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Impressions

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
Don't double dip
Love 'em or hate 'em, this is the generation of remakes. It seems as if remasters of the previous generation pop up more frequently than actual new games, but if said remasters actually end up funding new games rather than th...

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D is a bare-bones port of a fantastic game

Mar 25 // Chris Carter
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D (3DS)Developer: Monolith Soft, Nintendo SPD, Monster Games (3DS port)Publisher: NintendoReleased: April 10, 2015MSRP: $39.99 Jim has already talked at length about what makes Xenoblade Chronicles so special, so I'll spare you most of the details. Suffice to say, I would consider it a new classic in the JRPG space. Every so often you'll find people longing to return to the golden era of the genre, pining over various SNES and PlayStation classics, but new masterpieces come and go in the current era all the same -- this is one of them. Despite the problems I'm about to present with the 3DS port, you owe it to yourself to play it in some form or another. Right off the bat you should probably know that Xenoblade Chronicles 3DS has a huge file size requirement if you're going digital. It weighs in at 28832 blocks, which translates to roughly 3.6 GB. It won't even fit on the 4GB card that comes standard with the New 3DS due to the system partition, so plan accordingly if you're picking this up on the eShop. The huge size is likely due to voice acting, and the fact that it's essentially a 100-hour JRPG squished into a portable format. You can tell immediately that Xenoblade has been downgraded during said squishing session, but it runs smoothly with little in the way of performance issues -- which is more important in my book. Having said that, it is tough to ignore some of the other shortcomings from a visual sense. The icons are extremely low res, as in, they weren't even touched up on the 3DS. It's really strange to look out into the horizon and see a vast beautiful tundra, then go to a shop and flip through the user interface as if it were a PS1-era RPG with fuzzy, muted menus. [embed]289388:57883:0[/embed] Another issue I had was the lack of screen real estate. The bottom screen hosts your status information and such, but the core of the game takes place on the top. It's ample enough space to do pretty much everything, but when you're actually in a battle, your targeted enemy will take up a great deal of the screen with its info box. There needs to be an option to shrink the enemy info text, because even with the "zoomed out" view it can get cluttered. With those technical issues out of the way, the game really shines on a portable. Xenoblade controls like a dream, as the extra buttons on the New 3DS allow it to mirror the Classic Controller setup on the Wii. The C-Stick also controls the camera, which is pretty much needed at all times to survey the land and constantly locate hidden treasures or areas. Even with all the aforementioned problems, it didn't hinder my enjoyment of one of my favorite RPGs in recent memory. You can skip cutscenes you've already seen in case you've already beaten it on the Wii and want to move forward with the story, and the 3D effect, while relatively tame, delivers an interesting perspective on the Bionis and the Mechonis. Keep in mind though that there is no extra content included in the actual story -- so if you already have your 100+ hour completion file on the Wii and want more, the only real advantage you'll get out of Xenoblade 3DS is the portabiity. There is amiibo/Play Coin/StreetPass support, but it's a tiny little bonus that lets you view character models or listen to music. When you think about it, the prospect of Xenoblade Chronicles 3DS sounds pretty silly. It's a port with no real content additions or true enhancements, and you have to buy a whole new 3DS model just to play it. If you can get past that barrier though, ultimately this is a way to get a great game into the hands of more players -- and I'm okay with that.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3D photo
Who ate the bones?
Xenoblade Chronicles pretty much blew me away back in 2012. Fans had been clamoring for a localization for over two years, and due to an add partnership between Nintendo and GameStop, we got one. It was a rather limited relea...

Overdog photo
Overdog

Overdog's a new service that puts you in games with people of similar interests


You know, people you might actually like
Mar 17
// Brett Makedonski
Playing videogames online with strangers can be a crap shoot. Sometimes you'll get matched up with interesting, engaging, and respectable people. Other times (maybe more often than not), you won't be able to stand the person ...
Isbarah photo
Isbarah

Isbarah is an unforgiving bullet hell platformer


1000 bullets when all you need is a gun
Mar 15
// Jed Whitaker
I often browse the Steam store for new releases that could be interesting, and was excited when I read Isbarah's description as a bullet hell platformer. I love bullet hell games and have played basically everything that...

DmC Devil May Cry's story still blows, but the Definitive Edition is more fun

Mar 10 // Chris Carter
DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition (PlayStation 4 [tested], Xbox One)Developer: Ninja TheoryPublisher: CapcomRelease date: March 10, 2015MSRP: $39.99 Yep, this is the same bad story and bad characters as the original -- nothing substantial is changed on that front, except for the removal of Vergil's fedora. Ninja Theory's take on They Live was neat enough at first, but it quickly grew flat over the course of Dante's stereotypical hero's journey. I don't need my Dante to have feelings or curse every five seconds -- I just need him to be badass. Actions speak louder than words. Having said that, aesthetically the game is as gorgeous as ever in 1080p and 60 frames per second. At long last the latter figure comes into play, and DmC is all the better for it. The club scene still stands out as one of the coolest-looking action sequences in recent memory, and the constantly shifting Limbo setpieces are seamlessly integrated into the platforming (although they overstay their welcome hours in). So what's different? Capcom has made a lot of adjustments to gameplay that core fans have wanted the entire time. For starters, lock-on returns to the series, and I for one am damn happy about it. It's completely optional -- if you think that lock-on doesn't have a place in action games (you're wrong), that's cool, you can just not use the button for it. Since the original oddly had two buttons for dashing, it feels like it was always meant to be in there anyway and was cut for time. [embed]288347:57552:0[/embed] Combat in general is vastly improved thanks to the 20% faster "Turbo" option. I recommend everyone immediately go to this checkbox and click it, since it makes the game much more fun on every level. Combat feels so much more fluid, challenging, and hectic -- it's like playing a new game. Chalk another win up to the modders, who Capcom got the idea from. The "Hardcore" modifier is another must-play, as it remixes enemy movements and subtly shifts frames around, creating a different experience than you're used to in DmC. Add on top of that the "Must Style" modifier (all three can be enabled at once, mind) that requires you to use combos of S rank or higher to even do damage, and you have a great combination. I don't dabble in Must Style on a consistent basis, but I enjoyed levels more in general with Turbo and Hardcore on, especially on the higher difficulties. Speaking of difficulties, there are still eight of them, and in tandem with all the other options there's plenty of replay value to be had. This is particularly true since the Definitive Edition bundles in the Vergil's Downfall DLC storyline, which I liked better than the core game. It removes all of the bullshit character growth and terrible dialog in favor of letting Vergil kick ass and accept his inner demon. Again, I love the touch at the end where his original skin is re-dubbed "Weak Vergil." It really encapsulates what made Devil May Cry so special in the first place. Keep in mind though that Vergil's Downfall is only a scant few levels, and if you aren't keen on replaying them over and over on higher difficulties, you'll run through it in seconds flat. Vergil also now has his own Bloody Palace mode, but sadly it only supports 60 floors, not 100 like Dante's. Still, each floor has more variety than the standard Palace, so it's enjoyable -- especially with Vergil's skillset. For those of you who can never complete it in time, you can now disable the timer. A great touch for newcomers. As far as the legacy of DmC goes, no one would argue that making Devil May Cry more accessible after four rather hardcore entries is a bad thing, but Ninja Theory failed to address the fans that made the series so successful in the first place. Take the Bayonetta franchise, two of the best action games ever made (outside of Devil May Cry 3). They allowed for systems that welcomed newcomers and provided a high skill ceiling. While DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition's ceiling doesn't reach nearly as high as the current queen, it's a better effort than the original package, and does a better job of appeasing both types of fans. I'm kind of torn on the "Definitive" concept given its price point, though. In many ways much of it could have been delivered in a free update (especially if there's a PC version in the works, which hasn't been confirmed yet), but if you haven't already experienced DmC, getting this package at a discount would be the best way to do it.
DmC Devil May Cry DE photo
Vergil's DLC is the highlight again
You've heard the criticisms for Ninja Theory's take on Devil May Cry a million-trillion fucking times. So let's just dive into the Definitive Edition, shall we?

Powers is a cheesy action romp, but I'll still watch it

Mar 09 // Chris Carter
Described as an "edgy, dramatic series" (I'm a sucker for drama, not so much for the edge if it has to be advertised), Powers focuses on two detectives that investigate crimes of a super-powered nature. The show is going for a Hancock-vibe, where those with powers may not have a propensity for being heroic and are a bit more nuanced. Or in some cases, downright criminal. On paper, Powers has a rather impressive cast. It's not front-loaded with Hollywood stars, but pretty much everyone involved has a long history in TV.  That said, lead actor Sharlto Copley is no stranger to the big screen -- just look no further than his meek role in District 9 as Wikus, or his domineering turn as Agent Kruger in Elysium. The supporting cast is also fairly impressive, boasting the always great Eddie Izzard as one of Copley's mysterious old associates, or Noah Taylor as chain-smoking teleporter Johnny Royalle. The production pedigree is also enticing, with comic writers Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming at the helm. Copley plays the role of Christian Walker, a superhero-turned-detective formerly known as "Diamond" who now works to bring down those with abilities who break the law. Much of the narrative is hinged on Walker's struggle to cope with having a normal life due to the loss of his powers, and with Copley's effortless charm, this gimmick mostly works. He has the beginnings of chemistry with partner Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward), but I'm far from sold on the longevity of their relationship. Walker kind of just accepts his new younger partner right off the bat, partially through pure apathy. There's no annoying "you don't understand, rookie" hurdle to cross, but there's also a strong lack of emotional attachment both on and off the screen.  Because of this though there's a distinct lack of a dynamic between them, and any and all conflict stems from Walker's own personal struggle. [embed]288658:57639:0[/embed] Powers may be super, but it does operate under the framework of a police procedural -- though it is thankfully shying away from "villain of the week" for now. Noah Taylor is interesting as chain-smoking teleporter Johnny Royalle, and Izzard's character is central to the overarching plot as well as Walker's hero's journey. As most avid TV-watchers know, dramas often have an underlying hook to keep viewers interested week to week, and the producers have attempted to do that with Calista, played by Olesya Rulin. As a "wannabe" who thinks she has latent powers, she's stuck between a rock and a hard place with Walker and Royalle, who try to bend her to each of their wills. Copley's character, ultimately, is my hook. Elsewhere in the show though the lore is worth exploring, like the origin of certain character's powers, and the possibility of learning how said powers are granted or "discovered" in the first place.With the source material running for so long, there's plenty of storylines to draw from. On a macro-level, Powers is also in part a commentary on the current era we live in, from millennial entitlement to the lack of privacy facilitated by the age of handheld technology. Walker notes that "back in his day" growing up with powers, his friends would go on patrol and strive to "be something." Driving through a youth gathering in the present day, he sees them partying and laments the new generation. It's all fairly trite and not particularly "new" given how other programs do it better. The only benefit is the occasional amusing "TMZ-esque" vignette from guest stars like Mario Lopez. While I'm not a fan of the phrase "edge," there is a fair bit of violence, swearing, and sex to elevate it above what would normally be considered acceptable on network TV -- so giving it a home on the PSN is a smart move. On a technical level the effects are practical, and never really border on the level of cheese that the soap-opera drama sometimes achieves. Royale's teleportation effect is clean and amusing (complete with a signature "pop" sound), and there's some impressive CG aerial work.  The balance of effects is spot-on as Powers is not keen to overdo it, but gives you enough of a spark to keep you interested. Each episode is roughly 45 minutes in length, and at that runtime it has a propensity to overstay its welcome if it ends up giving us filler -- though I think we're safe for now. Aging fans of Heroes will have plenty to enjoy with Powers, as they're already used to plenty of soap-storylines. While I wouldn't necessary run out to recommend it to the general public, I will be watching it week to week to see where Copley's character ends up. You can stream the first episode here on March 10, purchase it on the PlayStation Store as each episode debuts, or if you have PlayStation Plus, you'll get it for free as it airs.
Powers TV review photo
A review of the first three episodes
Powers, an upcoming TV show from Sony, has an interesting debut on the PlayStation Network on March 10 as the PSN's first real foray into original programming. Powers has been in the making since 2001 (one year after the comi...

Mecha Trigger made me feel real dumb before it made me feel (kind of) smart

Feb 05 // Nic Rowen
Mecha Trigger delivers an insidious two-stage payload of knowledge. At first it may seem like another typing-trainer-by-way-of-game kind of a deal, a Typing of the Mech if you will. While the threat of being skewered by a railgun the size of a city bus is a pretty good motivator to learn how to type quickly and accurately, the real core of what Mecha Triggeris teaching is actually the rock-bottom basics of coding and scripting. There are no such things as joysticks or control pads in the world of Mecha Trigger. And while you use a keyboard to control your TypeFighter mech, the secrets of WASD have never been revealed to the engineers who made these giant robots. Instead, every single action your mech makes needs to be typed into a DOS style command line. Want to walk forward? You need to specifically type out (with proper spelling and format) the code to move your legs and the distance you want to travel. “legs move -d 10” for a few short lurching steps. An enemy to your right is pelting you with a mech-sized shotgun? Better type in “legs turn -a 90” to face right and look at him (you'd type in “legs turn -a -90” to look to the left), and so on. If this already seems like a huge pain in the ass, you have no idea how bad it really is. I only got to play with Steel Battalion’s infamous twin-stick, 40-plus button control surface once at a kiosk that was displaying it like some novelty act, and it was infinitely easier to grok. Even with that massive layout, there was the comforting familiarity of triggers and peddles, and when you pushed a button, while the mech might not have done what you wanted it to do, it did something. The command line prompt gives you nothing. Mistype a line, use the wrong format, whatever, and the mech remains stubbornly, perfectly, inert. Incredibly frustrating, especially when you're being picked apart by enemy fire. Even after reviewing the tutorial, I still managed to forget important commands -- like say the ones for controlling your guns and laser cannons -- in the heat of battle. The first time I actually managed to shoot something, my machine gun farted out a single impotent shot. Clearly there was room for improvement. [embed]287185:57169:0[/embed] Fortunately, you can create your own custom macros in the game that can activate a command with much fewer button presses, or even carry out multiple actions. This quickly reveals itself as the holy guts of the game. After a bit of fussing around I wrote scripts that would fire my laser beam for a nice controlled 2 second burn, or one that would empty my machine gun clip and automatically reload it. I destroyed an A.I mech or two, things start to click. For the first time in a long while, I go and grab a pen and jot down some notes. Any time a game makes me break out the ol' yellow legal pad, it's a sure sign of a burgeoning obsession, or at least a brief but intense infatuation. Soon I have a page full of abbreviate commands and reminders. I have my weapons figured out, I even come up with (what I think was) a fairly clever script to automatically switch to the cloaking device and activate it for emergencies. I'm no ballerina, but I've wrangled the controls enough to generally trundle my mech where I want to go. I can scan the enemy, get within optimal range, and unleash a holy rain of – oh wait, he activated his jump jets. How the fuck do I look up again? More notes, more macros. Over an evening of play, I slowly stumble my way towards something resembling competency. I create a slew of macros -- basic controls, weapon systems, responses to every typical situation I can think of. I try them out in the field, find holes in my battle-vocabulary and fill them. I streamline the commands that work by trimming down unnecessary keystrokes, shortening command lines to as few button presses as possible. I experiment and find out I can string more than two commands together in a single macro, instantly obsoleting more than half of the commands I've already written. I toss them out, rewrite them into tighter, more efficient, little bunches of code. My mech stops trudging about with a noticeable stutter-pause between every action, and soon I'm moving around about as smoothly as a multistory death-robot can. The process of writing macros and the logic of the game becomes so familiar that I start writing the occasional script in the middle of a fight whenever I notice something I'm missing or have an idea that would speed things up. I'm embarrassed to admit it, because I know writing macros is the most basic kind of scripting imaginable, but a thought occurs to me. “Is this how developers feel when they really understand the tools they work with? When instead of doing some menial task by hand they hack in a clever little line of code that does it for them?” I remember how Rock Band, with its simplified five button plastic guitar, gave you that little glimmer of understanding of what it's like to actually play an instrument when you got into the zone. Mecha Trigger is opening up the same conduits in my brain, but instead of a more nuanced appreciation of bass-lines and chord structure, its giving me a peek into the world of development. Just a tiny bit, a crack in the door with a weak beam of light spilling through. This is the most surface-level simple stuff, but for me, a guy who has never even considered writing a line of code in his life, it's like learning the first few words of a new language. It left me wanting more. What if I could write a script that could respond appropriately to different contexts? What if I instead of having to build my mechs around my scripts, my scripts could work with my mechs, allowing me to change up the equipment without having to write up an entirely new group of macros? These are questions the developers probably hoped people would have after playing. Sneaky bastards, teaching me things. Even if you don't feel Mecha Trigger will inspire some new-found interest in scripting for you, it's still worth checking out. It's free, offers a very different way to play than conventional shooters, and there are always worse ways to spend a lazy evening than turning giant robots into scrap.
Mecha Trigger photo
Okay, I'm just going to make the joke, 'Typingfall'
When people say “educational game” I instinctively clench up. I was raised in the heyday of Canadian educational software, with all the impenetrable geography-teaching trucking simulators and embarrassingly stilte...

Saints Row IV: Re-Elected is a prettier mash-up of aliens and sex toys

Feb 02 // Brittany Vincent
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected (PlayStation 4 [tested], Xbox One)Developer: Volition/High Voltage SoftwarePublisher: Deep SilverRelease: January 20, 2014MRSP: $49.99 The "Re-Elected" edition comes packaged with the updated PS4 edition of Saints Row IV, all the previously-released DLC, the expansion Gat Out of Hell (which I enjoyed thoroughly), and the Enter the Dominatrix feature – one of the best reasons to check out this re-release, especially since it features a host of deleted scenes from what would originally become Saints Row IV. It's basically a faux documentary told in an engaging fashion, and one of the best aspects of the entire package – save for the actual game, of course. If you already played through the game, you won't find anything changed here. The boss of the Saints has somehow managed to strong arm their way into becoming the President of the United States. In a sense, you may as well be a superhero – perhaps that’s why you end up getting super powers later on in the game. The game is centered around making the player feel as awesome as humanly possible, which it does accomplish in several ways. Zinyak, the alien mastermind behind enslaving humanity and committing a hundred other heinous deeds, is a well-read megalomaniac who’s content to toy with the Saints leader in any way he can, including depositing him or her into a virtual Steelport that’s been conquered and is teeming with Zin soldiers. It's your job to take him down. [embed]287011:57124:0[/embed] You do just that while navigating a simulation of the Steelport you know and love from Saints Row: The Third, getting yourself into a bunch of situations such as the Saints boss being whisked away into a ’50s-styled sitcom world where “golly gee” is about as rude as one can get, the hilariously awful dubstep gun, and the text-based adventure game snippets found nestled within the game. The introduction of superpowers to the mix is what ends up making Saints Row IV what it is, however. It’s empowering to be able to leap up tall buildings, slam into enemies with a lethal ground pound, or sprint through Steelport faster than a speeding bullet. Ice, fire, and other elemental powers are instrumental in incapacitating Wardens, larger Zin soldiers that wreak havoc on you if you amass a full wanted rating, and jumping across the city can be pretty exciting. Unfortunately, super sprint renders vehicles virtually useless, so that's one less thing you've got to engage in, but the array of other powers makes up for it. The leader of the Saints is consistently witty and fun, whether you choose a male or female avatar, and one of the biggest attractions of the game. “Romance” options, some great retro gaming references, and an excellent soundtrack accompany your jaunts about town, and if you’ve ever wanted to smack someone in the head with a writhing tentacle sword, this is your chance, especially given the upscaled visuals, additional content, and the just-released Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell. There’s plenty to do in Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, whether you're coming in as a new player or are here strictly for the additional content. As an aside, I want to mention that I’m pleased with where Saints Row has taken me before, but I’m ready for a new frontier. A new city. A new crew to run with. I had my fun with Steelport and the Saints, but perhaps it’s time for a new story. We’ll always have long car rides, er, sprints through the city...and this is the definitive way to experience Saints Row IV.
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected photo
Good to go for a second term
Saints Row IV is absolutely crazy. It is, without a doubt, one of the most off-the-wall sandbox experiences you can have on a console or otherwise. It's an excellent cooperative adventure as well, and it delivers the franchis...

Sling TV, which brings live TV to Xbox One, is looking great so far

Jan 28 // Chris Carter
Although it's not quite ready for launch just yet, I had a chance to test out Sling TV on both the iOS and Roku 3 platforms, as the Amazon and Xbox apps aren't currently available. The idea is to help facilitate cord-cutting from the antiquated cable model, where you're paying upwards of $100 or more for hundreds of channels you don't need. When coupled with a few extra services like Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon Prime, the concept gets even sweeter. So what does it offer for your 20 bucks? ESPN, ESPN 2, TBS, TNT, HGTV, Food Network, the Travel Channel, CNN, the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, and ABC Family are included in the base package, with a two extra add-on tiers (Kids and News) available on the side for $5 each. ESPN is likely going to be the crux of this campaign, particularly given that subscribers will gain access to the Watch ESPN app. With more sports options, this service will have a gigantic impact on the market. The prospect of ESPN alone is enticing for a lot of millennials and stalwart non-cable owners, but I can see many folks enjoying at least one or two of the other channels consistently. For instance, Regular Show or Adventure Time fans will be able to catch those shows on Cartoon Network -- which is a good thing given how terrible and limited the network's official app is. But without a heavy-hitting drama network like FX, HBO (set to launch its own service this year), or Showtime, it's going to be a hard sell for some -- TBS is no FX. There's another potential holdup for prospective buyers, which is the entire "live TV" aspect. The reason so many people have cut the cord is the immediacy of the Internet. Binge-watching entire seasons of Breaking Bad or House of Cards in one or two days is now the norm. A lot of you out there are not going to watch certain shows at certain times when on-demand is available elsewhere. Sling TV also comes with an option to watch on-demand films though, including some new releases. It's not as amazing as a standard cable setup or even Amazon's Instant Video section, but it has a good deal of new releases on-hand, with more to come after the full service rolls out. Once you rent something you have 30 days to watch it, and 24 hours to finish it once started. In other words, it's a standard on-demand service, which is a nice thing to have packed in the box. Dish has also announced that it has a partnership with the Maker network to provide a host of online videos, but that content isn't live yet. Performance-wise, Sling TV is near-flawless, and I was legitimately surprised at how well it worked out of the box, even in its preview state. It's the same quality as any 1080p cable box would provide, and even on LTE it's still crystal clear on my iPhone 6 (you can even adjust the picture performance to help ease the data-cap pain). Mobile support is a big differentiator from some of its competition, which don't even function without WiFi. All in all I only had a few drops with roughly 20 hours of TV watching, and those were mainly the fault of the Roku 3 itself. After booting the app again I was back to where I was in seconds. Sadly, only select stations have full "live TV" options at this time, like fast-forwarding and such, and there's no real way to DVR anything. So if you're a TV junkie and record 5-10 shows per day, you may not be ready to shed your service just yet. Sling TV is in its early phases with exclusive preview access, but is fully expected to launch in roughly two weeks, and over the next month or so Dish will roll out the apps for the Amazon Fire TV and Xbox One. At this point I can heartily recommend giving it a try if you don't already subscribe to a cable service, as $20 for the first month isn't a huge pill to swallow on top of a free trial week. Microsoft even has a deal with the company that allows Xbox One owners to get an entire month free. Maybe you'll end up cutting the cord, maybe you won't. Check back later for a look at the full launch and Xbox One impressions. [These impressions are based on a trial subscription of the service provided by Dish.]
Sling TV thoughts photo
Based on early-access impressions
Earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, Dish announced a rather interesting prospect called Sling TV. As one of the first companies to embrace Internet TV, its new subscription-based service will stream live telev...

Destiny photo
Destiny

Destiny's Crota's End Hard Mode is disappointing outside of the final fight


More of the same until the end
Jan 22
// Chris Carter
I have a stable of around 30 people I raid with in Destiny regularly, but yesterday I picked the five I play with the most and set a scheduled time for the brand new Crota's End Hard Mode. Everyone showed up, and te...
Blackguards 2 photo
Blackguards 2

Blackguards 2 is deep, unfriendly, and buggy


First impressions
Jan 20
// Darren Nakamura
Last year Patrick reviewed PC strategy role-playing game Blackguards, and he loved it. Blackguards 2 is out on Steam today. I have put about a dozen hours into the sequel, but I am not even close to the point where I can...

The Halo 5 early access beta left me pleasantly surprised

Dec 22 // Brett Zeidler
We've already talked more in-depth about the new mechanics in our preview from last month, and Chris listed some tips for the beta, so I'll talk specifically about the small amount of content I saw from the early access beta and what I thought about everything in general. For this weekend, there were only two maps and one gametype available. "Empire" is a smaller asymmetrical map that sits on the top of a skyscraper and "Truth" is a re-imagining of none other than "Midship." The single playable gametype was plain old classic slayer. However, notice I said old -- map control and effective team dynamic are key here just as they were in classic Halo. From the limited content in the early beta phase, no loadouts or ordnance are anywhere to be found. Everyone always starts on equal ground. That is, everyone starts with an assault rifle and pistol, with the goal being to secure various weapons in key places (especially power weapons). It feels strange to describe this like it's new again, but I suppose it is at this point. If you liked Halo before the fourth entry, you'll feel at home here. However, it's not without its flaws. One thing I find strange is the gametype heavily focuses on securing power weapons, to the point where universal markers show their location (with a timer that lets everyone know when they will spawn again), and, if that wasn't enough, someone announces when they've spawned. This felt forced. It really should be left up to the team to be cognizant of spawns. The assault rifle is extremely overpowered, and the battle rifle's burst fires so quickly it doesn't feel any different from the DMR outside of no longer having a scope. I also feel the ADS (aim down sights) system is unnecessary as well as not being snappy or useful enough to help me in most cases. Quick-scoping, in its current sluggish form, also needs adjusting. Lastly, matchmaking was very unreliable at times -- although this was a stress test, so hopefully it's resolved for the actual beta roll-out. Minor gripes aside (it is a very early beta, after all), I'm loving the way the gameplay all comes together. Every entry in the franchise always feels like Halo should feel, but there's something that separates it from the other entries: Halo 2 had dual-wielding, Halo 3 had equipment, and Reach had Armor Abilities. All of them added a unique element with equal pros and cons. Halo 5's unique gameplay component is maneuverability. Halo 5 feels much faster than any other entry. I'm really digging that so far. Sprint is here to stay, every player has a thruster pack, and they can clamber onto just-out-of-reach ledges. Sprinting allows quick movement, but shields can't recharge during its execution. Thruster packs allow for shoulder charges (while sprinting), quick dodging, and extra boosts for jumps. A ground pound can also be performed in the middle of a jump by holding crouch (annoying for people such as myself who utilize crouch jumping by nature at this point), but I almost always get punished for using it and have never successfully fragged anyone with it. That's exactly how it should be. All these abilities already feel balanced, with maybe just the charge move needing some tweaking. The rest of the game feels very tight, and all the weapons on the two maps available look, sound, and feel exactly how I'd expect. It also helps that Halo 5 is a really pretty game as well. As I've said, this is a small window into how the game's shaping up. It also doesn't represent the entirety of the three-week beta, with that set to have a total of seven maps and three gametypes unlocked over its span starting December 29. Having said that, I went into the beta skeptical but came away looking fondly back on what I had played. Honestly, it was a lot of fun and I'm hoping the rest of the beta (well, ultimately, the rest of the game) is just as fun.
Halo 5 beta impressions photo
Arena-based Halo is back, baby
When we reviewed Halo 4, we really liked it. If you were to ask me personally, I was not enthusiastic about the game at all. Campaign aside, the multiplayer clearly lost sight of what made Halo multiplayer so damn fun in the ...

Don't Starve Together works just as well as you'd expect it to

Dec 16 // Chris Carter
[embed]284875:56620:0[/embed] Don't Starve Together is a separate client from the original, and boots up to a similar looking title screen. But because it isn't the same build, a few bells and whistles are noticeably absent, like controller support. Klei promises it will come in time as the beta progresses. Starting a game is just a click away. You can host servers, both temporary and dedicated, join random games, or create password-protected and "friends only" instances for up to six players. Three modes are available: Survival (the basic gametype, where if you die you become a ghost, and can be resurrected with a certain item), Wilderness (players suffer permadeath), and Endless. The former seems to be the standard. I decided to give the game a shot with my wife, who is the resident Don't Starve expert with over 200 hours of experience with the game. We started off in the wilderness with nothing, coming out on the same spot in a portal-like contraption. You are just as naked as you are in the original, picking at leaves and cutting trees to build your first base of operations. Speech bubbles appear above your head in your partner's game, which is a neat effect. Because of the multiplayer aspect of Together, it was fun to plan out our strategy. We split up and went our separate ways at times, or cooperated to chop down the same tree -- it was really open-ended. In theory, you could build an entire base twice as fast, kill enemies at double speed, and so on. With more players in the mix your efficiency will increase, but so will your ability to command the limited pool of goods. The cool thing about Together is how you can share items, or "give" them to another player by clicking on them. I was able to cook a bunch of food for my wife and hand it to her when she came back from an expedition empty-handed. It really works just as well as you'd expect, and I can't wait to see how the combination of multiple minds works service of the already fun game. If you still play Don't Starve from time to time, I'd highly recommend buying into Together if you have a friend willing to go in on it with you. Stay tuned for more coverage as the beta progresses.
Don't Starve Together photo
Still in beta
Starting this week, you can buy into the Don't Starve Together beta if you don't have access already. It's $5 if you own the base game, and it comes with a gift code for the core package as well as two Together code...

Here are some day-one thoughts on The Crew

Dec 02 // Chris Carter
In essence, The Crew is an online-only, open-world racing game. Yep, good old Ubisoft and its predictable open-world formula is at again -- right down to the outpost/radar buildings (called "data stations" here, haha). Once you're done with the prologue you can basically just roam around the world, which, in this case, is the entire United States. This is easily my favorite part The Crew, as developer Ivory Tower nailed the way the map works. First of all it's presented in a seamless manner with very little loading time on the actual map. But the real kicker is that everything is connected perfectly, so you can actually drive around the US at a reasonable pace. For reference, take a look at this map -- to get from Detroit to New York City, it would take roughly 15 minutes. Add in a ton of distractions along the way (including arcade-oriented challenges that can instantly spring up while you're driving down a highway) and an open world full of players and it starts to feel a lot bigger. You start off in Detroit, but the main hubs are Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, and Miami -- with some smaller locations like Washington D.C. and New Orleans in the mix. Each area has a distinctly different terrain type, and you can modify your car accordingly in every city to adjust for dirt, street, or highway conditions. Again, this is a massive game just by world map standards, and there is a fast travel option if you don't want to drive everywhere. The story and characters are bad in a Fast and the Furious manner, and that's not a compliment (most of those movies are fun popcorn flicks). Even with a bit of cheese, the actual plot is just plain awful, and serves as a basic setup to drive around the country. In short, your brother was murdered, and after you've been framed by the gang who did it, you have to serve the FBI and bring down the bad guys. It's by the books and could have worked, but the flat and laughable characters make it worse than it has to be. I'm half expecting a gritty Vin Diesel impersonator to pop out and say "I live my life a quarter mile at a time" at any point. In fact, it may have already happened, but I was half-asleep during most of the cutscenes. Gameplay-wise my experience has been mixed. I love the cool touches like the overhead GPS trail when you are pursuing an objective, and the RPG-esque level-up/part acquisition system always ensures that you feel like you're earning something. However, the controls, uninspired perk mechanic, and car options fall flat in many ways. The main problem with the handling is that it feels like a weird mix of simulation and arcade controls, which is a problem without going in and tinkering with the options menu. It's weird, because at first cars feel like they're perpetually on ice. It's not until you tweak some stuff and get better equipment that you feel like you're really driving a car. Collisions also have a strange feel to them just like Watch Dogs, where you sort of "bounce" off things rather than feel like you're naturally hitting them. The bar has been raised by games like Forza, so it's disappointing to see that Ubisoft hasn't gone all in on car handling. So far I'm pretty happy with how the actual overworld turned out, but everything else in The Crew hasn't wowed me yet. That's not to say it's bad, though. So long as you're looking for another chance to get your exploration on, I think there's plenty to like here -- but I still have to test out the mechanics and get further in the story to make a full decision. Stay tuned for our review from Brittany in the future.
The Crew impressions photo
Our review is coming later
Ubisoft recently notified the press that it wasn't going to send out early copies of The Crew. Instead, critics would have to experience everything at launch and beyond, meaning there would be no reviews for the gam...

Some quick thoughts on Grand Theft Auto V for current-gen consoles

Nov 17 // Chris Carter
For those unaware, the campaign mode is relatively untouched outside of a few new weapons, vehicles, radio songs, items, and, of course, the current-gen graphics bump. So if you hated the story and don't like the idea of GTA Online, you won't find anything to bring you back in outside of the shiny new visuals. And they are shiny: while they don't look like a native current-gen title, Rockstar took the time to polish and I noticed it right off the bat. The game runs at 30 frames per second, but it's consistent, and the resolution clocks in at 1080p. The biggest upgrade is the draw distance and stability of the frame rate, since I didn't notice a drop even in areas rendering quite a lot of objects. More wildlife both on the ground and in the air help add to the idea that Los Santos is a real world. The environment is enhanced too, and the new foliage as well as the stunning weather effects are the real stars of the show. The biggest improvement is the new first-person mode, which lets you use the perspective everywhere during gameplay, even in cover (though a third-person instant "switch" can be used, if you prefer). Simply put, it feels like I'm playing a different game, and I'm already content with replaying the story solely in first-person. Everything from hanging out on the couch, smoking weed and watching TV to intense shootouts can be played with the new viewpoint. Driving is also heaps more engaging, as the speedometers and gauges are functional. It doesn't relent unless you trigger a cutscene, so I hope you don't mind the camera flipping out while you're rolling around. [embed]283479:56213:0[/embed] First-person mode is an instant toggle (the touchpad or back button triggers it), and from there you can do everything you can do normally: run, jump or climb, and aim. Aiming comes in two styles, either the standard viewpoint or of the ADS (aim down sights) variety. I actually found that although there is some form of auto-aim even in the FPS mode, missions were tougher without the ability to constantly see around corners and instantly tag enemies from afar. That's a good thing mind you, as it makes replaying the story even more exciting with an added bit of challenge. GTA Online is also vastly improved, to the point where it's not only playable, but at the level Rockstar presumably wanted it to be at in the first place. The player count is now 30, there are more missions to choose from, the graphical enhancements really make a difference online, and you can import your previous characters into the game. The import process is painless, and it took roughly two minutes for everything to transfer over before I was able to use my character. Of course, there are legitimate concerns from some unhappy fans that Rockstar basically "beta tested" the original version of GTA V on the Xbox 360 and PS3 to come up with this SKU. Just like Diablo III, the original game was released with a heap of problems (all of which were basically GTA Online), missing content (Heists), and fewer features. Now here we are roughly a year later with a package that fixes almost everything. Personally, I felt like Grand Theft Auto V was a fine game that stood on its own merits in 2013, particularly in regards to the campaign. While it's unfortunate that Heists and the like never made it as promised, I spent well over 100 hours doing everything, and got more than my money's worth. I expect to play through the campaign again in first-person mode with the current-gen edition and test out Heists when they become available, so I'm happy replaying it on the Xbox One/PS4. If you haven't played GTA V at all yet and are slightly interested, now is the time to jump in. If you have a capable PC though you may as well wait until January when you'll be able to reap all of the benefits described above as well as those sweet, sweet mods.
Grand Theft Auto V photo
Thumbs up
Grand Theft Auto V was one of my favorite games of last year, mostly due to the insanely fun Heist missions in the campaign, and the detailed sandbox of Los Santos. It suffered from some of the same trappings as every GT...

Borderlands Pre-Sequel photo
Borderlands Pre-Sequel

Here are the details of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel's Bloody Harvest Celebration


Lots of exploding pumpkins, basically
Oct 31
// Darren Nakamura
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel's free, limited-time mini event Bloody Harvest Celebration just launched a couple hours ago. The teaser image has several pumpkin-flavored pieces of art, but little extra information. I jumped into...

Not-review: Devil's Dare

Oct 25 // Jonathan Holmes
The game takes place at PAX East during a zombie outbreak, so it makes sense that all four of its playable characters are videogames lovers. Axel even has his own homegrown Hylian shield, Master Sword, and hookshot, though his use for the latter is more inspired by Scorpion than Link. Queenie is the magic user of the group, though you might not guess that at first glance. She looks like a cross between Tron Bonne and Baby Head from Captain Commando. Kingston is a modern-day barbarian. He is the game's tank and resident Golden Axe tribute. Jackson is the baby of he bunch, light and fast, wielding a pair of sais. Though he's not a direct reference to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it would be easy to see how one might make that connection. Thankfully, Jackson plays a lot better than Raphael did in the TMNT NES game, meaning that he is not the absolute worst character in any action game ever. I still hate you, Raphael. I hate you for life. Devil's Dare uses just two attack buttons, which makes it seem simple at first. That surface-level simplicity makes it all the more surprising when you discover all the little decisions you can make in combat, and how those decisions can kill you. The main twist is the fatality system and the risk vs. reward tradeoff that comes with it. Bring an enemy's health to zero and hit special to do a fatality. Sounds easy enough, but you can only store four special attacks at a time, and you need that meter for other important apocalypse-surviving stuff, like parries and projectiles. Your special meter replenishes automatically at a brisk pace, but new players are likely to find themselves out of meter and running for their lives fast, while veterans will have no problem controlling crowds of zombies while racking up huge fatality counts. Fatalities aren't just for fun. They're also for profit. Pull off a fatality on three or more enemies at a time and it becomes a massacre which, weirdly enough, rewards the player with food and loot. The food may feel important in the moment, but it's the loot you're really need in the long run. Not only do you need loot to buy power-ups and stat boosts, but you also need it to continue. If you go broke, it's game over, permi-death, save file auto-delete. Just like in real life, poverty comes with harsh consequences.  The idea here is to bring back the feeling of "arcade mortality" that comes from having to choose between using your actual money for real-life food or for in-game lives. A lot of brawlers lose that feeling after making their way out of the arcade and into your home. Limited continues just aren't the game, and "pay-to-win" microtransactions are just exploitative and gross. It's no surprise that most arcade-style games don't even attempt to get that "arcade mortality" back. It's not something you can just tack onto a game design. It has to be integrated into the whole experience for it to work.  Secret Base knows this, and has done well to make sure Devil's Dare is fun no matter how much you die. The game has a stage select screen, which helps cut down on repetition. More importantly, the difficulty ramps up dynamically and drastically, regardless of what order you play each stage in. That means if you play the "Train" level first, the stage's Jason Voorhees boss will be a "regular-sized giant" murderer. Play that stage second, and you'll face both "regular-sized giant" Jason and some little baby Jason's helpers at the same time. Take on that level third, and you face an entirely different "gigantic" Jason with huge Splatterhouse-style muscles and all new attacks. Permi-death is scary, but it also rewards you with the opportunity to see a lot of stuff you may not have missed before.  Even if there weren't so many things to discover through replays, Devil's Dare's graphics, music, and game feel make it a joy to play and replay, just for the heck of it. The sepia-toned sprites and cute-yet-gruesome character designs do a great job of being creepy and charming. The music is a mix of sweet and sinister, with ever so slightly dissonant chords joined by spooky, catchy melodies. Subtle touches are added all over the place to make every little event convey impact and gravity. An incidental animation here, a little screen shake there, a quick screen flash after a particularly big attack -- it all adds up to make the game feel alive, even though most of its characters are long dead.  If you hate "cultural reference" humor, you may struggle to get into Devil's Dare at first. The nods to various videogame and movies hit fast and furious in the opening cut scene and tutorial level. That's the only thing that beat-'em-up fans might have to fear before picking up the game. It's a fine example of how to infuse new ideas with old influences to create a game that feels simultaneously fresh and familiar. 
Devil's Dare photo
We walk the streets at night...
[Note: Destructoid's robot mascot, former news manager Conrad Zimmerman, and I appear briefly in the opening cinematic for Devil's Dare. We'll be giving out Steam codes for the game tomorrow on Sup Holmes if you want one.] S...

Pokémon demo photo
Pokémon demo

Don't overplay the Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire demo


I forgot Tropius can fly
Oct 21
// Jordan Devore
Do you have your code for the special demo of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire? There are a handful of ways to acquire one before the games' full release on November 21. Those who missed getting a code via email s...
South Park Pinball photo
South Park Pinball

South Park Pinball is the crossover you never knew you wanted


They killed my multiplier, you bastards!
Oct 21
// Brett Zeidler
With Marvel, Star Wars, and The Walking Dead under their belts, there's no license too big for Zen Studios to take on at this point. This time around, Zen has teamed up with Comedy Central and put together two new tables themed after none other than South Park. I wasn't sure what to expect, but should have known the tables would be phenomenal.
Minecraft Vita photo
Minecraft Vita

Minecraft on PS Vita is the definitive portable version


Where was this two years ago?
Oct 21
// Brett Zeidler
You know what Minecraft is, your parents know what Minecraft is, and your grandparents just don't understand why that younger family member is on the iPad all the time. It's everywhere, but why has it never received a proper ...

Hyrule Warriors' 'Master Quest' DLC is worth the price of entry if you're already addicted

Oct 17 // Chris Carter
Hyrule Warriors: Master Quest DLC (Wii U)Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja, NintendoPublisher: NintendoReleased: October 16, 2014MSRP: $7.99 (part of the $19.99 Season Pass) Let's start with the additional campaign. Put simply, it's a prequel and a side-story to the events that unfold over the course of the narrative. You'll see Cia's rise to power, how she recruited Wizzro and Volga, and her interactions with the denizens of each of the "portal" worlds like Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess. It takes place over five missions, all of which re-use maps from the story mode but offer new scenarios. Where these maps really shine are with the game's Hero difficulty. They're some of the most challenging ones on offer, and you'll have to employ some actual tactical thinking to best them without a few retries. The first map in particular is really cool in that it features three armies, all of which are constantly warring as the battle rages on. It also gives you a great look into the character of Volga, who is easily the star of the new update. Link's new Epona weapon is surprisingly one of the best parts of the package. It functions very similarly to horses in the Warriors series -- outside of the fact that you can't actually get off said horse. Attacks range from charges (with the classic carrot icons from past Zelda games) and area-of-effect abilities. In other words, Epona can be used in every map without an issue and kicks a lot of ass. I really liked the added touch of the shadow aesthetic when using the Dark Link skin. [embed]282707:56003:0[/embed] The new map is titled the "Master Quest," and gives you another board to work through in Adventure Mode from square one. Although hardcore fans probably breezed through the first map without too much difficulty, Master Quest is going to put your skills to the test. Every piece of the map features a certain challenge requirement, like "no healing of any kind," or a time limit on your objective. This is on top of the fact that a lot of the levels are just harder in general, and some require the use and mastery of the new characters. In my mind this is a great way to do DLC, as it's a natural progression from the first map. I would have liked to have seen something drastically different like a monochrome or Game Boy Color-themed Link's Awakening map, but the missions speak for themselves. Having said that, if you didn't dig the first map, you probably won't bother to complete this one, and you should wait for the next DLC pack to hit -- unless you like the idea of costumes and 8-bit weapons for your troubles. Finally, the last part of the paid Master Quest add-on is two costumes for Cia and Lana. These are essentially holy-themed getups, and while Lana's isn't all that special, it drastically changes Cia's appearance from evil to good, which is something. Still, it's not nearly as enticing as a Fierce Deity or Toon Link skin, per se. While the three free extra characters aren't technically part of the DLC, buying Master Quest unlocks a few perks, like their higher-level weapons and the ability to use heart containers on them. They're also some of the most fun characters in the game by far. Cia's badassery speaks for itself. As one of the core villains of the game, she uses her magic abilities and her whip as weapons. She can throw energy balls, summon flying discs to attack groups of enemies, and even summon a small army of Dark Links to lay waste to the battlefield. She's an AOE-oriented character but still holds her own in one-on-one situations. She also feels completely unique, even from Lana. As a neat bonus you'll also get two extra costumes right off the bat, including a hatless skin and a skin without her mask. Volga took me completely by surprise, and ended up being one of my new favorite characters. He plays similarly to a polearm character from the Warriors games, which should make more than a few fans happy. His "dragon" aspects are also well done to the point where it doesn't feel like they're overdoing it, and wings and claws will sprout during specific attacks. In terms of raw power he's one of the stronger characters in the game, giving you an extra viable roster option if you're the min-max type. Wizzro on the other hand feels weaker at first, but he's a highly technical character that shines in co-op. What's cool about him is that the vast majority of his attacks are ranged, putting him in a class of his own. He's adept at juggling and has a very useful beam attack that can be aimed at single enemies or even groups. I really like how the developers allowed him to use some of the basic moves of the Poe enemies but keep his own style. Hyrule Warriors is on a roll. Not only does the base game have more gameplay than nearly anything released in 2014, but the DLC does a decent job of augmenting the experience. While I'd like to see a little more original content in future DLCs, the three characters alone will add hours of entertainment.
Hyrule Warriors DLC photo
It's not as new as I would have liked, but it keeps me going
Hyrule Warriors is a massive game. If you want to 100% everything, get every weapon, and max out every character, it could last you roughly 200 hours or more. I'm hitting the 100-hour mark myself, due in part to the new ...

Killer Instinct's Season 2 is off to a great start

Oct 17 // Chris Carter
To dispel the notion that Microsoft is "ripping people off," you can get the entire base game so far (read: Seasons 1 and 2) for $40 ($20 per Season), including every character that's been released and the upcoming Season 2 fighters. While 16 [eventual] fighters is a fairly low count compared to many other games in the genre, Killer Instinct manages to make every combatant feel unique and worthwhile. There are no clones or wasted roster slots. You can also still download the game for free and play one character a week. It's a good deal in my mind, as strong mechanics ultimately outweigh "more fighters." If you spring for the Ultra upgrade you'll get a number of extras (mostly costumes), as well as a Killer Instinct 2 arcade port, complete with local and online play. I had a chance to test it out and much like the port of the original game in the Season 1 Ultra kit, it plays great and has an incredible amount of stuff packed into a gallery mode. So how is Season 2? The first thing you'll notice is the updated user interface, which makes it easier to get around the game's various modes and unlocks. Progression isn't tied to online ranking anymore (which solo players should really dig), and everything has a much better explanation attached to it -- like the enhanced movelists in training mode. Every mode now contributes to unlocks, thank goodness. There is a new "boost" system (read: microtransactions), but they are completely optional, and you'll be unlocking things at a faster pace than before. It's a non-issue for me. Of course the biggest add-ons are easily TJ Combo and Maya, returning from their graves as classic characters. Riptor and Cinder are confirmed so far (and will arrive in the future), as are four all-new characters. [embed]282607:55986:0[/embed] It only took me ten minutes to see that TJ Combo is a great addition to the game, especially given that he feels difficult to master. A lot of his combos are unconventional and require precise timing, but he has a way of making the best of just about any close-combat situation. His new character model also fits the game quite well, and Iron Galaxy didn't need to go over-the-top in this instance. Combo's new level also has a "Stage Ultra" finisher attached to it which should please old-school fans, but sadly it's the only one with said ultra capabilities so far. Maya however is one of my favorite new go-to fighters. Her entire gimmick revolves around her two daggers, which can be thrown in tandem or one at a time, and depending on the situation, drop on the ground similar to Vega's claw. Her combos are fast and her openers are plentiful, leading to a lot of cool-looking moments, particularly with her shadow moves. She's quickly been deemed the new "scrub" character, but like any other combatant she has counters and is easily manageable if you know what you're doing. While it's tough to really say whether or not the remaining six fighters will be worth the price of entry, Iron Galaxy has proved its worth in terms of picking up the slack on Killer Instinct. If you're curious, give TJ Combo a shot this week, as he's free.
Killer Instinct Season 2 photo
Maya is one of my new favorites
Although it had a few issues in terms of content, Killer Instinct on Xbox One was actually a good game at launch. Since then, I've taken a look at both Spinal and Fulgore, and found them to be a great addition to the alr...

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Sadly, the C'caine Tiger has been un-stabbed to near-extinction
Max was poring through some new Far Cry 4 footage and spotted a few things that he didn't quite understand. Here's his top picks of interesting things he can't explain, because this game isn't out yet and we thought you might want to see some of it because this is a videogame website, you clown.


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