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Review: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4

Feb 04 // Laura Kate Dale
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Cyber Connect 2Publisher: Bandai NamcoReleased: February 9, 2016MSRP: $49.99 Much like the previous Ninja Storm games, this is a combination of 3D multiplayer fighting with a truncated re-telling of the story of Shippuden. Starting in the midst of The Great Ninja War, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4's story mode tells the same tale as the manga and anime, cutting out any side action and pruning what’s left to the bare essentials. Where did Kakashi get his Sharingan? Who is the guy in the orange mask? Will Naruto ever convince people to “believe it”? As a reminder of the story’s progression and to round off my enjoyment of Naruto, Ninja Storm 4 was a solid, satisfying experience. Featuring full English and Japanese voice tracks from the cast of the anime, the story mode tends to switch between ten-minute chunks of anime cutscene and short fight sequences as appropriate. There's an awful lot of watching compared to playing, but as someone looking to get through the story, that suited me just fine. The combat, which remains unchanged between the single-player story and multiplayer modes, favours style over substance. Characters use the same combo button presses and control in much the same way as each other. The primary difference between the cast is in visual flourish, the speed at which they move, and the type of over-the-top special attack they employ. It's designed so that once you have wrapped your head around controlling one character, you can switch and play as another with very little additional practice needed. [embed]338210:62087:0[/embed] In versus mode, you pick three characters from which to build a team. While you can switch characters mid-battle, the most interesting aspect of team selection is that pairing together characters with pre-existing narrative ties can result in the ability to perform special combination moves unique to the game. Put Sasuke and Naruto together, for example, and you'll see a pretty cool-looking lightning Chidori Rasengan combination attack. This simplification of combat mechanics is, in many ways, a welcome blessing, as the roster in Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is enormous. There are multiple variants of the main cast with unique move-sets, everyone from end-of-the-story villains to minor characters. I spent hours with the game just trying to see every character's top-end skills pulled off, and am well aware there's a whole bunch of combination attacks I still have not seen. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is fairly simple as a fighting game, and has evolved little mechanically over past iterations. Thankfully for me, it really didn't need to do either of those things. It's an extravagant, over-the-top spectacle where you get to watch teenage ninjas blow up chunks of the planet using magic attacks, and that's pretty cool. If, like me, you fell off the Naruto bandwagon during the early parts of Ninja War, it's a great way to put a few hours in and still know how the whole narrative ended up playing out. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Naruto photo
Simple, flashy, over the top
Almost a decade ago, in my mid-teens, I was hugely into Naruto. As a socially awkward nerd who had just discovered that Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon were part of a larger media genre, I spent years avidly following the adven...

Overwatch photo
Overwatch

The Overwatch beta is back on February 9


That didn't take too long
Feb 03
// Jordan Devore
Blizzard is bringing back the Overwatch closed beta on February 9 in the Americas and Europe, and February 16 in Asia. If you had access to it before the hiatus, you'll still be good to go. The newly refreshed beta will sport...
Dark Souls III photo
Dark Souls III

New Dark Souls III gameplay comin' in hot!


And rollin' all over the place
Feb 03
// Brett Makedonski
April isn't that far off on the horizon, but it might as well be an eternity when you're eagerly awaiting a new game. For many, that game is Dark Souls III, a franchise that has the pedigree to make waiting unbearable. If a ...
Dust 514 photo
Dust 514

CCP shutting down PS3-exclusive Dust 514, segueing into PC shooter


Project Legion comes to life, sort of
Feb 03
// Brett Makedonski
At EVE Fanfest 2014, CCP announced a prototype called Project Legion, a new PC shooter in the EVE Online universe. We were immediately left to wonder what this meant for Dust 514 which already fills that shooter rol...
Cities: Skylines photo
Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines' snowy expansion drops Feb. 18


Send in the plows
Feb 03
// Jordan Devore
I've seen snow only once or twice this year, and even then, it didn't stick around for long. Meanwhile, Brett is regaling us with tales about how he's just now venturing out of his snowed-in house for the first time since Sun...
Hitman photo
Hitman

Square Enix unveils Hitman's PS4 exclusive mission plans


First mission arrives at launch
Feb 03
// Chris Carter
Sony has locked up some more exclusive content for yet another shooter -- Hitman. In fact, when the game's beta launches on February 12, PS4 owners will be able to play it a week before PC and Xbox One players. It has also co...
One Piece photo
One Piece

One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 pushes one million copies, sold worst in North America


Europe came close to Japan!
Feb 03
// Chris Carter
It's pretty well known that there are a lot of European One Piece fans out there (which is why they got this EU-specific special edition), and now hard data from Bandai Namco supports that fact. According to the publishe...
Teens are cray photo
Teens are cray

Catch teens skinny dipping in this playthrough of Firewatch's first day


While they set off fireworks
Feb 02
// Jed Whitaker
Not only did we find out today that the soon-to-be-released Firewatch is going to cost $19.99, but now we have our first full playthrough of day one in the game thanks to PlayStation Access.  Personally, I'm even m...
The Witness photo
The Witness

The Witness has already brought in $5 million


Xbox, mobile ports under consideration
Feb 02
// Jordan Devore
Expanding on his initial hints about how The Witness is selling, designer Jonathan Blow has shared more detailed numbers. On PC and PS4, the mind-melting puzzle game "has totalled over $5 million USD gross revenue in the...
The Division photo
The Division

Here's how The Division's beta's graphics stacked up on PC, PS4, and Xbox One


Pretty good, pretty good
Feb 02
// Brett Makedonski
Now that The Division's first beta is over, how do the three versions across different platforms compare? Here's a video so that you can parse the evidence first-hand. IGN put this graphics comparison video together to show ...
Rainbow Six Siege photo
Rainbow Six Siege

Rainbow Six Siege gets frigid for its first free map


Black Ice
Feb 02
// Brett Makedonski
As classics such as The Thing and Alien vs. Predator have taught us, people get hurt when the temperature goes down. Rainbow Six Siege is already about hurting people (killing them, in fact!), so the game's fi...
Tales of Symphonia photo
Tales of Symphonia

There's already a fix for Tales of Symphonia's bad PC port


You can always count on Durante
Feb 02
// Jordan Devore
Tales of Symphonia released on Steam this week, and buyer beware -- you're in for a scare. Bandai Namco's PC version is based on the PS3 port of the PS2 port of the cherished 2003 GameCube title, and even by modest standards,...

Review: AIPD - Artificial Intelligence Police Department

Feb 02 // Chris Carter
AIPD - Artificial Intelligence Police Department (PC, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: Blazing BadgerPublisher: Mamor GamesReleased: January 29, 2016MSRP: $9.99 One part Geometry Wars, one part...Geometry Wars, AIPD is a shmup that sports interesting neon visuals and a bumpin' soundtrack. It's relatively easy to pick up given its twin-stick nature, as the only nuances you'll need to learn are the differences between the scant few powerups at your disposal. There's gadgets like slo-mo, shields, and the like to choose from, most of which you've seen before. Despite the lack of innovation, AIPD succeeds at a base level with tight controls and a fun aesthetic. I also like how it occasionally switches objectives after clearing out specific waves, and presents players with a choice of challenges -- something like picking between "enemies do more damage," or "players earn less points." It keeps you on your toes constantly. And since there's several difficulty levels available, the top of which is actually challenging, it mixes things up even more. But once you realize that those challenge nodes are basically there as a smoke and mirror effect to hide the fact that there's one level (a circle), the formula starts to falter. There's just a few enemy types in total to do battle with, and only two -- the laser-blasting Battleship and the snake-like Bouncer -- are truly unique. The rest feel like fodder, and wander around aimlessly without any real rhyme or reason. Even though there's two colors (red and purple) to differentiate them, most of the time I couldn't tell them apart. [embed]338525:62101:0[/embed] As time goes on, you have the options to unlock new weapons and starting loadouts, but that's about it. Mechanics like the heat meter, which halts fire momentarily to jettison a bomb that can harm the player, are cool in theory (it sounds cool just talking about it), but they only serve to break up the pacing. The few modes that are available feel too similar, and the "creation" mode that I was initially excited to dive into only allows players to choose custom rulesets from a strict table, so you aren't actually given a lot of freedom. The good news is that AIPD supports up to four players locally, so if you have three other friends who are die-hard shmup fans, it's worth checking out. Otherwise you can steer clear and pick up the heap of other great shooters on Steam or PS4. Those platforms have no shortage of them. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
AIPD review photo
Yes, that's the actual title
Who polices the AI Police? Good question.

Hearthstone photo
'Too daunting'
In case you haven't heard, Blizzard is changing up Hearthstone big time later this year with a major update. There are a few good things coming -- 18 custom deck slots for one, promised balance changes for select cards, ...

Firewatch photo
Firewatch

Firewatch hits PS4, Steam next week for $20


There's a little discount
Feb 02
// Jordan Devore
February got here in a hurry, and that means Firewatch isn't far off. Campo Santo's first-person, wilderness-set mystery game is coming to PlayStation 4, Linux, Mac, and Windows on February 9, 2016. It's going to be $19.99, n...
Origin freebie photo
Origin freebie

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is free on Origin


The one from Criterion Games
Feb 02
// Jordan Devore
The latest game in Origin's On the House program is 2012's Need for Speed: Most Wanted. For a limited time, you can add it to your account for free and it'll stay there until the end of days, probably. I'm not particularly we...
Knights and Bikes photo
Knights and Bikes

Former Tearaway, Ratchet and Clank devs team up for action RPG Knights and Bikes


EarthBound sensibilities
Feb 02
// Darren Nakamura
I could write up a basic synopsis of Knights and Bikes right here, but honestly, readers will benefit most from just watching the video below. If you want to skip the obligatory "two dudes sitting in front of a camera talking...

Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops III: Awakening

Feb 02 // Chris Carter
Call of Duty: Black Ops III (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: TreyarchPublisher: ActivisionReleased: February 2, 2016 (PS4) / TBA (PC, Xbox One)MSRP: $14.99 ($50 Season Pass for four packs) When it comes to map design, Treyarch is one of the best in the business. One of its go-to staples is the three-lane approach, which allows for all sorts of interesting firefights and strategies throughout every game type. It takes it to an extreme here with Gauntlet, as it hosts three unique themes in each lane -- tropical, arctic, and industrial. Each area evokes feelings of the past Black Ops maps, Jungle, Discovery, and Kowloon respectively, which is good company to be in. Gauntlet is instantly recognizable, and really feels like three maps in one. If anything it's a bit too tunnel-oriented as folks will no doubt have issues with a lack of elevation (especially in the arctic and jungle themes), but it gets the job done and I'm glad it's in the rotation. [embed]338194:62083:0[/embed] Splash (pictured up top) is typical Treyarch at its finest. It's an absurd water park map that wouldn't feel out of place at Disney World's Caribbean Beach Resort. It's bright, it's littered with shops and rides, and even has a Main Street area. Water slides dot the landscape, as do cute mascot signs that top the previous meta Burger Town franchise -- it would feel right at home in the wackier Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare games. It's crazy that you can consistently read the detail on individual signs now as well (a few of which made me laugh, like the "no selfie stick" one), instead of haphazardly trying to read blurry scrawls. It's one of my favorite maps in years, with a wide array of open areas and indoor close-quarters combat sections. Skyjacked, quite simply, is a remake of Hijacked from Black Ops II. This map was a bit divisive in the community due to its close-quarters focus and propensity to promote camping, so most of you have already made up your mind on it. Personally it was one of my favorites, so I'm glad to see Treyarch bringing it back here, and was happy to play it again. The new theme isn't a half-measure like some past remakes, as the entire affair now takes place in a floating fortress, set to the backdrop of an ongoing city battle. It's a remake of a good map that's made even better due to jumpjet and wallrunning capabilities. There's usually one map that I outright dislike in a pack, and this time it's Rise. It's far too gated and familiar for my tastes, and is nearly indistinguishable from a few industrial levels included in the base package (namely Exodus). There are times where you'd think a cool new area is just waiting around a corner, but then the game doesn't allow you to actually go there due to invisible walls. It's almost like they spent too much time building the other three to really put the proper amount of care in here. If it comes up in the rotation I usually cringe. Der Eisendrache (The Iron Dragon) caps off the DLC, which immediately adds more of an incentive to pick up Awakening. Peppering in one zombie (or alien) map is a strategy the other Call of Duty developers (Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer) have adopted for good reason -- the sheer amount of depth in these things keep people coming back for more. I really dig the whole castle theme, which basically goes full Wolfenstein from the start. I'm sad to see the Jeff Goldblum crew seemingly isn't returning for more, but the original cast is iconic enough to last, spearheaded by Steve Blum's Dempsey. The animated intro certainly helps give the level a different feel as well, and it's crazy that Treyarch is still building upon the lore it created so many years ago in World at War. Der Eisendrache surprised me as well with its open layout, with plenty of room to move, lots of teleporters, and tons of secrets that players will be tracking down weeks after launch. As Nikolai even remarks during Der Eisendrache, "will there ever be an end to this nightmare?" Not as long as Activision keeps selling DLC, there isn't! But one man's nightmare is another man's video game, and the good news is that each Call of Duty developer has been pushing itself harder in recent years to justify the price. If you still play Black Ops III, you can't really go wrong with Awakening -- especially since the new maps are now built into normal playlists from the get-go.
Call of Duty DLC review photo
Four maps and some zombies
It's still crazy to me that I'm loading up a Call of Duty DLC pack first on PlayStation 4. After years of Microsoft-dominated timed exclusivity Sony finally has its shot at heading it up, and it has perfect timing with Black Ops III. As one of the best Call of Duty games in years, it allows Awakening plenty of room to breathe, and lets Treyarch be its unconventional self.

League of Legends photo
League of Legends

League of Legends' Jhin is out, already sparking balance discussion


With a premium skin
Feb 02
// Chris Carter
Jhin the Virtuoso is now available in League of Legends, and there's a handy Spotlight available to show you what he can do. One of his main gimmicks involves shooting off four bullets, after which he has to momentarily reloa...
Dying Light photo
Dying Light

Dying Light will be removed from digital storefronts for three days


Be prepared
Feb 02
// Chris Carter
Technland has announced that come February 9, you won't be able to buy vanilla Dying Light digitally. Instead, it will be removed entirely, and replaced with the Enhanced Edition of the game on February 12. This transiti...
Review pending photo
Review pending

I shot martians to death and lived to tell about it in Fortified


Impressions of a solo playthrough
Feb 02
// Jed Whitaker
One part third-person cooperative shooter, one part campy 1950s sci-fi, Fortified releases today for PC and Xbox One. I've had the chance to play through the single-player mode and will be doing a full review once t...
NBA 2K16 photo
NBA 2K16

Tattoo studio sues Take-Two Interactive for $1,144,000


Stink over the ink
Feb 02
// Vikki Blake
A tattoo studio is suing NBA 2K16 publisher Take-Two Interactive for $1,144,000. According to Hollywood Reporter (via Eurogamer), Solid Oak Sketches filed a copyright on Monday for the tattoos of eight different NBAers -...
LEGO Star Wars photo
LEGO Star Wars

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a thing that's happening


Because of course it is
Feb 02
// Kyle MacGregor
In a move that should surprise absolutely no one, the next entry in Warner Bros. and TT Games' popular LEGO video game series is based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While the companies presumably would have liked to a...
Heroes of the Storm photo
Heroes of the Storm

Heroes of the Storm enlists Li-Ming tomorrow


Buffs for Rehgar
Feb 01
// Jordan Devore
It seems Chris and I have begun taking turns covering Heroes of the Storm. He last shared impressions of Li-Ming, and now I'm back to tell you she's launching earlier than expected. After a short stint on the public test real...
Super Mario Maker photo
Super Mario Maker

Whip up a sweet wallpaper with Mario Maker


Free official web app
Feb 01
// Jordan Devore
Nintendo has a cool little web app that lets you create wallpapers for your phone or computer, Mario Maker style. It's only in Japanese, for now, but I'm confident you'll be able to find your way around. This tool isn't nearl...
Korean MMO photo
Korean MMO

Black Desert Online launches March 3


For North America, Oceania, Europe*
Feb 01
// Kyle MacGregor
Black Desert Online, the Korean MMO famed for its extravagant character creator, is launching in North America, Oceania, and some European regions on March 3, Daum Games announced today. Until then, prospective players can do...
Free erotic visual novel photo
Free erotic visual novel

Win a free copy of that sexy lesbian ghost game


Kindred Spirits on the Roof
Feb 01
// Steven Hansen
Hey, how's it going? Remember Kindred Spirits on the Roof, the visual novel that, "focuses on a lesbian relationship between two ghost girls who haunt an all-girls academy and the unrequited feelings in their hearts, unabl...
Fallout 4 photo
Fallout 4

Fallout 4's next big patch is available now for PC, later this week for consoles


Quests, perks, and workshop improvements
Feb 01
// Zack Furniss
For those of you still roaming about Boston in Fallout 4, you'll be happy to know that your time in the city of lobster rolls should soon be more polished. If you're playing on PC, the automatic update is available right now....
Crashlands impressions photo
Crashlands impressions

Crashlands is much longer than it needs to be


I get it, let's move on
Feb 01
// Darren Nakamura
It's easy to settle into playing Crashlands. To start, it takes on the fairly well-trodden survival genre, where players start with nothing, punch some trees, harvest resources, and eventually build fantastic items. It most c...
The Witness photo
The Witness

Holy shit, this fan-made Witness puzzle is totally solvable


I think...
Feb 01
// Brett Makedonski
Once The Witness has its hooks in you, it really has its hooks in you. Chances are, there's no turning back. There is only playing, dreaming, and day-dreaming. Everything is a Witness puzzle waiting to happen, ...

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