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New Splatoon weapons photo
New Splatoon weapons

Splatoon gets new minigun and bucket weapons

The game that keeps on giving
Jul 25
// Patrick Hancock
A new Japanese commercial for Splatoon highlights some brand new weapons coming to the game, including a minigun like the Heavy's in Team Fortress 2. In addition to that, there's a literal bucket that just sloshes paint...

Review: SlashDash

Jul 17 // Patrick Hancock
SlashDash (Xbox One)Developer: Nevernaut GamesPublisher: Nevernaut GamesMSRP: $9.99Released: July 17, 2015  SlashDash is a local-multiplayer only game. There is no one-player mode, no bots, no challenges, nothing. If there are not at least two players, it's impossible to play any mode. I just wanted to make that perfectly clear before anyone reads further. It uses a simple control scheme, but that doesn't make it a simple game. Players can slash with their sword, perform a small teleport forward, or throw a weapon forward. Hitting an enemy with a thrown weapon like a kunai will stun them for a brief moment of time, but slashing them will kill them, forcing them to respawn. It takes less than a single round of play for players to fully comprehend the controls, but the feeling of mastery is still a long ways off.  The biggest quirk is that players cannot slash and move at the same time. It may sound like a non-issue, but in a fast-paced game like SlashDash, it makes a world of difference. It forces players to really think about their attacks, because a single missed attack might be the difference between victory and defeat. Everyone moves at the same default speed, so missing an attack and stopping is a huge setback. There are four modes available: Capture the Flag, Assassination, Deathrace, and Mirror Match. Capture the Flag (CTF) is easily the best mode available. It doesn't deviate far from what players would expect from a CTF variant. It's 2v2 only, and one player must grab the opponent's flag and return it to their base to score a point. The player carrying the flag is slowed, but their teammate can slash them and give them an extra boost of speed. It's incredibly important to master this skill, and forces players to think about what move would be better: boosting your flag carrier, defending them, or attacking the opponent who has your flag. Other than simply outplaying an opponent, mind games are a huge part of CTF. There's a deceivingly large amount of options at any given time, regardless of which role a player is filling. Of course, all of this happening with friends nearby or on the same couch is what really pumps the excitement into SlashDash. [embed]295953:59548:0[/embed] Assassination gives each team a Shogun to protect. The Shogun will blindly follow one player, and slashing your own Shogun will make it run to your teammate. It's important to know that the Shogun will run in a straight line to your teammate, and will get caught on any pieces of environment that are in the way. It's hard to find a good Shogun these days. The Shogun variant is interesting, but doesn't tend to provide the same amount of excitement as CTF. Having the Shogun generally forces the player to run away, and these matches can easily devolve into very defensive matches from both teams. Deathrace is a fancy way to say Deathmatch, with a slight twist on the formula. This is a free-for-all mode where each player has a bar that fills as long as they are alive. If a player is stunned or killed, the bar is slowed. The first player to fill their bar wins. The leader has a ring around them to indicate they are in first, but it's really hard to see by how much. The bar that fills for each player is a circle in the middle of the stage, and makes it near-impossible to see how close players are to one another. Mirror Match is the worst of the bunch. In this mode, every player gets five ninjas to control, each acting at the same time. It's possible to separate them by using the environment, but this mode is basically just chaos. There wouldn't be much wrong with this, except that the frame rate drops heavily while playing, even with just two people. I've even had the game crash on me on this mode. If it didn't struggle to run, Mirror Match could be a chaotic distraction from the other modes, but as it stands, it is unplayable. There are nine maps, and each of them are quite unique from one another. One map is made of ice with less friction, while another has spikes that rise from the ground that will kill anyone who steps on them. Map knowledge is an important skill, since it is crucial to know what the ninjas can and cannot teleport over. Being chased by an opponent and failing to teleport over a gap because it was too far can lead to some quick deaths.  New throwing weapons can be unlocked, seemingly through games played. This is never made very clear, but considering all I have done is play matches, I think it's safe to say that playing more matches unlocks more throwing weapons. It's a shame, though, because there will be people who download the game to play with friends and only have a single throwing weapon, the Kunai, to use. It takes some decent playtime to unlock them, too, which seems counter-intuitive to the design of the game as a whole. The different weapons all have very different effects, and cater to multiple different playstyles. The smoke bomb, for example, creates a big puff of smoke around the ninja, making them impossible to see for a moment (warning: do NOT use in Mirror Match, for the love of frame rate). The Poison Kunai, on the other hand, stuns for a very small amount of time, but prevents the enemy from teleporting for a short time instead. Playing around with the throwing weapons is a blast, once they're all unlocked. One huge issue is the rematch button. Opting to rematch restarts the match, but every player is reverted back to the Kunai for a throwing weapon, regardless of what they picked. Originally this is fine, since it's the only weapon unlocked, but as people start to select different weapons, the button becomes useless. Despite incredibly polished visuals with a true homage to Japanese culture, there's a ton of gameplay hiccups, After playing a game and going back to the main menu, the "Instructions" option becomes invisible. It's still there, just invisible until the player selects it. Selecting rematch after "Random" is chosen for the stage brings players to the same level, instead of a new random one. I've encountered freezes multiple times, even outside of Mirror Match. And after a match, the options for rematch, mode select, and stage select can block a player's statistics if they accidentally hit a button too early, which is common when the end of a match is intense. I really do love SlashDash, but only when playing with four people. Currently, there's a lot of blemishes on the product as a whole, most of which seem like glaring oversights. There's also not a lot going on for people who don't regularly have friends over at their house to play multiplayer games. With no single-player and even lackluster two-player options, SlashDash exists for a certain kind of player. Hopefully all of the bugs can be fixed, because playing Capture the Flag with three friends is easily one of the best local multiplayer experiences out there. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
SlashDash review photo
Bring your friends...or else
SlashDash first grabbed my attention at PAX East, where it easily soaked up a good amount of my time on the show floor. Also, I'm pretty sure Dylan Sprouse was working the booth. Or maybe it was Cole? I guess it could ha...

Next Splatfest announced photo
Next Splatfest announced

The next Splatfest announced for the Americas

How do you like your rides?
Jul 09
// Patrick Hancock
Nintendo of America has announced the details for the next Splatfest in Splatoon, and it's much sooner than I thought it would be! The Splatfest starts the night of July 17, at 9:00 PM PT, and runs for 24 hours. As for the te...

Tower Control is the best mode in Splatoon

Jul 08 // Patrick Hancock
[embed]295623:59421:0[/embed] Tower Control This mode starts with a neutral, floating tower platform in the center of the map and tasks players to move it into the enemy's base by standing on it. The path of the platform is marked on the map, so everyone knows exactly where you're going. My enjoyment with this mode largely depends on the map, but Tower Control has provided my best moments in Splatoon. Most maps are great in Tower Control, but one gets special mention for being not-so-great, and that's Saltspray Rig. I love map to death, but its Tower Control variant is just so darn small. I've won or lost rounds within a minute multiple times, often only being able to respawn once before the round is over. This isn't to say that it's impossible to have intense rounds on Saltspray, but I don't find them as common as in other maps. The beauty of Tower Control is how it made previously unappealing weapons super awesome to me. I've never touched a Squelcher before, but the Custom Dual Squelcher with Squid Beakons and the Killer Wail is a favorite in this mode. Squid Beakons assure that my teammates can come back to the action quickly, and the Killer Wail is absolutely perfect for defense. Remember, you know exactly where the enemy will be, and I've used this information to score a triple-kill many times using the Killer Wail in Tower Control. It's so good. I also started using the Classic Squiffer, which I used to think was a garbage weapon. Its sub abilities, the Point Sensor and Bubbler, are also perfect here. Many people "hide" in the ink when on the tower, so the Point Sensor allows me to show my team exactly where they're lurking. The platform isn't big, but the tower itself will block some ink if they're in the right spot. The Bubbler is always amazing, but when a team needs a final push, it's exciting to jump on the tower and protect everyone with a Bubble all at once! Plus, it doesn't hurt that all snipers are awesome in this mode, especially ones that don't need a long charge like the Classic Squiffer. .96 Gal Deco This weapon is a re-skin of the .96 Gal, but comes with a Splash Wall and Kraken as its sub abilities. The Splash Wall becomes way more effective in Tower Control, but the Kraken's recent nerf makes it way more underwhelming (see: balanced). As much as I love the .52 Gal weapon, the .96 leaves me hurting for ink too much to feel "in control." Considering Splash Wall takes a ton of ink, I'll continue to stick to the .52 Gal from here on out. As great as Splash Wall is for Tower Control, I still believe the original .96 Gal is a better option. Both the Sprinkler and Echolocator are some top-tier abilities regardless of mode, and their pairing on the original make it a hard option to pass up. Sploosh-O-Matic This is my new favorite gun. I generally stick to the Inkbrush or Blasters, so I'm a fan of close-quarters combat. The Sploosh-O-Matic feels like an honorary blaster with its short range and incredible damage output. I can't stress the short range enough, though. In an Inkopolis dominated by Aerosprays, short-ranged weapons are often caught out if they're not careful. One thing that surprised me was how incredibly fast this gun can fill its special. I was getting my Killer Wail ability way more often than with anything else. The best part is, since ink management can be tough with a gun like this, and using a special instantly refills ink, it's good to have a quick-use special like the Killer Wail. It's wonderful to ink a ton of ground, use the Killer Wail to kill or deny an area, and then keep on inking. Squid Beakons are just the icing on the cake, since they will always be a great choice to help out your team. Is anyone else as addicted to Splatoon as I am? If so, which new weapons are your favorite? Feel free to add P-Dude to your friends list to play together sometime!
Splatoon update is good photo
The Sploosh-O-Matic is my new favorite
Splatoon has gotten very frequent update ever since its initial release, and I have been gobbling them up as much as I can. New weapons, maps, and modes have consistently kept the game fresh, even for those who have alre...

Huge TF2 update photo
Huge TF2 update

Team Fortress 2 becomes Counter-Strike tomorrow

New map, mechanics, and balance changes
Jul 01
// Patrick Hancock
Team Fortress 2 gets a new update tomorrow called the Gun Mettle Update. To summarize, the game is taking on many ideas from its much more popular cohort, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. First of all, weapon skins...

Review: RONIN

Jun 30 // Patrick Hancock
RONIN (PC)Developer: Tomasz Wacławek Publisher: Devolver DigitalMSRP: $12.99Released: June 30, 2015 RONIN uses a barebones and cliche story. The main character wants to avenge their father and does so by killing five targets. A photograph with all of the targets together, along with the father, is used as a loading screen, which leads to the assumption that they were close at one time. What happened between then and now isn't ever delved into, and the player is sort of left with little to no story to go off of. Just kill the targets, because dead father. Got it? Every target plays out exactly the same. Two stages of going around and hacking computers, then one stage with the target in it. This repeats every single time, with the exception of the final stage. Even the stages with different objectives play exactly the same way, so it hardly matters. Playing RONIN feels like playing the same mission over and over again, about twelve times.  Each level even has the same three mini-objectives: don't kill any civilians, don't set off the alarm, and kill every enemy. If all three of these are completed, a skill point is awarded. This is the only form of character progression, and is essentially mandatory. The skills add combat techniques like throwing and recalling the sword or deploying a hologram. Certain skills are way better than others. For those who are about to play: get the skill that allows for hanging up unsuspecting enemies, then go for the one that allows teleporting to enemies. They are by far the best skills. [embed]294727:59273:0[/embed] There are two forms of gameplay: free form and turn-based. While outside of combat, movement is free form. Jumping uses the mouse and functions a lot like jumping in Gunpoint, for those familiar with the game. Holding the jump button brings up an adjustable arc, and releasing the jump button sends the player in that arc. However, unlike Gunpoint, this mechanic is incredibly awkward and never seems to work the way it should. When spotted by an enemy, turn-based combat begins. The game pauses and will show where the enemy will be firing, allowing the player to make a move accordingly. The player always moves first, so attacking at a guard who is about to fire works out just fine. The problem is that the only way to move is to jump. If the player is hanging from a ceiling and a guard is about to shoot them, it is impossible to just scootch a little bit to the right. The only option from hanging is to jump down, which isn't always a great option. Jumping on an enemy will stun them, forcing them to recover for two turns. Stunning an enemy also awards one point towards the Limit Break bar. This bar slowly fills up with action points as the player stuns or kills enemies. These points are used to utilize the acquired skills, or to use the Limit Break itself. If the bar completely fills up, the Limit Break is automatically activated, which allows two turns at once. Once used, the bar is completely drained. Most of the time, I would have much preferred to not use the Limit Break and instead use my skills to dispatch enemies. The issue is that jumping takes one action point to use, and if the player doesn't either stun or kill an enemy, that point is lost. Some skills, like throwing the sword, can only be activated mid-air for some reason. This means players have to waste an action point jumping, then next turn they can spend the two points it takes to throw a sword and complete the action. This essentially means it takes three skill points to use the skill instead of two, and can be quite frustrating.  Battles are essentially puzzles to be solved by the player, and there is often only one real solution. Most rooms have one entrance, and from there it is a matter of figuring out how to hop around in the most efficient way. Players with different skills will approach a battle differently, but given a single set of skills, they will solve battles in just about the same way every time. There are also only four enemy types throughout the entire game, so battles are different ways of arranging the same thing. Despite the awkwardness of the jump and frustrating design decisions in many of the levels, every once in a while something beautiful happens. It happens when all the skills are used effectively and players actually feel like a Ronin warrior. These moments occur somewhat frequently, and do a lot of good to help alleviate the otherwise constant frustration of memorizing a level's solution. There are checkpoints throughout each stage, though it's not conveyed to the player where they are. They can be pretty generous at times, usually saving right before a battle. However I did encounter instances where the checkpoint left me in an inescapable position, forcing me to restart the level. At one moment, the game saved just as the alarm was going off, making it unavoidable. The game then crashed immediately afterwards. The option to go back to past checkpoints would be a very welcome addition. The last mission has zero checkpoints, and forces players to do the entire thing all at once. It's a great mission compared to all of the others, largely because it's actually somewhat different, but considering the amount of accidental deaths I've had on it alone, it's an asinine decision. There's also a New Game+ mode, which adds more difficulty to the stages. Behavior also seems to change, as guards that previously shot in a contiguous straight line now had upwards recoil. The problem is, there's no incentive to play New Game+. The standard campaign was already the same mission every time. Why do it again? There are no new skills to acquire, just an added challenge for those who are yearning for more of the same. While I played this game on PC, it is clearly designed for tablets. The user interface is awful, consisting of simple text and gigantic buttons. To perform any action, players must click on big floating circles above the object, whether it be to kill an enemy or ride an elevator. Sometimes players can tap the W key to perform an action, like moving the elevator up a floor, but other times it simply doesn't work, like when entering the elevator. It's gaudy and frustrating to have to click on these bubbles all the time. RONIN strives to achieve the level of masterful design of games like Gunpoint and Mark of the Ninja, but seems to have overlooked what made them so special in the first place. It has its moments of truly feeling like a badass, but they do not make up for the frustration of everything in between. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
RONIN review photo
Where are the other 46?
When I first saw RONIN, I thought I was looking at a mod for Gunpoint. The jumping mechanic appeared the same, the environments were almost identical, and the idea looked just about the same. Turns out, RONIN is not that...

CEO 2015 highlights photo
CEO 2015 highlights

My favorite matches from CEO 2015

The best of the best!
Jun 29
// Patrick Hancock
CEO 2015, one of the biggest fighting game tournaments of the year, took place this weekend and had some insane moments. My favorite was probably the above match between Armada and Leffen in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Yes, it'...
CEO 2015 finals! photo
CEO 2015 finals!

Tune in to the final day of CEO 2015

All the fighting games you could want
Jun 28
// Patrick Hancock
CEO 2015 has been underway all weekend, and today is the peak of all the hype. Just about any fighting game you could ever want to watch will be streamed today with some of the best players in the world competing. The events ...
Stay freeeshh! photo
Stay freeeshh!

Splatoon's first balance patch nerfs the Kraken

Two new weapons are being added tonight
Jun 26
// Patrick Hancock
We've got some Splatoon update information to share! Two new weapons are being added to the game tonight, and an actual balance patch is coming on June 30. The two weapons tonight are the Carbon Roller and Custom Dual Squelch...
New SteamOS photo
New SteamOS

New SteamOS 'brewmaster' now available to download

Unless you're on AMD hardware
Jun 26
// Patrick Hancock
SteamOS, Valve's answer to Linux gaming, has been rather quiet recently. SteamOS is releasing later this year, and it looks like Valve just took the next big step towards achieving that goal. A brand new version of SteamOS, c...

Review: Cosmochoria

Jun 25 // Patrick Hancock
Cosmochoria (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Nate SchmoldPublisher: 30/30Released: April 27, 2015MSRP: $9.99  When Cosmochoria begins, the player is plopped into an unknown point in space with a few seeds and a gun. From there, they are tasked with restoring planets using seeds to bring some color and harmony back to the universe. Along the way, the player uncovers secrets about the history of the universe and destroys some evil beasts that come to ruin the party. The backstory isn't exactly rich with details or particularly interesting, but it does help build the universe. The game is a bit of a mix between a tower defense and a twin-stick shooter. It's a very unique combination, and honestly I'm not sure that description does it much justice. As the player flies around to different planets, they must plant seeds to restore the planet back to life. The bigger the planet, the more seeds needed. A player must first tend to the seed to plant it, which makes them immobile for a short time. Then, it takes some time for the seed to fully bloom. Once a seed blooms, it drops more seeds for exponential seed gains (players will never run out of seeds). After enough seeds have bloomed on a planet, it becomes restored! This does two things: the planet now has a "health pool" that it can transfer to the player to heal them up, and it brings the game one step closer to the next boss fight. The latter is not explicitly stated, but from my experience is true. Naturally, enemies come to chop off the player's green thumb. Luckily, the player can use a resource called Bricks to create towers and defend the planets. In addition, there's always the trusty gun to ward off foes. Ammo is unlimited, but Bricks are not. Bricks are occasionally dropped by enemies and are far scarcer resource than seeds. Towers are the standard fare of rapid-fire, fireballs, shields, and close-ranged.  [embed]293752:59233:0[/embed] While playing, I heavily favored gunplay over towers, especially once I unlocked the shotgun. When I was building towers, it was generally because I felt guilty for having so many Bricks saved up or because I expected a boss fight to break out. The bosses are quite the mixed bag. A handful of them act in very similar ways, but the game does change them up often enough to keep the players on their toes. Towards the mid-point of the game, I had no idea what to expect from any upcoming boss fight. In some cases towers were quite useful, whereas in others they were borderline useless. The final boss fight, while fittingly grand in scale, can be confusing because it forces the player to use a weapon they may have never tried before. For anyone stuck like I was: your weapon during the final boss fight can be charged, so charge it. The common enemies have interesting behaviors, but there are not enough different types. Towards the latter half, everything starts to feel like it's on auto-pilot. Plant seeds, kill the same enemies, move on. It got to the point where I could predict what was going to happen and when. Enemy spawning felt way too formulaic instead of being organic.  Cosmochoria is not meant to be completed in a single life, but it isn't what would be considered a "rogulike," "roguelite," or even a "rogue-lighter-that-lite." Killing foes rewards red crystals, which can be used in between playthroughs to purchase upgrades. Things like life, speed, starting seeds, and new weapons can all be purchased and have various prices. While it is probably technically possible to complete the game with the starting stats and equipment, it's very unlikely. Plus, it would be a slow and painful process. The increase in efficiency after getting a new weapon is huge and dramatically improves the experience. The early-goings can get a bit dull, since even a skilled player has to take their time killing enemies and bosses at the slow pace the starting weapon achieves. My second run lasted for a couple of hours, but I didn't make tremendous progress. New characters can also be unlocked, but not through spending crystals. They need to be found, usually through completing mini-objectives, during the game. They do have slight differences. For example, the ninja character becomes intangible while planting seeds. This is an incredibly neat mechanic, though enemies still know where the player is and will often just hover above and hurt them as soon as they become tangible again. Regardless, it still has its uses and is better than the starting character (but not as naked). In addition to upgrades, players can find artifacts to modify the way the game is played. The modifiers vary wildly in what they do and are completely optional. Some make the game harder, like only refilling jetpack fuel with kills, while others do the opposite, like removing certain types of enemies completely. It's a great way to spice up the core gameplay with mini-objectives of finding artifacts and to customize Cosmochoria to the player's liking.  The game saves the player's progress after each boss fight, though towers and location of planets do not stay between lives. The amount of planets restored is saved, but they are in different locations and different sizes. In addition, all planted towers are removed between lives, which further discouraged me from planting them in the first place.  The art and music are both wonderful, making the time spent in Cosmochoria memorable. The art is downright adorable in every way. Colors pop, which has a huge impact when restoring planets. Players can really see their progress in that regard. What once was a drab and lifeless husk of a planet becomes a bountiful and beautiful one,giving the player a real sense of accomplishment. Cosmochoria is a great way to explore space, but falls short in some aspects of its design. The core mechanics are great, but the latter half feels too repetitive, and there's not much real incentive to replay the game, despite there being many new things to uncover. It is certainly worth the time invested into it, though it may not have players screaming for more. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Cosmochoria review photo
In space, no one can hear you plant
When I first played Cosmochoria at PAX, I had to be pulled away from the demo station because of an appointment. The game's blend of calming gardening mixed with tower defense and space spelunking really jived with me. A...

Shenmue 3 success photo
Hoping for a Dreamcast stretch goal
One of the bombs dropped last night during Sony's press conference was that Shenmue 3 was coming, if the Kickstarter succeeded. It was a tough journey, but after a harrowing handful of hours, the project managed to ...

Ryu is gunning for top tier in the new Super Smash Bros.

Jun 14 // Patrick Hancock
First, let's discuss Ryu's stage, Suzaku Castle. In short: it's wonderful and weird. The music is great and speeds up when things are getting down to the wire. The default mode will definitely not be tournament-legal, since it has a walk-off on the right side. For general entertaining play, however, it's superb. Strategies will change depending on the side the fight is happening on, and since there's a lot of open space on the left side, you can expect some serious ledge play at times. There are two platforms on the left, one on top and one on the bottom. The top one has no grabbable ledges, but the bottom one does. The ledges on the bottom platform are a bit wonky, as characters who come up towards the center of the platform will snap to a ledge that seems way too far to snap to. Players will also only snap in the way they are facing, it seems. Here's a GIF to demonstrate what I mean: As for the character, the first thing I did was take Ryu into the Training mode. He's got at least twice as many attacks as a standard character, and I need to know what they are and how they act before I go into a match. From here on out, I will refer to his light attacks as the attacks executing by tapping the button, and heavy attacks as the ones where the player has to hold the attack button. There's apparently a medium somewhere in the middle, but I'll be damned if I can pull it off intentionally. Holding the attack button doesn't even feel like truly "holding" it. I was worried that having to hold down a button for an attack would feel weird, but it is still very quickly executed. Now I'm worried that I'll "hold" the attack button for too long when I want to do a light attack! You really have to consciously tap the button to execute a light attack. In general, heavy attacks are the ones that come out for me when I'm not thinking. Ryu is definitely a thinking-man's character. Throwing out attacks isn't going to cut it. In each scenario, players must think "okay, light or heavy?" and then execute properly.  Let's start with the special moves. Hadoukens are a great way to cover an approach or force the opponent to make a move. You can not spam Hadoukens, as there can only be one out at a time. The Shakunetsu Hadouken can be activated by performing a half-circle forward motion and an attack button. This Hadouken is slightly stronger than holding the special button down (8% compared to 7%) and will carry the opponent with them over 5 hits. It's great for edge guarding since it takes the enemy for a ride. Shoryuken is a great recovery move and can be a kill move at high percents. It kills Mario at around 105% with no Rage, for example. Personally, this is my go-to kill move in combos, but I'll speak more on that later. Also, it's possible to input down-forward twice to execute this move, instead of doing the normal Dragon Punch motion of forward, down, down-forward. [embed]293924:58985:0[/embed] The Hurricane Kick, despite being called "hugely destructive" by Sakurai, is rather lackluster as an attack. It does less damage (9% if inputting the command) if the opponent is very close to Ryu, and more damage if they are hit during the spinning phase (13%). It pushes the enemy vertically, and doesn't kill Mario until around 130%, and that's with no Directional Influence. As a recovery move, however, the move is wonderful. Ryu can act after it, allowing him to Tatsumaki to gain horizontal ground, and then Shoryuken to go vertically. Finally, his Focus Attack. This is easily the most interesting special move Ryu has. While charging it Ryu has one hit of super armor. While charging, Ryu will flash twice, once for each increasing level. If the player hits the opponent before it flashes once, the opponent will be knocked back. If he hits them after it,  they go into a crumple state, just like Street Fighter IV. The second flash happens a split second before it is fully charged, which means it's a level 3 Focus Attack, which leads to a longer crumple. Also, if released in level 1 or 2, the Focus Attack will be absorbed by shields. Releasing a fully charged Focus Attack will still crumple a shielding opponent. Most importantly, Ryu can dash-cancel the focus attack while charging or after a hit. If an uncharged Focus Attack hits a shield, Ryu can also dash-cancel the lag. In Street Fighter IV, this was known as an "FADC," or Focus Attack Dash Cancel. This allows a guaranteed hit on crumpled opponents. It's super satisfying to pull off a FADC into a kill move like Shoryuken. It's also a good psych-out move to dash-cancel a charging Focus Attack, similar to how Sonic can cancel his Spin Dash. It's important to note that when inputting a Street Fighter command to perform a special move, it must be done in the direction Ryu is facing. If you wanted to do a Shakunetsu Hadouken backwards, for example, it would instead register as a Tatsumaki (quarter-circle back). It is not pleasant when you're expecting one move to come out and get another, so keep this in mind! Ryu's normals are incredibly varied thanks to his unique ability to have TWO OF EVERY TILT. Some of the more useful ones I've been using are his strong forward-tilt, Collarbone Breaker. It does not completely destroy a fresh shield, but it comes very close to doing so. His heavy up-tilt is also very useful and does 12%. Other than that, I've been using both version of his down-tilt a whole lot. The reason I use his down-tilt is because it can be cancelled into any of his special moves on hit. This is my go-to setup after a successful crumple, as well. Basically, I look for opportunities to FADC into a heavy down-tilt which I cancel into a Shoryuken. In case you forgot, I'm still talking about Super Smash Bros. here. As for some other notable moves: His forward smash is incredibly powerful (22% fully charged) and moves him forward, making it have a deceptively long range. His down air spikes, but only if Ryu is close to the opponent when it connects. His up smash and up air are good at keeping opponents airborne, but have short ranges. Literally all of his special moves help with his recovery. Both his Focus Attack and Hadouken give him a little vertical boost, so use them to surprise an opponent while recovering! So, what's Ryu's weakness? Well, other than the fact that players may flub inputs from time to time, I would say Ryu's biggest downside is his throw game. None of his throws are kill throws, and they don't seem to lead into any combo opportunities. Regardless, I think Ryu is going to be a very viable fighter at a higher level of play, and is a blast to experiment with no matter how good you are at the game. Also, always play as the pink Ryu to pretend like you're Dan Hibiki.
Ryu Smash Impressions photo
Watch as I Tastumaki to my death
Remember the first time you went online with Street Fighter IV with your favorite character, Hakan, and fought about 100 Ryus in a week? And they all spammed Hadoukens and always woke up with a Shoryuken? Wouldn't you like to...

New Smash Stages photo
New Smash Stages

Hyrule Castle and Peach's Castle stages coming to Smash Bros.

Poke Floats still suspiciously MIA
Jun 14
// Patrick Hancock
Two new stages are coming to the newest addition of Super Smash Bros., both of which were originally in the Nintendo 64 version. Both Hyrule Castle and Peach's Castle will be coming at a future point in time. Sakurai introduc...
Amiibo News! photo
Amiibo News!

Game and Watch amiibo can change poses, Mii Fighters are coming

September is going to be amiibo hell
Jun 14
// Patrick Hancock
Mii amiibo on their way! Should they be called Miimibo? That sounds a bit like a name for a Gremlin from the movie Gremlins. Anyway, these amiibo work the same as traditional amiibo, and as you would expect, the Mii that is t...
New retail indies photo
New retail indies

Tower of Guns and Ether One are coming to retail

Exclusive content for Tower of Guns
Jun 11
// Patrick Hancock
Tower of Guns, a delightful FPS roguelike, and Ether One, a beautiful adventure game, are going backwards in time and releasing in physical boxes this September. Ether One will have retail copies for PC and PS4, while To...
Dota 2 raking in dough photo
Dota 2 raking in dough

Dota 2 International prize pool is now the largest in eSports history

Plus, Faceless Rex courier!
Jun 05
// Patrick Hancock
The prize pool for the 2015 International Dota 2 tournament is now at $11,617,319, making it the largest eSports prize pool in history. The previous record was held by last year's tournament, which capped off at $10,930,...
Marvel Heroes anniversary photo
Marvel Heroes anniversary

Now is the best time to play Marvel Heroes

Two-year anniversary begins today
Jun 04
// Patrick Hancock
It's the two-year anniversary of the free-to-play ARPG Marvel Heroes today, and that calls for a celebration! The game is releasing its 48th playable hero today, Dr. Doom. Doom is essentially painted as the main villain ...
International 2015 $10M photo
International 2015 $10M

The International 2015's prize pool is now over $10 million

Two-thirds of the way there!
May 30
// Patrick Hancock
Dota 2's prize pool for the upcoming Internaltional 2015 tournament has just passed $10M. The pool is increased each time players buy a Compendium, which allows players to make predictions and bask in the glory of all of the ...

Review: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III

May 30 // Patrick Hancock
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III (Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: NeocoreGamesPublisher: NeocoreGamesMSRP: $14.99Release Date: May 22, 2015  For anyone who has played and enjoyed the first two games in the series, the third installment is likely worth the investment, despite its issues. It offers a solid form of closure to the trilogy in terms of story -- but be warned, the rest of the game doesn't feel nearly as fleshed out. Van Helsing III starts off with a great summary of the events that have transpired so far, but there’s a lot assumed of the player in terms of game mechanics at play. The tutorial does a decent job of covering the basics, but it is very possible for new players to completely overlook entire portions of the game if they’re not observant. The story picks up exactly where Van Helsing II left off. The New Bad Guy is in charge now, and Van Helsing and his ghastly partner Katarina are out to destroy him.  During their new adventure, Katarina’s backstory gets more fleshed out, and this is easily the most interesting part of the plot. Unfortunately, it’s easy to miss because most of it is told through in-game dialogue between Van Helsing and Katarina. Her dialogue, while it is displayed on screen, is constantly moving and is hard to hear under the noise of killing monsters. It's often triggered right as the player is about to take on a large group of enemies, making it impossible to simply “stop and listen.” Gameplay remains largely the same as it was in the past. Players can beef up their skills by spending Rage to increase certain aspects of the skill, like damage or duration. Each skill has three different elements that can be increased with Rage, and players can spend up to three points of Rage in any way they like; they can distribute one point to each element, or all three into one element to really increase its effect. It’s a very unique system that really elevates Van Helsing’s gameplay above many generic ARPGs. [embed]292802:58734:0[/embed] There are six new character classes to choose from, however players cannot import their character from the previous game. They can import a file for "Glory Points," which act as extra buffs, but this element of the game seems completely broken and doesn't function at all. The classes play rather differently, and players can vary how they approach each class’s strengths. I played through the campaign as the stealthy Umbralist, and made sure that I spent as much time as possible being invisible, so I focused on the spells that granted invisibility, which forced me to forfeit some burst damage by doing so. The skill tree has changed this time around, no longer requiring certain skills to be owned before taking another one. Instead, all of the skills are available to be taken from level one. Modifiers like extra damage or a bigger area of effect do require a certain amount of skill points in the skill itself before leveling up, however. This makes it more of a skill “bush” rather than a “tree,” since everything is easily picked without needing something else to get to the “higher” abilities. It’s nice to have free range, but there’s also no feeling of finally unlocking some badass skill in the late-game and about half of them feel useless. Chances are, player will choose 3-4 skills and stick with them forever. Katarina can also be customized, though her skills do follow the format of pre-requisites. Her mechanics remained unchanged and can still be toggled between melee, ranged, and a passive form that buffs her partner. She can also hold inventory and go back to the Lair and sell items without Van Helsing needing to do so himself.  Both Van Helsing and Kat have had their max level reduced -- hers is down to 25 and his is down to 30, half of what was offered in Van Helsing II. The game is rather short, and there's not much for players to do after reaching the max level. The "Neverending Story" mode from the past two games, which was essentially a New Game+ mode, is missing. I managed to complete the story in six hours, which wouldn't be an issue if there were any way to continue to progress. Since the max level is so low and there's no Neverending Story, there is little to no replayability in Van Helsing III. The tower defense mini-game returns in the "Lair" area, though players can completely opt out of it and instead send NPCs out to take care of the problem. The game mode itself also remains unchanged at its core. Build towers and traps to help defend against waves of enemies. The NPC missions also make a return, where the player can choose one of four leaders with various skills and traits to go out on missions and come back with sweet loot (well, mediocre loot usually). The Chimera can also be sent on its own missions, but can no longer be summoned into battle. All of these elements are fine, if a bit uninteresting, but they never come together as a cohesive whole. While out on missions, players will receive radio transmissions from the Lair saying things like “Hey man you gotta get back to the Lair! Bad guys are marching in and it’s bad news!” But if the player never returns or never click on that NPC, nothing happens. There’s no urgency to these missions and makes them feel incredibly disjointed. If the player never goes over to the Chimera section of the Lair, then they miss out on some more mediocre loot and an achievement or two, but that’s about it. For people familiar with the series or ARPGs in general, I recommend playing a difficulty above Normal. Playing through on Normal was much too easy, as the Umbralist could kill some bosses in a single hit. There are plenty of difficulties to choose from and a Hardcore option for those who think they can avoid death permanently. There are some bugs that I encountered during my time with the game. Some were minor, like the fact that if the Umbralist swings at nothing, no sound effects play or that some achievements are still broken. Others are more impactful. At one point the map's ground simply didn't exist, even though it looked like it did. According to patch notes this is fixed, but others are not, like the aforementioned Glory Points. Multiplayer with up to three other players is included once again, and if you can find someone near your region to play with, it isn't too laggy, but again bugs rear their ugly heads. Player VS. Player  (PvP) is also available, but it's hard to find people playing it and most players will probably have taken skills that focus on killing large groups at once, since that's what the Campaign is made up of. Scenarios also return, allowing players to play through zones with different modifiers, like constantly taking damage, to make things more difficult. It’s a decent way to farm for loot, but it is unlocked at level 27, just three levels away from the maximum level, so there's no real gameplay incentive to ever play a Scenario. In many ways it does feel like a copy-paste job, but neutered to remove certain elements. A lot of the models and mechanics are exactly the same as the second game, but then things like Neverending Story or a higher level cap are simply gone. The banter between Van Helsing and Katarina is still as solid as ever, as is the voice acting backing them up, but it's possible to miss the banter because of combat noise. Its parts feel a bit disjointed, like a student who has copy-pasted the information from their research paper from various different authors with no detail given to the paper as a whole. Van Helsing III feels much more like an expansion of the second iteration than a game all on its own. It's nice to have a solid end to the story, but it's baffling that so many features were removed from the previous games for this finale. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Van Helsing III Review photo
Electric Boogaloo
When I heard that The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III was on the horizon, I was taken aback a bit. Has it already been a year since the second game? I didn't expect such a quick turnaround, but after seeing that most of the assets are re-used, it makes complete sense.

Lethal Tactics on Steam photo
Lethal Tactics on Steam

Lethal Tactics brings its intelligent gameplay to Early Access

Like Frozen Synapse, but with graphics
May 25
// Patrick Hancock
Lethal Tactics has recently popped up onto Steam's Early Access program and will immediately look familiar to anyone who has played the brilliant Frozen Synapse. The gameplay is, at its core, the same: click to assign o...

PC Port Report: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

May 22 // Patrick Hancock
[Note: Screenshots and video used in this post are taken from my experience with the game.] Tested on: Intel i7-4770k 3.50 GHz, 8GB of RAM, Geforce GTX 970, Windows 7. Framerate measured with FRAPS. I'd be remiss if I didn't address the now-infamous trailer of the game that incorrectly showed what it would look like back in 2013. The developers have since downgraded what the game can do, and have addressed the issue. There are lots of elements to this and it isn't as simple as "downgraded because consoles" or "they couldn't afford it," but the end result is still the same. Regardless of that trailer, The Witcher 3 still looks phenomenal. In order to achieve 60 frames per second with my setup at 1080p, I needed to play with the settings a bit. Most things were kept at the Ultra settings, except for the foliage and shadows, which were turned down to High. The game stays consistently above 60 FPS for me now, even during combat and most in-game cutscenes. Some cutscenes are evidently capped at 30 FPS, which is offputting and incredibly noticeable. The biggest setting to turn off in order to achieve a good framerate is HairWorks. With HairWorks on, hair does looks absolutely stunning and is perhaps the best rendering of hair I've ever come across, though up close it's still a bit funky looking. There are three options for HairWorks: on, Geralt-only, and off. If fully on, even the monsters and Geralt's horse will have HairWorks-quality hair. However, even when I had this on "Geralt only," the framerate would fluctuate between 30 and 50 at any given moment. Yes, the hair looks great, but it is not worth the huge dip in framerate. Another option to be aware of is the "Hardware Mouse." It's located under Options in the Video section for some reason, and anyone playing with a keyboard and mouse is likely going to want to turn this option on. Doing so disables mouse acceleration, essentially making the mouse "feel" like it is supposed to. Many of the .ini files located in the installation folder can also be edited to further customize many of the options. [embed]292553:58627:0[/embed] There's some strange odds and ends in the options to take note of. To turn on unlimited FPS, the FPS slider needs to be all the way to the left. The middle option is 30 FPS, and the right option is 60. For those playing on a big television screen via Big Picture Mode or something similar, be aware that the font size is rather small, and the HUD size does not get any bigger, only smaller. In fact, there's only two sizes for HUD size: Large and Small. Controlling Geralt with a keyboard and mouse is somewhat clunky. Turning is awkward and slow, and managing to interact with a specific object or NPC can be a struggle. Combat on a mouse and keyboard feels fluid, at least. Controlling Geralt with a controller simply feels better, all things considered. It's not that controlling him with a keyboard and mouse is awful, but there's an unfortunate feeling of "this just isn't right." Switching to a controller input is as simple as hitting any button on a connected controller. As soon as the game detects a controller input, everything is switched to controller prompts and the game immediately recognizes it. The same goes with switching back to the keyboard. The responsiveness of switching is fantastic, and future PC game designers better take note. The keyboard keys can be remapped, except for movement. The WASD keys are set in stone. When using a controller, all of the buttons are locked in at the default assignments; there is no remapping of any of the buttons. Since the PC release, there has already been a couple of large patches to help improve performance and fix bugs. CD Projekt RED has always put a lot of focus on the PC community, and that certainly still seems to be the case with The Witcher 3. More patches are on the way, and despite the console-esque nature of the third iteration, I would not expect the game to be neglected on PC going forward. It's also important to note that, apparently, it is coming to SteamOS/Linux. There was a banner on Steam saying as much, but CD Projekt RED has not commented on the Linux situation. Currently, the game is only available for Windows. Some users have been reporting crashes on their systems, but I have yet to encounter a single one. Mods are still in their infancy, but they are there. Mostly small game tweaks at the moment, but the toolkit is evidently on its way. It took a couple of years to get the official modding toolkit out for The Witcher 2, but it has been promised to come out sooner for the latest installment. Plain and simple, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a great PC port. Whether or not it should have ever been a "port" in the first place is a separate discussion, but what's presented here to the consumer is thoroughly enjoyable. Oh. and you can skip all the splash screens when booting up. 10/10, would port again.
Witcher 3 on PC photo
Gwent Simulator 2015
The Witcher is an interesting series on PC. The first game was a PC experience through and through: you could pause the action at any time and movement was mapped to mouse clicks. The second was way more action-oriented ...

Expeditions: Viking photo
Expeditions: Viking

Historical RPG Expeditions: Viking announced

Historical means no horned helmets!
May 21
// Patrick Hancock
Expeditions: Conquistador by Logic Artists is a great, and difficult, tactical RPG. So naturally, when I heard that another game is being made in the same vein, I immediately became excited. Expeditions: Viking&nbs...
Occult Skill Game photo
Occult Skill Game

Cordial Minuet uses real money to conduct real occult rituals

And it will mail you checks!
May 06
// Patrick Hancock
Jason Rohrer, developer of games like Passage, Sleep is Death, and The Castle Doctrine, has just released his newest title, Cordial Minuet. Here's the pitch I received: "Cordial Minuet is a two-player occult strategy gam...
Black Mesa Early Access photo
Black Mesa Early Access

Half-Life remake Black Mesa now on Steam Early Access

Finally, a way to pay for a mod
May 05
// Patrick Hancock
Black Mesa, the loving recreation of the original Half-Life, has just entered Steam's Early Access program with a price point of $19.99. There had been a countdown on the website leading up to today, and many speculated that ...

Review: Crypt of the NecroDancer

May 04 // Patrick Hancock
Crypt of the NecroDancer (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Brace Yourself GamesPublisher: Brace Yourself Games, KleiRelease Date: April 23, 2015MSRP: $14.99 It would be a criminal act to not immediately mention the music in Crypt of the NecroDancer as it plays a starring role and deserves the first-paragraph treatment. This is mostly due to the fact that music is interwoven into the gameplay itself. The player can only act in time with the beat, which is also when the enemies act. Said beat has a visual representation on the bottom of the screen to help players get accustomed to it, but after a short while most players will be acting based on the audio cue, not the visual. When done correctly, the music, movements, and sound effects line up to create something that can only be described as "groovy."  In a game where music is at the core of the experience, the soundtrack could have easily made the game fall flat. Thankfully, this is not the case. There are three soundtracks built into the game. The default music is by Danny Baranowsky, and it is amazingly brilliant and brilliantly amazing. The tunes for each level are varied, yet all of them are catchy. The other soundtracks are a metal remix by FamilyJules7X and an EDM version by A_Rival, and also assuage the eardrums. Regardless of music preference, players are bound to dig one, if not all, of these versions. It's also possible for players to import their own music for people who don't like good music, or just want to work with something different.  The game isn't just about boppin' along to some great music, though; there is a story at play here. There are cutscenes for characters between zones, and paying attention to them, as well as some in-game hints, alludes to a pretty big overarching story. It's split over multiple playthroughs with different characters, so it will take some time to reveal the whole thing. The lore is legitimately interesting, something many players may not be expecting.  Every action is mapped to the arrow keys. In fact, the game can even be played with a dance pad! There's a specific mode for dance pad play, which makes the game a bit easier since the control method is inherently more difficult. This also serves as an easier mode to introduce players to the game who don't feel they are up to the full challenge quite yet. When playing with a controller, everything is mapped to the face buttons, which can also be remapped to the player's liking. [embed]291156:58414:0[/embed] Attacking is as simple as pressing the direction of the enemy. Items and spells are also available, and are used by pressing a combination of two arrow keys. For example, to use a bomb, players must press down and left (by default) on the beat. Various weapon types will alter where enemies can be killed in relation to the player, and it is of the utmost important to know a weapon's attack range. When moving, the game will check if anything can be attacked first. So if a player is expecting to move forward but an enemy is within attack range, the attack will happen. This means the character will remain stationary, which can be bad news in certain situations. Knowing these attack mechanics is crucial, and thankfully there is a weapon range in the game where players can try out all the different types of weapons and learn them inside and out. I recommend doing this at least once, especially for the whip. In addition to weapons, players have access to a shovel for digging through walls, a consumable item, a torch, armor, a ring, and a spell. Armor is split up into head, chest, and feet, making there a lot of items to equip for a full "set." The items found are random so make sure to pray to RNGesus before each run! Many items must be unlocked before they show up in chests within the dungeon. Unlocking items is permanent and costs diamonds, which can be found in the dungeon itself. Any diamonds not spent in between runs are lost forever, giving the player all the incentive in the world to spend them on something. It's the perfect system of progression in a game that otherwise has very little, ensuring that even the "terrible" runs can usually yield some sort of good news and contribute to the greater good. The dungeon is split into four distinct zones, each with its own atmosphere, enemies, and randomly generated layout. The first two are on the simpler side of things, but the third and fourth zones introduce new tile mechanics and are completely unique. It's amazing how fast confidence plummets after beating one zone and entering another. It's easy to be on a bit of a high after beating a boss for the first time, only to be introduced to a brand new area where players know basically nothing. It's a kick in the pants, and it feels so good. Speaking of the boss fights, each one in NecroDancer is incredibly memorable. Each one has its own theme and executes it perfectly. My favorite is definitely Deep Blues, which puts the player against an entire set of chess pieces as enemies, who move according to the chess ruleset. Seeing a boss for the first time usually results in a bit of laughter followed by an "oh shit" as the gravity of the situation sets in. Then death, of course. Some bosses are definitely easier to comprehend than others (I don't want to use the term "easier in general"), and the boss fights at the end of zones one through three are randomly chosen, which exacerbates the feeling of luck that's inherent in the roguelike genre. There's likely going to be some aggravation from time to time, simply because of bad luck. This frustration is lessened because of the diamond system, but the feeling of futility is occasionally hard to fight back, especially when there's nothing left to spend diamonds on. While each zone shares some common enemies, the enemy variety in each zone is largely unique. Some weapons may feel overpowered in one zone, and completely useless in another simply because of the change in enemy behavior. This makes the "all zones" runs that much harder. Some enemy types will be "buffed" in later zones, adding more health or variants on the original behavior. After completing the four core areas, there is still plenty to keep players occupied. Crypt of the NecroDancer also supports mods, and they are dead simple to use. All you have to do is download a mod from the Steam Workshop, then activate it from the pause menu. Many of the mods are currently music changes or skin changes, but only time will tell how far they go in the future. Different characters are also unlocked by accomplishing certain goals, and these characters are way more than just re-skins of the main character, Candace. The Monk, for example, can choose any one item from the Shopkeeper for free, but will die instantly if he lands on gold. Considering gold is dropped by literally every enemy, this forces a huge change in playstyle. I couldn't even get past the first zone! In addition to the standard dungeon, which can also be tackled with two players in local multiplayer, there is a boss fight arena, an enemy behavior trainer, a codex for advanced skills, a daily challenge, and a level editor. Beating the game once is really only the beginning. There are enough variations on the basic playthrough to keep players coming back for a long time. Crypt of the NecroDancer accomplishes what few games even attempt to do. It merges together two completely different genres: rhythm and roguelike. The frustrations of both come as part of the package, but some intelligent design decisions help to alleviate the issue. For those looking for the next gaming obsession after the likes of Spelunky, Binding of Isaac, or Rogue Legacy, look no further than Crypt of the NecroDancer. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
NecroDancer review! photo
Tunes from the crypt
Dance Dance Revolution was a large part of an earlier era of my life. Going though dance pads year after year until I finally convinced my parents to get me one of the "big boy" pads for a lot more money. Eventually I gr...

Dota 2 Compendium 2015 photo
Dota 2 Compendium 2015

New Dota 2 Compendium revealed, up to $15M in stretch goals

Hot off a game-changing patch
May 01
// Patrick Hancock
The newest Dota 2 Interactive Compendium has been revealed for this year's upcoming International tournament. Just as in past years, 25% of each Compendium purchase goes towards the prize pool and stretch goals. This yea...
SpyParty is diverse photo
SpyParty is diverse

SpyParty is on its way to hosting the most diverse cast ever

If it's not already there
Apr 28
// Patrick Hancock
SpyParty, my most anticipated game of 2013 (heh) is still well under development. After its facelift, it's been adding characters in bunches, with the last bunch bringing along a puppy in a purse and a disabled character. Thi...

Cosmochoria is a perfect blend of serenity and chaos

Apr 27 // Patrick Hancock
As Little Naked Guy With An Astronaut Helmet (I'm not sure he has a name), players are tasked with restoring randomly generated planets back to their beautiful selves. In order to accomplish this, Little Naked Guy With An Astronaut Helmet has to go around planting seeds and tending to them. After planting a seed, the player needs to hold a button down to tend to it, making sure that it is set to grow to its full potential. Once that is complete, the seed will slowly begin to grow. When they are done growing, they produce more seeds and the cycle can continue again. Once enough seeds are planted, the planet is restored and everyone is happy! Well, except for all the evil aliens in space who are constantly trying to destroy planets and Little Naked Guy With An Astronaut Helmet. Luckily, seeds are not the only thing at his disposal. Little Naked Guy With An Astronaut Helmet can also plant and tend defensive towers, each with different properties, to help keep back the aliens. The function of each tower is rather simple to grasp and use, making it easy to feel confident while playing. Towers are not free, and if players don't have the required resource, they cannot plant towers. Without towers, Little Naked Guy With An Astronaut Helmet still has a weapon at his disposal. There are a variety of weapons to choose from before beginning (these may have been unlocked from other playthroughs) but once one is chosen, that's it. I chose the shotgun, as I always do in games, and it was incredibly powerful. In fact, I rarely planted defensive towers and just focused on seeds and using the shotgun. The enemies are pretty varied and the game seemed to do a decent job of introducing new ones as I progressed. Some enemies fly above the planet while others walk on the surface. The biggest struggle is managing the plants and avoiding incoming damage while simultaneously dishing it out. It's a great back-and-forth that keeps the player constantly moving. Tending a plant gets very dangerous as more and more enemies head towards the planet. [embed]288910:57731:0[/embed] Little Naked Guy With An Astronaut Helmet uses a jetpack to get around space, but fuel is limited. It will slowly regenerate in case players find themselves floating out in space like Bender in that one episode of Futurama. There are dangerous enemies floating in space as well, plus gigantic suns that will instantly kill the player if they get too close.  There are also little side-quests that can be discovered, such as delivering items from one planet to another. Hints of a story were also present, though they were definitely pieces of a bigger picture that I couldn't experience in my limited time with the game. Cosmochoria is currently on Steam Early Access, and available through Humble on the game's site, and should be releasing very soon! 
Cosmochoria PAX preview photo
Plantin' seeds and killin' baddies
Cosmochoria is a Kickstarter success story that is now about to see the light of day. It's a mix of exploration and tower defense all wrapped up in a warming, yet occasionally stressful package. There's a strong sense of...

PC Port Report: Grand Theft Auto V

Apr 25 // Patrick Hancock
Grand Theft Auto V (PC, [tested], PS3, Xbox 360)Developer: Rockstar GamesPublisher: Take TwoReleased: September 17, 2013 / April 14, 2015MSRP: $59.99Rig: Intel i7-4770k 3.50 GHz, 8GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 560 Ti GPU  First of all, know this: Grand Theft Auto V on PC is a whopping 60 gigabytes. Let me spell it out for you -- sixty! Be careful if your Internet plan has a data cap, because this is guaranteed to push it to the limit. You also may need to clear some space on your harddrive, so be aware of that before you begin the download! The next step is setting up your Rockstar Social Club account. The account name system bans certain  words, so if your last name happens to contain a "bad word," you can't include it in your account name (sigh). The system has been more or less unobtrusive, though it is annoying that the game can't simply use everyone's Steam ID since they get linked anyway. However, this does allow players to transfer their characters from the consoles to the PC. Grand Theft Auto V has a metric butt-ton of options for the users to play with and optimize. Because of this, many players will be able to find a group of settings that allows GTA V to run very smoothly on their rig. Perhaps the best thing the game does is show the amount of video memory for the installed graphics card. As the user changes the settings, the amount of video memory the game is using will fluctuate. This helps players, especially those not in tune to optimization, fine-tune the numbers to get a smooth experience. After some tinkering, I was able to run the game at my native 1920x1080 resolution and consistently get 60 frames per second. I wasn't able to turn the textures to High, but the game still looks great. In order to run it at this resolution, however, I had to turn off the option that limits players to their graphics card memory usage. The number it was showing was barely higher than the total for my graphics card, and it doesn't seem to have any real trouble running the game smoothly. The framerate does occasionally dip to around 30 when traveling around mountainous or heavily wooded areas. After running at a constant 60 for the rest of the time, this dip in framerate is very noticeable and is very consistent in the aforementioned areas. YouTube user "wiliextreme" did a great job showing different graphics settings in this video. [embed]290676:58331:0[/embed] The biggest issue with the PC version of GTA V is the long and frequent loading times when playing online. When cruising around and enjoying the city of Los Santos, the game is great. However, when players want to do missions, the main way to advance online, they get thrown into frequent long load times. Getting into a mission forces the game to load, and this loading time feels like forever. In reality it's around two minutes, usually. Then there's the potential of waiting for players to join in, which can also take some time, but at least this wait is understandable. I've even loaded into a game that was full, forcing me to load back into Los Santos, back at square one. Once the mission is completed, players vote to either retry (if failed) or for what the next mission should be (if succeeded). Then, when loading whatever is next in store, another long load time rears its ugly head. I have the game installed on a traditional HDD, since the game is HUGE, but I've seen other players who have installed it on an SSD having the same issue with load times. The initial load into the online portion of the game is much longer than loading into missions, but to be fair it is quite a large city to be loaded. Just like any online game, GTAV Online's lag comes from being paired up with players who are far away or with poor connections. Most of my time was rather lag-free, however being in a car with someone who is lagging is not an entertaining experience. "Woah we're just about to crash into that-- oh, nevermind we're on the highway now." Doing missions like this makes certain players virtually useless as they teleport all over the place and neither player knows what's really happening. Playing with friends can be an absolute blast, but also frustrating to get going. Loading into the same instance of Los Santos is easy enough, but joining the same mission, especially on the same team, is not. Since there's no "party" system in GTA V Online, one player needs to join a mission and then invite others to that mission. Then, if there are teams, chances are they will not be on the same team. Heck, the mission might even be started by the host before a friend can join the mission. Part of this can be alleviated by someone becoming the host and having the "Remain Host after Next Job Vote Screen" option enabled, though this is disabled by default. There's also the first-person perspective mode, which is certainly interesting. There is a field-of-view (FOV) slider, but the highest it goes is incredibly low for most people. However, there is a mod to increase the FOV in first-person. In fact, the whole idea of mods being implemented at all is what skyrockets the PC version of the game into the realm of infinite possibilities!  I've seen some users mention that, depending on graphics cards, the framerate can inexplicably go down at times. Some 970 users have seen their framerate drop to the 30s when inside vehicles, for example. The game has gotten a few patches already in order to fix some bugs and performance, so the team seems to be paying attention and can hopefully iron things out in a timely manner. Using a controller (tested with a wireless Xbox 360 controller) is a seamless experience. Players can easily swap between the keyboard and mouse control style to a controller by simply pressing a button on a controller. When playing missions online, the game will even let others know who is using a controller and who is on a mouse and keyboard setup. That way, when one person dominates an online deathmatch mission, everyone understand why. The game also works well using Steam's Big Picture mode. I was initially worried because of the Rockstar Social Club integration, but the game automatically maps the mouse to the left analog stick when using a controller. So when the Social Club overlay is used, players using a controller can still respond to friend requests or look at game invites. Another big draw in the PC version of the game is the video capturing and editing program that's built in to the game, the Rockstar Editor. Capturing footage is as easy as hitting a button, so long as you have the amount of space needed to actually capture the footage. Editing is rather simple, but convoluted in many ways. First of all, it is only possible to access the editor while playing offline, which took me forever to figure out. Adding things like camera angles and filters is incredibly easy, but adding text is a bit annoying. Adding text to a specific location to the video is easy, but the game doesn't give a preview of the video at that time, so players need to go in and out of the actual video to see what it looks like. It's an extra step that's totally unnecessary, but the editor is still crazy good for being in-game. The GTA V port has one of the most important aspects to any PC game: malleability. The amount of options help ensure that players with at least semi-decent rigs should be able to run it well. The online portion of the game isn't as cohesive as it should be, but GTA V can easily be one of the PC ports that players point to in the future and say "why isn't it more like that?" [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
GTA V on PC photo
Wonky tennis at 60 frames per second
After many delays and what feels like forever, Grand Theft Auto V is finally on PC. It's incredibly exciting to just think of all the hilarious and unique mods that people will inevitably come up with to change the ...

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