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Home Free photo
Home Free

Dog RPG Home Free funded in five days

Kicks Arfer
Oct 05
// Darren Nakamura
Things have been looking kind of sad over on Kickstarter lately. Aside from the huge names making games like Mighty No. 9, Yooka-Laylee, Bloodstained, and Shenmue 3, it seems like the ratio of successes to failures has i...
Assassin's Creed photo
Assassin's Creed

Assassin's Creed: Syndicate Xbox One file size revealed

Roughly what we expected
Oct 05
// Laura Kate Dale
If you're an Xbox One owner and are planning to get a digital copy of Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, the time has come to ensure you've got enough space free on your hard drive. Thanks to the game's digital pre-order page going...
Monster Hunter 4 photo
Monster Hunter 4

Holy hell, Monster Hunter 4 is still getting free DLC

It ends next month though
Oct 02
// Chris Carter
Monster Hunter 4 launched all the way back in February in the US, and it's steadily been getting a ton of free DLC every month, ranging from missions to weapons, to sets of gear. It's pretty damn awesome, and not a typi...
Pokemon Rumble World photo
Pokemon Rumble World

Pokemon Rumble World is ditching its F2P scheme with retail release

In Japan
Oct 02
// Chris Carter
Well this is kind of cool. While I thought Pokémon Rumble World was rather fair with its free-to-play scheme, it will be getting a full retail release in Japan on November 19. It'll run you 3,700 yen (roughly $30 ...

Review: LEGO Dimensions

Oct 01 // Chris Carter
LEGO Dimensions (PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Traveller's TalesPublisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentReleased: September 27, 2015MSRP: $99.99 (Starter Pack), $29.99 (Level Pack), $14.99 (Fun Pack) Yet again, I'll explain how the toys are factored in, especially since LEGO Dimensions in particular can get confusing. For $99.99 you'll get the Starter Pack (reviewed here), which consists of the core game, three physical characters (Gandalf, Batman, and Wyldstyle), a physical Batmobile, and real life LEGOs to build the portal (called a Toy Pad). There are two major things to factor in here -- it's pricier than most toys-to-life games by at least $20, augmented by the fact that you're actually getting an actual miniature LEGO set. Straight-up, a lot of your enjoyment for LEGO Dimensions hinges on how much you enjoy playing with LEGOs as a whole. For example, to build the base, my wife and I spent roughly an hour. If you have a kid who plays with toys on a regular basis, this is a no-brainer -- for everyone else, that prospect may seem like too much of a task, and you're basically paying the premium for that. On the other end you have two additional purchasing options, Level Packs and Fun Packs, which are essentially DLC. The former unlocks a hub for $29.99 and comes with a character and two objects, and the latter unlocks a mission and one object. Oh, and then there's the Team Packs for $24.99, with two characters and two objects. Confused yet? Yeah it's all a bit much, and if you weren't averse to toys-to-life before, you probably will be now. But for everyone else, here's the rub -- you can play the entire story with just the Starter Kit, and for each franchise you buy a toy for, you'll unlock additional worlds. So for Portal, the only way to gain access to that DLC set is through a sole Level Pack, but some franchises (like Ghostbusters and The Simpsons) may have multiple Level or Fun Packs. No one ever said LEGOs or figure-based games was a cheap hobby, and now they've been Frankensteined together. [embed]313069:60565:0[/embed] But despite all that, LEGO Dimensions is one of the more interesting Traveller's Tales titles in years. As it turns out mixing up all of these properties involves some hilarious results, mostly thanks to the wit of the writing staff. Of particular note is Homer Simpson's breaking of the fourth wall to comment on cross-branding, and Batman's interactions with various characters like the Wicked Witch of the West. It surpasses the "that's so random!" realm of comedy and succeeds in melding all 14 (!) IPs together. The campaign's story is dead simple -- an evil entity wants to rule all worlds -- but the journey is where it excels. Due to the nature of the three starter characters you'll mostly play through the three hub worlds (Lord of the Rings, DC Universe, and the LEGO Movie), but you'll also cross paths with other worlds briefly, like the aforementioned Oz, Springfield, and Scooby Doo's realm. It's refreshing, and you never linger in one zone for too long. With this setup, it's far more fun than most of the other LEGO games, which tend to overstay their welcome over time with just one theme. LEGO Dimensions' use of the physical toys and portal is also a step ahead of its competition. For one, you can place up to six characters (most only allow two), one vehicle, and other objects all at once. Another cool mechanic involves the placement of the toys themselves during boss fights. Some encounters will actually force you to move your figures on the physical base to avoid attacks -- that's some serious Metal Gear Psycho Mantis-like stuff right there. Traveller's Tales succeeds in mixing up that type of gameplay all throughout the experience, and I never felt like I was missing out with just the Starter Kit. However, I couldn't help but feel like it was still an above average $60 LEGO game with $40 of additional baggage. Again, you're getting real LEGO blocks here, but I would have preferred a smaller premium to get them. Also, WB has planned out DLC and content packs all the way through May 2016, which leaves them plenty of room to develop another potential sequel next year. I'm sort of torn in LEGO Dimensions. It's one of the most expensive propositions in all of gaming right now, but the gameplay is there and the Starter Pack stands on its own. While the campaign can be a bit uneven at times, the always reliable LEGO charm and the innovation of the physical aspect of Dimensions allows it to excel. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. Only the Starter Pack was provided.]
LEGO Dimensions photo
An expensive, but fun hobby
As I've talked about in the past, I'm usually the go-to person for the toys-to-life genre. I'm a kid at heart, and occasionally, I can enjoy a silly kids movie for the fun of it. No series has encapsulated that silliness more...

Unbox photo

I like the look of this 3D platformer about, uh, boxes

Self-delivering cardboard boxes
Sep 30
// Jordan Devore
If we can be bread, we can be anything. Looks like sentient boxes are next. I don't pay much attention to what's happening on Steam Greenlight these days, but the occasional game still rises from the depths and onto my radar....
Home Free Kickstarter photo
Home Free Kickstarter

Control an abandoned dog in the city in action-RPG Home Free

Control your tears watching the video
Sep 30
// Darren Nakamura
The first few moments of the Kickstarter trailer for Home Free bring up sad memories of the Futurama episode "Jurassic Bark," which I apparently cannot even read the Wikipedia entry for without getting misty-eyed. Dogs, man. ...
Tomb Raider photo
Tomb Raider

Set aside almost 40 hours to completely beat the new Tomb Raider

20 or so to half-ass it
Sep 30
// Brett Makedonski
A fair contingent of game-players equate the amount of #content in a game to whether or not it's a "good deal." It's a mindset that has always struck me as odd. I'll take a streamlined shorter game over an unfocused sprawl an...
Dragon Quest Heroes photo
Dragon Quest Heroes

King Doric is psyched to tell us about Dragon Quest Heroes

Take a breath!
Sep 29
// Jordan Devore
Chris enjoyed that last Dragon Quest Heroes trailer. I like this one even better. It's more comprehensive and the narration by King Doric is just so damn enthusiastic. The video covers the cast, monster summoning, shopping, t...

Review: Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume 1

Sep 29 // Chris Carter
Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume 1 (PC, PS4 [reviewed])Developers: Redacted StudiosPublisher: Versus EvilReleased: September 22, 2015 MSRP: $14.99 (standard), $34.99 (trilogy bundle), $54.99 (ultimate pack) To give you a bit of background, this series does not feature the titular Afro Samurai (though he is around somewhat) -- instead, it focuses on Kuma, who as no surprise wears a giant bear head. Billed as a "brave warrior who once protected the great temple," he was betrayed by Afro, and now walks the Earth in search of revenge. You'll learn a bit more about how Kuma died during the course of this first volume, which is a continuation of the original game. The entire time during my play session, I was basically asking myself why this had to exist. There are elements of the Afro Samurai franchise I like, but forcing people to play through this new, quite frankly terrible series to delve into it is almost insulting. Why not just produce an OVA or even a web short? Much of the game consists of beyond campy voice acting, like anyone was invited into the studio for recording sessions, and simple art stills that fail to effectively tell any sort of cohesive narrative. There's also a really weird (but mostly good) RZA score that is peppered throughout Afro Samurai 2 that doesn't quite fit with the rest of the game. It just feels like this shouldn't have even gone to the developmental stages as a video game. The lack of quality control is most apparent with the sound editing, which is so bad you'll hear loud beats during key story sequences that drown out entire bits of dialogue. Major issues even pile up beyond that, as I noticed multiple sequences where the narrative audio was cut out prematurely, and the game has constant framerate issues both in and out of combat, leading to an overall shaky experience. One time I even entered a tutorial, came back out, and subsequently fell off a cliff, forcing me to restart the chapter. [embed]312865:60543:0[/embed] I thought the non-playable bits were bad, but I wasn't quite ready for everything else. There are some really weird "interactive" cutscenes that mostly consist of your character crawling on the ground during some dramatic event and picking up items or looking for some obscure object. If these were meant to instill some sort of emotional effect, they utterly failed, partially due to the wonky physics and broken game engine. The action sequences are also horrid, partially due to the aforementioned framerate issues, but also because of the fact that it doesn't even feel like a budget game that would be welcome on the original PlayStation. Kuma has access to counters, attacks, jumps, and a typical rage (Devil Trigger) ability, as well as the power to switch styles. It's all painfully slow, and to add insult to injury, many of the animations don't even connect. You're basically just going to mash attack and counter occasionally with very little nuance involved. The camera is also a huge problem, as it's fixed and it constantly flips out in a seizure-worthy fashion. What's particularly troubling about the way the camera works is when you're traversing stages, you often can't see what's ahead of you, leading to some lame pitfall deaths or ambushes. It's not like the game is hard by any means as it's essentially a button-masher, but it's constantly working against you at all turns through technical faults. This lurid affair will last roughly two hours, which is the standard for episodic games. Yet, the fact that you have to suffer through this begs the question entirely -- "why was this episodic at all?" Were they going to lose the license or something? I usually hold off on telling people not to get an episodic game until more of it is available, but even after playing the first volume of Afro Samurai 2, I can say with authority, "do not get this."
Afro Samurai 2 review photo
Digital seppuku
In the words of Samuel L. Jackson, "what kind of fucked up repugnant shit is this?" It's Afro Samurai 2.

Mushroom 11 release date photo
Mushroom 11 release date

Mushroom 11 spreads its spores on October 15

National Mushroom Day
Sep 28
// Darren Nakamura
Back when I first played Mushroom 11, more than a ago at PAX East 2014, it was a cool concept. Judging by the launch trailer below (and Brett's preview from earlier this year), Untame has really expanded on that concept, work...

Review: Skylanders: SuperChargers

Sep 28 // Chris Carter
Skylanders SuperChargers (3DS, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed], Wii U)Developer: Vicarious VisionsPublisher: ActivisionReleased: September 20, 2015MSRP: $74.99 (Starter pack, two characters, vehicle, base, game) To be frank, I was worried about the state of Skylanders after Trap Team. I mean, sure, it was a great action game and still had its charms, but I was starting to think that Activision had been scraping the bottom of the barrel with its newest gimmick. With the vehicular-based focus however, Vicarious Visions has turned the formula on its head again, going back to basics with old-school, sensible tendencies. The focus here is vehicles, and not just cars. Land, sea, and air-based transportation is at the crux of the experience, with the Starter Pack providing the former. To be clear, there are elemental gates for ancillary content (forcing players to use certain toys to access some areas), but the fact that the entire core game can be completed with one land vehicle, and the vast majority of sidequests are accessible with just one sea and air toy respectively is a massive step up from past titles. Yes, you will have to spend a bit of extra cash to get everything, but I was completely satisfied with the main campaign on its own terms. Speaking of the toys themselves, they're still at the top of their game. All of the vehicles sport moving parts, and take me back to my Micro Machines days, racing cars across a table with glee. There are fewer new characters this time around in favor of the vehicles, which is fine in my book, as they're much easier to wrap your head around with three distinct varieties. Just like before, two players can play together on the same console with two different Skylanders -- here, a vehicle can be added to the mix with the new portal. Yes, that's one vehicle. While I initially thought it was a limitation, it actually feels like a more deliberate design choice, as sharing a ride is much more fun as a co-op experience. [embed]312286:60536:0[/embed] One person drives, and the other shoots -- it's that simple. With the touch of a button you can switch roles, should someone else want to take the driver's seat. Movement is intuitive, as the driver is only focusing on traversal, and the shooting bits cleverly make use of a reticle to avoid the need for the driver to always be in sync with their partner. In short, it allows everyone a ton of freedom, but it isn't too overwhelming of a prospect to hop from car to car. The story this time around doesn't require any prior knowledge of the series, which simultaneously works in its favor and hurts the setup. Once again, Kaos (who is still charming as "Not Invader Zim," but is getting a bit old at this point) reigns supreme, it's just that this time he's taken the noble Eon captive, leaving your ragtag team of Patrick Warburton and company to save the day. It's a plot that belongs in a Saturday morning cartoon, but the sleek visuals and upbeat performances sell it well enough. During the 10-hour campaign, you'll find plenty of variety when it comes to mission types, enemy patterns, themes, and gameplay. One moment you might be diving underwater in an obstacle course of sorts with a submarine, and the next, you're up in the air dogfighting, Star Fox style (yes, you can barrel roll). The pacing is excellent, and boss fights are seen in a whole new light as vehicular confrontations. But this time you'll have Mario Kart-esque races as a distraction as well, which are easily the best pieces of side content yet for the series. The entire affair feels thoroughly integrated into the game itself, without feeling like a tacked-on "me too" mode. One race for instance features a level populated by two giant dragons, who constantly are visible throughout the track, and occasionally pop out to cause havoc for the participants. Each level feels like it was given a sufficient amount of love, to the point where I'd put many of them on par with classics like Diddy Kong Racing and some of the best Mario Kart games. That's not to say that it completely measures up to its contemporaries. The item system feels limited, and the combat system in general (all cars can use their standard attacks during races) is disjointed, as some elements from the campaign don't quite work in this gametype. Plus, you'll need to buy a certain number of toys to access every track. No, it's not perfect, but again, as a side mode, it does its job and then some. Online play for the campaign and racing modes also don't hurt its case, on top of the revamped Triple Triad-like Skystones mini-game. I'm utterly surprised that Activision hasn't run this franchise into the ground yet. Skylanders: SuperChargers reinvigorates my interest in the series, and I'd go so far as to say that I wouldn't mind a full-on SuperChargers racing spin-off in the same vein as a proper Mario Kart game (note that the Wii and 3DS editions are racing games, essentially). After all, a little competition never hurt anyone -- maybe they can put that Crash Bandicoot license to good use. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. The Starter Pack and a few additional toys were provided as well.]
Skylanders review photo
Back to business
Year after year, I can generally count on the Skylanders games. I had zero hope for Spyro's return back in 2011, but every single iteration has been a competent brawler. While Activision can be accused of running franchi...

Gun Wings photo
Gun Wings

I'm so glad people are still making bullet hell games

Gun Wings on Steam Greenlight
Sep 28
// Chris Carter
Thanks to a tip from a reader, Gun Wings is now on my radar. It's from developer Angels Blue Digital Entertainment, and it's currently seeking an audience on Steam Greenlight. The full game is boasting six stages, and c...
Zelda photo

Zelda: Tri Force Heroes' UK trailer is significantly less weird than the Japanese one

Less crying king
Sep 28
// Chris Carter
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes kind of snuck up on me. It's coming out in less than a month, and it feels like it was only just revealed. I'm looking forward to the Four Swords-esque cooperative scheme for sure, a...

Review: A Fistful of Gun

Sep 28 // Stephen Turner
A Fistful of Gun (PC) Developers: FarmerGnome Publisher: Devolver Digital Released: September 23, 2015 MSRP: $12.99 A Fistful of Gun is a bombardment of the senses. It’s your usual post-modern, knowing wink to the camera fare; very loud, very brash, but also raising a smile with its constructive asides and one-liners. So, an evil railroad tycoon has made a deal with the devil, but he’s about to get some karmic retribution from a diverse group of gunslingers. Along the way, these 11 wronged men (well, more than 11 if you count a whole regiment sharing a single horse) will take down anyone who stands in their way – KKK members, bandits, soldiers, Indians, voodoo men, the whole clichéd lot. And that’s it for the threadbare plot, really. The Story Mode is a marathon of randomised arena-based firefights, each one barely lasting more than a minute or two. Sometimes, you’re given an objective to complete in addition to killing everyone on screen, be it pushing a cart to its destination, duels and assassinations, or saving a hoedown from a stampede, to more loopy scenarios like Peyote trials and Bomb Fiestas. And since you can choose your next challenge, it’s always refreshing to see the variety and difficulty on the player’s own terms. [embed]312707:60526:0[/embed] Graphically, the Western setting is merely functional. Each location has its share of destructible environments, but it all looks intentionally sparse. Being a twitch shooter, you’re required to keep your attention on several things at once: your gunslinger, the bullets headed your way, and the tiny aiming reticule. The pixel art is charming when it’s calm, but when things erupt in spectacular fashion, it’s hard to keep track of the tiny characters and the aiming reticule is usually lost to the earthy colour palette. A Fistful of Gun is a difficult game, but it does offer plenty of risk/reward strategies in the way of power-ups, handicaps, and character playstyles. Causing havoc in the neutral zones might offer more money or lives, but you’ll also earn a wanted level and choice to either fight a fairly unstoppable Sheriff or take a fairly humiliating challenge like getting through the next level with an unpredictable hog or an explosive piñata on your back. Usually, if you can successfully weave in and out of trouble, you can pick up various whiskey bottles that can slow down time or give you extra damage. Horses give you extra speed and since this is a one-hit-kill kind of game, they allow you a second wind at the expense of their life. The main gimmick here is the different unlockable gunslingers. Each man has their own unique control scheme or weapon use. So for example, Abel can fire off six rapid shots in a row, but has to reload the whole cylinder before firing again. Virgil’s blunderbuss has to be charged for maximum effect, while Duke has a chaingun at the expense of movement speed, and Billy’s gun can only be fired by pressing the right key shown above his head. Some are clearly more favourable than others, and a select few are there for the added challenge, but nobody ever comes across as overpowered. While they all have to be randomly unlocked in the campaign, everybody is available straight away in Arcade Mode, and it’s also in this mode that A Fistful of Gun becomes more accessible, more fun. Basically, it’s an infinite gauntlet of arenas, where you’re rewarded with modifiers to take into the next battle – explosive bullets, faster movement speed, better accuracy, etc. But more importantly, it also benefits from having local co-op. It’s through that brief glimpse of partnership that I saw A Fistful of Gun at its fullest potential. Online is a mix of Arcade and Versus Modes (no co-op SP campaign, sadly) for up to nine players. Though, on launch weekend, the servers were dead. Ideally, it’s played best with a friends list, but if you don’t have a posse to call upon, then you won’t have much luck with public games; not to mention a lack of instant game matchmaking (which is supposedly being rectified in the near future). It would be pretty ridiculous to mark down A Fistful of Gun over a lack of consumer interest, but as a word to the wise and since many of its modes are reliant on co-op, it does currently come across as half a game. No, A Fistful of Gun’s only major errors lie in its repetitive and muddied action, all blasted through an ADD pacing. It’s still fun and humorous, but that relentless nature condenses its longevity into just a couple of sessions. If you’ll pardon the ham-fisted metaphor, A Fistful of Gun can best be described as a stick of dynamite with a short fuse; explosive and disposable in the brief time you’ll spend with it. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Review photo
'My mistake... Four HUNDRED coffins'
Ah, another day, another pixel-art indie game with a Wild West theme. That said, A Fistful of Gun could’ve been set on the Moon and you’d be too busy dodging bullet hells and listening to arcade cabinet music to e...

Portal song photo
Portal song

'You Wouldn't Know' is the third Portal song by Jonathan Coulton

From LEGO Dimensions
Sep 25
// Darren Nakamura
The reveal of LEGO Dimensions earlier this year was kind of bizarre. How can Traveller's Tales get all those different licenses? Jurassic Park, Scooby Doo, Batman, and Portal 2? It's like every kid's toy chest in video game f...
7 chances to win crazy awesomeness!
Almost seven years ago, Mommy's Best Games unleashed Weapon of Choice upon the world. Soon it was followed by Shoot 1up, Explosionade, and Game Type. Xbox Live indies were never the same. Now on Steam, Mommy's Best Games have...

Assassin's Creed producer talks returning to the series' roots

Sep 24 // Alessandro Fillari
I've had an affinity for the AC series all the way back to the original. I remember getting hyped for an action-adventure title set during the Crusades, and then again for its follow-up in the Italian Renaissance period -- two settings that don't get much play from the medium. But ever since its move to the annual release schedule, I sometimes find it hard to get excited about new entries when they can come off as more of the same. While some of these games are off the charts when it comes to fun and offering an interesting setting to explore, Assassin's Creed has missed the mark a few times. Obviously, this presented Ubisoft with a challenge for how to tackle the upcoming jaunt through Victorian-era London. As one of the most-requested settings from fans, the developers felt extra pressure to get it right while making sure not to repeat the mistakes of past titles. As the ninth mainline Assassin's Creed title (yes, already), it's definitely a challenge to keep things interesting, because you can only play as an Assassin so many times without any major shake-ups before things get stale. Senior producer Jeff Skalski spoke at length about their vision for Syndicate, and how they hope the return to basics will reinvigorate the brand. "That's been a challenge for any game that's been a franchise," he said while discussing development. "Whether you're working on the second one or fifth one, but for us, we've been working on this game for two and a half years, so there's a lot of things we know about what Assassin's Creed has done in the past. We have a sense of maybe where it's going, but no one has a crystal ball. So we really evaluate what is important, where do we want to innovate, where do we want to focus, and then we kind of start building that game with that kind of mindset." The elephant in the room when talking about this series is the troubled launch of last year's Unity. While a solid entry in the series featuring  some gorgeous visuals and a stellar recreation of 18th-century France, this unfortunately, and quite understandably, was lost on many gamers who had to wade through technical issues and oddities that put a serious damper on the whole experience. While there are many reasons for how that turned out, the developers at Ubisoft Quebec wanted to ensure they nailed their interpretation and execution of the setting right at launch. "We took a real kind of fine-tooth comb and we looked at the combat, stealth, what do we change that didn't work so well, and we really evaluate it all," stated Skalski. "We've all been fans of the game, we're gamers first before we're actually developers, so these are things that for us is an opportunity. We have one shot of building an Assassin's Creed game in Victorian-era London, and it's almost a dream come true for a lot of us. And we wanted to knock it out of the park." Even though multiplayer and other online components have been present for the majority of the AC titles, this marks the first time since 2009 that a main entry in the series will be strictly single-player. With 2010's Brotherhood introducing multiplayer, along with the annualized release schedule, it set the standard for  titles going forward. So it was especially surprisingly to see that Ubisoft decided to brings things back with its focus on a pure single-player narrative. The studio made the decision early on to create a stronger narrative with denser content to back it up. "When we were conceptualizing the game and figuring out what did we want to build, but more importantly what did we not want to build -- because the more we built in the game, it means we'd have to stretch our resources thin -- we really wanted to go all in on the single-player experience. That's not to say we don't believe in multiplayer, and I think there's a place for that, but for this round we wanted to focus on the single-player. But yeah, we looked at the previous AC titles, and saw the various pillars they were built on, and thought 'How can we improve this?' [...] So it was a very conscious decision, and it was one we made very early on." For me, one of the highlights of playing Syndicate, and I'm sure many will share this sentiment, was the setting. The Victorian era was an evocative period with the old world slowly shifting into the modern era before everyone's eyes. And with the Industrial Revolution in full swing, it created many challenges for those living in the heart of the Western Empire. The devs saw this as not only an interesting setting that stands out among the predecessors, but also allowed them to open the gameplay into new areas and introduce abilities and gadgets not possible from the time period. "There's so much for us to play with in the Victorian time," explained the producer. "As you stated, it was the turning point in terms of the modern society that we live in today, so we felt that was bringing something fresh and something very new, and allowed us to kind of break the rules in places that would be exciting for players. Even today, it's a city that's a melting pot of society, so we were not short on ideas. We had to pick our top-top favorites and realize those as best as we could and work with our writers to make sure it was accurate and authentic." Despite the gloomy atmosphere and depressing subject matter, Syndicate manages to display a lot humor from the characters. In retrospect, many of the AC titles portrayed their stories earnestly with some slight scenes for humor to break up the tension.  Syndicate's dual protagonists, who are brother and sister, share a kind of sibling rivalry and make constant jokes at their expense. I'd imagine with the bleak atmosphere, they had to offer some levity. Which thankfully works quite well. "Humor was very important to us. As we were writing the game, and looking over the scripts, we were laughing, and that was a good sign for us. During mo-cap, I would laugh at lines and still find myself laughing when they came up in the game, so I hope players will enjoy the narrative, the characters -- every one of them is super special -- and the relationships they form with Jacob and Evie, and how they experience London for the first time."  Since the reveal earlier this year, the creators of Syndicate (then titled Victory), had a bit of an uphill battle to get through to ensure they were all in when it comes to creating the next big entry for the series. Fortunately, my several hours with the game got my interest piqued for what's to come. What I enjoyed most about the era is that it felt as though it was stuck between two different periods -- one from the past, the other towards the future. With many of the characters clinging onto the old ways while living in a civilization that has introduced vehicle traffic and gas and electrical infrastructure, Assassin's Creed Syndicate's interpretation of Victorian-era London should be one of the more exciting, visually striking locales the series has seen in a long time. For more info about Syndicate, check out my hands-on impressions. 
Interview photo
In a West End town, a dead end world
As the tenth anniversary for the Assassin's Creed franchise draws closer, it's hard to imagine the series has been around for so long. I was two years out of high school when Altair and Desmond first made their appearance on ...

Assassin's Creed Syndicate's London is an exciting and evocative setting

Sep 24 // Alessandro Fillari
Assassin's Creed Syndicate (PC, PS4 [previewed], Xbox One)Developer: Ubisoft QuebecPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: October 23, 2015 (PS4, Xbox One) / Q4 2015 (PC) Set nearly eighty years after the events of Assassin's Creed Unity, Syndicate thrusts players into the gritty and bustling city of London during the Industrial Revolution. With the Assassin Order struggling to rebuild, sibling assassins Jacob and Evie Fyre come to Victorian-era London during a relatively modest mission and find it under heavy Templar control. Witnessing the extent of the corruption in the heart of the Western Empire spearheaded by powerful industrialist and Templar operative Crawford Starrick, the siblings disregard the demands from their Order to abandon the city and take matters into their own hands to dismantle the Templar power structure. Using their Assassin abilities and gadgets, along with their keen eyes for scouting potential alliances with the locals, the Fryes will have to unite the criminal underworld of London in order to overthrow a common enemy, who may be in possession of another Piece of Eden. As one of the most-requested settings for an AC title, the developers at Ubisoft were keen on bringing the series to the Victorian era. London during 1868 was a period of equally great innovation and social unrest. The Industrial Revolution gave way to mass production and advanced technologies, but it came at the cost of humane working conditions, child labor, and poor quality of life for the working class. With factories peppering the city of London and smoke blotting out the sky, urban living was not what it was cracked up to be -- there was a lot of misery for those on the bottom of the social structure. This makes for an evocative setting for Assassin's Creed, and adds a greater connection with the city. While it would sound a bit cheesy to say that the city is a character itself, it does feel that way. I was impressed with not only how accurate the city looked, but also how much life exists within the game. There are several districts to travel to including Southwark, Westminster, Lambeth, Whitechapel, and the City of London (metropolitan area). Travel can be done by train, fast travel via landmarks, or even using carriages, marking the first time Assassin's Creed has an actual traffic and vehicle system to work with while in town. As the first AC title featuring dual protagonists in the same era, Syndicate does a lot to switch things up for players. Both characters serve as the focus for the general narrative. At any time in the menu, you'll be able to switch between the two while out in the open world, and each of them have unique content to tackle. Essentially two sides of the same coin, the Frye twins have varying approaches and mindsets when taking on obstacles but still seek the same result. With Jacob being the more hard-headed, brutish assassin who seems to relish his time getting into brawls and sharing a pint with commoners in the pubs, many of his ventures tend to have a more over-the-top flair to them. Evie, on the other hand, is clearly the more rational and logical twin, focusing on hatching clever plots to accomplish her long-term goals. In the end, a sledgehammer is sometimes more effective than a scalpel, and vice-versa -- so the twins will have to rely on each other to successfully overthrow the Templars. I rather enjoyed the dynamic between the Fryes. It's a change of pace for the series, and it's refreshing to have a female assassin put in the spotlight. Jacob's brash and devil-may-care attitude works well with Evie's stoic and uncompromising demeanor, which often times conflicts with her brother's spontaneous behavior. Essentially, it's a buddy-assassin plot, and it works quite well. These characters are invested, but still manage to find time to make jokes at the expense of their sibling. Given how expansive London is -- more than three times the size of Paris from Assassin's Creed Unity -- the twins will have a lot of ground to cover in the open world. Eventually, they'll gain access to a personal train which serves as a mobile command center for their operation. As the train makes its rounds, they'll be able plan their next move and ride the railway to missions. During their exploits in London, the Fryes will come across many important figures who have their own stake in the city, and they'll come to rely on the two assassins for assistance. From Alexander Graham Bell -- who builds a rope-launcher that allows the twins to scale rooftops and make zip-lines -- to Charles Dawrin, Charles Dickens, and even the infamous Jack the Ripper; the Assassins will come across many allies and foes on the streets, and they've all got their own ambitions in mind. But the twins won't be able to succeed on their own. With the many gangs and factions around London made up of citizens frustrated with feeling powerless, Jacob and Evie will have to win them over in order loosen the tight grip the Templars have over the city. As you retake areas of London from the Templars and gangs, key leaders will make themselves available and offer assistance. In Sequence 3 of the campaign, Evie forms an alliance with Clara O'Dea, the leader of a gang of children who've been used by the corrupt factory supervisors and seek their own way of life away from controlling adults. Each key figure within the different districts of London has a relationship with the Fryes, and doing missions and side-quests for them will strengthen their bond and unlock new gear and valuables. Over time, cash made by your network of gangs will be kicked back to the Fryes. It's a clever way to work key characters into the core progression. In previous titles, most of the advancement was done in menus and general side-missions, so incorporating character growth along with the related content makes the progression feel as though you're having a deeper impact. As always, the assassins will have several areas of the game world to conquer, and completing side-objectives and story missions are the best way to do so. In Syndicate, however, it feels as though there's a much greater level of variety for the side-missions. With the lack of multiplayer and co-op modes, this gave the developers resources to flesh out the world with side-events and points of interests to explore. For instance, instead of going around and tailing contacts, Jacob can compete in local fight clubs to strengthen bonds with allies. As you accomplish missions and side-quests, you'll gain experience to level up and acquire skill points to spend in the universal skill tree. Skills range from buffing melee attacks, eagle vision effective, upgrades to the arsenal, lockpicking, store discounts, and boosts to the economy. When you acquire more resources and control more of London, the assassins can spend their cash on new items, armor, and weapons. Given the era, the Fryes will have to be far more practical in their approach to carrying out their missions and assassinations. With great swords, hammers, and crossbows now considered antiqued in mid-1800s London, and many of which would get people arrested for possession, concealed weapons were a major part of self-defense in urban life. Between the standard cane sword (a short sword hidden in the shaft of a cane), daggers, brass knuckles, pistols and revolvers, bombs, poison, and the tried-and-true hidden blade, the concealed weapons add personality to Syndicate and feature an added level of customization, which also speaks to the increasingly modernized era. As covered in my last article, the combat system has been overhauled. It's now far more active. While Unity experimented with some new ideas, Syndicate advances things quite a bit. Given how easily players could abuse certain skills and rewards during combat, the developers felt it was time to try and switch things up. Here, battles prompt players to go more on the offensive, as enemies now only attack when they seen an opening and guard more frequently. Players will have to use stuns and guard-breaks to open up these defenses, all the while using parries and their side-arms (knives, revolvers, bombs) to manage multiple foes. The combat felt much more challenging this time around, and I was surprised at how tense things got. Heavier enemies in particular take a lot longer to bring down. Unfortunately, I was concerned with the overall technical performance of the game. There were several instances of texture and environmental objects fading in, along with NPC characters popping into view, and some slight frame rate dips throughout my preview session. While this title is in a much better state than Unity was last year at launch, I do hope that the devs can iron out the issues. Given how rich the setting is -- they nailed the atmosphere and tone of the era -- it would be a shame if these technical hiccups persist in the final release. Graphical worries notwithstanding, I was largely pleased with Assassin's Creed Syndicate. This is very much a dream setting for fans, myself included, and to see it all realized so vividly was great. From the bustling streets filled with carriages, to the back alleys full of criminals and roughnecks looking for their next target, the atmosphere in Victorian-era London is the strongest an AC game has had in a long time. I'm looking forward to my trip back to the foggy city, but I do hope they'll fix the kinks. This is one era that deserves the best the developers have got.
Preview photo
City of London, City of London
With October nearly here, it's about that time for Ubisoft to release another entry in its annual time-traveling trek through history. While Assassin's Creed has had highs and lows, no one can deny it's one of the few series ...

Syd's new capris photo
Syd's new capris

Gravity Rush 2 site loosely covers plot for PS4 exclusive

Familiar faces returning
Sep 23
// Steven Hansen
Shocking only the holding-oniest of holdouts -- I'm talking skydiving with a parachute attached to brass knuckles -- Sony recommitted to Gravity Rush 2 at Tokyo Game Show 2015 with its first proper trailer and a 2016 release ...
Hyrule Warriors photo
Hyrule Warriors

Hyrule Warriors requires New 3DS to play in 3D

Needed the additional processing power
Sep 21
// Kyle MacGregor
While Hyrule Warriors Legends, an updated Nintendo 3DS port of last year's action game, will be compatible with older models of the portable, its stereoscopic 3D effects will not. Speaking with 4Gamer at Tokyo Game Show, prod...
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider trailer shows off hot grappling hook action

Also: tomb exploding
Sep 21
// Darren Nakamura
Lara Croft probably has some sort of death wish. Mountain climbing can be good exercise and recreation, but I don't think anybody in her right mind would swing from a grappling hook, launch 30 feet, then catch on a vertical r...

So, let's talk about Metal Gear Solid V's ending

Sep 18 // Chris Carter
As it turns out, a lot of people I talked to during review week didn't actually see the real ending. They assumed that when Huey left Mother Base, that was it. But there's a secret conclusion beyond that, which unlocks after a certain amount of missions have been completed -- you know, those retread ones on higher difficulty settings, and/or a combination of Side Ops. If you need a refresher, watch it here: [embed]311489:60440:0[/embed] I was lucky enough (well, it wasn't luck, it was skill and hard work, haha) to see this ending before I completed my review. But like everyone else, I have mixed feelings towards it. For one, especially with the removal of the post-game Eli mission, it definitely feels like Konami cut funding for Kojima and his team. It was likely that it happened when all the drama surrounding Kojima first started, and the publisher probably felt that his team wouldn't be able to deliver the game on time. Who knows, maybe the microtransactions were added in as collateral to make back a portion of the massive Phantom Pain budget. We may never know the full details for sure (it's a good bet that Kojima had to sign an NDA), but we do know that the production was troubled. In that vein, while I did enjoy the 30-ish minutes of tapes that sufficiently linked Metal Gear Solid V with the rest of the games in the series (featuring heavy conversations that essentially close out Zero's storyline), they were just that -- tapes. This may be the last game in the entire series, and fans were left with a text crawl and tapes to provide most of the details. That isn't to say I thought it ruined the game -- far from it. I actually enjoyed listening to that audio, particularly the logs with Zero and Skull Face, and I was literally on the edge of my seat as some revelations were uncovered. As a fan, it was basically everything I could ask for. Plus, Guns of the Patriots was a fine enough true ending for the entire franchise. As far as the Big Boss twist goes, I'm on the fence. I don't think it cheapens the character, because he still exists, and causes trouble later on throughout the storyline. Additionally, Metal Gear has always dabbled in the concept of "the legend" being stronger than the actual person (especially in Snake Eater), so it makes perfect sense within the confines of the series. Also, if you've been following the game for the past few years, Kojima and company have been hinting at this for some time, in a fairly clever manner. Even small nods like Kaz saying "what about him?" in a trailer, referring to someone else other than Big Boss, and the medic scene in the helicopter at the end of Ground Zeroes were clues. I feel like this long game only partially paid off for Kojima, but I disagree with those who say that the ending "sucked." Still, my initial years-old prediction of the last part of the game being a remake of the first MSX title, featuring a surprise appearance by David Hayter as Solid Snake to Kiefer Sutherland's Big Boss didn't happen, and it would have been pretty cool to see. But what did you think? I've already seen angles from all sides of the debate, and since the game has been out long enough, I figured this was the perfect time to gather some thoughts on the issue.
Metal Gear Solid V photo
Did it?
Enough time has passed, to the point where we can safely talk about the ending to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. As a common sense sort of reminder, this post below will contain spoilers. The comments will contain spoilers. This is a spoiler-heavy post about spoilers. Spoilers.

If you enjoyed Resident Evil HD, you'll probably like the Zero remake

Sep 18 // Chris Carter
As for my hands-on session with the game, I ended up coming away satisfied. As a whole it looked even more detailed than Resident Evil HD (the fur on spiders was particularly impressive, as were the flame and steam effects), and the action was incredibly smooth, especially when coupled with the updated control scheme. You're still going to brave the unknown with Rebecca and Billy, and in addition to a quick switching mechanic, you can also control the non-playable character with the right analog stick -- so, just like the original, there's no dumb, meandering AI that sits there while an enemy gets carte blanche to lay into them. Some people probably aren't going to take to a lot of the legacy features though. Like the last remaster there's still the same "door opening" sequences (originally built for tension, but are now admittedly a tad dated), there's still cheesy cutscenes done in the style of the original game (in other words, they aren't upgraded in any way), and although the controls have been given a makeover, it's still very much an old school Resident Evil game. According to Tsukasa Takenaka that's completely ok. When asked if he considered Resident Evil Zero an essential title in the series, he responded, "of course! The thing about Resident Evil is the more you play, the more you get out of it. So with Zero, you're really getting that whole backstory on the first game, such as Wesker's motivations, the story of the mansion, and more. It's unfortunately one of the less played games in the series, but I think it's really important and essential to the overall big picture." I went on to ask about Capcom's strategy to focus more on remasters and remakes, and how that was going for them. Takenaka noted that "overall yes it's been a positive move. We really want to respond to fan feedback, and those fans asked for more remasters. It's a priority for us to answer that call." I immediately followed that up with asking him what Resident Evil game would be his ideal remaster project, to which he replied, "Outbreak, definitely." Good man. As a fan of Wesker I definitely wanted to ask for more information on the upcoming Wesker Mode in Zero, and Takenaka had a few things to say on that front -- "yes, Wesker Mode is going to be the toy you play with after you're done with the game. It's a stress reliever, a lot like the rocket launcher or infinite ammo options in some of the other games. Here, Billy is replaced with Wesker. He has kinetic powers, and a powerful dash, but Rebecca is unchanged. He's kind of like a power-up, and he's based on the Resident Evil 5 version of the character, which is voiced by DC Douglas. Puzzled as to why the remakes haven't featured a full-on Mercenaries mode in the style of the newer entries, Takenaka said that he really wanted the team to add new features, and not tread on old ground again. Going on, he stated, "well if you remember, Zero had a mode called 'Leech Hunter,' and we're of course keeping that in with the remake. But we wanted to do something new too, so Wesker Mode was born. Also, the camera angles don't really work very well with Mercenaries, since we're going by the old game's camera." Takenaka then shared his vision for these remakes (with a reminder that Resident Evil 2 is being remade as well -- sadly, he wouldn't respond to my inquiry for details on that project), noting that his main motivation was to allow younger fans to "catch up" if they missed out on the older entries or didn't own the hardware necessary to play them. "This is not a signpost of a future direction" he added. Really, if every old Resident Evil game up to the fourth main iteration is remade, I'll be happy. I'd love to try out Resident Evil 3 in HD, and if Takenaka has his way, Outbreak HD on a modern online network. Capcom is trying a whole lot of things right now with mixed success, but this seems to be working, and the fans seem to want it.
Resident Evil Zero photo
Hands-on with producer Tsukasa Takenaka
Resident Evil HD was pretty freaking great. Finally, Capcom stopped fumbling around with the franchise (I liked some parts of 6 well enough, but could have done without it), and went back to its roots. It's a polari...

PSO 2 photo

After playing the PS4 version, PSO 2 needs to come out right now overseas

Do it, Sega
Sep 18
// Chris Carter
It's no secret that I've been pining for a western release for Phantasy Star Online 2 for quite a while now. I'm hesistant to install the international version of the game, mostly because all of my friends are waiting on true...
Dark Souls photo
Dark Souls

Get in on the Dark Souls III beta

You'll need a PlayStation 4 and PS Plus
Sep 18
// Jordan Devore
My favorite part of this beta sign-up page for Dark Souls III is that you can shake the guy by wiggling your mouse from side to side. Life's a lot more fun when you treasure the little things. Anyway, the actual beta registra...

I waited an hour and a half to play Gravity Rush PS4

Sep 17 // Steven Hansen
[embed]311208:60428:0[/embed] Look at this collector's edition! I haven't touched one since Catherine and didn't expect to go for one again, but I'm getting real into this. The original box art, expanded across a giant box, a very nice figure, and then that new, minimal black and white art. So good. Maybe I should just buy some real big Gravity Rush art to hang. Gravity Rush is already my favorite-looking game and it has translated perfectly to PlayStation 4. Anime blends into French comic aesthetic. Distinct regional skies are vibrant, varicolored oil paintings. Pointed line work serves as draw distance, as if the world was alive, sketching itself out in front of you as you soar about with the most invigorating locomotion. The controls, too, felt fine. The DualShock 4 accurately replaces the Vita gyro and if you're anything like me you "aim" the direction of gravity shifts with the sticks, anyways, and that's maybe even a little easier with full-size analog sticks. I'll happily play the first again when it comes to PS4 (February 9, 2016 in the states) and thank existential crises that, two years after it was first teased, we finally got a trailer for Gravity Rush 2 (and 2016's goty, c'mon). [embed]311208:60429:0[/embed]
TGS hands-on photo
Because I am stupid and I love it
I was surprised at Tokyo Game Show. It wasn't that there were melon-breasted anime women making out with each other in a trailer casually playing all about Sony's booth. It was that the line for Gravity Rush (Gravity Daze her...

Dark Souls @ TGS photo
Dark Souls @ TGS

Dark Souls III looks good at Tokyo Game Show

Albeit familiar
Sep 17
// Jordan Devore
I'm with Chris in that I don't see myself getting tired of From Software's action-RPGs anytime soon. Fatigue hasn't set in yet. That said, the opening areas of Dark Souls III aren't exactly fresh. See for yourself! This footage from TGS 2015 covers the same stuff Steven and Chris previewed.
Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir photo
Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is like a whole new game

A massive framerate upgrade from PS2
Sep 17
// Chris Carter
Odin Sphere was one of the first games I played with my wife, and we had a perfect system. She would play a lot of the core areas during the day, and at night, I would plant seeds, gather food, and level up while she took a n...
Nioh photo

Lookin' real good, Nioh

Sengoku action-RPG about slaying demons
Sep 17
// Jordan Devore
What stands out to you at Tokyo Game Show 2015? Nioh, yeah? It's got that Onimusha / Souls thing going for it, which is a damn good thing to have. More details have come out for the Koei Tecmo and Team Ninja action-RPG, as re...

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