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Explore and conquer the galaxy in Stellaris

Nov 24 // Steven Hansen
Stellaris (PC)Developer: Paradox Development Studio Publisher: Paradox Interactive Release: TBA So, conquest in space, again, with Stellaris. The Beyond Earth comparison isn't just based on the sci-fi theme, as director Henrik Fåhraeus explained to me last week, Stellaris, "is a grand strategy game masquerading as a 4X game." In that sense it's a departure from past Paradox successes and the upcoming, WWII-set Hearts of Iron IV. He explained in a blog post earlier this year, "The early game is thus characterized by exploration and discovering the wonders of the galaxy," until reaching the mid-game wherein, "there is not much left to colonize and your easy expansion grinds to a halt. At this point, the map stabilizes into the Stellaris equivalent of the world map in Europa Universalis." You begin as one planet directed by a set of cultural guidelines (shown off to us last week was an Individualist Xenophobic empire, which made for a good first encounter with another large empire during which the only dialogue option was, "Alien scum!") that has just discovered faster than light travel. You'll choose between slower , free-moving warp travel; hyperspace across straight lines; and wormhole travels, which requires wormhole stations to be built. [embed]322210:61231:0[/embed] As opposed to pre-canned societies, there are over 100 alien portraits that can be aligned with a variety of traits, so "you will never meet the same aliens again;" or, at least, those bug-eyed purple asshole from your third game might be an inquisitive, pacifist sect next time you encounter that alien art. There are a few other parameters to set, like how many large empires will populate the galaxy you're exploring, but there are also quick start and preset options that reflect Paradox's attempt to widen its appeal, "without compromising our level of depth and complexity." There is an in-game adviser, for example, full voiced to help guide burgeoning emperors (or democratically-elected fish-faced idiots, whatever). In fact, Stellaris is Paradox's first project with a dedicated audio director. Coupled with all the space-faring in a full-figured galaxy and it could prove a little more inviting than playing on a giant map if the grand scope of spaaace isn't too alienating itself. Other simplifications include ditching tech trees for a system, "more like a collectible card game where you draw three cards and pick one." Research into Physics, Society, and Engineering is dictated by your scientists' traits and immediate options are weighted to be most convenient to you at any given time, though sometimes rare research opportunities pop up ("space amoeba weapons" were mentioned). Game progression goes something like this. Start on your home planet, represented by squares arranged 4x4 wherein you can place population unites (and strive for adjacency bonuses, like XCOM's base-builder). Send your science ship around to survey the galaxy, including addressing strange anomalies. In the demoed instance, we were drawn to a distress signal much like our own. There was a 10% failure rate, which just means missing out on the anomaly, though there is potential for catastrophic failure. In this case, the crew of the discovered ship was dead by brain parasite and a trait of our surveying scientist is the only thing that saved our crew from succumbing. Instances like these are neatly thrown into a Situation Log and you can research them from there. Then you'll want to send out ships for colonization and build construction ships to take advantage of resources (habitable planets are rare and meant to be cherished). There's a detailed ship builder, but you can auto-build for the best, too. "I don't want the flow in this game to be too micromanagey," Fåhraeus said. Other systems will start looping back around later. The population of a colonized planet or even your native planet can splinter off into factions of warring ideology, leaving you to choose if you want to say, quash the insurrection with force or give rein to a splintered, population-supported political spin off group. Eventually you will make it to the aforementioned mid-game, where it's "more like Europa Universalis" and you're butting up against large, rival empires. If one scouts you, it has the option to research you before you research it, and make first contact. There are other, smaller civilizations you'll discover, too, some pre-industrial, some post-technology.  To counter past Paradox games' anti-climactic endings when "you reach a point where you know you won," and are just trudging along to victory, late game crises are introduced, revolving around things like dangerous technological advancements or sentient robot worker uprisings -- things that threaten the whole galaxy. And there's maneuvering to do there, too, like letting the killbots off your biggest threat while allying elsewhere, bolstering yourself for the impending man-vs-bot slaughter. Also, you can "uplift" alien wildlife and, say, create a planet of space-faring, extremely loyal dolphins to go space crusade in your name, amen. Stellaris is "coming soon."
Stellaris preview photo
In space no one can hear you scheme
Earlier this year, Paradox offered an alternative for the many disappointed by EA's botched SimCity two years earlier by publishing Colossal Order's excellent city-building-simulator Cities: Skylines. Now Paradox's internal s...

Korean action MMO Blade & Soul a right step for the genre, coming West on January 19

Nov 19 // Steven Hansen
The newest class, Qi Master, was recently announced. It's a Kung Fu Master and Force Master hybrid. [embed]321525:61178:0[/embed] I got time to mess with Blade & Soul recently at NC Soft's autumnal headquarters (possibly my first actual fall, being from San Francisco) and spent a not insignificant amount of time in the not-quite-Black-Desert character creator to create a buxom Kung Fu Master with beautiful hair. The boobs even jiggle in the character creator screen. I named her bushdidnineeleven because the numbers prohibited 420noscope69 and I am nothing if not an embarrassment. I went with Kung Fu Master, though, because of the challenge that was announcing it as the toughest class to use, most reliant on timing and player input. And indeed, once I got to that point, figuring out enemy attack wind-ups and using the counter skill felt pretty damn good rather than letting early chump MMO fodder even get off their potshots. Plus, the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon influence is obvious in the running and fly/gliding animations (development head Moonyoung Choi cited it specifically when asked about influences, along with a long list of games including Street Fighter and Soul Calibur). And while Blade & Soul does encourage more activity than your typical click click click, it falls into feeling like just another MMO, at least in the early game. While I moving fleet of foot with WASD and beginning encounters with a floating jump kick, it was mostly for my own amusement, as I spent hours (somewhat quickly, but always very casually) leveling up near 20. I can see the twitch reflexes being more useful in hard raids or, obviously, PvP, but this isn't a huge genre shakeup when all's said and done. Just a pretty, high-budget version of the last decade with one twist in the right direction, which will undoubtedly be enough for some, especially with it being free to play anyways.
Blade & Soul launch photo
After three years
It's been a long time coming. Hugely popular Korean MMO Blade & Soul was confirmed for Western release over three years ago and it's finally happening. It went into beta last month and some beta weekends remain: November...

Southern Nuzleaf and other odd Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon characterizations

Nov 02 // Steven Hansen
[embed]318625:60961:0[/embed] The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series has always been weird. It takes an existing series (Mystery Dungeon) and slaps Pokémon over it, much like Pokémon Conquest, which is just Nobunaga's Ambition. Except this spin-off necessitates a story, one wherein you're a human turned Pokémon who talks a lot with other Pokémon. Super Mystery Dungeon starts with an Internet-style personality quiz to pick what kind of Pokémon are you (from the series' long range of starters) and remind you that you're playing a game aimed at children ("Your friends are playing tag, you want to jump rope. What do you do?"). It also asks if you prefer EDM or rap music. What a time to be alive. After being misidentified as that goofy fire monkey, I overruled the quiz and picked Smugleaf ("Snivy") as my spirit Pokémon and had Squirtle as my suggested best friend (I named him Squad, after the goals). And then here's this weird gosh darn Pokémon village with a clutzy Squirtle everyone's mad at and a Goomy lost in a cave he was goaded into by a group of teen Pokémon and look there's a pocket monster making a, "Don't have a cow" joke in reference to a Miltank and what whacked out world did I wander into. While the Pokémon brand was enough to sell me on Red Rescue Team a decade ago, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon doesn't feel like 10 years of progress separated by four more iterations. Heck, I even prefer the 2D sprites to these 3D models, though the presence of all 720 current Pokemon seems like a huge selling point for a lot of folks. Still, while I suspended disbelief for the human-turned-Pokémon jaunt 10 years back, this crossover still feels so out of place to me, from the out of place items to a dweeby Deoxys floating around in space real startled by Rayquaza. But these kind of grindy dungeon crawlers aren't my bag, so I'll just continue to stand on the outskirts and be fascinated by the left field characterizations of familiar creatures. The rest of you can enjoy Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon on November 20.
Pokemon preview photo
More of the same
What would Pikachu sound like if it could talk? I don't mean its "pika pika" parlor trick, but what if you asked it which Steve Zahn movie it liked best, or if it knows how to change a car's air filter? Pokémon offers ...

Mario Tennis hands-on photo
I prefer it without the new mechanics
We've been wondering if Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash would be light on new content since E3. I played some more of it yesterday, and there are some things not previously talked about. There is online play, for one, including the...

Ubisoft walked me through The Division, and I'm still unsure about it

Oct 03 // Joe Parlock
We were told we were “Team Cake”, and how Team Cake was totally the most successful team of that day. Cake had beaten every other team reliably up to that point, and so we absolutely had to live up to our delicious name. Of course, on the other side of the demo area I’m sure another Ubisoft rep was telling the other team the exact same thing. Our rep explained the controls, abilities, and goals, and made sure to constantly remind us to work as a team and communicate. That’s when it struck me that the demo was just as orchestrated as any E3 trailer with fake voice chat I’d seen before that. It was by far the most scripted, hand-holding demo I played at EGX, and that was a major problem for me. The game itself is a lot of fun when you have two teammates. Imagine the RPG mechanics of Borderlands meeting the tone and tactical gameplay Ghost Recon in a level structure similar to that of Payday 2. Set in a post-apocalyptic New York, our goal was to find some resources and try to evacuate. We could scavenge for new weapons and equipment to boost our stats, much like any other MMO, but on the whole we were ushered by the PR rep into a large open area in the centre of the zone. At the same time, the other teams scattered around the demo area were all trying to do the same thing. We had the choice of letting bygones be bygones, or we could “go rogue” and try and kill them. Of course, being a video game with a gun in it, every single person playing decided to go rogue. It turned into a weird mix of Payday 2’s extraction and a normal shooter’s King of the Hill mode. I decided to try to go the sneaky route to get the drop on the other teams. The stealth was very well done, and obviously modeled on the newer Splinter Cell games. I darted from cover to cover, and successfully sneaked past another team of players to deploy my auto-turret. During all of this, Laura and Mr. Stranger tried to deal with them head on. Whether they knew what I was doing and wanted to be a distraction or whether they were just caught in a bad situation, I have absolutely no idea, but it worked and for the time being we had the advantage over everyone else. This sort of strategy worked well in an environment where we were constantly told to work together, but how that’ll work out at home post-release is a different matter entirely. As the demo ended, I was acutely aware I didn't know anything new about the game compared to before I had tried it. I can’t tell you if The Division is going to be good or not. What I played was well-made, and I did enjoy it, but it was also so orchestrated, and the pressure of having someone from Ubisoft talking to me through my headset really made it difficult to play the game in a way I would have at home. My idea of seeing how it works in normal people's hands couldn’t possibly have happened in this environment. It felt like the Stepford Game Demo: I played a fairly long demo, against other human beings, with people I know weren’t paid by Ubisoft to act enthusiastic, and I still have no idea how it’ll hold up come release day when there are countless lone wolves and simply awful teammates added to the mix. I don't know how the MMO aspects will work, all I know is it was fun to shoot someone in the face... which is only apparently a small part of the game. It felt like being dragged into an ad rather than playing a game, and, unfortunately, I’m just as cynical about The Division now as I was when it was revealed. We’ll just have to wait and see whether my suspicions about it are true when The Division launches on March 8, 2016.
The Division photo
Go Team Cake!
The demo for Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s The Division was one of the weirdest experiences I had at EGX. Ever since the game was announced, I have been cynical that what we've seen of it so far has been very controlled ...

Guitar Hero Live left me afraid to ever try playing live music

Oct 02 // Laura Kate Dale
On a gameplay level, Guitar Hero Live feels pretty new. Gone is the old five-button single row layout, replaced with two rows of three buttons placed next to each other. On screen you've got three note tracks scrolling, which will either show a white pick pointing down or a black pick pointing up to denote if you should play that note on the top or bottom row. It's a switch up that slightly more closely resembles guitar fingerings, and it feels like a new, manageable challenge to learn. However, what had a far bigger impact on my experience with GH Live at EGX was the impressive integration of full motion video, which is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to living out your teenage rock god fantasies. Firstly, my fears about modern implementations of full motion video were instantly allayed when actually playing the game. I can logically tell which camera pans are likely being used to mask transitions between videos as your performance rises and falls, but try as I might I could not actually see the seams. We seem to have reached a point where smooth transitions in full motion video gameplay are totally possible, and that's really reassuring to see. When I was doing well at Guitar Hero Live, I felt like a guitar shredding legend. The crowd went wild, the pit jumped, the crowd fought to lock eyes with me and everything felt amazing. It's amazing how much difference the switch from computer animated crowds to real human faces can make, but seeing actual people respond well to your performance felt awesome. We have not crossed the uncanny valley, and real human faces in video games have a special power to elicit an emotion. The scary thing about GH Live? It can invoke powerful negative emotions too. Toward the end of my time with the demo, I decided to see how far I could push the limits of the game. I slowly performed worse and worse as the song went on, and my god it got uncomfortable. First the audience began to look mildly confused. Then, they looked upset, personally let down by me. I glance at the bassist and he's trying to ask what's going wrong. I do worse. The audience grows upset, confused and angry. I glance at the drummer and she's freaking out. Mascara is running down her face as she mouths obscenities at me. The singer motions to have the stage hands pull me off stage. At this point, I quit the track I was playing. I felt terrible. My failure felt real. The anxiety related to letting down fans, the disappointment and the anger resting on my shoulders. I felt it all. My time playing Guitar Hero Live at EGX convinced me primarily of two things. If you're doing well, this game is going to be awesome. If you screw up, you are going to be made to suffer for your sins on the guitar. I think that's pretty damn exciting.
Guitar Hero Live photo
I felt like a badass for about 5 seconds
Back in my mid-teens I played drums in a hastily thrown together rock band. We mainly played pretty bad covers of other people's songs, occasionally writing our own tracks that went on far too long and were excessively simpli...

Soar the island-filled skies of Worlds Adrift

Oct 01 // Jordan Devore
[embed]313407:60583:0[/embed] There's Spider-Man-style swinging at 7:15. Ship construction, which is done by hand, starts at 10:50. Williams demonstrates flying at 19:20 and even alone, without the threat of other players, it looks terrifying. Then again, he clearly knows how to grapple and isn't afraid of plummeting to his death. Lastly, you can take photos (including selfies!) and frame them. See that at 23:20.
Worlds Adrift photo
But watch out for pirates
Bossa Studios (Surgeon Simulator, I am Bread) is making an open-world MMO about building airships, flying them to floating islands, and screwing over others (probably). You interested? The developers were in town, so we sent Rey to take a look at that game, Worlds Adrift, and he put together this in-depth video with narration provided by designer Luke Williams.

What does the Destructoid UK Team think of Tri Force Heroes?

Oct 01 // Laura Kate Dale
Joe Parlock - Pleasently Surprised Compared to a lot of people, I am an incredibly new Legend of Zelda fan. I didn’t play my first one in the series until earlier this year, starting with A Link Between Worlds. With the simple, responsive gameplay and fantastically designed puzzles, Between Worlds really made me fall in love with the series; I'm currently playing through Ocarina of Time on the 3DS for the very first time and am having a lot of fun with it. When I heard that there was to be a new Zelda with three-player co-op on the 3DS in the same style as A Link Between Worlds, I was immediately excited. Fortunately, I got to try Tri Force Heroes out with Destructoid’s own Laura Dale and an unsuspecting member of the public at EGX 2015 in Birmingham. Because Laura is apparently evil and cares little for the suffering of the less experienced of us, she guided our little team in to what was apparently the hardest level in the demo. There was lots of lava and lots of enemies, and considering the noise in the convention hall made communicating difficult, we died a lot. But god damn was it fun. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Portal 2’s amazing co-op mode: Working with other people to solve puzzles (or, rather, frantically yelling “PICK ME UP DAMN IT” over the blaring noise of the Nintendo stage at EGX), making in-game gestures to help each other understand what was going on on the screen, and having far too much fun killing my own teammates were all incredibly fun. Other than that, it felt just like the dungeons in A Link Between Worlds as their own expanded game. The boss fight saw us have to take the aggro of a big wormy thing, and then quickly pick each other up to do damage. It was just as well designed as anything from Between Worlds, and really made use of the co-op elements well. I do have one minor concern about the game, though. Much like Portal 2’s co-op, I’m not convinced Tri Force Heroes will have the staying power that makes games like Ocarina of Time and A Link Between Worlds so popular. Playing with somebody who already knows the solutions to all of the puzzles could potentially be a frustrating experience that could only be exacerbated as time goes on. I can’t imagine playing this with random people on the Internet would be much fun six months after release as it could be on launch. Overall though, I was blown away by my time with Tri Force Heroes. Not only did it prove to be a competent Zelda game to this newbie, it scratched that puzzle co-op itch I’ve had for four years now. I'm probably going to pick this up on day one, and I just need to convince Laura and Destructoid UK’s Vikki Blake to let me chuck them in lava come launch. I’m very excited. Laura Dale - Cautiously Optimistic As a long time dedicated fan of the Zelda series, I have been pretty excited for Tri Force Heroes since its announcement at E3. It may not be the sprawling single player epic I had initially hoped I would be playing at the end of this year, but the idea of dragging my friends into playing Zelda with me certainly has its own charms.  At E3 a few months back I focused on playing some of the demo's more entry level missions and exploring the grander scope of what the game is trying to do. You can have a read of those overview thoughts here. With my time with the game at EGX, I was more interested in trying the hardest level on show and seeing how far I could push the game in ways it perhaps was not meant to be pushed. I came away pretty pleased with the level of challenge offered to core players, but a little concerned by some of the multiplayer dungeon design. So, let's start with the positives. The volcano dungeon we played through at EGX was tough. A strong mix of puzzles and combat, I was most surprised to see how many of the puzzles risked injury and death if not completed in a timely manner. In place of simply sliding block puzzles, we instead had sliding block puzzles in tight spaces with lava spewing from the floor below. The challenge was not just work out how to complete this puzzle, but execute your solution as a team, with a very minor margin for error, or face punishment.  The added level of risk involved in executing puzzle gameplay really encouraged team discussion, forming solid plans of attack before moving and working together as a team very quickly. Team communication was vital, and that was a very pleasant surprise. I'm glad to see even seasoned Zelda veterans are going to have a hard time successfully navigating these dungeons. The boss of the volcano dungeon we faced was a particular highlight, standing toe-to-toe with many of the series' more memorable bosses in terms of mechanics. The boss would at any one time have eyes that glowed matching the tunic of one player. That player would be chased by the boss, but the other players wouldn't. Those players not being chased would have to get behind the boss, form a tower and attack the bosses raised tail. If you successfully harm the boss or it successfully harms you, the player being chased will switch up, instantly requiring the team to scramble and reformulate their layout. The boss was challenging, hectic, and just fast enough to pose an ever-present threat to the team as a unit. One of the more concerning aspects that popped up during my time with this demo however is that it was possible to get the team into positions where they could not progress, and using up one of the team's three continues was the only was to restart the section we were trapped in. From progressing from the starting platform before every player has picked an item from the pedestals provided to throwing a player onto a platform from which they could not get themselves back, there were a couple of places in the dungeon where careless play could result in an unwinnable situation. While this is currently just a demo, I would like to see a penalty-free way for the team to return to the beginning of the current room in the dungeon. Still, the more of Tri Force Heroes I play the more convinced I am that mechanically, this Zelda game is going to be what I am after. Challenging temples, frantic gameplay necessitating minimal margins of error, and boss designs that feel fresh and unique. Yep, I'm pretty pleased with what I'm seeing of Tri Force Heroes.
Tri Force Heroes photo
A lot of laughing and dying occurred
At the tail end of last week, UK editor Laura Dale and news team member Joe Parlock both whisked themselves away to the EGX games convention in Birmingham to play a bunch of unreleased video games. Looking for multiplayer gam...

Mirror's Edge: Catalyst feels different to the first game, but still fun

Sep 30 // Joe Parlock
The demo for Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst started off with an exposition cutscene. I play as Faith (same protagonist as the first game), and am being released from a prison in the city of Glass (not the same city). If I don’t find employment within two weeks, I will be re-arrested and taken straight back to the slammer. The setup felt a lot more in-your-face than the subtlety the original game’s backstory had; gone is the covert government surveillance and governmental corruption, and in are the contact lenses which project advertising into your eye. But whatever, I had running to do and only 13 minutes of demo to do it in. After a short tutorial, I was let loose on a small area of the map. The area itself wasn’t too big, with the rest of the city available and open in the full release of the game, but it was still an order of magnitude bigger than any space I’d seen I the first game. It was almost daunting, being presented with such a big space when I was used to the linearity of the first game. I was given the choice of three different missions: I could hack a billboard to put my own pro-Runner propaganda up, I could deliver a memory stick for the criminal underworld (and fight a load of guards at the same time), or I could just race Icarus, my new runner buddy. The map system is nicely done, and it gives the game’s iconic runner vision a whole new lease of life. Faith’s ability to see where she needed to go in the world has always been designated by objects tinted red. Catalyst takes that originally fairly useless but still pretty effect from the linear first game and puts it to great use in this open world successor. A lot of previews of Catalyst have said the game feels more or less exactly like the first game. The controls have been retweaked slightly, but other than that I’ve been led to believe Catalyst just expands what the first game did. While that may be true for those who only played Mirror’s Edge a few times, I did notice some very big differences in how it felt to play. The biggest one is the entire thing felt kind of floaty. Jumps lasted longer, climbing over fences took longer, and a lot of your movements are based around getting higher in the space. For example, in the original game if you hit an object like a fence or a vent at the right height, you would quickly vault over it to maintain your momentum. In Catalyst, the vault is still there, but holding down the jump button (like I was used to in the original game) made me climb up onto the object and jump off of it to get a bit of extra height. It was a change that took a lot of getting used to, but once I had it opened up plenty of new routes for me. The cost of this new maneuverability is Catalyst doesn’t feel as grounded as Mirror’s Edge did. There was originally a lot of weight to Faith’s movements, and you couldn’t build up that much height without using bars or ledge, but in Catalyst it sometimes felt like gravity didn’t really matter to Faith, and that she’d float off away from Glass at the first chance she was given. Another major difference to Catalyst is the massive changes to combat. The new combat is built around maintaining flow and momentum, rather than having to stop and do a lot of punching like it was in the first game. It all seems to be context-sensitive as well; when I was nowhere near any guards, pressing the attack buttons would do absolutely nothing. So does this new system actually let you incorporate combat into your flow? Not really. It feels so much better than the first game, for sure. I wasn’t pissed off when I had to fight, and it was incredibly cool pulling off the cinematic takedowns. It’s fun, but it still has the problem of stopping you dead in your tracks. One positive thing is triggering attack animations extended my jumps too, and even saved me from one point where I was certainly about to die. Picture it as a less extravagant version of the homing attack in modern Sonic the Hedgehog games, and it’s easy to imagine where the uses for combat would come in. It’s worth keeping in mind the original game is absolutely ingrained into my muscle memory at this point. On the whole, it plays just like the first game: once you’ve got flow built up, traversing this open world feels fantastic, and the new skills Faith has really add to the experience. Swinging around vertical pipes, leaping off of chain-link fences, and incorporating some combat into my run were a lot of fun. Catalyst more than feels like a decent successor to Mirror’s Edge. The plot elements from the first game are taken and expanded to make Glass an interesting world to explore, and the most obvious parts of the movement in the first game are still there and have been refined. The combat is better (though not as improved as I was hoping), and the controls definitely feel less awkward. I genuinely did enjoy my time with Catalyst a lot more than I was expecting to. There’s just a few changes to it that make Catalyst feel like a simplification of the original game's systems. People who have played the original once or twice will certainly appreciate those simplifications, but for me it felt like the potential skill ceiling was a fair bit lower than the original game. I can't see myself pulling off the same sort of stuff I can in the original, because of the very small ways freedom is taken away from you. We will see whether I’m right when Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst releases on February 23, 2016. It's still definitely one of my most anticipated games, that's for sure.
Mirror's Edge: Catalyst photo
I've played 250+ hours of the original
When Mirror’s Edge came out in 2008, nobody really knew what to make of it. The game was a valiant effort at doing first-person parkour well, but a lot of people were put off by some awkward controls, bad combat, and pe...

Dying just makes Super Rude Bear Resurrection easier

Sep 28 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]312542:60542:0[/embed] After any given death, the titular Rude Bear's body will by lying across the trap you just succumbed to. There's a fair chance it was a spike trap; Super Rude Bear has a lot of spike traps. On the next attempt, you can platform on the corpse which shields you from those pesky spikes. Super Rude Bear just got easier, albeit for only the briefest of moments. For a game about a rude bear (curiously, we haven't seen any ill-behaved mannerisms apart from a backward hat and a permanent scowl), this isn't as light-hearted and blithe as one may expect. Actually, it's quite entrenched in the macabre. Coffins serve as checkpoints and are even more appreciated than coming across your freshly dead body. There are some extra mechanics offered up to guide along the platforming. Rude Bear is forever followed by a wizard, as he's the one who actually transported you back to medieval England and put you in this dire situation. It's possible to take control of him and scout ahead. How thoughtful, Guy Who Is Directly Responsible For Me Dying Thousands Of Times. Likewise, in the event that your corpses pile up too high to clear some sections (yes, that will happen), he can clear them one-by-one or with a single powerful blast. Again, how thoughtful. This is actually the second time we've seen Super Rude Bear -- originally, it had the "Resurrection" withheld from the end. The first was at Tokyo Game Show 2014. There was obvious care put into the controls, but everything was made up of placeholder art. Also, the jumping on your past failures part is new, which is why we've seen the game fittingly re-titled. Super Rude Bear Resurrection has come a long way in the year that has passed. Now, it's a game that I'm actually excited to play, even as infuriating as it's likely to be. The game's site currently lists projected platforms as PC, PS4, PS Vita, and Xbox One. Wherever you find yourself playing, don't be afraid to die; it's all part of the process.
Super Rude Bear photo
Expect to do a lot of it
A corpse is typically not a welcoming sight, but in Super Rude Bear Resurrection it absolutely is. That decomposing body (which is yours from seconds ago, by the way) means that maybe you can skirt a particularly challen...

Assassin's Creed producer talks returning to the series' roots

Sep 24 // Alessandro Fillari
I've had an affinity for the AC series all the way back to the original. I remember getting hyped for an action-adventure title set during the Crusades, and then again for its follow-up in the Italian Renaissance period -- two settings that don't get much play from the medium. But ever since its move to the annual release schedule, I sometimes find it hard to get excited about new entries when they can come off as more of the same. While some of these games are off the charts when it comes to fun and offering an interesting setting to explore, Assassin's Creed has missed the mark a few times. Obviously, this presented Ubisoft with a challenge for how to tackle the upcoming jaunt through Victorian-era London. As one of the most-requested settings from fans, the developers felt extra pressure to get it right while making sure not to repeat the mistakes of past titles. As the ninth mainline Assassin's Creed title (yes, already), it's definitely a challenge to keep things interesting, because you can only play as an Assassin so many times without any major shake-ups before things get stale. Senior producer Jeff Skalski spoke at length about their vision for Syndicate, and how they hope the return to basics will reinvigorate the brand. "That's been a challenge for any game that's been a franchise," he said while discussing development. "Whether you're working on the second one or fifth one, but for us, we've been working on this game for two and a half years, so there's a lot of things we know about what Assassin's Creed has done in the past. We have a sense of maybe where it's going, but no one has a crystal ball. So we really evaluate what is important, where do we want to innovate, where do we want to focus, and then we kind of start building that game with that kind of mindset." The elephant in the room when talking about this series is the troubled launch of last year's Unity. While a solid entry in the series featuring  some gorgeous visuals and a stellar recreation of 18th-century France, this unfortunately, and quite understandably, was lost on many gamers who had to wade through technical issues and oddities that put a serious damper on the whole experience. While there are many reasons for how that turned out, the developers at Ubisoft Quebec wanted to ensure they nailed their interpretation and execution of the setting right at launch. "We took a real kind of fine-tooth comb and we looked at the combat, stealth, what do we change that didn't work so well, and we really evaluate it all," stated Skalski. "We've all been fans of the game, we're gamers first before we're actually developers, so these are things that for us is an opportunity. We have one shot of building an Assassin's Creed game in Victorian-era London, and it's almost a dream come true for a lot of us. And we wanted to knock it out of the park." Even though multiplayer and other online components have been present for the majority of the AC titles, this marks the first time since 2009 that a main entry in the series will be strictly single-player. With 2010's Brotherhood introducing multiplayer, along with the annualized release schedule, it set the standard for  titles going forward. So it was especially surprisingly to see that Ubisoft decided to brings things back with its focus on a pure single-player narrative. The studio made the decision early on to create a stronger narrative with denser content to back it up. "When we were conceptualizing the game and figuring out what did we want to build, but more importantly what did we not want to build -- because the more we built in the game, it means we'd have to stretch our resources thin -- we really wanted to go all in on the single-player experience. That's not to say we don't believe in multiplayer, and I think there's a place for that, but for this round we wanted to focus on the single-player. But yeah, we looked at the previous AC titles, and saw the various pillars they were built on, and thought 'How can we improve this?' [...] So it was a very conscious decision, and it was one we made very early on." For me, one of the highlights of playing Syndicate, and I'm sure many will share this sentiment, was the setting. The Victorian era was an evocative period with the old world slowly shifting into the modern era before everyone's eyes. And with the Industrial Revolution in full swing, it created many challenges for those living in the heart of the Western Empire. The devs saw this as not only an interesting setting that stands out among the predecessors, but also allowed them to open the gameplay into new areas and introduce abilities and gadgets not possible from the time period. "There's so much for us to play with in the Victorian time," explained the producer. "As you stated, it was the turning point in terms of the modern society that we live in today, so we felt that was bringing something fresh and something very new, and allowed us to kind of break the rules in places that would be exciting for players. Even today, it's a city that's a melting pot of society, so we were not short on ideas. We had to pick our top-top favorites and realize those as best as we could and work with our writers to make sure it was accurate and authentic." Despite the gloomy atmosphere and depressing subject matter, Syndicate manages to display a lot humor from the characters. In retrospect, many of the AC titles portrayed their stories earnestly with some slight scenes for humor to break up the tension.  Syndicate's dual protagonists, who are brother and sister, share a kind of sibling rivalry and make constant jokes at their expense. I'd imagine with the bleak atmosphere, they had to offer some levity. Which thankfully works quite well. "Humor was very important to us. As we were writing the game, and looking over the scripts, we were laughing, and that was a good sign for us. During mo-cap, I would laugh at lines and still find myself laughing when they came up in the game, so I hope players will enjoy the narrative, the characters -- every one of them is super special -- and the relationships they form with Jacob and Evie, and how they experience London for the first time."  Since the reveal earlier this year, the creators of Syndicate (then titled Victory), had a bit of an uphill battle to get through to ensure they were all in when it comes to creating the next big entry for the series. Fortunately, my several hours with the game got my interest piqued for what's to come. What I enjoyed most about the era is that it felt as though it was stuck between two different periods -- one from the past, the other towards the future. With many of the characters clinging onto the old ways while living in a civilization that has introduced vehicle traffic and gas and electrical infrastructure, Assassin's Creed Syndicate's interpretation of Victorian-era London should be one of the more exciting, visually striking locales the series has seen in a long time. For more info about Syndicate, check out my hands-on impressions. 
Interview photo
In a West End town, a dead end world
As the tenth anniversary for the Assassin's Creed franchise draws closer, it's hard to imagine the series has been around for so long. I was two years out of high school when Altair and Desmond first made their appearance on ...

Assassin's Creed Syndicate's London is an exciting and evocative setting

Sep 24 // Alessandro Fillari
Assassin's Creed Syndicate (PC, PS4 [previewed], Xbox One)Developer: Ubisoft QuebecPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: October 23, 2015 (PS4, Xbox One) / Q4 2015 (PC) Set nearly eighty years after the events of Assassin's Creed Unity, Syndicate thrusts players into the gritty and bustling city of London during the Industrial Revolution. With the Assassin Order struggling to rebuild, sibling assassins Jacob and Evie Fyre come to Victorian-era London during a relatively modest mission and find it under heavy Templar control. Witnessing the extent of the corruption in the heart of the Western Empire spearheaded by powerful industrialist and Templar operative Crawford Starrick, the siblings disregard the demands from their Order to abandon the city and take matters into their own hands to dismantle the Templar power structure. Using their Assassin abilities and gadgets, along with their keen eyes for scouting potential alliances with the locals, the Fryes will have to unite the criminal underworld of London in order to overthrow a common enemy, who may be in possession of another Piece of Eden. As one of the most-requested settings for an AC title, the developers at Ubisoft were keen on bringing the series to the Victorian era. London during 1868 was a period of equally great innovation and social unrest. The Industrial Revolution gave way to mass production and advanced technologies, but it came at the cost of humane working conditions, child labor, and poor quality of life for the working class. With factories peppering the city of London and smoke blotting out the sky, urban living was not what it was cracked up to be -- there was a lot of misery for those on the bottom of the social structure. This makes for an evocative setting for Assassin's Creed, and adds a greater connection with the city. While it would sound a bit cheesy to say that the city is a character itself, it does feel that way. I was impressed with not only how accurate the city looked, but also how much life exists within the game. There are several districts to travel to including Southwark, Westminster, Lambeth, Whitechapel, and the City of London (metropolitan area). Travel can be done by train, fast travel via landmarks, or even using carriages, marking the first time Assassin's Creed has an actual traffic and vehicle system to work with while in town. As the first AC title featuring dual protagonists in the same era, Syndicate does a lot to switch things up for players. Both characters serve as the focus for the general narrative. At any time in the menu, you'll be able to switch between the two while out in the open world, and each of them have unique content to tackle. Essentially two sides of the same coin, the Frye twins have varying approaches and mindsets when taking on obstacles but still seek the same result. With Jacob being the more hard-headed, brutish assassin who seems to relish his time getting into brawls and sharing a pint with commoners in the pubs, many of his ventures tend to have a more over-the-top flair to them. Evie, on the other hand, is clearly the more rational and logical twin, focusing on hatching clever plots to accomplish her long-term goals. In the end, a sledgehammer is sometimes more effective than a scalpel, and vice-versa -- so the twins will have to rely on each other to successfully overthrow the Templars. I rather enjoyed the dynamic between the Fryes. It's a change of pace for the series, and it's refreshing to have a female assassin put in the spotlight. Jacob's brash and devil-may-care attitude works well with Evie's stoic and uncompromising demeanor, which often times conflicts with her brother's spontaneous behavior. Essentially, it's a buddy-assassin plot, and it works quite well. These characters are invested, but still manage to find time to make jokes at the expense of their sibling. Given how expansive London is -- more than three times the size of Paris from Assassin's Creed Unity -- the twins will have a lot of ground to cover in the open world. Eventually, they'll gain access to a personal train which serves as a mobile command center for their operation. As the train makes its rounds, they'll be able plan their next move and ride the railway to missions. During their exploits in London, the Fryes will come across many important figures who have their own stake in the city, and they'll come to rely on the two assassins for assistance. From Alexander Graham Bell -- who builds a rope-launcher that allows the twins to scale rooftops and make zip-lines -- to Charles Dawrin, Charles Dickens, and even the infamous Jack the Ripper; the Assassins will come across many allies and foes on the streets, and they've all got their own ambitions in mind. But the twins won't be able to succeed on their own. With the many gangs and factions around London made up of citizens frustrated with feeling powerless, Jacob and Evie will have to win them over in order loosen the tight grip the Templars have over the city. As you retake areas of London from the Templars and gangs, key leaders will make themselves available and offer assistance. In Sequence 3 of the campaign, Evie forms an alliance with Clara O'Dea, the leader of a gang of children who've been used by the corrupt factory supervisors and seek their own way of life away from controlling adults. Each key figure within the different districts of London has a relationship with the Fryes, and doing missions and side-quests for them will strengthen their bond and unlock new gear and valuables. Over time, cash made by your network of gangs will be kicked back to the Fryes. It's a clever way to work key characters into the core progression. In previous titles, most of the advancement was done in menus and general side-missions, so incorporating character growth along with the related content makes the progression feel as though you're having a deeper impact. As always, the assassins will have several areas of the game world to conquer, and completing side-objectives and story missions are the best way to do so. In Syndicate, however, it feels as though there's a much greater level of variety for the side-missions. With the lack of multiplayer and co-op modes, this gave the developers resources to flesh out the world with side-events and points of interests to explore. For instance, instead of going around and tailing contacts, Jacob can compete in local fight clubs to strengthen bonds with allies. As you accomplish missions and side-quests, you'll gain experience to level up and acquire skill points to spend in the universal skill tree. Skills range from buffing melee attacks, eagle vision effective, upgrades to the arsenal, lockpicking, store discounts, and boosts to the economy. When you acquire more resources and control more of London, the assassins can spend their cash on new items, armor, and weapons. Given the era, the Fryes will have to be far more practical in their approach to carrying out their missions and assassinations. With great swords, hammers, and crossbows now considered antiqued in mid-1800s London, and many of which would get people arrested for possession, concealed weapons were a major part of self-defense in urban life. Between the standard cane sword (a short sword hidden in the shaft of a cane), daggers, brass knuckles, pistols and revolvers, bombs, poison, and the tried-and-true hidden blade, the concealed weapons add personality to Syndicate and feature an added level of customization, which also speaks to the increasingly modernized era. As covered in my last article, the combat system has been overhauled. It's now far more active. While Unity experimented with some new ideas, Syndicate advances things quite a bit. Given how easily players could abuse certain skills and rewards during combat, the developers felt it was time to try and switch things up. Here, battles prompt players to go more on the offensive, as enemies now only attack when they seen an opening and guard more frequently. Players will have to use stuns and guard-breaks to open up these defenses, all the while using parries and their side-arms (knives, revolvers, bombs) to manage multiple foes. The combat felt much more challenging this time around, and I was surprised at how tense things got. Heavier enemies in particular take a lot longer to bring down. Unfortunately, I was concerned with the overall technical performance of the game. There were several instances of texture and environmental objects fading in, along with NPC characters popping into view, and some slight frame rate dips throughout my preview session. While this title is in a much better state than Unity was last year at launch, I do hope that the devs can iron out the issues. Given how rich the setting is -- they nailed the atmosphere and tone of the era -- it would be a shame if these technical hiccups persist in the final release. Graphical worries notwithstanding, I was largely pleased with Assassin's Creed Syndicate. This is very much a dream setting for fans, myself included, and to see it all realized so vividly was great. From the bustling streets filled with carriages, to the back alleys full of criminals and roughnecks looking for their next target, the atmosphere in Victorian-era London is the strongest an AC game has had in a long time. I'm looking forward to my trip back to the foggy city, but I do hope they'll fix the kinks. This is one era that deserves the best the developers have got.
Preview photo
City of London, City of London
With October nearly here, it's about that time for Ubisoft to release another entry in its annual time-traveling trek through history. While Assassin's Creed has had highs and lows, no one can deny it's one of the few series ...

Halo 5: Guardians has some new toys but a familiar feel

Sep 23 // Rey Gutierrez
What they say. Set eight months after the end of Halo 4, Halo 5: Guardians dives into the intrigue surrounding the Master Chief as he breaks away from the UNSC to uncover the truth of inexplicable events. Close on his heels, Spartan Locke, a legendary manhunter with Fireteam Osiris and a rising new star in the UNSC, is hunting the Master Chief to find answers of his own. Experience the most dramatic Halo story to date in a 4-player cooperative epic that spans three incredible worlds and a galaxy of war with itself. Halo 5: Guardians is evolving. What Rey & Kayla Like Visually, the game is vibrant. It's full of color pops, explosions, and beautifully rendered characters and textures. Takes full advantage of the Xbox One. Jumping and climbing/clambering allows you to explore new heights, gain better vantage points on enemies, and discover hidden skulls and terminals more easily than ever before. Your days spending 45 minutes trying to glitch jump that rock wall are pretty much over! Spartan Charge introduces a new melee mechanic. It allows you to break through certain walls and structures, sometimes as part of the storyline, sometimes on your own exploration to discover hidden rooms and pathways. Spartan Charge also acts as a one-hit shield breaker on enemies, amplifying close-quarters combat. Revive and Tracking, new abilities specifically for Campaign, allow you to call for help or aid fallen teammates, and always know where your objective is (which I ended up using quite a bit, due to the world feeling much more open and expansive). Listening to the Covenant chatter is always amusing. I spent more time trolling a Grunt waiting to hear what he has to say about the Master Chief, than actually following the campaign mission. Halo veterans may find the new 60fps off putting by removing the cinematic immersion of Halo (or junk in the trunk), but after getting acclimated -- Halo 5 is smooth, easy on the eyes and just pure joy to control, especially on the Xbox One’s controller, and fantastic use of the Rumbling Triggers. What Rey & Kayla Dislike Watching Master Chief take a knee and request assistance from a squad mate when he’s down will take some getting use to. It reeks more of Gears of War than a new gameplay enhancement. The all-knowing and all-seeing AI favorite, Cortana, has been replaced with a Master Chief who uncharacteristically talks too much. Your fireteam AI (Blue Team: Kelly-087, Fred-104, Linda-058) and fireteam Osiris are nonexistent for the most part and operate autonomously. They’ll aimlessly follow you around and partake in the firefight with generic “bro-chatter” that you’d hear in a Call of Duty game, and not nearly as witty, random, or entertaining as a UNSC Marine. But you can give your fireteam contextual commands like “Go To Location, Attack My Target, Use Turret or Vehicle,” even if they’re acting more like distractions or decoy for enemies. “Run and gun” is not a recommended strategy. Keeping an eye on your ammo (there's never enough ammo), bouncing around high vantage points (Ground Pound) to avoid enemies, and remembering which ability does what leads to a lot more strategy and thinking than most Halo veterans are used to. More Halo 5: Guardians Facts Three epic worlds, epic battle, and epic scale A gripping story full of new and returning fan-favorite character, and introducing enemies that will change the Halo universe forever. The ability to play through the entire campaign either solo or with up to three other friends online through seamless drop-in/out co-op on dedicated servers. Make your team a deadly weapon, by commanding them with Halo 5: Guardian’s Fireteam AI or team up with friends online and experience the story through the perspective of your Spartan teams. Expansive, complex battlefields designed to support more players, more enemies, and even more intense, epic-scale battles than ever before. Kayla’s final initial thoughts on previewing Halo 5: Guardians. "Tons of new abilities for campaign AND multiplayer that will change the way people play, but there’s still enough that feels true to the Halo franchise that OG players aren’t going to feel abandoned. Definitely some new game types that I know are going to suck every minute out of my days when it’s released. And of course I’m excited to see the storyline play out. We got a pretty good preview that sparked some feels, so I’m ready to see where they go with it! Is it October yet?"
Halo 5: Guardians preview photo
Meet Kelly, Fred, Linda, and John!
Master Chief, Cortana, Grunts, Elites and the UNSC, all names that should sound familiar to Halo fans and fans of gaming alike. Before we had "Guardians," there was just evolved combat in the original Halo: Combat Evolved, ...

Monster Hunter Diary contains pure silliness, with plenty of cats

Sep 18 // Chris Carter
Diary DX is very much like Animal Crossing, or in a more relevant but more obscure comparison, Disney's Magical World. It's part simulator in the sense that you can roam around talking to other Palicos in the Monster Hunter universe, but the end goal is to participate in a bunch of mini-games located within each micro hub. The hub itself is made of different spokes, with the ability to fast travel instantly with the tap of the bottom screen. Palicos are front and center here, inhabiting each realm and going along for the mini-game rides. During my time with the demo I was able to play two such micro-games -- a pig race, and a Patapon-like sidescrolling adventure sequence. The former sees players betting on pig-riding Palicos, with the power to control a single rider, jumping over logs and other obstacles in the race for first. It's simple, and not something I'd likely want to do more than a few times in total. The Patapon bit was a tad more enjoyable, as it provides options as you follow a set path, like the choice to eat a mushroom, ignore it, or harvest the ingredients -- likewise, enemies can be approached with a stealth or combat option. For the most part, this seems really geared towards Monster Hunter fans, and it's something that the younger audience would enjoy more than a seasoned veteran of the franchise. Monster Hunter Diary DX was recently released this past week in Japan, with Mario and Tom Nook costumes. There's still no word on a localization, but it might be possible if the series continues to sell like gangbusters in the US.
Monster Hunter Diary DX photo
Did I mention the cats?
Monster Hunter Diary DX for the Nintendo 3DS is a silly game. That much is evident from watching the series of commercials presented on a nearby TV screen at TGS, which shows a variety of cats in a variety of different k...

Phoenix Wright 6 photo
Phoenix Wright 6

Phoenix Wright 6's setting marks the biggest departure for the core series

Also, dead people vision
Sep 18
// Chris Carter
I'm pretty happy that Phoenix Wright has permeated throughout the gaming industry. He has a full-on combat appearance in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, his own live-action film, a crossover with Professor Layton, and now, as a summon i...
Tokyo Game Show hands-on photo
It makes sense to me
Candy Crush is like, bad, right? I mean, I'll still suggest to my mother that she should read a book instead of wasting time on that crap (talk about some role reversal), but it's difficult to dislike the game with any inten...

7th Dragon III Code: VDS is uncompromising, or I suck at video games

Sep 18 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]311332:60431:0[/embed] Those two little bastards repeatedly killed me. Like, ten times straight. Each of their attacks would take off a third of my health, leaving me forced to use a health potion. They attacked again and I was right back where I started. When I got a blow in, it wouldn't defeat one of them (even my specials). Worse, because I didn't spend that time healing, I'd usually die on their next turn. I tasted victory once when it let me start the encounter with a preemptive attack. I think the game felt bad for me. With only a sliver of health left, I dealt the final strike and escaped the situation scathed but alive. Progress. Incredibly uncompromising and frustrating progress, but progress nonetheless. Seconds later, I hit another random encounter against the same two enemies but now with the amount of health I had after the first fight. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. I gave up. 7th Dragon III Code: VDS wasn't going to work out for me. I know when I'm bested, and I absolutely was. Maybe I was missing something important and it's really not all that hard. Maybe it's tough as nails. Whatever the case, it sent me packing with my tail between my legs, and it's been a long time since a demo has been able to do that to me.
RPGs that are hard af photo
Maybe both
As I spend the week demoing games that are entirely in Japanese, I accept that I'm not going to understand a lot of things. I know the kanji for "forest" and that's the extent of my fluency with the language. Dialogue's the f...

I played Criminal Girls 2 and wasn't sexually aroused at all

Sep 17 // Steven Hansen
[embed]300696:59909:0[/embed] While Criminal Girls 2 is promised to be deeper and more challenging, I played a Japanese build haphazardly attacking things without strategy and that worked fine for the 15 minutes I played. Making a Japanese RPG "more challenging" doesn't sound like a good thing to be given how much "challenge" can equate to grind/leveling versus anything skill based. Eventually I reached an oasis in the dungeon, a save point, and was able to see the full anime portraits of the women all huddled together in a velvety room. From there I went to the "punish" menu and "punished" the two that looked the least like children. The purple smoke that obscured the women in the western release was not present, while the sexy moans when you smack them were present. The touch screen UI seemed cleaned up to a rhythm game style tap with circles getting smaller on either side of the vita touch screen (and, at the end, two circles, because you punish them together now, I guess). It was light for the demo, the circle showing vanilla leather whip. Even fog-free and full of moaning, no boner. Dressing tedious game mechanics with trite sex stuff seems like it shouldn't sell. I mean, why not just seek out the sex stuff and play a better game? It feels a bit like that bit about places of business that are things like, "Tattoo parlor & taxes" or "General hospital & cow slaughterhouse." Obviously this is not for me.
Criminal Girls hands-on photo
Mostly because it's kind of boring
While Japan is exoticized elsewhere as a land of weird sex stuff, Criminal Girls 2 doesn't feel that foreign, given that the original game got a western release. And it's probably the perviest game I came across (not literall...

PES 2016 made us laugh, but it's no Rocket League

Sep 17 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]311321:60427:0[/embed] STEVEN: Soccer, originally derived from the socks worn by the players, is cool. At E3 2015 a very old Pelé spent two hours on the EA stage telling an anecdote about calling soccer "the beautiful game," which is not really a thing people say, except for ironically, like calling coffee "morning mud." I mean I guess to do something ironically someone has to have done it genuinely.  Brett played as the Foot Locker-striped Jeeps and I played as Roma. I didn't know Jeep was an Italian brand. I feel bad typing it without us getting paid. Let's call it "Jorp." As much as we joke, having a sport play out without commercials (because the players and stadiums are the advertisements) is kind of amazing. On the other hand, I don't want to see a Sizzler logo on a San Francisco Giants jersey. The entire NFL is one constant running advertisement. I think in the modern era of sports subscriptions that block commercials, I'd rather take the blank periods than see all the advertising on folks.  I recognized Buffon from the 2006 Italian World Cup team (and a few other soccerers). He has a great head of hair and thousand yard stare in Winning Eleven. This is the first calcio game I've played since a few FIFAs ago but they still feel the same? Maneuvering tiny any people over a giant pitch like electronic football from far away. BRETT: The real joy didn't come so much from our unskilled controlling of these little athlete men, but in the replays that followed. The one goal that was scored saw Tevez running away from the goal, shooting it behind him, the ball ricocheting off several players including the keeper before finally being tapped in. All the movements were spot-on, but completely silly upon review given that these are representations of the finest footballers in the world. Like, Tevez would never just dart straight out of the box in that attacking situation. Similar comedy struck on the occasions when we committed to the idea of committing hard fouls. Rather than try to gracefully steal the ball, we'd end up stalking our prey before chopping them down at the legs. The replays confirmed that, yeah, we probably earned those yellow cards. Didn't manage to get a player sent off, though. STEVEN: Well Brett really likes Yellow Card so it was appropriate. How about the fact that we couldn't figure out how to skip the replays? Maybe it was the Share button to skip. I think we hit every other one. But yes, not skipping them lets you appreciate how....goofy these things look up as they strain to approximate human movement and the nuances of some of the greatest athletes in the world (after school teachers, nurses, and firemen). That goal was some bullshit, though. I took like six respectable shots on goal and got nothing, you had weird physics bounces and four assholes tripping over themselves and a chip shot. That is sports, mind, It's why it's so gif-able. Rocket League is still the better soccer game, though. It's more realistic. You have to control individual movements instead of electronic football floating. FIFA and PES feel more like real-time strategy games to me. Baseball has the advantage of being a one on one sport, football of the quarterback being most important, and basketball gets to shrink everything down for intimate and more detailed five on five. BRETT: Sure, PES 2016 isn't going to be the next video game du jour and find widespread acclaim like Rocket League has. It's just a good soccer game that good soccer game players will love -- just as they have with previous PESes. Those folks probably already know that. They're the ones who can make those replays look like actual soccer, but I get more of a kick out of our style.
PES preview photo
This preview brought to you by Jorp
Who would have thought that Tokyo Game Show, rife with interesting and weird games as it is, would lure Steven and I to try Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 (or, Winning Eleven 2016 as it's called here)? The Konami booth h...

I waited an hour and a half to play Gravity Rush PS4

Sep 17 // Steven Hansen
[embed]311208:60428:0[/embed] Look at this collector's edition! I haven't touched one since Catherine and didn't expect to go for one again, but I'm getting real into this. The original box art, expanded across a giant box, a very nice figure, and then that new, minimal black and white art. So good. Maybe I should just buy some real big Gravity Rush art to hang. Gravity Rush is already my favorite-looking game and it has translated perfectly to PlayStation 4. Anime blends into French comic aesthetic. Distinct regional skies are vibrant, varicolored oil paintings. Pointed line work serves as draw distance, as if the world was alive, sketching itself out in front of you as you soar about with the most invigorating locomotion. The controls, too, felt fine. The DualShock 4 accurately replaces the Vita gyro and if you're anything like me you "aim" the direction of gravity shifts with the sticks, anyways, and that's maybe even a little easier with full-size analog sticks. I'll happily play the first again when it comes to PS4 (February 9, 2016 in the states) and thank existential crises that, two years after it was first teased, we finally got a trailer for Gravity Rush 2 (and 2016's goty, c'mon). [embed]311208:60429:0[/embed]
TGS hands-on photo
Because I am stupid and I love it
I was surprised at Tokyo Game Show. It wasn't that there were melon-breasted anime women making out with each other in a trailer casually playing all about Sony's booth. It was that the line for Gravity Rush (Gravity Daze her...

New Resident Evil is a fast-crawling, alright third-person shooter

Sep 17 // Steven Hansen
Until I actually played it, I was feeling Gears of War hints. There's the close, over-the-shoulder view (arguably equally established by Resident Evil 4, but the former gets the mental nod in the context of a third-person competitive shooter), the general griminess of the place, and the claustrophobic tightness of the map, and the "Brained," a rock climbing pick ax looking thing good for one-hit melee kills. And then I played the thing and there is none off that lumbering; it felt more like Counter-Strike speed. [embed]310837:60379:0[/embed] The regular walking speed is quick, sprint is quicker. Even the crawl is fast, which is incredibly strange looking. There's a cover system, too, which is a bit like Gears' run. If you're aiming at a structure that supports cover, it will be outlined blue. Pressing X will automatically send your character running for cover and then snap in. Zombies are kind of just milling about (I think they just kind of spawn from goopy puddles in the floor) and you do get points for killing them. They can kill you, too, but are non-threatening enough that you can run past them. I did get killed by one, though, while I was already hurt and trying to crawl-retreat from bullets. It clocked me in the face. So they add something to the matches. The one life, no respawn mode I played is "one of the main modes," which emphasizes the focus on small, quick games. We were playing 3-on-3 and the game will go up to 5-on-5 with more modes to be announced later. Umbrella Corps is a bit more fast and floaty than I expected, but that did give it a somewhat novel feel. I've always preferred smaller player count shooter multiplayer, too. The whole thing feels...fine. A bit faceless with the tactical, bug-eyed non-persons, but not completely bog standard boring, either.
TGS hands-on photo
Coming to PC, PS4 early 2016
Next year is the 20th anniversary of Resident Evil (Biohazard here in glorious Nippon) and the only Resident Evil game dated for 2016 at the moment is the newly announced Biohazard: Umbrella Corps. It is an online, competitiv...

First hands-on with Metal Gear Online had us going back for more

Sep 17 // Steven Hansen
The demo stations were set up to accommodate 16 players (8 on 8 split between teams Liquid and Solid) with four pre-fab classes. Given how much meticulous, stealthy Phantom Pain I've been playing prior to arriving in Tokyo, I immediately went non-lethal, armed with nothing but a non-suppressed sleep pistol and a grenade that identified nearby enemies. I skulked around a bunch in a wide arc across the map hardly encountering anyone, which is likely because everyone else was running around trying to kill dudes, as you wont to do in a team deathmatch setting. I died to roving D-Walkers and machine guns. I was yearning for a bit of one life, no respawns, but I adjusted, switching to a sniper class mid-game. At one point I got CQC pulled from my sniping vantage point, which stunned me. The opposing player Fulton ballooned my ass off the battlefield. [embed]284642:56558:0[/embed] BRETT: Fultons, active camouflage, D-Walkers, turret nests -- really, the list goes on and on. There are so many ways to play Metal Gear Online that it's kind of overwhelming. Like, I finished second on our team one match, but did so entirely through gun kills. It felt disingenuous. The next round, I knocked a guy out and dropped a molotov cocktail on his head. That was infinitely more satisfying. One of my early deaths came while I was trying to figure out my secondary weapon: a stuffed kitten. How does that even work? I understand AI getting distracted, but these are humans I'm playing against. I took a bullet to the head immediately after setting it down. The kill cam showed my murderer running over to the cat and enthusiastically clapping at its cuteness. Kojima, you magnificent bastard. STEVEN: Was it a stuffed puppy? There's a husky plush (assumedly inspired by the wolf-ish D-Dog buddy from The Phantom Pain) you can set down like a mine, but instead of it blowing enemies up, if they get to close they get distracted by how cute it is. In MGS4's online, it was a nudie mag you could set down to distract. It's good for getting non-lethal kills without resistance (or freezing someone up and sniping from afar), and then you could Fulton. You get extra points for the latter (and points for stuns). That first game was split one win to one win and instead of a third match it came down to total points being tallied. And yeah, my best match was the last of the four. I came in second by way of points, first by way of kills. I actually didn't pick up on it, but there are points tied to nailing "Objectives," though I wasn't sure what they were. There's also a bounty system and extra points for offing someone with a bounty on their head. I only noticed because a bounty got put on me at one point, though nothing came of it. But in that last match I basically opted for a large machine gun and brute forced people with 100-bullet clips. I was mowing down small crews in doorways, people jumping onto D-Walkers. It was a little less fun, but I assume when the game comes out and people have more of an idea what they're doing that becomes a less viable strategy (especially because you die pretty quickly if you are getting accurately shot up). BRETT: For every thing I figured out, I feel like there were three things I didn't. Metal Gear Online is obviously much more than your standard tacked-on multiplayer mode -- although it can definitely be played as such. I spent a considerable amount of time in one round just gunning people down from the relative safety of a guard's nest vantage point. Again, it felt wrong. Comeuppance was swift and just when a D-Walker figured out my strategy. Confused as I was at times, I was also undoubtedly elated. How many times in your many conventions have you found yourself going back to replay a demo? It's probably the first for me, as far as I can remember.  STEVEN: I can't think of one. I also love that the cardboard box remains an item even though players would know to be suspicious. It did have some weird utility in previous Metal Gear Online for instant ducking, but here it was just idiots (like me) running around in it upright while cycling through loadout items. Probably the best thing about The Phantom Pain's edition of Metal Gear Online is not having to deal with a fucking Konami ID/MGO ID and that whole awful log-in process that eventually locked me out of playing the damn thing when I couldn't remember all my info. That kind of bullshit is Konami. Glad we'll still be able to enjoy another phase of weird Kojima Metal Gear after he's gone.
Tokyo Game Show hands-on photo
Getting shot up trying to stealth
While Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain isn't an insignificant time sucker as is, it did launch missing its competitive online multiplayer component, Metal Gear Online, which was delayed until October 6 on consoles and January 2016 on PC. Brett and I got our hands on the thing at Tokyo Game Show and immediately ran back in line for a second go like giddy schoolchildren.

Rashid is easily one of my favorite new Street Fighter characters

Sep 17 // Chris Carter
To my surprise, Rashid's command moves were actually simple to execute. He has a few abilities that are done with the simple touch of two buttons at once, and most of his other moves can be done with one directional movement. Maneuverability is key with Rashid, as he has the power to do a front flip (which can cancel into multiple moves, Vega style), a roll (that can dodge projectiles), and even a wall jump. He's the personification of "easy to learn, tough to master." For those who aren't aware, Street Fighter V features V-Triggers (triggered by HP + HK), which basically function as a unique ability of sorts that exemplifies the type of fighter each character is. For instance, Ryu is known for his projectiles, so his V-Trigger Denjin Renki boost his moves, including a boost to his Shinku Hadoken. Rashid's V-Trigger is "Ysaar," a whirlwind that moves slightly forward and blocks the screen. The key here is that Rashid can move through the wall, slightly boosting his movement speed and altering his attacks. Players will have to be lightning quick to take advantage of this, because the effect fades rather quickly. Similarly, his Critical Art (super) Altair is an anti-air whirlwind, which looks and feels like Ken's Shouryuu Reppa. When combined with his dodges and rolls, Rashid becomes a very technical character that has an answer to almost everything, but will take a great deal of skill to use. A Capcom rep informed me that Street Fighter V would be taking a MOBA-style approach to DLC, offering up new content on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. As previously announced, players can earn in-game currency to pay for the DLC without having to fork over real cash. When asked about how much work would have to go into buying a single character, Capcom noted that they were still "testing the waters." As for my general thoughts on Street Fighter V, they are still very much positive. Although I had fun fighting my friends in IV, it just didn't feel like it captured the essence of so many classic games in the series. I see a lot of Alpha in Street Fighter V, and that makes me very happy.
Street Fighter photo
Hands-on with Street Fighter V
Street Fighter V has been pretty well received by the fighting game community, and it's not even slated to come out until early 2016. I enjoyed my time with the beta, and now, I got my hands on the latest build here at TGS, which includes a playable Rashid. I certainly didn't expect it, but I may have found a new main.

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir photo
Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is like a whole new game

A massive framerate upgrade from PS2
Sep 17
// Chris Carter
Odin Sphere was one of the first games I played with my wife, and we had a perfect system. She would play a lot of the core areas during the day, and at night, I would plant seeds, gather food, and level up while she took a n...

It's mostly Ratchet and very little Clank at Tokyo Game Show

Sep 17 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]311251:60420:0[/embed] Ratchet caused a racket though, armed to the teeth as if he were a guard at the on-ramp. Barrages of missiles and wild melee attacks brute forced the way through the demo. Nuts that serve as a currency spilled out of everything and magnetized their way to the lawless lombax. Clank's presence was diminished even further during the second half of the demo. Dropped into a hellish pit against some sort of Rancor-esque boss-thing, Clank clearly wanted nothing to do with it. Ratchet swung, swung, swung away at the feet of the monster, as it reared up and down but did very little harm. It was kind of like getting under a Souls boss and doing way more damage than you probably deserve to. It didn't stay like that forever, though. Two times during the fight, he disappeared and summoned swarms of battle toads before coming back to the fray. Toward the end, he spit fire at me so I pulled out a flamethrower and we had a neat back-and-forth of slowly jumping over walls of flame while facing the other. His health meter plummeted a lot quicker than mine, so I was the victor -- no Clank required. In all likelihood, Clank will prove to be more useful and prevalent in the final game. This demo was probably skewed a bit too far in its omission. Ratchet was the star of the day, and his platforming and action work quite well. Once Clank gets properly added into the mix, the 2016 installment should feel right at home alongside all the other games in the series. 
Ratchet and Clank photo
Par for the course, right?
As far as the action bits go, Clank generally takes the backseat while Ratchet is doing his thing. Sure, Clank facilitates some of it, but it's a tempered role. He's a sidekick who knows his job. That makes the relationship w...

Metal Gear Online TGS footage breaks down modes, characters, classes

Sep 17 // Steven Hansen
There's also: Cloak and Dagger "Attackers win by recovering the Data Disc and uploading it at the Evac Point within the time limit. Defenders win by preventing the upload. Attackers are armed with only non-lethal weapons while defenders only have lethal weapons. This is an elimination mission. Once eliminated, you cannot return to the battlefield until the next round." Comm Control "Attackers must capture Comm Links to download confidential intel. If the attackers complete the download within the time limit, they are victorious. If the defenders are able to prevent this within the time limit, they are victorious. Comm Links can be captured by staying within the effective range of the Comm Links until they change ownership." Stages include: Jade Forest – African Jungle Outback. Composed of natural jungle and a desolate village.Red Fortress – Soviet Military Base in Afghanistan. A hilltop base with a peripheral view of the surrounding desert.Gray Rampart – A dam and its environs. The stage contains two regions on either side of a river, with the dam and bridges connecting them.Amber Station – A gas refinery on a harbor. The stage contains several multi-level structures.Black Site – The infamous US military base nine years after the events of “METAL GEAR SOLID V: GROUND ZEROES”. It contains a multi-level base with mostly flat and spacious surrounding areas. Classes: Scout – With advanced scouting capabilities, the “Recon Class” specialties are long-range combat and support functions. Movement speed and strength are average making this a great choice for beginners.Enforcer – With great strength, the “Heavy Class” specializes in powerful weapons. However, movement speed is slow making this class less effective in close quarters. This class is for intermediate players.Infiltrator – Fast moving, the “Infiltration Class” specialty is close combat such as CQC. Due to the strength being low, you should avoid a head-on battle. This is a class for experienced players. Tips: Unique Character – When “Unique Character” is selected in mission settings, one player on each team is assigned at random to play as a unique character. Unique characters such as Snake and Ocelot have significantly higher abilities compared to regular player characters. They also have exclusive weapons and actions, providing opportunities to try different play styles. Abilities – Equipping abilities enhance performance of your character or your weapons. Each ability has 3 levels. Buddy – Players can join up with a “Buddy”. When your Buddy Gauge reaches 50% or greater, you can respawn at your buddy’s location. Once the buddy gauge reaches 100%, you can equip the E-RB WORMHOLE GEN. from your support weapons. This device can be placed and entered to instantaneously travel to your buddy’s location. Interrogation – Restraining an enemy with CQC and holding down the CALL button performs an “interrogation”. If the interrogation is successful, you gain intel on the enemy team’s location, which is automatically shared with your buddy. Weight and Mobility – Weapons and items have weight associated with them. Based on total weight, your “mobility” rating ranges from Level S to D, affecting your movement speed and weapon sway. When editing your loadouts, keep the mobility rating in mind. Party – If you join a party, you will be able to join the same match as the party members. You can access the Party Menu from the Freeplay environment. Experience Points – Based on your performance during the match, you gain experience points. Earn experience points (XP) to raise your character level. If you raise your level, you can obtain new weapons or abilities as a reward.
Tokyo Game Show photo
Playing as Ocelot explained
Konami's website has added the new Metal Gear Online gameplay debuted at Tokyo Game Show. There's even a breakdown of the things that Brett and I didn't understand in our earlier hands-on preview, like the Bounty Hunter mode...

Exist Archive preview photo
Exist Archive preview

Exist Archive looks great, but it has a lot to prove

It's nothing special so far
Sep 17
// Chris Carter
When Spike Chunsoft and tri-Ace announced Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky, I was supremely impressed with the visual style. As it turns out it looks even better in person, as I witnessed during my hands-on time with the TGS build. From a gameplay standpoint though I have some concerns, mostly stemming from the repetitive nature of the flow.

Star Wars Battle Pod is an immersive, flashy, and elaborate arcade cabinet

Sep 17 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]310990:60396:0[/embed] It's not just the game that impresses here -- the actual cabinet itself does, too. Blowing air vents and rumble features that are synchronized with the action add to everything. The overwhelmingly large convex screen taking up the entirety of your peripheral vision certainly helps too. For the third time in this article, I'm using the word "experience" because Star Wars Battle Pod is more that than a game. Unfortunately for me, I'm kind of bad at it. Giving it a few different shots, I couldn't manage to clear any of the (approximately) three minute missions. Everything was going smoothly enough until "Mission Alert" flashed across the screen, meaning that there's an objective to fulfill -- defend a transport, blow up the Death Star...that sort of thing. I failed here each and every time. Oh well, it was still a hell of a ride. My go at Star Wars Battle Pod was at Bandai Namco's headquarters in Tokyo, where a free cabinet was set up. Those in the United States can give it the old college try, as it's in several Dave & Busters locations. That won't be gratis, of course; online reports seem to indicate that it's $4 per play. Steep, but maybe worth it for Star Wars fans to at least check out. There are likely diminishing returns across more runs, as Battle Pod shows its hand immediately. But hey, if the force is strong with you, who am I to stop you?
Star Wars photo
And fans will probably love it
While everyone's waiting for that one Star Wars game this fall, there's another new(ish) experience meant to transport you to a galaxy far, far away. It won't scratch the same itch, but it's immersive, flashy, and unabas...

Sword Art Online plays so much better when you can fly

Sep 17 // Chris Carter
When I first started my demo session with Lost Song, it felt far too familiar for its own good. It has a very similar presentation, right down to the simplistic combo system (that's basically built on two attack types, dodging, and a few abilities), and the extremely samey zone that was almost a copy and paste job from its predecessor. However, there are a few minor enhancements along the way that Sword Art fans will recognize after digging in a bit, like the addition of a three-party group, and most notably, flying. With the touch of a button, players can soar up in the air, swooping about, or opt for a more deliberate glide maneuver, with a control scheme that's extremely precise in nature. It opens up your exploration options considerably, and cuts down on some of the monotony of traveling long distances. Plus, plenty of enemies inhabit the skies, so you'll be able to do some fighting along the way, alongside of tactical dodges and pursuit situations. By that same token, the world still feels a bit hollow and uninspired, showing its PS3-era roots. Flying is fun, but the areas that I could actually fly to in my demo weren't exactly riveting, mostly consisting of high-up vistas with no flair or unique rewards. Still, everything looks a tad more impressive on the PS4 in comparison to Hollow Fragment, which initially launched on the Vita before heading to the current generation just a few months ago. Sword Art Online: Lost Song will arrive in the US on November 17, 2015, on PS4 and Vita.
SAO preview photo
Other than that, it's par for the course
I had mixed thoughts on Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment last year, but ultimately I came away happy. Funnily enough, as someone who absolutely hated the second arc of the anime, I actually found the follow-up, Lost Song, to be a little more enjoyable based on my hands-on session at TGS. As it turns out, flying around in the world of ALfheim Online is quite a bit of fun.

Miracle Girls Festival is fairly standard

Sep 17 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]311207:60413:0[/embed] Still, that familiarity (with the gameplay presentation, anyway) smacked me in the face and ears when I demoed Miracle Girls Festival. Button prompts flying from every which direction confused until they didn't anymore. Eventually there's a rhythm (ha!) you fall into. At least I felt connected to the music through my interaction. But, the honeymoon was short as Miracle Girls Festival ranked me as "standard" after all three songs I played. Cold. Not as chilly as all the times it flashed "worst" at me, but frigid nonetheless. The tracks were brief (probably two minutes, tops) so the onslaught of insults didn't stretch too long. Slightly ironic that Miracle Girls Festival repeatedly called me standard when it's the one cobbled together on the frames of other works. In doing so, it's completely predictable. Not that the fact will bother Project Diva fans, but it is. I can name-call too, Miracle Girls Festival.
Miracle Girls Festival photo
As am I
Sega's Miracle Girls Festival borrows from all over the place. The rhythm game features girls from a number of different anime, and it employs the same engine as Project Diva titles. If you're familiar with all of t...

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