.com/en-gb/ ) of this new structure sounds to be akin to the open world sections of Rise of the Tomb Raider, mixing the action-adventure storyline with plenty of side content.

Progression through the story will affect these sandboxes, changing the seasons and altering previously visited locations via different weather. Although other details on the game mechanics are slim, 4A has confirmed that crafting will play a big part, making scavenging for materials a high priority in these sandbox zones.

Metro Exodus is unlikely to completely satisfy those wishing for a new Fallout or S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but the game’s sandboxes are set to further improve how action games approach telling linear narratives in wide-open levels, in the same way Uncharted: The Lost Legacy‘s Western Ghats did last year.

sea-of-thieves-ship

MICROSOFT’S 2018—SEA OF THIEVES, STATE OF DECAY 2, CRACKDOWN 3

Above any other publishers save Activision, Microsoft is uniquely obsessed with delivering the online, connected, multiplayer experience. Unfortunately, this makes its internally-produced games of the last generation poorly suited to OnlySP’s ongoing coverage—but its latest slew of open-world games looks set to change this trend.

Although all three big Microsoft titles (that have been revealed) are primarily online-focused, each offers a single-player option in one way or another. Sea of Thieves is a chiefly cooperative pirate-themed game that can be played solo if desired. This set-up includes plenty of inspiration from the Dark Souls series, both in that solo play is significantly more difficult than multiplayer, and that solo players might still affect each other’s games in passing. Of all Microsoft’s upcoming games, this one is arguably the least single-player-friendly—Sea of Thieves requires a constant connection to its persistent online world in the manner of Destiny.

state-of-decay-2-action

Microsoft’s next game comes with an offline mode that is more traditionally single player. Improving on the first entry in graphics, technology, and mechanical depth, State of Decay 2 is a sandbox-survival-sim starring—yes—zombies. Unlike Days Gone, though, users already have a much better grasp of how this game actually plays.

From managing the health of survivors to raiding abandoned houses for food—as well as always keeping ahead of the zombie hordes—the core structure is familiar to fans of other modern survival games, from Terraria to The Flame in the Flood and Day Z. What sets State of Decay apart are its developed RPG elements: an array of distinct NPCs who have desires and needs, hundreds of different items (including unique weapons), and a propulsive main quest.

Most importantly of all, State of Decay 2 boasts a meaningfully-designed world, whereas other games randomly select this and procedurally generate that. Days Gone may have the promise of slicker production values, but State of Decay 2 is better primed to serve the demands of open-world fans spoiled by the best of 2017.

crackdown-3-terry-crews

Finally, Crackdown 3 is the most single-player-friendly of all three of Microsoft’s major 2018 games. A team of experienced British developers—with credits on some of the most excellent titles of the last five years—Sumo Digital, is developing the single-player campaign, which will be playable offline.

With orb collecting, car jumping, and everything else from the original Crackdown present and accounted for, Crackdown 3 looks to be a familiar but fun experience propped up by ambitious destroy-everything technology. Before re-revealed as 3, this Crackdown was first touted as taking advantage of “the power of the cloud” for destruction in the online-only modes, but, since then, Microsoft has walked some of that back, instead focusing on the increased power of the Xbox One X.

Will the destroy-everything angle remain a priority in single player? That remains to be seen. Either way, however, the Crackdown formula is more than just razing a city to the ground. Fans of the aforementioned Sunset Overdrive, as well as Saint’s Row, are going to have a ball leaping around and taking back their city from the crime lords.

red-dead-2-best-screen

RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2

What more can be said?

Well, Red Dead Redemption 2 is the latest from the studio whose last game, GTA V, continues to occasionally crack the top 10 charts despite being five years old. RDR 2 is the sequel to the absolute best open-world Western, a game whose contributions to the genre are still being felt in franchises as diverse as Assassin’s Creed and Zelda.

Most of all, Red Dead Redemption 2 is the next big thing in terms of single-player stories in the mainstream game industry because all the other developers and publishers will pay close attention to Rockstar’s metrics of success with this title—on how a single-player mode is still necessary to sell games and how Rockstar uses its skill at crafting single player experiences to prop up its lucrative online business.

Red Dead Redemption 2 could become a canary in the coalmine that, like GTA V before it, proves life still exists in single player modes for mainstream games. Even if not, RDR 2‘s single player is guaranteed to be amazing regardless.



 

Well, there they are: some of the biggest open-world games coming in 2018. Of course, beyond the open-world, sandbox style are plenty of other exciting titles, from God of War to Kirby, Monster Hunter and Detroit: Become Human; without even starting on the games that will surprise us in the months to come.

For more on single-player games to look forward to over the next twelve months, be sure to keep it locked to OnlySP.

Mitchell is a writer from Currawang, Australia, where his metaphorical sword-pen cleaves fiction from reality daily. When he's not writing, he plays video games and watches movies. While thinking about writing.

Editorial

The PlayStation 5 Specs Are Beefy, But Not Entirely Necessary

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PlayStation 5

Six years have passed since the launch of the PlayStation 4, and, consequently, the launch of the eighth generation of consoles. Throughout this time the industry has seen a shift in how the medium is consumed. Nowadays, gamers are no longer forced to experience titles through conventional controller inputs thanks to the implementation of VR, while visual performance and optimization are at record heights given the current technology available to developers.

For well over a year now, rumors and speculations have sprung up surrounding the next generation of hardware from both Sony and Microsoft, with the latter being more open about its technological aspirations. Despite withholding true hardware specifications, Microsoft does not shy away from igniting conversations around its next systems (yes plural). Sony, on the other hand, has been extremely tight lipped on the topic, only hinting at the PlayStation 5 during a discussion on the success of the PS4.

Until now, consumers were left to speculate on the possibilities of what the PlayStation 5 will contain. To the surprise of many, however, Sony has unexpectedly opened up about the final specifications that will be found within the upcoming hardware. Lead architect on Sony’s next console Mark Cerny detailed how important this generational leap is for the company and what consumers can expect from its beefy machine. While confirming some rumors, and debunking others, Cerny expressed Sony’s desire for the new generation to allow “for fundamental changes in what a game could be.” As a bold statement by Cerny, this ideology will help Sony fall in line with the trajectory that other studios, such as Xbox, have had during the eighth generation of consoles.

For those who are unaware, the PS4 launched in 2013 to wide success, re-establishing Sony’s brand at the forefront of console gaming. Although the console became a household and media juggernaut, many tech-savvy individuals were quick to point out the flaws within its hardware. For example, much of the specifications that the PS4 touted were, in fact, already outdated at release when compared to high-end PC rigs. Despite the obvious limitations of console gaming, the choice of hardware found within the PS4 proved puzzling, as it was being marketed as a giant leap forward for the industry. Sony would later attempt to mitigate the ongoing damage caused by underperforming hardware with the mid-generation iteration of the PS4 Pro, though this attempt only served to extend the console lifecycle by another few years.

From the outset, Sony knew its largest issue was underperforming hardware, and, thanks to the information detailed by Mark Cerny, the community finally has some insight on how that will be addressed. For starters, the CPU found within the PS5’s hardware will use the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen line which is a massive leap over the PS4’s Jaguar chip. Although I am not much for technical jargon within the PC economy, I do understand how much the Jaguar chip held back performance within the eighth generation, and I welcome the Ryzen with open arms. My only hope is that this upgrade will be enough to sustain the PlayStation 5 throughout the years and maintain its presence as a PC competitor.

Additionally, the custom AMD Navi GPU that will be present in the PS5 will support ray-tracing, a feature that only a few games fully utilize on PC, but nonetheless will provide a more realistic experience. Although this specific feature is a welcome addition to the console ecosystem, I honestly never expected it to be a priority. While having real-time accurate reflections within the environment will definitely increase immersion, I would personally desire a more optimized experience that will never falter during play. We will have to wait until more is revealed on the PS5’s ray-tracing technology, but I can only hope that it will not take priority over performance.

Building upon the implementation of ray-tracing with the PS5, Cerny noted that, for him, the audio technology present within the PS4 did not achieve the standards of a generational leap from the PS3. According to Cerny, the PS5 will implement 3D Audio, dramatically changing how gamers perceive sound within a video game. The inclusion of 3D Audio sounds like a well-deserved feature for PlayStation veterans. However, I feel as though this addition will only benefit those who have an entertainment setup that supports it. Unfortunately, individuals who resort to stereo speakers could potentially see no difference in how the audio is delivered from PS5 titles compared to those on PS4.

The interview also provided information surrounding the type of storage available in the PS5. As a much-needed addition, the PlayStation 5 will contain a solid state drive (SSD), which will allow for faster load times and experiences. As many PlayStation users know, the PS4 can provide some appalling load times, leading this issue to be a constant topic of discussion throughout the entire generation. The possibility of a game having long load times was so great that it often made headlines in video game’s media, pleading for action to be taken (Bloodborne anyone?).

Thankfully, information on the PS5’s hard drive capabilities does not require too much speculation, as Cerny provided an example of how fast it will be. According to him, Marvel’s Spider-Man, which has an average of a 15 second load time on a PS4 Pro, will have just 0.8 second load times on a PS5. No indication is yet forthcoming as to how consistent this technological feat will be across different titles, and I urge consumers to temper their expectations on the speed of the PS5 because only time will tell how efficient it can be. Regardless of my concerns surrounding inconsistencies, the PS5 will feature the fastest load times of any console before it, eliminating one of the greatest issues of the PS4’s hardware.

Bloodborne gameplay 1

In addition to the announcement that PlayStation 5 will have an SSD, Cerny confirmed a much-desired feature in backwards compatibility. Although this feature will not reach as far back as the competition, the PS5 will be compatible with PS4 titles, both digital and physical. This was to be expected—seeing as both consoles will run off the same architecture—but the silence from Sony proved worrisome for some fans, myself included. While I am disappointed that PS3 titles will not be compatible with the PS5, I understand that the cell processor of that earlier device would take more effort than it is worth to make games from the platform compatible. Regardless, PlayStation fans can rejoice in this news, as it further validates any investment into the PS4’s ecosystem.

Where I draw most of my criticism from Mark Cerny’s report on the specifications of the PS5 is within the idea that Sony’s next hardware will support 8K resolution. To be clear, I am not stating that such an achievement is impossible; rather I question the necessity of it. Given everything that we know about the PS5, one can assume that the system will cost around USD $500. With 4K televisions slowly becoming a household norm, is it worthwhile for a company to be devoting resources into a feature that will likely not be consumer friendly for years to come? I understand that Sony is at a disadvantage right now with the Xbox One X outputting at native 4K, but seeking to outdo the competition to this extent seems financially unobtainable for most consumers.

My concerns develop from individuals who hear the news of PS5 and 8K resolution and assume it to be the Second Coming. It is unfeasible to have a $500 to $600 console run at a native 8K resolution. Anyone who believes this will happen need look no further than PlayStation’s competition with the Xbox One X. At its launch, Microsoft was selling the Xbox One X at a loss, solely to prevent the console from exceeding the $500 mark and turning away consumers. Microsoft’s current machine is capable of outputting at a native 4K resolution, whereas the PS4 Pro can only achieve the same through upscaled checkerboarding. The PS5 will surely be able to output at a native 4K resolution, but to expect anything more with the current state of consumer technology is wishful thinking. I urge consumers to understand that if the PS5 has an 8K setting, it will likely be only achieved in the future and through a checkerboarded solution.

Spider-Man PS4

Given the rumors that the next generation of hardware will be the last, Sony may be trying to future proof the PS5 so that it can remain on the market for as long as possible. Given the information provided by Mark Cerny, Sony may be intending to utilize every feature of the PS5 to its entirety before considering what could come after. By future proofing the PlayStation 5, Sony can anticipate where the industry is heading, ultimately eliminating the need for a mid-generation upgrade with a PS5 Pro.

I have been a PlayStation fan for as long as I can remember, but have recently branched out with the Xbox One X and PC gaming to experience what those ecosystems have to offer. By broadening my horizons, I maintain an outside perspective on how Sony is upholding its promise to gamers and how the competition tackles similar issues created by an ever-growing industry. With the eighth generation nearing its completion, I look forward to discussions such as this one as it generates hope and excitement for the future of the brand.

While the PlayStation 4’s colossal success this generation will provide a jump-start in sales for the company’s new hardware, the beginning of a new generation only reinvigorates the console wars. As a firm believer in what both Sony and Microsoft will do to shape the future of the industry, I am reminded that competition breeds excellence. Furthermore, when competition is present between both parties to win over public appeal, in the end, consumers emerge victorious.

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