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Rock Band 4 is doing a new fun thing you wouldn't expect

Jun 15 // Brett Makedonski
Between those dueling stages was an innocuous, decidedly less interesting room. But, what it lacked in flair, it made up for in substance. Some posted up nearby talking Filipino politics, but those who ventured inside found the biggest change to Rock Band in years. Guitar solos aren't what they used to be. Trepidation was abound. Shredding in Rock Band is such a staple. Now it's different. Accuracy has been replaced with creativity. I couldn't help but think that's a musician's move right there. I also couldn't help but be a little dejected that there's less skill involved with the instrument that I spent the most time trying to perfect. Down the hall, Pearl Jam's "Alive" started playing, and Eric Pope couldn't hide his disdain. I thought about firing it up to figure out how these new solos worked. I refrained and chose "Cult of Personality." In everyone else's hands, this is a plastic guitar; in my hands, it's a pipebomb. Things didn't pan out quite as I wanted. Rather than rhythmically dissecting the song until the solo hit, I was met with five minutes of solo. That's a dev mode thing -- perks of the preview event. I guess that's adequate time to figure out the ins and outs of the new format. I was mostly right, but not entirely. [embed]293727:59016:0[/embed] A small group had formed after a few minutes. Someone made a comment about the five buttons on a Rock Band guitar. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. A Harmonix representative sprung into action to correct the misstatement and pitch the Freestyle Solos -- a system that reminded everyone there are ten buttons on these axes. Intricate notes have been left by the wayside for colorful patterns. Blue means to play in first position (normal notes); orange indicates you need to slide up the neck and play on those five forgotten-about buttons. An algorithm decides exactly what gets played, whether it be sustains, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, or just wildly tapping without any strumming. One of the patterns mandates you just play anything. Make noise, anything works. While it sounds somewhat insane, it mostly works. The solos come together in a way that's satisfying -- as if you were actually playing the solo. However, substituting that for nailing a classic solo isn't a trade-off that I necessarily appreciated. It just feels like maybe it's a bit too easy now. That's not the only concern. Harmonix has made a point of framing Rock Band 4 as a party game that anyone can pick up and play. But, I saw many of my peers struggling to integrate the solos into the gameplay they already knew. When I asked the devs how long they expected it'd take for casual players to grasp Freestyle Solos, they thought it'd go pretty quick. I estimate it'll take slightly longer than very casual players want to commit. In that event, the mode can be turned off, which seems like a less than optimal solution. For those who have the patience to learn it but aren't dedicated enough to excel at the old solos, Freestyle may be a fine compromise. Wailing on those solos makes you feel really good even when you're performing a relatively simple task. It makes for a nice little illusion for anyone who doesn't want to look past it. 
Rock Band preview photo
'Play Freestyle!'
Everywhere I looked, my peers seemed to be having fun. Mere minutes before, everyone couldn't stop talking about how cold that Santa Monica rooftop was. It was the opposite of fun. Now, that had melted away, a distant memory ...

Borderlands players will probably dig Battleborn

Jun 12 // Jordan Devore
Sure, the copious amounts of loot are gone. And this isn't a wasteland -- it's the last star in the universe. But damn, Battleborn really will feel and sound familiar to Borderlands players despite having an extended cast of 25 playable characters. The roster has the diversity of a typical MOBA lineup, and the rate at which you're leveling up and acquiring new abilities matches that genre. First, Gearbox and 2K had us watch a group of people play a level to, uh, show us how it's done. Then we played that same level. Then we played it again. Then we played it a third time. The intention was to highlight the variation in characters, I guess -- and there's plenty -- but the format also reminded me how grating funny dialogue often becomes on repeated playthroughs. Our short slice of the campaign was set on a snowy area with suitably solemn music. It was mostly linear, with wider areas interspersed for larger engagements. I first chose a gentlemanly robot sniper who could call in an owl. He was great at safely taking down our primary foe -- alien monsters called the Varelsi -- from afar while my four co-op partners soaked up damage. After that, I picked a vampire-looking samurai with twin blades. He was ferocious, but I kept managing to lose my shields and then my health and then I needed to be revived. Sorry about that! I'm squishy! Even if I didn't quite get a handle on how to play him well, I still enjoyed the first-person slicing. On my third playthrough, I went with a witch who shot dark energy out of her four arms and could open portals from which hellish things would leak out. I liked her. Leveling up occurs regularly. Again, think Dota 2 or League of Legends. Instead of separate skill trees like in Borderlands, you're presented with a single either-or decision, one for each of your ten levels. You're able to choose between things like increased shields or higher weapon damage, and boost certain abilities over others. If you're like me, you'll wish you could just have every upgrade. As for mission objectives, the preview build was a lot of pushing forward, wiping out every enemy. Eventually, we had to protect a spider mech guy as he trundled along to his final destination where an inevitable boss battle took place. Along the way, we picked up shards from chests and fallen foes that could be spent on upgrading the mech's offensive or defensive capabilities as well as turrets during the final fight. Doing so seemed unnecessary, but I'm sure we were playing on one of the friendlier difficulty settings and that it can get real tough if you want a challenge. While I didn't get to see much of Battleborn, I'm more into it than I thought I would be as someone who isn't particularly crazy about Borderlands. I think it's the gunplay, which feels tighter here. There's also more care-free room for experimentation in terms of character selection and how you want to build them out. I'm unsure about the PvP, but I'll probably want to round up four friends to run through the story mode when this releases on PC, PS4, and Xbox One this year.
Battleborn preview photo
Hands-on impressions of the story mode
[Disclosure: Years ago, Aaron Linde used to write for Destructoid. He now works on Battleborn at Gearbox Software. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into this preview.] To sum up Battleborn ...

E3 2015 Preview: Pink eye and treadmills, VR is here

Jun 11 // Jed Whitaker
Tell me which of the following has you pumped for the future, as you surely are: ANTVR KIT - The All-IN-ONE Universal Virtual Reality Kit (ANTVR KIT), was independently researched and developed by ANTVR, launched on kickstarter, and raised over $260,000 -- exceeding its goal. The ANTVR headset features a 100 degree field of view, tracks head movements 360 degrees, provides vivid 3D images, and produces a non-distorted immersive virtual reality effect. It is compatible with PC/PS/XBOX and other platforms, as well as existing 3D/2D games and movies. TAW - TAW is a foldaway VR headset for smart phone which can bring you into the virtual world anytime while working with a smart phone of 4.5-6 inches. ANTVR Camera - ANTVR Camera is a 3D sports camera featuring 3D shooting with a 180 degree viewing angle and first-class image. It can be used with a VR headset. Guided Meditation VR - Experience an endless virtual vacation with Guided Meditation VR by Cubicle Ninjas. This virtual reality application provides powerful relaxation in exotic locations across the globe. Find your happy place as our "Relaxation Artificial Intelligence"walks through proven meditation and mindfulness techniques. Virtualizer - The Virtualizer is an advanced omnidirectional treadmill that allows users to walk, run, strafe, jump and crouch in virtual reality. Based on its third generation design, the Virtualizer is the first to offer 360 degree tangle-free rotation and a vertical free-motion ring for full freedom of movement in VR. Manus Data Glove - A data-glove for the common man. The Manus is an affordable data glove that tracks hand movement through various sensors integrated in to the glove. This data is then sent to our software -- which allows the user to play any game. With our open-source software you can program the Manus for other uses such a controlling drones, mobile games and more of your favourite devices. All of the above are real products that will be at E3 next week. Add these to Valve's Vive, Sony's Morpheus, and the Oculus Rift, and I assume you become The Lawnmower Man. Personally I'm looking forward to the Power Glove made for man ass. But for real, as cynical I've been about all this I'm very excited for E3, for the potential of VR, and to making as many informative (read: silly) videos I can from the show floor next week!
Yay eye cooties photo
The future is awesome?
As E3 approaches we here at Dtoid have been getting our inboxes filled with emails wanting us to check out new games and products, a large portion of which are virtual reality based and not just of the headset variety. O...

My first three hours with Street Fighter V were immensely satisfying

Jun 11 // Alessandro Fillari
Street Fighter V (PC, PlayStation 4 [previewed])Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease date: TBA 2016 Once Street Fighter V is released, it'll be looked back on as a point in the series for many firsts. For starters, SFV is the first title in the series that will be available on only one console, but will also feature cross-play with the PC release. This is a big thing, as each platform for the previous installments tended to build its own microcosm of players. Not only will they play against each other, they'll share the same patches and updates, which will keep them together and competing regardless of the platform they choose. Moreover, Capcom is ensuring that online play will smooth and swift as ever with its new proprietary netcode called Kagemusha. Using some sophisticated rollback-based netcode, the developers are invested to ensure that the online play is consistent and hassle free. This is also the first in series to utilize the new and ever-versatile Unreal Engine 4. Though there were some concerns about whether or not Unreal could handle a title as twitch-based as SF, given the past iterations of the engine had difficulties with rendering and maintaining a solid frame rate, thankfully my time with the new fighter has made me a believer in the tech employed here. Not only are the visuals incredibly sharp and full of vibrant colors and details, the performance is rock solid. Simply put, this is the best Street Fighter has ever looked, and these images, nor the trailers, can match having the game played right in front of you. But enough about the fancy visuals; you want to hear how it plays. Of course, with every follow up to a massively popular and well-loved title, there comes the ever important question: what did they change? As you could likely tell from the trailers, Street Fighter V looks very similar to its predecessor, taking advantage of the same mechanics, like EX moves for instance, but also the similar focus on defensive gameplay (SFIV's Revenge Gauge). Street Fighter V definitely maintains those elements, but does them in a way that makes them feel unique to this installment. For instance, the Super Moves have now been upgraded to the new Critical Arts, which still require full EX Meter. While many of the signature moves are the same (Ryu's Shinku Hadoken and Chun-Li's Hoyokusen, for instance), the Critical Arts are more deadly and flashier than the supers of past. What I was surprised most by was that it goes further and features echoes to past SF titles -- even some influences from Street Fighter III and the Alpha series. While I initially thought they were just call-backs relevant to the characters (particularly the appearance of Nash), I found that the developers have essentially incorporated many elements that were successful from past titles, sometimes re-contextualizing them in interesting ways. After playing SFV, it was readily apparent that the previous trailers and footage we've seen haven't done the game justice one bit. Especially when you realize that they've been keeping one of their game-changing mechanics a secret. And it's one of the most interesting, engaging systems the series has seen in a long time. With the new Variable System, fighters can take advantage of multiple tactics and abilities that stem from the V-Gauge, an evolution of the Revenge Meter. As they build up bars of the gauge from taking damage or executing special V-Skills (character-specific support moves activated with MP+MK), they can use moves such as the V-Reversal, a powerful counterattack activated while blocking and pressing all punch or kick buttons (at the cost of one V-Gauge bar). But once you max out the meter, you can activate the special V-Trigger (HP+HK), which brings out the fighter's true potential. Despite some speculation, V-Triggers are not stance changes. The Trigger puts the fighters in a unique state for a short amount of time, where they can take advantage of unique buffs and some modified moves. Each character has their own unique take on the Variable System, which not only adapts to their own style, but does a lot to flesh them out. During my three hours of play, I got the impression that Street Fighter V is planning on enhancing the in-game narrative a bit by reflecting more of personality in the gameplay than ever before. For instance, Ryu's take on the system is influenced by his experience as a world-traveled warrior, and during his time, he's educated himself on different fighting styles, giving him the knowledge on how to best confront whoever he faces. In order to give you a better idea of what the Variable System is like, I'll be giving you an overview of things for the four playable characters we know of so far. Starting with Ryu, his V-Skill, called Mind's Eye, brings the return of the legendary Parry mechanic from Street Fighter III. For the novices out there, Ryu can time his skill at the exact moment of contact to block off enemy hits with no chip-damage -- and yes, it can be used for successive hits. Though in order to keep it balanced, it's unusable in the air. Once his V-Gauge is maxed out, he can activate his V-Trigger Denjin-Renki, imbuing him with a powerful aura for a limited time and grants him the ability to charge up his fireballs, giving them guard break potential. Also, his fireballs are given lightning properties, and when they connect you'll see brief flashes of the enemy's skeleton. It's a neat visual callback to SFII. Chun-Li's Variable mechanics focus on her maneuverability and dexterity during battles. As one of the more agile and aerial gifted fighters in the game, her Variable moves play on her strengths in a big way. For instance, her V-Trigger ability Ren-Kiko puts her in a powered-up state and gives her special moves extra hits. Her V-Skill, called Ren-Kyaku, is essentially a command jump that allows her to manually jump in any given direction. While this may seem like an odd skill, this command jump causes damage while leaving the ground and gives her ease of movement for some exceptional cross-up potential. The guys from Capcom I played against used Chun-Li quite effectively, and I left in awe of her acrobatics. It even made me want to shout out 'eh, eh, eh!' during her air juggles. Next up, we have the return of Guile's mentor and best friend Charlie. Since his last appearance in Alpha 3, things aren't the same for Charlie, who now goes by Nash. His new look shows that he's a changed man after his experimentation and torture by the hands of Shadaloo, and many of his former abilities have been modified, adopting a focus on swiftness and gap-closing maneuvers. His V-Skill, known as Bullet Clear, allows for him to absorb incoming projectiles and turn them into energy for his V-Gauge. For his V-Trigger, Nash does something a bit different. While many other characters enter a timed state that enhance moves, his trigger allows him to instantly teleport to a desired direction at the cost of his V-Gauge. Though this may seem a bit hefty of a cost for a teleport move, his V-Trigger can open up foes to a world of hurt if timed during a barrage of projectiles, leaving them vulnerable from behind or even in the air. By far, I had the most fun with Nash. He feels totally different from before, as his previous incarnations borrowed from Guile's moveset, and I'm pleased to say that he's truly come into his own for SFV. Lastly, we have M. Bison. As the main villain for much of the series, he's seen a bit of an upgrade since his last appearance. While older and a bit slower than his previous incarnations, he's still got plenty of tricks up his sleeve. With a far more menacing appearance, the leader of Shadaloo uses his Psycho powers to a far deadlier effect. With his V-Skill, called Psycho Reflect, he's able to conjure up a field of energy to bounce back projectiles and force them back at his enemies. As a charge-focused character, also sporting a modified movelist, this comes in handy when dealing with projectile-heavy opponents. With his Psycho Power V-Trigger, his abilities come into full effect, granting him increased speed and damage for special moves, and replacing his standard dash with a short-range teleport. I was impressed with what the Variable system brings to the table. In Street Fighter IV, the Revenge Gauge was only used to build your Ultra Combos, which for a lot of the skilled players often went unused. Thankfully, Street Fighter V makes better use of the mechanic here by making it a more active element during fights. The system added a whole layer of nuance to an already tried and true system, and I was super pleased with how easy it was to pick up. Though you've likely seen the phrase "easy to learn, difficult to master" thrown out a lot for games, I feel SFV lives up to that in a big way. I suspect many of the pros and hardcore fans will have fun analyzing the depths of the Variable System. It should be stated again at how gorgeous this game looks in motion. The frame rate was solid, and the new visuals have given the characters a greater level of detail. Though in some spots, it's clear that the game has still got things to work on. During the London stage, which looks incredible by the way, the background visuals didn't quite match up with what was going on in the foreground. For one, the frame rate was a bit off with the background action, which became a major distraction during battles running at 60 frames per second. But of course, this title is still a ways off, and it'll likely be cleared up before release. I have fond memories of growing up with Street Fighter II back in the day, and although I've kept with the series since, there were only a few titles that really blew me away and actively got me to up my game in order to compete with friends. Now am I saying that SFV matches those moments I had as a kid? Of course not. I only played a few hours of an unfinished build without the complete roster, after all. But what I did play showed a ton of promise, and honestly, I haven't felt this excited about Street Fighter in a long time. It's a great feeling having a new game in the wings, and I'm just itching to get back into the thick of it. Be sure to check back with Destructoid during the week of E3. We'll likely see more exciting titles from Capcom at the show. It's certainly going to be a good lineup this year.
Street Fighter V photo
Kick, Punch, it's all in the mind
After nearly thirty years, the Street Fighter series has still been going strong. With more incarnations than most people can remember, the series is seen by many as the quintessential example of what the fighting game genre ...

Adr1ft is going to give someone a panic attack

Jun 10 // Jordan Devore
Late last year, Brett covered Adr1ft and detailed its unlikely inspiration. What I saw and played at a pre-E3 event was much of the same content, only more polished. There was no puzzle solving in this initial chunk of game, only death. I strayed to investigate a distant lifeless body and the trip proved too lengthy. I suffocated. Horrible way to go, but my last sight, the earth, was majestic. Given how little of the game I experienced, I'm unsure what shape Adr1ft will ultimately take. Movement feels right, though, that I can assure you. Plenty of freedom, but not so much control that it's overwhelming. You have to be mindful of your surroundings. The sound design -- the stuff that actually makes gasping for air so damned horrifying -- is similarly great. Enthralling. I'd say I'm looking forward to playing the finished game but, well, I'm dreading it. Even without a virtual-reality headset, it's that nerve-wracking. Space doesn't need Xenomorphs to be scary.
Adr1ft photo
Stave off suffocation in space
I'm anxious about playing Adr1ft again. Every moment I spent with this lonely, immersive, surprisingly vivid game about an astronaut stranded on a damaged space station with an equally damaged suit was full of tension. Will m...

Abzu preview photo
Swim with the fishes
Decades of classical conditioning have trained us to abhor water levels. The likes of Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Ocarina of Time hold strained memories of great games gone awry, if just ever-so-temporar...

Sneak king: 14 hours of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Jun 09 // Steven Hansen
[embed]293558:58900:0[/embed] There is a reason I am excited about Snake's horse having a poop button and it is not only that I am a dumb idiot. While I never managed to confirm, I am sure that you can do something like strategically place poop so an enemy walks into it and stops, or maybe slips. Because things like that are what elevate Metal Gear Solid V above typical stealth and/or open-world titles. It's the idiosyncrasies, like calling in a supply drop from Mother Base right onto the head of a stationary guard, knocking them out. It's knowing winks like hiding in a PS4 cardboard box, or the ghost from PT being an item, or a spoken, in-universe tutorial where you're told fourth wall breaking things like "press X" while under extreme virtual duress. The opening segment, which has mostly been covered in diced up trailers, stuck with me in hindsight for how long it goes on with you controlling a crawling, limping Snake in the under siege, burning hospital. It's a while before you're given any power back (guns or even the ability to walk properly), which I appreciated. Kojima ratchets up the direness here, too, as loads of hospital patients get brutally murdered all around. The meat of Phantom Pain opens after this mix of spectacle and terror with a trip to dusty Afghanistan to save Miller that ends in a frightening [redacted]. This plays similarly to Ground Zeroes, of course, but with a horse and more scouting and enemy tagging to do. I wormed my way up to where Miller was captive, climbed up a crack in a building, and jumped from one roof to another to neatly sneak in. Carrying a less-limbed Miller out did get me plenty shot up, but a whistle for my buddy D Horse got both of us out of there quickly. Back on Mother Base, the structure becomes clear. There are main missions you must travel to (by helicopter to a nearby landing zone, or on horseback/by ground vehicle) and they are not all story heavy, though you're always treated to beginning and ending credits, as if each mission was a TV episode, just in case you forgot that this was directed by Hideo Kojima. One mission simply tasked me with rolling up on a compound and assassinating three Russian officers. I fulton'd them all -- attached balloons to them to send back to Mother Base -- against Miller's wishes instead, which proved wise as the officers had some high statistical aptitudes. These poached soldiers fill out your private army and get cool names like Blue Mastadon. Eventually you can scan them ahead of time to know which have high stats, or you can sometimes interrogate soldiers into informing you if an en elite operative is nearby (provided you've acquired a translator for your support team, as Snake's language skills are limited). [embed]293558:58893:0[/embed] It's a lot of contract work in addition to the narrative goal of stopping the Hamburglar-masked Skull Face and generally figuring out what the hell is going on with things. I was actually a bit surprised by how infrequently missions came with cutscenes or main story ties. Sometimes they open up three at a time and you can take them on in any order. You can also choose to repeat a mission at any time if you want to aim for a better performance ranking. I did this with a prisoner extraction mission I had previously finished, but barely. Turns out using the Phantom Cigar to speed up until nighttime, coupled with the night vision goggles, made that particular mission a five minute cakewalk. Going at it in the day led me to enough deaths that I was offered the Chicken Hat, which makes things easier and slows down enemy reaction time. Other dynamic weather events -- rain or sandstorms -- can also come into play, sometimes not at opportune moments. The low visibility caused by sandstorms helped me a few times, but also led me to walk right into an enemy soldier, once. There are also useful side missions that pop up for you take at your leisure, often en route to the next mission point. The Afghan desert is huge, but much of the terrain is empty or cordoned off by mountainous areas or steep cliff sides that encourage you to use the main roads. These roads are littered with enemy outposts, however, often with small platoons of three to four and a watch tower. Sneaking through them isn't too tough, because often you can take a longer loop around them, but they often house collectables (you can pinch a huge assortment of music from enemy tape players) and valuable resources that tie into the upgrade system. Oil, alloys, raw diamonds for straight cash, plants to upgrade the sleeping toxin in Snake's tranquilizers or the time-shifting Phantom Cigar -- you'll be scooping up all of it, though other means of acquisition open up when you can start sending squads out on missions. Plus, those posts are full of soldiers to abduct and, after you upgrade your Fulton balloons, things like heavy artillery to nick. [embed]293558:58895:0[/embed] Everything you Fulton, barring bad weather or bad luck with nighttime visibility, ends up back at Mother Base, which is large enough, especially once you get construction going, that you can actually take a helicopter to other parts of it. Or you can take a long, straight drive in a jeep. Going back to visit helps your troops' morale. They're also proud and happy to have you practice your close quarters combat on them at any time. During my lengthy hands-on, I never got to the point where my Mother Base came under attack, though that's supposed to be a big part of it, up to the point where you can consider nuclear capability as a defense. It's worth noting that 14 hours or so with Phantom Pain and I didn't feel close to finished. Back at Mother Base, I was still building an animal sanctuary (necessary to house all the wandering sheep and other creatures I kept bringing back) and trying to get an imprisoned, sun-bathing Quiet as a deployable buddy like D-Horse and Diamond Dog (the adorable wolf pup that grows into a super-scouting badass). She just sat in the cell, face down, top undone (got to watch those tan lines) listening to tunes from an eclectic, amusing soundtrack. Adorably, construction scaffolding on Mother Base is all stamped with a picture of a dog in a hardhat with a pick axe. It's the little things. Like changing my Diamond Dogs logo from a boring, stencil font "DD" to a cool ass octopus emblazoned with the words "VENOM WOMAN." You can even paint Mother Base if that Giants-orange is too much for you. I find a tasteful dark blue goes well with the sea. My favorite Mother Base quirk so far, though, is the giant shower Snake can jump into to come out feeling refreshed. It also washes off all the blood that accumulates on him while out on missions (if you end up getting shot, at least). [embed]293558:58891:0[/embed] While there are reasons to return home, you can manage a lot of Mother Base, like troop allocation and base development, while out in the field through the iDroid. It also acts as Snake's cassette player, useful for Codec-replacing heaps of exposition, which is just about the only place I heard Snake do much talking.  From the iDroid you can also develop new or better versions of weapons and items. There are upgraded critter traps, different abilities for Snake's robot arm, enhancements to the binocular scanner, extra Fulton balloons to heft heavier weight. I mostly played with a stealthy approach so I didn't dabble much with the vast assortment of snipers, machine guns, or rocket launchers you can call in. Nor did I ever run up on a lack of funds that would prevent re-supply drops of my own essential Fulton balloons and tranq darts, but the fact that you have to call in and then get to the supply drops means that the feature rarely made things too simple. Especially because missions often end up in close quarters or indoors where a supply drop would be useless anyways. I was impressed by how naturally set piece sort of areas exist in Metal Gear Solid V's world. There are long tracts of dusty road, vast open desert, but suddenly you stumble upon an enormous, imposing compound. In the case of one early mission, it was an Uncharted-style winding, honeycomb-esque historical labyrinth, which you get to by creeping through an excavation camp. There are mission areas that would feel like obvious "levels" elsewhere, but here they mesh cleanly with the open world. Just starting or ending a mission (the latter, usually by reaching a helicopter and flying out in real time) is seamless and the day/night cycle persists in cutscenes. I did hit one snag with this open-world structure, though. When you start a mission (or side-mission), you're then restricted to a "mission area." Leaving it ends the mission. I only ever noticed after one challenging mission that ended with [redacted] and [redacted] coming up on [redacted] and holy hell [redacted] -- anyway, towards the end I tried to hightail it on my horse, but I ended running clean through the mission area and having to start from way, way back. It wanted me to sneak to a nearby chopper extraction point instead of just racing to safety and calling one in. This is, incidentally, when I noted the cutscene and subsequent segment I originally did at night now took place during the day. [embed]293558:58892:0[/embed] Phantom Pain feels like the freshest, most distinct use of an open world since Far Cry 2 and it does this without sacrificing the cozier feeling of the series' past level design. While I can't say anything about the story, I don't actually know much at this point, either, besides various "holy shit" moments that have only raised questions. It's appropriate, then, that this Sutherland-voiced Snake speaks sparingly. He always seems sad and a little bit confused, retreating into the rote, work-like task of soldier stuff hoisted upon him by Ocelot and Miller, who seem to be a bit at odds with each other as well.  While Ground Zeroes' sadistic storytelling might raise concerns over how this extra grim tale will play out (Snake is basically a devil what with the horns, the intro is pure brutality before giving way to surreal insanity, there's still a whole thing about child soldiers at some point), I've come away nothing but impressed with Phantom Pain. I don't miss codecs, I don't miss Hayter. I've embraced the open world, I love the tangible Mother Base. And I feel like I've only scratched the surface. There's so much more to do. I've barely used the cardboard box -- you can leap out the sides or hang out in delivery zones and actually have enemies unwittingly pick you up and drive you into outposts. I haven't used to inflatable decoy to bop someone off a cliff. In a world of blockbuster clones and genre convention, Metal Gear Solid V manages to feel fresh. I can't wait to get someone to slip on my horse poop.
First hands-on! photo
First hands-on with Metal Gear Solid V
Trailers from as far back as two years ago offer evidence enough, though. Do you all remember the giant, on-fire man supplanted in malevolence seconds later by the even more giant, on-fire whale careening through the sky to ...

There's no way I'm playing Fortnite with randoms

Jun 08 // Jordan Devore
[embed]293554:58880:0[/embed] I didn't come away with any major new insights. This is a meaty game meant to be experienced over a long period of time, and it's hard to get a sense of how justified that will be from preview events alone. At what point do you grow tired of smacking abandoned junk for resources? There's also the matter of putting a lot of care into your fort's design but not quite enough care to stop the masses from ripping everything apart. Or maybe you didn't craft enough ammo, and now you're being overwhelmed by bees and laser beams. The threat of the grind demoralizes. I'm fond of Fortnite, conceptually, but I wonder if people will connect with it the way Epic hopes. It being free to play on PC and Mac will help. If you're planning on playing, be sure to do so with friends who can hold their own, communicate, and adapt when things inevitably go awry.
Fortnite photo
The PC and Mac beta is coming this year
I don't know that I've ever previewed the same game twice, but that's the situation I'm in after seeing Fortnite again at a recent pre-E3 event. It was much the same as last year. But since many people are unaware of what the...

Disney Infinity Star Wars photo
Check and check
If you're making a Star Wars game with pilotable ships, I'm going to want to zip around Hoth in a snowspeeder and tie knots around some AT-ATs. I'll also want to shoot down a bunch of TIE Fighters on my path to destroy the De...

Stonehearth is out now on Steam Early Access

Jun 03 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]293233:58798:0[/embed] Like many other crowdfunded projects, Stonehearth began as a passion project, but it soon grew into something more. Working on the game in their spare time, the developers eventually were able to attract major interest from their Kickstarter campaign, which snowballed from there. With its release on Steam Early Access, Radiant Entertainment's Tom Cannon (also the co-founder of the Evo Championship Series) spoke about Stonehearth's inception and its growth into what it is now. "We started the game as a passion project. We had jobs in Silicon Valley that weren't really personally satisfying because we're hardcore gamers, so we did the Kickstarter back in 2013 to see if the idea we thought was cool," he said. "And the Kickstarter went well, and then we could make the game, but we had to pitch the game to our friends, which got them on board as well -- expanding the team. We spent two years making out prototype, which we showed in the Kickstarter video, and turned it into an actual game." In similar vein to the notoriously tricky and complex Dwarf Fortress, Stonehearth tasks players with creating their own unique civilizations in a procedurally-generated landscape from the ground up. Starting with just a few settlers, all randomized with their own personalities and skills, you'll soon be foraging for supplies and using tools to craft shelters and other necessities in order to survive. As you mine nearby mountains, bring in new settlers, build roads, raise your castle, and amass gold, your population will thrive and expand in unique ways. But as you build your civilization, you'll soon catch the interest of the local goblins who've got their own place in the dirt, and they may not take kindly to seeing outsiders take up residence in the same plot of land. The goblins serve as a necessary evil, as they not only serve to be your major obstacle from thriving, but they're also an opposing force that builds alongside your civilization. While in some cases you can simply negotiate terms for peace, resulting in trading of goods or paying them off to leave you in peace, other times you'll have no choice but to confront them head on. Among your settlers are those who've got the prowess to fight the goblins, but bare in mind not everyone has the courage to do so, and they could run away at the very sight of even a lowly goblin. Picking the right troops is just as important as collecting gold or building an installation, as losing a battle can have dire consequences. Though I mentioned it was similar to Dwarf Fortress, don't fret. The folks at Radiant wanted to emulate its complexity and depth found but ultimately sought to make Stonehearth easier to get into. Less daunting. Don't think of this as Dwarf Fortress with training wheels, though. Stonehearth definitely retains the hardcore focus and depth found in other sim titles. A neat trick Radiant employs to make things interesting is the A.I. director, which analyzes your behavior and throws in challenges based on your current pace of play. PC titles that take advantage of work created by fans are commonplace, and the team wanted to ensure players had access to the same tools it used to create the game to build their own additions and tweaks to Stonehearth. As an example, Cannon showed off one of the more humorous mods from fans, which reskined the game to look like a Candy Land tie-in. Trees turned to lollipops, and the ground textures looked as though they were caked in frosting. While most mods will add simple user interface and gameplay changes, many seek to alter the aesthetic and overall experience, and it's encouraging to see that the developers are so supportive. "We're incredibly mod friendly, so we love mods," said Cannon while showing off the Candy Land mod. "Our approach to mods is that all of our file formats are just open text files, and we have a modding forum to talk with others, if that's what you want to do. We give our modders all the tools they need to build the game, we want there to be tons and tons of mods because we love seeing what people do with the game." I was impressed with the level of complexity found in Stonehearth. The developers do a great job showing life and action happen during the creation of your kingdom, and I felt that the voxel aesthetic adds a lot to the charm. Though I'm not too into the sim genre, I was pretty taken with the gameplay in Stonehearth. One of the most satisfying aspects of these titles is seeing your hard work result in a functioning and healthy society that cannot only expand and thrive, but do so without you regularly needing to intervene. I'm interested in seeing where Radiant Entertainment's title goes from here. Games such as this need a passionate community to flourish, and given the already extensive mod support in place, it looks like Stonehearth will have a bright future. It's currently the #1 seller on Steam's Early Access page. I'm quite looking forward to seeing the follow-up to the Candy Land mod. Given time, I'm sure the fans will come up with something crazier than that! Stonehearth [Steam Early Access]
Stonehearth photo
3D Dot Civilization Builder
It's incredible to see how Kickstarter has given rise to so many titles. Sure, there's the heavy hitters like Broken Age, Wasteland 2, and Pillars of Eternity, but there are many others that came out of nowhere to leave such ...

Triad Wars just made me want to play Sleeping Dogs

Jun 03 // Brett Makedonski
For those who don't know, Triad Wars is a PC-only MMO set in the Sleeping Dogs world. It's about rising through the ranks of the underworld, and eventually being the kingpin. This is done by attacking other players' turf and defending yours. However, the multiplayer is asynchronous in that you don't have to be online in the event of an invasion. You set up lines of defense to fight for you in your absence. As Jordan and I divvied up Pre-E3 assignments at Square Enix's showcase, I knew I wanted Triad Wars. That desire was predicated entirely on this trailer; I wanted a developer to show me exactly how many ridiculous, over-the-top kills he could perform. Skewer someone on a pile of marlin heads so I can laugh about how dumb that is. Instead I was sat down and given instructions. The combat description (which came first) began with "So, have you played Sleeping Dogs?" and was asked with such an inflection as to proceed quickly when I answered in the affirmative. "Nope," I replied. That killed the mood right fast. From there, I was sort of left to fiddle with the controls to figure out how to fight on my own. Luckily, henchmen were lined up plot by plot to fall to my lightning-fast fists. I wrangled them mostly with no trouble, figuring out the two or three different combos that seemed to always do the trick. In reality, that might've been less on me, and more due to the fact that the developer approximated that the account I was playing on was 50 or so hours in. "Okay then," I responded, unsure of how this play experience could be transformed into any sort of coherent preview. I mean, I completely blew past any sense of progression that would act as a good indicator as to how the MMO components were. You know, the addictive quality that keeps players coming back to the same game time and time again. "Take me to do something," I half-demanded in a friendly tone. I was sure this was just a waste of time at this point. So, I hopped in a sporty car and drove off to attack another base. I worked my way through the exteriors of the compound, relying on careful headshots while strafing and my hastily-learned combat moves. Eventually, I karate-kicked the boss to submission. It was all pretty easy -- again, probably more a result of that 50+ hour account than my competency. And, that was the end of it. My takeaway from the whole thing was that Triad Wars seemed rather vanilla, but I'm not completely comfortable with that assessment. After all, I didn't play it the way it's supposed to be played. When I picked it up, it seemed like I was already on top, rather than climbing the ranks to dominate Hong Kong's seedy underbelly. I also simply didn't have adequate time to learn its systems, such as the intricate in-game economy it supposedly features. Really, none of it was presented in a way that MMOs need to be. That's unfortunate, but it's less a knock against this demo, and more a quality of all MMOs in preview situations. But, on a personal note, it made Sleeping Dogs seem like it's probably a pretty killer game. There's an environment that's definitely worth exploring more. I don't know if an MMO is how I want to see it, though. However, those who have been through Sleeping Dogs might find this the perfect opportunity to get back to that world. Any excuse to shove some poor bastard's head through a circular saw, really.
Triad Wars preview photo
More of a compliment than it sounds
Here's another one of those "Confession: I have a shame pile of unplayed games" statements: I never got around to playing Sleeping Dogs. Yeah, I heard it was surprisingly good, but something about it never piqued my interest....

Corsair's Bulldog PC: Liquid-cooled, 4K living room gaming

Jun 02 // Steven Hansen
The entry level Bulldog kit is $400. This will not get you 4K gaming, of course. You get the chassis, Mini-ITX motherboard, CPU cooler, and power supply. Where you go from there is up to you. You add CPU, RAM, hard drive, and graphics card. Maybe you want 32GB of DDR4 and a liquid-cooled Titan X. If you have a 4K TV I assume you can afford it, despite assurances that 4K TVs like the monster set we demoed on are now "affordable" at $1,800, or the same price as my weekend trip to the ER for a badly broken finger (yes, typing one handed is slow. Wiping lefty is also uncomfortable.) If you're going from scratch and buying everything fresh, you're looking at anywhere from $939 to $2249 (on the high, liquid-cooled Titan X end) to put together a nice little living room PC. If you're interested in dropping a liquid-cooled GPU solution into some other non-dog-shaped computer, perhaps your own, that's possible too. Corsair is selling the GPU liquid-cooler in a separate kit that will support all current and upcoming AMD and Nvidia graphics cards. Corsair also announced the Lapdog, which is not a laptop, but rather a big old tray you can set on your lap. It has a giant mouse pad area and Corsair's mechanical gaming keyboards can dock with its powered USB hub (go ahead and charge your phone from it, too). It's wired, which is a weird compromise between living room form factor and PC gaming precision. Also $90 (or $200 with a keyboard packed in). I like living room PC gaming. I have a nice, old tower hooked up to the aforementioned 30-inch living room television. I don't notice the noise, whether I'm playing a new game on high settings or just using it mainline Dinosaurs on Netflix. Usually I just use a controller, or the wireless mouse and keyboard sitting on the coffee table. That's me. Poor, simple me. Corsair's cool tech might be for you, though.
Bulldog and Lapdog photo
Also, Lapdog keyboard shell
The Witcher 3 looks nice in 4K. This is neither something unexpected nor something my six-year-old, 30-inch living room television would be able to teach me. But I visited with computer hardware and peripheral developer Corsa...

Dragon Quest Heroes isn't quite what I expected, but I'm in

Jun 02 // Jordan Devore
Here in the West, the game's full title is Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below. I'm telling you that now because I can't hold it in any longer.  So silly. But also fun to say out loud (in the privacy of your home where strangers can't hear you being a weirdo). The first level I tried was not the first level of the game, but it was straightforward enough: slay all of the monsters. They're so darn cute! My history with Dragon Quest spans one title, Sentinels of the Starry Sky, so my connection to "iconic" series characters is tenuous at best. But I do love Akira Toriyama's creature designs, and that's a sufficient starting point for this game. [embed]292744:58779:0[/embed] Coming off of Hyrule Warriors, combat in Dragon Quest Heroes feels slower, more deliberate. Strategic. You can swap between four party members at any time, each with their own HP, MP, spells, and abilities. Land enough hits, and you'll fill a gauge that will put your hero into a souped-up state. In this lax early level, juggling characters effectively wasn't crucial for success, but that was definitely the case for the session's next stage, a battle against the towering Gigantes. The idea is to hop into cannons and shoot the cyclops straight in the you-know-where to put it into a downed state, then mash away while it's vulnerable. Don't let it destroy everything. Easy. But the beast had such an absurdly large pool of health that defeating it within the time limit seemed impossible. Matter of fact, after losing, I asked the Square Enix rep just to make sure. The fight was technically possible, he said. Guess I need to work on my strategy and timing. (Or grind?) Either way, the battle should be easier at home with the finished game. Much to my dismay, the demo ended right there. I didn't get to see the town hub. Or character upgrades. Or the story. Or monster medals, which are dropped by fallen foes and can be used to summon them onto the battlefield to fight for your side. For the purposes of writing this preview, that lack of first-hand experience is unfortunate, but the tease has ratcheted up my interest  considerably. Dragon Quest Heroes is already out in Japan, so inquiring minds can see as much or as little footage as they want ahead of the October 13, 2015 release for PS4 in North America. Between all the familiar music, sound effects, and faces, Dragon Quest fans are going to feel at home here. It was a warm, happy, inviting place, even for me. Combat flows more like a role-playing game and skirmishes feel smaller and simpler, but that's not inherently bad. It's just different. After a few hundred hours of Hyrule Warriors, yeah, I could go for something different.
Dragon Quest Heroes photo
Releasing Oct. 13, 2015 in North America
Having spent Too Many Hours with Hyrule Warriors, I was worried I'd be tapped out for Omega Force's next big spinoff, Dragon Quest Heroes. Well, maybe not worried. These games chip away at your life for months on end, and all...

Katamari designer's new game Wattam is all warm and fuzzy

Jun 01 // Jordan Devore
It starts with just the Mayor, that boxy green guy pictured above. He has a penchant for explosions. You can assume direct control of him and countless other objects (which, hilariously, have human names) and your ultimate goal is to explode together by holding hands to form a chain. The trick is using each character's ability to interact with their surroundings and one another. Doing so will expand the world and bring new folks into the fray, from sushi to a toilet to a lawn mower. The music brings this concept home. Characters have their own sounds, their own tunes, and the audio flows to form a cohesive whole even as you incessantly flip back and forth between them. This is the kind of game best played socially with a group of friends and some beers, or perhaps with a child. Its creation was influenced by Takahashi playing make-believe with his two-year-old. That inspiration shows. Wattam is coming to PlayStation 4 next year, and I am pumped.
Wattam photo
High on life
"Oh, thank eff. There's a trailer!" A couple weeks ago, I saw Wattam, a near-indescribable game from Funomena and the creator of Katamari Damacy, Keita Takahashi, at a pre-E3 event. (He had excellent socks.) I'd heard that n...

Disney Infinity 3.0 expands with the Star Wars and Inside Out playsets

Jun 01 // Alessandro Fillari
For those who aren't familiar, or maybe just a bit confused about what Disney Infinity is, this title brings players into an open world and unified experience to craft unique and original playgrounds for Disney characters from the past and present. Much like the Skylanders series, characters are acquire by purchasing actual figurines that can be uploaded into the game via a world disc, a real world scanner. While you can create levels and unique scenarios and share them with others online, you can also dive into unique playsets centered around specific Disney films and television shows. In its third year now, Disney Infinity has seen a number of upgrades and additions. With last year's expansion introducing Marvel characters, they've also spent some time upgrading the gameplay and general design. In order to do this, they recruited help from independent developers such as Ninja Theory, Sumo Digital, and United Front Games where they worked on the key areas of combat, racing, and additional character support respectively. With general development handled by Avalanche Software (note: not the same Avalanche behind Just Cause), they've found the creation of Disney Infinity to be a rewarding and satisfying experience. "The two words that come to mind are 'humbling' and 'gratifying," said the GM of Avalanche Software John Blackburn while reflecting on his work on Disney Infinity. "I feel so fortunate to work with all these brands, and it's a dream come true in a lot of ways[...] I'm pretty happy that people have responded to it in the way that have, and have accepted it and are looking forward to the new versions right now. I want to make sure we're doing a good enough job that we're really trying to make high quality kids and family entertainment, because that's been more and more difficult as a business to do. So it's very gratifying to see that we're doing it right." With the 3.0 expansion, new environments and characters will be added to the core game, such as the recently announced Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic (based on the prequel trilogy), Rise Against the Empire (original trilogy), The Force Awakens, and also Pixar's Inside Out playsets. While Star Wars will be largely combat and vehicle focused experiences, Inside Out will experiment more with platforming in surreal environments. Much like the film, the gameplay centers around the emotional state of a young girl named Riley and her changing perception and feelings. Set sometime after the film, players take control of Riley's emotions Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear, when she experiences a nightmare after falling asleep during a scary movie. The playset focuses on platforming gameplay through Riley's dreamscape, where environments and enemies take on a variety of different properties, such as warped gravity and the ground turning into hot lava. Each character has their own unique abilities and skills which will serve them throughout the adventure. After seeing the movie, I was itching for another trip into the bizarre and evocative world from Inside Out, and the Disney Infinity playset serves a great follow up to the film as it's basically the sequel to the film. Moreover, it fleshes out many of the settings and areas from the film, such as the dream productions studio where Riley's subconscious craft her dreams by way of old school film production. It's a very colorful and imaginative world, and it's likely the most unique playset Disney Infinity has had yet. The devs at Disney Interactive were very excited about what the new playsets can offer. "Every year a new fan is born," explained the VP of production John Vignocchi. "We're sitting here in the hallowed halls of Pixar, and everyone there will be someone who sees Toy Story for the first time, and we want to make sure that when they pick up Buzz Lightyear, or another favorite character, and when they play with them inside of Infinity, that he is just as cool as he was in the film." Even though I've only had some minor experience with Disney Infinity, I was quite surprised with the creativity found in these playsets. Perhaps this was coming off of my high after seeing Inside Out a month early, but I was very pleased with the translation from film to game. With the writers and directors from the film working with the devs, along with the same voice cast including Amy Poehler and Bill Hader, they wanted to ensure that it would be as faithful as possible. It's pretty crazy to see how much Disney Infinity has grown over the years. What was once a strange experiment trying to catch on to the Minecraft and Skylanders craze, has now turned into a title that's really come into its own. It's pretty impressive to see how much detail and content is packed in the title already, and with the new 3.0 expansion hitting this Fall, the Disney universe is about to get a bit bigger for fans to explore.
Disney Infinity photo
It's a small world after all
Who knew that Disney's strange and bizarre mishmash of characters into one large game would turn out to be such a big hit? I know, a Disney title with a bunch of Pixar, film, and legacy characters would've sold regardless, bu...

'What Remains of Edith Finch?' is far creepier than I could've imagined

May 27 // Brett Makedonski
I was overcome by curiosity when I first saw this house in the distance. I wanted to explore every inch of this family's makeshift mansion; I wanted to glean any information about them that I possibly could, as if I were playing Gone Home all over again. That curiosity was quickly stunted as I realized that there simply isn't that much in Edith Finch to explore -- not yet anyway. Hallway after hallway was adorned by locked doors with nothing but nameplates and years on them. After looking at maybe the third one of these which told of a particularly premature death, I remarked "Sad. He didn't live very long at all." "You'll find that's a recurring theme in this family," Dallas quickly replied. What Remains of Edith Finch? is exceptionally dark in that it doesn't just speak of all this tragedy; it shows it. The majority of the game is made up of chapters wherein you relive exactly how the individual family members die. And, each one looks to be drenched in just as much mystery as morbidity. The one playable instance during our demo told of the untimely fate of a small boy, maybe seven years old at most. One night, he awoke to great hunger pangs. With a self-narration that proved to be equal parts adorable and macabre, he set off to do what any child in that situation would: find something to eat. The bathroom didn't hold much to satisfy his growling tummy, as he consumed a tube of toothpaste that didn't quite sate his appetite. [embed]292645:58691:0[/embed] It was then that he turned into a cat on the prowl for a bird to eat. With some guided platforming, he chased the feathered creature from branch to branch in hot pursuit. Eventually he caught up, devoured the unfortunate jay, and suddenly transformed again. Now, the little boy was an owl in a snowstorm. Rabbits ran through the fields below, and he swooped down to pick them up, three in total. Disturbingly, Edith Finch presented each of these hares being gulped down from a first-person perspective (as the whole game is), completely devoid of gore yet still unsettling. He noted how full they were making him, but how he wanted to keep consuming more. Then, he was a shark in the open waters taking giant chunks out of a seal. As the seal bloodied the water, he got more and more frenzied. Finally, he morphed into a sea monster -- one who navigated the deck of a ship and crept up on unsuspecting sailors before killing them. Almost as quickly as it all began, it was over. The boy was back in his room. He crawled under his bed, somehow knowing the fate he was destined to suffer. Maybe more disconcerting was that he seemed at terms with it. He knew this monster would kill him, and that was that. I don't fully understand exactly what happened to this little child, but then again, I don't think I'm supposed to. There's clearly a mystery that What Remains of Edith Finch? has buried across it's twenty or so short stories, and it's one that I'm ridiculously excited to unravel.
Edith Finch preview photo
But I could not be more curious
"What fucked up person came up with this?" I asked. Giant Sparrow creative director Ian Dallas sheepishly raised his hand. He knew I wasn't admonishing him, though; the expression on my face and the excitement in my voice gav...

Donut County is a feel-good physics toy with flashes of Katamari Damacy

May 26 // Jordan Devore
Creator Ben Esposito describes his game as a "whimsical physics toy," and that's apt. A racoon chucks donuts from an airship and also rides a scooter, sometimes. Objects and animals topple when you trip them (and you will trip them). Puzzles feel organic, not forced. [embed]292754:58669:0[/embed] Early on, you'll discover that consuming fire and corn will cause popcorn to shoot back out of the hole (which you can then eat, obviously). Later, nabbing two rabbits results in lil babies spilling out of the pit. Another level involves interrupting an ant picnic with fireworks. The more I played, the more I didn't want to stop. The hungry hole is one of those mechanics that instantly makes sense but never seems to lose its energy or appeal. It just feels right. I wish I could've beaten the whole game in one sitting, right then and there, but this was only a preview. Donut County wont be ready for PC, Mac, and iOS until later this year. I'll be waiting. [embed]292754:58668:0[/embed]
Donut County photo
Unwinding: The Video Game
In Katamari Damacy, you roll up stuff. Small stuff, to start. Then cars, ships, buildings, mountains and, eventually, entire worlds. In Donut County, you slide an insatiable hole around to help it eat anything it can fit inside its maw. The more the hole consumes, the bigger it becomes. Where does it end up? How big can the hole grow? I'm not sure. But damn do I want to find out.

Splatoon photo
Splamiibo
Day one DLC is a tricky thing. If it's too good, people will howl that it should have been in the stand alone game at launch. If it sucks, then you can bet your sweet bippy that dogs will hunt. All of that goes triple for an...

Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition brings the gang back together

May 18 // Alessandro Fillari
Now this isn't the first time that the original DMC series has received the Special Edition treatment. A year following the release of 2005's Devil May Cry 3, Capcom released an enhanced version that made a number additions and tweaks -- most notably the inclusion of a playable Vergil with his own moves and levels to play through. Now with the release Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition coming, nearly eight years after the original, the creative minds at Capcom sought to rekindle the same enthusiasm found in Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition for this supped up re-release. And much like the recent Definitive Edition for DmC, they looked their well-received PC release as the base."There was content in the PC version of the original DMC4 that was not possible for consoles at the time due to hardware limitations. We have always wanted to provide these features to more DMC fans, most notably Legendary Dark Knight Mode," said DMC producer Takashi Fujii. "We wanted to provide a good action game that really gives the player a lot to sink their teeth into. With the features I’ve mentioned previously, and the addition of three new playable characters we’ve designed, I think fans will be very happy with all the content we’re offering in DMC4 Special Edition. With the hardware capabilities introduced in the new console generation, it proved this was the right time to revisit DMC4 and provide all of these features that we had been thinking about."Back when Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition was revealed last year, we all got a nice tease showing that Vergil was going to be making a return. But who would've thought that DMC's leading ladies, Trish and Lady, were going to get in on the action as well? While the ladies were already present in the core DMC4 story, Vergil's campaign in the Special Edition features his own unique story taking place many years before the events of DMC3 and 4. In addition to these new characters are several tweaks and upgrades made to the core game. Such as higher texture and graphical quality, auto-saves, rebalanced orb and proud soul economy, official trophy support across all platforms (take that early generation seven architecture!), and also some tweaks to puzzles -- such as the infamous dice game. It's a pretty meaty package. You might as well call it "Super Devil May Cry 4." The larger cast was a way for Capcom to offer variety in a convincing and fun way that stayed true to its combat heritage."Everyone plays Devil May Cry games a bit differently, and so with Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition in particular, it was important to us to give players more ways to enjoy the gameplay experience," explained the producer. "It was important that these characters each had distinctive combat styles, so fighting a boss you may have fought as Nero, for example, will feel very different from doing so with Lady or Vergil." In the two hours I spent with the game last month, it was quite clear that a lot of work went into the new characters. Though of course they're still going through the same areas and fighting the same bosses from the original game, that didn't really bother me all that much after getting settled with the new characters. Any fan will tell you that the combat is the crux of the series, and the new characters offered a lot depth and complexity that are totally unique to them -- which really set themselves apart from both Dante and Nero. And yes, for those who've gotten really comfortable with Dante and Nero over the last seven and half years, you'll be please to know that they're largely untouched (aside from general gameplay tweaks). "No changes have been made to Nero or Dante," said the producer rather bluntly and with the utmost clarity. So please, use high-level tricks such as guard flying and intertia to your heart's content. And with the sharing functionality on PS4 and Xbox One, showing off your high-flying antics and finger acrobatics will be much easier than before.For those who read my long preview last month, you could tell that I was quite smitten with this title. Devil May Cry is easily my favorite Capcom IP, and seeing it return this year with two really cool titles was a total joy for me. Checking out the new characters in DMC4SE was a complete blast, and I can't wait to dive back in from the beginning. I'm telling you guys, Trish and Lady are not to be messed with. Vergil's got some serious moves, and his concentration mechanic is a total game-changer, but these ladies are total bad-asses. I cannot wait to see some high-level exhibitionist videos later once people get them in their hands.With the release next month just after E3, you'll have the opportunity to get some quality time with the gang again. We all remember that tease at the end of DMC4 with Dante, Lady, and Trish teaming up to battle more demons, so it's definitely exciting to see that it's finally coming to fruition. So don't let this slip past you. If you've been screaming for a chance to return to these wonderfully goofy characters in this over the top world, you finally got it.And by the way, be sure to check out Capcom's weekly twitch livestream on Wednesdays for sessions with DMC4: Special Edition  by Capcom staff.
Devil May Cry photo
Capcom Producer talks revitalizing DMC4
In case you missed it, Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is now a thing. Following up on their release of the excellent DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition (seriously, it's great), Capcom are readying their second hit o...

Til Morning's Light is a smart take on traditional survival horror

May 15 // Jonathan Holmes
Til Morning's Light starts off with protagonist Erica Page being forced into a big spooky house by two of her more narcissistic, subtly sociopathic peers. While they aren't as overtly monstrous as some of the enemies Erica will encounter later in the game, they definitely come across as soulless. I won't be surprised in the slightest if they turn out to be cannibals. Erica doesn't seem deterred, even in the face of harsh teenage snark and a probable death trap. This is the point in the game where Til Morning’s Light first shows you're playing as a character who has probably played a lot of the same survival horror games you have. Like the movie Kick-Ass, where the costumed heroes are open fans of superhero comics like Batman and Spider-Man, Erica seems to recognize how much her current dilemma feels like something from a PS1- or PS2-era horror title. It's a risky move, which if done poorly, could have easily broken suspension of disbelief. Thankful, Til Morning's Light has the tact needed to have the opposite effect. Erica seems even more believable and easy to relate to given her knowledge of survival horror. If you are the kind of person whose mind might wander to memories of virtual Raccoon City if you were ever trapped in a old, abandoned mansion, then you and Erica already have something in common.  You won't have too much time to sit and relate with Erica, though. It only takes her a few minutes of mansion exploring before she comes into contact with some serious threats in the form of giant flying insects. In the face of actual danger, she's less apt to wear her experiences with horror games on her sleeve and more apt to get into a kill-or-be-killed mentality, which also makes her easy to relate with.  Til Morning's Light is coming to multiple platforms, but it was designed for touch screen interfaces, which might have some of you worried about how fun its combat might be. Much as Superbrothers did with Sword and Sworcery, WayForward has found a smart way around the touch-only design interface that keeps the action simple but tense. Bumping into an enemy on the exploration screen triggers a battle not unlike in a turn-based RPG. Once you start fighting, there's no time for passivity. Things break down into a design that's probably most easily comparable to Elite Beat Agents, except without the upbeat party feel and all the fear of total failure. Tap a circle at just the right time as a ring closes around it. Hit it at the perfect time, do big damage. Come close, you'll squeak by. Fail outright, and you take a hit. Circles appear on screen at unpredictable rhythms and placements, so you'll have to keep your eyes and fingers active to stay alive.  It might not sound like it should work for a horror game, but the level or powerlessness and tension I felt during these encounters was a perfect fit for the genre. Like most real-life fights, combat in Til Morning's Light seems like it should be simple -- just hit the thing that's causing you problems and don't screw up. Of course, these fights are rarely that simple (especially as you gain new weapons that change the combat system) leading to teeth-clenching suspense where even the smallest mistake can make you suffer. These bloodthirsty bugs might feel like arbitrary horror game enemies at first, but dig a little deeper and you'll find that there is a valid explanation for their place in the mansion. I don't want to give too much away, but rest assured that in my time with Til Morning's Light, none of the action, exploration, and puzzle solving felt like it was there just to follow the "rules" of survival horror game design. Everything had an explanation, even the Resident Evil 4-like shop keeper who manages to pop up in the most unusual, dangerous places. Knowing that those explanations are there, should I be brave enough to discover them, was just one of the things that kept me wanting more from Til Morning's Light.
Til Morning's Light photo
Self-aware, spooky, but not smug
[Til Morning's Light is a new horror adventure title from WayForward and Amazon Game Studios, bringing together talent from titles such as Aliens: Infestation, Skullgirls, and... Sailor Moon? We've got a variety of exclusive ...

D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die is better without Kinect on PC

May 07 // Chris Carter
The PC build I had access to only has a 10-minute exploration demo and three-minute action sequence, but it was enough to get a gist of the new control scheme. While the port of D4 will fully support controllers (just like the Xbox One version), you'll also have the addition of the mouse, which feels right at home given the old school adventure game feel. All the applicable buttons are mapped to the mouse, including interaction (left click), looking around (middle), and tapping objects (right click). Completing QTEs takes a little getting used to as you'll need to flail about fairly quickly to complete sliding actions, but it's all very doable. As a creature of habit I ended up plugging in my Xbox One controller for my second playthrough, and lo and behold, it feels like a 1:1 recreation of the console version, which is definitely a good thing. Everything looks very fluid and sharp on-screen, and even the early build is running smoothly at this time. D4 may not have the most impressive visuals in the industry, but it has a ton of character, which has been sufficiently represented in the port. [embed]291485:58450:0[/embed] Since D4 is an adventure romp it doesn't need a whole host of options that other PC games might boast (check out the work-in-progress menu screen here), but at the very least I was disturbed to find out that I could not customize the resolution. When asked whether or not the PC edition would have resolution settings, a rep for Playism stated, "I have raised that issue with them, and they are working on it." Hopefully we'll see it in the final build. For the thousands of Swery fans out there who don't own an Xbox One, the PC port of D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die is a great opportunity to see what the hubbub is all about -- plus, it will make a great Steam sale gift for people who are on the fence. Once it hits, let's just hope that this is enough for Access Games to fund the conclusion of the story. D4 for PC will launch on June 4 on Playism, GOG, the Humble Store, and Steam for $14.99.
D4 PC preview photo
Controller and mouse support are a go
This year, D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die is coming to PC, and as soon as I heard the news, I jumped up and down. This is an adventure that needs to be in the hands of as many people as possible, and confining it to just the ...

Space Beast Terror Fright is still my favorite Aliens game

May 04 // Rob Morrow
[embed]291473:58423:0[/embed] It's a nicely balanced starting point and does a very good job at maintaining a creeping sense of uncertainty each time you board a ship, while ensuring you have enough tools to stay alive for the time being. Battery life, motion tracker capability, and ammo count appear to be constants at the beginning of each run; however, the one inconstant I've noticed is the required number of DataCores you'll be tasked with finding and downloading. The required number changes for most every new run -- sometimes the number is as few as six, at other times it can be as many as 20 or more. At the beginning of each run you'll leave the security of the ship's airlock and enter into the infested vessel. You'd do well to stay on your toes from the very outset in SBTF, as you never know when or where the first wave of bloodthirsty killing machines is going to spawn. I've had rare experiences where I was blindsided within a few moments of exiting the airlock and I've also played through sessions where I didn't get my first contact until several minutes into a run. In some instances the alien spawns feel triggered by the player's proximity, in others, they give the impression that they may be set to occur after a certain amount of time has passed. As such, the spawn points and spawn times feel strikingly unpredictable, which helps a great deal to ensure that every run feels different from your last. I've mentioned the basic tools the game starts you off with, but one of the most useful assets in increasing the odds of your survival is the ship itself. Its numerous hatches can be sealed off strategically to prevent attacks from the sides and the rear, as well as to create multiple layers of security by locking down several hatches in a corridor; however, it should be specified, these are only temporary lines of defense. Once the hoard begins attacking your hatches you'll need to start planning your escape route as the aliens will quickly cut through the barriers. Alongside the sealable hatches, the ship also features powerful, AI-controlled turrets, which can be found scattered throughout the map. Once activated, these can be incredibly helpful allies in a firefight as well as competent sentries that will stand watch over sections of the map. As touched upon earlier, the central mechanic to progression in each run is the collection of the downloadable DataCores that are randomly spread throughout the floor of the ship. These serve two purposes. The most obvious is that they provide a framework for measuring your progression in the level and the second is that they are the means with which you'll be adding vital upgrades to your suit and equipment. The rewards for downloading DataCores are selected at random. You could luck out on your first download and pick up a helpful map that displays the layout of the floor you're exploring or you could get something relatively minor, like a slight increase to your light's battery. However, if you're really fortunate, you might get one of the most helpful upgrades you can have early in a run, the DataCore Pathfinder. Even without a map, this powerful upgrade is incredibly helpful for efficiently directing you to the nearest DataCore and is much better than the primitive positioning technology you start out with. Even if you don't get one of the better drops at the beginning of a run, more often than not, you'll get something fairly useful when downloading a DataCore. Whether it's a marginal but useful boost to battery life, an increase to the rifle's ammo carrying capacity, or an incremental upgrade to the suit's download speed, something usually drops to maintain the feeling that the character's abilities are improving. As you explore the ship and begin collecting the required DataCores, your HUD will alert you when breaches are detected and when sealed-off doors are compromised. While the information won't give you an exact fix on where your foes are located, it is a very helpful early warning that trouble's not far away. Your basic motion detector can also help out when enemies get close to your position. While the stock version of the detector won't show the aliens' precise location, it will tell you roughly how many meters away from you they are; so, by checking each of your possible exit points against that information you can make an educated guess which doorway might be your best bet for escape. The most beneficial upgrade to have in these stressful situations is the one for your motion tracker. If you happen to have that installed, enemy movement will be displayed on the map as pulsing white blotches, giving you a very good idea on where they are, where they're going, and where you should be moving next to avoid them. Once you've collected all the necessary DataCores, your positioning system will switch over from locating them and begin guiding you to the ship's reactor. Hopefully by this point you've acquired a good deal of the game's more helpful upgrades, because getting the reactor shut down and making your escape can be the most difficult part of the run and every little advantage you acquired up until this point will be needed. After locating the vessel's reactor, you'll need to activate a switch so that the protective walls surrounding it will begin to rise, exposing the four control panels necessary for disabling the system. At this point in a run, things usually start to get dicey. While you're preoccupied with deactivating the panels, this gives the space beasts that have spawned throughout the ship ample time to make their way to you, so be prepared to hold your position and keep the panels deactivating. If you move away from one for even a moment, you'll have to start the process all over again. If you've survived long enough to deactivate the four control panels, the ship will start an anxiety-inducing countdown timer letting you know how many seconds you have left to shoot your way through the hoards as you race back across the ship to the airlock. It's an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride of a finale and feels tremendously satisfying once you finally make it to the extraction point alive. The Early Access build of Space Beast Terror Fright is everything I loved about the original demo and much, much more. Since coming to Steam the game now sports local 1-4 player local co-op (online is currently in the works!), new level styles, adjustable muzzle flare brightness, and a slightly less ball-crushing game mode to ease in the newer players. Space Beast Terror Fright is priced at $14.99 and is available for PC.
Space Beast Terror Fright photo
I got 99 problems but a breach ain't one
[Disclosure: The developers put my name in Space Beast Terror Fright's random name generator along with a bunch of other people who showed interest in the game early on. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, ...

TERA Online's new Gunner is the most action-oriented MMO class I've played

Apr 28 // Chris Carter
To get a full rundown of the new class, I had a chance to play a short session with Patrick "TreeShark" Sun, a producer for the game at US publisher En Masse Entertainment. To kick things off I noted my extended absence from the game, and asked what improvements have been made that could possibly snare returning players. Unsurprisingly he noted that the Gunner was a perfect excuse to come back, stating that it was "much more fluid and devastating than any other class." He went on to say that "there's so much more to do at this point now that we're in the Fate of Arun update. There's flying guild halls that are part of the live environment and not instanced, many more dungeons to play." I asked about the player count, and Sun was able to confirm that they're currently at four million registered users -- no word on how many converted into paying customers. In terms of the Gunner itself (which can only be played by a female character), it sounds like PR speak, but it really was a more fluid class -- perhaps one of the most fluid I've ever played in an MMO. Combined with the already active battle system that highlights plug and play controller usage, the class has a ton of tools at its disposal without feeling overpowered. Gunners aren't your typical ranged role, as they'll employ heavy armor, sharing a loot table with Berserkers. They're not as fast as some speed-based classes, but they excel at using combo-based abilities and other active talents. Take the rocket jump, which is not only a really cool dodge that flings you in the direction of your last movement input, but an attack as well. Sun said that the team "really wanted to put something in there as an homage to Quake and Unreal, thus the rocket jump was born." [embed]290912:58337:0[/embed] Standard-attacks are basic bullet shots, but the other skills include a pulse blast with the option to detonate (just like the pulse rifle in Unreal), a minion that can either heal you or be used as an instant tether jump point, the ability to deploy a turret, and of course, rain of fire area-of-effect (AOE) techniques. Dodging around felt more active as a Gunner, and it really feels like Bluehole Studio has mastered the engine at this point. My favorite mechanic however is Willpower, a stat that raises as you actively engage enemies in rapid succession. Sun described it as a "limit break," where you can unleash a powered-up ability like an orbital strike, gatling gun, or a gigantic fire-based AOE. The mechanic is pretty stylish, as you'll immediately be able to notice it by way of your glowing blue gun. Beyond the functionality, the Gunner itself is a pretty cool looking class, and the weaponry itself is easily the best part -- over-the-top, and wonderful. It will be available on May 5, which is not-so-coincidentally the same day that TERA hits Steam, and the celebration of its three-year anniversary.
TERA Online Gunner photo
Hands-on before the May 5 launch
I was really into TERA Online when it first came out. I couldn't stop playing for days on end, and even after I cut back, I was still running dungeons for months. But when it time to create another character, I quit beca...

Cosmochoria is a perfect blend of serenity and chaos

Apr 27 // Patrick Hancock
As Little Naked Guy With An Astronaut Helmet (I'm not sure he has a name), players are tasked with restoring randomly generated planets back to their beautiful selves. In order to accomplish this, Little Naked Guy With An Astronaut Helmet has to go around planting seeds and tending to them. After planting a seed, the player needs to hold a button down to tend to it, making sure that it is set to grow to its full potential. Once that is complete, the seed will slowly begin to grow. When they are done growing, they produce more seeds and the cycle can continue again. Once enough seeds are planted, the planet is restored and everyone is happy! Well, except for all the evil aliens in space who are constantly trying to destroy planets and Little Naked Guy With An Astronaut Helmet. Luckily, seeds are not the only thing at his disposal. Little Naked Guy With An Astronaut Helmet can also plant and tend defensive towers, each with different properties, to help keep back the aliens. The function of each tower is rather simple to grasp and use, making it easy to feel confident while playing. Towers are not free, and if players don't have the required resource, they cannot plant towers. Without towers, Little Naked Guy With An Astronaut Helmet still has a weapon at his disposal. There are a variety of weapons to choose from before beginning (these may have been unlocked from other playthroughs) but once one is chosen, that's it. I chose the shotgun, as I always do in games, and it was incredibly powerful. In fact, I rarely planted defensive towers and just focused on seeds and using the shotgun. The enemies are pretty varied and the game seemed to do a decent job of introducing new ones as I progressed. Some enemies fly above the planet while others walk on the surface. The biggest struggle is managing the plants and avoiding incoming damage while simultaneously dishing it out. It's a great back-and-forth that keeps the player constantly moving. Tending a plant gets very dangerous as more and more enemies head towards the planet. [embed]288910:57731:0[/embed] Little Naked Guy With An Astronaut Helmet uses a jetpack to get around space, but fuel is limited. It will slowly regenerate in case players find themselves floating out in space like Bender in that one episode of Futurama. There are dangerous enemies floating in space as well, plus gigantic suns that will instantly kill the player if they get too close.  There are also little side-quests that can be discovered, such as delivering items from one planet to another. Hints of a story were also present, though they were definitely pieces of a bigger picture that I couldn't experience in my limited time with the game. Cosmochoria is currently on Steam Early Access, and available through Humble on the game's site, and should be releasing very soon! 
Cosmochoria PAX preview photo
Plantin' seeds and killin' baddies
Cosmochoria is a Kickstarter success story that is now about to see the light of day. It's a mix of exploration and tower defense all wrapped up in a warming, yet occasionally stressful package. There's a strong sense of...

What we know about Call of Duty: Black Ops III

Apr 26 // Robert Summa
Single player is no longer for singles As Call of Duty continues to march into the modern era of gaming, Black Ops III will introduce the option of online co-op in its single player campaign. The main campaign will now support up to four players working together. Jason Blundell, campaign director and senior executive producer, said it will redefine how Call of Duty is played. Set in the near-future, Black Ops III is all about bio augmentation and robotics. Something that will not only affect your single-player experience, but also multiplayer (but we'll get more into that later). Giving players the choice between male and female characters, the campaign will put you in the role of an enhanced cybernetic Black Ops soldier.  The intensity and theme of the game were on full display as Treyarch showed us one of the levels of the campaign, called Cairo. At first, it seemed like one of your standard Call of Duty experiences. But as the level progressed, the world awoke and the retooled battlefield was on full display. [embed]290987:58342:0[/embed] With the main fighting occurring in an open space, the ambition of Black Ops III was immediately apparent. There was an amazing scope to the level and the action within it. The world felt very alive and tangible with action happening in just about every space within the player's view. Planes flying overhead, bullets whizzing by, robots. It was hectic. New devastating weapons, such as a spike launcher, were unveiled. Rolling balls of spikes looking to impale unsuspecting victims littered the battlefield. The reliance and added value of your co-op partners certainly played a part in a level where a new emergent AI was able to make intelligent decisions based on what your team was doing. According to Treyarch, the AI was a focus during development. The team added a new animation set and claim that the goal-oriented AI can now communicate and organize itself -- which is key with the variety of options that the campaign now offers with the availability of co-op. Blundell stressed some key points Treyarch is trying to drive home with Black Ops III's campaign. Buzzwords such as cinematic intensity, epic action, a gritty narrative, and replayability are what the single-player experience is trying to be. Customization is key Allowing players to express themselves in a unique way has been a staple of the franchise for a number of years now. Treyarch is looking to build upon this by allowing players not only more set-up options, but a player experience system within the single-player that will allow extensive upgrades not only to your character and his or her abilities, but also to the weapons themselves. Cyber Cores and Cyber Rigs are cybernetic modifications that will allow added layers of player customization. Cyber Cores will let players do things from remote hacking to controlling drones to chaining melee strikes, while Cyber Rigs are passive upgrades that allow advanced movement and defensive capabilities. With the addition of the Safe House, customization and socialization options will be available. This is the area players will go between levels. The Safe House will have your own customizable bunk and provide access to a wiki with information related to the game. There will be collectibles and opportunities to purchase tokens, which can be used in your upgrades. PC will not be ignored Treyarch studio head and president Mark Lamia said a greater emphasis was placed on the PC version of Black Ops III. While not getting into a great amount of detail (such as anything server-related), Lamia said Treyarch worked closely with hardware companies to bring a high-end experience for those who have upper-tier machines and have adopted 4K.  While catering to the high-end crowd, Lamia also said the team put a great deal of effort into optimization. The current recommended specs are as follows (but they are subject to change): Operating System: Windows 7 64-Bit / Windows 8 64-Bit / Windows 8.1 64-Bit Processor: Intel® Core™ i3-530 @ 2.93 GHz / AMD Phenom™ II X4 810 @ 2.60 GHz Memory: 6 GB RAM Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 470 @ 1GB / ATI® Radeon™ HD 6970 @ 1GB DirectX: Version 11 Network: Broadband Internet connection Sound Card: DirectX Compatible But what about Zombies? Treyarch remained silent on what exactly Black Ops III will offer for its fan-favorite zombie mode. What we were told, however, is that it will have its own player progression system, distinct storyline, more depth and will include all kinds of "mind-fuckery," as Lamia put it. As with the main game and multiplayer, the social aspects of Black Ops III are set to play a key role in zombies as well. Who cares about single player, tell me about multiplayer Even with the inclusion of online four-player co-op, there still will be a faction of Call of Duty fans who only care about one thing: multiplayer. I got my hands on multiplayer, which is covered in-depth in a separate article, but I want to tell you what you should expect. As mentioned, Black Ops III has its focus on risk versus reward. Nowhere is this more apparent than with multiplayer and the complete reworking of not only gun-play, but movement as well. To do this, the team changed some of the rules. For instance, players will now be able to shoot while doing all movements in the game -- this includes everything from jumping to wall running (yes, wall running) to climbing over ledges and, for the first time, swimming. While still remaining true to three-lane map design philosophy with no buildings above two stories, the team has also added new movement abilities such as thrust jumping and power sliding, and as mentioned, wall running and swimming. Oh, and did I mention you can sprint for as long as you want? Treyarch said it wants to allow players to have full combat control with no pause in the action.  While players won't be limited with their sprint, there will be limitations to the power slide and wall run. They aren't significant limitations, but they are present. These changes are immediately noticeable with the varied results that thrust jump, wall running, and the power slide provide. There is a fluidity now to the action. While it seems overwhelming at first glance, the general simplicity and ease of use associated with Call of Duty is still in place. Dan Bunting, game director, said the philosophy is guns up, not down. They want omni-directional movement options in what he says will, "feel like a BLOPS II evolution." In all, it's about endless momentum and making the gameplay faster and more engaging. This is my rifle Through the Gunsmith menu, players will be presented with what is being billed as a whole new level of weapon customization. Here, players will be able to name their weapons, preview attachments on actual in-game models and of course, access a paint job option that will allow for near-limitless personalization. You will be able to equip up to five attachments and an optic. The emblem creator is back in a new way, this time called Paintshop. Not only will the images that players create be more visible on their weapon of choice, but they will now have access to 64 layers for three paintable sides. There are also material options such as carbon fiber and the ability to design gun camo. Looking for someone special Another significant shift within Black Ops III's multiplayer is the usage of what are being called Specialists. There will be nine total, but we were only shown four.  Each Specialist is essentially an archetype the player will choose from and develop over time. They have their own unique abilities and power weapons to choose from -- and of course their own look, personality and voice. The goal, Treyarch said, is to give every player the opportunity to become powerful within the game.  If you were one of those people who have come to despise Call of Duty because of excessive and overpowered killstreaks or scorestreaks, Treyarch is attempting to balance the playing field with the inclusion of Specialists and their unique weapons and abilities. While the best players will still have advantages, the goal is to now let everyone get involved, not just the top tier. The first Specialist we were shown goes by the name Ruin (real name Donnie Walsh). This is a rusher/bruiser character that uses Gravity Spikes as his power weapon. He's pretty much the Titan from Destiny. Once the Gravity Spikes are used, an area-of-effect blast deals damage and eliminates all enemies within the vicinity. It's devastating, but must be timed and used smartly for best results. Players will have to choose between Specialists' unique power weapon or ability. Ruin's ability, Overdrive, provides a burst of speed, making for a character that will thrive in Capture the Flag. The second specialist presented was Seraph (real name Zhen Zhen). She sports a hand cannon called the Annihilator that deals a single shot capable of taking out multiple enemies if lined up perfectly. Her ability, Combat Focus, will trigger a bonus multiplier to your score that will go toward your scorestreak for a short period of time. The third specialist, and probably my favorite so far, is Outrider (real name Alessandra Castillo). She comes with the Sparrow, a compound bow that will explode enemies after sticking to them. But this isn't why I liked her. I always suck with bows in games, so the real draw of Outrider for me was her ability, Vision Pulse. The ability will ping the surrounding area and tag the location of all enemies within range. With it, you will essentially be able to see enemies through walls for a short amount of time. Perfect for campers, such as myself. The fourth, Reaper (real name Experimental War Robot), is a combat robot with an arm that can transform into a minigun, called the Scythe. While it does take time to spin up, the results of it in action can be devastating. Reaper's ability is called Glitch. With it, Reaper can relocate about three seconds into the past to a previous position. The Specialist power weapons and abilities are only available after a certain time or score threshold has been met. Charging over time, the refill rate is directly affected by your participation within the game. However, even if you sit and do nothing, you still will have at least one opportunity to use either option.  As with everything else in Black Ops III, the power weapon and ability are a choice. You can't have both. Depending on your play style, you will quickly find which is more effective for you. Just like your load outs, all of these options will be available pre-match. To wrap it all up The goal for Treyarch is to make the "deepest and richest Call of Duty ever," Lamia said.  He said the intention is to make it easier for players to find each other, not just in multiplayer, but single player and zombies as well. While he wasn't willing to go into specifics, he said he wants players to be aware of what others are playing and allow them to do whatever they want to do at any time. Lamia asserted that the social aspect of Black Ops III is what will distinguish it from others. Near the end of the presentation, Lamia revealed a couple of special opportunities for players to get their hands on the game and see for themselves how it plays. At this year's E3, Lamia said fans will have the chance to actually play multiplayer. But even if you aren't able to attend E3, those who pre-order the game will have access to the game's beta. Black Ops III will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Overall, the promise for Black Ops III is there. This is a series that has extremely high expectations. It's obviously too early to say whether or not Black Ops III will come close to meeting those, but the foundation is there. The blueprint and makings of a great and varied experience that breaks the mold is evident.  For now, all we can do is wait. 
Black Ops III photo
Multiplayer campaign and more
Whatever you think you know about the Call of Duty franchise is about to change. As a series that is often criticized for offering more of the same, Black Ops developer Treyarch has made every attempt to alter that mindset wi...

Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is ridiculous and over the top in all the right ways

Apr 20 // Alessandro Fillari
Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition (PC, PlayStation 4 [previewed], Xbox One)Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease date: Summer 2015 Set some time after the events of the original Devil May Cry, the devil-hunting half-demon Dante investigates the mysterious Order of the Sword, a religious sect that worships his demon father, Sparda, as a god. After an infestation of demons swarms the island of Fortuna, causing mass panic and bloodshed, the Order sends a young holy knight named Nero, who may have some demon lineage of his own, to find the source -- whom they believe is Dante. But along the way, Nero discovers that things are not what they appear, and that the Order of the Sword may have sinister motives in mind for him and the son of Sparda. Taking cues from Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition, the developers chose to include more supplementary features for DMC4:SE, while retaining the core structure of the original game. Using the excellent PC version of DMC4 as a base, the Special Edition now features Turbo Mode (20% increase to game-speed), Legendary Dark Knight mode (Hard mode with larger crowds of enemies), higher texture and visual fidelity, and tighter performance and framerate for both PC and console releases. But of course, the SE also brings additions that are brand new to DMC4, such as playable Vergil, Trish, and for the first time ever, Lady -- along with new cutscenes, new costumes for every character, some slight gameplay tweaks, new art to unlock, and some other surprises neat to find. However, it should be stressed that the core structure of DMC4 is almost exactly the same, and anyone expecting new bosses, monsters, and areas to travel to will likely be disappointed. It's still DMC4 through and through. I know many DMC enthusiasts were worried about what balancing tweaks were made to the game, particularly with Dante and Nero. With exception to general tweaks such as quicker Speed boost, faster Orb and Proud Soul acquisition, and some other minor tweaks and adjustments, the core gameplay for the original duo is largely untouched. So anyone who's mastered the intricacies of Guard Flying, Interia, and the incredibly tricky DRI (Distorted Real Impact) should rest easy knowing that they're intact and ready to take advantage of. Truth be told, though, I was a bit surprised by how much of the game was kept as is, even after eight years worth of feedback and cool PC mods that have surfaced. I'm bummed out that the new modes from DmC: Definitive Edition, such as Must Style, Hardcore, and Gods Must Die weren't included either. It seems like a missed opportunity, and DMC4:SE could have really taken advantage of them in a cool way.  With that said, I was impressed with the new content that awaits players in the Special Edition, and the folks at Capcom have put in the work to make it just as rad as ever. The focus of my session was checking out how all of the playable characters stacked up in DMC4:SE, and I was quite pleased to see how much diversity was offered here. Rest assured, these aren't some cheap additions to the game. The new characters feature their own unique playstyle and strategies that set them apart from the rest, which is a welcome change of pace for those who've clocked hundreds of hours into Bloody Palace. Moreover, they all have their own unique movesets to unlock, which is just as expansive as the original characters. I played with all five characters fully maxed out, so I got a pretty unique opportunity to see what they were like at their best. As you no doubt saw from the many teases we've seen over the last few months, Vergil is back, and this time he's more motivated than ever. Set many years before the events of DMC4, we find a young Vergil investigating the Order of the Sword. Not long after his arrival, demons invade the island and Vergil must put them in their place while uncovering the truth behind the mysterious group. Though his progression follows the Dante/Nero campaign beat for beat (sans original cutscenes), they feature all new opening and ending scenes to bookend his experiences. And we may even find some answers regarding his connection to series newcomer Nero. Many fans adored DMC3's incarnation of Vergil, and DMC4:SE continues his stoic and composed sense of combat, while upping his versatility to new heights. Wielding his standard Yamato -- along with the Beowulf gauntlets and Force Edge/Yamato combo from DMC3 -- Vergil dispenses his calm and uncompromising style of action that sets him apart from the others. Though fans will likely have reservations about Vergil possessing these weapons at this point in the timeline (before DMC3), the developers hope that the ambiguity of the plot and his expanded moveset will give them a pass in the eyes of fans. And after playing with Vergil, I'm certainly cool with the liberties they've taken.  Essentially the antithesis to Dante's bombastic and machismo combat style, Vergil feels more composed and cunning than his brother, which in essence lies the true genius of his style. This is reflected in the brand new Concentration meter, which rewards calm and precise combat. As you connect with strikes and dodge attacks, you build Vergil's Concentration level, which boosts his attack power and speed. Once you build it up to the max level, Vergil becomes a serious force in combat, and even unlocks special moves to use in his Devil Trigger phase -- such as the Judgement Cut End, an ultimate attack that slashes all foes at the cost of your DT gauge. I was supremely impressed with how much the developers had expanded Vergil's gameplay. The new Concentration meter makes combat feel more rewarding and satisfying, and keeping my meter full made fights more tense, as getting hit or missing an attack would decrease the meter. Thankfully, Vergil is still a beast even at the lowest concentration. In addition to incorporating DmC Vergil's sword teleportation move, which allows Vergil to teleport to enemies hit with his sword illusion skills, his weapon combos have also been fleshed out more. With Yamato using new ground and aerial combos, including aerial variants of Judgement Cut and also Vergil's take on Nero's Roulette, Force Edge also employs new combos paying homage to DMC3's Agni and Rudra moveset. Not to mention, his DT phase enhances his abilities and combos, giving him faster charge time and reduced cooldown, along with replacing his side-roll with the Table Hopper evade. I know I won't be alone in saying this, but I would've been plenty satisfied with just having Vergil as a new character. But of course, Capcom decided to take things a step further by including two more characters to the roster with Lady and Trish. Though Vergil has the campaign all to himself, Lady and Trish will share a campaign mode similar to Nero and Dante's story. With two new cutscenes, their story focuses on their exploits in the background as Nero and Dante are getting into trouble throughout the island. Lady's portion takes her through Nero's missions, using her grappling hook for traversal, while Trish cleans up in Dante's later levels. This is the first time Lady has been playable in the DMC series, and as the sole human character in the roster, the developers had to rethink how combat would work for her. Focusing more on her firearms, and employing a keep-away style, Lady is at her best while at a distance. With her only melee weapon being the massive and lumbering rocket launcher Kalina Ann, which feels fairly limited compared to other melee weapons, it's quite clear that players will have to adjust how they engage their foes with Lady. Thankfully, her arsenal of firearms and gadgets, including the Kalina Ann's grappling hook which pulls in enemies, offers more than enough stopping power to take down whatever comes her way. While it's easy to assume that her combat mechanics are a carbon copy of Dante's gunslinger style, there's definitely a lot of nuance to be found in the human devil hunter's fighting style. Using pistols, a shotgun, and the Kalina Ann as her primary weapons, Lady's focus on range gives her an edge that the other characters do not. Taking some inspiration from Nero's exceed gauge, Lady is able to charge her weapons up to three levels, which boosts her attack power significantly. When charged, the bullet icon on the HUD will show how much juice is left in the charge, giving players an idea of how much time they have for their attacks. Not only is Lady able to charge her weapons much faster than the other characters, her weapons react differently with a full charge. For instance, a max-level charge for the Kalina Ann sends out a super-charged rocket that pierces through multiple foes. And yes, she does have a double jump and also a neat spin on the Devil Trigger phase. Her take on double jump has her rocket launcher firing off a shot, propelling her upward and damaging foes underneath (which has damage jump cancelling potential), and her spin on the Devil Trigger is essentially a volley of grenades that clears out all nearby enemies. I adored the character in DMC3, and finally getting the chance to play as her was such a blast. Granted, it was an adjustment. I had to resist the urge to use melee attacks with Lady -- it was quite clear they weren't her strong suit -- which in itself was a bit of an oddity for DMC. While every character thrives on getting up close and personal, Lady is the polar opposite. Many of her moves even focus on getting her in and out of the action when the need arises. For instance, her take on the shotgun's gunstinger move has her charge in gun first for a deadly close-range blast, then follows up with another shot that her launches back out of the fray. Another example is her R1+ Back + Jump move, which replaces the typical backflip and causes Lady to jump backwards while tossing a number of grenades to the foes in front of her. Ultimately, I found Lady to be a very technical character, and she's arguably the most unique choice in the roster. I'm usually a player that uses firearms somewhat sparingly, but playing as Lady offered some inventive ways to use them. Which I certainly appreciate. Finally, the last new character to grace the Special Edition is long-time femme fatale Trish. She was last playable in Devil May Cry 2, and thankfully the developers sought to flesh her out. Using her fists, the sword Sparda (the Force Edge's transformed state), the pistols Ebony and Ivory, the super weapon Pandora, and her demonic lighting powers, Trish is essentially DMC4: Special Edition's wildcard character. On the surface, she seems to be there just for eye-candy -- but in truth, Trish is one of the deadliest characters in the roster. With her focus being primarily on crowd control and group combat, many of her moves attack multiple foes at once, due in part to her range and lightning imbued attacks. To be totally honest, I initially I felt that Trish seemed overpowered, given that she has pretty easy access to such powerful weapons. Moreover, she's an incredibly flashy character, which has her pulling off a number of elaborate combos with ease. While developing DMC4:SE, the creatives wanted to have a character that allowed newcomers to get in easily, which meant removing the weapon-switch options and keeping her arsenal present at all times. Now before you grab your pitchforks over the thought of accessibility tied to DMC, do know that selecting Trish does not mean you picked the "you win" character. As I got more comfortable with her, I found a lot of nuance that required knowledge of enemy placement, range, and sheer timing on my part. Her moveset is very robust, and features larger depth in crowd control and focused attacks than the others. Her primary weapons are her fists, called Bare Knuckle, and it's the most robust unarmed moveset the series has ever had. Bare Knuckle takes advantage of her lighting powers, and gives each of her attacks a serious boost. Along with Sparda, which is set to the Style button (Circle on PS4), Trish uses the legendary sword as is with strikes and launchers, but she can also treat it like a boomerang to keep enemies locked in place with Round Trip, or to scoop up a group of foes towards her from a distance. Her ultimate move, however, is truly a sight to behold. As one of the longest combos in the game, Trish uses almost all of Sparda's moves in an intensive flurry, finishing off with her calmly using the legendary weapon as a golf club against the unfortunate foe. Simply put, she's a badass and an utter joy to watch cut loose. Fans of her Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 appearance will be pleased to know they've incorporated her moveset into DMC4:SE. One of her Bare Knuckle moves called Inazuma is an aerial kick that leaves streaks of energy in the environment, which can trap enemies in their place. Add in Sparda's round-trip ability, along with Trish's glorious take on Chun-Li's Spinning Bird Kick, and you've got potential to dish out some gnarly damage. During a quick trip into Legendary Dark Knight mode, I went to Mission 17's street area, which is notorious for featuring the largest number of enemies in the game. While other members of the roster may take some time to clear out the mobs, Trish was in her element and laid waste to the masses in a way that would make the characters from Dynasty Warriors sit down and watch her at work. Seriously, using Sparda's round-trip, along with Inazuma and Pandora's beam cannon (which uses some DT meter) against the mobs was like witnessing Satan's weed wacker at work. It was brutal, incredibly satisfying, and it was clear they didn't send enough enemies to fight. I remember playing as Trish in DMC2, and I was really disappointed that she was a reskin of Dante. Thankfully, DMC4:SE does the character justice. With the entire roster in mind, I felt that they all complement each other, and bring levels of panache that feels special, especially if you're willing to invest the time to learn and grow with them. But what truly impressed me the most was that each character brings something unique to the table. None of them felt half-baked or intended as a diversion from the other more established members. I was quite blown away by how much we're getting here. I spent about two hours tooling around with all the characters, and while Nero and Dante feel just as sharp and versatile as ever, I anticipate the newcomers will get all the attention come release, and with good reason. Although I was initially worried that the new characters would compound the tedium of the recycled environments, I was pleased to find that the new playstyles help to offer a refreshing take on the old encounters. That will certainly take the sting out of backtracking. Hopefully, anyway. But I still have to express my disappoint in that no new modes were added. However, this is one of the great aspects of the remaster trend. Much like its companion title DmC: Definitive Edition, it's allowing games from the previous gen that may have missed the mark to reach a greater potential and be the game fans want it to be. It's been such a long time since Capcom came out with a follow-up to the original DMC series, and Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition shows that it hasn't lost its touch one bit. It's looking to be an incredibly enticing package that revels in gloriously stupid action, and ain't that the best kind? As the Street Fighter of the action genre, this franchise has a large legacy to uphold. And if you were among those who weren't too keen on DmC Devil May Cry and yearned for a return to the classic series, you've now got your shot to do so. So take it. And don't forget to turn on Turbo Mode in the options menu. 
Devil May Cry photo
The time has come, and so have I
The Devil May Cry franchise has experienced some strange happenings in recent years. After the release of Ninja Theory's reboot and many debates among fans about what direction it should go next, the future of the franchise f...

We got a first look at gameplay from the new Star Wars Battlefront

Apr 17 // Mike Cosimano
[embed]290584:58214:0[/embed] Star Wars Battlefront (PlayStation 4 [previewed], Xbox One, PC)Developer: DICEPublisher: Electronic ArtsRelease Date: November 17, 2015 During the preview event, we were shown what DICE claims was pre-alpha PlayStation 4 gameplay. It all felt too staged to be a live match, but there was just enough roughness to the visuals that I could maybe buy it. The gametype we were shown was called "Walker Assault," which was not explained in depth but seems to be an asymmetrical mode similar to Battlefield Hardline's "Heist." The Empire has an AT-AT, and the Rebels are activating Uplinks to summon Y-Wing bombers so they can destroy the AT-AT? Maybe? It wasn't explicit, but that's what I took away from both the match & the pre-rendered trailer we were shown. The Endor map also feels too detailed; there's too much going on visually and it feels like the camouflaged Rebels will have an enormous advantage. The other major thing I took away from the gameplay video was how much it looked like Battlefield, even with the Star Wars trappings. That's not to say it's a re-skin of Battlefield 4 or anything; it's just that the game looks almost exactly like how you'd expect a hypothetical Battlefield Endor game to look, right down to the experience gain. Battlefront gives you a 25 point bonus for a headshot, eh? That sounds familiar. Even the gun sway animation feels like a holdover from the recent Battlefield titles. However, all of that changes in third-person. For me, Star Wars Battlefront has always been a third-person shooter. It looks like players will be able to switch at will between the two modes of play. Heroes and villains will make a return, as we saw at the end of our demo when Darth Vader showed up and annihilated the player character. Boba Fett will also be playable, because this is a Star Wars thing. There's currently no word as to the rest of the game's roster, but I'd have to imagine some of the new characters from The Force Awakens will make an appearance. If DICE insists on gametypes with limited respawn tickets, a super-powerful character laying waste to an enemy team would certainly reduce average match times. One thing we didn't see was any specifics how ship-to-ship combat would be implemented. The reveal trailer included footage of dogfights, but I am very concerned by the lack of space combat gameplay being shown. I remember when I realized I could break into the enemy ship and sabotage it from within in the original game. How cool that would be with the 40-player count DICE is citing for Star Wars Battlefront? In fairness, there is a criminal lack of dogfighting in videogames these days in general. At this point I'll take just about anything I can get, especially if the fights are accompanied by that iconic TIE fighter scream. At the end of the gameplay demo, Battlefront design director Niklas Fegraeus took the stage to discuss some of the more technical aspects of the game. He showed off something called Dolby Atmos 3D, which just amounted to slightly better sound rendering. I bet if you've got a surround sound system or some killer headphones, that'll make you a very happy person. Most of my online gaming happens with the volume off and a podcast on in the background, so an otherwise indistinct difference in sound just didn't grab me. What I did find interesting was the mandatory part of the conference where the licensor talks about how much they love the licensed product and how faithful they want to be. When it came time for DICE to visit the Lucasfilm archives, they incorporated a technology called Physically Based Rendering -- PBR for short. As Fegraeus put it: "You have a [physical] object, you take a bunch of pictures and then a special software converts it into a digital object." The models we saw looked fantastic, and that level of detail was certainly visible in the demo. I was also quite taken with the new "partner feature," an option in multiplayer that allows two buddies to form a tag team. In-matches, you will always spawn near each other and you can always see where the other person is on the map. Outside of the match, if one of you is playing and the other comes online, you'll automatically be matched up. As somebody who doesn't make very much use of clans in console shooters, it's possible all of these features have been well-tread already, but to me this implementation felt new and fresh. But the most impressive aspect of this feature for me was the unlock sharing. If you get access to a sick gun before the other member of your tag team, they get access to it as well. This is both a cool way to make sure your team is perpetually strong while making the game accessible to more casual players. It's the best kind of change -- the kind that has no real downside -- and I'd like to see it pop up under a different name in a Call of Duty or Battlefield somewhere down the line. If competitive multiplayer isn't quite your bag (and if that's the case, why do you care about this game?) there will be missions inspired by battles from the film series that can be played solo or co-op (either online or local). One such mission is a free add-on entitled The Battle of Jakku, and takes place before the events of The Force Awakens, setting up the desert planet seen in both of the film's teaser trailers.  The latest iteration of the Frostbite engine seems well-utilized, but it's somewhat difficult to tell if I was being tricked. Although I firmly believe the match was choreographed to hell and back, the visuals had just enough jank to them that I also believe the game will absolutely look fantastic upon release. Now, will it hit the benchmark set by the demo? Not likely, but we know DICE can make a fine-looking console game. This is all somewhat irrelevant: how pretty the game will be is not the sticking point here. When you consider just how god damn broken Battlefield 4 was, I was genuinely surprised our demo didn't even nod at that ever-present sting. At time of writing, the DICE panel at Star Wars Celebration has not occurred, so there's a chance the team will still address the wampa in the room. But even if they manage to address it in a way that feels satisfactory, will that be enough to rake in the pre-orders? I think DICE has a solid core here, partially in thanks to its experience with multiplayer shooters. I've never played a bad Battlefield from a design standpoint (although I'm sure the comments will tell me otherwise), so there's no way I was going into Star Wars Battlefront expecting a mechanical disaster. My apprehension comes from the remaining blank spaces. Will this game be able to pay tribute to its predecessors and the franchise without letting reverence smother progress? And -- more importantly -- will the game work on day one? Neither of these questions can be adequately resolved before copies start getting out, but I think it's reasonable to get your hopes up just a little. As long as we've got space battles, everything will be fine. ...there are space battles, right DICE?
Star Wars Battlefront photo
There has been an awakening
I have very fond memories of Star Wars Battlefront. Well into my adolescence, whole summer weekends were lost to split-screen tournaments; when you lost a game, you lost the controller. Familiar Star Wars icono...

The original Kickstarter game, High Strangeness, is set for release on May 6

Apr 16 // Alessandro Fillari
High Strangeness (Linux, Mac, PC, Wii U [previewed])Developer: Barnyard Intelligence GamesPublisher: Midnight CityRelease: May 6, 2015 "As the original amount was for $1500, it's been a passion project for us," said lead developer Ben Shostak. "We've been working on it all that time since, but eventually along the way, we got picked up by Midnight City and they were able to help us get it finished up and with the art assets and other resources. We had a successful Steam Greenlight, and now we're ready for release next month." Initially taking place in middle America, a mild-mannered teenager finds that his home has been invaded by creatures resembling shadows. Soon after, he's transported to a mysterious world connected by two parallel dimensions, and after coming into contact with an ancient artifact, he's able to transition between the dimensions, which resemble 8-bit and 16-bit interpretations of the new world he inhabits. Using gadgets and several artifacts he uncovers, he begins his quest to unravel the mystery behind the shadow creatures, while trying to find his way back home. Understandably, I was a bit confused by their labeling of High Strangeness as a 12-bit adventure game, but after playing the game, it became quite clear. The main character is essentially trapped within a videogame that's having difficulties trying to reconcile its place between the between the 8-bit and 16-bit eras of gaming. Hence, the 12-bit label. As the in-between, he's able to transition to different eras, while taking advantage of the unique visual styles, along with the physics and AI parameters of the respective eras. Similar to The Legend of Zelda: A Link To the Past or Secret of Mana, action takes place from an overhead view in real time. In addition to his graphical transition ability, the hero will have access to a wide range of abilities. Starting off with a flashlight, which doubles as a melee weapon, he'll gain new gadgets and abilities such as firecrackers, which can be thrown at enemies and used to destroy weak walls to find new areas. When our hero defeats foes, he'll acquire crystal eyes which can be used to spend on upgrades in the character menu. Similar to action-RPG titles, you'll be able to focus on particular traits and attributes, and build your hero out to your liking. While at first glance, it seems to be one of those titles trying a bit too hard to relive the classic era. But thankfully, the "meta-ness" of High Strangeness is much more than simple style. The transition between the bit worlds is totally by design, which will change up enemy A.I, puzzle solving, and exploration. Think Light and Dark worlds from A Link to the Past, but with videogames. For instance, 16-bit world features eight-way degree of movement, while the 8-bit world has only grid based movement. In some cases, enemies will appear more menacing and more difficult in 16-bit mode, but switching over to 8-bit mode will severely limit their attacks and movement. Moreover, certain clues and obstacles will only be present in the 8-bit areas. During the Easter Island level, I was able to see traps hidden in the ground in the 8-bit world, but for the 16-bit world, the extra graphical power allows the traps to be more well hidden. I know, it's so meta, right? And it totally works. I was kinda geeking out during my session, as it was a pretty neat nod to how self-aware it is the style and limitations of the era. It was cool seeing 16-bit versions of the common enemies, these clothed monsters with tentacles, turn into these somewhat harmless and neutered looking enemies in the 8-bit world. By the way, that friend that inspired the developers to put themselves out there on Kickstarter was Rich Vreeland, also known as Disasterpeace. Along with Dino Lionetti from Cheap Dinosaurs, Disasterpeace has also contributed some music to High Strangeness. The score is totally a love letter to the classic era, focusing heavy on chiptune arrangements that are pretty catchy, but also very exciting and ooze style. I spent a nice amount of time with High Strangeness, and I could tell I only scratched the surface of what it has in store for players. There are many dungeons and locations to explore, each with a 8-bit and 16-bit rendition, and there's even a section where you'll play as a talking cat for some reason. It sounds so ridiculous, I know it'll be really awesome to see unfold. I'm a bit of a sucker to have a game be so self-aware of its genre, and the medium itself, and High Strangeness is certainly shaping up to one of those titles that'll not be fun to play, but also to examine for the number of references and nods to the classic era. It's been a long time coming, and to finally see the original Kickstarter game project reach the finish line is pretty exciting. Granted, it's been about six years, but better now then never, right? They've made good on their commitment to the fans, and it's shaped up to be something quite special.
High Strangeness photo
A super-meta jaunt through through 12-bit gaming
Ever since the big Kickstarter boom of 2012, there's never been a short supply of developers looking to get their next title going through crowdfunding. From metroidvania action-RPG titles referencing the golden years of game...

This could be the Godzilla game fans have always wanted

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

Dystopian steampunk mini-golf is now a thing in Vertiginous Golf

Apr 15 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]289971:58047:0[/embed] Vertiginous Golf (Linux, Mac, PC [previewed])Developer: Lone Wolf Collective, KinelcoPublisher: Surprise AttackRelease: May 6, 2015MSRP: $14.99 Set in a world resembling Victorian-era London, Vertiginous Golf centers around the citizens of the city who look for escapism from the oppressive and gloomy nature of urban living. When the upper class and more fortunate citizens leave the city for comfortable living on floating islands in the sky, the lower class citizens have to settle for access to the "Vertiginousphere," essentially steampunk virtual reality, to give them a vicarious taste of what life is like above the smog and clouds. And what better way to experience it than with a game of mini-golf? As you clear courses and unlock new challenges, you'll find audio diaries explaining the nature of the world, and its denizens. There seems to be a lot more going on with the Vertiginousphere and the lands above the clouds, than you may realize. When you enter the Vertiginousphere, you gain access to a mini-golf course designed by some of the most ingenious, sadistic golfers ever. Partnered with a flying mechanical bird, you're able to get a thorough view of the course and its dangers in order to make to the hole. While some are pretty simple, with only a few dips and bumps to worry about -- there are others that feature major hazards, like air-tanks that push your golf-ball away from the hole, or moving platforms that shift at a moment's notice. During my first few games, things got pretty hairy after only three holes. On one course, I had to take advantage of half-pipes and loops in order to make it to the end of the course. They're incredibly devious, and it'll be interesting to see how players make it through the stages efficiently. It's quite clear that many liberties are taken with the game of mini-golf in the Vertiginousphere. For instance, you're given an after-touch ability to move and shift the direction of your ball, only slightly, to give it a better position and angle. Moreover, given the fact that this isn't a real game of mini-golf, you're able to rewind your moves back a few seconds, in case you make a serious error. Though the game has been in Early Access for over a year now, there have been steady updates to the game since then, which is still prepping for its release. The most recent update that came out was the inclusion of online multiplayer. Up to eight players can compete against each other in real time (no turns) on a courses. You can even use weapons and gadgets to slow down or debilitate your competition. With its release coming up, the developers took a lot of feedback from fans during its time on Early Access. This includes special courses that only allows the use of your clubs and no special abilities such as the after-touch and rewind. Moreover, the final release will feature the full story mode and level editor, which players will no doubt spend many hours in. I think it's safe to say that Vertiginous Golf is one of the most unique mini-golf titles I've ever played, and its steampunk setting is the real capper to such an off-the-wall and rich concept. I'm quite fond of its approach to narrative within a mini-golf game. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what this title has to reveal, as there's a surprisingly high level of mystery present.  Even though I only got a small taste of the story, what I experienced left me wanting to explore of what the Vertiginousphere had to offer. 
Vertiginous Golf photo
Brass clubs and copper pins
What happens when you get the developers of those old Nabisco mini-golf Flash games and have them make a new type of mini-golf title? Well evidently, you get something completely off-the-wall and bizarre, which feels more lik...


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