Is there anything better than a headline combining the name of an exceptionally hyped new video game and a meme so ubiquitous that it's a wonder nobody's named their kid after it yet? No, there really is not.
I've been looking forward to No Man's Sky ever since the first footage of the (Guildford-based) Hello Games-developed, procedurally generated "open-universe" affair went public in 2014. At E3 last year, it was as good as best in show, leaving jaws floored across the web – but here we are, over a year later, and we've spent much of that time wondering what it is that the game actually wants us to do. But now, we've some idea, courtesy of an 18-minute IGN First playthrough in the hands of the game's director and studio founder Sean Murray.
It turns out, No Man's Sky wants us to do whatever we like, and that can range from slaying (rather than simply scanning) alien goats and attracting the local (rather aggressive, actually) authorities within seconds, basically embarking on a Grand Theft Auto-style rampage as seen through the lens of Arthur C Clarke, to buying low and selling high across the galaxy like Gordon Gekko in a space suit. Or, just drift from space station to space station, never stepping foot on a planet ripe for exploration. It's up to the player, completely. Watch the video, below.
Mine a planet's resources too heavily and yes, it'll lead to advantages at trading posts, but it's going to go down badly with its indigenous population. Get violent in the company of newly discovered species and, while you'll get to name the critters for some "units" (the game's currency), it's unlikely they'll want to hang with you in the future. You murderer. Murray only shows gameplay for one planet and a few of its moons, dropping back to a map menu and adding: "Every one of these points of light is a sun that has its own set of planets, that have creatures and everything else."
The watching journalist from IGN, Ryan McCaffery, is fairly impressed – and yes, that's an understatement. "I've never seen anything like this in a video game before. I'm... I'm having a bit of trouble comprehending what's going on, because this is incredible."
It certainly does look special, and now that it's clear that No Man's Sky isn't just a pretty safari in space, pointing the camera at weird-looking creatures and taking in impossible sunsets, we're beginning to see the game beneath the gorgeousness. And it's looking, well, fairly game-y – which will help connect its grand ambitions with the wants and needs of mainstream players. Of course there are (totally upgradable) laser guns – there were always going to be laser guns, right? And the wanted level mechanic has us imagining dramatic escapes from pursing forces, jet-packing into our (highly customisable) ship and hyper-driving the shit out of (a completely sexy-maths-generated interpretation of) Dodge.
Gotta be honest, though, it's the look and feel of the game over what you can and can't shoot in it that still holds its greatest appeal, for me. I can't wait to get lost in it when it's released in... nope, we've still no confirmed date, but we're thinking sometime in late 2015, with PlayStation 4 and PC versions confirmed to come out on the same day. Just book the whole of December off now, to be safe.
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