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Review: Life is Strange: Chaos Theory

May 26 // Brett Makedonski
Life is Strange: Chaos Theory (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One[reviewed])Developer: Dontnod EntertainmentPublisher: Square EnixRelease date: May 19, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) As Life is Strange plays out chapter by chapter, it's increasingly difficult to talk about with any degree with specificity. Doing so not only runs the risk of spoiling the many significant plot points that continually punctuate this game, but it also feels like a disservice to discuss Life is Strange's events in black and white when much of its brilliance lies somewhere else. It's not a linear story progression that makes this title worthwhile, rather it's the character building and continually changing relationships that constantly shine. While episode two felt like it meandered too much, it laid the framework for an effective third part. Just spending that extra time inside the head of Max, getting to know Chloe, and seeing the incessant vitriol at Blackwell made for characters who are easier to empathize with. It all pays off in a big way in Chaos Theory as the cast is finally at a place where the audience feels like it knows them and cares for them. At the forefront of this trend is Max's relationship with Chloe, as the duo is ditching the re-introduction stage and have hit a groove of sorts with their interactions. There are plenty of moments when Chloe's rebellious carpe diem spirit rubs off on Max in a charming way; likewise, Max's level-headed and rational demeanor affects Chloe, probably for the better. [embed]292750:58673:0[/embed] These conflicting personalities may have been most at equilibrium during a serene midnight dip in the academy's swimming pool. It's here that the two are at their most introspective and humble. It's here that they express that they lean on one another. There's an understated emotionality about it all that makes it one of Life is Strange's best scenes yet. Really, the swimming pool scene best exemplifies the quality that Dontnod's employed masterfully throughout the three-fifths of Life is Strange that we've seen: restraint. It would've been easy to highlight the moment with some sort of memorable event. But, the developer didn't. Instead, it let the two simply talk, which wonderfully lends humanity to them both individually and as a team. However, it's not just Chloe and Max that are further humanized. Almost all characters have some sort of sympathetic progression, as Life is Strange continues to prove that it excels at dealing in shades of grey. We get a glimpse at how scumbag drug dealer Frank has loved and lost. We see how "step-prick" David password protects his computer not with a nod to his army service or himself, but with a receipt that holds the date he met his wife. The latter of those revelations is discovered through a fetch quest-style puzzle. As painful as it is to admit, this element of gameplay is still where Life is Strange is at its very worst. The reason that's sort of tough to swallow is because it always encourages exploration and will often reward the curious. However, when it forces that wandering upon the player, the pacing drops from a self-imposed standstill to a mandatory one. It's enough to deaden the mood rather quickly. It's a rare instance of Dontnod eschewing that aforesaid restraint to somewhat negative results. Thus far, the developer has done a great job keeping everything in check so as to not go off the rails. The time-rewinding mechanic still doesn't feel as if it's taken over the game nor does it serve as a permanent crutch. Instead, it's mostly sparingly used, usually to glean more information from a tight-lipped witness. Similarly, Life is Strange hasn't yet gone full-out on the paranormal aspect that clearly hangs over the entire story. This reserved approach is appreciated, as it lends weight to the characters and their personal circumstances rather than spotlighting the supernatural. There may be an imminent deviation from that pattern in the very near future, though. In the waning minutes of Chaos Theory, Max discovers a new ability that could easily shift the narrative focus. Chaos Theory is effective in that it's the first time Life is Strange asks the player to evaluate the net benefit of Max's ability to alter time. Until now, it's mostly dealt in small affairs where the results are immediately noticeable. Episode three finds a way to work on a longer timeline and with more at stake. In all honesty, it's the first time I've felt that exact heart-wrenching emotion that I experienced eleven years ago when watching The Butterfly Effect. The cliffhanger that Chaos Theory ends on is so perfect for this portrayal of the fictional Arcadia Bay, Oregon where nothing's ever perfect. However, it's also scarily dangerous in that it very well might render most of the world-building a moot point. It'd be such an absolute shame if that were to happen. We have to wait to see if that's the case. But, Life is Strange now has me in its grips, and if I'm worried, it's only because I care. I finally really, truly care. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Life is Strange review photo
Tornadoes in Texas
I'm worried about Life is Strange. But, it's not the same concern usually expressed when a game's teetering dangerously close to mediocrity or worse. It's the type of uneasiness reserved for a title that's taken three install...

Resident Evil photo
Resident Evil

Resident Evil 0 Remastered revealed, arrives early 2016


Re-enter the survival horror..on a train
May 25
// Alessandro Fillari
Coming off of the super successful Resident Evil Remastered earlier this year, Capcom made plans to invest more in HD remasters of classic titles. And after seeing how well REmake HD sold, it's clear that there was quite an a...
Battlefield 4 photo
Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4 (not Hardline) is getting an update tomorrow


A new mode
May 25
// Chris Carter
Despite the fact that Battlefield 4 launched back in 2013, it's still being updated. Tomorrow, players will get the spring update on all platforms, which includes the Gun Master mode. After an hour of downtime in the mor...
Mortal Kombat X photo
Mortal Kombat X

Tanya will make it to Mortal Kombat X in 'early June'


Or his name ain't 'Boon'
May 25
// Chris Carter
Way before the game released (because that's how WB rolls), we knew the contents of the $30 Mortal Kombat X Kombat Pack. Jason Vorhees has already been released, but Tanya, who made an appearance in the game's story mode...
Eurovision photo
Eurovision

Six months later, Guilty Gear Xrd: Sign comes to Europe


Eurovision
May 22
// Steven Hansen
Things are going your way right now, Europe. That whole Eurovision thing is going on and you're finally getting Guilty Gear Xrd: Sign, which Chris totally loved when it came out in the US back in December.  Plus, you hav...

Review: Destiny: House of Wolves

May 22 // Chris Carter
Destiny: House of Wolves (PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: BungiePublisher: Activision Released: May 19, 2015MSRP: $19.99 (Season Pass $34.99) As I previously discussed, House of Wolves has been a mixed bag so far. Let's start with the good. Bungie has listened to fans when it comes to smaller quality of life changes. There have been incremental improvements overall like the ability to toggle the volume of the sound and music (thank goodness), fixes like the patch for the heavy ammo bug, and communication has been better since the debacle that came up before the launch of the last DLC. The loot system in House of Wolves is arguably the best part. It allows players, by way of items called Etheric Light, to upgrade their guns and armor all the way up to the new maximum statline. This includes all of your favorite vanilla Destiny guns like the Fatebringer, and any kind of Legendary armor, including that raid set you kept from Vault of Glass. It's no glamour system (Etheric Light is hard to get, thus implementing a grind of a sort), but it's far better than the previous loot mechanics, which forced you to re-level Exotics after having a chance to upgrade them once a week.Right now, I'm sitting on three max level 34s three days after launch, which, depending on your point of view, is either a good or bad thing -- and would be nigh impossible to do with vanilla Destiny or The Dark Below in week one. The problem with this new expansion isn't mechanics, it's content, and this "House" is practically vacant. [embed]292545:58616:0[/embed] The story might technically have a few more missions tacked onto it compared to the last add-on, but they're just as short and painfully recreated from previous assets. There's lots of bravado with the narrative, and the tie-in with the Queen is pretty cool, but half the missions are direct retreads disguised as DLC. One mission is literally just a Patrol quest. Like, the same exact Patrols on Venus you've done a million times, you just need to kill some Vandals for a few minutes. Another is almost a direct slap in the face -- as it's the exact same level as the first mission, just in reverse. As for the Strike, you can't just put a new hat on the Archon Priest and charge money for it. Another problem is that all of the old content is more than stale at this point. Most Destiny players have been playing the same old Nightfalls, using the same "cheese spots" for months on end. Where is the variation? Maybe as part of the newest House of Wolves patch we could get remixed bosses for existing Nightfalls to spice things up a bit? I'm not even asking for completely redone levels, just new boss tactics that offer something different instead of bullet sponges. Is it so much to ask that maybe Sepiks Prime glows blue or red instead of purple, and has a new power? The rewards have been remixed, but the actual encounters remain the same. I'm not going to run the same Nightfall for a chance at an Etheric Light. The worst part is that I'm already drained when it comes to the Prison of Elders, the "endgame" activity that Bungie dressed up and provided in lieu of a raid. I'm sorry guys, this just doesn't fly. Crota's End had it's fair share of hate, and some of it for good reason, but I remember very clearly how awesome it felt to drop into the unknown of that abyss on day one. Running through that totem relay with five other friends, racing into the light with Thralls at my heels, figuring out how to beat the bridge encounter -- all of it gave me a sense of wonder, just like the Vault of Glass raid did before it. Prison of Elders has none of that magic. It's soulless. As of today, I've completed the Prison eleven times in total across all three of my characters. It felt the exact same every time. The setup is as follows: you'll start off in an airlock, walk into a room (it's the same four rooms, literally the exact same ones over and over), and either kill enemies, or dismantle mines for three waves -- then move onto the next room. The red room will always feature the Kabal, the green room will always feature the Hive, and the two same-looking outdoor purple environments will host the Fallen and Vex. Sure, you may have to blow up a mine or stand in a circle to destroy it every two to three rounds or so, but ultimately, it's the same room with the same enemies over and over. All of the bosses so far are even reskins, adding insult to injury. At this point, it's clear that the name of the game is to clone assets and charge money for it. There's content, but it feels like a series of checkboxes rather than something meaty. Take the final boss of the static level 35 Prison of Elders challenge, the highest-level encounter available in the game right now. He's a reskin of the boss from the story (he is the exact same boss from the story), but now he kills you in approximately one hit because of Solar burn. The arena is a reskin of the same Fallen room that you've probably seen 10 times over at this point in the first week. There's around 50 adds in the room all shooting at you at once. Does this sound familiar? That's because it's pretty much every other boss fight in the game. There are a few nuances like mines (reskinned from the Prison challenges), and a poison debuff that needs to be passed around the party (or cheesed with a Warlock res), but it ultimately ends up being nothing more than "shoot the bullet sponge with the Gjallarhorn because that's the gun that works in every circumstance." I've completed the level 35 Prison twice (one with the above method and another normally),  and simply put, the two previous raids had far more depth to them. I've seen hundreds of variations when it comes to strategies for the Gorgon room, the Crota encounter, and the Templar. For 99% of the Prison of Elders, your best tactic is "stand in a corner and shoot." It's like the Nightfalls you've played 50 times over, but in most cases, even easier, and with less interesting locales and enemies. Trials of Osiris isn't much better. Because it's PVP-oriented though and thus inherently less predictable, it's not nearly as tiring as playing the same four rooms ad nauseam. It requires a premade group of three, at which point you'll battle through a gauntlet with no resurrection capabilities (outside of the Warlock) once the entire team is dead. Each "match" is won by the team who wins five rounds first. If you win a specific amount of matches (five is the minimum for anything good, so far I've earned up to six wins) without losing three matches, you can earn gear. If you do lose thrice, you'll have to re-enter the tourney and start all over. It's cool in theory, but the rewards are fairly shallow and the event only runs from Friday until the reset Tuesday morning each week. The loot table is basically a direct counterpart to Prison -- one gun per week, one armor piece per week, some cosmetic items, and a random mystery box. There's no real charm to it, you just grind out wins, and you get the gear that the NPC shows you in the Reef. Again, it's only available to play at certain times, which just feels like an incredibly odd choice. After all, why limit one of your only real pieces of new content to just a few days at a time? Surely Prison of Elders isn't supposed to last us until the weekend. It's also important to note that Trials is only running on one map per week. After the fifth round in the same arena, it started to get boring. It's a very cool idea that heralds in the first real competitive PVP mode to Destiny, but it needs work. I used to play Destiny every week with my large group of friends, who would often hang out in PS4 party chat as we ran through the two six-person raids, cycling people in and out. Not only has Bungie made the once massive scope of the game smaller with the two new three-person maximum events, but they've also lost the interest of many of my once-fervent comrades. Heck, to add insult to injury, Xur came today and only had old items for sale outside of helmet engrams -- I bought 20 of those and didn't get anything new. Destiny feels just as smooth as ever as a shooter, but at this point you should wait until after "Year One," as they are calling it now, to see if Bungie is going to come up with something new. I really hope the rumored "2.0" version of the game has completely new areas and enemies. But at this rate, we may even get a Destiny 2 announcement at E3, which will all but confirm the "beta test" status of the original game. Bungie took a rooster, slicked its hair back, and dressed it up as a human. House of Wolves is the Chicken Boo of video game DLC. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Destiny DLC review photo
Den of puppies
I am convinced that somewhere, all of the new assets for the Destiny: House of Wolves expansion were lost, forcing Bungie to restart the entire process all over again. Why else would almost the entire $20 premium DLC be a reskin?

FFXIV photo
FFXIV

Nobuo Uematsu unveils his beautiful new Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward theme


Also, have some expansion footage
May 22
// Chris Carter
One of the best parts of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is the music. Most people don't consider it a "real" Final Fantasy because of the MMO tag, but let me tell you -- it's probably my favorite main entry sinc...
Utawarerurmono: False Mas photo
Utawarerurmono: False Mas

Utawarerurmono: False Mask is a visual novel, strategy RPG hybrid


3D!
May 21
// Steven Hansen
Aquaplus has released its first trailer for Utawarerurmono: False Mask, the unexpectedly 3D hybrid visual novel and strategy game coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PS Vita in Japan on September 24.  
ATLUS photo
ATLUS

Lost Dimension finds Europe on August 28


One month after North American launch
May 21
// Kyle MacGregor
Lancarse's Lost Dimension is coming to Europe on August 28, NIS America announced today. The tactical role-playing game debuted on PlayStation 3 and Vita in Japan last year and is on its way to North America on July 28, ...
Telltale Game of Thrones photo
Telltale Game of Thrones

Telltale's Game of Thrones Episode Four: Sons of Winter trailer gave me chills


Winter is coming, after all
May 21
// Darren Nakamura
Although winter is coming, things are really starting to heat up for House Forrester. While the first couple episodes took a lot of time to set things up, the last one really started putting things into motion. With Episode ...
Scummy Warner Bros. photo
Scummy Warner Bros.

The false advertising of Mortal Kombat's Kombat Pack


Leave it to the kings of DLC
May 20
// Jed Whitaker
Warner Bros. is notorious for its preorder, DLC, and season pass bullshit, and Mortal Kombat X's Kombat Pack is no exception. Nicolas Jones sent us a tip about how he asked WB Games Support why the Kombat Pack didn't include all the DLC for the current season, as there have been various costume packs released that aren't included. WB's response:
Evil Within DLC photo
Evil Within DLC

The Executioner is the last Evil Within DLC, out May 26


First-person
May 20
// Steven Hansen
The last bit of The Evil Within DLC drops this month. "The Executioner" features an unexpected shift to the first-person perspective and "series of battle arenas all from the...perspective of The Keeper," if you were thinkin...
PSN sale photo
PSN sale

Sony's Extended Play Sale makes it worth it to wait on buying DLC


Sorry day one suckers
May 19
// Robert Summa
For those that generally loathe the idea of DLC and season passes, Sony is offering quite the incentive to jump on the extra content train. Set to run until May 25, the Extended Play Sale is marking up to 80% off for what is ...
Destiny DLC review photo
Destiny DLC review

Review in Progress: Destiny: House of Wolves


Den of puppies
May 19
// Chris Carter
Destiny was one of the weirdest releases in recent memory. It was so unbelievably ambitious, but when it dropped, it was basically a fraction of what Activision advertised. As time went on many tweaks were made to the ga...
Marvel-ous photo
Marvel-ous

Dead or Alive 5 gets superhero costume set


Marvel-ous
May 19
// Steven Hansen
Not as on the nose as the Senran Kagura cross over and a bit more creative than the many "as few clothes as possible" packs, Dead or Alive 5 Last Round (the fourth, final iteration of Dead or Alive 5) debuted its super hero ...
God of War III PS4 photo
God of War III PS4

God of War III's Hades fight in 1080p, 60fps on PS4


PS4 remaster
May 19
// Steven Hansen
As we've previously covered, God of War III -- yes, that very HD PS3 game from just 5 years ago -- is getting a PS4 remaster next month (July 14) and the PlayStation Blog has released some new footage to coincide with its pr...
Mortal Kombat X photo
Mortal Kombat X

Mortal Kombat X is nearly as popular as Ultra Street Fighter IV at Combo Breaker


A very small difference at the moment
May 19
// Chris Carter
The hyped has worked out for Mortal Kombat X it seems. It's done well both critically and commercially, and the fighting game community has taken a liking to it professionally as well. According to lead organizer Rick Th...
Sengoku Basara 4 photo
Sengoku Basara 4

Sengoku Basara 4: Sumeragi takes on Resident Evil in costume form


Digging it
May 19
// Chris Carter
Sengoku Basara 4: Sumeragi is set to debut in July in Japan for the PS3 and PS4, and when it does, it will bring some Resident Evil-themed costumes with it. According to Famitsu, costumes based on Chris, Leon, Jill, and Weske...
SMT photo
SMT

Shin Megami Tensei: Luciferís Call now available on PSN


Hee-ho!
May 19
// Kyle MacGregor
More than a year after coming to PlayStation Network in North America, Shin Megami Tensei : Lucifer’s Call -- Nocturne, if you're nasty -- is now available on European shores. If you can withstand its soul-cru...
BRASIL photo
BRASIL

Mortal Kombat X gets, uh, Brazil costume pack


Not the movie
May 19
// Steven Hansen
Ok, look. I did pay $.99 for a PSN avatar once. An Italian-flag-colored LittleBigPlanet sackboy back in whatever World Cup when LittleBigPlanet was still a thing. Probably 2002 or something. Still! Mortal Kombat X's Ed Boon t...
Life is Strange photo
Life is Strange

Life is Strange looks like it's going to start heating up


And blowing up
May 18
// Brett Makedonski
The third episode of Life is Strange releases this week, and it appears as if the embattled-teen story will really pick up speed with this next installment. That is, if this trailer has anything to say about it. Thus fa...
A Telltale game series photo
A Telltale game series

Episode 4 of Telltale's Game of Thrones is coming, here are some screens


More like LAME of thrones
May 18
// Steven Hansen
Ah, Game of Thrones. I forget it's still a huge thing sometimes, like when I recently learned Mad Men is still on. This time it's the fourth episode, "Sons of Winter," of Telltale's adventure game take on the J.R.R. Tolkien property to remind me it's still around. Here are some pictures. Darren Nakamura liked the last episode and will be doing up a review of this'n when it comes.
Nobunaga's Ambition photo
Nobunaga's Ambition

Nobunaga's Ambition coming west this September


To PS4, PS3, PC with dual-audio
May 18
// Kyle MacGregor
Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence is coming west, Koei Tecmo announced today. Originally released in December 2013 as Nobunaga no Yabō: Sozou, this is the latest entry in Koei Tecmo's long-running grand strat...
House of Wolves photo
House of Wolves

Destiny: House of Wolves will launch at 10AM PST tomorrow


Pre-load today
May 18
// Chris Carter
Tomorrow, Bungie will deploy the new House of Wolves expansion for Destiny at 10AM PST. It will include the Prison of Elders arena mode, the new Strike, more PVP maps, and a new story, with the Trials of Osiris PVP mode ...
LGBT Dragon Age photo
LGBT Dragon Age

BioWare lead writer talks gay romances, LGBT characters, and Dragon Age sales


Did you ride the bull?
May 18
// Jed Whitaker
Fellow bearded brethren and radio personality Andy Borkowski interviewed David Gaider, the lead writer of Dragon Age: Inquisition on the topic of diversity in the series. David states that an argument could be made that ...
Grand Theft Auto V photo
Grand Theft Auto V

GTA 5 physical sales top 5 million in UK alone


And that's not even counting downloads
May 18
// Vikki Blake
Grand Theft Auto V has sold over 5 million copies in the UK. The figures are confirmed by chart company GfK Chart-Track and don't even include download sales (meaning the squillions of recent Steam purchas...
Gust RPG photo
Gust RPG

Atelier studio's new JRPG looks dark and wonderful


Introducing Yoru no Nai Kuni
May 17
// Kyle MacGregor
Koei Tecmo subsidiary Gust is best known for its work on Atelier, a series of role-playing games with an express focus on alchemy and crafting, but the studio's latest creation appears to be something else entirely. It's call...
Monochroma photo
Monochroma

Monochroma will not be coming to a lot of originally planned platforms


From the Kickstarter campaign
May 15
// Chris Carter
Back in May 2014, Monochroma was released. It was another Kickstarter success story that proved that the model can work, despite the fact that it had a rather middling reception at launch. Well, it partially-worked, as t...
Freedom Wars photo
Freedom Wars

Use today's PSN flash sale as an opportunity to get Freedom Wars


One of the best games on the platform
May 15
// Chris Carter
Freedom Wars is pretty great. Our own Brett Zeidler loved it, I loved it, and now it's on sale today on the PSN for $4.80, down from $29.99. Other discounted Vita games for today's Flash Sale include Nidhogg, The Walking Dead...






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