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Noon VR photo
Noon VR

Noon VR is a neat home experience, but the tech is very limited

Far from true VR
Oct 02
// Chris Carter
As most of you know, I'm not completely sold on VR yet. I mean, I actually really like the tech, it's very cool, but I'm literally not sold on it. I've had a full-time job basically since I was 15, so I could genera...
Medic photo

Heroes of the Storm's Medic is the dedicated healer we needed

Not a hybrid
Sep 29
// Chris Carter
Kharazim is probably my favorite character in Heroes of the Storm at the moment, but it's about time that we got the StarCraft healer we've always wanted with Lt. Morales, the Medic. With a number of supports e...
Tony Hawk 5 photo
Tony Hawk 5

You should probably hold off on buying Tony Hawk 5 for now
Sep 29
// Chris Carter
As you may have heard, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 is a bit glitchy. Now, this shouldn't come as a complete shock. Developer Robomodo, who has handled the series since 2009, hasn't had the best track record with Ride, ...

Cities: Skylines After Dark exposes the sexlessness of being an incompetent planner

Sep 28 // Steven Hansen
[embed]312756:60532:0[/embed] 17:28 I dragged one of our cat trees -- the one with the abandoned dumbbells weighing it down -- and set a pillow in front of it so I could sit in the middle of the living room, closer to the TV. I do not have my contacts in or the energy to put my contacts in. I am sitting on an inflatable, portable seat one might take to sit on bleachers in a stadium and my lower half is wrapped in a throw blanket. My feet tap at the entertainment center and I worry I will turn the Xbox One on. Fuck. I actually just turned the Xbox One on. This isn't even even a joke (not unlike much of my humor). I started writing fearing I’d forget whatever fevered nonsense was my dreamt-up angle and I just kicked the fucking thing on. Jesus. I am a slightly less put-together city planner than whomever drew up the East Coast. 17:36 The newsfeed in the new "After Dark"-tinged menu reads: "Problems Loading/Creating Cities? Click Here for the Solution!" After turning the Xbox on I am anticipating problems and feel like preemptively asking for the solution. 17:38 All my strength is going towards not choosing the "Diamond Coast" map for a new game because its "Suitable area for building" is 69%. I already can’t figure out which map best represents Tokyo or remember what "boreal" means. Google tells me. Google also tells me Diamond Coast is a place in Ireland, which I bet is a lot like Japan, so that’s why I have picked it after all (and not for the 69). 17:43 Oh my god the tutorial text is so small. 17:45 Building roads and also not drawing penises with the roads, a good start. 17:49 Oh god, not only are there curved roads, but there are elevated roads. This has become roller coaster tycoon. This is not like Japan at all. I have built an enormous ramp to nowhere, to the end of the known world. Oh god, there are tunnels, too? I tried to connect a tunnel to the outside world but it’s just a half-mile dead end under the outlying freeway. And it connects to a giant series of roads in my town. I thought this would work. 17:55 It’s nighttime now and it looks very ominous. The people are wanting for every single basic necessity: power, water, waste treatment, internet, a fancy cheese shop. It is a miracle they found their way into town at all. The elevated road to nowhere is lit up, dotted on both side with street lamps, but they are not plugged in, there is no power grid. They must be getting power by much more arcane means. 18:06 Japan is clean and forward thinking. I erected a wind turbine. A water pumping station and sewage treatment plant sit on the fraction of coast I have available, far from the inept roads and angry citizens. I think I correctly put the waste dumping bit down stream so as to not feed them poop. The water pipes and those two facilities make an amateurish rhombus. Nighttime again and the wind turbine glows in the distance away from civilization next to...palm trees? I do not think Ireland has palm trees and I do no think that Tokyo has palm trees, but my childhood home in San Francisco did have a giant palm tree in the backyard. Things don’t always make sense. My citizen’s thirst and high-maintenance demand for electricity sated, I zoom into this mess to hear dogs barking and birds chirping. It almost resembles a suburb, just drawn up by a child with limited spatial awareness and even less Lego blocks. The "needs" bubbles hovering atop each household look like guns. No, citizens. You are supposed to be Japan, not America. Cease this gun lust. 18:13 Those were not cartoon guns; they were sewage pipes. I have messed up the sewage. Peoples' homes are filled with shit. 18:21 I fixed it. I forgot to supply power to the sewage treatment plant. Unfortunately by the time I did it was in the most roundabout possible way and I ran out of money. I do not know what is more ominous: 1) the game’s zoomed-out soundtrack or 2) the din of suburbia when you zoom into multi-level blue homes and the lives of little people who don’t know their lives are being governed by an idiot who turned the Xbox on with his foot and has a quarter-mile, below-ground tunnel leading to a dead end. The streets look like the Windows 3D pipes animated screen saver or a badly played game of Snake. 18:29 The sound design in this game is terrifying. The commercial district is a roar of trucks and storefront shutters. The yakisoba joint advertises "tasty noodles" but that is a lie. It has no water running to it as I have run out of money. The game is warning me of bankruptcy. It offers me a $50,000 bailout with 0% interest, 0 monthly cost. If only real life would be so kind. I reject it. I would rather let my citizens suffer than accept charity. 18:42 I tried to continue the road to nowhere and bring it down into a new industrial sector and, good lord, look. Cars are driving up it now and doing impossible 180 degree turns and I feel ill. 18:51 I have reached a population of 500. I am a "Little Hamlet," in that I too am poisoned by inefficacy and unable to avenge Tokyo by making it in this video game. My state is rotten. 18:53 I consider building a hospital across from two landfills. 20:01 Someone has died. I have built my first cemetery. I bleed money. I have taken as many loans as possible. I cannot seem to build enough firehouses. My city burns. Businesses demand more educated workers. It asks to build public transport, but I am poor. I raise taxes and people riot. My city of 3,500 does not have the glorious neon of Tokyo. The endless high rises and suffocating streets and touts and steep stairwells. My citizens tweet hashtags unironically, like morons. 20:12 I build a cemetery (for real this time; the bodies must have been rotting) and hundreds of green smiley faces erupt from local residences. Same. My city of 5,000 is a far cry from Tokyo's 13.35 million. And, as evidenced, I am not so competent to tell you how dramatic things like setting different daytime and nighttime budgets for utilities go on to affect your success. Really, I don't think Cities has ever been too challenging, as it has twice now accommodated my complete lack of forethought and neighborhood building by way of penciling in the margins and connecting with carets and arrows. But the day and night cycle itself is quite beautiful and the additions like prisons, taxis, bus terminals, bikers, and international airports all work towards making a more robust simulator helping you build whatever nightmare town your heart desires. Me, I'm going to dip into the mod sections and recreate High Planes Drifter.
After Dark impressions photo
More like 'shitty planning'
And here I thought being a public official would get me laid. It turns out any clout built up by being the sole city planner gets et up when the citizens' homes are filled with sewage because of your incompetence. Having just...

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 ...

Destiny is looking better than ever after one week of The Taken King

Sep 21 // Alissa McAloon
Rather than draw background from the original hodgepodge of a story, The Taken King builds off the plot from The Dark Below expansion. After killing Crota in the Crota's End raid, the Hive prince's daddy Oryx is out for revenge. Oryx stomps into the solar system with a massive spaceship and an army of Taken soldiers. The return of the Hive monarchy also means Eris Morn is once again a major player, and she's somehow gone even further off the deep end this time around. The difficulty of The Taken King spans largely from Oryx's Taken army. The Taken are just that; familiar enemies that have been stolen and corrupted by Oryx to present new abilities and new challenges. Taken Phalnaxes now fire bursts of energy from their shields that send you flying through the air, and sometimes to your death. Taken Psyons spontaneously divide and multiply, and Taken Minotaurs are invisible. And yes, Invisible Minotaurs are just about as terrifying as you'd think. Additionally, Oryx's army has invaded Destiny's year one content. While running strike playlists, the enemies will sometimes be replaced with their Taken variants. You'll be spending a lot of your time running strikes to grind up your light level, and Taken invasions thankfully keep that from getting dull. The first few minutes of The Taken King introduce more narrative bliss to Destiny than the game saw in its entire year-one cycle. Characters that once only populated the tower and sold the occasional item now drive the story of Destiny forward. Bungie finally took full advantage of the vocal talent it had on roster by letting Nathan Fillion's character Cayde-6 take point. Cayde's screw-the-rules approach to taking on Oryx often clashes with the more uptight ideas of the Warlock and Titan vanguard. This bit of rebellion propels the story forward and makes the whole experience way more engaging than Destiny's original "select mission, shoot aliens, don't ask questions" approach to storytelling. Aside from the overhauled light level system, the best change to come to Destiny year two is how missions are handled. Before, any story mission was just highlighted on the world map, while multi-part quests were handed out as bounties. Some of the early plot missions are still delivered this way, but the majority of missions are instead given as quests. A new quest tab in the menu is home to a variety of quests that range from crucible objectives to extended story missions. Exotic weapon quests now show up here, rather than taking up a precious bounty slot. Quests are usually multi-step experiences that require players to complete an objective and then report back to a character in the Tower or Reef. The system works wonderfully to deliver a steady stream of objectives and direction without being intrusive or demanding. The new subclasses are also pretty cool. I main a Warlock and the Stormcaller class is almost too much fun. It's hard to resist cackling like an idiot when your Warlock is gliding around chaining lightning bolts between enemies. I haven't been able to Stormcall in PvP yet without getting my butt handed to me, but I'm sure someone a bit more skilled could easily dominate with it. The Titan's Sunbreaker class is just as fun. Hurling flaming hammers at enemies, both in PvE and PvP, can quickly turn the tide of battle in your favor. I still haven't rolled a Hunter, but I've been in fireteams with some using the new Nightstalker class. Their super ability, Shadowshot, allows them to silence, slow, and tether enemies to a fixed point. Used in conjunction with any of the other two new subclasses, Shadowshot is a thing of beauty. So far, The Taken King has brought a lot of improvements to the overall Destiny experience. If you haven't taken the leap and tried Destiny yet, now might be the time to do it. I know I'm a bit more in love with the game than Chris Carter, but maybe this will be the expansion to change his mind. His review will be coming in the near future, but in the mean time, check out Destructoid's reviews for Destiny and its first two expansions, The Dark Below and House of Wolves.
Destiny: The Taken King photo
Warlock is still the best class
It's almost been one week since Oryx got his claws into Destiny and things couldn't be better. The Taken King expansion, along with the 2.0 patch released earlier on, reworked Destiny's entire leveling system and quest progr...

Pokken Tournament photo
Pokken Tournament

Pokken Tournament is a fun, deep little brawler

Hands-on during TGS
Sep 21
// Chris Carter
I'm still out here in Japan to cover TGS, and even though this is just my first time in the country, I'm already itching to come back. You only need to walk a few blocks to see video game and anime references everywhere, as T...
Disney Magical World 2 photo
Disney Magical World 2

Disney Magical World 2 is pushing the Frozen property pretty hard

Much to my chagrin
Sep 19
// Chris Carter
So, Frozen. I must be one of the only people on the planet who doesn't like it. I mean, I love Elsa -- it's about time Idina Menzel and her amazing voice got the respect she deserves -- but the rest, including most of th...
Monster Hunter Spirits photo
Monster Hunter Spirits

Monster Hunter Spirits is housed in a really cool arcade cabinet

With premium 1000 yen lockets
Sep 19
// Chris Carter
One of the biggest reasons for wanting to visit Japan as a kid was the prospect of setting foot into a Japanese arcade. The flashing lights, the sounds emanating throughout the street, the cavalcade of new games fresh on the ...

Monster Hunter Diary contains pure silliness, with plenty of cats

Sep 18 // Chris Carter
Diary DX is very much like Animal Crossing, or in a more relevant but more obscure comparison, Disney's Magical World. It's part simulator in the sense that you can roam around talking to other Palicos in the Monster Hunter universe, but the end goal is to participate in a bunch of mini-games located within each micro hub. The hub itself is made of different spokes, with the ability to fast travel instantly with the tap of the bottom screen. Palicos are front and center here, inhabiting each realm and going along for the mini-game rides. During my time with the demo I was able to play two such micro-games -- a pig race, and a Patapon-like sidescrolling adventure sequence. The former sees players betting on pig-riding Palicos, with the power to control a single rider, jumping over logs and other obstacles in the race for first. It's simple, and not something I'd likely want to do more than a few times in total. The Patapon bit was a tad more enjoyable, as it provides options as you follow a set path, like the choice to eat a mushroom, ignore it, or harvest the ingredients -- likewise, enemies can be approached with a stealth or combat option. For the most part, this seems really geared towards Monster Hunter fans, and it's something that the younger audience would enjoy more than a seasoned veteran of the franchise. Monster Hunter Diary DX was recently released this past week in Japan, with Mario and Tom Nook costumes. There's still no word on a localization, but it might be possible if the series continues to sell like gangbusters in the US.
Monster Hunter Diary DX photo
Did I mention the cats?
Monster Hunter Diary DX for the Nintendo 3DS is a silly game. That much is evident from watching the series of commercials presented on a nearby TV screen at TGS, which shows a variety of cats in a variety of different k...

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...
Phoenix Wright 6 photo
Phoenix Wright 6

Phoenix Wright 6's setting marks the biggest departure for the core series

Also, dead people vision
Sep 18
// Chris Carter
I'm pretty happy that Phoenix Wright has permeated throughout the gaming industry. He has a full-on combat appearance in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, his own live-action film, a crossover with Professor Layton, and now, as a summon i...
Street Fighter V Karin photo
Street Fighter V Karin

It'll take some time for me to warm up to Street Fighter V's Karin

I'm rusty since playing her in Alpha 3
Sep 18
// Chris Carter
I couldn't be happier with the injection of all things Alpha into Street Fighter V. I had the chance to talk to a Capcom representative about it lately, and they were in complete agreement, hinting that perhaps there will be more to come in terms of the Alpha comparisons. Excellent. Having said that, it took me a few rounds to acclimate to Karin. Hot damn am I rusty with her!

Rashid is easily one of my favorite new Street Fighter characters

Sep 17 // Chris Carter
To my surprise, Rashid's command moves were actually simple to execute. He has a few abilities that are done with the simple touch of two buttons at once, and most of his other moves can be done with one directional movement. Maneuverability is key with Rashid, as he has the power to do a front flip (which can cancel into multiple moves, Vega style), a roll (that can dodge projectiles), and even a wall jump. He's the personification of "easy to learn, tough to master." For those who aren't aware, Street Fighter V features V-Triggers (triggered by HP + HK), which basically function as a unique ability of sorts that exemplifies the type of fighter each character is. For instance, Ryu is known for his projectiles, so his V-Trigger Denjin Renki boost his moves, including a boost to his Shinku Hadoken. Rashid's V-Trigger is "Ysaar," a whirlwind that moves slightly forward and blocks the screen. The key here is that Rashid can move through the wall, slightly boosting his movement speed and altering his attacks. Players will have to be lightning quick to take advantage of this, because the effect fades rather quickly. Similarly, his Critical Art (super) Altair is an anti-air whirlwind, which looks and feels like Ken's Shouryuu Reppa. When combined with his dodges and rolls, Rashid becomes a very technical character that has an answer to almost everything, but will take a great deal of skill to use. A Capcom rep informed me that Street Fighter V would be taking a MOBA-style approach to DLC, offering up new content on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. As previously announced, players can earn in-game currency to pay for the DLC without having to fork over real cash. When asked about how much work would have to go into buying a single character, Capcom noted that they were still "testing the waters." As for my general thoughts on Street Fighter V, they are still very much positive. Although I had fun fighting my friends in IV, it just didn't feel like it captured the essence of so many classic games in the series. I see a lot of Alpha in Street Fighter V, and that makes me very happy.
Street Fighter photo
Hands-on with Street Fighter V
Street Fighter V has been pretty well received by the fighting game community, and it's not even slated to come out until early 2016. I enjoyed my time with the beta, and now, I got my hands on the latest build here at TGS, which includes a playable Rashid. I certainly didn't expect it, but I may have found a new main.

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...
Exist Archive preview photo
Exist Archive preview

Exist Archive looks great, but it has a lot to prove

It's nothing special so far
Sep 17
// Chris Carter
When Spike Chunsoft and tri-Ace announced Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky, I was supremely impressed with the visual style. As it turns out it looks even better in person, as I witnessed during my hands-on time with the TGS build. From a gameplay standpoint though I have some concerns, mostly stemming from the repetitive nature of the flow.

Sword Art Online plays so much better when you can fly

Sep 17 // Chris Carter
When I first started my demo session with Lost Song, it felt far too familiar for its own good. It has a very similar presentation, right down to the simplistic combo system (that's basically built on two attack types, dodging, and a few abilities), and the extremely samey zone that was almost a copy and paste job from its predecessor. However, there are a few minor enhancements along the way that Sword Art fans will recognize after digging in a bit, like the addition of a three-party group, and most notably, flying. With the touch of a button, players can soar up in the air, swooping about, or opt for a more deliberate glide maneuver, with a control scheme that's extremely precise in nature. It opens up your exploration options considerably, and cuts down on some of the monotony of traveling long distances. Plus, plenty of enemies inhabit the skies, so you'll be able to do some fighting along the way, alongside of tactical dodges and pursuit situations. By that same token, the world still feels a bit hollow and uninspired, showing its PS3-era roots. Flying is fun, but the areas that I could actually fly to in my demo weren't exactly riveting, mostly consisting of high-up vistas with no flair or unique rewards. Still, everything looks a tad more impressive on the PS4 in comparison to Hollow Fragment, which initially launched on the Vita before heading to the current generation just a few months ago. Sword Art Online: Lost Song will arrive in the US on November 17, 2015, on PS4 and Vita.
SAO preview photo
Other than that, it's par for the course
I had mixed thoughts on Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment last year, but ultimately I came away happy. Funnily enough, as someone who absolutely hated the second arc of the anime, I actually found the follow-up, Lost Song, to be a little more enjoyable based on my hands-on session at TGS. As it turns out, flying around in the world of ALfheim Online is quite a bit of fun.

My time with Bloodborne: The Old Hunters felt far too familiar

Sep 17 // Chris Carter
[embed]310920:60384:0[/embed] Based on this build, if I saw someone playing The Old Hunters, I wouldn't have really been able to tell that it took place in new areas. In short, the demo location is very similar to Central Yharnam, outside of one particular landmark hill that hosts a striking view of the sun. Even the enemies look and feel the same, down to the werewolves that you've encountered since the beginning of the core adventure, and of course Hunters, the humanoid foes that sport the same weaponry choices as the player character. The map itself felt rather linear, which may be a result of paring things down for a fast-paced TGS demo, but so far it lacks the sprawling feel of most of the Souls DLC. At the end of the demo I encountered a boss (Ludwig, who plays a role in the central lore) that looked like a demonic cross between a horse and an abomination of some sort, complete with features that felt similar to the Cleric Beast. The creature had a grand opening, as usual, with unconventional movement animations to boot, bringing it inline with the rest of the big bads in Bloodborne. It's not jaw-dropping or particularly difficult, but it fits nicely into the lore. Hopefully this horse-thing was just a palette cleanser. That lack of excitement kind of sums up my time with The Old Hunters. I mean, it's more Bloodborne so of course it's going to be good to an extent (there's nothing directly wrong here), but I'm not sure I'm sold on the prospect of paying $20 for it. When I first played Artorias of the Abyss or the three Dark Souls II DLCs, I was immediately swept into another world, which is how a paid expansion should feel. Stay tuned on our thoughts on the finished version later this year.
Bloodborne photo
It doesn't feel like a $20 expansion
When Bloodborne: The Old Hunters was announced, I was ecstatic to get back into the world of Yharnam again. After all, I beat Bloodborne three times after just one week with it, and thoroughly enjoyed the more action-oriented gameplay compared to its predecessors. Based on my playthrough of a demo at TGS however, my excitement has been curbed a bit.

Rexxar photo

Quick thoughts on Heroes of the Storm's Rexxar

Bear is driving! How can that be?
Sep 08
// Chris Carter
Heroes of the Storm is stepping away from the Diablo event as of today, and is focusing more on Warcraft and Starcraft in the coming months. The Treasure Goblins are out, and Rexxar, the half-orc half-ogre is in, with his partner Misha the bear (albeit with some launch issues for some). Here's some quick thoughts on whether or not he's worth your 15,000 gold.
Inside Out photo
Inside Out

Disney Infinity 3.0's Inside Out Play Set is the most child-oriented one yet

Good with kids
Sep 08
// Chris Carter
I was finally able to see Inside Out in theaters recently, and although I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, I mostly came away unimpressed. While I loved the internal bits with the emotions themselves (albeit, with...

I wish my dreams were as delightful as Dropsy

Sep 06 // Zack Furniss
Dropsy was once a beloved clown and hometown celebrity, and his discomforting visage was overridden by his ability to bring joy to all. He performed with his parents in a Big Top circus not far from a small town, until a horrible fire tarnished his life and reputation. Following his mother's death, Dropsy, his dog Eughh, and his father live in the remnants of the circus tent, trying to scrape together change via odd jobs to stay alive. Now that I've got you all good and sad, I want you to know that despite the tragedy Dropsy has endured, his primary motivation is to love everyone the way he wants to be loved. Even though he looks like an overall-clad specter caked in greasepaint, he wants to go around town and hug anyone who will let him. Problem is, most people aren't receptive to a damp, creepy clown getting any where near them. Dropsy's inability to speak to humans doesn't help, either. This is where the point & click puzzles come into play. Each character you meet has small cartoon bubbles over their heads that give you some hint as to what they want. A little girl might be upset that her flower isn't growing, or a homeless woman might be cold and starving. After interpreting these hints and solving a light puzzle (usually involving handing someone the correct item), you'll be able to hug them. I get the warm fuzzies each time I figure out what someone wants and earn that damn hug that Dropsy so desperately deserves. Surreal dreams and initial objectives (starting with placing a picture on your mother's grave) provide context for Dropsy's actions. A game where you're earning hugs might seem directionless to some, but the non-linear exploration in Dropsy punctuated by meaningful story beats was enough to keep me going through this beta. Whether I was getting closer to my father and learning how to deal with our new lives or fist-bumping a bouncer to earn his respect, my time as a clown felt well-spent. A day/night cycle brings in new people and challenges to interact with. I'm already becoming intimately familiar with these digital strangers as I find out what they want most. The lack of dialogue and text (which makes the game playable in any region!) add to this dreamlike world. Instead of listening to vocal perfomances, I'm interpreting people's needs based on small pictures and my surroundings, and so far the solutions always feel within reach and never far-fetched. Dropsy definitely isn't The Longest Journey, but I don't think I'd have it any other way. Chris Schlarb's music deserves special mention, as I rarely feel as optimistic as I do while playing Dropsy. The musical styles change from area to area and range from smooth jazz to a sort-of prog rock. Regardless of genre, it's always brimming with the earnestness you feel when you're about to tell someone you love them for the first time. The corners of my mouth felt like magnets of the same polarity of my chin, where no matter how bad my day was, a smile was going to happen. I'm probably a tad more than halfway through Dropsy now, but I'll have more to say in a review after the game's release on September 10.
Dropsy photo
More hugs, please
Dropsy: A Point & Click Hugventure is impossible to play without thinking of the phantasmagorical adventures we embark upon when we go to sleep. Its technicolor dreamscape and overwhelming positivity just might negate any coulrophobia you might harbour. There's a certain sentimentality that makes Dropsy a more compelling adventure game than I would have suspected.

Pokemon Shuffle Mobile photo
Pokemon Shuffle Mobile

Here's how Pokemon Shuffle Mobile stacks up to the 3DS version

Pros and cons
Sep 04
// Darren Nakamura
After about my 50th hour into Pokémon Shuffle for the 3DS, I regretted getting into it late. When it released, I did what most people do when they hear "free-to-play;" I tuned it out without giving it a second thought....

Tearaway Unfolded faithfully breaks the DualShock 4th wall

Sep 02 // Steven Hansen
Tearaway used fourth-wall breaking about as much as Metal Gear Solid, which still, with the recently released Phantom Pain, has a character tell you to, "use the stance button to stand up." That you are playing a video game is addressed, here through the physicality of the thing. Your own face in the sky, representations of your fingers popping up in the world. Unfolded's entire opening is new. It plays off the home console's position as a living room box, likely hooked up to a television with some kind of cable network. The two voices that narrate the story switch through a fake cable TV guide, hastily bypassing shows called "Rubbish" and flicking through commercials before coming to the conclusion that there's nothing to watch, that there's no good story. So we'll have to make our own. Actually, it's almost like the beginning of Metal Gear Solid 4. The first new PS4 feature is light. The triggers produced a beam of light in the world that reflects the light emitted by the DualShock 4. It even keeps the same triangle shape and shows up in the world as if you were pointing to the front of the controller like a flashlight. So far it's one of the only useful reasons for that light existing, save for draining battery life and then blinding me every time I tilt the thing up to find the charge port. [embed]308798:60230:0[/embed] The You's -- that's you -- light has different effects, from simply illuminating the new, dim intro to making plants grow to scraping inky newspaper Scraps from the construction paper world to hypnotizing enemies that will follow the beam of light off a cliff. It doesn't have the same punchy feel as poking at them with giant fingers from below, but it does its job of grounding the player in both the game world and real world in a novel way. It's too hell with immersion and that's fine. Due to my lack of the PlayStation camera, I did find myself wanting with regard to my self-portrait showing up in the hole in the sky. Even if on the Vita it was grainy and always the least flattering angle (I never held my arms parallel to the ground when I played), it is missed, here. Same with the ability to, say, reupholster an elk by taking a picture of my cat. Of course, if lower case you have a camera, it's possible to sustain these touches, or if you have a mic at the ready you can record an intimidating yell for your scarecrow. A new gust of wind ability replaces your ability to physically leaf through the environment. Instead of swiping a platform down on the Vita screen, you swipe the DualShock 4 touchpad in the desired direction you want to the wind to blow. Atoi, the messenger you guide through Tearaway, can also throw enemies and items up "through" the TV screen and into your controller, and then you can aim a reticle and swipe forward on the touchpad to shoot the projectile back onto the map, whether to bash an enemy or solve a puzzle. The touchpad is also used for the paper craft segments where you're tasked with making wings for the local butterflies or snow flakes to pepper your mountain climb (I went again with some nice pink cherry blossoms). It works alright, but the lack of real estate makes precision hard. You might consider the companion app, which would give you (or a friend) a larger drawing surface, but, again, I don't want to be fiddling with three extra pieces of technological accessories just to get the same effect the Vita bundled up. Tearaway Unfolded isn't as elegant or holistic an experience as it was on Vita because of additional technical needs, but significant effort has gone to reproducing the same effects in new ways. It's pretty as hell, too, holding its own with anything on the PS4 despite its humble beginnings. New areas have been built from scratch, parts extended, others cut. No more log rolling troubles, which is the only Vita feature that bugged the hell out of me. A lot of care went into Unfolded. It may be another tacit admission that the Vita is dead, but at least this incredible, surprising game did not die with it.
Tearaway PS4 port photo
Challenging PS4 port flashes Metal Gear
Tearaway was the zenith of the PlayStation Vita. While many fine games have hit the platform since, few have been exclusive and original, and none used every inch of the Vita's additional capabilities to as good effect. That ...

So, how's Gears of War's multiplayer at launch?

Aug 25 // Brett Makedonski
Between last night and this afternoon, I have a fair sample size of matches under my belt. I'm maybe one percent of the way toward the "Seriously..." Achievement, which doesn't sound like much, but it is. The only issue I've encountered was about five seconds of lag at the beginning of one match. Otherwise, everything's been silky smooth. There's one non-performance issue that I have a problem with, however. The War Journal offers multiplayer statistics, but not on how close you are to earning the different Achievements. (If I'm not mistaken, this is a feature that Gears of War 3 implemented quite nicely.) Likewise, Xbox One's "snap an app" feature doesn't track that progress either. The sole indicator is a counter that pops up after a match in which you've hit a milestone toward that Achievement. Hopefully a fix is coming for that. That one insignificant complaint aside, this game holds up its end of the bargain with regard to multiplayer. After the Halo: The Master Chief Collection snafu (that may still be on-going to some degree), it was important for Microsoft to emphatically stick the landing on this one. Fortunately, it lives up to the excellent standard set by the rest of Gears of War Ultimate Edition.
Gears of War photo
Silky smooth so far
I have a novel concept for you: What if a major video game releases and its multiplayer component just works? Like, there isn't a bunch of drama and patches and updates and apologies; instead, you get to play the game immedia...

Superhot is more of a turn-based puzzle RTS than an FPS

Aug 19 // Laura Kate Dale
As someone who sucks at first-person shooters due to their twitch reaction nature, this focus on a slower, almost puzzle-based approach to combat really suited me. I got to feel like the potential to be a badass gun-wielding VR murderer was truly within me. One of the aspects of the game I had managed to stay completely oblivious to before playing Superhot was the narrative and plot presentation. Everything is presented to you as being part of a hacked video game that seems to be taking over people's minds and devouring some innate part of them. The creepy glitch aesthetic of the presentation, alongside the slow build of a maddening descent into complicity really gave a creepy weight to the gameplay systems at hand. I was in control of the gameplay, but I was certainly not in control of the plot. That juxtaposition was really interesting and something I had no idea Superhot was planning to throw at me. My biggest take away from finally getting my hands on Superhot was simply that it seems to be living up to the potential that it's early, eye-catching trailers promised. The gameplay system is polished, level design is tightly refined and the narrative presentation around that core is intriguing and uniquely presented. Superhot looked cool in trailers, and the chunk of time I've spent with it reassures me that this is going to be something special when it launches.
Superhot preview photo
Take it slow and steady
Superhot has been the talk of the town ever since it was first shown off to the world. A first person shooter where the action slows to a near stop unless you're currently moving, the game's visual style and odd momentum are ...

Revelations 2 Vita photo
Revelations 2 Vita

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is not so great on Vita, stick to the console version

Framerate issues
Aug 18
// Chris Carter
Despite the polarized reception, I loved Resident Evil: Revelations 2. It might have something to do with the fact that I beat the entire core game, as well as every Raid Mode level with a co-op partner, but I had a blast ev...

You don't need a GamePad to play ZombiU

Aug 18 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]306573:60033:0[/embed] Still, it's not anywhere near a deal-breaker. The Xbox One controller and DualShock 4 are serviceable in their one-button press menu summoning. It all just requires a little bit more care. Honestly, if you're playing Zombi carelessly, menu navigation is the least of your concerns. There are some other slight drawbacks in the Xbox One version of Zombi. Textures and character models seem a bit outdated, which can be expected from a game that launched before current consoles released. Also, the frame-rate tends to dip when action gets too thick. Those annoyances are nothing too detrimental to Zombi, though. The captivating environment and the unique survivor-after-survivor gameplay easily overshadow the flaws. And, we shouldn't view the switch from GamePad to regular controllers as a downgrade; we should view it as a fantastic opportunity for a wider audience to experience everything Zombi has to offer.
Zombi impressions photo
Well, just 'Zombi' now
To date, ZombiU has been one of the best (and only) non-Nintendo published Wii U exclusives. It has turned into something of a cult classic, as many have praised the way that it felt more like a survival game and resiste...

Rocket League DLC photo
Rocket League DLC

Rocket League's Supersonic Fury DLC is cooler than I expected

Love that new pearlescent paint finish
Aug 14
// Darren Nakamura
Rocket League just released two DLC packs: Utopia Coliseum is a new arena to play in and is available for free while Supersonic Fury contains a host of new car customization options and runs about four bucks. The two new cars...

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