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Rainbow Six Siege photo
Rainbow Six Siege

Try before you buy: Rainbow Six Siege has an open beta next week

Idris Elba has an important message
Nov 18
// Brett Makedonski
On the fence about Rainbow Six Siege? Next week, a'splode a man-sized hole through that fence and then through the side of the house and then through the floor. Blow your indecision to smithereens. Ubisoft's holding an open ...
Just Cause 4K photo
Just Cause 4K

See Just Cause 3 running on max settings in 4K

You know who else had the initials JC?
Nov 18
// Steven Hansen
After the whole usual pre-release kerfuffle and grumbling about Just Cause 3 running at 1080p on PS4 and 900p on Xbox One, here is some dedicated space for PC players to boast about how much extra P they're getting. PC playe...
Deus Ex delay photo
Deus Ex delay

Eidos is holding Deus Ex: Mankind Divided back until August

XCOM 2 is still in February, though!
Nov 18
// Jordan Devore
Eidos Montreal has pushed the release of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to August 23, 2016. A fairly substantial delay, considering the game was previously slated for February (and, heh, remember that canned pre-order program that ...
Overwatch photo

Blizzard is bringing more people into the Overwatch beta

First weekend event starts Friday
Nov 17
// Jordan Devore
If you've been meaning to register for the Overwatch beta and haven't yet, get on that! Blizzard is holding its first weekend beta event for the team-based shooter from Friday, November 20 at 9:00am Pacific to Monday, Novembe...

Review: Star Wars Battlefront

Nov 17 // Chris Carter
Star Wars Battlefront (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE)Publisher: Electronic ArtsMSRP: $59.99Release Date: November 17, 2015 My main problem with Star Wars Battlefront is how arcadey the game feels, when it's very clear DICE is trying to push a fully-fledged shooter on you. The end result is a Frankenstein's monster of sorts, with a lot of fun bits, and some elements of overproduction and bloat fixed in to boot. Let's start with how the game handles class creation. "Cards" are basically uninspired loadout options, with the tired gating process to boot. Why does the game feature a "credits" system on top of ranked level gating? Call of Duty solved this conundrum ages ago with tokens, which simplify everything with a singular in-game currency that you can use to unlock things. With Battlefront, it feels like DICE is actively gating you at every turn, and willingly deterring you from experimentation. Once you actually open up your options they aren't exactly mind-blowing either, with generic powers like "focus fire" (more temporary accuracy), or Thermal Detonators, which are just grenades. The only standout is the jump pack. All of the aesthetic options lack personality as well, and beyond the token gender and race choices, everything looks the same. Whereas previous titles would allow players to choose between multiple races with drastically different abilities (read: droids), every Battlefront player is humanoid in nature, whether they're a Twi'lek rebel or a Stormtrooper, they all operate the same. [embed]320463:61122:0[/embed] That isn't to say that the game isn't fun. Locations are sprawling and full of life, even if the character models aren't nearly as vibrant. Every single environment is detailed to the point where it looks like it was taken directly from the films, and most of the time, there's a gigantic battle playing out in the skies above, adding a dire feel to every match. I really like most of the modes, particularly Supremacy, Fighter Squadron, and Hero Hunt. There are nine in all, and all of them are fine in their own way. Supremacy is basically the new core mode of the game, featuring a "capture the point" tug of war system. It fits with Star Wars' high-octane action, as tons of different vehicles are scattered about at a frantic pace, to the point where every spawn is interesting. This game type is pretty much always fun when it's featured in a Battlefront game, and I haven't had a bad experience yet. Fighter Squadron, while rudimentary, is also a go-to of mine. Across several landscapes two teams will battle it out in the sky, solely in vehicles. It's not even close to the thrill of a proper X-Wing or Tie Fighter game, but again, as an arcade-like experience, it does the trick. Barrel rolls, quick turns, shields, and missile locks are all in, and it feels unique enough to set itself apart from other similar titles. My other standout favorite is Hero Hunt. This one basically teeters from a team-based mode to a free-for-all in an instant, placing a collective of soldiers against one named character -- the person to score the killing blow gets to play as that hero. It's a rush due to the fact that heroes cycle after every death, and fighting the jet-pack wielding Boba Fett is a completely different experience than taking on a Force user. You're constantly forced to change up how you approach any given situation (and learn all of their abilities, and how they impact the flow of a match), and the recognizable characters elevate the mode. Playing online is the gift that keeps on giving with Battlefront. There's a wide variety of game types to choose from without having so many that the community feels segmented. Even in EA Access there are plenty of people online, and games fill rather quickly. Then you have the mission mode, which is separate from everything else. I'm not convinced that it's much more than a fleeting fancy, even with an online or offline co-op partner. The first half consists of basic "versus" battles with or without placing players in the shoes of heroes and villains, and survival essentially amounts to another horde mode. What's weird about the former is that it's so incredibly limited, almost for no reason. The game forces you to play with "tokens," similar to Call of Duty's "Kill Confirmed," and with just four maps, it gets old in an afternoon. Why did it have to be like this? Why aren't there more maps, and better bots available? It feels rushed, almost like EA had to add in a token offline game type just to have it in there. The same goes for survival, because while I do like that the wave-based mode has an "end," unlike many other boring infinite horde modes, there isn't much to it. Occasionally waves will throw an AT-ST or Tie Fighter at you, and all players have to do is blast it into oblivion with environmental weapons or their normal gear. They have a lot of health even on normal, so it can get incredibly tedious. In short, do not count on a reliable single player component. Star Wars Battlefront feels authentic in many ways, but that authenticity is aggressively pursued at the cost of gameplay, and is often tacked-on. If you're in the mood for a relatively shallow shooter with caveats you likely won't be disappointed, but I wish that DICE had a little more time to polish it and add more substance. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher, as well as time spent online with the EA Access program on Xbox One, purchased by the reviewer.]
Star Wars review photo
Ready are you? What know you of ready?
Star Wars has been a part of my reality ever since my parents showed me the first film on VHS. From there I attended the release of every movie in the series, including the re-releases of the original trilogy -- if you'r...

MWO moving to Steam photo
MWO moving to Steam

MechWarrior Online is coming to Steam in December

Stomping on up
Nov 13
// Nic Rowen
After what seems like years of rumors and speculation, the free-to-play shooter MechWarrior Online is finally making the move to Steam. According to a news post on the MWO website, the Steam launch will happen on December 10,...
Battlefront photo

A better breakdown of the Star Wars Battlefront season pass

Maps, modes, characters
Nov 13
// Jordan Devore
The season pass for Star Wars Battlefront is $50. We had a basic understanding of what the package entails, and as of today, we have a slightly better idea what to expect. Here's the latest summary from EA: 4 expansion packs...
Destiny photo

New Destiny update features sword vendor, return of Iron Banner

And a few other bits
Nov 13
// Chris Carter
In addition to the refer-a-friend program, a few other updates are coming next week for Destiny. For starters Lord Shaxx will sell the three legendary swords, just in case you did something with them. Also, players will be ab...
Tomb Raider photo
Tomb Raider

Xbox mullers Tomb Raider fans in London for publicity

It's okay, they were willing volunteers
Nov 13
// Vikki Blake
Microsoft celebrated the release of Rise of the Tomb Raider by challenging eight Lara Croft fans to survive 24 hours on a billboard while being mullered by brutal weather conditions.  Of the thousands of applicants, just...
Splatoon DLC photo
Splatoon DLC

New Splatoon map coming out tomorrow

New guns today
Nov 12
// Darren Nakamura
During today's Nintendo Direct, Nintendo announced the immediate DLC plans for its hit multiplayer shooter Splatoon. Starting today, an update with new gear will be rolling out. The bigger deal is the new map, Museum d'Alfons...

Star Wars Battlefront's full version hasn't really swayed me

Nov 12 // Chris Carter
Firstly, I have to say I'm surprised at how smooth the EA Access build has been. I've had no issues connecting to any matches, and online play has been very smooth. There's also plenty of people in the program, and nearly every match I've played has filled up immediately. Additionally, nine modes in all is enough to keep people interested without having the unfortunate effect of splitting the community. In addition to the modes I already covered, another addition really stood out -- Hero Hunt. It's a 1v7 mode essentially, where one player takes the place of an iconic hero, and defends themselves against a group of standard soldiers. Whoever kills said character becomes one next. It's pretty fun, mostly because of how formidable each hero is. I love that it's constantly changing up the hero after each kill, as it forces players to adjust their tactics The other breakout mode is Fighter Squadron, which is an entirely vehicular based affair, similar to a Star Fox skirmish. It's a far better way to handle ships than the lame "power-up" style pickups in the core modes, and there are even hero ships like the Falcon involved. AI is also built in to make it feel more full and "epic," which I'm mostly okay with since it feels more arcadey than anything. As for the rest of the modes they're pretty standard fare (team deathmatch, escort), and across all of them I noticed the same stilted animations from the beta. It feels cheap, even in comparison to DICE's recent efforts like Battlefield 4. Voicework for standard grunts and heroes alike also feels rush and hastily injected. Pop-in is a major issue, and one of my soldiers even grew hair in the intro -- it was hilarious, but when it happens in-game it's just annoying. [embed]320256:61076:0[/embed] Thankfully the offline modes have been fully unlocked as well, allowing me a much bigger taste in comparison to the one horde mode mission in the beta. As a note, all of the following supports online and split-screen play, the latter of which sees a small drop in quality as well as the framerate, but is still presented in a very much playable state. The first of the two modes is "Battles," which are essentially team deathmatch confrontations with AI built in. There are only four maps to choose from (Hoth, Tatooine, Endor, and Sullust), and both support regular or hero battles -- the latter of which allows players to control a named character (Luke, Han, Leia, Vader, Palpatine, or Boba). It's...straight-up Kill Confirmed from Call of Duty. After downing a foe they'll drop tokens, which you'll have to collect to score points. Do that 100 times and the match is over. If you want you can turn off your AI support, which makes the gametype even more like a horde mode than it already is. Sadly, the AI is a bit dull even on the "master" difficulty, so they never really take the gameplay to the next level. The same exact four maps are available in Survival mode, which delivers enemies in waves like a traditional horde experience. It's a fun distraction, but it doesn't ever go the full mile, heavily relying on nostalgia, like the classic soundtrack from the original trilogy. Ultimately, both modes feel the same. The former is framed more as a versus match, but still places multiple AI opponents in each arena with you -- it just isn't presented in a wave-based format. For those of you who were holding out hope for a more involved single-player component in lieu of a campaign, prepare to be disappointed. I obviously need more time to deliver a final verdict, so stay tuned for a full review sometime next week. In the meantime, you can download the game now if you're in the EA Early Access program or you happened to get a free token recently.
Star Wars Battlefront photo
EA Access impressions
I wasn't all that smitten with the Star Wars Battlefront beta, but today the full game launches for EA Early Access members, with a 10-hour time limit caveat. Now the game is free of content locks, with all modes available for play in addition to the offline component, which features split-screen support and bots. The final build hasn't really changed my mind all that much.

Halo 5 photo
Halo 5

Oh Halo no: 343 flooded with reports of Halo 5 multiplayer rank resets

Fortunately, it doesn't seem permanent
Nov 11
// Brett Makedonski
Some who have dumped several hours in Halo 5's multiplayer over the past two weeks might see an unwelcome sight when they turn on the game. There's a chance that their multiplayer progress has been reset. That's the nightmare...
Blops makes bank photo
Blops makes bank

Call of Duty: Black Ops III biggest launch of 2015 at $550 million

Until Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Nov 11
// Steven Hansen
Call of Duty: Black Ops III made a lot of money in three days. And while that's not surprising, it is notable, given that the series sales had been in a bit of a decline with Ghosts and Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. I guess the...
Destiny photo

Failing to go to orbit in Destiny after an activity will nullify postmaster rewards

Nov 11
// Chris Carter
So this is a weird one. Over at the Destiny subreddit, they've uncovered something surprising, straight from Bungie. According to the official help section of the game's site, failing to go to orbit after an activity (re...
Star Wars Battlefront photo
Star Wars Battlefront

Here's everything that can be unlocked in Star Wars Battlefront

Unless there are some surprises
Nov 10
// Brett Makedonski
It's only one week until an estimated 13 million players will hop into Star Wars Battlefront and contribute to the eternal struggle of good versus evil. Regardless of which side you're on, there will be plenty of ways to...

Where to find companions in Fallout 4

Nov 10 // Jordan Devore
A few notes: Thankfully, companions can't die. If they're taken out in combat, they'll squat down and wait for you to a) heal them with a stimpack or b) kill all nearby enemies. There are lots of dead dogs in this video game, but rest assured, you won't have to dig a grave for your beloved Dogmeat. If you stick with the same companion, over time, you can gain their loyalty and a unique perk. That deathclaw in the first picture isn't going to hurt me, but he's not my buddy, either. I wish! If you'd like to know more, head to the Museum of Witchcraft at the top right of the map. There will be spoilers in this post, of course, but I'll try to keep them to a minimum. This little guide is intended for people who either want a specific type of companion (say, a super mutant) as soon as possible and don't know where to look, or just have a desire to catch 'em all. Codsworth (Mister Handy) The family robot survived the bombs! Drop by your old neighborhood (Sanctuary Hills). Dogmeat (uh, dog) You can't miss him. One of the first areas you'll encounter after emerging from Vault 111 is a place called Red Rocket Truck Stop. Just follow the path straight out of Sanctuary Hills. Preston Garvey (Minutemen supporter) You'll bump into Preston early on in the main story. He needs a help clearing out the nearby town of Concord. Later in your journey, once you've helped rebuild the Minutemen, he'll be a seemingly never-ending source of cookie-cutter quests to find and help the other settlements scattered across the Commonwealth. Paladin Danse (dude in power armor) He's your way into the Brotherhood of Steel. Go to the Cambridge Police Station and take on a few quests. Eventually, he'll want to tag along with you. Curie (Mister Handy with a French accent) She's associated with a quest in Vault 81 called "Hole in the Wall." To access the vault, you'll first need to cough up three fusion cores (the "ammo" for power armor), and those don't come cheap. With that in mind, after using most of the energy in a core, set it aside -- the vault gatekeeper will accept mostly-used fusion cores, so don't hand over fresh ones. (Tip: Keep Curie around at least until she asks for help with something. It's a neat little quest.) Nick Valentine (detective; best character in the game) Over the course of the story, you'll end up in Diamond City. There's a detective agency in the back of town, but the owner has gone missing. Head over there and see what's up. Piper (journalist) There's also a news reporter in Diamond City. You'll bump into her on your way in.  Cait (rapscallion) It took me about 50 hours before I randomly decided to enter the Combat Zone, so Cait was one of my last recruits. Go inside, kill a bunch of raiders, and then speak with the ghoul. Strong (super mutant; milk lover) He says a lot of weird stuff, but that's what makes him so endearing. Keep an eye out for Trinity Tower and a side quest called "Curtain Call." John Hancock (cool ghoul) There are some entertaining characters in Goodneighbor, so make sure to stop by sooner than later. After you've helped some of the locals (one side quest is "The Silver Shroud"), report back to Hancock in the settlement's Old State House and he'll yearn for adventure again. Robert MacCready (one of the annoying kids in Fallout 3; he's now a man) While in Goodneighbor, visit The Third Rail. Head all the way downstairs, and swing by the VIP room. Bring caps (and/or charisma). Deacon (man of a thousand faces) One of my other favorite companions. He's hilarious. Deacon belongs to a major faction in Fallout 4 called The Railroad, and finding their secret base is a pain in the ass. It starts with the quest "Road to Freedom," which has you follow the Freedom Trail, a winding path that goes from Boston Common to the Old North Church. (Tip: If you're going to do the trail proper, follow the red markers on the street at Boston Common, not the nearby lanterns. Chris and I both had trouble with this at first.) X6-88 (???) Supposedly! NPCs won't shut up about him, but I haven't been able to locate him inside The Institute (you'll access it through the main story). Probably for the best that I don't find him.
Fallout companions photo
Meet your new BFF
Seeking a friend for the end of the world? Good idea. The Commonwealth is a nasty place. Even if you can handle super mutants and deathclaws, it's best to bring a buddy along if for no other reason than to have someone help h...

Battlefront photo

Star Wars Battlefront has a surprisingly small file size

Comparatively speaking, of course
Nov 09
// Brett Makedonski
In a sea of 40 and 50GB game installs, Star Wars Battlefront flies under the radar. It defies what we've come to expect from a triple-A title. I bet the other games think it's a traitor and call it Rebel Scum. According ...
Star Wars photo
Star Wars

If you like Star Wars and Anna Kendrick, I have the thing for you

Or if you like vanishing from clothes
Nov 09
// Brett Makedonski
In a week's time, a lot of people will be transported to the battlefields of Star Wars Battlefront. EA is expecting around 13 million, in fact. All those folks living out the Star Wars fantasy before shuffling off to th...

Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Nov 09 // Steven Hansen
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One [reviewed], Xbox 360, PC, PS4)Developer: Crystal Dynamics (Xbox One), Nixxes Software (Xbox 360)Publisher: Microsoft (Xbox One, 360); Square Enix (PC, PS4)MSRP: $59.99Released: November 10, 2015 (Xbox One, Xbox 360); Q1 2016 (PC); Q4 2016 (PS4) Having previously glimpsed the supernatural, Rise of the Tomb Raider's Lara is open to the wild theories of ancient immortality that consumed her father. A brief trip into Syria introduces the new enemy, a highly-funded, obviously evil group called Trinity led by Konstantin, a religious zealot and less comic book version of Uncharted 2's Lazarević. Lara then tries to beat the stonejaw-led shadowy entity to the Siberian wilderness, where most of the game takes place. The first thing I noticed in Syria was its rich orange sands, a strong contrast to the last Tomb Raider's much more muted palette. Then it was Lara's powerful blue glow stick as she began navigating tombs, providing the same orange/cyan look you find in most Hollywood movie color grading. Naturally, when Lara goes to off to Russia and the blue-white snow and ice, she's suddenly packing orange glow sticks. It's not a bad thing, though. Rise of the Tomb Raider is not shy about using unrealistic lighting to set a mood and it works, like when the blizzarding night sky is illuminated with an eerie deep red light thanks to Trinity flares. It's one of the best-looking games this year, but it also goes beyond stylish at times and helps set the mood. Coupled with a camera that occasionally, but never annoyingly, takes control from you to frame the next impressive mountain establishment or some such thing you have to climb. [embed]319740:61038:0[/embed] The combination of framing, use of color, and lighting are welcomed Hollywood cribbing. Most of the additions since the last entry are welcomed, too. The stealth options make more sense in a supposedly serious game hellbent on showing the brutality Lara deals with (gruesome death close-ups are still plentiful), rather than the more discordant Lara-as-Terminator that doesn't jive with the story being told. That said, you can still mostly do that. Even when the game hinted I could stealth through an environment, unless I saw an obvious path, it was easy to loose bows from afar into enemies' heads. Rise also touted the tombs pre-release, which are peppered throughout the world. They're probably the highlight. I think Tomb Raider is a better platformer than shooter and working out these beautiful, often complex environmental puzzles had me yearning for a more ICO-like distribution of puzzle/platforming versus murder. The stealth, too, kind of hints at a game that could've made death and killing meaningful in line with the narrative, but instead we're left with a refinement of the Uncharted series sans one-liners.  Except for the bloat, which kind of flies in the face of the snappy movie cues and Uncharted's beats. Rise borrows slightly from the Legend of Zelda formula in that there are distinct areas ("hubs") organically woven together, but requiring back-tracking with new gear and items. It's a very game-y conceit. In the cinematics I asked why Lara hadn't a camera (or even a cell phone) to prove (evidence!) the things her father died over, but she didn't even slip an iPhone out of her pocket. At the same, coming across a rope and being told I can't cut it until I find a knife, well, why the hell does Lara not have a knife? People who like busywork will probably appreciate the hub areas replete with open-world style challenges (burn all 10 communist propaganda posters, cut down all the snared rabbits, etc.), but it kind of grated on me. I didn't open the map until a few hours in and I immediately wanted to slam it shut after seeing the Assassin's Creed-style unreadable mess of icons. And while these tasks often yield rewards, including XP, it just feels to unnecessary. Which is kind of true, given that I got through the game fine without doing anything but the most convenient extras, and didn't find a +2 damage Polished Barrel to affect my capacity to kill folks all that much. So why's any of it there at all? Rise has a very pressing, dire narrative, and is a joy when you're moving around and exploring the gorgeous environments. Constant IU flashes (10XP!!!) only serve as an intrusion and gum up the works. Having to pause the game and look at a static menu screen to hear picked-up audio logs (already a bit of a lazy, all too convenient way to shove more story into your game) kills momentum, tension, excitement. You just have to stare at a render of a tape recorder if you want to know why the big bad bleeds from his hands. The story handles the necessary, telegraphed third act turn to the supernatural well, but generally suffers from a glossing over. The Burberry-clade arm of Trinity trying to beat Lara to the punch are well-acted, but pretty one-dimensional (even with everything wrapped up in explanatory audio logs). An entire society isolated in the Siberian wilderness speaks perfect English. It's perfunctory Hollywood boilerplate, down to the set up for the sequel, but competently done. Worth noting: I ran into an odd problem late in the game where enemies would disappear. First right before me when I was swinging an ice axe at them as if Lara did so with enough force to banish them from this plane of existence, but then sometimes they'd vanish completely on their own. Once this locked me in a room because whatever needed to trigger to open the door couldn't and I had to restart (not losing much progress), while it also happened during the game's final boss fight, which was anticlimactic. The loss of XP from these tactical Houdinis might impact games on harder difficulty settings where the leveling and crafting system could prove more necessary, though on normal I got to a point where I didn't even care to spend my skill points. That excess is a problem shared with the last Tomb Raider, which bills itself (and thematically tries to be) a survivalist game, but simply isn't. It's a bit goofy ruining the beautiful colors of the world by constantly jamming down the "survival instincts" button to light up objects of interest and clambering around to strip trees of their boughs. Eventually I stopped going out of my way to pick up trash, yet I still always had ammo and arrows. Crafting, skill trees, open-world-style quests: it just feels like bloat. Busy work. And it isn't consistent with the story. Moving around, on the other hand, is sublime. It is odd, though. There's an animation for when Lara is pushed up against a short, maybe knee-high lip; pressing the jump button has her labor up it a bit. Yet if you push the jump button otherwise, she will leap clean four feet into the air like a cat. That amusing inconsistency aside, Lara's movement animations are all so fluid and impressive. If she barely makes a jump, she can slip and fall if you don't press a button. But rather than her needing to get a grip be a recurring quick-time event, it organically happens every time you barely snag a ledge. This means you can tell if that prompt is about to come up and can preemptively push it, and Lara will secure her grip and you can continue about fluidly climbing around. It's a good bit of adding interaction to the platforming without having to pre-plan bits of structure that will start to crumble when you grab them. Rise of the Tomb Raider is better than its predecessor, but only because of its additions; it doesn't fix any of the things that were wrong with Tomb Raider (2013). The story is smoothed down, much of it hidden away in dull audio logs. It's not about "survival" as billed, given the ease of mowing down dozens of folks and plenty of resources. But finding tombs wherein to clamber about ancient Rube Goldberg machines, coupled with the gorgeous visual flair and diverse environments, make Rise's wilderness one worth exploring and elevate Tomb Raider's otherwise perfunctory take on the third-person action platformer. I still get a strong sinking feeling in my stomach when I've misjudged a jump and watch Lara careening towards a splat. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Tomb Raider review photo
Get to know 'er
I sometimes forget that Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1981. Its breezy pulp adventure quality carries only obvious signifiers of its era (like, Nazis), and the repetition of these tropes act as enough hand waving to the...

Call of Duty photo
Call of Duty

91% of Black Ops 3 UK sales were on PS4 or Xbox One

Up from 67% for Advanced Warfare sales
Nov 09
// Vikki Blake
91% of all physical sales of Call of Duty: Black Ops III sold in the UK were for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. According to UK chart company GfK Chart-Track, just 8% were picked up for last-gen consoles PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, leaving just 1% preferring to pick up the game on PC. The chart does not account for digital sales.
Helldivers photo

Helldivers is coming to PC next month

Includes all three free expansions
Nov 09
// Joe Parlock
Arrowhead’s Helldivers was pretty popular when it released on PS3, PS Vita and PS4 earlier this year. The top-down co-op shooter was given a 9/10 by Destructoid’s Conrad Zimmerman, who said it was “unrelent...
Fallout photo

Fallout 4's soundtrack just hit iTunes today

$15.99, 65 tracks
Nov 06
// Chris Carter
Say what you will about the buggy Fallout games, but the music is pretty fantastic. Today, the soundtrack for Fallout 4 just hit iTunes, where it will run you $15.99 for 65 tracks. It's composed by Inon Zur (who app...

Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops III

Nov 06 // Chris Carter
Call of Duty: Black Ops III (PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Treyarch (PC, PS4, Xbox One), Beenox/Mercenary Technology (PS3, Xbox 360)Publisher: ActivisionMSRP: $59.99Released: November 6, 2015 I'm just going to get right into it -- this is the weakest campaign yet from Treyarch. Right from the start you can see what it's going for, and things get way too heavy-handed and exposition-laden without actually saying anything. There's lots of talk about a "new Cold War" in the future, and after rescuing an Egyptian minister after an uprising in Cairo, it's off to the races. There's plenty of Terminator-esque "Man vs. Machine" going on with the 2065 backdrop and a touch of surrealism, but all of it has been seen before and done better. To boot, none of the characters are memorable or compelling in any way, and the dialogue is the most generic it's ever been. Part of it is because you're now "The Player" (male or female) instead of someone like Modern Warfare's Soap MacTavish, a character you can somewhat connect with while you're playing. You're kind of just there, and the relationships with each cast member never really have a chance to flourish across all 11 missions. Treyarch seems to have a knack for historical narratives, but I'm not really buying its grimdark sales pitch here. Now, that doesn't mean that the campaign is all bad. The powers that be have now implemented a system where you can choose any mission you want, right from the start, without having played any prior stages. That way if you get bored and want to see the ending, you can skip right to the end. Additionally, the hub center where you can switch your abilities, weapons, and loadout around is convenient, as is the progression system with full XP rewards to encourage multiplayer playthroughs. There's also an arena-based "combat immersion" center to test weapons out in, which looks a lot like Metal Gear's VR missions. [embed]318891:61008:0[/embed] Split-screen play (for two players) is also in, as is online play for the story, on top of a "Nightmare mode" that remixes every level with undead foes. With the recent removal of split-screen from Halo 5, support for multiple players on the same console is a breath of fresh air. Yes, the framerate does suffer as a result of playing couch co-op, but I'm very glad it's there, and that Treyarch is still actively pushing for it. Hell, LAN play is even supported on consoles -- in 2015, that's pretty damn rare. Now, we get to the good stuff -- all the other modes besides the campaign. Although light, the Freerun gametype is a cool way to show off all of the new mechanics (wallrunning and the toned-down jetpack). It's only playable solo and has a scant four maps, but it's really reminiscent of Mirror's Edge's abstract DLC packs, which were my favorite part of the game. Plus, it has leaderboards, which are a major plus for a mode like this. I don't want to spoil much, but the Smash TV-like Dead Ops Arcade is back, and it's better than it was before. Of course, it wouldn't be a Treyarch game without zombies, and I think it's assembled the best cast, alongside of the most interesting setting to date. I'm talking Jeff Goldblum, Heather Graham, Ron Perlman, and Neal McDonough in a Lovecraftian noir city unique. Seeing Goldblum play a washed-up scumbag magician is a treat, and the actors really give it their all for this new chapter of the zombie saga, "Shadows of Evil." While I did appreciate the campaign tie-in for Advanced Warfare's zombie mode, I like where this particular setting is going, and I hope it can keep this same cast going forward. It's also the most fully-featured from a gameplay perspective, with customizable weapon loadouts, individual upgrades, and a leveling system. You can also change up your "Gobblegum Gumballs," which are like miniature $500 soda machines that grant temporary perks. It's a tiny little thing, but it really helps you play the way you want, which is only a recent concept for zombies. In terms of secrets I think this is going to be the most challenging one yet for the community, as a lot of it hinges on changing into the "beast" (read: a Cthulian creature) to unlock specific areas and bonuses. I've spent nearly 15 hours in Shadows of Evil alone and I feel like I've only scratched the surface. What the campaign lacks in personality, zombies makes up for in spades, and that principle also goes for multiplayer. Now players will choose a "specialist," when playing traditional multiplayer, which operates a lot like a unique character skin, with an added ability in tow. For instance, the robot "Reaper" has access to a minigun power-up that comes out of his arm, or a skill that creates non-lethal clones of himself to run around the battlefield. One dude even looks like The Fury from Snake Eater, complete with a flamethrower special. They clearly had a lot of fun designing these creations, and it plays that way. Most of the powers feel balanced, especially when you consider the fact that they can only be used once you earn enough meter for them, which is typically only one or two times per match. This is on top of the classic scorestreak rewards -- but since those reset your meter upon death and the specialist powers don't, it's a way for casual players to engage without feeling like they're never earning anything. Wallrunning also adds a new depth to arenas (of which there are 12 at launch), where specific chokepoints can be circumvented by traversing raised platforms on the sides of some bases. Likewise, swimming, as simple of a mechanic as it is, bids a welcome return from Advanced Warfare, with a lot more freedom in terms of movement and combat. Those of you who found Advanced's crazy twitch movement system to be too frenetic will be pleased to hear that it's been toned down for Black Ops III, as the jetpack is now essentially a double jump, or a slide boost, and that's it. While I did like airdashing and all of the craziness that the last iteration entailed, I'm happy that each game has a distinctly different feel to it. Multiplayer has been overhauled from a features standpoint too, as there's now full support for streaming (including a cavalcade of spectator options), arena ranked playlists with seasons, and an even more convenient instant menu option for perma-muting anyone outside of your party. There have been hundreds of people populating Black Ops III's servers during this testing period without issues, but if anything changes we'll provide updates as needed on the front page. At this point, at least two of the Call of Duty developers (Treyarch and Sledgehammer), have it figured out. They now have a three-year development cycle, which means that technically, each individual game is not a rushed "annual" iteration. While the campaign could certainly be a lot stronger, Black Ops III is living proof of that concept. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
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Chicken love
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