James’ (Vault) 101(st) post: Thoughts on… Fallout 4 at E3 2015

Bethesda had a damn good showing at E3 this year. Dishonored 2 with playable Emily, eight minutes of brutal, fantastic DOOM footage and, best of all, half an hour of Fallout 4. It looks incredible, I’m here to talk about it, let’s do this thing. I’ve split it up into three main sections, and will be focusing on the game itself, not “Fallout Shelter” or the wearable Pip-Boy.

Character Creation/Pre-war
The first part of the demo shows off the pre-war introduction to the game. Turns out I was close in my predictions; you DO go into Vault 111 before the bombs go off, but you come out two hundred years later, and you aren’t the baby seen in the crib. You’re one of its parents. The couple groom themselves in a mirror and this is your character creation; you can tinker with both using dynamic sliders on every part of the face, then pick one of them to be your character. Apparently the game has around one thousand of the most popular names recorded, so that characters in the game can vocally address you by name. In the demo they settled on a generic white man named Howard.  The pre-war stuff has a genuine tension to it. Someone from Vault-Tec comes round to check your details for entry into Vault 111 (this is where you allocate your S.P.E.C.I.A.L points, of which you have a lot more than in 3 and New Vegas), then almost immediately you and your family have to run for your life through the streets to the Vault. “I love you. Both of you”, Howard says, and then the bomb hits. They refused to go into any plot details for now, but later on the showed Howard obtaining his Pip-Boy; covered in dust and fastened to the arm of a skeleton. They did say that your character is the sole survivor, so clearly something in Vault 111 goes very wrong. Speaking of the Pip-Boy, it now has 3-D models for weapons and armour, can play game cartridges (the one shown is basically Donkey Kong, but Cold War-ified), you see your character’s hand interact with it in real time, and armour is now put on limb by limb, as opposed to a whole suit. The last thing to mention here (as it won’t really fit into the other categories) is the conversation system. You can do it in third or first person and walk away from it at any time (something I’m genuinely pleased to hear), but now instead of having a list to choose from it uses the four face buttons, with a dialogue option attached to each. My main problem is dialogue options that are tied to skills; Intelligence, Speech, Strength etc. How will they factor in? Will you have to exhaust four options of dialogue before new ones pop up? It could be a nuisance.

The most surprising part of the demo. They showed off the new crafting system, used to alter/make weapons, and build houses, buildings and whole settlements. Weapons can be changed in all manner of ways, to simply adding a silencer or sight (crafted from junk scattered throughout the world), to swapping out large parts of the weapon to make it into something else. Things like taking a laser pistol and turning it into a tri-beam laser rifle. Apparently there are over fifty base weapons and over seven hundred modifications you can make. I’m really looking forward to this; if they do the crafting system well it’ll add a whole new depth to the game’s combat system. As for the buildings, it also adds a frankly unprecedented level of depth. You can craft furniture, then buildings to put it in, then water pumps, a place to plant food and a power line strung together to power everything there. You can build a massive settlement and get other people to come and live there, and draw in unique merchants. It looks like you could spend the whole game just building a town, and ignoring all the story missions. If you’re so inclined.

Finally, the presentation ended with a two minute trailer in which Howard murders a whole load of wasteland creatures and humans to the song “Atom bomb baby”. Deathclaws, Yao Guai, Raiders, Supermutant Behemoths, robots; all of them and more get gunned down and hit with a sledgehammer so hard they explode. The combat looks excellent in first person, V.A.T.S looks as good as ever, and overall the combat looks as good as everything else that’s been shown.

Fallout 4 looks amazing. The character creation, the combat, the new crafting system, the graphics; everything has clearly had so much live and time poured into it. It’s clear that Bethesda want this to be as good as it possibly can be, and it certainly looks like it will pay off. They also gave a release date: November 10th.

I can’t wait.

By James Lambert

James’ 100th post: Thoughts on… the MGSV: The Phantom Pain E3 2015 trailer

Despite being pushed away from Konami it’s nice to see Kojima still crafting hype for his magnum opus, I must say. This is apparently the last MGSV trailer before its launch on September 1st, and obviously I had to take a look and give some thoughts on it. If you’re familiar with my work you’ll know The Phantom Pain is my most anticipated game, so it’s always good to get some fresh footage to dissect. As with the “Nuclear” trailer I’ve split it up into sections for easy digestion, because I’m nice like that.

A key theme of the trailer. Skullface monologues about how as a boy he was taken by foreign soldiers and passed around various foreigners, completely losing his native tongue. References are made to the power and importance of words and language to bind a people together, and to completely destroy people by taking it from them. Clearly it will be important for Snake to be a great communicator to his soldiers, and it looks like Skullface is going to use language to his own manipulative ends.

What happened to Diamond Dogs?
The first shots of the trailer show what is apparently a/the Diamond Dogs base filled with dead bodies, shell casings and walls covered in blood. Through visual cues three stages of Snake are shown- his Ground Zeroes outfit, the “demonic” Big Boss with his horn, and Venom; Snake’s turn to the dark side, as shown by his face being covered in blood. It appears the blood-soaked face will signify the point of no return for Snake, as its shown up repeatedly in the trailers, playing a pivotal role in the “Nuclear” trailer. The bloody face also leads me to believe that this apparent tragedy in the Diamond Dogs base is the same one shown in the “Nuclear” trailer, in which Snake wanders the aftermath of a clearly explosive, devastating conflict. I’ll elaborate on what I think happens in the next section, but this is definitely a turning point. This section ends later in the trailer with Snake on his knees with his fists clenched by his sides in anguish, and staring at himself in a mirror before punching it.

Ah yes. The big bad. So here’s what I think is going on with Skullface:
From his monologue about his language and Ocelot’s subsequent description of Skullface via narration, combined with shots of Skullface hanging out with Big Boss and interacting in a friendly manner, I believe he cons his way into Diamond Dogs. I reckon he either reaches out to them or makes himself seem irresistible and he ends up as part of their ranks. Then from a shot of him talking to Snake while the latter is hanging upside down, I believe he is responsible for the slaughter of all the Diamond Dogs soliders- he destroys the base, kills a lot of people and leaves Snake to embrace his inner demons. Or, to bring up my more bleak theory, he manipulates a lot of the Diamond Dogs soldiers onto his side, and Snake is forced to kill them. My evidence for this is the shot of Snake on his knees, clearly angry and distraught, and the shot right near the end of the “Nuclear” trailer where Snake hesitates before gunning down several men in unmarked DBUs. Either way, I think this battle/massacre is key to the plot, and Skullface is definitely involved.

The Boss
A small one, but worth mentioning. In narration someone says that he’s going to finally make The Boss’ vision of the world a reality, and there’s a shot of soldiers cheering as what looks like the A.I pod from the “Peace Walker” weapon. For those unaware it was said to basically be a robotic version of The Boss’ A.I (for more info on who she is, check out MGS3. She’s an integral catalyst for the whole series’ plot, and easily one of the best characters in any of the games), which caused Snake to reject his former mentor and finally start using the name “Big Boss”. If that IS the A.I pod and she’s back online, she could prove to be an interesting source of drama, particularly when she gets a look at what Snake becomes.

Liquid Snake
So it turns out that Eli, the boy from the previous trailers, is Liquid Snake. Well, I say that, it’s very, VERY heavily implied. Two shots stand out here; him climbing into what looks like a Metal Gear (in fact it looks like Metal Gear Rex, which is a nice touch) and chases after Big Boss before getting caught in a narrow cave mouth, and the ending of the trailer. At the end Eli is in a helicopter appearing to have some sort of psychic link with another child who looks awfully similar, while in narration Big Boss says “Les Enfants Terrible, Zero called it”. For those who don’t know, Les Enfants Terrible was the program Major Zero set up to clone Big Boss against his will, that resulted in Liquid, Solid and Soldius Snake. Who is that other child? My money’s on Solid Snake.

Supernatural elements:
What appears to be “Those who do not exist” from the Red Band trailer make an appearance,  twitching towards Snake and Quiet in a “Jacob’s Ladder” fashion before leaping out of shot. Now I thought they were called that just because they were Snake’s hallucinations, but their appearance here along with a group of people who can turn invisible and look to be wearing the same suits as “Those who do not exist” lead me to believe they may be an actual unit. It’s entirely feasible- the Cobras all had special powers, and Metal Gear Solid is no stranger to the supernatural.
There’s also a brief shot of rock spears jutting out the ground; chasing after Snake as he drives away in a jeep,and a scene in which a helicopter moves sideways, using its rotors to kill a group soldiers. The rock spears I can’t explain at present, but the helicopter strikes me as the work of that little boy who’s clearly Psycho Mantis, who shows up just after the helicopter shot. I think this will be during Snake’s escape from the hospital early on; Mantis is helping him out.

So there we have it. Another good trailer with a lot to take in, I’m really looking forward to the game, and obviously I’m going to review it. It really is unlikely I’ll do any more “thoughts on…” pieces before then, but we’ll see what happens. I can’t wait for V to finally come to in September.

By James Lambert

Also, it was a complete dick move for Konami to stick the Koji Pro logo in the trailer without the words “Kojima Productions” in it. Bloody Konami.

Also also; this is my hundredth post on The Reviewing Floor, so that’s something worth celebrating me thinks. It was going to be a review of an old game very close to whatever I have in place of a heart, but it’s fitting to give the spot to this, the final Phantom Pain trailer. Here’s to a hundred more posts, and if you have been reading them, thank you very much. I hope I’ve given you something worth reading.

Thoughts on… the Fallout 4 Announcement Trailer

Oh Bethesda. You magnificent bastards. Just when Konami’s cancellation of P.T and general refusal to do anything decent or worthwhile was bringing me right down, “Fallout 4” gets an announcement trailer to bring me right back up again. “Fallout” has been very dear to me since I played Fallout 3 way back in 2008. I had been looking forward to this for what seems like ages, and now I’m here to discuss the trailer.

The First thing that stands out; parts of the trailer are set in the time immediately prior to the nuclear war that ended the world. A dog (more on that later) searches a house done up in Fallout’s traditional 50s Americana/futuristic style, shown in the state it was in before and after the nuclear holocaust. A television broadcast voiced by series narrator Ron Perlman announces that the nukes have been launched and even manages to slip in the series’ tagline of “War… war never changes” as people in the neighbourhood scramble to a Brotherhood of Steel-manned shelter. So will we get to play as a character pre-apocalypse? My guess is probably not. I think it’s more likely that your character is the baby briefly seen being fawned over by its parents. You’ll get into the Vault shown later on but they probably won’t, and you’ll leave to explore the wasteland not long after the war. I could be wrong of course, but that’s the vibe I get. What looks like that very same couple is seen right near the vault when a nuke goes off nearby, so you could well be someone completely unrelated. Regardless, it was certainly interesting to see the world before everything went to shite, and it would be nice if it’s elaborated on in-game. However, it shouldn’t take too much focus. This is a post-apocalypse story, after all.
A small one, but worth mentioning. The trailer features two shots where it’s raining, something that never happened in 3 and New Vegas. I love the rain, I love good rain effects in games, and weather effects are welcome here. Maybe they could play around with the idea of a nuclear winter at some point. Maybe in DLC. On a practical note, will the rain cause your radiation level to increase, in line with all other water sources in previous games?

As I mentioned before, there’s a dog exploring the house shown in the trailer. Its owner appears to be the game’s protagonist, and it looks like the dog will play a pretty important role in the game, or at least be around a lot. Hopefully the dog (I keep calling it that because I’m unaware of its gender. It’s referred to as “Pal” which leads me to believe it’s male, but I can’t be sure) will be an optional companion, but there are certainly worse things than a mandatory dog friend. I’m almost certain it’s not Dogmeat from Fallout 3 (it’s a different breed, and if this game is set just after the apocalypse then it’d be nearly two hundred years before Dogmeat is alive), but it could be related to him.
The game is set in ruined Boston, albeit a lot less ruined than D.C in Fallout 3. Buildings and towns appear to be in remarkably good shape, and it seems to retain New Vegas’ feeling of “Stuff going on in towns and cities, absolute hell in the deserts surrounding them”.

Vault 111
Briefly seen through the vault door and the Vault-Tec jumpsuit the protagonist is wearing. As far as I’m aware Vault 111 hasn’t been mentioned previously, and so could be relatively peaceful like 101, or some horrific nightmare like a lot of the other Vaults turned out to be. Either way, I’m interested to see what they do with it, after New Vegas opted to have the main protagonist not be a Vault-Dweller.
Talking protagonist
Finally, the protagonist is fully voiced, although only for one line. His dog catches up to him, he lovingly pats it and says “Let’s go, Pal” just before it cuts to the title. His voice sounds quite like Troy Baker, which wouldn’t surprise me at all. In fact if they are fully voiced it’ll probably be Troy Baker for a male Wanderer and Jennifer Hale for a female one, which would suit me fine. But it begs the question; will the player character be voiced? The other main games in the series opted for text-based conversations where the other character was voiced but not you, which worked rather well. I’ve seen people concerned about the idea of a voiced protagonist but I really can’t make up my mind until I’ve seen more of it. It could go either way, really.

Well, those are the main points that stood out. Overall I’m really excited, which is rare for me. It looks bloody gorgeous, I’m intrigued to see the new engine and what they can do with next-gen, and best of all it’s a new Fallout game. I adore Fallout, and with Silent Hills tragically shot down, this has become my second most anticipated game. I’ll be writing about trailers and gameplay footage as they emerge, so watch this space.

By James Lambert


Game of Thrones Episode 4- “Sons of Winter” review

I’ve seen multiple publications call this the best episode of the series. We shall see.

After three episodes of all the noble, decent characters getting punched in the kidneys, “Sons of Winter” finally turns the tables. Rodrik gets the help he sorely needs via a deus ex machina, Mira finally gets to grips with King’s Landing and does some mighty fine manipulation, Gared moves beyond the wall and Asher continues to murder his way to success (a man after my own heart). It’s fantastic to finally feel like I have the upper hand, even though I know that it will be fleeting (this is Game of Thrones, after all); to throw my weight around after three episodes of being ground under the heels of scumbags, in a manner somewhat similar to Telltale’s own “The Wolf Among Us”.

Story wise, this fits right in at the 4/6 spot. A lot of things have been building up to this, and although there are pay-offs, it still feels like a lot of things can and will change for the next episode. It’s a satisfying episode all told- seeing Mira manipulate people in King’s Landing and Rodrik wipe the smile off Lord Whitehill’s face was fantastic, but in a way unlike any other Telltale game I’ve played it does feel like everything will come crashing down around me soon enough. Asher’s section is the most involving gameplay-wise, and it has some good emotional moments that seem at odds with Daenerys, who shows up as an arrogant, unreasonable arsehole here. I’m not the biggest fan of Daenerys in the show, but she’s awful here. The choices in this episode don’t feel as severe or affecting as Telltale’s norm, but it was still an involving, rewarding episodes. It was nice to have the upper hand for once, and I look forward to the next episode where it all blows up in my face.

Is it the best episode in the series, as people have said? I’m going to say yes. It’s good to see the tables turn, even if it’ll all end in tears soon enough.

By James Lambert