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Review: Madden 16

Aug 25 // Steven Hansen
Madden NFL 16 (PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: EA TiburonPublisher: EA SportsReleased: August 25, 2015MSRP: $59.99 Madden 16 makes an interesting opening gambit, once again going right into a game, this time a fabricated Super Bowl 50 starring the Cardinals and Steelers. No one wanted to watch that match up seven years ago (except me because of the Kurt Warner), but EA insists on framing this nostalgia-less, fake match up with Any Given Sunday editing, close ups on players, and even tepid, badly-acted football dialogue, the kind of jawing written by someone who has not played sport.  Fuck, is it boring. It introduces new (very simple) catching mechanics in painful slow motion setting up situations (oh, one of the teams is trailing!) we're supposed to have emotions in, like I have any stake in Fake Super Bowl 50, like I'm supposed to feel something when alleged rapist Ben Roethlisberger (who narrates later tutorials) tells his mates, "It's time to be the team we're supposed to be right now. Believe in the man to your left and to your right. It's our time right now" like he's reading commercial cue cards. At least the San Jose 49ers' digital Levi's Stadium field hasn't turned to pudding like the real one. This is what Madden is, though. In past years I have creatively ripped on the series for aggressive advertisements of real-world products, which this one seems to have toned down significantly (unless they're coming dynamically as updates post launch). But! Madden is a yearly advertisement for the NFL. From the start menu it encouraged me to share my information with the NFL, promising digital playing cards as a reward. This is what it means to have exclusivity rights to the only meaningful football league (because no one internationally gives a shit), the commodification of players. It is cool to see the increased likeness of Arizona's head coach whose fascinating neck folds and face-scanned pores have him looking like a corrugated version of Dana Carvey's turtliest member of the turtle club. [embed]307755:60128:0[/embed] In 2006 (that would make it Madden 07) I distinctly remember when I fell into the habit of abusing slot receivers instead of number one and number two wide receivers. This meant a lot of balls to the perfectly serviceable Kevin Curtis instead of two of the greats, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. The worst thing about those slot receiver posts, or crossing routes over the middle, has always been linebackers undercutting the passes for picks. Here is the scenario: a player looks reasonably open for a pass. It is a pass any NFL quarterback could make. It is a pass I, an idiot with bad knees, could make. You throw it with a nice arc over the front defensive layer and before the safeties. Madden has never wanted to give you that pass and it has taken near 10 years for the series to introduce "touch passing," a double tap that lets you drop balls into open zones. Ten years. Low and high throws are executed by holding L1 (high) or L2 (low) while passing. The passing game has seen the most new features added this year. Aside from the aforementioned quarterback stuff, there are three types of catches, done by holding one of three buttons while the ball is in the air en route to the receiver. The Aggressive catch (triangle) is for leaping catches and bodying cornerbacks. RAC (square) encourages the player to make a catch in motion and continue running up field, provided they're not about to be clocked. Possession catches (x) are for keeping feet in-bounds or making sure the receiver hangs on to a first down. These useful buttons encourage more user interaction during catches and also speak to a refined interplay between defensive backs and receivers. On the other side of the ball, you can have defenders play the ball (hold triangle) to go for an interception or deflection, or more conservatively play the receiver (hold x) to ensure you make a tackle and possibly knock the ball from them. There is much more realistic jockeying for body position and faithful physics so long as you don't stare too closely at the instant replays. Eventually you'll notice some similar, more dramatic catch animations (a particular one-handed one stuck out), but it is a plus on the whole for verisimilitude, for giving weight and feeling to awesome athletes interacting in a confined space. That's about it, though. There are some neat presentation additions (statistic graphics overlaid on players) and the menus are well laid out, though they are also pretty slow. Load times, too, are still a bit of a problem (and intrusive presentation elements are bothersome when running a hurry up offense). The insistence towards microtransaction-laden Ultimate Team and the new fantasy football-cribbed Draft Champions modes is useless. Throwing, catching, and defending throws have seen some welcomed, long-ignored additions that get a couple yards closer to faithful simulation. You can decide if that's enough. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Madden reviewed photo
Mildly deflated
I do feel, some, for Electronic Arts and the people responsible for making Madden every year. This is only my 4th year (out of  27 releases) covering it and I fear I may have peaked with last year's review. But like a fr...

Review: Gears of War Ultimate Edition

Aug 24 // Brett Makedonski
Gears of War Ultimate Edition (PC, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: The CoalitionPublisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease: August 25, 2015 (Xbox One), TBA (PC)MSRP: $39.99  The developers of Gears of War Ultimate Edition have called this "the first at its best." Turns out they aren't wrong, but they also aren't quite precise enough. This is Gears of War -- entire franchise included -- at its best. Gameplay at a steady 60 frames-per-second does wonders for the naturally clunky movement. These soldiers now feel less like the tanks they resemble. That's not exactly the case in the campaign, however. Multiplayer over Xbox Live runs at 60FPS, but solo and cooperative play is locked in at 30. Regardless, it's a vast improvement over previous installments. It's immediately noticeable as soon as you pick the controller up. The Ultimate Edition is running on a mature version of Unreal Engine 3 -- the same engine the original Gears of War was built upon -- so this improvement can likely be chalked up to optimization and more powerful hardware in the Xbox One. This newfound fluidity makes everything less frustrating. Cover-based shooting works as it always has, but moving from spot to spot isn't as likely to end up with your character stuck to a wall you didn't intend. Navigating the game's many battlefields is quicker and more enjoyable. [embed]306974:60086:0[/embed] While a slicker movement system is easy to appreciate, it's the combat -- the actual shooting of guns -- that's the real meat of Gears of War. Almost everything about it is perfectly intact. As many bullets as the enemies can soak up, there's resounding satisfaction anytime an enemy gets tagged with a torque bow or a pistol takes a head clean off. Hip-shooting with the Gnasher is still a frustratingly inaccurate prospect, as it seems like things work out in your favor about half the time. But, the greatest compliment you can give Gears of War (and it holds true in Ultimate Edition) is that it makes fighting fun. That shouldn't necessarily be the case for a game that features pop-up shooting gallery one after another, but it is. Active reload is one of the better game mechanics of the past decade in that it constantly keeps the player's attention during a process that they'd otherwise be uninvolved in. The Lancer (a/k/a "chainsaw gun") is iconic and unironically cool. It's on the back of the combat that the rest of Gears of War gets by. A lot of the level design feels dated now. Settings are distinct through the game's five acts, but they're all used the exact same way. Rarely is there clever subversion to keep the player on their toes. More often than not, it's predictable what lies just ahead. To be fair, there are attempts to break this mold; the second act holds two examples. A large swath of this part of the game asks the player to pathfind by blowing up propane tanks in order to illuminate the road. When mixed with fighting, these are some of the best moments in Gears of War, as it adds a puzzle-like element. Conversely, the end of this act dedicates a chapter to vehicle driving. It's poorly executed, and it comes off as a forced and transparent bid at shaking up monotony. Gears of War can be linear to a fault, but that's a trade-off for its cinematic nature. Chapter length is generally short, and a new cutscene is always just around the corner. Setpieces come about fairly frequently, but they're somewhat subdued when compared to other installments in the series. Rather, this Gears of War is the game that set the tone for the over-the-top action to follow. Despite all the cinematics, Gears of War is notably light on narrative. The story details the human struggle against the invading Locust on the planet of Sera. Things are bleak. Humanity has its back against the wall. Everything feels so down and out. This coalition of well-trained troops is the good guys' last chance. For those who actually care, Gears of War's plot can be effective yet simple. It lacks a lot of nuance, as does the dialogue. Most exchanges between characters are gruff one-liners, either overtly aggressive or sarcastic. To be blunt, the dialogue hasn't aged well but this was never the game's strong suit. The greatest disconnect comes from the superb gameplay and the subpar narrative. It's not only the disparity between the two that rings obvious, but also how they fail to work hand-in-hand. Gameplay often feels less like a means of accomplishing a story-specific goal, but more like a means to trigger a cutscene to advance the plot. Pacing is also an issue, as stakes are high and chaotic at all times. There are plenty of faults, but Gears of War's greatest trick is that you don't notice them while you're playing. It's just a good time from start to finish. On a personal note: my roommate and I played through the entirety of the campaign cooperatively on Insane difficulty in two sittings in one day. I couldn't tell you the last time I dedicated that much of a day to a game. That speaks volumes. For anyone looking to boil the Gears of War experience down to its purest and (arguably) most enjoyable form, competitive multiplayer again serves a big role. There are 19 maps and nine modes (including newcomers team deathmatch, king of the hill, and two-on-two with shotguns). It's undeniably quite the large offering. Again, Gears of War is fantastic when it's just unadulterated combat. By today's standards, eight-person multiplayer should seem tiny, but it really doesn't. There's always plenty of fray to be found. Maps are designed in a nice, symmetric way so that everything's balanced. Although, the majority of weapons are immediately disregarded by most people in favor of constant use of the Gnasher, which feels like the way to go at almost all times. Whether the campaign or multiplayer, Gears of War undoubtedly succeeds in constantly entertaining. The Ultimate Edition takes that to a new level through optimized gameplay, smoother controls, and updated visuals. Most importantly, it makes this classic relevant again. Microsoft has a lot riding on the continued prosperity of Gears; after all, it is one of the publisher's largest properties. Gears of War Ultimate Edition effectively reminds why that's the case, just as it reminds why this is the game that partially influenced an entire generation of gaming. It just took a makeover to help us appreciate it again. [Editor's note: At time of writing, the multiplayer component wasn't live for the general public. A handful of multiplayer games were played in a private room hosted by the developer. We'll report on the state of online play at launch and thereafter. If this aspect of the game sees significant problems in the weeks following release, we'll cover those issues.] [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Gears of War review photo
At its best
For better and for worse, Gears of War helped shape the past generation of gaming. Bursting onto the scene in 2006, it helped solidify now-common tropes like chest-high walls, brown and gray shooters, and muscle-bound sp...

Review: Until Dawn

Aug 24 // Chris Carter
Until Dawn (PS4)Developer: Supermassive GamesPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentRelease Date: August 25, 2015MSRP: $59.99 [There will be no major spoilers in this review, but the video may contain minor event spoilers.] Our tale starts off a year before the main storyline with a prelude of sorts, in a cabin high up on an isolated Canadian mountaintop. A bunch of "teens" (I use that term lightly as they all look 30) have gathered for some weekend shenanigans, and of course, something goes awry, leading to the mysterious death of two sisters. A year later, the surviving members of the group decide to go back to the same location (I know, right?), bringing all sorts of emotional baggage with them. Most of you have probably seen this type of campy setup before, but this is exactly what Until Dawn is going for. Soon enough you'll start to see the action ratchet up a bit, as more of the mystery of the mountain is revealed, and a psycho killer shows up, creating some Saw-like situations -- real sick shit. You'll also start to learn a lot more about the characters' motivations, and their relationships with one another, which you can (minimally) influence by way of light choices. By "light," I mean typical Telltale options that don't really influence the game in any meaningful way. The main gimmick here is the "Butterfly Effect," which will branch out your personal story, complete with a butterfly icon explosion on-screen and a handy menu option that lets you view your past choices. It can range from something significant like whether or not you want to risk your life saving a friend, or what door you took in an abandoned building. When the butterflies pop up, it's basically Supermassive's way of saying "this character will remember that." Without spoiling anything, most choices don't matter until the end of the game, where character deaths start to happen more often. [embed]305560:59991:0[/embed] Outside of the choice mechanic that basically surmounts to moving an analog stick in the desired direction, there's lots of walking involved, coupled with QTEs for the action bits. It's unimaginative at times, especially in the shaky intro sections, as those long roads seems to be there mostly to pad the game. After all, there's only so many plain paths you can take in the woods before it gets boring. But after the two hours, more interesting locations start to pop up, which house interesting documents and more bits of lore for you to locate. This is where the game excels. Despite the above issues, I was inspired to play Until Dawn from start to finish in one setting. It was interesting enough where it kept me captivated throughout, and the game is exceptionally good at world-building. While I initially didn't care about the whole meta-narrative surrounding the mountain, I quickly changed my tune as I acquired more totem collectibles -- artifacts that each unlock a few seconds of a secret video that gives you a bit more background on the events of the game. Also, all the Resident Evil style letters and notes are all done very well. Where recent David Cage efforts fail for me is the over-emphasis on performances that end up wooden, and a terrible plot that begs to be taken seriously. Thankfully, while other elements of the game may not be all that riveting or new, Until Dawn dives in with both feet on the horror theme. Sure it's not an excuse for some campy performances, but you really know what you're getting here, and there's no bait and switch involved. The script is also occasionally funny, as are the performances from the (mostly) talented cast. I have to say, it's really weird seeing Brett Dalton as anything other than Grant Ward, but he's mostly enjoyable to watch. My general enjoyment of the core cast goes double for "The Analyst" sections of the game featuring the always delightful Peter Stormare. These portions are easily the best part of the experience, as a mysterious psychologist asks you series of questions (usually about your fears) in various interludes of sorts after each chapter concludes. It slowly gets darker and more twisted over time, and they really nail the tension here. So how long is the game? My playthrough took roughly seven hours, and you'll have the option to replay chapters individually to rectify past wrongs or try out new choices. There's also a few extras involved in the form of little video featurettes that you can probably watch on YouTube in a week. If you aren't keen on hunting for collectibles, you can try to change the ending into one you desire. Until Dawn knows exactly what it is, and doesn't pretend to be anything more. In that process it allows for some predictable plotlines, hammy acting, and lack of meaningful choices, but I'm glad that it exists, and every horror fan owes it to themselves to play it at some point -- especially at a price cut. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Until Dawn review photo
Spooky teen hell dream
I had a chance to play the first few chapters of Until Dawn recently, and it ended at the worst possible moment. Whereas the first hour or so is slowly setting the table for all of the craziness that is about to ensue, when e...

Pokken Tournament photo
Officially official
Pokken Tournament is the talk of the town -- the only issue is that basically everyone outside of Japan can't play it. Until 2016 that is, as Nintendo has just announced that Pokken is coming to the Wii U worldwide next...

Review: Smite (Xbox One)

Aug 19 // Chris Carter
Smite (PC, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Hi-Rez StudiosPublisher: Hi-Rez StudiosRelease Date: March 25, 2014 (PC) / August 19, 2015 (Xbox One)MSRP: Free-to-play with microtransactions ($30 for all Gods until August 31) Unlike your typical MOBA experience, SMITE is framed by way of a behind-the-back camera, more akin to an action game than an RTS title. It was predicated on coming to a console day one, mostly because of how simple the control scheme was, and I'm pleased to say that the transition has been incredibly smooth, gameplay-wise. For new players looking to jump in, all you really have to do to play at a base level is understand that the right trigger initiates your auto-attack, and the face buttons correspond to specific abilities, all of which are relatively self-explanatory. Of course, there's a deeper level of understanding required when it comes to leveling up your abilities and buying items and equipment, but the former can even be implemented automatically if you wish. Where Smite really shines is with its assortment of game modes that will appeal to pretty much everyone. While MOBAs typically cycle in the same few gametypes with "guest" modes appearing sparingly, Smite goes all out with five variations available at all times. These include Arena (5v5 all-out fights without lanes), Joust (3v3 one lane), Conquest (standard MOBA 5v5 three lane), Assault (5v5 ARAM), and Siege (4v4 two lanes). You can also spring for four modes that pit you against the AI, should you need the practice. In short, the game has it all, and any one mode will keep you satisfied for quite some time. It's also great that Smite works in a lot of personality into said maps, like the fact that the final "core" is actually a boss character that players have to take down, and the last line of defense is a giant phoenix. There are 67 gods (characters) currently, all from various faiths throughout history. Characters range from well-known deities like Hades, all the way to Sun Wokong, to Guan Yu. While every god does look different enough visually, I couldn't help but realize that playing with a controller really exposes some of the monotony of Smite's gameplay. For the most part, you're going to be holding down RT, firing off a boring series of auto-attacks. Although it is easy to pickup, it's important to realize that although it may look like it, Smite isn't a full-on action game, and that abilities move rather slowly in the grand scheme of things. In a PC MOBA clicking can often keep you constantly engaged as you're always figuring out the best position possible, but Smite can feel sluggish by comparison. For those of you who don't enjoy the genre on PC, this may be the game for you. [embed]305026:59981:0[/embed] It also doesn't help that a lot of abilities tend to blend together, and in one particular session, I played three gods that basically had the exact same attacks, just with slightly different animations. Since you're leveling up the same abilities each time without an option to take new ones, you're going to want to switch gods often to keep things fresh. If you really want to go all in, you can buy the Founder's Pack for $30, which grants you access to every current and future god. It's a pretty great deal as you're essentially "buying out" the game, but unfortunately it's only available until the end of the month. Outside of that, you're left with a rather generous free rotation of 11 characters per week, and an assortment of boosters, items, skins, emotes, and icons. The game is heavily monetized and many things must be purchased with premium currency, but the Founder's Pack and most of what's on offer is fair. There's also a few issues inherent to the Xbox One version of the game. For starters, no Cross-Play capabilities with the PC edition really sucks. Also, Hi-Rez is only offering up account progress transfers for a limited time, one way to the Xbox One, and it's just that -- a progress transfer. Note that experience levels and most of your content will be ported over, but not everything (Gems, mastery levels, and any stats or activities aren't eligible). It's also unfortunate that there's no inherent keyboard support (like many PS4 games). Based on my experience, nearly every player is content on playing without any form of communication, which, as many know, can be a kiss of death in a MOBA. SMITE is a fine game and a great choice for folks who may not spend a lot of time on their PC, but there are a number of shortcomings present in both editions that prevent me from playing it as much as some of its competitors. Still, it's a perfect starting point if you're looking to get into the genre, especially with the intuitive controller scheme.
Smite Xbox One review photo
I'll be done in a minotaur two
Hi-Rez Studios has earned a rather interesting reputation in recent years. After creating Tribes: Ascend, a game heavily reliant on the free-to-play model, fans accused the studio of abandoning the game in record time (roughl...

Super Mario Maker is more fun than I initially thought it would be

Aug 18 // Chris Carter
Super Mario Maker starts in the best way possible -- a miniature creation tutorial featuring the first Super Mario Bros. After jumping across an impossible-to-make gap, you'll have the option to "finish the course," and bring Mario to the safety of the goal flag. Objects are located at the top, and it's very easy to use the stylus to create platforms, Question Mark Blocks, enemies, and hazards. Putting wings on enemies, piranha plants inside pipes, and items inside of blocks is also as easy as dragging it on top of said item. You can also tap or drag to clone the last-used item, which is useful for dropping tons of blocks. There's a lot of personality present, especially with the auto-tuned voice that notes item placement, cutely shouting out things like "block! block block! block block block block!" to the tune of the classic Mario theme. Maker even has its own tutorial character named "Mary O." who functions as a Power Line Expert of sorts, complete with a headset. I love little touches like this. The way amiibo support works is by adding characters to a roster with a GamePad tap, which will allow players to change into new cast members when touching a Mystery Mushroom. Each character has a special emote with the up d-pad button (for example, Pac-Man will raise a piece of fruit) -- most of the ones I've seen so far also have their own sound effects, and if you're hit, you'll transform back into Mario. Here's a full list of compatible amiibo.  Changing your "theme" (such as above or underground in the first Mario game, or even a new series entirely) is as easy as pressing a button, and only takes a few seconds. It's awesome seeing a stage change from the retro style to the "New" visuals instantly. It's also important to note that more tools only open up "over a series of days, as you continue to create in the game," and only 12 are available right away -- Nintendo notes that this is so you aren't overwhelmed but I don't really buy into it (hence my lingering issue). Expect thoughts on how this scenario plays out in the coming weeks. In terms of modes, you'll start off in the editing portion, but you can also access a challenge mode of sorts that limits your lives, and "Course World," which is a full online hub that allows you to play, star, download, and comment on levels. I love how Nintendo has this mode laid out, as you can clearly see the entire level by way of an icon in the hub menu, giving you an idea of whether or not the stage is up your alley before you even play it. You can also sort by rating and filter "up and coming" levels if you wish, and each map only takes roughly five seconds to load. There's tons of levels available right now for reviewers, so I'll be able to provide some thoughts on how the hub works at a later date. I don't want to spoil too many secrets, so expect our review in early September ahead of the September 11 launch of Super Mario Maker.
Super Mario Maker photo
First hands-on with the retail edition
Although I haven't been super excited for Super Mario Maker based on the initial pitch, we've slowly been drip-fed more and more information over the past month or so, and some of it looks intriguing. Now, I've had the chance to play the game myself, and left pretty satisfied outside of one lingering issue.

I can't keep up with all these Splatoon updates!

Aug 17 // Patrick Hancock
[embed]305716:60031:0[/embed] Patch 2.0 Heavy Splatling This is definitely one of my new go-to weapons. I still don't feel completely comfortable while using it, but I can already see its potential. The Heavy Splatling needs to spin up before firing, but does not need to be fully spun up to begin firing. The longer the player spins up, the more shots will come out before stopping.  I've been using the Splatling as a more defensive weapon, similar to a Charger-type weapon. It's natural to want to go on the offensive with it since it seems to beastly, but it's just not as effective at in-your-face killing compared to most other weapons. However, using it to hold a location? That's when it shines like a rainbow after a storm!  The Splash Wall is a great pairing for the Splatling, since it's great to use as cover while charging up. It definitely helps to have some Sub Saver abilities on hand though, since the Splash Wall takes a ton of ink to deploy. Slosher I thought the Slosher would be a new favorite of mine, considering I prefer to play up close and personal, but I just haven't jived well with it. It takes two sloshes to kill, so springing up and surprising someone isn't as effective as I'd like. Due to its solid range and accuracy, those who are effective with the Slosher are the ones who hang out at the edge of its range and are constantly moving around in squid form. I'm also not a fan of the pairing of the Slosher with Burst Bombs. I feel as if they serve the same purpose. I can't think of very many situations in which throwing a Burst Bomb would be better than just sloshing it up. Maybe one of you pro Slosher users can enlighten me... New Music [embed]305716:60005:0[/embed] First of all, let me just say how much I love the fact that the in-game music has in-game bands. It's the dedication to things like this that make Splatoon so consistently awesome. The new battle tune is great. I love the chiptune-y vibe from it. I'm also really glad to have more than one single music track for battles. The music that plays during the last 15-30 seconds of the original track was starting to make me go crazy... New Urchin Underpass So, I wasn't completely sure why Urchin Underpass needed a makeover, but after playing its new incarnation, I'm happy to never ever go back. The new map is so much more open than the original. The tree near the spawn apparently caused issue for players, so they moved them to the very center of the map. This is actually a brilliant decision, since these trees perfectly obfuscate part of the center of the map so snipers can't just sit on the elevated sides and wreak havoc.  I didn't mind the map before, but now Urchin Underpass is easily one of my favorites. I feel as if there are a lot of options at any given moment, which is really when Splatoon shines the most. Splatfest Victory Conditions So they changed how Splatfest victories are calculated, and increased the victory part of the equation to count four times. We've since had a Splatfest, which was Marshmallows VS Hot dogs in North America. Marshmallows had a huge popularity lead (64/36), and Hot Dogs had a slight victory lead (48/52). The result was a close one at 256 to 244. So, is this the solution? Personally, I think it's a good idea. I don't mind that popularity factors in to the equation.  Victories are definitely important, and now are weighted way more heavily as a result. Although the change didn't give team Hot dogs the victory, it did make it very close, which is impressive considering the population gap.  Rainmaker Mode This isn't part of the 2.0 patch, but did hit the game very recently. It's a new mode that works a lot like capture the flag. There's a weapon, called the Rainmaker, in the center of the map, and your goal is to bring it to your opponent's base. The Rainmaker acts like an Inkzooka, but can be charged for a much bigger tornado blast. It's a great addition to Ranked mode, but people clearly need some time to understand it. The weapon is enclosed within a shield when it is dropped, and the shield must be popped to pick it up. My advice to all you squidkids out there: pay attention to your surroundings before you pop the shield! I average around 15 kills in this mode, simply because people are staring with tunnel vision at the Rainmaker, ignoring everything else. Teamwork is essential, since movement speed is lowered while holding the weapon. Moving with a squad to protect the Rainmaker feels great, similar to how protecting the payload cart feels in Team Fortress 2.  Okay, I think I'm caught up now with the major Splatoon updates. Unless they just announced one while I was typing this....did they?
Splatoon updates photo
So much new content
It seems like every time I boot up Splatoon, Callie and Marie are telling me about something new added to the game. Weapon variations are added all the time, and just recently, a big 2.0 patch hit. New gear, new types of weap...

Weekend Deals: Star Wars: Battlefront and ARK Survival Evolved up to 25% off

Aug 15 // Dealzon
Top Deals Use code: SAVE23-WITHGM-GAUG15 Star Wars: Battlefront (Origin) — $46.20  (list price $60) Need for Speed — $46.20  (list price $60) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (Steam) — $46.20  (list price $60) <- yep numero tres Fallout 4 (Steam) — $46.20  (list price $60) Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide (Steam) — $20.79  (list price $30) Celestian Tales: Old North (Steam) — $7.51  (list price $13) <- JRPG nostalgia  No code needed: ARK: Survival Evolved (Steam) — $22.49  (list price $30) Xbox One Halo Master Chief 500GB Bundle — $299.99  <- just added Sat afternoon Xbox One 1TB Console Halo: Master Chief Collection — $349.99  (list price $400) Xbox One 1TB Halo MCC + AC: Unity + Gold Live 1 Yr — $399  (list price $399) Wii U + Super Mario 3D World + Nintendo Land — $249.99  (list price $300) PlayStation Plus 12-Month Card — $39.99  (list price $50) Upcoming Releases 08/18: Final Fantasy Type-0 HD (Steam) — $20.79  (list price $30) 09/03: Company of Heroes 2 - The British Forces (Steam) — $10.92  (list price $13) 09/01: Mad Max (Steam) — $27.32  (list price $60) 09/30: Might & Magic Heroes VII (Uplay) — $38.50  (list price $50) 10/13: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege Gold Edition (Uplay) — $67.49  (list price $90) 11/03: Anno 2205 (Uplay) — $48.95  (list price $60) PC Game Deals Telltale Games Collection (Steam) — $69.30  (list price $180) Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series — $13.86  <- Telltale DRM Mortal Kombat X (Steam) — $11.72  (list price $60) Tales from the Borderlands — $11.55  (list price $25) Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Steam) — $10.54  (list price $50) Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation (Steam) — $9.24 <- new low! Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 (Steam) — $8.09  <- ditto The Wolf Among Us — $6.55  (list price $25) The Walking Dead: Season 1 (Steam) — $4.81  (list price $25) Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People (Steam) — $3.85  (list price $20) Console Game Deals Destiny: Taken King Legendary - Requires Prime (XOne, PS4) — $49.99  (list $60) Project Cars (PS4, Xbox One) — $29.98  (list price $60) Battlefield: Hardline - Pre-owned (PS3, X360) — $14.99  (list price $60) Resident Evil: Revelations 2 - Pre-owned (XboxOne, X360) — $14.99  (list $40) Dragon Age: Inquisition - Pre-owned (Xbox One, PS3) — $14.99  (list price $40) Evolve - Pre-owned (PS4, XOne) — $9.99  (list price $40) PS4 Borderlands: The Handsome Collection (PS4) — $35.99  (list price $60) Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD Remaster (PS4) — $34.99  (list price $50) Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward (PS4) — $27.99  (list price $40) Destiny (PS4) — $17.99  (list price $40) PS3 Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward (PS3) — $24.99  (list price $40) Bound by Flame - Pre-owned (PS3) — $12.99  (list price $20) Far Cry 4 - Pre-owned (PS3) — $12.99  (list price $40) Wii U Mario Kart 8 (Wii U) — $44.99  (list price $60) Mario Party 10 (Wii U) — $34.99  (list price $50) Batman Arkham Origins (Wii U) — $9.99  (list price $20) Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge (Wii U) — $6.99  (list price $30) ZombiU (Wii U) — $6.99  (list price $30) Laptop Deals 15.6" Alienware i7-4710HQ, GTX 970M — $1,349.99  (list price $1,600) 15.6" Lenovo Y50 i7-4720HQ, 16GB, 512GB, GTX 960M — $1,299  (list 1,780) 13.3" Alienware i5-4210U, 1440p, GTX 860M, 16GB — $840.99  (list price $1,500)
Weekend Deals photo
Deals to browse, you must.
Star Wars: Battlefront, Need for Speed, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, and more pre-orders are 23% off this weekend at GMG after coupon. The code has actually been available all week at GMG but only started to work on ...

Review: Toy Soldiers: War Chest

Aug 11 // Chris Carter
Toy Soldiers: War Chest (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Signal StudiosPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: August 11, 2015MSRP: $14.99 (base game), $4.99 (premium armies), $14.99 (all four armies) The gist of Toy Soldiers is that it melds together elements of RTS and action gameplay, with both a top-down camera and the ability to jump into turrets and control infantry units. You'll start off with an empty battlefield and a base (much like tower defense), with specific plots in which to build turrets. These range from anti-infantry guns to satellite-based artillery, depending on which army you choose. All of them have upgradable capabilities like more range or more damage, but at a cost of cash, which you'll slowly accrue during each round. In short, there's a decent amount of strategy involved despite the fact that the flow is rather fast-paced. You can jump into any turret at any time, and easily switch between them by way of the d-pad. Once you've earned a super by killing enough enemies, you'll be able to take control of your hero unit, or do something flashy like call a bomb strike. The campaign is really fun, and that's mostly due to the amount of variety packed into it. You'll have the option of controlling four base armies -- the World War-themed Kaiser, the sci-fi Phantom, the My Little Pony-like StarBright, and the fantasy-based Dark Lord. Everyone has their own themed units, levels, and turrets, and again, they all have different functionality. It's especially fun to take control of a hero unit while your turrets do their thing automatically, sprinting about the battlefield, throwing grenades, dodging, and sniping enemies at will. While this is a timed ability, you can gather battery pickups to increase said timer, before you're taken back to the RTS and turret viewpoint. [embed]302923:59932:0[/embed] The campaign is meaty enough to justify the purchase of the base game (more on that later), but there's also two-player local co-op, and a four-player online mode, which can be both public and private. Local play was pretty flawless in my testing sessions, but online games took a little while to populate, likely due to the fact that the game only launched today. While the core experience is great, I have an issue with the way it's packaged, namely by Ubisoft. For one, the frame rate, even on a current-gen system like the Xbox One, can drop a bit during heavy waves. It's not a game-breaking drop, but it's annoying all the same, especially since Toy Soldiers isn't all that demanding visually. Another issue is the inclusion of microtransactions. Now, like most Ubisoft games, they aren't required and the game doesn't feel weighted towards them specifically, but the fact that they're there for in-game currency feels odd. To top things off, Uplay is crammed in there as well. This is further exacerbated by the premium army pricing scheme. While the base game with the four aforementioned themes is $15, you'll need to pay $15 more (or $5 per) to net all of the new armies -- you know, the exciting ones -- G.I. Joe, Cobra Commander, Ezio, and He-Man. This brings the price up to $30, which doesn't feel quite right. The good news is that these guest stars are worth it; they look and feel differently enough compared to the vanilla forces, complete with their own signature looks and sound effects. They also play in a unique way, as He-Man and Ezio focus on melee damage, and the G.I. Joe duo are ranged. While I won't begrudge the inclusion of an Assassin's Creed character (it makes perfect sense), two G.I. Joe additions feel like a wasted slot -- imagine instead if there was a Transformers army (foiled again by Activision!), or even something wild like Swat Kats. I have problems with the way Toy Soldiers: War Chest is packaged, but thankfully it does uphold the same classic focus on strategy and action. You'll have to foot the bill for those costly licenses, but it's mostly worth it, warts and all. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Toy Soldiers review photo
I...have..the power! (of DLC)
Over the years, I haven't really paid that much attention to the Toy Soldiers series. I mean, I played them a bit, but never truly gave the games their due. With War Chest however, the crazy injection of nostalgic I...

Review: Galak-Z: The Dimensional

Aug 05 // Chris Carter
Galak-Z: The Dimensional (PC, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: 17-BitPublisher: 17-BitRelease Date: August 4, 2015 (PS4) / TBA (PC)MSRP: $19.99 The way Galak-Z presents itself is by way of "seasons," which are supposed to be set up in a way that mirrors a television show of sorts. Players must complete five missions per season without dying, otherwise they'll be forced to start over from the beginning of that season. It's a way to justify the roguelike elements of the game (notably permadeath) and provide players with some respite for failure. While the idea actually works from a narrative standpoint, I found this style to be a bit more frustrating than it should be. Rogue Legacy handled progression brilliantly, allowing players to slowly accrue upgrades and "lock" maps into place when they wished. Similarly, Spelunky's shortcuts felt organic, like you were exploring a giant labyrinthine maze that was seemingly connected. Here, seasons feel isolated and disconnected -- you're essentially just completing randomly generated levels one after another. This is easier to swallow because of the endearing anime style of the game. It's a love letter to classic franchises like Gundam, but it manages to pack in a ton of 17-bit's signature look, from the decals plastered on the ships to the delightful VCR-styled menu screens. I also love the minimalist approach to storytelling, as each level may provide you with unique tidbits on the game's world, which are remixed, so to speak, after death. Having said that, I think the voice acting is dreadful, and not in a "so bad it's good way." Thankfully there isn't a whole lot of it. In terms of gameplay, this isn't a standard twin-stick shooter -- it's much deeper than that. After a quick tutorial, it's fairly easy to get the hang of the forward and reverse thrusters, the latter of which allow you to moonwalk (moonboost?) backwards to continue engagement. Pressing both of them allows you to brake, which provides pinpoint movement, as well as the ability to thrust cancel whenever you feel like it. Oh, and you can also press square to "juke," which has a little effect of your ship coming out of the screen and dodging bullets. It's really cool. Check out the full control scheme here. [embed]297236:59841:0[/embed] Sound plays a factor in the game as well, as a blue ring around your ship displays how far enemy units can hear you. Yep, your goal is going to actually be avoiding combat as often as you can, because again, death is a big deal in Galak-Z, and it sort of plays into the Last Starfighter vibe that the story is going for. It's also good then that shields can withstand environmental impacts for the most part and regenerate after a few seconds, so you won't have too many frustrating deaths. While permadeath is hard-hitting, you can earn temporary upgrades that will help you avoid your demise, exchange "Crash Coins" for instant upgrades, and locate blueprints, which grant the in-game shop permanent fixtures for future playthroughs. Note that while that blueprints are stocked for every session, you will still have to buy them with scrap (currency you'll find in the world), so you truly are restarting with nothing to your name most of the time. That right there is probably going to scare a lot of people away. While I generally don't mind a learning curve, there is some tedium involved -- more-so than most roguelikes. While many games don't have clear "objectives," and would rather see you explore at your own pace, the chopped-up level scheme doesn't always gel in terms of pacing. For some missions, I was able to fly right into a really unique area like a lava cave, blow up some bugs, and escape with a jump point relatively close to the objective. For others, I had to fly through a long network of caverns, find a boring box, blow it up, and then fly back for upwards of five minutes just to complete that stage. But for every randomly generated disappointment, there's an array of fun moments. Since multiple factions will attack each other in-game, it's a joy to pit them against one another, and slowly reap the benefits from afar with your missiles and all of the wonderful toys you've acquired through your current season. I don't want to spoil the transforming mech bit too much, but suffice to say it adds yet another layer on top of everything, and is just as satisfying as it sounds. Getting through a season and learning all of the tricks involved over time provides a clear sense of accomplishment, and you'll need to put in some work to reap those benefits. I wish Galak-Z: The Dimensional wasn't so fragmented, because the core experience is a treat for roguelike and space combat fans alike. Even 15 hours through I was still seeing new items and upgrades, which is a testament to its lasting power, warts and all -- I just need to take breaks from the tedium every so often. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
Galak-Z review photo
Amuro Blu-ray
There aren't enough mech games out there. I mean sure, I grew up with Mechwarrior, G-Nome, Armored Core, and Heavy Gear, among countless others over the years, but it's still not enough. It's never enough. While Galak-Z does have some issues, it does manage to keep the dream mostly alive.

Sam Lake explains Quantum Break's television show tie-in

Aug 05 // Steven Hansen
[embed]297184:59794:0[/embed] What's weird, though, is that while my suspicion and low expectations haven't changed even as the game has, there's some magic in hearing Remedy's Sam Lake tell it. Few can string together scripted nonsense like "intense story-driven action game spectacle" and still seem genuine with a kind of unassuming, unironic grin. It's adorable At one point Lake noted that the team destroyed yet another giant ship in the demo we were shown. "We are destroying another ship here as we did at last gamescom," Lake said, explaining that Remedy doesn't hate ships or the shipping industry. "We love shipping. Shipping games." Pause. "Hah hah." That was a "hah hah," not a laugh, and a perfectly delivered one. So we've seen "I'm a super badass baby-faced dubstep killer" wreck house on crews of heavily outfitted corporate military already and it's a little goofy as the guy in jeans and a Guess jacket brushes off assault rifle fire. He's aided by the time powers granted by a failed time travel experiment that is bringing about the end of time (hah). Time Rush allows Jack to run forward with time stopped, either to avoid environmental obstacles in platforming sections or to combo into running punches. Time Dodge is a quick dash out of harm's way or into an enemy to bump them a bit. Time Blast is an offensive projectile, Time Shield is a bubble shield, and Time Stop freezes time in one focused area. Some of Monarch's soldiers are outfitted with fancy backpacks that give them some of these powers, too, so you're not just up against folks shooting you. Quantum Break is "a story about warring philosophies," Lake says. The fatalist antagonist thinks the future can't be changed or fixed no matter what, the protagonist thinks that's bogus. The game focuses on the perspective of the latter, while "the show is about villains," focusing on the Wire half of the cast and what's happening at evil Monarch. So how does it work? "You first play through an act of the game, Lake says. "It culminates in a special scene that is the junction moment, where you make a choice," which opens up an episode of the show "based on the choice you make." So you get roughly 22 minutes of programming tailored to your decisions. And all of Quantum Break is "shaped by your choices." The given example of a junction moment is where evil corporate bad guy Paul Serene has to either: 1) kill a student activist who's witness to some shady things or 2) threaten to murder her family to bend her into submission. Both bad, one less bad, I suppose. Her death, should you choose, is reflected in the protest scene from last year's trailer. On the other hand, should she live, she becomes Jacks ally, helping to dig up dirt on Monarch. Sometimes these two parts of the game weave even closer. A live-action conflict between Monarch folks who've captured Jack ends at an anticlimax as their guns disappear and Jack is shown to have gotten away. On the game side, there's a cutscene of Jack waking up in the back of the van, noticing the conflict outside, and escaping (and gun jacking) during a time skip. With Xbox having killed its original programming arm, Lake also clarified that, "the game and the show ship together as one item."
Not skippable photo
'[They] ship together as one item'
It's been over two years since I first side-eyed Quantum Break, the television show and third-person shooter hybrid from Remedy (Alan Wake, Max Payne). Quantum Break finally has a release date it probably won't be delayed out...

Kamiya: Scalebound 'not a simple action game that Platinum is known for'

Aug 05 // Steven Hansen
[embed]297186:59795:0[/embed] Kamiya noted that Scalebound is, "a story about Drew...who has been transported from our modern world into this fantasy world," and by some held back plot point ends up in union with Thuban, the last of his kind. Very Dragonheart. Drew's devil may care attitude (and Devil May Cry Dante comparisons), "might be too early," according to Kamiya, who noted Platinum has released little information thus far. The "partnership between Thuban and Drew" is one of the many themes, both within the mysterious story and in gameplay. You're able to issue the AI-controlled Thuban basic commands which fall into 1) attack (at varying levels of scorched earth) and 2) fall back a bit. The latter is important because Thuban's stronger attacks can wipe enemies clean out of existence. If Drew downs them, he is able to crystallize them and collect the resulting red gems which can be used to customize Thuban. It's a bit weird you can actually change what kind of dragon he is, but hey, RPGs. "Pulse" drives the world of Draconis with its floating islands and colorful palette. It's also what powers Drew's Mega Man buster cannon-reminiscent pulse shot and the "colored accents on Thuban." I believe Kamiya called them green and I don't want to disagree, but they look pretty blue to me. I will ask my mother.  Aside from incentivizing you from not leaning too much on Thuban through the gem system, the demo continued past defeating the mantis boss in the trailer and into a much more narrow area where Thuban has to fly ahead and thus isn't free to use in combat. That means that, because of Thuban, "the world can't be too small," so there'll be plenty of open plains like the ones seen in the trailer. Other tidbits: Drew's transformation is "dragon mode" as it stands. Some trailer-like features montage showed off a large, NPC-filled city. There is also some sort of skill point system that seems like it's based on how well you perform combat. Drew also has access to a wide variety of weapons (halberds, enormous anime swords, etc.) that appear to be housed in a block-based inventory system (think Resident Evil 4). And, as learned yesterday, there's four-player co-op. "As kind of a policy for myself when I start creating a game, I am not creating to please everyone," Kamiya said. "My job is that you fall in love more and more with what I created." From what has been released, this feels like the most straightforward Platinum/Kamiya game. Basic action RPG stuff is appropriate for trade show reveals. Still, I think as crazy story details and mechanics are unveiled en route to the holiday 2016 launch (crossing back into the modern world? increased dragon skills and combo attacks?), I will get more and more into what is already a pretty, nice looking action game.
Scalebound at gamescom photo
Customizable dragon
First, note that I wanted to get Scalebound's Hideki Kamiya to say, "Ask your mom" on video, but gamescom meetings are too tight, too perpetually behind to get much good one on one in. Still, I got to see an extended playthro...

Dark Souls III wears its Bloodborne influences on its sleeve

Aug 05 // Chris Carter
Our demo started out in an era called the "Wall of Lodeleth," which to me, looks like a mix between the Undead Burg and Boletarian Palace. The layout was fairly linear, but offered up a ton of surprises like the standard "dragon guarding loot" offshoot, and a mini-boss of sorts. Lodeleth was multi-tiered, and featured a number of side rooms accessed by way of ladders, as well as some rooftop shenanigans. It was par for the course, but still felt right. Combat as a whole is quicker, which is likely a direct response to Bloodborne changing the game. Rolls and dodges are faster, and enemies as a whole feel faster, too. It's not quite "fighting game" fast, but it's a comfortable medium between Souls and Bloodborne, which I'm more than okay with. One big addition is "Battle Arts," which are basically super moves triggered by different equipment combinations. "Not all shields parry now," I was told by Bandai Namco producer Brandon Williams, and you can see that distinction by way of an icon on the item itself in the lower-left equipment corner. A shield icon denotes a defensive action, and a sword icon is more aggressive. In this instance, it allowed my axe to power up for a short period, granting me a damage boon, which was depicted by a glowing aura on my weapon. In essence, it's a more "on-demand" spell system for folks who prefer direct combat -- I say bring it on. My personal style for Souls games involves using the shield as blocking insurance, but not necessarily for parrying, so I'm all for this change. As a note, these are limited-use abilities, and will recharge at a bonfire much like flasks. As I made my way through the demo, I eventually encountered the only boss, the Dancer of the Frigid Valley (1:45 in the trailer). Based on my experience, it was very similar to Bloodborne's Vicar Amelia fight -- for the most part attacks are easy to dodge, but if you get caught up, you're going to get punished, and possibly one-shotted. The boss also sports a flaming sword, which produces chip damage even if you block, forcing you to be more aggressive. It was a standard but fun fight. [embed]296887:59812:0[/embed] One problem area I noticed during my hands-on session however was the frame rate. There was often times a lot of enemies on-screen, but it chugged on all of those occasions. Bloodborne was 30fps as well, but it's high-time that the series moved on without needing a re-release to bring us into higher territory -- Scholar of the First Sin is incredibly smooth at 60fps. For reference, the build we played with seemed to be PC-based, using an Xbox One controller. Another sort of more personal issue I had was the fact that it felt a little too samey. As I mentioned above, Lodeleth felt like an amalgamation of existing areas in past Souls games. Even something like Huntsman's Copse in Dark Souls II, which is for all intents and purposes a "forest area" that had been done before, felt like something completely different. Bloodborne was a breath of fresh air, providing a unique perspective with a harrowing blight and a darker tone in general. With Dark Souls III, I'm distinctly getting the feeling of "more Souls," which for the most part is a good thing, but did wear on me a bit even during my brief time with the game. It took me roughly 30 minutes to make my way through the demo area and defeat the Dancer -- of which I was the first in the group to do (though Steven beat the boss in one shot!). At the end of it all, amidst the claps from my colleagues and the Namco Bandai reps, I felt that sense of accomplishment that I've felt since downing the Phalanx boss in Demon's Souls. I think Dark Souls III will be fine. [Disclosure: Bandai Namco provided travel to the event, as well as dinner.]
Dark Souls III preview photo
I also see a few problem areas
It's crazy to think that we're on the verge of yet another Souls game right after Bloodborne and Scholar of the First Sin. From Software doesn't seem to rest, and as soon as the studio has wrapped up one project, it's on...

Review: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: Reckoning

Aug 04 // Chris Carter
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: Reckoning DLC (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Sledgehammer Games (Current-gen) / High Moon Studios (Last-gen) / Raven Software (Zombies)Publisher: ActivisionReleased: August 4, 2015MSRP: $14.99 ($50 Season Pass for four packs) Let's kick things off with Overload, the sexiest map in Reckoning. Taking place in a giant Middle Eastern hotel complex, it has all of the pizazz you'd expect, and more. It's a great mix of indoor and outdoor environments, with a layout that keeps you in the action while allowing you to have condensed firefights. It allows the Exo movement and jetpack mechanic to really breathe without confining it like some maps in the past have. It also has these little tesla coil things littered about, which are basic in their functionality (an area-of-effect jolt when shot), but very cool aesthetically -- plus, they sound really neat. Next up is Swarm, a map set in a ruined Korean city. It's nice to see the series return to a setting like this, as I enjoyed "Magma" in Black Ops II. There's plenty of windows to boost into and buildings to hide in, and the map lends itself to vertical movement well. They really go with the destruction theme, and there's a ton of detail present that I wasn't expecting. It's another great showing for Reckoning. Fracture is an ice level that reminds me of The Thing, in a good way. The backgrounds are very detailed, and the smaller, more intimate theme works to its advantage. It's basically all outdoors, which gives it a distinct feel compared to the rest of the DLC. Although Array from the original Black Ops is probably my favorite snow map in Call of Duty history, Fracture does the frozen sub-genre proud. Quarantine, the last of the four core maps in Reckoning, gives off a distinct Walking Dead TV series vibe, which I dig. It also feels like it has a Call of Duty 4 theme with its simplicity, but it's not as vertical as I hoped it would be. The general gist is that the arena is a testing site for experiments on primates, complete with tons of banana boxes and even a room full of live test subjects. It's a rather generic theme, but it must be said that I do enjoy playing it in the rotation. I wouldn't consider it a wasted slot. [embed]297123:59780:0[/embed] Now, onto the best part -- the zombie level. Following along with the narrative that saw the demise of John Malkovich's character (and the debut of Bruce Campbell), and his ascension into zombie-hood, Descent is one of the most unique zombie stages in the entire series (the one that featured mafia ghosts withstanding). It straight-up feels like you're in a Bond villain base, which is partially true as Malkovich is there to taunt you every step of the way as you navigate your path through an underwater testing site. As you make your way through each wave, various power-ups will start to appear at the top of the deck, which you can periodically gather. These range from standard stuff like turrets, to more interesting mechanisms like defensive AI robots that float around your character. Everything feels much more action-packed and desperate, with more firepower and abilities to match the more aggressive enemies. At times, Malkovich will teleport you to a room for a boss fight session of sorts, with different hazards to avoid (like laser grids above you, preventing double-jumps) and a variety of enemies to best in close-quarters. It's a sight to behold with four players, as power-ups are constantly appearing in this secluded room while you fight for your life. Again, intensity is what they're going for here, and it really works. I'd have to think about it for a while, but it may be the most fun I've had with zombies since first playing World at War. I mean, Malkovich actually says the line "The teleporters are mine now, bitch," to give you an idea of what I'm talking about here. At the end of the day, I'm happy with what Sledgehammer Games (and Raven) brought to the table with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare as a whole. Though it'll be tough to dethrone the current kings of the franchise (Treyarch), I have more confidence in their follow-up than before, and I'm eager to see what they can come up with next. At this point Infinity Ward is a lame duck, and the odd developer out. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
Call of Duty DLC review photo
Did John Malkovich just call me a bitch?
So here we are with the Reckoning DLC pack, the last add-on for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare after Havoc, Ascendance, and Supremacy. All in all, it's been a great ride, and slowly but surely, each map pack has improved upon the last. It's great then that Advanced Warfare is going out with a bang with its best DLC yet.

Review: World of Tanks

Aug 03 // Brett Makedonski
World of Tanks (PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: WargamingPublisher: WargamingRelease Date: July 28, 2015 (Xbox One)MSRP: Free-to-play (with microtransactions) Really, World of Tanks treads the line uneasily that all massively multiplayer online titles do: How do you make a game like this rewarding and nuanced for experienced players, yet inviting and engaging enough for a new audience? Extrapolating from that (and more importantly): How do you convert both Group A and Group B into dollar signs? Wargaming doesn't always do a great job of it, as its intentions often seem paper-thin. That aforesaid selfishness is where the moneymaking lies though, and it can come at the expense of the experience. World of Tanks on Xbox One gives people no reason to press forward except for personal gain. Being killed in a match means it's the end of that match as far as you're concerned. Sure, one could theoretically watch the rest of the round through the cameras of other players, but literally no one will do that. Instead, they'll head back to the garage, hop into another tank, and try again in a different match. This was my exact experience for much of my time with World of Tanks. After several hours of playing (but possibly more spent in loading screens), I checked my stats to see that I had a victory rate of just about 50 percent. That's not bad at all, but I had no idea. Worse yet, I didn't really care. I only cared about the currency dripfeeding into my account at the conclusion of each match. That's all World of Tanks wants us to care about. [embed]296821:59762:0[/embed] The last statement is made obvious by the way which Wargaming organically introduces players to some later-game content. During matches, it's not completely uncommon to come up against an opponent that seems literally invincible. Your ammunition will do next to nothing to it; it will dispose of you with the disdain of a Midwesterner swatting one of a thousand mosquitoes on a humid July night. That is your goal -- you want to be that guy. Make no mistake about it: World of Tanks is a continual left-to-right surge through a spiderweb of tanks you don't yet have, but might have very soon. Those first few come relatively quickly and the progression feels real. After that, everything gets slower. Each match contributes, but less so than before. Looking ahead through that web, some of it seems unattainable (or at the very least, extremely far off). World of Tanks wants your time or your wallet -- pick your poison. Fortunately, giving it your time isn't the worst option. World of Tanks can be rewarding. Every hit landed on another player is satisfying. Blowing them up is exponentially better than just damaging them. Surviving the entire match, destroying several on the other team, and/or capturing a base might just make you feel like you're General Patton. You start to think "I'm getting better. If I keep playing like this, those end-game tanks will be mine in no time!" These are the immutable highs of World of Tanks. It's simply enthralling when you set off on a literal warpath and cut down everything in your way. This is the meat of the game, and it's a prime cut. Excelling at tank-play against other humans feels very, very good. At this point, imminent defeat in the next match is all but assured. That's where World of Tanks is at its worst. Barring the progression frustrations, it's all too often that you'll feel like your opponents know something you don't. Their death machines are probably superior to yours, sure. Still, they'll angle their tanks in such a way that they never expose the weak part of the armor that you didn't even know was weak. They're really good, and you're not sure how to get to that level. The game doesn't teach you, and it doesn't seem like you'll ever learn on your own. It's very unintuitive. For everything that might appear impossible, what you do pick up on your own is invaluable. It isn't long before rushing in looks like a fool's game. Flank, hide, proceed with caution. These vehicles may be harbingers of destruction, but you can't treat them as such. Each minute movement actually means something when you're in the thick of it. These are the times when you'll feel a strategic sense in World of Tanks. Suddenly, things aren't so bad again. Everything seems possible, at least. And, that's what World of Tanks thrives on -- a cyclical mindset between frustration, slight progression, and back to frustration. There are intermittent spurts of elation peppered in occasionally in the event of an outstanding performance. Otherwise, it's right back to not quite understanding why others know more than you do. Which poison did they pick? Time or wallet? Or, heaven forbid, both? Anyone who truly appreciates World of Tanks won't need a review to guide them. They're already well beyond the long barrier to entry. Everyone else will likely find themselves similarly on the outside looking in. There might be something special to World of Tanks, but it's not something that's immediately apparent; it's something that only shows itself after a significant investment. The gameplay can be rewarding at times, but most won't have the patience (or the money) to ever get to that point. Thus, World of Tanks won't ever be more than a quick detour on the way to something that's easier to comprehend. [This review is based on a retail build of the free game downloaded by the reviewer.]
World of Tanks review photo
Pick your poison
World of Tanks is a selfish game. It acts selfishly in that it hides information from its players, expecting them to figure out any and all intricacies on their own. Similarly, it asks its userbase to roll into combat as...

Review: Rare Replay

Aug 03 // Chris Carter
Rare Replay (Xbox One)Developer: RarePublisher: Microsoft StudiosReleased: August 4, 2015MSRP: $29.99 From the moment I booted it up, Rare Replay was not only charming, but welcoming as well. I love the carnival style menus with old timey posters, as it's a nice little touch that clues us in on how much work went into it. The menu is very clearly defined and every game is detailed in a straightforward way, from the number of players to the release year. In addition to 10,000 achievements, there's also a "stamp" system that works as an internal record keeper of sorts, which unlocks various video extras. Said videos are basically miniature documentaries, ranging from takedowns of Rare, to existing games, to cancelled projects, and are very well done. I was really surprised by how interesting these clips were; even the more drab ones are filled with lots of new information. The menus are responsive as well, and after clicking a game, it takes roughly five seconds to load. It's crazy how much Rare thought of, as Replay includes built-in instruction manuals, auto-save functionality, and three save slots per game. There's also emulator-esque tools at your disposal, like quick saving in older games, cheats like instant rewinding (conveniently mapped to the left trigger), a toggle for infinite lives, and even a CRT monitor filter. All in all, it's a wonderful package presentation-wise. As for the games themselves there are 30 in all, 15 of which can probably be considered "retro" even by older gamers' standards, dating before 1994. That includes staples like the incredible Battletoads and Snake Rattle 'n' Roll, as well as a handful of more obscure games like Gunfright and Underwurlde. My time with a lot of these titles has been rather mixed, as some of them are too dated for their own good, but most of them absolutely hold up as arcade-like experiences. [embed]296727:59711:0[/embed] Having said that, the "Snapshots" mode (basically a challenge gametype with bits and pieces of select titles) is an excellent way to become acclimated to some of these games. Tasks range from typical score attack sessions to beating specific areas with specific limitations, to survival challenges. The best part? You can score over the goal and test your might by way of leaderboards. There are 16 games in all with Snapshots, and six more challenging multi-game playlists. As you start to move into the mid-'90s, more of the "classic" Rare fare starts to shine, like Blast Corps., Banjo Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and Jet Force Gemini. All of the games that had multiplayer enabled still have it within the ports themselves, and it was incredibly easy to just turn on another Xbox One controller and go at it with another player. One game I didn't expect to love was Battletoads Arcade, which was never released on a home console before Rare Replay. On the other hand, if I had to pick the worst game in the package it would probably be Killer Instinct Gold, which is a bare-bones version of the second game. It kind of makes sense though, as Killer Instinct 1 and 2 already exist on the Xbox One in the form of Killer Instinct 2013 bonuses, so Gold's inclusion is still unique. The modern games are pretty much all great, including Viva Piñata, one of the best zen garden simulators to date, and Jetpac Refuelled, a standout game on the Xbox Live Arcade, even today. Kameo, which was not a great full retail price launch title all the way back in 2005, is a great little extra in Replay, and is worth playing. At the end of the day the selection of games is superb, and one of the only missing games I wanted was GoldenEye. In case you're wondering, yes, every game that supported online play still does so in Rare Replay, though I wasn't able to test out this extensively before launch -- we'll provide updates if there are any issues after launch. For clarity on a few technical things, all of the Xbox 360 games are provided as separate installs by way of the disc (Banjo Kazooie, Tooie, Nuts & Bolts, Perfect Dark, Zero, Viva Piñata, Trouble in Paradise, Jetpac Refuelled, Kameo), but have full Rare Replay's features, and holding the start button still conveniently brings you back to the core menu. There's a wonky little first-time setup on the Xbox 360 side of things, but once it finishes you're all good. Since a lot of these games are still at least $10 on the Xbox Live Arcade, $30 for the lot (and more) is a great deal. Rare Replay is a new milestone for compilations. A great deal of care was put into the project, and 30 games is enough meat to ensure that everyone will really enjoy at least half of them. I sincerely hope this is the start of a revival of the classic Rare we know and love. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
Rare Replay review photo
From the Stamper garage to Microsoft
The first Rare game I ever played was Snake Rattle 'n' Roll in 1990, but the company has been around for quite some time. Vs. Slalom was technically Rare's first title. Tim and Chris Stamper, the heart and soul...

Weekend Summer Sales: GameStop, GamersGate, & PSN

Aug 02 // Dealzon
Weekend Top Picks PS4 DualShock 4 Wireless Controller + Free Charging Station — $59.99 PlayStation TV — $29.99  (list price $80) <- use code EMCAWAK35 Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel + Season Pass (PC/Mac) — $14.61  <- pick AUD as currency to get this USD price. SteamPlay key. Duke Nukem Forever (PS3) — $1.99  (list price $4) <- two bucks too many? Summer Sales GameStop Summer Sale Evolve (Steam) — $29.99 (list price $60) <- population: muy poco Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth (Steam) — $19.99 (list price $50) NBA 2K15 (Steam) — $19.79 (list price $60) Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (Steam) — $19.79 (list price $60) SimCity: Complete Edition (Origin) — $7.49 (list price $30) Alice: Madness Returns Complete Collection (Origin) — $7.49 (list price $30) Command and Conquer The Ultimate Collection (Origin) — $4.99 (list price $20) Mirror's Edge (Origin) — $4.99 (list price $20) Titanfall Digital Deluxe (Origin) — $4.99 (list price $20) GamersGate Summer Sale The Talos Principle (Steam) — $13.60  (list price $40) Blackguards 2 (Steam) — $12  (list price $30) Saints Row Ultimate Franchise Pack (Steam) — $11  (list price $55) Saints Row IV - Game of the Century Edition (Steam) — $7.50  (list price $30) Unity of Command Trilogy Bundle — $6  (list price $30) Saints Row IV (Steam) — $4.99  (list price $20) Dead Island GOTY Edition (Steam) — $4.99  (list price $20) The Inner World (Steam) — $3  (list price $15) Bridge Constructor (DRM-Free) — $2.50  (list price $10) PlayStation Store The Order: 1886 — $27.99 (list price $40) <- tehee? Driveclub — $24.99 (list price $40) Deadpool — $20 (list price $50) Ender of Fire — $8 (list price $20) Tetris Ultimate — $4 (list price $10) Recent Releases 07/30: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor GOTY (Steam) — $40  (list price $50) 07/29: Absolute Drift (Steam) — $8.64  (list price $12) 07/28: Kyn (Steam) — $16  (list price $20) 07/28: Legend of Kay Anniversary (Steam) — $14.40  (list price $20) 07/23: Better Late Than DEAD (Steam) — $5.60  (list price $7) 07/21: F1 2015 (Steam) — $39.49  (list price $55) Upcoming Releases 08/15: Armikrog (Steam) — $18  (list price $25) 08/18: Final Fantasy Type-0 HD (Steam) — $21.60  (list price $30) 09/01: Mad Max (Steam) — $48  (list price $60) 09/02: Act of Aggression (Steam) — $30.60  (list price $45) 09/30: Blood Bowl 2 (Steam) — $36  (list price $45) Console Game Deals Dragon Ball Xenoverse (PS4, Xbox One) — $39.99  (list price $60) Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (PS4, Xbox One) — $29.99  (list price $60) Dying Light (PS4, Xbox One) — $29.99  (list price $50) The Crew (PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360) — $19.99  (list price $40) Destiny (PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3) — $19.99  (list price $40) Far Cry 4 (PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC DVD) — $19.99  (list price $40) Laptop Deals 17.3" Asus ROG i7-4710HQ, 24GB, GTX 970M — $1,299.99  (list price $1,650) 17.3" Asus ROG i7-4720HQ, 12GB, 1TB + 256GB SSD, GTX 960M — $1,199.99 15.6" Lenovo Y50 i7-4720HQ, 16GB, GTX 860M — $949.99  (list price $1,660) 17.3" Lenovo Y70 Touch i5-4210H, 8GB, GTX 860M — $899  (list price $1,200) Game deals from Dealzon. Sales from certain retailers help support Destructoid.
Weekend deals photo
Everywhere you look
August is still summer and thus the sale train continues. EA titles were understandably missing-in-action during Steam's Summer Sale back in June - so if you want historic low prices on Titanfall Deluxe or SimCity Complete, t...

Review: Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight

Jul 31 // Chris Carter
Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight (3DS)Developer: AtlusPublisher: Curve DigitalRelease Date: August 4, 2015 (US) / February 12, 2016 (Europe)MSRP: $49.99 (Atlus tax) For those unaware, the Untold portion of the moniker denotes the inclusion of an all-new story mode, complete with preset characters and a new narrative. It sounds weird, but any Etrian fan knows that the series started off with dungeon-crawler roots, and thus, allowed players to basically create and customize whoever they wanted --with a loose story binding it all together. Thankfully, The Fafnir Knight includes both gametypes and multiple difficulty options for players of all backgrounds If you spring for the new setup, the tale starts off with low-key princess protection duty with your childhood friend Flavio, but quickly evolves into a grand tale of adventure to seek out the city at the bottom of the Yggdrasil Labyrinth. Early into the fray, your hero awakens their true power -- the Fafnir Knight class, capable of transformation. While the story itself isn't as memorable as a lot of recent JRPGs, it's still a fun enough narrative with a cast of likable characters. The dialog in particular isn't riveting stuff, nor is it laugh-out-loud funny; it's serviceable, which is essentially how I feel about Etrian in general. Dungeon crawling is basically the same as always (now with the enhanced 3D style), and with Fafnir Knight, you'll have the ability to manually map out your findings on the bottom screen. Or, if you're feeling a bit more conservative, it can automatically populate. FOEs have returned, which are basically giant superbosses present throughout the game. [embed]296957:59744:0[/embed] Like many JRPG superbosses, they aren't easy to best. You'll generally have to avoid them early on or risk instant death. Since they're visible on the screen, it's easy to see where they're coming from however, and you'll have to either deduce their patterns or use trap items to fool them. It's a nice little diversion, and returning later on to defeat a pesky FOE is a great feeling. Don't think that a more concise campaign implies that the formula has been dumbed down, as players will still be able to create an initial avatar and customize the classes of story characters. There is a caveat: you'll need to sacrifice five levels to switch classes. Additionally, you can't just call upon the guild to create new characters at will. To further muddy the waters, the Grimoire system seeks to mix things up a bit, as you can now equip party members with items that allow them to tap into additional classes. However, it feels extremely limited in nature, as most of them are a random drop, and it took me hours to find the few specific tomes I really wanted. It's an odd gambit by Atlus even in the confines of the Fafnir story, as the Etrian series has always prided itself on full customization. It's a bit easier to forgive once you dig into the new cooking mechanic, which has been expanded in an unprecedented manner. Now, you can customize ingredients and discover new recipes to craft as you cook your way to statistical bonuses for your adventures. Eventually, this diversion works its way more and more into the story. The Duke of the main town allows you to potentially earn a profit from the restaurant as you expand and re-invest in the town. It's a nice little meta-narrative and adds some lightheartedness to the game. Classic mode is of course, utterly different. It's a less limited tale featuring a mysterious labyrinth, and the experience is more about the journey than a real story. You can register new party members at will, and you're free to choose from over 10 classes at the start. It's very intimidating for non-RPG fans, so I recommend trying out story mode first. And really, that's what's so great about the Untold series -- it allows new players to acclimate without holding their hand too often, and still provides a way for hardcore fans to create limitless combinations of parties to their heart's content. Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight is a remake that's perfectly timed and well crafted, despite the fact that the formula isn't quite as fresh as the wholly new Etrian IV (I really miss the more open-ended maps). Now all Atlus needs to do is remaster Etrian III, and it'll have all four core entries ready to play on the 3DS. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
Etrian Odyssey 2 review photo
A worthwhile update
It sounds crazy, but 2008 was a long time ago. That's when Etrian Odyssey II was first released for the Nintendo DS, and seven years later, Atlus has decided to bring it to a new audience with The Fafnir Knight. While a few of the advancements from later games don't translate perfectly, it's still a worthwhile dungeon romp, and another great entry in this storied series.

Review: The Swindle

Jul 31 // Zack Furniss
The Swindle (PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox One)Developer: Size Five GamesPublisher: Curve DigitalRelease Date: July 28, 2015 (PC, PS3, PS4, Vita) / July 31 (Xbox One) / TBD (Wii U)MSRP: $14.99 I'll be honest, this review didn't come out on release day because I couldn't beat the fucking game in time. The Swindle starts off simply enough: the robotic police force that defends all of that sweet future funding projects a light in front of them indicating their line of sight. If you take a second to observe most obstacles and enemies, chances are you'll understand how they'll react in any given situation. That's the beauty of Size Five Games' newest creation: through its hand-drawn art and deft understanding of visual cues, a glance at your surroundings is usually enough to convey all of the information regardless of your location. With a general lack of tutorials, it's appreciated that there was a strong knowledge of mise-en-scène (ha! I've justified taking that one directing class now) involved in The Swindle's creation. A successful robbery goes as follows: from a side-scrolling perspective, your scoundrel will arrive at a procedurally-generated location ripe for the plucking. With a combination of climbing, sneaking, and watching, you just might be able to walk away with a considerable sum of money. Small vaults/chests/containers are strewn about, but aren't worth much. Computers (which are hacked through deliciously tense QTEs) are where you'll want to focus your efforts, as they offer the best payday. If you're spotted, you run the risk of dying and losing your character, though your purchased abilities are universal. The police will send increasingly deadly forces at you, but you can still get away if you reach your escape pod without dying. For the first 40 days or so, I felt like I was building a slow, subtle mastery over my surroundings. Though I started by robbing the poor to work my way up, the ramshackle security systems were enough to keep me vigilant. The intricacies of wall-climbing became more familiar to me, and various upgrades to my thieves expanded the possible approaches available at each newly-generated building. I watched many of these swindlers embrace sweet death via bullets, failed hacking attempts on explosives, and oh-so-many plunges off of tiled roofs. Each time, a new one rose with a new outfit and name: Lafeyette Weedbruiser lasted six successful heists before a wheelchair-clad robot shot her down from a magnificent double-jump. I eventually earned enough money to move onto the warehouse districts and the mansions. Each area was progressively more difficult but offered more lucrative lucre. I bought bombs, money-accruing bugs, and the ability to hack doors and security systems, feeling as though the Devil's Basilisk would be mine with days to spare. It wasn't until I purchased the right to try to pilfer from the casinos and banks that I hit an iron wall of challenge. Instead of skulking into buildings with multiple access points and hacking easily-reached computers for big bucks, I was relegated to picking up chump change and scrambling back to my escape pod before the tenacious security bots spotted me during one of my many slip-ups. The titular swindle is actually the final stage, where you attempt to steal the AI device. You need to be prepared for the big event by having the right tools and upgraded thieves, but you also need to pay for entry. Saving up £400,000 is already hard enough; however, failure requires you to pay the whole amount for each successive attempt. Since you'll be spending your hard-earned money on necessary upgrades like teleportation, triple-jumps, and being able to stop in the middle of a wall slide (seriously, buy this), that buy-in price makes an already difficult game feel ludicrously unfair. There are ways to buy extra days towards the end, but the price goes up each time. That's the game over screen, which I saw at the end of multiple attempts at all 100 days. I'm not one to balk at a challenge, but the finite lives combined with the money requirement of the last level feel like an artificial attempt to gate willing players away from the ending. I have no doubt that somebody is on Twitch at this very moment, controlling The Swindle with Donkey Konga drums ghosting through the final stage, but the vast majority of players will mostly find the latter half of the game frustrating. I think it's telling that most of the coverage I've read has only shown screenshots of the first few stages.  There's also the weird bloom effect that permeates some of your jaunt through London. While it makes sense to have your vision obscured when the alarms are blaring and the lights are flashing red, occasionally the screen is bloomed beyond belief and you can't discern the minutiae on the screen. I've committed almost-perfect crimes, hacking security systems and clearing out guards, only to land on an explosive I could barely see. Get used to seeing starbursts of paper money explode from your fresh corpses for the slightest of transgressions. The collision on spike pits also is a bit wonky, and I've died a fair few times just for standing close to one. Depending on the kind of player you are, you might just start finding exploits to accelerate your progress. I'm not all that ashamed to admit that I took advantage of bugs, which seem to go against the whole risk/reward theme of The Swindle. If you get close to a computer, you can place a bug that will siphon cash to your account at a rate of £/second. This goes directly to your account, so you can avoid having to run back to the escape pod to keep whatever you earn. The thrill of sneaking off with a sack full of cash is somewhat diminished when you can place a bunch of bugs and wait by the exit, but I found myself relying on this method in order to actually reach the Devil's Basilisk. Since hacking is accomplished via directional QTEs, you can just spin the stick in a circle without punishment (unless it's a mine, which will explode upon an incorrect input). I only did this once out of curiosity, but it feels like an unnoticed exploit. Hacking is my favorite part of the game, so I couldn't cheat myself out of that experience without feeling like a sad sack. For the record, I played on a gamepad, which was much more comfortable than the keyboard layout. The Swindle is nowhere near an entirely negative experience. It's a festival of moments, of anecdotes filled with failures and smiles. I found myself holding my breath as I hacked a computer with just enough time to dodge three heavy guards coming my way, jumped over two electricity traps, clung to a wall to let a patrol pass, and bombed myself a new escape route. These pockets of perfection kept me hooked, and made me boot up The Swindle again and again in order to preserve this world of rogues. That, and my dedication to you guys. Now, the Devil's Basilisk is for all of us to share. You're goddamned welcome. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
The Swindle photo
Steal shit, get hit
A band of thieves in Steampunk Victorian London has been tasked with preventing Scotland Yard's creation of the ultimate surveillance device: The Devil's Basilisk. If they fail to swindle said device in 100 days (read: lives)...

Neverwinter: Strongholds might get me back into the game

Jul 31 // Joe Parlock
Building your Stronghold [embed]296961:59747:0[/embed] With the goal of providing “interesting and meaningful experiences to guilds”, the process of creating and upgrading your guild’s stronghold is at the heart of the expansion. All buildable structures and upgrades are ultimately decided by the leaders of the guild, but those goals are worked towards by every member through the “Coffers” system. Coffers are the total resources available to a guild to help build up their stronghold, and they’re separated into three categories: materials, which are found in the lands surrounding your stronghold such as lumber; treasures, which are earned by playing through the campaign zones of the wider game such as the Dread Ring campaign; and stockpiles, the normal loot, gold, and astral diamonds players earn throughout the game. Finding these resources ensures creating a good stronghold for your guild isn’t just a case of the leaders fiddling with the UI; every member of the guild would have a role to play, be it collecting resources or planning out where structures will go.  Once there are enough resources to build a new structure in the stronghold, or to upgrade an already existing one, the guild leaders can then start the work of upgrading, while also setting the next goal for the guild to work towards. However, the amount of upgrades you can apply to a structure depends on the overall level of the guild’s keep. While structures have a maximum level of 10, the keep can grow up to level 20. However, structures can’t out-level the keep, so sometimes an effort must be made to upgrade the keep rather than simply rushing for all the new and shiny buildings. As players donate these hard-earned resources to their guild’s coffers, they are awarded guild marks with which they can buy new gear and items for themselves at the marketplace. It’s a way of incentivising altruism among the guild, and is one of the few times in the game players can make decisions for themselves that aren’t directly linked to the decisions of their wider guild. Another way the guild must coordinate in building their stronghold is in the new added boons. Boons are passive bonuses granted to players, and in Strongholds, structures can be built to grant the entire guild specific types of boons. There are currently four categories: offense, defense, utility, and Player vs. Player (PvP). The catch is not every type of boon would available for a guild at the same time, as there are only a limited number of boon structures that can be made. This requires decisions to be made about how players within the guild will be buffed. An example given would be a raiding guild may put more emphasis into PvP or offensive boons to increase their power. The boons in each category would be optional for each individual player, however what type of boon is available is up to the guild. It’s a neat mechanic, as now other players who you’d regularly play with have an active impact on how your character works, and how these buffs influence your character may well change in the future. Should the guild decide to change an offensive boon structure to a defensive one, the boons you previously had would no longer apply. It’s interesting, however I could also see it causing some conflict within guilds. The area given to a guild to build its stronghold on is the biggest zone Neverwinter has ever seen: it is three times bigger than the biggest previous one. The zone is split into multiple, smaller themed areas, each with their own enemies and quests. For example, there may be faetouched areas, or there may be areas that are more desolate, and different enemies may be encountered in each one. It’s nice to see some variance in the zone, as Neverwinter does have a problem of each zone being its own themed thing that gets boring sometimes: the snowy zone, the desert zone, or the city zone and nothing but that. Some areas will be sealed off and hidden until the stronghold has been built up and expanded on, but what’s interesting is that the future of the zone isn’t entirely known even to Perfect World yet. The strongholds system is planned to be expanded upon over the course of at least the next two expansions: Strongholds and a currently unannounced expansion after that. According to them, being “done” with building a stronghold simply isn’t possible, as new structures and boons will be made available in future updates.  While there is a storyline planned out for Strongholds and the expansion after that, the specifics of what sort of boons and structures will be included in them are apparently down to player feedback and community suggestions. New Player vs. Environment Content Building up a guild’s stronghold isn’t the only new addition to Neverwinter. Alongside it comes a new range of player vs. environment content, much like in the previous expansions before it. However, a lot of this will still directly help your stronghold grow. Firstly, the act of actually acquiring your guild’s new keep will be part of a quest line that changes as the stronghold grows. At first, your guild and a travelling band of Orcs will both arrive at the same time, causing there to be multiple skirmishes and missions available. Finding guards, protecting farms, and driving off Orcs to ensure that your keep is safe in the early days. As the keep levels up, new enemies will start to appear in the zone. For example, the second phase of the zone involves mercenaries appearing to try and steal the keep from you, giving you multiple quests involving dealing with them. The zone’s campaign appears to play out in much the same way as previous campaign zones such as the Dread Ring have, however there is also the added dimension of it being dependent on your keep’s level. Of course, there will also be a series of daily quests available from your stronghold’s steward too, and they will also help guide players to the next of their campaign quests. Greed of the Dragonflight That’s all pretty standard expansion stuff: more of what Neverwinter players will be used to. What’s particularly interesting is the major new boss fight that occurs in the Strongholds zone. Dubbed Greed of the Dragonflight, the boss is designed to be played by guilds of 40 or more players who must coordinate and plan out how to take down four powerful dragons simultaneously across the map. If one dragon is killed, the other three will flee shortly afterwards, requiring guilds to figure out which players are best suited to take on each dragon, and make sure all four of them die at the same time. Doing so will net the guild huge rewards, some of the most powerful items in the game, according to Perfect World. However, failure to nab all for dragons doesn’t mean nothing was gained. Due to some guilds not having enough players to take down all four dragons, there is a sliding scale of what rewards are given. The more dragons the guild can kill, the better the loot given. What I saw of this event reminded me of my favourite bit of Neverwinter: the timed boss events. Instances are great, questing is fun, but seeing the alert to head to an area of the map to slay as big-as-hell lizard was always really cool to me. It’s involving, it’s hectic, and it looks as though adding in the extra element of needing to size up who takes on which dragon will make it all the more satisfying when the guild succeeds. The difference between normal timed events and Greed of the Dragonflight is that it isn’t only a timed event. Due to a large amount of player requests, Perfect World is allowing guilds to trigger the event manually whenever they like, and so it could become a pretty big part of guild social life somewhere down the line. A New PvP mode inspired by MOBAs Player vs. Player in Neverwinter has been the centre of Perfect World’s attention for a while now: originally offering a fairly basic 5v5 arena mode, an open-world PvP was later added in Icewind Dale, and of course Strongholds will be adding even more for those who like stomping other players. The PvP added to Strongholds is a 20v20 Guild vs. Guild mode, which when I first heard about it reminded me a lot of Guild Wars 2’s World vs. World feature. However, it appears as though the new mode is being more inspired by the likes of Dota and League of Legends. This isn’t a compulsory feature, guilds must queue up to enter the mode. Once in the game, guilds will find their strongholds and surrounding lands “glued together”, with a river separating the two. The MOBA inspiration comes on the emphasis of controlling the various lanes between the two strongholds, while pushing forward and sieging the enemy guild. Perfect World has also catered to smaller guilds that might not have 20 players online at a time. When in queueing, if a guild has enough players to spare, they will be transferred temporarily to the other guild and fight for them instead. It’s a nice way of evening the playing field, but it will also be interesting to see where their alliances lie once the match is underway. It’s worth noting I didn’t get to actually see any PvP in action, due to the problems setting up a game with 40 players just to show me it would’ve caused. As such, all of this is only how it was described to me by Overmyer. Final Thoughts As previously mentioned, I’ve got a fair amount of experience with Neverwinter, however the lack of something to keep me interested once I’d finished the story quests meant I dropped out of the game soon after. Guilds have always been something in MMOs I’ve had an interest in, but never found the right match – I always ended up in quiet, inactive guilds where nothing ever happened. Strongholds looks like it wants to solve both of my problems, while giving me more of the solo content that got me into the game at first. I’m somewhat concerned that finding decent guilds might still be tricky, but maybe the new toys guilds can play with will convince people to give running guilds a go. PvP has never been a big interest of mine. I got into Rift’s quite a bit, but still eventually found myself going back to questing. Neverwinter in particular has been quite notorious for equipment you can buy in the store being perceived to be more powerful than stuff you can earn in-game, which always put me off PvP. However, if it’s true that the rewards from Greed of the Dragonflight are some of the strongest in the game, it could go a way to fix that problem. Overall, I’m excited. I’m definitely going to be going back into it just to see how all of these new mechanics change how people interact within guilds, if at all. Plus Dragonflight is a condensed version of everything I like about Neverwinter, which is great. Neverwinter: Strongholds will be released on August 11 as the next free expansion on PC. Neverwinter is free-to-play on both Xbox One and PC.
Neverwinter: Strongholds photo
An in-depth look at all the new stuff
On August 11, Perfect World will be releasing the latest expansion to their Dungeons & Dragons-based MMO Neverwinter, Strongholds. With its action-based combat, fantastic locations, and relatively simple mechanics, N...

New update and DLC out for Super Smash Bros., preview it here

Jul 31 // Jed Whitaker
Stages: Peach's Castle (64) Hyrule Castle (64)  The stages include their music and a few extra tracks as well.  Mii Outfits: Bear (Gunner) King K. Rool (Brawler) Flying Man (Brawler) Chrom (Swordfighter) Black Knight (Swordfighter) Lloyd (Swordfighter) Samus (Gunner) Hoodie w/ Smash Bros. logo (All) Also, I'm proud to announce an impromptu Super Smash Bros. Destructoid tournament for Wii U! The tournament is now live and joinable by searching for "Destructoid.com" and is open up to 100 participants. You have until Sunday at 8:00pm ET to fight your way to the top, then I'll reveal the results on the site and give you a shoutout. Huzzah!  One last thing...
KING K. ROOL & KK SLIDER photo
Smash Bros. Wii U tournament!
The new update for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS is out in the wild now, bringing with it new stages, Mii costumes, tournament mode, and balance changes. Included for free in the update is a K. K. Slider costume for th...

Windows 10 is now available, these are the gaming features you might care about

Jul 29 // Jed Whitaker
The start menu is back and why are we celebrating this!? A big complaint about Windows 8 was the removal of the basic start menu for the Metro system with live tiles, tailor made for touch screen devices. As most of us probably still use Windows with a mouse and keyboard it wasn't a great solution. It had some apps running in basically their own full screen only windows, thus defeating the purpose of... you know... windows. Thankfully Windows 10 fixes this by combining the old school easy-to-use start menu with the flash and flair of live tiles from Windows 8 Metro start menu. The apps now launch in their own resizable windows instead of full screen only, and plenty of them can be downloaded from the Windows Store for free. Windows Store for those of you who haven't heard of Steam The Windows Store includes plenty of games you can play with your Xbox Live friends and even earn Achievements, but most of them are just ports of casual mobile or Facebook-style games. However, you can find Project Spark on the Windows Store, which runs far better on PC than Xbox One. In the future you can look forward to the sexy free-to-play Gigantic which I quite liked at PAX East this year. Halo's Cortana is the new voice assistant you'll most likely ignore Cortana is to Windows as Siri is to iOS devices, that is to say she is a personal assistant that can be used via text or voice. Cortana is voiced by Jen Taylor, just like in the Halo series, and can do all kinds of tasks such as scheduling appointments, setting reminders, opening apps, and even chatting about Halo and Master Chief. I honestly haven't used Cortana too much but I don't really dig voice assistants, as they don't always seem to understand what I'm saying; even Cortana had trouble understanding me while using my professional grade microphone. Even on my iPhone I've literally only used Siri to call Buffalo Wild Wings instead of adding them to my contact list because I'm too lazy. Voice assistants seem more geared towards business than common folk like me. The Xbox app with game streaming from Xbox One is actually decent The Xbox app is free on Windows 10 and gives you access to all your friends, messages, achievements, clips and even allows you to stream games from  your Xbox One. Streaming from the Xbox One requires an Xbox controller (360 or One) be connected to the system which at time of writing can only be done via USB, though a wireless dongle is coming. The Xbox app also allows you to record gameplay and take screenshots of any game on your PC, whether playing on Xbox or not via a handy keyboard shortcut (Win + G) and pop-up toolbar. Game streaming works about as well as you'd imagine. I just played a match of Halo 2's SWAT -- a game mode requiring precision aiming due to requiring headshots for kills -- in which I came in the middle of the pack with over ten kills. There was a smidgen of noticeable lag at one point, but not enough to really affect the gameplay enough to matter. Video quality-wise there was a bit of artifacting but only if I really looked for it, even with both my desktop and Xbox One running on wired connections. Also the "Xbox record that" voice command won't work during streaming, so you'll have to use Xbox apps keyboard shortcut to record directly onto your PC that way. Supposedly better performance out of your current graphics card with DirectX 12 To save you all the geeky technical talk just know that DirectX 12 allows many graphics cards to have majorly increased performance in comparison to previous versions, meaning you might be able to play at higher resolutions with better settings on your current setup. For more details check out this informative video from AMD.  I personally haven't seen much real world increase in graphical performance, but I'm running on an Nvidia GTX 980 that could already max out all the games I was playing on Windows 8 previously. Perhaps you'll see some gains? Minecraft: Windows 10 beta is a thing that exists If you are one of those people who must have every version of Minecraft possible then good news, you can get the Windows 10 beta for free if you already own a PC copy of the game. Details on how to get the beta are at the Mojang site. I just attempted to do it and it is only allowing me to download the trial version, so your results may vary. This version of Minecraft allows you to play with up to seven of your Xbox Live friends at once and eventually even play with mobile players. I guess that is probably exciting for someone.  -- Windows 10 has plenty of other new features, most of which just let you do what you'd normally do more efficiently such as new ways to snap windows, a new task view, automatic updates, and the Microsoft Edge web browser that is probably the fastest browser currently on the market. Edge doesn't currently support extensions, which is keeping me from switching from Google Chrome at the moment. I've been using Windows 10 on my main system for quite a while now with no issues and with all my games and applications working as intended. Windows 10 is easily the best operating system I've ever used as it allows me to play, work, and relax more efficiently and effectively. It has been worthwhile for me.
Best Windows yet? photo
Pizzazz, pizzazz, Windows 10 is here
Windows 10 is now officially available, and those who have Windows 7 or 8 can upgrade for free, which is a pretty good price for what I consider the best version of Windows yet. Windows 10 packs a bunch of new features, including some nice extras for Xbox One owners. Here is an overview of new features you might care about as someone who plays games.

Review: Life is Strange: Dark Room

Jul 28 // Brett Makedonski
Life is Strange: Dark Room (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One[reviewed])Developer: Dontnod EntertainmentPublisher: Square EnixRelease date: July 28, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) Interestingly enough, Dark Room largely betrays the pacing set forth by the previous three installments. Those chapters had a tendency to meander as Dontnod built the world and its characters. There wasn't anything inherently bad about that. Actually, now that the game's nearing its conclusion, it's paying dividends. We're invested in the story surrounding Arcadia Bay. Still, Dark Room is always tugging at your sleeves, trying to guide you somewhere. The stakes in this episode have been raised to a degree that doesn't lend itself to killing time. Urgency permeates the entirety of Dark Room. Rushing from one location to another advances the plot as things escalate steadily, and there's not always a chair handy to take a mental breather. As quickly as things move, a lot of the brilliance behind this episode comes in the form of finally tying together past events and seeing how they cause everything to shake out. There's some resolution, even if it's not full resolution. Dontnod has proven that it expertly laid the framework to affect future encounters. One particular instance comes in the form of another spat with a familiar antagonist. The branching paths can lead to several outcomes, none necessarily more optimal than the next. [embed]296752:59714:0[/embed] Another prime example is very un-Life is Strange, and maybe the only time Dark Room just sat still for a minute. Max has a board of clues that she must use to put together some damning evidence against someone. Putting on Max's sleuthing hat, the puzzle requires carefully finding related documents and grouping them in a sensible way. Odd as it may have seemed, this section nicely conveyed a sense of inter-connectivity and broke up the episode's breakneck speed. The rest of Dark Room's high points were the bleakest moments the game has seen, none of which should be discussed here. This episode doubled down on grim material and somber social issues. The absolute best thing Dark Room does is that it still somehow manages to present most of this (and the characters tied to it) from a complex perspective. It's not dealing in blacks and whites -- even though it's completely expected by now, given the nature of the subjects. The more time spent in Life is Strange, the more obvious it is that this isn't the game we may have originally thought. The supernatural won't overshadow the social issues. The rewind mechanic often doesn't feel like an option because you want to live with your decisions. Somehow, Dontnod resisted the urge to lean on these aspects, even though they'd be the easiest to lean on. The game's immeasurably better off for it. So, after another cliffhanger ending, we're left awaiting the conclusion and with no real idea where the narrative might go. Dark Room has been the most masterful installment in Life is Strange thus far, and it sets us hurtling toward the finish line. If the first 80 percent is any indication, it probably won't be a "happily ever after" ending. Only one thing's certain, though: that ever-present throat lump will be along for the ride.
Life is Strange review photo
Super Max
I played the fourth episode of Life is Strange with a lump in my throat. You know, the sort of uneasiness that puts a slight pressure behind your ears. The lump waned and grew with the chapter's crescendos and decrescend...

Review: King's Quest: A Knight To Remember

Jul 28 // Chris Carter
King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: The Odd GentlemenPublisher: Sierra EntertainmentReleased: July 28, 2015MSRP: $9.99 per episode / $40 for the "Complete Collection" To be clear, this isn't a true continuation of the series, but rather, a "re-imagining" with the same characters, and some of the same events. For the most part, this new rendition is going to tell side stories that happened between the games over the course of five episodes -- A Knight to Remember is the first. There's plenty of fanservice scattered about to keep old fans happy, but newcomers won't be lost in the slightest in their first foray into Daventry -- it's a great balancing act. When I first booted up the game, it was seemingly taking a low-key Ico-like approach, which I really dug. The protagonist didn't talk much initially, and you're thrown into an unknown situation that sets up the rest of the tale. It immediately reminded me of a Don Bluth project, with beautiful scenery and interesting character designs. There are a few areas I encountered that had some screen tearing issues, but nothing that affected my enjoyment significantly, or crashed the game in any way on Xbox One. Slowly but surely the game opened up and started to become more talkative, at which point I immediately fell in love with it. The way the game is framed is through the narration of King Graham, who is telling his granddaughter the tales of his youth. Christopher Lloyd plays an older Graham to perfection, with plenty of "grandpa puns" and lots of heart. You can tell he's really enjoying it and isn't phoning it in like some stars might (Destiny), and in fact, the entire cast is one of the most organic collective of characters I've ever seen in a game. There's tons of great references to classic films like The Princess Bride with a welcome appearance from Wallace Shawn, and even direct references to characters like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. While I don't want to spoil the surprises, they're done with the utmost respect to the source material, and never approach the level of an annoying forced meme. It helps that the game's animations are incredible, and it's hard to not laugh out loud when you see Graham frantically running with his arms flailing about like Disney's Ichabod Crane. In fact, I've never laughed so hard at a game in my life -- trust me when I say that's not an exaggeration. I particularly like how the game handles death with the Grandpa Graham narration mechanism, which even makes failure funny. There's also a few hilarious references to characters "remembering that" from Telltale games, and a clever use of the narration technique in other ways. For instance, there's one part where you're walking on a log, and after going over it again, Graham mentions that it would be repetitive if he had to explain that bit over and over to his granddaughter, so it transports you to the other side. It's convenient and charming in the same breath. One thing I need to mention is that the game is not as hardcore as past King's Quest titles, which is to be expected. The narration element sort of clues you in sometimes to the solution (which again, is done very well), and I really like how the game focuses in on objects you are currently trying to use a piece of equipment on, to eliminate any nasty instances of pixel-hunting. There's also plenty of choices to be had that change the story in smaller ways, like leaving tips in a collection plate in any empty store, or bigger conundrums that promise more of an impact in future episodes (stay tuned to future reviews to see how this plays out). While the first hour or so of the roughly five hour adventure is rather linear, the game opens up significantly after that, with a large sandbox that isn't as massive as a classic adventure game, but big enough to roam around in. There's also some third-person obstacle dodging, mild on-rails platforming, and several first-person aiming sequences. There's a few quick-time events but they are very few and far between, which is a nice touch, as modern adventure games use them as a crutch far too often. Of course, A Knight to Remember also has several puzzles as well as some memory work involved, which are well executed. So yes, it's much more involved than your average Telltale game. I wish King's Quest: A Knight to Remember was a bit more taxing, but I loved everything about it. If this series does well I hope we get to see the adventures of other family members like Alexander, and additional areas like the Land of the Green Isles. Right now though, I'm going through withdraws for the second episode already. Move over Telltale, there's a new adventure king in town. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Kingís Quest review photo
A kingly modern classic
Not all revivals or remakes instill a sense of nostalgia within me. For instance, if we ever got that sequel to Kabuki Quantum Fighter we were promised in the original's credits, I wouldn't be all that excited. But King'...

Review: N++

Jul 28 // Chris Carter
N++ (PS4)Developer: Metanet SoftwarePublisher: Metanet SoftwareReleased: July 28, 2015MSRP: $19.99 If you haven't played N+ before, you're in for a treat. This series is predicated on tough jumps, pinpoint controls, and a physics system that's built on momentum. All you can really do with your ninja avatar is jump, but you'll be able to use acceleration and specific leaps to your advantage. It's a platforming fan's dream, as nearly every level presents a unique challenge that will force you to master every facet of the control scheme. The general layout of the game is also dead simple. You have 90 seconds to complete each level, and picking up gold along the way increases your timer. On every stage you'll need to brush against a switch to open up the exit door, then make your way to said door. It's cleverly paced, as you can choose to go for as little or as much gold as you want -- though hardcore players will likely want the clear bonus earned for picking it all up.N++ is massive in size, and to properly convey just how big it is, let me just give you a concise breakdown: Solo:600 new N++ levels125 Intro 600 Legacy Co-op: 300 N++ 50 Intro 120 Legacy Race: 300 N++ 25 Intro 120 Legacy Yeah, that's a lot of levels right? What I really like about the campaign in particular this time around is that it does a better job of acclimating players to the game, and all of the different concepts within. These arenas are short enough where you won't get bored learning the basics, but you'll be adequately prepared for what's next. While I finished most of the solo stages, I wasn't able to complete them all, and I played for roughly 30 hours. Co-op is particularly fun (with up to four players), as some stages specifically require people to suicide into hazards to let the other player complete the level. Races are also a rush, requiring one player to get to the goal first, and while they operate similarly to the solo sets (they can even be played by yourself), they can get crazy with multiple people, and if you really want, you can play the solo stages with friends. Sadly, there's no online play to be found for any mode, which is a disappointment. In terms of extras, I like how the game keeps track of crazy stats like how much of your time was spent in the air, on the ground, and on the wall, and there's a ton of really cool UI and visual filters to unlock and test out.  If you're so inclined you can also create levels with all of the available tools used to develop the game, and share it online. Even pre-launch there's already over 100 levels up, and the coolest one I found automatically takes you through a giant level without pressing anything. Others are more artsy, with messages and poetry that gradually appear on-screen. N++ might lack online play and feel like more of the same, but it's pretty much everything a platformer fan could want out of a sequel. It's still challenging, it has a boatload of levels, and it's a hell of a lot of fun to play. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
N++ review photo
Go ninja go, again
I don't think anyone could have predicted to success of the original N+. I was sitting around my dorm, playing Devil May Cry 3 for the billionth time, and my friend came in and said "dude, you have to play this game." It...

Review: Five Nights at Freddy's 4

Jul 24 // Nic Rowen
Five Nights at Freddy's 4 (PC)Developer: Scott Cawthon Publisher: Scott Cawthon Released: July 23, 2015MSRP: $8.00 The setup of Five Nights 4 intentionally replicates the design of the first game. The original cast is back, their avenues of attack directly mimic their first outing, and the general layout of your besieged room is the same, making this entry feel like closing a loop. But, this time instead of haunting a creepy knock-off Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, they're spooking up your home instead. There are no more security cameras to monitor, no more batteries to fuss over. You're just a little kid with a flashlight, scampering between the two doors into his room and whatever might be lurking in his closet (or right behind him). The type of sense you rely on has been inverted: instead of keeping an eye on things, this time you'll be listening for whatever is out there. When you creep up to a door you have to pause, wait a moment, and listen for any kind of breathing or noise in the darkened hallway. If you hear something, you need to shut the door as fast as you possibly can. If it's clear, shining your flashlight down the hall will ward off anything stalking towards you. If you're wrong though, and the monster is right there, and you shine your flashlight right into its toothy mechanical face, well, it's is the last thing you'll ever do. What this means mechanically, is that you need to absolutely crank up the volume to reliably hear things. Headphones are nearly required. Of course, the jump scare death animations are as loud as ever. Do you see where this is going? Sonic fucking boom. If you want to know if this game made me yelp, or jump, or spill my coffee and send me trudging to the kitchen for a roll of paper towels while I swore angrily under my breath -- yes, it did. Of course it did. It's a cycle of protracted periods of peering into the darkness and intensely listening to absolutely nothing interrupted with SUDDEN. LOUD. JUMP. SCARES.   [embed]296612:59683:0[/embed] It's an easy, dull, and obvious trick. The final refuge for a game that has run out of any other ways to scare people. Don't think of anything new and clever, forget introducing any kind of gameplay twist, or carefully establishing tension or mood. Just take the basic components, crank up the contrast, pump up the volume, and jam the severity. It's trite, lazy even. I'm not sure how the inevitable Five Nights at Freddy's 5 will be able to top this kind of “subtlety.” Maybe it will come with a pair of electrodes you attach to your testicles, so it can administer 5,000 volts of spookiness every time something goes “boo.” *BZZZZZT* What, did that make you jump? Sissy. There are a few other tricks. Monsters introduced in later nights operate with slightly different rules, and by the time the fifth night rolls around, you'll be sprinting all over the bedroom trying to keep things locked down. Unlike previous games though, the rules don't feel tight. Things are sloppier, with more guesswork and chance baked into the experience. When I died, I often had no idea what I did wrong. And if I'm being honest, when I succeeded I wasn't always sure why. Frustrating deaths and unearned victories are equally unsatisfying in their own way. The animatronics' logic was never clear enough to me to come up with a reliable strategy to keep them at bay. I supposed that could be intentional, a way of always keeping even seasoned players on their toes, but I think that's giving the design credit it doesn't deserve. More than any other Freddy game so far, I just felt exasperated and annoyed playing through Five Nights 4.   The emphasis on carefully listening for every creak and groan in the darkness isn't just a lame way to manufacture easy scares. It's also a way to ruin one of the greatest pleasures I've had with the series, namely playing the game with an audience. While others sneer at Freddy's for being pure Twitch/YouTube bait, I've always understood it. I get why these games are fun to watch because I know how well they play in the living room with a couple of spectators and rotating victims. There is a real joy in playing these games with someone else or two in the room to watch you screw up. To have a small chorus whispering “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit...” behind your shoulder as the tension mounts. Of having someone to exchange nervous glances with when the doors stop working and it's 5 AM going on 6 AM and there is just the tiniest chance that you might roll over to the next day before Freddy pops out and – “OH GOD HE'S IN THE ROOM!” Those were moments I missed while I played Five Nights 4. What I'd think about while I was all hunched up in my chair with a pair of headphones clamped on tight. The memories that made me feel like a traitor whenever I violently shushed anyone in the room who made even the slightest distracting peep. However you played the previous games, know that this Five Nights is purely for the lone wolves and streamers out there who don't mind strapping on their pair of overly-expensive, sound-canceling Beats By Dre. But enough about how I resent the bargain-basement scares and penny-ante tricks the game uses to provoke a response from you. Enough about how this game is profoundly annoying and deeply unimaginative on a mechanical level. As a person who has followed the series since its start, the most damning part of this boondoggle of a game is how it absolutely folds under the pressure of its own established narrative. After all the teasing and hints, the essay-length forum posts and amazing fan-made theory videos that manage to be more entertaining than the games themselves, the promise that THIS Freddy's will be the one to finally answer the series long-standing questions -- it completely flubs the landing. All of the world building and story momentum generated by the first three games lurches to a disappointing stop, like a wind-up car gummed up with carpet lint. Yes, the infamous “bite of '87” is finally addressed in Five Nights 4. But like so many smoke monsters and Cylon replicants, the mystery was always better than any answer the series could reasonably provide. You see it, say “meh” to yourself, and retroactively wonder what the big deal was in the first place. The fact that this kind of anti-climax is common doesn't excuse Five Nights 4 of its wet noodle narrative and limp “reveals.” If anything, all of those previous failures should have been taken as cautionary tales, the value of mystery should be known and respected by now. Some questions are better left unanswered. It doesn't help that the way the game wraps up heavily implies that the events it depicts should not be taken literally. Yes, the tired old “it was all a dream/nightmare, or maybe a metaphor, or like a weird trippy memory, I don't know” trope is dusted off once again, so nothing is particularly clear. That's without getting into how the chaotic mass of prequels, reveals, and reinterpretations the games have constructed now threatens to collapse into a superdense black hole of no-longer-giving-a-shit at this point. I almost broke out a whiteboard trying to figure out the series' mythology at this point. “Okay, so this game is set in '87 to see the infamous 'bite,' around the same time as the prequel events in Five Nights 2. But it's also BEFORE the murders of the children that haunt Five Nights 1 and what you find out happens with Springtrap in Five Nights 3. The Purpleman doesn't really have a role, but he does show up in a cameo. Wait, are the kids in the last cutscene the eventual murder victims? Oh god, I'm seeing spots. Is this a migraine, or am I having a stroke? Do I need to call 911? If I die, are they going to find my body splayed out in front of a computer with a bunch of crazy notes about Five Nights at Freddy's? Am I going to end up as some shitty urban myth about how Five Nights totally killed a reviewer?” This game is stressful in all the wrong ways. The now familiar Atari-esque mini-games appear between chapters to deliver their payload of exposition and spooks, but all the menace of those scenes has been lanced and drained by repetition. There is a new sort of mini-game between nights where you play Weeping Angel stop-'n'-go with an animated plush doll. Stop him on a specific mark and you can knock two hours off the next night. Let him get too close or run out of time and, you guessed it, JUMP SCARE! It's the one new addition Five Nights 4 brings to the table, and it feels like the shadow of a reflection of an afterthought. You don't need to play this game. Even if you've been invested in the series up till now, it's just going to disappoint you and rankle your nerves. The interesting gimmicks have been completely rung out of the franchise; this game is imaginatively bone dry. The louder, nastier jump scares that are left are just a crass attempt to try and distract you from the lack of innovation. The story, the ongoing mystery of Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria, and the strange goings-on surrounding it are best left to your personal headcanon or favorite fan theory. You'd be better served experiencing Five Nights at Freddy's 4 the way it was obviously intended to be enjoyed. By going on YouTube and watching some twenty-five-year-old, dressed like a fourteen-year-old, scream and cry his way through the game like a seven-year-old. The game truly has come full circle. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Five Nights 4 Review photo
This guest has overstayed its welcome
Well, it's been a few months, time for another Five Night at Freddy's game I suppose. I don't like to be cynical. I don't volunteer to review games, and pay for them out of my own pocket, hoping that they'll disappoint me and...

Asassin's Creed titles hit new low price as PC Summer Sale continues

Jul 24 // Dealzon
Top Deals Games Planet 2015 Summer Sale<- new low on lots of titles Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin (Steam) — $20.99  (list price $50) Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (Steam) — $13.99  (list price $60) NBA 2K15 (Steam) — $11.62  (list price $60) Act of Aggression (Steam) — $29.45  (list price $45) <- access to multi-player beta PlayStation 4 Batman: Arkham Knight Bundle — $369.99  (list price $450) Dead: Xbox One 1TB Halo: MCC Bundle + $50 Gift Card — $399.99  (list price $400)** Xbox One Halo: MCC 500GB Bundle + $50 Gift Card — $349.99  (list price $400)** Recent Releases 07/23: Better Late Than DEAD (Steam) — $4.31  <- yep another open-world survival 07/21: F1 2015 (Steam) — $39.49  (list price $55) 07/20: Breach & Clear: Deadline (Steam) — $10.32  (list price $20) Upcoming Releases 09/29: NBA 2K16 (Steam) — $46.20  (list price $60) 09/30: Blood Bowl 2 (Steam) — $34.65  (list price $45) 11/10: Fallout 4 (Steam) — $46.20  (list price $60) <- 23% off returns PC Game Deals Games Planet 2015 Summer Sale Assassin's Creed Rogue (Uplay) — $25.19  (list price $50) Assassin's Creed Unity (Uplay) — $21.70  (list price $60) Football Manager 2015 (Steam) — $15.49  (list price $50) Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (Steam) — $8.90  (list price $40) Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag (Uplay) — $6.19  (list price $30) GOG EA Catalog Sale SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition (DRM-Free) — $7.99  (list price $20) Jade Empire Special Edition (DRM-Free) — $5.99  (list price $15) Lands of Lore 3 (DRM-Free) — $2.39  (list price $6) Populous (DRM-Free) — $2.39  (list price $6) Ultima Underworld 1 + 2 (DRM-Free) — $2.39  (list price $6) Theme Park (DRM-Free) — $2.39  (list price $6) Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Planetary Pack (DRM-Free) — $2.39  (list price $6) SimCity 2000 Special Edition (DRM-Free) — $2.39  (list price $6) Theme Hospital (DRM-Free) — $2.39  (list price $6) Dungeon Keeper 2 (DRM-Free) — $2.39  (list price $6) More PC Deals The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (DRM-Free) — $29.99  (list price $60) Dying Light (Steam) — $29.99  (list price $50) Pillars of Eternity Hero Edition (Steam) — $18.95  (list price $45) Blackguards Franchise Pack (Steam) — $15  (list price $55) Sid Meier's Civilization V: Complete Edition (Steam) — $12.50  (list price $50) Console Game Deals Disney Infinity: Marvel 2.0 Starter (XOne.360, PS4/3, Wii U) — $34.99  (list $75)** Skylanders Trap Team Starter Kit (PS4/3, XOne/360,) — $29.99  (list $60)** Disney Infinity: Toy Box Starter 2.0 (PS4/3, XOne/360) — $29.99  (list $60)** Madden NFL 15 (PS4/3, XOne/360) — $19.99  (list $30)** The Evil Within (PS4, Xbox One) — $19.99  (list $60) Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (PS3, Xbox 360) — $5.99  (list $10) Borderlands 2 (PS3) — $3.99  (list $15) PS4 Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete (PS4) — $29.99  (list price $60)** Duck Dynasty (PS4) — $27.99  (list price $40)** Trials Fusion (PS4) — $19.99  (list price $40) Killzone: Shadow Fall (PS4) — $15.99  (list price $40) Xbox One Xbox One + Kinect + $50 Gift Card (Refurbished) — $379.99  (list price $380)** Xbox Live Gold 12 Month Gold (Physical Card) — $35.99  (list price $60) Xbox Live 12 Month Gold (Digital Code) — $34.95  (list price $60) Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved (Xbox One) — $9.99  (list price $40)** Titanfall (Xbox One) — $7.99  (list price $20)** Xbox 360 The Voice + Microphone (Xbox 360) — $29.99  (list price $40)** Ultimate Stealth Pack (Xbox 360) — $14.99  (list price $30) Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag (Xbox 360) — $9.99  (list price $20) Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved (Xbox 360) — $7.99  (list price $30)** PS3 Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection (PS3) — $29.90  (list price $50) The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum (PS3) — $27.99  (list price $40) Alien: Isolation Nostromo Edition (PS3) — $19.99  (list price $30) Dark Souls II (Xbox 360) — $11.99  (list price $30) Escape Dead Island (PS3) — $8.99  (list price $30) Michael Jackson The Experience (PS3) — $3.99  (list price $20) Just Dance 2014 (PS3) — $2.99  (list price $40) Wii U Mario Party 10 + Mario Amiibo (Wii U) — $39.99  (list price $50) Zombie U (Wii U) — $8.99  (list price $30) 3DS Super Smash Bros. (Nintendo 3DS) — $29.99  (list price $40) Mario Kart 7 (Nintendo 3DS) — $19.99  (list price $30) Skylanders Giants Portal Owners Pack (Nintendo 3DS) — $9.99  (list price $60) Laptop Deals 17.3" MSI Stealth Pro i7-4710HQ, 16GB, GTX 970M — $1,499.99  (list $1,850) 17.3" Asus ROG i7-4720HQ, 16GB, 512GB, GTX 960M, 4K — $1,399.99  (list $1,699) 15.6" Lenovo Z51 i7-5500U, 8GB, Radeon R9 M375 — $669  (list $1,080) HDTV Deals 55" Sharp 2160p 4K Ultra HD LED TV — $899.99  (list price $1,000)** 60" Westinghouse 1080p Smart LED HDTV — $649.99  (list price $700)** 50" Seiki 2160p 4K Ultra HD LED TV — $399.99  (list price $1,000) Game deals from Dealzon. Sales help support Destructoid.
Weekend deals photo
Come grab the 18th or whatever # title
Where GMG's Summer Sale ends, Games Planet picks up the baton to take a stab at your wallet. The retailer's sale has been going fairly well in terms of the variety of titles at historic low prices. Fri/Sat batch inc...

How the hell did Galak-Z hide a Gundam for three years?

Jul 24 // Steven Hansen
Let's recap for a second if you haven't been following along. Galak-Z is broken into five seasons each with five episodes. The fifth season will be added in for free post launch. This is one diversion from the typical roguelike set up, in that when you die, you don't start all the way at the beginning of the game, but rather at the beginning of whichever "season" you're on. "One of [Kazdal's] pet peeves with roguelikes" is that playing very beginning segments over and over can get boring, so this blends that death-based need to replay with earned progression. More typically, levels are randomly generated, and you get different fractions of story and dialogue every time. This way you won't hear the same repeated bits death after death, but slowly glean more information until you finally get through the season. The space shooting half we already knew about is not just a twin-stick shooter, either. The ship maps thrusters (and a boost) to the triggers. There's also a backwards thruster so you can shoot and flee, a dodge thruster, and a a barrel roll (square) that juts the ship "toward" you like it's coming out of the screen (and over incoming bullets on the 2D plane). You have your standard weapon and an Itano Circus missile salvo (limited, but you can buy more if you find the shop during levels). [embed]296589:59676:0[/embed] Ok, so the not-Gundam? You can morph the ship into the robot at any time with a smooth, Transformers-like animation and change up the playstyle completely. It has a beam sword, which can be charged for a stronger, wider attack, and a shield that has parry capabilities. Perhaps most fun, though, is the extending claw arm that can grab dangerous space junk and throw it at enemies, or grab enemies themselves, bringing them in close so you can start wailing on them with punches. Keeping the mech locked up this long is impressive. The feature was locked off in the many public shows Galak-Z has been demoed at and no one slipped up about it. Kazdal tells me there were plans for a third, stealth-focused character, initially, but that it made for too many mental hoops in dealing with all the other things that could be happening at any given moment. Galak-Z is smooth, feels great to play, and the mech is a welcomed addition, adding one more layer to the game. There are warring factions you can sometimes pit against each other, environmental hazards to be aware of (and sometimes use to your advantage -- thanks alien trapdoor spider who saved my ass!), and instant shifts between ranged and close-quarters combat. It's tough, gorgeous, encourages exploration (beyond mission goals, there are blueprints for new gear and other upgrades to find), and a ton of fun.
HANDS ON: Galak-Z  photo
Spelunky by way of Macross...and Gundam
We've covered the "Spelunky by way of Macross" space shooting roguelike for a couple of years now and the follow-up from Skulls of the Shogun developer 17-bit is almost here, coming to PS4 August 4 and PC a few months down th...

My trip to the National Videogame Arcade

Jul 24 // Joe Parlock
For a building all about video games, there’s none of the pomp and flash that comes with your normal conventions – no mention of big publishers or upcoming games, the entire affair feels very non-commercial which is a nice change to the normal games-related places I find myself in, and that helps go a way to make gaming more accessible for people who may not be involved in the scene. Instead, many of the games on display are independent, or even built out of wood and paint to be exclusively shown at the NVA. There’s very much a DIY-feel to the place, and according to Iain that’s intentional. There is an emphasis on ensuring guests understand nothing simply magically appears, but instead has effort and work put into it.  For example, there is a game where players must try and hit buttons on a wall to match up items on a screen. The entire thing was built and painted on-site, and is intentionally imperfect to show the work that went into building it. This DIY approach doesn’t only apply to the building, but also to the games on display. Mission Command, a game made exclusively for the Arcade, takes up an entire room. Under the guidance of an NVA staff member, the room spreads out the different parts of game development into different stations, where all the changes made can be seen in real-time on the screen. Set out like a two-player Asteroids, while one person is piloting the ship, another may be designing the ship in real-time using a grid of pixel-like lights off to the side. Behind them, someone might be drawing on a whiteboard an enemy which will then appear on the screen as well. When the room is full, the game being played is practically entirely built by those in the room at that time, and works to teach visitors all about animations, enemy design, physics, and control schemes in a simple way free of techno-babble. According to Iain, the room can become incredibly hectic when full (the arcade was closed on the day I visited, and so was empty), but it still seems like an excellent way to put game development into practice without bogging people down with coding and engines and the usual barriers to entry. Tucked away behind Mission Command was a small, messy room. With toys, skipping ropes, and lots of little plastic bits and bobs strewn across the floor, Room Racers is another example of the NVA’s emphasis on showing the basics of game development in an accessible way. Made to teach people about level design, the aim is to place toys and objects onto the floor to shape a racing track for those playing the game. Put a skipping rope on the ground, and cars projected on the floor won’t be able to drive through them. Smash the car with a tennis racket and they’ll be trapped underneath it. To do it, Room Racers has a PlayStation 3 Eye mounted on the ceiling and maps out the stage using the contrast of the toys on the white surface. Sometimes it doesn’t go entirely according to plan, with glitches and bugs inevitable, but that is apparently just part of the process at the NVA. Should a game or piece of hardware break, Iain said it’s not uncommon for NVA staff members to try and fix it on-site for guests to see just how it’s done and yet again show games aren’t these perfect, randomly occurring things, but instead are made by normal people. The next floor up was something a bit different: the Arcade’s first exhibition, Jump!. The Jump! exhibition was made explicitly to introduce one of the most basic concepts from games in great detail to those who have little experience with them – jumping. The entrance to the exhibition is a wall of screens, each showing characters, such as Mario, Sonic, and a Spelunky character, jumping to explain how different games animate them differently. Inside, there were lots of different playable games revolved around jumping such asCanabalt, but the game I got to play was a small chest of drawers called the Jump-o-Tron. By turning knobs and pushing buttons, I could program a character’s entire jump pattern from the strength to the angle, before sending them on their journey through the sky. According to Iain, Jump-o-Tron is a particularly popular part of the exhibition, with lots of people spending quite some time just watching their jumper fly through the sky. Once they’ve finally hit the ground, a receipt is printed out from the machine with information all about the jump as a small souvenir. Also in the Jump! exhibition was a large wall covered in screens, each showing a different type of jump in action: Double-jumps, wall jumping, single jumps and more are all lined up to show people no two jumps are ever the exact same. Next to it, levels from Sonic and Mario are able to be explored without the pressure of actually playing the game and potentially failing, allowing people to see how the theory guests had just learned applies to real games. It was a really cool way of getting guests to think about some of the more abstract elements of level design after going through games like Room Racer on the previous floor. By showing this behind-the-scenes view of gaming without the barrier to entry we as a gaming community so often forget does exist, Iain hopes the NVA will be able to inspire kids to become game developers. He mentioned how if a kid is interested in football or dance, there are clubs that parents can sign them up to, but for game development there isn’t anything like that. The NVA seems to be about showing people gaming isn’t just being sat in a dark bedroom hammering away at a keyboard, but instead aims to bring the positives and the social aspects of gaming culture to the forefront. The NVA serves as a springboard to convince parents and the general public that there is an actual industry and careers available in making games. Despite all this, there is still something to be appreciated about seeing a hobby you’ve poured years of your life into laid out so simply. Even though I know full well what a jump is, or how a level is designed, seeing it all put so clearly and interactively still made me think about games in a way I’ve never really done before. So when I say the NVA does aim some of its stuff towards non-gaming guests, don’t take that to mean it’s not for people who like games. It provides a new perspective on the medium, which is really important. Of course, there is stuff that seems like it’s for a more dedicated gaming audience too. Up on the third floor is an exhibition called “A History of Videogames in 100 Objects”. Lining the walls of the room are a series of glass cabinets filled with memorabilia and oddities from gaming’s short history. Sega Saturns, test builds of the PlayStation 2, and even Hideo Kojima’s old Konami business card can all be seen. I have to admit I did spend a fair amount of time geeking out in that room. Iain explained to me it isn’t the 100 most important bits of gaming history, but is instead trying to show a more complete and widespread view of the medium and the culture surrounding it. Many of the items have been donated by guests and locals, and so it’s one of the most changeable rooms in the arcade – each time, there may be some new items on display. It’s also a really nice way of introducing the history of games to the same people who were just taught what a jump is one floor below. Iain told me that this room is one of the most popular, particularly among adult guests who can spend a long time looking over all of the many different bits and bobs. Also on the third floor is a room full of different controllers and peripherals from gaming’s history, all usable. There’s Donkey Konga bongos, Steel Battalion in all its intimidating glory, and of course my old friend the Street Fighter arcade stick. It’s meant to be a way to show guests the many ways they can interact with games, but it also doubles as an extra room to nerd out over for those into gaming. All in all, I had a really great time at the NVA. While a lot of the arcade is aimed more towards people who have little experience with games, it was absolutely brilliant being able to just enjoy and be impressed by games as a medium without the hype, the advertising, and the pomp that comes with your more standard game conventions. It’s a place that felt really optimistic about games. It wants to inspire people to be creative and get involved in the scene, run by people who are clearly knowledgeable about games too: Minecraft weekends and FIFA tournaments take place there, as well as indie developers coming to show their games in a Toast Bar, all in an environment which is accessible to “outsiders” really makes the National Videogame Arcade feel like a cultural hub for games rather than your standard arcade. They’re planning on altering and adding to the venue the coming months and years, but for the few months it’s been open, I was really impressed by what I saw. If you’re interested in visiting the National Videogame Arcade, please visit their website. Take your Gran and watch her totally wreck you on a Nidhogg arcade cabinet.
National Videogame Arcade photo
Guest starring my blurry camera
Last week, I was given a tour of the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, England by the Director, Iain Simons. Going in, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew it wasn’t your bog-standard arcade with T...

Video game movies to watch this weekend instead of Pixels

Jul 23 // Jed Whitaker
Ace Attorney (Gyakuten Saiban) [embed]296492:59644:0[/embed] Whether or not you're a fan of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games, the movie based on the series is pretty decent. All the characters look and act like their game counterparts and even with the subtitles the movie still nails the games' humor. Sadly the film has never officially been released for sale in the US, but if you have a way to watch it I highly recommend it. Sweet Home [embed]296492:59645:0[/embed] Sweet Home had a Famicom game by the same name, which Resident Evil was planned as a spiritual sequel to. It might not be the best horror film but it is certainly worth a watch. Those who go in thinking the movie will be a Resident Evil movie will be disappointed, as this is more a haunted mansion story than a zombie story. The Sweet Home game influenced a lot of survival horror games and could be painted as the original survival horror game. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters [embed]296492:59646:0[/embed] This documentary follows Steve Wiebe as he attempts to take the world record high score in Donkey Kong from (at the time) current champion Billy Mitchell. While that alone may not sound exciting, the real life characters in the movie make it something special. The film plays more like a drama than a documentary, so much in fact that a scripted film adaptation has been said to be in the works. The documentary was also parodied in a South Park episode where Randy Marsh attempts to take a larger shit than U2 frontman Bono Vox. It's one of my favorite movies ever and highly recommended. Dead Rising: Watchtower [embed]296492:59647:0[/embed] When the free-to-watch Dead Rising: Watchtower was announced I wasn't too excited, and upon release I went into it with low expectations. Turns out it is a rather competent zombie film and has enough fan service to make Dead Rising fans happy. Frank West may not be the lead character but he makes many appearances throughout the film as part of a news program, dickish charm intact.  Animal Crossing (Dōbutsu no Mori) [embed]296492:59648:0[/embed] Does anime count? Well I'm saying it does and you should watch the Animal Crossing anime film that was released in Japanese theaters. The anime follows the same plot as the games; a new girl moves to town, is an indentured servant to Tom Nook, and befriends and helps the other animals in town. Animal Crossing's anime adaptation was never officially released outside of Japan but a fan dubbed version is out there somewhere. The Lawnmower Man [embed]296492:59649:0[/embed] What list of video game-related movies would be complete without The Lawnmower Man, a movie that is more relevant now than when it came out as it deals with virtual reality headsets. A dumb dumb lawnmower man in town is approached by a scientist to be his human guinea pig in an experiment using drugs and a VR headset, and this somehow turns him into a genius with magical powers... I remember watching the movie when it came out and being amazed at the cutting edge special effects, though today they look extremely dated. Strangely enough the effects were made by Angel Studios, which later became Rockstar San Diego and went on to make Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire, and Grand Theft Auto V.  Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World [embed]296492:59651:0[/embed] Whether or not you've read the graphic novel series you should give the Michael Cera-led Scott Pilgrim vs. the World a shot, as it may be the best video game movie out there. The film is basically oozing with references to video games from band names, to Zelda music, to epic fight scenes that would feel at home in any beat 'em up. Speaking of which, if you haven't already, give the game a try because it is just as good as the film and plays very similarly to one of the greatest beat 'em ups of all time, River City Ransom. -- These are some of the best video game-related movies I've seen and surprisingly I don't see them getting the credit they deserve. Also don't let me stop you from watching Pixels, by all means tell Hollywood you want more garbage Adam Sandler films if you so wish. I know I'll probably be watching Pixels sometime this weekend because clearly I'm a masochist, and I'm part of the problem. 
#StopSandler photo
Think of the children
This week the critically lampooned Pixels movie opens in theaters nationwide in the United States, and if you'd rather spend your time and money on movies that don't blow consider these other video game-related films. Don't worry though, this list won't just be the movies you've all seen before, because I'm so much cooler than that.


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