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Impressions

Roy's not quite our same boy in the new Super Smash Bros.

Jun 14 // Chris Carter
First off, it has to be said that Roy is even less similar to his Fire Emblem brethren in this game. He wields his sword backwards, which provides him with a unique set of animations, as well as different hitboxes for his attacks. Roy is a much more close-combat oriented fighter than Marth or Lucina, with nearly all of his attacks, including his neutral-B charge move, sporting a smaller distance. There's no tipping here -- Roy does most of his damage up close with the hilt, and feels completely different right off the bat. In addition to his neutral charge he also has his patented upwards slash, counter, and forward/backward sword combo. Don't dismiss him as a clone though, as all of these moves have different timings and animations to get used to. Take his Up-B -- it's a tad slower, but it hits multiple times, so you don't have to worry about executing it perfectly. Everything else is best used close-up, due to the lack of a tip-damage bonus. As a general rule, Roy is also speedier, so you won't be able to acclimate as a Marth or Lucina main immediately without getting a feel for how he moves. Oh, and his grabs are much better at setting up combos. Out of all of the Fire Emblem characters in the game, he likely has the most depth. While Ryu is a sexier brand new addition and Lucas is a fan favorite, I think Roy will end up being the best part of this DLC drop today as more veterans get their hands on them. Out of all three, he's my personal favorite. In fact, he really puts Lucina in an odd spot, as she feels less relevant when compared to both Marth and Roy's uniqueness. Yep, the crowd still chants "Roy's our boy" -- amazing.
Roy Smash photo
He's changed for the better
When playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, I always tended to side with Marth. I dug his aesthetic, his animations, and his moveset over Roy. But with the release of his DLC incarnation in the new Super Smash Bros., Roy is now my boy.

Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is yet another competent port

Jun 12 // Mike Cosimano
[embed]293774:58944:0[/embed] Payday 2: Crimewave Edition (Xbox One [reviewed], PS4)Developer: Overkill SoftwarePublisher: 505 GamesReleased: June 12, 2015 MSRP: $49.99 In Payday 2, you're a gang of criminals in Washington, D.C, intimately familiar with the ins and outs of crime and crime-related activities. You and three friends (or AI partners if that's how you roll) apply this skillset liberally, transforming places where once there was no crime into a veritable haven of villainy. In some ways, you could say the Payday Pals are some kind of wave...of crime. These dirty deeds range from bank robbery, to jewelry store robbery, to museum robbery, to art gallery robbery, to murder. To be fair, unless your team is quite good, each mission ends with a sizable body count, so there's murder to be found in just about every mission. This is a sticking point with Payday 2 -- it's very difficult to pull off a controlled heist. Even if you're rolling with a team of people you know and everybody's using microphones, there are still a lot of unknown factors and most of the best stealth gear is locked behind dozens of hours worth of progress. Since the core shooting is tight and responsive, stealth attempts quickly transitioning into explosive gunfights was never a genuine problem. At first blush, locking different approaches behind progression is at the very least disingenuous, but if you're going to be playing the game for that long anyway, rewarding time spent with variety is a smart play. But in this case, appreciating design must take a backseat to player enjoyment. Pistol suppressors -- a crucial tool for stealth missions -- are either the luck of the draw or hidden behind some labyrinth of menus. It's impossible to tell which. Although there's a limited pool of missions, I never saw them all in my 16 hours with the game. This is partially because I spent time grinding out shorter, easier missions for cash and experience, but there's still a fairly respectable amount of content available. Since Crimewave Edition comes with all the DLC released up to that point, there's a lot even beyond the missions. There's more guns, a new character class, and even new characters (including a female member of the Payday Pals, and the boogeyman himself: John Wick). Something also has to be said for the game's atmosphere. When the relentless, driving soundtrack kicks in right as a fresh wave of pigs rush your crew, it's hard to not get swept up in the moment. I'll always choose stealth over action, but I never felt the need to restart a heist in Payday 2 because I had grown accustomed to the combat -- it had become a regular part of life in this fictional capital. Maybe there's something there about the normalization of violence, about how the endless war of attrition between the law and those who operate outside it only serves to perpetuate a culture of death -- when the authorities perform a show of force, perhaps they are creating the very criminals they seek to apprehend. Look, there are a lot of re-releases in stores right now, and even more coming this year. More often than not, they are slight, if competent, upgrades from the last batch of consoles. They've got nothing on the PC versions, but not everyone can afford a monster rig. Payday 2 is reasonably engaging, and the Crimewave Edition works as advertised. The framerate is solid, which is a nice bonus. But this is still a slightly new wrapper on a two-year-old game. Know this, at the very least: if you choose to skip this game in the hopes of drawing a line in the sand regarding split-gen ports, there are worse titles to pass over.
Payday 2: Crimewave photo
Yeah, I'm thinking I'm back
Much like the president from Resident Evil 6, the last generation of games has risen from the dead to feast on the living. We’ve seen so many remasters, remaster collections, and straight ports in the past year that it ...

Based on the new demo, I have a good feeling about Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Jun 11 // Chris Carter
[embed]293784:58947:0[/embed] The first ever playable build of the game that's been released to the public features three levels -- a water ruins location, a desert, and an action sequence that takes place on a conveyor belt. The first two heavily feature transformations, which thankfully have returned after their absence in Pirate's Curse. For the first stage you'll have the opportunity to change into Shantae's classic monkey form, which can climb up walls and jump with ease, and on the second, she sports a crab transformation with heavy defensive capabilities. As always, her new forms are downright adorable. Unlike Mighty No. 9, which doesn't match its great gameplay with a similarly impressive visual style (it still looks a little bland), Half-Genie Hero is gorgeously hand-drawn. In other words, it looks almost exactly like the concept art: a rarity these days. It also plays great, as the simplistic three-button system (jump, attack, and dance for transformations) works perfectly even in this early build. I dig the bright settings, platforming design, and art direction. Get a look at two of the stages above yourself -- you'll have plenty of time to decide on whether or not to pull the trigger, as WayForward has made it clear that there is still no solid release window for Half-Genie Hero.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero photo
Three levels in Early Access
Back in 2013, WayForward crowdfunded a new project by way of Kickstarter called Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, the fourth game in the storied Shantae series. It managed to raise almost a million dollars in funding, whic...

League of Legends roundup: Azir, Kalista, Rek'Sai, Bard, and Ekko

Jun 09 // Chris Carter
Azir's whole gimmick is that he summons Sand Soldier units, which are statues of sorts. They're not really their own entities with health bars, however -- more like extensions of Azir, who is a mage first, marksman second. His soldiers cannot be targeted, which makes him fun (or a pain against) in the laning phase. He's also great at chasing as he can dash to his soldiers using his E. One of the best things about Azir is his innate ability to summon Sun Discs in place of destroyed towers, which creates a mini-tower for a limited period of time. He's very hard to get used to, but a worthy addition to League. I have a lot of fun using him in ARAM, but I believe he is a viable competitive Champion with the right composition. Kalista is a weird character, with a variety of different ranged attacks as a marksman. She can become "Oathsworn" with another ally, essentially boosting her stats and her damage while they are near each other or attack the same target. As you can probably tell, this requires a ton of communication, or at least, a lot of trust with one other player. While winding up her standard skillshot, you can cancel with a quick click to lunge in a direction -- think of it like a free dash. She can also send a ghost out to sentry, and her ultimate can "call" her Oathsworn player to her if they so choose to answer said call (with a range limit), which is also a knock-up. All in all I wouldn't say that she's a particularly interesting Champion, but going in with another friend and laning as Oathsworn buddies can be fun. She's also considered one of the most competitive Champions in recent months, though I won't be using her consistently. Rek'Sai is a bug who fulfills the fighter role, and does what many bugs do best -- she burrows. As one of her chief abilities, burrowing will modify all of her other powers. For instance, an ability that would buff her next three basic attacks is now a skillshot, and she can create tunnel exits to burrow back to, but burrowing does negate basic attacks, and thus, your damage output. Where Rek'Sai excels is mobility. She can quickly get from place to place, allowing her to assist in teamfights, small skirmishes, and when necessary, jungle situations. I enjoyed her as a whole more than Azir and Kalista, and it seems as if the community has taken to her as well. She was re-balanced shortly after her release, and a new nerf is on the way that may take her down a peg overall. Bard the support has an awesome aesthetic to him that fits League of Legends quite well. His Q is a standard skillshot that slows, but the sound and visual effects have a real pop to them. As a support ability, he can drop shrines that boost movement speed and heal -- this simple move is pretty deep, as Bard can place them strategically behind towers to reduce time away from laning or just put them on the ground below him to immediately heal. You'll also need to pay a bit more attention playing as Bard, as you'll be required to periodically grab unique chime icons on the map to buff your auto-attacks. His coolest ability though is the power to create a portal through terrain, which both enemies and allies can use. It looks cool, and it's an effective way of crashing in on enemy creep kills. Bard's ultimate puts everyone in a circle in a stasis, including all heroes and minions -- much like Zeratul's Void Prison ult in Heroes of the Storm, or many other similar MOBA abilities. All told, Bard is by far my favorite champion that I've played in months, and I highly recommend picking him up for fun. It's appropriate that Ekko, the boy who shattered time, has most of his abilities linked to movement speed. As an assassin, it's Ekko's job to pick out individual targets and burst them down rapidly. His passive allows him to build up stacks on a foe, slowing them after three stacks and dealing damage. Like most new heroes these days he has a token skillshot (that creates a slowing field), an area-of-effect slow dome, and a dash. His ultimate is where things get more interesting. Chronobreak is basically an "oh shit" button, making him invulnerable and transporting him back to his location four seconds ago. It allows him to get out of a sticky situation and continue picking off other Champions as well as deal some damage at the location. Ekko is a pure assassin, no frills -- and that's a good thing. While all Champions aren't created equal, I'm excited to see what Riot Games has in store for us in 2015 and beyond.
League impressions photo
Time to play catchup
It's been an eventful past six months for League of Legends. While I've been covering new Champions since 2013, I slipped a bit since Gnar late in 2014, as a few other major MMOs as well as fellow MOBA Heroes of the...

Veecaloid photo
Veecaloid

WayForward alumni made a mobile game about a shapeshifting Magical Girl pop idol


It misses the mark though, sadly
Jun 09
// Chris Carter
Veecaloid Pop is out this week on iOS devices, and the level of commitment you'll need for it is described as "Flappy Bird-esque." That's about on point, as the only commands on-screen are "tap" and "drag." The object of...
Guilty Gear XX Steam photo
Guilty Gear XX Steam

Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R's netcode is passable on PC


It works at least
May 27
// Chris Carter
In the past 24 hours I've spent some time with the PC port of Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R, and I'm partly pleased with the results in terms of the netcode. Your experience really does differ based on the connection rank...

Yep, Ultra Street Fighter IV on PS4 sure looks great

May 26 // Chris Carter
[embed]292798:58682:0[/embed] At this point there are 44 characters in all, and you can select a fighting style from every different iteration of the game. It's pretty comprehensive, but again, most people aren't going to dig into all of the configurations for every fighter. In other words, if you already have a previous version of Ultra, especially on the PC, you'll probably just want to stick with that, as it's proven to work well at this point. 1080p60 on a console is nice, and only the most trained veterans will be able to notice the minor input lag from the previous generation to the PS4 -- since it's going to be the new de facto build for tournies, you can only assume this will be patched soon, but nothing has been confirmed yet from Capcom. The menus are a bit slower compared to other versions, which seems like a bug -- still, it's not a dealbreaker unless you compete at a high level. In terms of my netcode testing, all of the matches I've played have been very smooth. My main issue has been finding games, which you can likely chalk up to a launch-day "wait and see" crowd. I can't predict the future in terms of the adoption rate on PS4, but so far I don't have any major issues to report. We'll update you if that changes. Oh, and as community member Beelz points out, PS4 USFIV is the standard for this year's EVO. Ultra Street Figher IV [PSN]
Ultra Street Fighter IV photo
But there's a few bugs to squash
[Update: Players have been reporting various bugs with the PS4 version across the net. While I didn't encounter any of these in my roughly 20 hours of testing outside of the ones mentioned here, it's important to be aware of ...

Pinball FX2 Portal photo
Pinball FX2 Portal

Zen Studios' Portal pinball table is pretty faithful, and fun


Not going to make a 'you monster' joke
May 22
// Chris Carter
I'm not as crazy about pinball as say, Chad Concelmo, but with the right theme, I'm on board. The South Park Pinball pack hit the spot with numerous references to the show, and more recently, the Portal board h...

Early Access Review: Black Mesa

May 10 // Nic Rowen
Black Mesa (PC)Developer: Crowbar CollectivePublisher: Crowbar CollectiveReleased: May 5, 2015MSRP: $19.99 Now that I've had a chance to replay the original (selectively edited) Half-Life through the incredible reproduction effort of Black Mesa (which had its first part released roughly three years ago), I'm not sure that choice was so wrong. In the end I think I broke even. Half-Life was a monumental game that will always be rightfully remembered as a masterpiece for its time, but its probably not as fun as you remember it (headshots on the other hand are, and forever will be, a timeless source of joy). First thing's first, the Crowbar Collective has done an astounding job of dragging Half-Life into the modern age. This is not a mere port like Half-Life Source which used all the same assets as the original with a bit of spit and polish added in the form of a higher resolution and some dynamic lighting. Black Mesa is a remake, built from the ground up to fully realize the vision of what Half-Life could be on modern machines. More than a straight remake, the Crowbar Collective has played with the nuts and bolts of the game. Black Mesa rebuilds, trims, and expands different parts of the original for a smoother experience, while still staying true to what fundamentally made Half-Life what it was. There are new puzzles to work through, new and expanded areas to explore, and the availability of ammo and supplies has been bumped and nudged by a team that has spent ages agonizing over the pacing of the game. Action scenes are frantic and aggressive, with plenty of ammo doled out to deal with the additional enemies and larger set-pieces provided by Black Mesa. But when the action slows down and Gordon is guided towards evasion and caution, supplies dip to an almost survival horror level of scarcity. The push and pull of tension and action, going from a rat in the walls to a one-man army was one of the most intriguing things about Half-Life, and Black Mesa nails it better than the original. Some areas like the On A Rail sequence that infamously overstayed its welcome in the original, benefit from editing. Sometimes more isn't always better and Black Mesa makes some smart cuts getting rid of the fluffier and more frustrating aspects of the original. All of the edits are an improvement to the game. In fact, I'd say they could have probably brandished the razor around a bit more. Maybe we were just more tolerant of rampant amounts of bullshit back in 1998. Or, I suspect our memories of Half-Life benefit from a healthy helping of nostalgia and a lofty appreciation for everything that game did for modern game design. Half-Life basically wrote the book on immersive storytelling, first person exploration and strategically minded A.I for enemies, it had to be fun, right? Kind of? There are great times to be had in Black Mesa. When the game works, you can easily tell why Half-Life is so highly regarded as a classic. But then there is a looming dark side; a great number of hours when the game stubbornly refuses to be fun. The overly long underwater sequences that have you searching about in the darkness for some nook or cranny you missed as the last of your oxygen bubbles out of your lungs. The obnoxious clunkiness of trying to just MOVE around on physics enabled debris, let alone when the game demands you try to make a specific jump or escape from a screen rattling auto-turret under those conditions. The arbitrary insta-kill traps and monsters that force you back into loading screens and more than a couple “gotcha” moments that you couldn't hope to avoid without active precognitive abilities. Even with careful editing and a mind towards evening out the pace of the original, Black Mesa still traffics in an almost unconscionable amount of backtracking and finagling. There were several sequences where the solution to the predicament I was in was so awkward and stilted that I was sure I was doing it wrong. Of particular disdain was a protracted sequence set in a waste disposal facility that merged all the “joys” of water exploration, insta-death traps, pinpoint jumping between moving conveyor belts and confusing map design into a single ultra dense black-hole of anti-fun so terribly dark and spirit crushing that I'm still not sure I fully escaped from it. Maybe I'm being tough on it, but I remember Half-Life being smarter. I remember liking its world and characters better. Maybe it's age or maybe games have just moved on, but this time around I was more exasperated than amused by the shenanigans of the Lambda research team. The game has one joke -- you wander up to some poindexter in a lab coat, he says something silly/smug/abrasive, then immediately runs headlong into bullets/fire/devouring jaws (whatever option would make what he said seem more ironic). I like to imagine Freeman giving the leftover blood smear a knowing smirk each time. Granted, it's a funny goof the first two or three times it comes up, but when you're nine hours deep into the game and Professor Egghead is still predictably blundering into the crossfire, the dismemberment gets a little rote. I think its interesting that almost all of my criticism for Black Mesa is directly related to content from the original Half-Life. Every other effort is fantastic. This game looks great, especially considering its roots as a community driven mod. The soundtrack of original compositions is fucking banging. Every edit and change they made to the game was for the better. It almost makes me wish Black Mesa wasn't a remake-with-cuts of Half-Life. I wonder if the team would have been better served making their own thing, or maybe a “inspired by the events of Half-Life” complete re-imagining of the original game. The way I see it, there are two potential audiences for Black Mesa. There are the players who missed the original in its heyday because they were too young, or didn't have a PC, or thought Freeman's goatee on the box art made him look like a barista stooge, but love Valve's other games and want to check out the legendary classic that started it all. Then, you also have the true-blue fans of the original, the generation that cut their teeth on Half-Life and remember it as a wonderful and mind expanding experience who would love to recapture the joy of those heady days. I'm in the slightly uncomfortable position of telling both of those camps that they can probably take a pass on Black Mesa, even though I truly respect the work that the Crowbar Collective team has done with it. If you want to play a great Half-Life game that has aged fairly well, Half-Life 2 and its accompanying chapters are fantastic and Valve practically gives them out every Steam sale. Those games have all the best parts of the original Half-Life, while cutting out most of the chaff that bogs it down. If you didn't play Half-Life back in the day, I can't really imagine someone enjoying it as a game. Maybe as an academic curiosity, but not as a play experience. If you absolutely loved the original, you may very well find something worthwhile in Black Mesa. It really is the singular best way to play Half-Life. That said, you could also find something you don't like. A terrible truth, an awful secret, the knowledge that one of your favorite games is actually kind of a pain in the ass to play. It might be best to leave those pleasant memories as they are. There is still more Black Mesa to come; the game is in early access and right now the story concludes on a cliffhanger right before the Xen levels, where Freeman is thrust into an alien world of annoying platform jumping and floating alien bastards. The Crowbar Collective is actively working on that final chapter and plans to include it in the full release. Considering that even the most stalwart fans of the original generally concede that “the game was perfect (except for the Xen levels)” I don't think those last levels will really swing my personal opinion on the game. I will say this though, I can't wait for whatever the Crowbar Collective does next.
Black Mesa photo
Half as good as you remember
Half-Life was like a magic trick. It was a game you could show to people who weren't gamers and they'd get into it, a gateway drug. A real game (not some glorified puzzle book like Myst) that had the cinematic flair and prese...

Splatoon photo
Splatoon

What did you think of the Splatoon Global Testfire?


Splat happy or set to pass on toon?
May 10
// Jonathan Holmes
This past Friday and Saturday, Nintendo launched its first ever limited time online stress test/demo with the Splatoon Global Testfire. Due to multiple work-related responsibilities, I was only able to jump on for one match, ...
Yumi on Vita photo
Yumi on Vita

Sayonara Umihara Kawase+ is a great Vita port that comes with the original SNES game


And a few more stages
May 04
// Chris Carter
Roughly a year ago, Yumi's Odd Odyssey, a localization of the latest game in the Umihara Kawase series, hit the 3DS. Like its predecessors it involved the simple premise of guiding a young girl across a series of pi...

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 is now better than ever

May 04 // Kyle MacGregor
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker (3DS)Developer: AtlusPublisher: AtlusReleased: May 5, 2015 (NA), Fall 2015 (EU)MSRP: $49.99 Tokyo is in shambles. Earthquakes have ravaged the city, knocking out all lines of communication, derailing trains, and flattening entire buildings. There are fires, riots, refugee camps, oh, and an army of demons that threaten humanity's continued survival. Enter a band of plucky teens with demons of their own to save the day and stave off the apocalypse. That's the lead-in to the "Septentriones Arc," the main story from the original Devil Survivor 2, which is now accompanied by a second campaign called the "Triangulum Arc." The epilogue picks up right where the first part leaves off, leaving our heroes to deal with a new threat. The continuation isn't quite a full-blown sequel so much as it's a sizable expansion, one that should keep you busy for an extra couple dozen hours on top of the base game. Thankfully, the Triangulum Arc is available from the get-go; so if you've already played through the main story and just want to see the new content, you needn't start from square one. Of course, newcomers will want to begin with the Septentriones Arc. Despite including a quick refresher at the outset of the journey, the new campaign likely won't make much sense to neophytes jumping into the narrative in media res.  [embed]291439:58422:0[/embed] In addition to the new campaign, Atlus has put in the effort to upgrade the overall experience. After doing a side-by-side comparison with the original game, Record Breaker's music really caught my ear. The soundsmiths at Atlus really cleaned up the audio quality, making it sound way more crisp and clear while eliminating a scratchy, fuzzy quality that mars the DS release.  On top of the enhanced sound quality, the team at Atlus USA went ahead re-localized the entire script and kitted it out with full English voiceover, which is a massive improvement over the text-only original. Being able to hear the cast goes a long way to helping flesh out these characters, especially given how lively and rich many of their performances are. The visuals are also a shade nicer. Again, looking at the games side-by-side, I noticed Record Breaker looks a tad sharper and features slightly more vivid colors. The camera perspective in battle has also been pulled back, which make the sprites appear less chunky. One of the major complaints a lot of folks seemed to have with Devil Survivor 2 when it launched in 2012 was the difficulty. In our review, Dale North said "the first game's difficulty bar was already set pretty high, but Atlus has turned it up even higher in this sequel with battles that are so difficult that [he] came dangerously close to snapping [his] DS in half." This time around there are multiple difficulty settings, which hopefully should help you keep your system intact. At its core, Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is still a satisfying fusion of classic "MegaTen" and strategy gameplay. And with the new story content and other additions and enhancements, this is definitely the best version of the game. Whether it's enough to warrant a second purchase is debatable, but given a choice between the two, this is without question the one to get.
Break Record impressions photo
Record Breaker is finally here, and it was worth the wait
If you've ever wanted to experience Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 or wondered what happened to its colorful cast of demon tamers after the credits rolled, now is the time. Atlus is about to unleash Record Breaker, a new version of the 2012 tactical role-playing game that not only improves the title, but expands upon it with a new arc that advances the story.

amiibo tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits is severely underwhelming

Apr 30 // Chris Carter
amiibo tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits (Wii U)Developer: NintendoPublisher: NintendoReleased: April 30, 2015MSRP: Free (requires at least one amiibo) To even utilize amiibo Tap, which is a free download, you'll need an amiibo figure (MSRP: $13) -- full stop. After booting it up you're greeted with a menu noting that you'll have the opportunity to play various NES and SNES games (that are conveniently located on the eShop for purchase) by tapping a toy to the GamePad. Easy enough. The strangest thing about the app however is that it doesn't recognize specific characters. I mean, a lot of them are third-party or don't even have retro games, so I understand that much. But I thought for sure (despite the fact that it was already announced as randomized) if you tap a Mario character to the pad you'd unlock a Mario demo, but instead, it just opens up a random game. Once your amiibo is linked to that game it will automatically start up another demo with subsequent taps. For people with large amiibo collections, it's pretty confusing to keep track of. The demos themselves are straight-forward three minute "bits" if you will, with nine in all for every game -- to clarify, yes, that's nine 180 second sections per title. If you look at the video below you'll see a demo reel for The Legend of Zelda: A Link the Past, teleporting through various portions of the game, from intense scenes to boss battles. There's a timer on each sequence to prevent you from playing too much of the game, which is understandable. [embed]291278:58394:0[/embed] My opinion is that this whole app was rushed out of the gate, for any number of reasons. It would have been really cool to unlock new games by way of amiibo purchases, especially for figures that don't really have any functionality outside of a Super Smash Bros. NPC. A small homage to Super Princess Peach, the DS game, would have been cool, as would a new bite-sized demo for something like "Super Rosalina." The entire app isn't even future-proofed for new amiibo due to the lack of specificity, so there's no point in keeping it around to see how it will change when new figures come out. In its current state, it's not even worth downloading, as it's essentially a convoluted demo delivery service. If you have Super Smash Bros., just stick to the straight-forward Masterpiece demos.
amiibo tap impressions photo
Specific amiibo don't even align with franchises
When I first heard about amiibo Tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits, I thought it was a cool idea at first, and a good concession for fans who may have missed out on a ton of amiibo opportunities this year. After actually playing it, I'm coming away extremely underwhelmed, and I'll likely uninstall it later today.

Tropico 5 photo
Tropico 5

Tropico 5 is like crack for your PS4


Multiplayer impressions coming soon
Apr 27
// Robert Summa
I'm a sucker for city-building and Civ-like games. Since the very early days of SimCity and SimTower, I've poured countless hours into building my virtual communities and empires. With Tropico 5 now ported over to the PlaySta...

PC Port Report: Grand Theft Auto V

Apr 25 // Patrick Hancock
Grand Theft Auto V (PC, [tested], PS3, Xbox 360)Developer: Rockstar GamesPublisher: Take TwoReleased: September 17, 2013 / April 14, 2015MSRP: $59.99Rig: Intel i7-4770k 3.50 GHz, 8GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 560 Ti GPU  First of all, know this: Grand Theft Auto V on PC is a whopping 60 gigabytes. Let me spell it out for you -- sixty! Be careful if your Internet plan has a data cap, because this is guaranteed to push it to the limit. You also may need to clear some space on your harddrive, so be aware of that before you begin the download! The next step is setting up your Rockstar Social Club account. The account name system bans certain  words, so if your last name happens to contain a "bad word," you can't include it in your account name (sigh). The system has been more or less unobtrusive, though it is annoying that the game can't simply use everyone's Steam ID since they get linked anyway. However, this does allow players to transfer their characters from the consoles to the PC. Grand Theft Auto V has a metric butt-ton of options for the users to play with and optimize. Because of this, many players will be able to find a group of settings that allows GTA V to run very smoothly on their rig. Perhaps the best thing the game does is show the amount of video memory for the installed graphics card. As the user changes the settings, the amount of video memory the game is using will fluctuate. This helps players, especially those not in tune to optimization, fine-tune the numbers to get a smooth experience. After some tinkering, I was able to run the game at my native 1920x1080 resolution and consistently get 60 frames per second. I wasn't able to turn the textures to High, but the game still looks great. In order to run it at this resolution, however, I had to turn off the option that limits players to their graphics card memory usage. The number it was showing was barely higher than the total for my graphics card, and it doesn't seem to have any real trouble running the game smoothly. The framerate does occasionally dip to around 30 when traveling around mountainous or heavily wooded areas. After running at a constant 60 for the rest of the time, this dip in framerate is very noticeable and is very consistent in the aforementioned areas. YouTube user "wiliextreme" did a great job showing different graphics settings in this video. [embed]290676:58331:0[/embed] The biggest issue with the PC version of GTA V is the long and frequent loading times when playing online. When cruising around and enjoying the city of Los Santos, the game is great. However, when players want to do missions, the main way to advance online, they get thrown into frequent long load times. Getting into a mission forces the game to load, and this loading time feels like forever. In reality it's around two minutes, usually. Then there's the potential of waiting for players to join in, which can also take some time, but at least this wait is understandable. I've even loaded into a game that was full, forcing me to load back into Los Santos, back at square one. Once the mission is completed, players vote to either retry (if failed) or for what the next mission should be (if succeeded). Then, when loading whatever is next in store, another long load time rears its ugly head. I have the game installed on a traditional HDD, since the game is HUGE, but I've seen other players who have installed it on an SSD having the same issue with load times. The initial load into the online portion of the game is much longer than loading into missions, but to be fair it is quite a large city to be loaded. Just like any online game, GTAV Online's lag comes from being paired up with players who are far away or with poor connections. Most of my time was rather lag-free, however being in a car with someone who is lagging is not an entertaining experience. "Woah we're just about to crash into that-- oh, nevermind we're on the highway now." Doing missions like this makes certain players virtually useless as they teleport all over the place and neither player knows what's really happening. Playing with friends can be an absolute blast, but also frustrating to get going. Loading into the same instance of Los Santos is easy enough, but joining the same mission, especially on the same team, is not. Since there's no "party" system in GTA V Online, one player needs to join a mission and then invite others to that mission. Then, if there are teams, chances are they will not be on the same team. Heck, the mission might even be started by the host before a friend can join the mission. Part of this can be alleviated by someone becoming the host and having the "Remain Host after Next Job Vote Screen" option enabled, though this is disabled by default. There's also the first-person perspective mode, which is certainly interesting. There is a field-of-view (FOV) slider, but the highest it goes is incredibly low for most people. However, there is a mod to increase the FOV in first-person. In fact, the whole idea of mods being implemented at all is what skyrockets the PC version of the game into the realm of infinite possibilities!  I've seen some users mention that, depending on graphics cards, the framerate can inexplicably go down at times. Some 970 users have seen their framerate drop to the 30s when inside vehicles, for example. The game has gotten a few patches already in order to fix some bugs and performance, so the team seems to be paying attention and can hopefully iron things out in a timely manner. Using a controller (tested with a wireless Xbox 360 controller) is a seamless experience. Players can easily swap between the keyboard and mouse control style to a controller by simply pressing a button on a controller. When playing missions online, the game will even let others know who is using a controller and who is on a mouse and keyboard setup. That way, when one person dominates an online deathmatch mission, everyone understand why. The game also works well using Steam's Big Picture mode. I was initially worried because of the Rockstar Social Club integration, but the game automatically maps the mouse to the left analog stick when using a controller. So when the Social Club overlay is used, players using a controller can still respond to friend requests or look at game invites. Another big draw in the PC version of the game is the video capturing and editing program that's built in to the game, the Rockstar Editor. Capturing footage is as easy as hitting a button, so long as you have the amount of space needed to actually capture the footage. Editing is rather simple, but convoluted in many ways. First of all, it is only possible to access the editor while playing offline, which took me forever to figure out. Adding things like camera angles and filters is incredibly easy, but adding text is a bit annoying. Adding text to a specific location to the video is easy, but the game doesn't give a preview of the video at that time, so players need to go in and out of the actual video to see what it looks like. It's an extra step that's totally unnecessary, but the editor is still crazy good for being in-game. The GTA V port has one of the most important aspects to any PC game: malleability. The amount of options help ensure that players with at least semi-decent rigs should be able to run it well. The online portion of the game isn't as cohesive as it should be, but GTA V can easily be one of the PC ports that players point to in the future and say "why isn't it more like that?" [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
GTA V on PC photo
Wonky tennis at 60 frames per second
After many delays and what feels like forever, Grand Theft Auto V is finally on PC. It's incredibly exciting to just think of all the hilarious and unique mods that people will inevitably come up with to change the ...

PC Port Report: Mortal Kombat X

Apr 20 // Nic Rowen
Mortal Kombat X (PC)Developer: NetherRealm Studios, High Voltage Software (PC)Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentMSRP: $59.99Release Date: April 14, 2015Rig: Intel i7-920 2.70 GHz, 12GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 770 GPU When I first installed Mortal Kombat X it was unplayable. I don't mean in some sort of prissy, PC elitist "anything less than 60 FPS burns my eyes" kind of way (although you could make a strong argument that if any genre of game has the right to demand a consistent and high frame rate, it's competitive fighting games). I mean in the "this game doesn't work" way. Things went south as soon as I hit the character select screen and the fighters started drawing themselves in one painful frame at a time. Actual fighting was impossible, with the action portrayed like a garish, bloody View-Master reel. I have a fairly decent gaming PC. My processor is admittedly old, but I have plenty of RAM and a muscular GTX 770 to help it power through. I run plenty of modern multi-platform games with nary a hitch. There is no reason for Mortal Kombat X to perform this badly. My situation is far from uncommon, with mobs of flustered would-be-warriors with top-end gaming rigs complaining they were in the same bind in the Steam discussion pages. After some rooting about in support forums, I altered my settings, manually installed some drivers, and fussed about until I got the game in working -- but far from ideal -- order.  I managed to get the game running smooth enough to fart around in the practice mode and work on some combos. Even still, certain stages caused noticeable stuttering and after a few minutes the game would start to hitch and falter no matter where I fought. Oddly, when the performance dipped like this I found that performing an X-Ray move (which automatically locks the action to 30 FPS) seemed to jar the game out of it, restoring a smooth 60 FPS after the move finished (for a short while anyway). I'm about as far from a programmer as you can get, but to me this suggests the problem is less to do with system specs and more with how the game is coded. Something just isn't working right. While being able to unclog the frame rate with an X-Ray was handy during my protracted training sessions, it's also vaguely frustrating to know that a functional game is trapped somewhere inside of this rickety port job, but only accessible by jumping through hoops. Of course, the reason I spent so much time in the training mode this weekend is related to the second major problem with the PC port. The entire online component of the game was up on cinder blocks for most of the time I've played.  Online Kombat was down for the majority of weekend. Either the game would entirely refuse to access the online component, saying it couldn't retrieve my stat card (and therefore refused me entry), or it would simply leave me perpetually waiting to "find a match." Even during the periods where I was able to find regular ranked and player matches (still with large five minute plus waiting times between opponents) other features wouldn't work. The room lobby system, useful for finding similarly skilled or geographically local opponents, was up and down all weekend. Mostly down. The Faction War nonsense has been offline since I installed. Not that I thought that aspect of the game was particularly meaningful, but it's still annoying to have to wait through one more loading screen as the game fails to find the faction server and informs you of such. More annoying still, trying to view the progress of the on-going war effort locked me in an inescapable loading screen. Fun times. Of the online matches I got to play, lag seemed to be a total crapshoot. Some fights were buttery smooth like me and my opponent were shoulder to shoulder in the arcade. Others started fine but eventually de-synced and broke down. Still others were like wading through molasses from start to finish, becoming a game of chicken to see who would blink first and have the dreaded black mark of a Quitality branded upon their house. When the room feature was active, I managed to find a neighboring Toronto player and stuck through a series of humiliating, but silky, matches against a terrifying Liu Kang who outclassed me in every possible way. I worried I wouldn't find another decent online match that night and would rather face his burning fists than chance it, a fear that came to pass when he left the room (no doubt in disgust of my pathetic Kotal Kahn). A succession of smaller quibbles nip at the heels of those catastrophes. Trying to re-configure a control pad or joystick crashes the game (to turn off negative edge I had to pull every USB device out of my computer and go into the menu with the keyboard). Timed features in the Krypt are reportedly not working right. I was mildly irked to notice that the post-character-select animations (Jax slamming his fists together, Cassie snapping her gum and flipping the bird, and so on) are absent in the PC version. I suppose you could say they thought the faster loading times on the PC version would make them obsolete, but the game still drops you to a loading screen before the fight. Why not chew up those few seconds with something to look at? (I realize this is the smallest complaint of all time but this port ripped my heart out of my chest so bear with me.) Maybe this shouldn't come as a surprise. Both Mortal Kombat 9 and Injustice had troubled ports with similar problems. Distressingly, many of those issues never got sorted out. With a simultaneous day and date PC release for Mortal Kombat X though, you would have hopped they would be ready to go this time. Motal Kombat X deserves better than this slipshod port. I want to believe that NetherRealm and High Voltage Software will do right by its fans and iron these problems out, that this rough first week is an unfortunate debacle. Given its track record though, part of me fears the worst. I'll be keeping an eye on this port and will post an update in a few weeks or so to see if the situation improves. As it stands now, I can't put it any plainer: do not buy this broken port of a great game. [This review is based on a retail code purchased by the reviewer, a PC review copy was not made available by the developer.]
PC Port Report: MK X photo
Never-ending Brutality
I have never played a game that I've wanted to love so badly that seems so set and determined to antagonize me than the PC port of Mortal Kombat X. In the abstract, Mortal Kombat X is a great game. The single player content i...

Battleground Z photo
Battleground Z

Battleground Z could be a standalone beat-'em-up


Zombie beat-'em-up action
Apr 19
// Darren Nakamura
StreetPass is a strange obsession. Ever since the days of having only Puzzle Swap and Find Mii, I have been fascinated with the functionality. I carry my 3DS around with me everywhere, and when I pull it out of...
Ultimate Angler photo
Ultimate Angler

Ultimate Angler is the new relaxed StreetPass game


Mix bait like a master
Apr 19
// Darren Nakamura
StreetPass is a strange obsession. Ever since the days of having only Puzzle Swap and Find Mii, I have been fascinated with the functionality. I carry my 3DS around with me everywhere, and when I pull it out of my pocket at t...

This could be the Godzilla game fans have always wanted

Apr 15 // Jed Whitaker
Godzilla (PS3, PS4 [tested]) Developer: Bandai Namco EntertainmentPublisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment Release: July 14, 2015 Fans of the classic Godzilla movies will be pleased, as the development team at Bandai Namco Entertainment has focused on making the new game as close to the original films as possible, and it has mostly nailed it; the monsters feel huge and lumbering, the cities crumble and the fights are epic, camera angles mimic the look and feel of the original movies. Buildings exploding is especially on point, as it looks like the fake, firework-esque explosions from the original Japanese films. The presentation of Godzilla as a whole is really impressive. When I first laid hands-on with the PS4 version of the game I was confused. The left stick makes Godzilla walk forwards or backwards, but the right stick only rotates the camera. After investigating the cardboard instructions stuck to the demo television I was surprised to find that the shoulder buttons, L1 and R1, are used to turn Godzilla slowly left and right. At first I was perplexed. "What a stupid control scheme" I thought, then after smashing through a few buildings and starting a fight with Ghidorah it finally clicked. The turning mechanic mixed with the cinematic camera makes you feel like a giant fucking monster and it is the first Godzilla game I've played that achieves this. [embed]290478:58183:0[/embed] Godzilla isn't the only playable monster as every monster in the game is controllable, each with its own variation of the story. Radio communications by humans during the battles paint a story of destruction and desperation. Each stage has an objective, typically destroying specific buildings, but while doing so can lure up to two other monsters for battle where the game keeps a surprisingly solid 60 frames-per-second. Monsters include Mechagodzilla, Destroyah, Jet Jaguar, Mothra, Mothra Larva, Gigan, Biollante, Hedorah, and more. Even Space Godzilla made it in as one of the exclusives for the PS4 version. The game will be launching this July for PS4 at retail and PS3 via digital. The PS4 version isn't just a direct port of the PS3 game as it has more monsters, an exclusive multiplayer mode, and the ability to battle two monsters at once. Those who preorder the PS4 version will receive Hollywood Godzilla, or the Godzilla model from the recent film, as DLC. If you've been waiting for the defining Godzilla game, this might be the one.
Godzilla goes old school photo
Hail to the king, baby!
I've dabbled in Godzilla games since the NES game Godzilla: Monster of Monsters, a game that for some reason took place in space; Mothra and Godzilla fought monsters and literally kicked rocks in this fondly remembered title....

Review: Mortal Kombat X

Apr 14 // Chris Carter
Mortal Kombat X (PC, PS3, PS4 [tested], Xbox 360, Xbox One) Developer: NetherRealm Studios, High Voltage Software (PS3, Xbox 360)Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentReleased: April 14, 2015 (PC, PS4, Xbox One) / June 2, 2015 (PS3, Xbox 360)MSRP: $59.99 It sounds absurd, but the story of Mortal Kombat 2011 is a tough act to follow. The universe was NetherRealm's playground, offering up alliances and betrayals at every turn. There were no rules, and it did a fantastic job to the point where I'd easily call it one of my favorite fighting game story modes ever. With Mortal Kombat X, it's not quite as over-the-top, unpredictable, or even as lengthy. After Shao Kahn's attempt to rule, Shinnok is up to his old tricks again, as was hinted in the previous ending. The warriors of Earthrealm managed to seal him within his amulet, but of course, certain evil characters have an agenda to fulfill, and the realms are once again in peril. Most of the campaign takes place 25 years later, allowing for a certain degree of progeny-based storylines to accompany the new additions to the roster. I'm really torn on the new roster in general (29 kombatants, with five as DLC), not just in terms of characterization, but gameplay as well. I'm a huge fan of Kotal Kahn, D'Vorah, and his gunslinging manservant Erron Black. Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs iterate enough on their parents (Sonya/Johnny and Jax respectively), but Kung Jin and Takeda feel like wasted slots to me. [embed]290360:58138:0[/embed] Takeda in particular has a really horrid background involving abandonment issues from his father Kenshi, and it comes across far cheesier than the rest of the game's attempts to link various relationships. For that matter, Cassie's role in the story feels incredibly forced as well. The strength of the roster overall hides these blemishes for the most part, including the absurd DLC practices by WB, as the on-disc world of Mortal Kombat X is definitely worth exploring, no matter how brief (the story clocks in at just several hours). I think the tone overall is funnier than the last game, and the action scenes are just as entertaining. A few players though (myself included) may feel like it's a bit too streamlined, particularly due to the fact that it eliminates all of the crazy parts of 2011 (like uber-hard boss battles and 1v2 matches) and sticks with standard 1v1 bouts. A lot of you out there will probably love the lack of frustration, but I felt like it was a tad too simplistic despite it being a fun ride. The core fighting system is relatively untouched though, which I'm more than okay with. Two punches, two kicks, and a block button are at the forefront of the game's mechanics, with simple command moves offering up concepts like slide kicks, teleport punches, and projectiles. The lovely three-tiered meter is back with EX moves (powered up command abilities), combo breakers, and X-Ray supers in tow, which is not only easy to pick up, but incredibly versatile. Combos aren't terribly long in Mortal Kombat X but they are complex, and the right ones can deal a deadly amount of damage. It's good then that you can break them by conserving your bar instead of always using X-Rays, and punish with EX moves that you will have access to on a regular basis. There's even advanced tactics like meter burn canceling to avoid punishes, and environmental cues (which can be toggled on or off) that allow you to use the background as a weapon or a jungle gym. As previously mentioned the roster is a great mix of styles, from rushdown to zoning, without going over-the-top with the latter. A number of characters have really interesting wake-up games and other tactics that advanced players will relish -- in other words, this is a pretty deep fighter that you'll have to spend some time with to really stand a chance. I love the new model designs and the engine, which feels decidedly less dated at launch. Existing characters like Ermac now have a lot more personality, which is perfectly accentuated through his move set, including three variations. Yep, every character in Mortal Kombat X has a choice of three modifiers, which in Ermac's case would allow him to fly, or gain access to a set of new command moves. It's not as complex as adding three new characters in my mind, but it will easily serve as a way to vex hardcore players as they'll have to learn every frame of every variant as they spend their time in the "lab" practicing. There are modes beyond the story of course, like Faction War, a meta-game that is constantly being played behind-the-scenes, Towers, a large collective of challenge rooms, and other tidbits like Test Your Might or Test Your Luck. Towers is probably the breakout hit in Mortal Kombat X, with traditional series of fights and "Living Towers," which rotate on a hourly, daily, and weekly basis. Test Your Luck is also a standout, providing random round parameters like "no arms" or other wacky statistical changes. It's perfect for people who don't normally excel at fighting games and don't want to learn every character's ins and outs. Faction War isn't really a game-changing concept, but it is a decent way to keep hardcore people playing. You'll have the choice of joining a certain clan or group at the start (praise Lin Kuei) for a bit of extra little fluff. Each match you win will contribute to your team's overall ranking, and fun rewards like more currency or bragging rights can be yours after a certain time period has passed. Just like the new first-person Krypt mode, it's a great extra to keep you playing even when you don't feel like fighting a traditional match. My experience with the netcode has been mixed. For a good while I'll have fairly uninterrupted matches, but online play is limited by the system NetherRealm currently has in place. In other words, if you are close to someone geographically, it will play better. This sounds like common sense, but in 2015 online gaming is so massive and so global that everything needs to work comprehensively. As such, some matches stuttered -- not to the point of fully breaking constantly -- but stuttering can be the difference between a win and a loss in a competitive match. If you have a local friend to play with this is a non-issue, as nearly every mode is available offline. Likewise, if most of your Mortal Kombat buddies aren't located across the globe, you should be mostly good to go. Mortal Kombat X's impact isn't as explosive as 2011, but it's well polished and a worthy successor. I think with a more reliable netcode it will grow into one of the biggest fighting games of 2015, and as more DLC characters are added to the roster, it will become even more enticing for that Komplete Kollection purchase. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. A Goro unlock code was also provided on launch day.]
Mortal Kombat X photo
Still not ready for a series Fatality
Fighting game developers are in a really tough spot when it comes to sequels. If you don't iterate enough, newcomers will be tempted to call it a "rehash." If you iterate too much, hardcore fans may feel alienated by the vast...

Brawl impressions photo
Brawl impressions

Brawl, the apology letter for the abhorrent Basement Crawl, is a decent improvement


A fun Bomberman clone with some worrying framerate issues
Apr 14
// Laura Kate Dale
[Disclosure: Before I talk at all about Brawl, it's time for some fun disclosure stuff. I was flown to Poland to visit the development studio and take a look at this game there. The team paid for my flights, a hotel for one n...
Mortal Kombat X photo
Mortal Kombat X

Where is our Mortal Kombat X review?


We'll be testing online play first
Apr 13
// Chris Carter
Mortal Kombat X's review embargo is up, but we're not quite ready to pull the trigger just yet. Many aspects of the game aren't fully operational including some online modes, and select facets of the Faction War fea...

As the first current-gen Naruto, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is a huge visual leap

Apr 13 // Chris Carter
Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 (PC, PS4 [tested], Xbox One) Developer: CyberConnect2Publisher: Bandai Namco EntertainmentRelease: TBA 2015 Sometimes when a developer is able to focus solely on the production of a current-generation build, it shows. That's the case with Ultimate Ninja Storm 4, which is easily one of the best-looking anime games I've ever seen. Despite the screen being constantly filled with blasts, everything runs very smoothly, which is crazy when you consider the amount of detail present in nearly every battleground. For instance, one encounter had a giant animated nine-tails monster looming about, and even though it wasn't directly involved in the fight, its presence was felt. Since this is supposed to be the last game in the Ninja Storm series (the manga just ended), it will feature many elements from the final stretch of episodes, as well as the last film. New Ultimate Jutsu techniques are in, as are new characters like Hanabi Hyuga. Players will have the opportunity to switch leaders while playing story mode in many sequences, which was one of the most requested features from fans. I was able to chat a bit about the new game with the CEO of CyberConnect2, Hiroshi Matsuyama, who arrived at the event donned in an appropriate costume. When asked why he enjoyed working on the franchise so much, he responded, "I want to create a game where I'm satisfied as a fan first, and then I can know that fans will be happy. I wanted to support the series by creating a masterpiece to close out this chapter of Naruto." I asked him about the advantages of having new systems as a lead platform, and the biggest change that he is excited for is the focus on "bigger battlefields, with more open air. We want to really give players a sense of scale and we can do that now on the PS4 and Xbox One. There will also be more animations that weren't possible before, like costume damage details, even things like water extinguishing fire damage." From what I could tell based on my demo playthrough, these claims were true, as Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is ridiculously cinematic, almost like the equivalent of a Michael Bay movie in anime form. By that same token, it can be repetitive to watch said cinematic play out in an actual battle, like one fight that had a CPU character using the same 30-second invincible move every minute or so. The good news is once you get through it, it's off to another fantastic setting that looks nothing like the others, chained together through QTE transition phases. Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is looking great so far, and I'm really happy with CyberConnect2's decision to focus on newer platforms. It'll be interesting to see where its involvement with the Naruto series will go from here, because it is too good of a developer to stop now.
Naruto preview photo
A more authentic look
There are more Naruto games than one sane person can possibly handle. Although Bandai Namco Entertainment owns the license, a number of different developers have worked with the gaming side, most notably CyberConne...

Jamestown+ on PS4 is the best colonial era shooter yet

Apr 08 // Conrad Zimmerman
Jamestown+ introduces four new craft to pilot, doubling the number found in the PC release. These ships are not wholly original, with special weapons that resemble those of the base set but function in slightly different ways. Crystal and Charge, for example, both fire a slow-moving projectile across the playfield. Where Charge can fire without fully charging, Crystal projectiles have a longer reload time but can be redirected mid-flight. The new ships also have access to a variety of basic shot configurations, unlocked from the in-game shop. This allows players to further customize their ships with spread or multidirectional fire to complement their special weapon selection and opens up a lot of options. Two additional stages have also been added in the new edition, set on the moons of Mars, Deimos and Phobos. These bonus levels tell a side story from the charming rogue John Smith, with Smith escaping a Spanish prison on Deimos and discovering a pirate stronghold guarded by giant enemy crabs on Phobos. They are as well crafted as any original Jamestown stage, populated by unique enemy types and massive bosses, and make fine additions. The new levels also extend the original game's "Gauntlet Mode" (in which all stages are played back-to-back with limited credits) with a new "Super Gauntlet" mode including Deimos and Phobos in the run. [embed]289124:57806:0[/embed] It's also worth noting that the Jamestown experience on PS4 is made ever so much better by controller uniformity on the platform. As much fun as Jamestown could be in local co-op play on PC, you had to actually get it set up first, which could be a real pain in the ass between controllers, mice, and keyboard options. With the PS4 release, you just turn on your controller and hold a button to jump in, easy peasy. If you have yet to experience Jamestown, the new release on PS4 is the way to go, as it gives the most bang for the buck and plays just as well. Even if you're an old hand at it, the new ships bring a fresh variety to the game and do require some new skills despite their similarity to prior vessels, while the bonus stages offer a fun new challenge.
Jamestown+ impressions photo
More ships, more stages, more Jamestown
Jamestown was a wonderful shoot-em-up back when it first released on PC. With bullets blazing across the surface of a colonial Mars, it paired beautiful sprite art with epic music and cooperative local multiplayer to make something really special. With the release of Jamestown+ on PlayStation 4, it's larger than ever.

Elliot Quest Impressions photo
Elliot Quest Impressions

Elliot Quest's Wii U port is quite buggy


Most bugs are edible, others aren't
Apr 06
// Jed Whitaker
Elliot Quest is a retro-inspired Metroidvania title that feels right at home on the Wii U, as it takes a lot of inspiration from such NES classics as Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and Kid Icarus. I'd even venture to ...
Bastion PS4 photo
Bastion PS4

Bastion on PS4 is still great, but not worth a double dip


A Mass Shun
Apr 06
// Mike Cosimano
If you pinned me to the ground, demanding a list of the Xbox 360’s best games, I can promise you Bastion would fall out of my terrified lips. I would also be very confused throughout the whole exchange, but as lo...
Dual iOS impressions photo
Dual iOS impressions

'Dual' is a really cool mobile shoot 'em up that functions over two devices


With a fair 'one person buys' setup
Apr 06
// Chris Carter
The other day I ran across a newly released shooter for iOS and Android called Dual. The whole gimmick is that it uses two devices to function, with a screen that spans between them. By forming a tenuous Voltron-esque link you can play two modes, versus and co-op. Although it is a free download, thankfully, only one person needs to buy the premium version ($1.99) to play the latter mode.
La-Mulana EX photo
La-Mulana EX

La-Mulana EX is nirvana for punishing game enthusiasts


Alternatively, 'Spelunking for Masochists'
Apr 04
// Jason Faulkner
There's a certain thrill to a game that punishes you for attempting to best it, as Bloodborne and Souls series fans can attest to. That's why there happen to be so many of them cropping up here and there, especially over the ...
Neverwinter Xbox One photo
Neverwinter Xbox One

Neverwinter is both a shallow MMO and a fun arcade-like romp on Xbox One


It's a net gain when the price is free
Apr 03
// Chris Carter
Back in 2013, Neverwinter hit the PC. No, it's not a continuation of Neverwinter Nights, that awesome RPG from BioWare. It's an MMO developed by Cryptic Studios that's light on the "massive" bit, but far more f...

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin's enhancements are minor, but I ended up beating it again

Apr 02 // Chris Carter
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin (PC, PS3, PS4 [tested], Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: From SoftwarePublisher: Namco BandaiReleased: April 2, 2014 (EU), April 7, 2014 (US)MSRP: $19.99-$49.99 (PC, see below), $39.99 (PS3, Xbox 360), $59.99 (PS4, Xbox One) Scholar of the First Sin is basically a packaged version of Dark Souls II with all three DLCs, and a few other extras -- some of which are coming to older platforms with a free update. Oh, and Bandai Namco is also selling the Scholar disc on said older platforms to add more SKUs into the mix, and don't even get me started on the PC release. Still, I'll do my best to explain everything as I go so you aren't completely lost. After starting up Scholar on PS4, the first big change was immediately apparent after entering the first few zones -- the remixed placement of enemies. While casual fans may not notice this at all, I saw a few notable switcheroos, and they're generally for the best. The starting area won't have as many tougher enemies for instance, but the zone immediately following that will pay it back. Don't think it's inherently easier though, as it feels roughly the same, just with better pacing. It's not enough to get excited about but it makes for a better experience. Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin, is probably the other huge addition, a new NPC that pops up every now and then and can culminate in a boss fight if certain requirements are met. His character model not only fits the world but looks formidable, and the insertion of Aldia is fairly seamless into the core story, providing a bit more background on your main quest. Like the remixed placements he isn't anything to write home about, but he basically serves as a fourth DLC, albeit without a new zone. [embed]289666:57956:0[/embed] Other Scholar-specific additions on PC (DirectX 11), PS4, and Xbox One include a higher online player pool, and an upgrade to 1080p and 60 frames per second. The game is still noticeably dated, but the environments and backgrounds (see 3:00 here) are still as breathtaking as ever. On a more gameplay-related note, the frame rate was consistent, and it's so buttery smooth that it just feels perfect -- every attack is deliberate with no delay, even with tons of enemies on-screen. All action games should strive to be 60fps, period. All my tests were done with the PS4 version of the game, and I'm told the Xbox One edition is identical (if I can get a copy to confirm this I will). It's important to note though that nearly all of the non-graphical updates are coming to the previous-generation (360, PS3) in the form of a free update. But the way the PC version is being handled is as confusing as all hell. On PC, you can opt for the DX9 or DX11 version. There's a tiered pricing model that starts at $40 for the base DX9 game, or $50 for DX11. If you own the original and/or all the DLC you can get discounts ranging from $10 to $30. They even have separate Steam pages. So what's the difference? The DX11 versions mirror Scholar on the PS4 and Xbox One, essentially offering a separate instance of the game with prettier style and enhanced online player pool -- prior generation and DX9 users will not get that bonus bit. Still confused? Re-read these past few paragraphs until it sinks in. If you're coming off of Bloodborne and want more Souls, grabbing Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin would be a great idea. The fact that all three add-ons are included ($25 in total with the Season Pass, hosting the Sunken, Old, and Ivory DLCs) is the icing on the cake. For everyone else, Scholar can barely be considered a remake or remaster of any kind, and you're best served just downloading the free update on the copy you already own. Any goodwill Scholar earns is mostly based off of the core game, but either way you slice it, playing it in some form is recommended. Thankfully, those older copies still exist, and will likely go down in price if you aren't willing to pay Bandai Namco's premium.
Dark Souls II: SE photo
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