All US states are represented, plus three Canadian cities
// Vikki Blake
Sony will be rolling out the PlayStation E3 Experience to more theaters in more states than ever before.
In a recent PlayStation blog post, Sony confirmed that the free event -- starting at 6pm PT on June 15 -- will... read
The Last of Us had pretty good facial animation tech, at least as far as I was concerned. Faces were detailed, emotions were nuanced and it was always clear what the actor behind the character had wanted to convey. From my pe... read
The above video has just been released with the following description:
First of all, we apologize for giving you hopes to see Medievil and Sir Dan Fortesque in PS4, we didn´t try to piss nobody off or... read
Left Behind was a great piece of story DLC for The Last of Us, filling in a portion of the main story that is glossed over and providing a clearer look at Ellie's origin. Any who want to try out the three-hour episode as a ta... read
Sony is serving up selection of tantalising treats in this week's PlayStation Store sale. If Star Wars, shooting zombies, and, er, replaying the same missions over and over again are your thing, pay attention.
The Deal of the... read
A Twitter bot may have spilled the beans on as-yet-unannounced new PlayStation Vita design.
The tweet, published on the weekend by @trademark_bot, shared details of a patent filed recently by Sony Computer Entertainment for "a portable LCD screen game machine controller."
That's right -- LCD. Not OLED. read
It's that time of the month again. The time console warriors are able to pull out actual facts to back up their extreme fanboyism in the most heated of forum discussions.
Taking the top spot again for hardware was the PlaySta... read
According to a listing from a Swiss retailer, a remastered collection the PS3 Uncharted Trilogy is coming to PS4 on 30 September 2015.
While the listing does feature box art, the art appears to have been cropped from an image... read
I'm still playing MLB 15 The Show for our review. Instead of going to my PS3, uploading my Road to the Show shortstop to the Cloud, then importing it into my PS4, I stayed put (they're in different places) and made a new pit... read
PlayStation's baseball monopoly continues this year with the consistently good MLB 15 The Show (PS3, PS4, Vita). That does come with more caveats than ever this year. Online servers seem to be shutting down for the previous ... read
For those who have long abandoned the Hell that is cable television or those wanting to break free of its shackles, Sony is now offering its own alternative, the PlayStation Vue platform for the PlayStation 4 and 3.
Pretty mu... read
Later this month Driveclub is going to be getting some new Lamborghini-themed DLC. The Lamborghini DLC pack, which comes with four new cars and a dedicated tour, is due out at some unspecified time later this month alongside... read
As a semi-jaded gamer, I typically despise the concept of DLC. Often times we are presented with content that either doesn't live up to the price or publishers push their content too early in a game's life. Resogun Defenders ... read
In the last month or so, invitations to various virtual reality headset demonstrations have made up a huge chunk of my inbox. GDC is into virtual reality. I worry someone will pull some garish box out of their bag this ... read
Mar 03 //
Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines (PS Vita [Reviewed], PlayStation TV)Developer: Alfa SystemPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentReleased: March 3, 2015 MSRP: $19.99
About that "dead soon" thing: It's the premise of the game. Players start as the head of a Japanese clan (that they construct themselves in a rather detailed character-creation interface), murdered to a man in a gruesome ritual of human sacrifice after being framed for the disasters rocking 12th-century Kyoto. Fate is kind, though, and a few members are brought back to life to exact revenge upon the wrongdoers. Unfortunately, everything has a cost, and the price for a second chance is the dual curses of Ephemerality and Broken Lineage. The first curse dooms all members of the clan to drop dead two years after their birth. The second prevents them from having offspring with humans. Talk about a double-whammy!
Thus the mission is set: Continue the family line long enough to break the curses, by having children with willing gods and spirits (sidestepping the "Broken Lineage" part), and having those children have their own children before their two years are up, in addition to becoming strong enough to defeat the villain that cursed the clan in the first place. It's a morbid and deliciously effective premise, so much so that one wonders why it hasn't been thought of before.
Except...it has, for Oreshika is technically a sequel to 1999's Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke, an influential PS1 RPG that involved largely the same concepts. That said, the game never made overseas, which makes it completely new to most players. Its relative age, though, would explain why Oreshika feels like a pleasant throwback to the early years of Japanese RPG-making, when the primary influences on design came from free-roaming dungeon-crawlers like Ultima and Wizardry. That same narrative-light, systems-heavy approach largely defines Oreshika's play experience, which should delight fans who've begun to chafe under the typically linear storytelling of most JRPGs.
That isn't to say the story beats are absent. Oreshika has its own complement of directed cutscenes and dialog sequences, most involving named, voiced side characters. They appear during certain missions to drop some exposition or plot twists, and in some cases join the party. The meshing of traditional narrative with the game's more free-form structure isn't perfect, and it's during these moments that the player's own created clan can feel like extras in what is ostensibly their story. The missteps are mostly inoffensive, though, and to be fair, the story does end up going deeper than might have been possible without the benefit of more defined characters to fall back on.
Then again, perhaps that more traditional story wasn't that necessary at all, because for me, the most memorable moments in Oreshika come with each passing minute of my family's short, short life. The game is conducted on a month-to-month basis, either raiding or preparing to raid one of the land's many labyrinths. The preparation involves buying gear and items for use during the raid, improving the local town to upgrade the various shops' offerings, or performing the "Rite of Union" with many gods and goddesses to create offspring and ensure the family's continuation.
That might sound like a lot of babies to magic up, but considering that thanks to the rigors of dungeon-raiding many of the clan's members will kick the bucket long before their two years are up, a deep bench is critical. Longer games can go for hundreds of generations, and every death can hurt, thanks to the "XCOM effect" of growing attached to people one had a hand in creating and customizing themselves. Dying family even leave semi-randomized "parting words" upon their passing.
Oreshika's also quite adept at making that customization feel like it matters. Every new addition to the family takes on the characteristics of their parents, including inheriting physical features (which can turn out hilariously when uniting with some of the less "human" gods), and statistical traits. The game's item creation system allows "heirloom" gear to be created that gains power every time a departing family member bequeaths it to a new generation. And the game is all too happy to use the PS Vita's built-in screen capture function to take "family album" photos and collect them like fond mementos of bosses beaten and dungeons delved.
It's almost strange that for all the time one spends preparing for dungeon raids, Oreshika's combat and exploration are designed to be over and done with as quickly as possible. When out in the world, players are literally on the clock. A real-time counter ticks down towards the end of a given month, which lasts between five and ten minutes, depending on how many battles one gets into. At the end, players are given the option to go home, or continue the raid through the next month without rest, increasing the chance that tired or injured party members might die permanently. Given that every character is already born with a very short lifespan, the timers instill a kind of frenzied pace and tension to what could otherwise have been a ponderous affair.
"Frenzied" is also a good way to describe Oreshika's visuals, which are a riot of color and animation. The game's watercolor tones and melding of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock style, traditional folkloric creatures, and anime character design make it one of the best-looking titles on the platform, and possibly one of the prettiest "anime" games since the original Valkyria Chronicles. And thankfully, unlike many games that involve procreation as a concept, Oreshika lacks much of the prurient undertone that make such titles slightly embarrassing to play at times.
As lovely as the characters are environments don't fare quite as well, as the pace at which a typical dungeon run is conducted doesn't leave a lot of time to admire the sights. A limited camera setup and frequent use of revisiting (often to unlock a shortcut using a key found in some other dungeon) can also sap locations of their initial charm.
Despite the fact most of us will never have played the game it's a sequel to, the quality of Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines shines through its gorgeous visuals and deep mechanics. Come to think of it, there's no more fitting way for a game that's about leaving a worthwhile legacy to conduct itself.
[This review is based on a digital retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Generations of phwoar Like many games of its type, Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines features a tiny graphic in its text boxes to remind players they can press a button to advance to the next line. Usually the graphic is of an X or O button pressi... read feature
Mar 03 //
Conrad Zimmerman Helldivers (PS4 [reviewed], PS3, PS Vita)Developer: Arrowhead Game StudiosPublisher: Sony Computer Entertainment AmericaReleased: March 3, 2015MSRP: $19.99
Helldivers is a squad-based sci-fi shooter, presented from an overhead perspective. Players take the role of a Helldiver, a special forces soldier trained to drop onto enemy planets from orbit as the tip of humanity's conquering spear. Given command of a ship, Helldivers are directed to venture into star systems controlled by three alien races which threaten Super Earth's way of life, pressing forward in an effort to conquer alien homeworlds.
While there's an absence of any real plot, the setting of Helldivers does enough to establish itself as a pointed satire of American exceptionalism, colonialism, and military pride. From propaganda messages promoting the idea that Super Earth is spreading "democracy" through the galaxy (by the totally legitimate means of conquest), to the flavor dialogue spoken by Helldivers in the midst of a firefight ("Have a nice cup of liber-tea!"), it presents a scenario in which it's made perfectly clear that there are no "good guys" in this war, only conquerors. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the sparse but effective setting material does just enough to allow the player to consider what they're engaging in without distracting from the action, while delivering wry chuckles here and there.
Gameplay takes the form of planetary assaults, planned from the player's orbiting ship. Choosing between one of the three fronts of the galactic war, players are presented with a range of incrementally difficult worlds to attack, each with missions which must be completed to deliver it into the control of the Super Earth government. Missions consist of objectives which, while varying based on which race is being fought, boil down to defending control points, activating Super Earth technology already on the planet, escorting people and supplies, and destroying enemy installations.
It's a decent variety, and missions tend to offer a mix of objectives across the maps, rarely weighing too heavily on any one type of activity once the player is taking on missions with three and four objectives to complete. Escort tasks will probably still be everyone's least favorite thing to do, whether it's leading a group of survivors or following a supply train, but there isn't a whole lot of punishment received for failing objectives on a mission, so long as you can get off the planet. Every mission ends with a last stand scenario where the team must hold out against oncoming enemies for an extraction shuttle to carry them safely away, and at least one Helldiver must extract for the mission to succeed.
On the ground, Helldivers plays with an interesting balance of stealth and combat. Enemy patrols roam the map, looking for your squad. At worst, these are small packs of a few enemies that can be easily dispatched, but they're a tremendous threat to the mission. If a patrol spots the squad, they have to be killed immediately. Within seconds, patrol units can call in reinforcements to do real damage. And, while those troops are being dealt with, more patrols are moving in and calling their own squads of heavy hitters, snowballing into an massive conflict. Before long, the only options available become retreat or death.
This system allows the game to produce two distinct, potent forms of tension for the player. Combat encounters are exhilarating, with enemies actively working to flank and surround, Helldivers firing madly into hordes. That's all good stuff. But the system of patrol units makes it equally tense to be out of combat, knowing that an encounter with the potential to escalate into an unsalvageable mess could happen at any moment.
The three enemy races, Bugs, Illuminates, and Cyborgs, are all distinct entities. Illuminate patrols consist of lone scouting robots, while the Cyborgs have a pack of light troopers surrounding a sturdier commander and Bugs use units of four scouts, all able to call reinforcements. Cyborgs focus more on ranged weapons and Bugs take up a hard melee approach to combat. All of the races have their light, medium, and heavy enemy types, but that and a common enemy in humanity is about all they share.
Helldivers can access many implements of destruction to help bring democracy to the galaxy. Players select a primary weapon before missions from a pretty standard selection of assault rifles, shotguns and submachine guns, though more exotic flamethrowers and laser cannons are options too. All of the weapons are fun to play with and there is no weapon with disadvantages that cannot be overcome by skillful use.
In addition to guns, players complete their loadout with four "strategems," special abilities provided by the Helldiver's vessel in orbit. Strategems come in many shapes and sizes. Some drop in a pod with extra ammunition, powerful secondary weapons, or even vehicles. Others provide defensive countermeasures, like enemy lures and antipersonnel mines, while more offensive strategems lay down strafing fire or drop explosives. They're even used to heal and return fallen comrades to the battle. Coordinating with your squad in selecting them further enhances their power, as more squad members means more options.
These powerful tools also come with some downsides. Deploying a strategem is a two-step process which begins by using a communication device to input an authorization code, achieved by correctly tapping out an onscreen sequence for the desired strategem with the directional pad. This puts a targeting beacon in the player's hand, which may be thrown into the field to indicate where the strategem should be deployed. Here's the hitch: If one wanted to get technical, one could say it's actually a three-step process, in that the first step is putting down the gun. If you're tapping away at codes, you are not shooting that horde of cyborgs bearing down on you, and you're certainly not going to be able to take out that patrol creeping up from behind.
And then there's gravity. The Helldiver's requisitions arrive on the planet essentially the same way the Helldivers themselves did; they're dropped in from orbit. And while it seems obvious that you would avoid the immediate area around a beacon to which a phone booth sized hunk of metal is expected to plummet any second now, that little beacon can be overlooked when the bullets are flying (this is, of course, also a useful tactic for eliminating more troublesome enemies). It's especially risky when reviving squad members, as there's always doubt as to exactly where in the proximity of the beacon one to three people are going to suddenly crash on. Losing one Helldiver in the act of reviving another is a common occurence.
There is a certain measure of glee to be taken from Helldivers' unsympathetic attitude toward its rules of engagement. Friendly fire isn't a possibility; it's a certainty, but it's one the game applies to all living things and can be exploited as a combat strategy. Defensive turrets are able to distinguish friend from foe, but they cannot distinguish between foe and friend standing in front of foe. They'll just cut down anything in the direction of a target, knocking a hapless Helldiver prone and struggling for life. Death happens so often and so quickly, it becomes a source of constant humor. You will eventually see someone crushed by an extraction shuttle as it lands and you will probably laugh. They will probably laugh too.
Completing missions earns experience points toward increasing rank, with higher ranks gaining access to more powerful weaponry. Weapons and strategems can be upgraded by spending resource points, earned with each rank and by collecting samples scattered throughout mission areas. Finishing all of the missions on a planet provides its own reward, either a new strategem or bonus experience points.
Missions also award influence, representing the player's contribution to the larger galactic war participated in by all players. Influence is earned by finishing all mission objectives successfully, escaping with the full squad intact, and keeping casualties to a minimum, with higher difficulties multiplying the amount of influence earned. These points are used to determine leaderboard rankings, but also to determine the course of the war. A single war will last four to six weeks, with the results affecting the difficulty of the war to follow.
Each front is represented by a map with sectors separating Super Earth and the enemy homeworlds. Sectors become controlled by Super Earth when enough influence has been earned by all players, eventually extending all the way to the enemy homeworld. Reaching a homeworld triggers an event during which players have a limited amount of time to assault the source of an enemy race in the hope of conquering them completely, a feat which will require far more people than the small group playing in pre-release.
The galactic war doesn't have a huge impact on the game, other than providing an excuse for event missions to occur. Yet, it does make you feel as though you're contributing to the accomplishment of a goal, and it's satisfying to see the rundown of which sectors have been taken and lost since the last time you played. It feels like something's happening around you, even if that something may just be statistics.
Helldivers is best experienced as a multiplayer game, and joining an online session is about as quick and easy as starting a mission of your own. A couple of quick menu selections and you will, quite literally, drop in on another player's mission in progress. Local multiplayer is also an option and, in the absence of outside life, it's still enjoyable solo. Playing alone requires different strategies and offers less flexibility in strategem selection, which does make the already brutal higher difficulties seem even more insurmountable, but the satisfaction of single-handedly conquering a planet cannot be denied.
Unrelenting and brutal, Helldivers delivers fast-paced combat, epic standoffs and a comical approach to death. Its enemies are varied, powerful and a constant threat to the players. While the full impact of the larger multiplayer experience remains to be seen, it still adds a nice little scratch to the progress itch. The strategem system provides great flexibility in squad building with many ways to build out team roles to maximize defensive and offensive capabilities. With procedural map generation and just enough mission and enemy variety to prevent a sense of repetition, the twelve levels of difficulty ought to keep players challenged for a good long time.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
In the grim darkness of the near future... Mankind has expanded throughout the galaxy, having come together under one government, a "managed" democracy. From the Super Earth homeworld, humanity spreads its message of liberation and freedom to every planet they land upon; the liberation of their natural resources and freedom from human opposition, that is.
And if you don't like it, expect them to spread a whole lot of ordinance instead. read feature
Happy birthday VitaVita it's your birthdayHappy birthday VitaVita it's your birthday
Maybe a heartfelt Michael Jackson tune can ease the pain of this sad sale, live tomorrow, commemorating Sony's abandoned system. There's a f... read
Columbus Nova wastes no time turning the asshole knob to 11
// Jason Faulkner
Last Monday, venerable MMO studio Sony Online Entertainment was sold to Columbus Nova investment firm as part of Sony's on going restructuring. Not even two weeks later, an unknown number of employees have reportedly been lai... read
Notorious videogame journalizer and all around nice fella Geoff Keighley just tweeted a tweet that's sure to put a frown on the face of many Metal Gear fans. Keighley has reportedly spoken to Ken Imaizumi of Kojima Production... read
Also, the studio is not working on Last of Us 2 right now
// Mike Cosimano
In a video interview with Game Informer, Uncharted 4 creative director Neil Druckmann and game director Bruce Straley discussed the direction of A Thief's End and the inherent challenges to following up the critical... read
Sony Japan unveiled its most downloaded PSN games of 2014 by system and the results, well, maybe they won't surprise you, but they surprised me.
Minecraft took top spot on PS3 and Vita. Maybe not so surprising. D4 ... read
Since being teased at Tokyo Game Show 2013, Gravity Rush 2 has been quiet. I certainly missed it at TGS 2014. And just about every other event I went to this year, even if it was an event that there was no way a Gravity ... read
At the PlayStation Experience, God of War II director Cory Barlog confirmed a new God of War is in development.
Sony Santa Monica joked coyly, tweeting, "Don't tell anyone what @corybarlog just said," before follow... read
Dec 05 //
Amplitude (PS4 [Previewed], PS3)Developer: Harmonix Publisher: SCEARelease Date: Q2 2015
"This opportunity is to make the game we always wanted to," said product manager Annette Gonzalez while discussing the development of the game. As a reboot of the original, Amplitude features both an expanded track list and gameplay system. Even after the success of the games that followed, the developers wanted to have a shot at creating another title in the vein of Frequency and Amplitude.
"People really, really liked those games, they have fond memories of them, I have fond memories of them -- I played FreQuency and Amplitude a lot back in college -- but apparently they didn't really sell very well," said communications lead and former Destructoid editor-in-chief Nick Chester. "People loved it, it reviewed very well, but nobody bought them, so therefore we didn't make another Amplitude game and moved on to Karaoke Revolution, Guitar Hero games with Konami and Activision."
With the rise of game development via Kickstarter, Harmonix figured it was the perfect time to get the next game going. With its crowdfunding campaign, the studio wanted to gauge the current interest for the return of its earliest titles.
"Kickstarter was a great opportunity for us to say, 'well, you wanted another Amplitude game, right? We have permission from Sony to actually go ahead and do it, but do you really want this game, prove it.' If they were really interested in it, then it would get funded, and it did," said Chester.
For the uninitiated, Amplitude tasks players to ride the musical tracks as they match up each beat and verse with the corresponding buttons. With each track spread across multiple lanes, you'll have to actively switch between them to maintain your multiplier. If you miss too many verses and beats, your ship will cease function and end the track. With each timed beat, you rack up points and build your multiplier to activate special abilities, such as slow-mo, which slows down track speed, turning snazzy electro into a soothing and calm ambient pieces.
By far, the most apparent aspect of the game was how challenging it was. My first crack at the game was on medium setting, and I barely made it halfway before losing. Perhaps it was because I had a hard time grasping the rhythm, but I initially felt a bit overwhelmed by the pace. Thankfully, playing a few tracks got me in the swing of things. Though I certainly still had my work cut out for me, considering how easy the folks from Harmonix made it look during the more intense tracks.
As with all of Harmonix's titles, music is the core element of the experience. Featuring over 20 tracks, including licensed music from artists such as Anamanaguchi, Freezepop, and Kasson Krooker, Amplitude definitely seeks to reaffirm the studio's approach to music games. Moreover, Harmonix has also has incorporated original compositions that not only evoke the same hyperkinetic style of the original, but also manages to tell a consistent story with each passing track.
"They [original songs] have this dark and electro vibe to them to tell you enough about the narrative," said Nick Chester. "All the tracks in this build were written in-house by the folks at Harmonix, all of the core story for the game was written by us, and outside of that you can unlock other songs from other artists."
While much of the attention will be focused on the music, the visuals also do a lot to bring players into the experience. Amplitude's visual aesthetic feels like a mix between the bombastic and otherworldly Rez, with the vaguely familiar look of the digital world from Tron. Moreover, the visuals become more pronounced and striking as the track reaches crescendo, taking players on a trek through light and sound.
Not content with offering the same experience with new visuals and sounds, Harmonix wants to implement features into Amplitude that take advantage of modern gameplay. In addition to online leaderboards for tracks, players can also engage in multiplayer matches against others locally. During our demo, we tried out the four-player battle mode, which pitted players against each other on the same track. As you can imagine, things got pretty hectic as every had to find an empty lane to score points. After each verse, the lane would collapse, forcing everyone scramble for the next lane to maintain the multiplier.
I came away pretty pleased with what I played. Harmonix has certainly refined its craft for music games, and even though the title is only 60-70% complete, it is on track as a product that will reassure fans of the original and those looking for a unique and challenging take on rhythm action. Amplitude is one title you'll want to keep an eye out for next year.
3-2-1, Let's Jam Before the folks at Harmonix Studios put themselves on the map with Guitar Hero and Rock Band, it was known for the cult hits Frequency and Amplitude. Blending fast-paced rhythm-based action with mesmerizing visuals and ... read feature
Devil Dice! I wonder if I can find my original disc. And, hey, Sony actually acknowledging the Vita (also advertising the pink one on their Japanese YouTube page)! Less good than making more games for it, but, you know. Plus... read
Nov 04 //
Freedom Wars (PlayStation TV, PlayStation Vita)Developer: SCE Japan Studio / Shift / DimpsPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentRelease: October 28, 2014MSRP: $29.99
Freedom Wars takes place in a future uninhabitable Earth, in which groups of citizens take shelter in underground Panopticons. A Panopticon is a city-state that functions based on the contributions of its citizens. Naturally, this has lead to an intensely Orwellian society. Big Brother is always watching, except here he's an adorable teddy bear mascot that spreads propaganda and cheers on the player to risk their life fighting giant monsters. Citizens are monitored through their Accessories, which are law-spewing robotic companions that never stop watching over them.
The player's character has been stricken with amnesia in battle, but, hear me out, Freedom Wars puts an honest twist on the trope. Everything in this universe is a crime; laying down while resting, allowing silence in conversation longer than five seconds, running too much, and a multitude of other offenses all hinder the advancement of the state. Biggest of all is losing one's memory. Physical resources are tight, but nothing is more precious in this world than knowledge. This leaves the player with a million-year long sentence for losing just that.
Outside of the core gameplay, managing this sentence is the most prominent mechanic of the game. Completing missions takes many years off, and any resources donated or held back from the state can subtract or add years (if the player is not yet entitled to said resource), respectively. All those ridiculous crimes mentioned earlier are absolutely real infractions the player can commit. They don't add too many years back on, but act as an effective reminder about the setting the player is in.
Want to run for more than five seconds without receiving an additional twenty year sentence? Buy the entitlement for it. Want new clothes? There are entitlements for that. The freedom motif is really driven home. To obtain these entitlements, the player simply has to save up entitlement points by being a productive member of the Panopticon. Completing missions and donating resources are the two main ways to accrue entitlement points. The more achieved, the more entitlements become available.
Freedom Wars is a hunting game through-and-through, so the main missions break down into a few different categories and that's really it. If variety is the spice of your life, you just won't find an abundance of it in a hunting game. The enemies that attack the player are called abductors, and, as their name implies, they abduct citizens as punishment for being sinners. Hunters are given the option of saving citizens from abductors, straight-up fighting abductors, or participating in firefights with enemy Panopticons.
The main weapon types are melee and guns. Melee breaks down into one-handed/two-handed swords and polearms; assault rifles, portable artillery, and autocannons make up the ranged weapons. The player can take any combination of the two of these into battle. Most hunting games emphasize personal style and preference, but the focus of strategy in Freedom Wars is knowing when to use these weapons. For example, melee is the most effective way to take down an abductor, but the same is definitely not true when facing opposing hunters.
Verticality is Freedom Wars' most appealing gameplay element, and it comes by way of the player's thorn -- a vine-like lasso that can be used for movement or attack. Trap, healing, and shield are the available thorn types that offer the benefits their names imply. More exciting, however, is that the thorn allows for zipping around the environment and grappling onto abductors themselves. Taking down giant monsters with a sword is cool, but latching onto them and severing limb by limb is even more satisfying. The thorn does a great service in improving the gameplay of Freedom Wars.
Characters met throughout the game's progression can be taken along on all missions, but the entirety of it is playable through local and online co-op. The companion AI does a decent enough job, but will only follow exactly where the player goes, and thus doesn't ever act on its own. Obviously, co-op is always more fun and is what the game advises, but with that said, the Freedom Wars can be played solo just fine. End-game missions just don't work with AI companions, however.
The plot structure can be completed somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen to twenty-something hours, give or take depending on if the player participates in everything else there is to do. Hunting games are all about finally upgrading your favorite weapon, obtaining even better weapons, and finally getting that sweet new armor (in this case, outfit). Personal achievement is the name of the game, and Freedom Wars has no shortage of it.
Weapon crafting and upgrading is nothing new here -- gather basic resources and/or weapons, and this allows the player to use those to upgrade, modify, and create new weapons. It's as addictive as it is in any other game. I found myself more engrossed in the aesthetic customization, as I'm a sucker for it. Every aspect of physical appearance can be changed at any time. There are tons of clothing, accessories, and color palettes to unlock and choose from. These can be used on both the player's model and their Accessory. Fighting monsters for the good of the state is great, but looking good while you do it is even better.
Freedom Wars looks stunning. Character models are crisp and detailed, with their textures looking particularly nice. The game handles motion like a champ, and seemingly never suffers from slowdowns while fighting the biggest baddies (particularly impressive considering the amount of maneuverability at play).
Even on the PlayStation TV, the game really holds its own on a large HD display (as well as feeling great played with a DualShock 4). Strangely, the main section of the hub world suffers from really bad character pop-in and framerate stuttering while that's happening. It's an odd problem considering how small that area is and how big the gameplay environments are.
Freedom Wars starts off painfully slow, but picks up after around the first few hours. The narrative progression is kind of strange during this time, and doesn't add much to the experience at all. It's quite an investment to finally see payoff, but it is worth it to stick around. Loading times are fairly long, and there are a lot.. I could have done with less of them as there is just way too much time spent looking at loading screens as it is.
Freedom Wars has an intriguing setting, solid hunting action (with an always welcome grapple hook), insane amounts of customization, fully supported co-op, PVP, all through a beautiful presentation. There are numerous hours of content to keep you coming back again and again. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but, by that same token, there's nothing else quite like it.
It's the PS Vita's biggest release this year, and likely will be for some time. If you own a PlayStation Vita or TV, you'd be crazy to pass up Freedom Wars.
Hunting with a side of grappling hook Ever since it came out in Japan earlier this year, Freedom Wars has been high on my list of anticipated releases. Being from the illustrious SCE Japan Studio, the game found success overseas as one of the ... read feature
Last week, I got to go hands-on with Bloodborne. This visually evocative and bleak follow-up to Dark Souls II is a change of pace, but also something that feels and plays very much like the games of the past. While the change... read
Aug 13 //
Alessandro Fillari Set in the city of Yharnam, players must trek through a plague ridden metropolis with its inhabitants driven mad by a mysterious disease. Somewhere inside the city houses a miracle cure for the affliction. Though many have tried, none have successfully found the cure and lived to use it. As a newcomer to the city, you must find your way through the labyrinthine streets of this Victorian nightmare. All the while slaying powerful foes and strengthening yourself in order to find the cure for the curse.
If you were worried that Bloodborne would deviate from the Souls formula, then you were mistaken. Based on my time with the game, From Software's next is a Souls title through and through. Having said that, it manages to create a style that channels the best of Souls' foreboding and bleak atmosphere, while upping the level of dread considerably.
The new setting, moving beyond medieval fantasy, is now a nightmarish and even more depressing take on Victorian era Europe. The buildings and architecture are packed together while stretching far into the sky, carriages are strewn throughout the streets, and advanced mechanisms and clockwork technology power much of the city's infrastructure. Yharnam is dark, dank, and not a kind place to be in. But it also offers the most visually impressive and interesting places From Software has created yet. The power of the PS4 has been put to great use here. This brief demo left me wanting to spend more time to explore the city, to see all the horror and madness that is waiting to come out.
Before our session began, we got the chance to choose between two different archetypes. The standard type utilizes the Saw Blade and Blunderbuss (as seen in the trailers and screenshots), while the heavy type uses an Axe and pistol combo. The ability to cover both distance and short-range combat is a blessing, and allows for some flexibility right out the game. With more focus on flexibility, this gives players more options, allowing them to switch things up on the fly.
Wanting players to be more aggressive, From Software created a more agility focused combat system to put them on the offense. Shields and heavy armor are almost non-existent, so opting for a turtle fighting style is not really an option. When locking-on to an enemy, your dodge roll will turn into a dash maneuver, allowing you weave in and out of the fray with ease. If an enemy is about to attack, and you time your dash right, your character will evade directly to the side or even behind the opponent, leaving him open to devastating damage.
The left-handed items now offer more usefulness during combat, and some of which can be used effectively in tandem with your melee attacks. The firearms play a large focus in combat, and while it may seem like they can make situations easy for players who want to stay at range, know that ammo is limited and scarce, which forces players to make smart use of their guns. If you have the blunderbuss equipped, you can bunch enemies together with your melee attacks and finish them off with a close-range shot. Pistols have greater range than the blunderbuss, but greatly lack the attack power.
Moreover, firearms can stun enemies and open up their defenses. Called the Counter-shot, when you shoot an enemy about to attack, you'll stun them and leave open to a devastating counter-attack. Think of this as Bloodborne's take on the parry, but it's way more brutal and satisfying to pull off.
To accommodate the more action oriented style, the controls have been altered slightly. The triangle button is now a dedicated healing button, which uses Blood Vials found throughout the city. Pressing L1 activates the weapon transformation, which alters the style of your right-handed weapon. For the Saw Blade, the blade extends out, giving you greater reach but slower attack speed and more stamina drain. For the Axe, the handle extends and changes the Axe into a Polearm weapon with greater reach. While one style is definitely more useful than the other, I found myself switching between the two in order to conserve stamina and maintain speed.
While the crazed individuals populating the city may seem like the mindless dreglings or the undead from previous Souls games, they're far more intelligent and cunning, but also surprisingly sympathetic. Though they were once normal people, they're still very much alive and can even communicate with the players. During several points in my session, some of the mad townsfolk shouted "Go Away!" as they charged at me with their weapons. This gave me some context to the situation, many acts of violence are because of the disease, which makes having to fight them somewhat conflicting.
Unfortunately, pity won't help you in your quest, and the diseased must be dealt. But they won't go quietly. They're far more intelligent and organized than common enemies, and they prefer to stay in numbers. In one of the more difficult parts of the demo, a courtyard filled with more than twelve townsfolk proved to be a challenge to get through. Five of them patrolled the alleyway near the courtyard in a pack, which forced me to take the stairs off to the side. Once I got the high ground, I was ambushed by two riflemen, which alerted the townsfolk on the ground.
Just when I was feeling pretty confident in my abilities (the true Souls curse), this situation put me on the ropes. I had to make several retreats, using several Blood Vials in the process, but eventually I cleared the group and proceeded to the upper levels of the city. While clearing through packs of large crippled crows, and a hulking behemoth wielding a cinder block, I eventually met my end at the hands of two werewolves guarding the way to the boss.
While my time with Bloodborne was brief, I found a lot to like about my trek through a Souls game set in a Victorian era nightmare. Bloodborne's environments are both haunting and exciting. I'm curious to see what this game has in store for us. While many of the Souls staple oddities are still intact, like the crazy ragdoll for instance, breakable objects are oddly not. While things in the environment are breakable, smaller objects could not be broken for materials like in previous games (chairs, carriages, crates, etc). While it is not a deal breaker, it is a bit weird to say the least.
It's very surprising to see how close the release date is. With an expected launch sometime in Q1 2015, we can explore the world of Bloodborne sooner than we think. With that said, Sony is still keeping things tightly under wraps, as we're still in the dark about many details. But that's likely for the best because if the full game is anything like what I played, then it's best that we all go in not knowing what will come next.
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