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Third-Person Shooter

Splatoon Rabbits photo
Splatoon Rabbits

The kids in Splatoon could have been rabbits!


I'm a rabbit now, I'm a squid now
May 20
// Jed Whitaker
In the latest of Nintendo's Iwata Asks series, the producer of Splatoon revealed that at one point in development you'd play as a rabbit instead of kids! Perhaps they changed it because "You're a rabbit now, you're a kid...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

[Spoilers] Splatoon timeline partially revealed through unlockables


Not what I expected
May 17
// Jonathan Holmes
The image above is not the official Splatoon timeline. It's a goof created by a fan. Still, it shows that some people are already invested enough in the game to start pondering where it fits in the larger Nintendo universe, d...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

Nintendo is putting on another Splatoon Global Testfire event


Saturday May 23
May 15
// Chris Carter
During the last Nintendo Direct event, it was revealed that Splatoon would host a limited-run "demo" called the Global Testfire. It turns out that this demo was actually an online-only, specifically timed beta test of so...
Splatoon commercial photo
Splatoon commercial

The worst part of the '90s are alive in this Splatoon commercial


Kidz Bop is better
May 13
// Jed Whitaker
The '90s had some terrible commercials, like for real. They often times had really cheesy or bad jingles, just like this new commercial for Splatoon. The only thing this is missing is a geeky kid with glasses covering a bull...

Here's everything from the Splatoon Nintendo Direct

May 07 // Chris Carter
[embed]291747:58462:0[/embed]
Splatoon Direct photo
The demo is out today
Nintendo just ran a Splatoon-centric Direct presentation, and it provided a ton of information on the soon-to-be-released shooter. First, to play ranked modes online, you have to reach level 10 (as was previously announced), ...

Last of Us: Left Behind photo
Last of Us: Left Behind

The Last of Us: Left Behind will be available as a standalone on May 12


For a shorter, equally brutal experience
May 01
// Darren Nakamura
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...
Gears of War photo
Gears of War

Possible Gears of War remaster coming to Xbox One


Not quite the Marcus Fenix Collection
Apr 25
// Zack Furniss
According to Polygon, Gears of War is going to be the next in line for HD-ification on the Xbox One. This doesn't come as a huge surprise since Black Tusk Studios is hard at work on the next entry in the s...
Best Buy photo
Best Buy

Nintendo confirms Best Buy exclusive Wii U Splatoon bundle


On May 29 for $299.99
Apr 21
// Chris Carter
Nintendo is starting to get more aggressive with its marketing for Splatoon -- it has just announced a Best Buy-specific bundle for the US for $299.99. It'll arrive on May 29 when the game ships, and will include a Wii U...
Battlefront photo
Battlefront

This might be what Star Wars Battlefront's first- and third-person views look like


Have it your way
Apr 20
// Brett Makedonski
Striking while the iron's hot, EA's already released the first developer diary for Star Wars Battlefield, which was announced last week. The video's full of the type of information that should make any series fan giddy: DICE...

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 Order: 1886 photo
The Order: 1886

Galahad's Tinder profile just got better, because The Order just got a photo mode


Prepare to right swipe
Apr 13
// Brett Makedonski
Left swipe, left swipe, left swipe. That's what scores of Victorian-era London ladies did when they saw Galahad on Tinder. His profile was so boring -- just a bunch of pictures of the back of his head. Also, his bio said he ...
Gears of War photo
Gears of War

Xbox uploaded a really old Gears of War video for some reason


Speculation inbound!
Apr 10
// Brett Makedonski
You probably don't need to bother watching this video; it's nearly four years old at this point. That's when Gears of War 3 launched -- almost four years ago. Time flies and all that, eh? But, Xbox just uploaded the vid...

The Last of Us multiplayer DLC is not okay

Apr 06 // Darren Nakamura
Taking a look at the options, some of it isn't too offensive. New gestures for $2.50 apiece? Fine. New hats at $7 for a bundle? Sure. We can all lament the fact that this cosmetic content would have been free, perhaps locked behind a cheat code in years past, but I won't fault anybody for giving some extra money to wear a plague mask. I'm not about to pony up for any of it, but it doesn't affect me that some people are willing to. No, the more serious infraction here is in breaking one of the tenets of competitive multiplayer. Those who pay more should never have an advantage over those who don't. Unfortunately, that's exactly what the tactical weapons and survival skills bundles provide. Though it isn't utterly imbalanced with the premium content in play, the new guns and perks are often better than the base game counterparts. Not only that, but the loading screens are littered with advertisements, outlining just how great the new weapons and skills are. The Frontier Rifle sits in between the Semi-Auto Rifle and the Hunting Rifle in terms of damage and fire rate; it takes two shots to down where the Semi-Auto takes three and it has a better fire rate than the Hunting Rifle. There are benefits to the default weapons. The Hunting Rifle can one-hit a full health enemy with a headshot where the Frontier Rifle cannot. The Semi-Auto Rifle can get three shots off before the Frontier Rifle can get two. However, comparing only body shots, the Frontier Rifle beats out the Hunting Rifle in fire rate. Taking recoil and staggering of a face-to-face encounter into account, it is often easier to land two shots with the Frontier Rifle than to land three shots with the Semi-Auto. The Tactical Shotgun exists in a similar space as the Frontier Rifle. It isn't unequivocally better than the comparable base game weapons, but it enjoys some advantages. The most obvious benefit it has over the Shotgun and the Double Barrel is increased range, able to down in two shots from a range that either of the others would fumble to do anything worthwhile. Less apparent is that it can be equipped as a starting weapon where the other long shotguns are both "purchaseables," only attainable during a match after scoring enough points. Embedded in that purchase is the opportunity cost of not saving up for ammunition, weapon upgrades, or armor. However, the most egregious offender in the Tactical Weapons pack is the Crossbow. It's difficult to measure the advantage it gives because there is no other comparable weapon. It fires silently like the Bow but doesn't arc. Nominally, it can down in two shots, but it has a special ability that makes it absurdly powerful in some situations. After hitting an enemy with it, that enemy will bleed until he heals or is downed. This also lets the shooter see where the target is and what he's doing during that time period. In effect, it can be a delayed one-hit kill. If the target has no health kit, he's toast. If he has a health kit and he starts healing, the Crossbow user can see the opening and move in for a sidearm or melee kill. Even if the target isn't downed, it still takes him out of the fight for a brief period of time as he retreats and heals. All from a single, silent shot. The Risk Management Survival Skills pack is also difficult to compare, since it adds unique abilities to the mix. Still, aside from Lone Wolf (which rewards players for striking out away from teammates), the skills included are all pretty enticing to me. As a player who focuses more on support than kills, Lucky Break (get more ingredients and items from cache boxes) and Second Chance (cheaper armor after multiple deaths) both would fit my play style well. Jack of All Trades bundles other skills together for fewer loadout points than they would be piecemeal, which appeals to the deal-seeker in me. It skirts the edge of pay-to-win without crossing that line, but it still feels wrong. The downloadable weapons and skills are not unequivocally better than the standard ones, but having more options to choose from does allow for greater adaptation to variable combat conditions. Premium content in a competitive multiplayer title doesn't have to feel this slimy. The paragon of the idea is probably Team Fortress 2, which has been incredibly successful despite its wealth of purchasable weapons and items. On the surface, the two situations look similar; in both The Last of Us and Team Fortress 2, there are guns with functional changes that can be purchased for real money. In practice, there are several design differences that add up to keep TF2 feeling fair where TLoU does not. One thing that Team Fortress 2 does with its weapons that The Last of Us could is to make it possible to acquire them through play in addition to by purchase. A lot of the weapons and survival skills in the base game are unlocked by collecting parts through play; there's no reason the downloadable extras couldn't be included as unlockables or even as random drops. Less easy to translate are the specific game design elements that allow TF2 to get away with purchased weapons. TF2's large team size (compared to TLoU's four-player teams) allow for any discrepancy to be absorbed. If an overpowered weapon showed up in Valve's shooter, it would be on just one of twelve or sixteen opponents. Not only that, but the faster gameplay allows for quicker reaction; changing class or loadout in response to a particular weapon or tactic is much more tenable in TF2 than in TLoU. On that note, Team Fortress 2's class-based system still trumps any advantage a purchased weapon could afford. Sure, a Spy might get some equipment that lets him costume change more quickly, but he's still going to be beaten by a Pyro flame-checking his teammates. On top of all that, there's the immutable fact that Team Fortress 2 is a proper free-to-play title. It costs nothing to play, where The Last of Us potentially cost players $60 (or more for those who bought the original and upgraded on PS4). Adding free-to-play elements into a paid retail game would feel sleazy even if it didn't have measurable gameplay effects. To reiterate, I think The Last of Us has fantastic multiplayer. In a market full of "me too" shooters emulating Call of Duty or Gears of War, it does its own thing. The problem comes with the feeling that I need to spend extra money (on top of the money the game itself cost) just in order to compete. It isn't exactly pay-to-win, but it leans in that direction, and Naughty Dog does the game a disservice with this unnecessary cash grab.
The Last of Us DLC is bad photo
Where was the uproar about this?
[An earlier version of this piece had an inaccurate statistical description of one of the downloadable weapons. The offending paragraph has been updated for factual accuracy.] I know, I'm late to the party. Despite being inte...

Splatoon splitscreen photo
Splatoon splitscreen

Splatoon to have splitscreen mode, ranked battle


So much for local multiplayer matches
Apr 01
// Jed Whitaker
As reiterated during today's Nintendo Direct, Splatoon is going to have four-versus-four online ranked battles with specific rules that differ from the normal mode. Splat Zones is a ranked mode where players battle over speci...

Calm down: Nintendo still has a lot in store for Wii U

Mar 30 // Jed Whitaker
Splatoon - May 2015 The paint-splattering Splatoon comes out in under two months and is Nintendo's first attempt at a third-person action shooter. Information has quickly been trickling out as release nears with Nintendo posting a huge dump of screenshots revealing new characters, modes, weapons, and stages. Chris Carter recently previewed the game, saying "I see a lot of classic Mario platforming design in Spaltoon's campaign" and seemed to have fun with the multiplayer.  Xenoblade Chronicles X - TBA 2015 The original Xenoblade Chronicles was a great game, and Xenoblade Chronicles X is shaping up to be even better. Character customization, multiplayer, beautiful graphics, and JRPG goodness make this one to watch for this year. No precise release date has been announced thus far. Yoshi's Woolly World - First half of 2015 Yoshi's Woolly World hasn't had much press since E3 of last year where it won over Steven. Taking Yoshi's Island-style gameplay and making it have a nice yarn aesthetic seems like a winning formula to having the best Yoshi game since Yoshi's Story on the N64. With the lack of information and the peculiar absence from Nintendo's game release calendar, I won't be surprised if this one slips to later in the year to fill in the gap Zelda left. Star Fox - TBA 2015 Star Fox for Wii U was originally teased with a blurred screen behind Shigeru Miyamoto, and only the above screenshot has ever been shown to the public. We do know that you play with a dual-screen perspective, and you pilot Arwings, tanks, and a new helicopter vehicle, but other than that it hasn't really been mentioned since E3 of 2014. That means less has been shown than the now-delayed Zelda.  Project Giant Robot and Project Guard - TBA 2015 Miyamoto has his hands full, as he has been working on not only Star Fox but also Project Giant Robot and Project Guard, two games shown last year at E3. Giant Robot has players building skyscraper-sized robots on their Wii U GamePad and then battling them to the death, while Guard is a mix between tower defense and watching security cameras. Neither game has been shown or mentioned since E3 last year, nor has a release date been announced.  Mario Maker - TBA 2015 While the name is pretty self-explanatory, Mario Maker looks to have a lot of depth, offering the ability to make levels in the style of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U. Not just easy levels either, but levels described as masochistic. No firm release date has been announced. So there you have it, seven games that potentially could be coming to the Wii U this year, pending any "please understand" cancellations that Nintendo has become infamous for. A nice mix of genres that should have something for everyone. Nintendo won E3 2014 in my opinion, so hopefully it can bring surprises to woo me again this year. The Wii U isn't dead, long live the Wii U.
The Wii U isn't dead yet photo
Unless it delays everything, please understand!
After the recent announcement that Zelda for Wii U wouldn't be releasing in 2015, people all around the Internet have been losing their collective minds screaming that the Wii U is dead when really, it is anything but. So join me as I refresh your memory and get you back on the Nintendo hype train for 2015.

Splatoon photo
Splatoon

New Splatoon screenshots reveal clothing, weapons, stages, and characters


May is going to be messy
Mar 26
// Jed Whitaker
Nintendo released over 100 screenshots for Splatoon today, my favorite of which are in the gallery below, that reveal new characters, enemies, modes, weapons, maps, and clothing for customizing characters. Looks like there ar...

I see a lot of classic Mario platforming design in Splatoon's campaign

Mar 23 // Chris Carter
Splatoon (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 2Publisher: NintendoReleased: May 2015MSRP: $59.99 Splatoon's setup is not unlike a typical Saturday morning cartoon. The evil Octarians have "squidnapped" the sacred Zapfish, and the heroic Captain Cuttlefish has tasked you with getting them back. To help you along the way you'll have a cast of eccentric sea-dwelling creatures to sell you upgrades, like the goofy jelly fish Jelonzo that doesn't speak the Inkling language all that proficiently, or Annie, a shy sea anemone who has an asshole fish named Moe living in her head. While the theme is cute enough to draw anyone in at first glance, it's the commitment to classic platforming precepts that I really took note of during my hour-long campaign play session. Everyone knows the classic Mario design by now -- developers will often craft a level to show you a new concept in a safe manner, then kick it up a series of notches, culminating in an explosive and dangerous finale. That philosophy is followed to the letter in Splatoon with unique concepts used to test the limits of your ink skills. Geysers were a particular favorite of mine, allowing you to swim to the top after turning into squid form. While they're sometimes required for platforming, it's an interesting optional way to change up the height differential for various enemy placements. Sponges are another really fun mechanic, which expand as you ink them and shrink from enemy fire. There's a few high-tension sequences that force you to attack enemies while simultaneously managing your sponges so you don't plummet to your doom. Another stage featured a series of mini-bosses, designed to help you ease into multiplayer against more humanoid opponents. Nearly every level I played introduced a new concept like this, and I can see it riding through until the very end. The campaign also allowed me to really dig deep into the core of what makes Splatoon tick. What I love about the ink mechanic is that it always has a purpose, unlike other shooters where errant shots are basically wasted. Even if you don't hit your target, you're slowly working your way towards victory with each zone that's covered. Ink means extra maneuverability, cover, and in some cases, platforming opportunities. Creating your own path has a cool maze-like feel to it, and reacting to enemy fire is now multi-faceted affair as you plan out your above and below ground strategy in tandem. Much like the multiplayer component however, I'm not entirely sold on the longevity of Splatoon's campaign, as I can see myself breezing through it in an afternoon (I couldn't get an exact estimation from Nintendo, but I'm told the focus is mostly on multiplayer). However, I'll be damned if I didn't have an amazing time with what I've played, and I'm excited to try out the final build come May.
Splatoon campaign photo
Definitely a good thing
While Splatoon's multiplayer was on display for all to see at E3 2014, the single-player campaign was fairly under wraps. We now know that it will be a completely separate affair from online play, complete with a full na...

Nintendo on Splatoon photo
Nintendo on Splatoon

Nintendo: 'Splatoon is aiming to do for action shooters what Mario Kart did to racing'


Reggie Fils-Aimé is hopeful for the future of this 'major new IP'
Mar 23
// Chris Carter
At a recent event at Nintendo of America's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, I was able to play Splatoon for the first time since E3 2014. It's come a long way since then, and Nintendo is particularly proud of what it...

Splatoon's multiplayer feels promising for casual and hardcore shooter fans, but will people buy it?

Mar 23 // Chris Carter
Splatoon (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 2Publisher: NintendoReleased: May 2015MSRP: $59.99 The concept that Splatoon "isn't just about kills" is exemplified in Turf War, the 4v4 mode that everyone saw last year at E3. In short, it's a lot like "Graffiti" from the Tony Hawk series -- two teams must ink up as much territory as possible, and whoever has the most when the clock strikes zero wins. The game keeps track of kills and deaths at the end of each match, but it's all about who covers the most territory, not a skill-based ratio. Nintendo notes that even without voice chat the gameplay facilitates organic teamwork, and after quite a bit of playtime with it, I mostly agree. The emphasis on four-person squads ensures that no one gets lost, and there's a major feature that instantly allows players to teleport (by way of a rocket-like animation in the sky) to teammates by tapping their icon on a map on the GamePad. It's a cool concept to get people constantly in the action without feeling left out. The layout of each map naturally helps this concept as well, with the three on display themed like a skate park (Blackbelly Skatepark), warehouse (Walleye Warehouse), and oil rig (Saltspray Rig). I noticed that each arena has two to three forks almost immediately and throughout the spoke-like design, allowing players to naturally fan out and start taking over different areas. Like a MOBA you'll meet other players in your lane at the start, and will have to adjust for one-on-two or teamfight situations. I really like this ideology, as it allows newcomers to the shooter genre to participate without becoming overwhelmed, all while providing familiar territory for hardcore veterans. Nintendo notes that it's "bucking the trends from other shooters" with this design philosophy. That wouldn't mean anything if the gameplay weren't fun, and thanks to a wide array of weapons Splatoon kept my interest. While there are plenty of standard loadouts similar to rifles, pistols, and snipers, the Roller in particular is definitely my favorite. It's as simple as you'd expect -- it's literally a paint roller that allows you to squish enemies or "flick" the attack button to fling paint as a miniature projectile. [embed]289194:57884:0[/embed] Rollers change the flow of a match quite a bit, especially if you're going up against an opponent who is also rocking one. Jousting matches were commonplace, and you always have to be aware of another Roller coming up from behind. It also holds a number of therapeutic qualities to it, since the only action you need to perform is holding the button and moving around. Thankfully, the weapon is balanced, even if it can cover a lot of ground in Turf War. For those of you who crave a less casual experience, Ranked Battle has been confirmed. It's described as a "completely separate mode" that will be released "post-launch." To unlock it you'll have to reach rank 10 in standard multiplayer, at which point you'll gain access to a new ranking system. Everyone will start out with a letter grade (in this case a C-), and you'll rank up dynamically by winning matches. There will be multiple supported modes, and I was able to try out one of them -- a King of the Hill-esque gametype called "Splat Zones." Much like the popular aforementioned mode, each map will have one static "zone" to capture. Teams will be required to ink up the majority of a zone to claim it, and then fend it off against their opponent while a team timer counts down to zero. All you have to do is protect it and you win -- there's no "crazy" modifier that shifts the zone around. While the lack of a moving hill sounds boring on paper, it's here in Splat Zone that I really started to see Splatoon's tactical depth. Weapons that felt useless in Turf War were suddenly being cycled in by players in my session. Snipers and shield loadouts were particularly popular, especially on Saltspray Rig, where the zone was open to errant long-range shots. My favorite strategy that was kind of adopted on the fly by my winning team was to deploy multiple Bubblers, which are one-way shields that allow you to fire out, while suppressing enemies who fire at you. We locked down multiple choke-points to prevent the enemy from encroaching on our territory, and won a few games handily. Our opponents eventually adapted however, arcing grenades over our shields and into our zone. If all this sounds pretty advanced that's because it is -- developer EAD has created a cool little meta-game with all eight loadouts we were able to try, and Nintendo promises more will be in the final build. One thing I took issue with however was the way that loadouts are handled. Apparently once you're locked into one, you cannot switch to another mid-match. Also, you can't even see what other players have picked with the current build. This can create issues where everyone picks the same weapon, such as a Roller, and the team has significant problems winning a match. When asked about whether or not either of these concerns would be addressed, the rep didn't seem hopeful, noting that "it wasn't a priority at this time." While it's not necessarily a dealbreaker, I can see quite a few frustrating matches were everyone picks the same weapon and loses by a landslide. The rep even noted that while "all the weapons are balanced, you will find certain advantages and disadvantages to specialized weapons like the Roller on specific levels." This is Nintendo's first real foray into the shooting world, so hopefully everything will be balanced in the final build. Nintendo hasn't shared any details regarding split-screen play -- when asked, a rep stated that "we are focusing on the GamePad at this time, not other control methods." While I did have a lot of fun with Splatoon in a closed environment, the combination of a lack of Wii U sales and the risk of launching a new IP isn't exactly a winning formula for a thriving online community. If split-screen isn't available come launch, I think a lot of people are probably going to wait for a sale. [Both lunch and dinner were provided at the event at Nintendo's offices in Redmond, Washington.]
Splatoon multiplayer photo
Ranked battles are confirmed, but are coming post-launch
Nintendo isn't exactly known for its online experiences. With the exception of a few recent titles like Mario Kart 8, the public is typically clamoring for some form of online support. Games like Mario Party 10 would pro...

The Order: 1886 photo
The Order: 1886

Embrace the bomb: The Order is $40 right now on Amazon


That's only $10 per hour of gameplay
Mar 21
// Robert Summa
If you were hesitant to go all in with The Order: 1886 when it first came out last month, then now may be a good time to see what this cinematic adventure is all about. Currently, Amazon is offering the game for $39.99. Considering the oft-debated length of the Sony exclusive, this just might be the right price for the more stubborn of us. [Amazon]

Review: LA Cops

Mar 13 // Conrad Zimmerman
LA Cops (PC [Reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: LA Cops LtdPublisher: Team17Released: March 13, 2015MSRP: $14.99 LA Cops attempts to evoke American police fiction of the 1970s through a number of recognizable tropes. Vignettes preceding missions include the beleaguered police chief trying to wrangle loose cannons, cops willing to go outside the law for justice, and even a nod toward gender integration conflicts as a female detective joins the squad. These touchstones are there but never thoroughly explored, winding up as little more than weak references to the genre. It doesn't help that the cutscene content is shoddy. A simplistic plot somehow manages to be a bit confusing, as half the scenes set up character conflicts which see no expansion or satisfactory resolution while others introduce key characters without any clear exposition to give the player a reason to care. Dull writing is performed with stiff voice acting across the board, falling emotionally flat in nearly every example. Worse yet, all such content sounds as though the actors wore buckets over their heads for the recording sessions. [embed]289031:57776:0[/embed] Missions play out from a top-down perspective, with players using two detectives to raid buildings and dispense justice to occupying criminals. Vastly outnumbered and easily killed, the idea is that the player is to use these characters in tandem by directly controlling one and issuing move orders to the other to even the odds. The most basic strategy for this is ordering the inactive cop to move in and then timing movement of the controlled cop to enter at the same time to clear rooms in a hail of bullets. Another option would be to position one cop on a blind corner, then assume control of the other cop and use them to lure enemies into a trap. It doesn't seem to matter which approach is used because AI controlled partners are, to put it mildly, inconsistent in their combat abilities. A vision cone shows which direction the partner is focusing their attention, but that doesn't mean they won't whip around and tag a guy running up behind them. They might. They might not. It also doesn't mean that they're any more likely to immediately shoot enemies within range and line of sight. It could happen, sure, but they could also just get gunned down by enemies who have walked right past a corner into the cone before pulling off a shot. Trying to use both cops through the entirety of the game, even the halfway point, is miserable. Despite warnings that players won't get very far without their partners, it's actually much easier to work through levels one cop at a time, treating the stationary partner as an extra life because using both cops is basically just asking for one of them to die. But by eschewing the tandem strategy, LA Cops becomes just a game where the player moves from room to room picking off enemies before they can shoot back and there are much better examples of that gameplay to be found elsewhere. Worse, the scoring system used to determine performance runs totally counter to the teamwork mechanic. Aside from being shot, criminals can also be arrested with a melee attack which renders them harmless. Arresting earns twice the points of killing, but there's no good way to do it using both cops because the AI might just shoot the nearest crook before they can be arrested (or not, whatever). It's as if LA Cops is actively encouraging the player to completely ignore its main selling point which, in light of how that's worked out, might be just as well. At least there's plenty of it. There are nine "story" missions with an additional five unrelated bonus stages and three difficulty settings. Nearly all contain multiple floors, and there are some secondary objectives which at least attempt to offer some variety. The more interesting missions include waves of enemies coming in from specific points on a floor or civilians to avoid shooting, but other tasks like reaching a hostage within a time limit (irrelevant since it cannot be achieved before dealing with all criminals on the floor) and the usually pointless destruction of environmental objects just feel like time wasters. There are six characters the player can select from to complete missions. While they differ at the outset across four statistics (speed, health, damage, and clip size), they're ultimately all the same due to the experience progression system. Completing missions earns XP which may be spent to increase individual stats or unlock new weapons, but all characters have the same potential and can gain access to the same guns, making there no reason to choose one over another apart from aesthetic appeal and little reason to switch to new characters once experience has been spent on those who have been used before. The pop minimalist art style of LA Cops is probably its most redeeming quality, sadly. Clean lines and high contrast colors make it stand out in the field of top-down shooters, and this design serves the gameplay by making it easy to pick out enemies and objectives. The visuals and the soundtrack, which consists of funky guitar tracks that fit neatly with the themes, are about the only elements of the game that aren't actively working against it. While there was clear opportunity in the buddy cop formula LA Cops attempted to create, the end result is a mess. Totally undermined by poor teammate AI, the central strategic hook is lost, resulting in a bland game confused about what it wants the player to do.
LA Cops review photo
Move along, nothing to see here
At first glance, the potential for LA Cops to be an interesting title is great. A top-down shooter in the style of a retro cop squad drama, its main appeal lies in the combination of real-time action with teamwork management, one player using two characters to systematically take down a criminal enterprise. It's just too bad that one of those cops always has to be Barney Fife.

The Order: 1886 photo
The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886 won't find safety in the London Underground


But, I found The Postal Service
Mar 12
// Brett Makedonski
I was waiting for a cross-town train in the London Underground when it struck me. I've been waiting since February to find a game that would look and sound like a movie. So, I changed my plans; I rented a PS4 and a TV, and t...

Review: Zombie Army Trilogy

Mar 06 // Chris Carter
Zombie Army Trilogy (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Rebellion DevelopmentsPublisher: Rebellion DevelopmentsReleased: March 3, 2015MSRP: $49.99 What you're getting for $50 is three games, which take place over 15 levels called "chapters." They're roughly 20-30 minutes each, and are kind of designed like the maps from Left 4 Dead, but with less of a point "A to B" feel to them. The gist is that in 1945, Hitler has unleashed the depths of hell as a last-ditch effort to win World War II, and...that's basically it. Except now in addition to the previously all-male cast, you're getting four new female combatants. None of the characters have any real personality, but it's a nice little extra. Since this is based on Sniper Elite after all, your primary weapons are long-range rifles, with the secondary slots going to weaponry like SMGs and shotguns, in addition to a last-ditch pistol. You'll also have a few incendiary devices at your disposal like mines, grenades, and trip wires, as well as the power to kick, which functions as your only melee attack. Trip wires are my favorite part of the arsenal, as it's incredibly fun to set traps and watch zombies spring them. The first thing you'll notice after a few rounds though is that the animations feel slightly off. The kick in particular is ridiculous looking, especially if you keep stomping on enemy after enemy. Depending on your view this might either be Army of Darkness-level camp or a flaw of the outdated engine -- I'm mostly somewhere in the latter group. [embed]288533:57630:0[/embed] Having said that, the gunplay is fun, taking place mostly from a third-person perspective, with the option to zoom with rifles. The zombies themselves are well crafted, as they're both sufficiently cool looking and have an interesting set of movements. Other denizens like skeletons help spice things up -- it helps that they look like they were taken straight out of a Harryhausen film. Checkpoints flow through each stage, allowing you to recover and play again if you happen to fail on the last section of a lengthy level, and you'll find the occasional safe room just like Left 4 Dead, allowing you to stock up and continue your journey. The pacing is spot-on, as Zombie Army Trilogy doesn't have a whole lot of down time. You'll also have interesting objectives to pursue, like finding the location of an ancient artifact to summon a powerful foe, or turning off a factory that creates an army of armored zombies, or defeating elite or boss enemies. If you get really cocky you can tackle the higher difficulty levels, like "Sniper Elite," which allows for wind contingencies, bullet drop physics, a heart rate to control, and an impact on your stance. It's cool in theory, but all of these don't feel all that important when you're tangoing with the wonky engine half the time, or battling lag in online play, which I experienced on occasion. Solo play is fun when you're going through each chapter and encountering new scenarios at a decent rate, but once you're done, replay value plummets. You're going to want to play online with three other people, especially if you have the skills to tackle the four difficulty settings which cleverly can scale to up to four players, even if you are going solo. Horde mode is another way to keep the party going, but the "endless" style of play can get tiresome given that there are hundreds of horde-style games out at this point, and Zombie Army Elite doesn't stand out above them. It's basically something to play after you've exhausted all of the campaign, but if I ever have the itch to play online, it probably won't be with Horde mode. If you can get past the cheap-feeling engine and have three buddies on hand, you'll have a lot of fun with Zombie Army Elite. It's a blast to overcome particularly tough sections with a team, and hitting an on-point shot from 50 feet away can provide quite the rush. While the package has a lot of problems that prevent it from justifying that $50 price tag, I enjoyed my time playing the entire campaign online. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Zombie Army review photo
One giant horde mode
The Sniper Elite series has been around for quite some time, entertaining fans since 2005 on pretty much every platform known to man. But alongside of the core historical-centric games there has been a lesser known sub-franch...

Zombie Army Trilogy photo
Zombie Army Trilogy

Zombie Army Trilogy video tells us what Zombie Army Trilogy is


Apparently it has something to do with zombies
Feb 27
// Robert Summa
The zombie saturation of the current videogame landscape will soon see another mindless meat shooter with the release of Zombie Army Trilogy this March. As if the literally hundreds of other zombie-themed games weren't enoug...

Review: Ironfall: Invasion

Feb 27 // Chris Carter
Ironfall: Invasion (3DS)Developer: VD-DevPublisher: VD-DevReleased: February 26, 2015MSRP: Free (campaign and MP are paid downloads, $9.99 each) If you have a Circle Pad Pro or a New 3DS, you're going to feel right at home with Ironfall, as it functions just like a full-on console shooter. The controls work especially well on the New 3DS, with extra shoulder buttons for sprinting and reloading, as well as the C-stick functionality for aiming. L aims, R shoots, and B ducks into cover -- that's basically all you need to know, and it plays out wonderfully. Ironfall has a neat mechanic that ties actions to your health, by way of a meter called "heart-rate." There are certain thresholds you cannot cross unless you take damage, but sprinting and shooting will raise your heart-rate ever so slightly -- forcing you back into cover to lower it faster. While it may seem like an action-hindering design choice, it actually makes things more strategic, as avoiding enemy fire altogether will inherently limit your meter.However, the campaign doesn't really make use of the strong foundation, mostly wasting your time through 11 boring levels. It's basically a corridor shooter with uninspired locales and minigames you've seen a thousand times over. The alien menace is also painfully generic, to the point where you won't even care about killing them, instead focusing on the clock all the way. Visually Ironfall looks fine on the New 3DS, especially with the 3D effect on. The main problem is that the actual art style is dull as heck, and reminds me of a budget PS1 title -- not in a good way. Although the framerate is consistent, it's hard to really get on board with playing through the story when everything looks so mundane and washed out. [embed]288276:57548:0[/embed] Thankfully, multiplayer saves the day, as it's quite fun. If you've ever played an old school shooter like WinBack, you'll feel right at home here. It's surprisingly robust for a portable game too, featuring online and local play, as well as a decent amount of weapon types. You'll only get standard free-for-all and team modes, but some are ranked, which allow you to bet "credits" and gain a higher rank for bragging rights. Don't expect a fully-fledged Call of Duty-like perk system here -- you play just to play, not to earn more gear. While multiplayer works well as-is, a couple things I really want in a future update are more weight to the combat and direct notification of kills outside of a unceremonious "this player died" banner. While everything is smooth and the bullets actually connect, it's really hard to tell if you killed another player at times, or if you are even hitting them. As you can tell by the info box above, Ironfall has a unique pricing system. You can download the base game for free, which nets you the first campaign level and a limited multiplayer demo -- consisting of one character, the assault rifle, and grenade launcher. If you want to pony up for either mode you'll pay $9.99 each, with a bonus jukebox feature if you buy the bundle. Don't get the bundle. If the idea of a 3DS cover shooter entices you at all, the best course of action is to play the multiplayer for free, then go from there. Personally, I was sold based on the old school feel alone, which is more excusable for a fun arena-like setting than it is for a rushed campaign. Multiplayer is the saving grace of Ironfall: Invasion. Although it doesn't offer anything new, it should scratch that itch for arena shooter fans who are looking for something to play online long term on 3DS. With a relatively smooth connection process and simplistic gameplay that works, it should keep you busy for a while. Just avoid paying for the campaign at all costs. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Ironfall Invasion photo
Someone call Marcus Fenix
Developing a Gears of War-like cover shooter for Nintendo 3DS is unconventional, but that's just what VD-Dev did with Ironfall: Invasion. Featuring both local and online multiplayer, as well as an 11-stage campaign, the project seems fairly ambitious for the handheld, and as you'd expect, there are mixed results. While multiplayer turned out well enough, the campaign is a mess.

The Order: 1886 photo
The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886's launch trailer sure looks nifty


Cinematic as all get up
Feb 19
// Brett Makedonski
Well, I don't know what to believe anymore. This trailer has explosions, lycanthropes, and action up the wazoo. Everything looks so pretty, and the mustaches look real enough that I'm trying to pet them through my computer s...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

Splatoon's adorable squids originally looked like tofu


Sounds tasty!
Feb 19
// Kyle MacGregor
Can you imagine Splatoon's "Inklings" looking more like tofu than squids? Speaking with Famitsu, the shooter's designers (Hisashi Nogami, Yusuke Amano, and Tsubasa Sakaguchi) revealed the creatures actually started out that w...

Review: The Order: 1886

Feb 19 // Chris Carter
The Order: 1886 (PS4)Developer: Ready at Dawn, SCE Santa Monica StudioPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentReleased: February 20, 2015MSRP: $59.99 The Order reeks of style and sucks you in immediately. With a grand backstory involving an alternate history set to a backdrop of an ancient order's lengthy war with stronger half-breed humans, you can tell a lot of thought when into the concept. The writers went the extra mile to tie in familiar territory like the Arthurian legend, and there are a lot of cool nods like the feud between Tesla and Edison. But despite the source material, The Order feels like its own creation and not a summation of existing ideas. It also has the visual panache to back this up in-game. The lighting and environments are fantastically detailed, and the finely crafted character models make this feel like a true current-generation prospect. Picking up newspapers and reading them in-game doesn't just present bland text on the screen -- you actually get to read the paper itself. Items in the world can often be inspected by rotating them around and turning them over, further showing off the sheer amount of detail within. It feels organic like the built-in user interface in Dead Space. It's sharp and well done throughout, and the first time I was able to see the township from high-up was legitimately a "wow" moment. [embed]287624:57354:0[/embed] As a third-person shooter The Order can safely be compared to Gears of War, with a simplistic snap cover system, over-the-shoulder aiming, a chapter-based story, and a basic melee attack that can be used when up close. 1886 delivers the latter with more flair than most titles, with cool contextual attacks like slamming an enemy head into a wall or sliding them across a table. You'll have access to grenades, and a two-gun setup (sidearm and main weapon), with your usual sniper, shotgun, and rifle fare. There are a few mixed-in fictional pieces of weaponry as well, like the Tesla raygun and a weapon that shoots a gassy material into the sky by way of alt fire, allowing you ignite it with your primary shot. That's about it, though. Beyond the literal smoke and mirrors it's a very standard shooter. Well built, but standard. There's also a good amount of quick-time events, which don't bother me personally -- bring them on, I say, as long as there's gameplay to match. Where The Order ceases to be great isn't the excessive time spent on QTEs, it's the self-indulgent camera angles and need to focus so much on turning the game into a walking simulator. 1886 does have a good amount of extra paths and collectibles to explore, but man is it linear. There's tons of unskippable cutscenes, and even when you're playing, it can still technically be considered a living cutscene at times -- you just have the ability to walk slightly forward without taking any other action. Maybe the developers at Ready at Dawn felt this was atmospheric, maybe they didn't have enough development time, but either way it feels like padding. So do the standard videogame lockpick and stealth sequences. The story doesn't really have room to grow as a result of said padding because so much time is spent getting from place to place. Although the premise is interesting, the narrative is fairly predictable, and characters don't have any real chance to make their mark; you'll likely forget a lot of their names before the credits roll. And leading up to right before they do roll, just like Shadows of Mordor, I was pissed that the final boss had to be a QTE -- and a retread fight at that. As you may have heard, The Order is also short. How short? Well, on normal or hard difficulty it should take the average gamer roughly seven hours to complete it -- a little less if you rush through and don't explore any other hallways, a little more if you check every inch. While the length doesn't bother me on principle, keep in mind that there's very little in the way of replay value, and there's no multiplayer -- not even co-op -- to speak of. Outside of the sleek presentation and interesting world building, there's nothing truly special about The Order: 1886. It's a shame in many ways, because I'd love to see a more tactical style of gameplay in line with Valkyria Chronicles, or a more in-depth game in general using the same engine and lore. I sincerely hope this isn't the last we've seen of this universe, but for now, it's only worth visiting once, briefly. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
The Order: 1886 review photo
Not enough chaos
The Order: 1886 opens up in a fairly gritty fashion -- a first-person sequence involving a near drowning, by way of water torture. It begins with a bang, thrusting you into this unknown, and frankly frightening world whe...

The Order photo
The Order

How short is too short? Controversy over The Order: 1886's length


$60 for less than 10 hours
Feb 16
// Chris Carter
Although the embargo for The Order: 1886 is Thursday morning, many gamers have gotten their hands on the title this past weekend and...they've completed it. Since there is no multiplayer component, controversy has been s...
The Order: 1886 photo
The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886 collector's edition is unboxed, under fire


Take cover, Galahad!
Feb 04
// Brett Makedonski
Third-person shooter protagonists spend a bulk of their time glued to chest-high walls, so it's fitting that the highlight of The Order: 1886's collector's edition depicts this very action. In this unboxing video that P...

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