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Zombie Vikings brings humorous brawler action to the Norse landscape

Aug 20 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]307158:60071:0[/embed] Zombie Vikings (PS4)Developer: Zoink! GamesPublisher: Rising Star GamesRelease Date: Autumn 2015 Set in a very goofy interpretation of the Viking era, the Norse god Odin has his last good eye stolen by the mischievous trickster Loki, and must unearth four undead viking warriors to chase after the rogue god and return his eye. Loki plans to use the eye for his own nefarious purposes, such the awful and evil act of playing beer pong, and Odin wants revenge. Over the course of their journey through the Norse lands, the Zombie Vikings will battle waves of monsters, creatures, and other oddities that will put their brawling skills to the test. But with their new zombie powers, they'll be able to match up to the monsters that await, while also coming to terms with their troubled past lives. Right from the opening cutscene, the game sets itself up as a humorous and cartoonish take on Norse mythology, and it was pleasing to see a game have some fun with the material. The art style is essentially like a 2D animated cartoon, complete with interludes where the characters bicker and talk amongst themselves. With the main story written by Zack Weindersmith, the creator of the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal webcomic, Zombie Vikings blends together brawler action with comedy. Over 90 minutes worth of cutscenes are spread across the thirty levels, and the story goes in places you'd least expect. While some of the jokes are hit-or-miss, it's refreshing to see a brawler revel in its own ridiculousness. The game continually ramps up in oddball comedy, and it's all the better for it. As one of the four vikings, you'll battle through several stages utilizing unique character skills and weapons which alter your performance. In similar vein to Castle Crashers, gold acquired from your journey can be spent on upgrades and new gear. As you travel through the land and complete stages, you can head back to old areas and tackle new challenges and side-quests that open up, yielding greater rewards. While there isn't a leveling system or any other RPG mechanics, the items you can deck your character out with are plentiful, and allow for a great level of customization. Which is great, because each character has their own special playstyle. During my session, I mostly stuck with Seagurd, a viking who's corpse somehow fused with an octopus. Thankfully, it's not just for show, as he's able to use the tentacles for spin attacks and charged-up power moves which turn the small octopus on his torso into a massive monster that damages all nearby enemies. The other characters make up the more standard strength, speed, and technique archetypes for brawlers, and each of them not only shows a lot of creativity in their design, but also feels very different one another. Moreover, you can use certain skills together in unison, such as throwing your friends across the field and into a mob of foes where they can unleash a power attack. This adds another layer of strategy to combat, which can make the co-op nature of the game all the more appealing. You haven't lived until you've seen four undead vikings stack on top of each other and rush deep into battle. I'm a big fan of the brawler genre, and Zombie Vikings has got a lot going for it. Norse mythology is often ignored in gaming, so it's a real pleasure to be able to explore the lands while battling monsters straight from lore, albeit in a really goofy, comedic way. The guys at Zoink! Games made a really fun title. Those looking for a four-player co-op beat-'em-up that doesn't take itself too seriously will be intrigued by this one.
Zombie Vikings preview photo
Are you a bad enough dude to stop Loki?
When people think of the beat-'em-up genre, they most likely recall the dimly-light streets of an urban metropolis filled with thugs and other roughnecks looking to cause trouble. While there are some other notable titles tha...

Poncho is a mind-melting retro journey through post-robopocalypse

Aug 20 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]307084:60068:0[/embed] Poncho (PC [previewed], PS4, PS Vita, Wii U)Developer: Delve InteractivePublisher: Rising Star GamesRelease Date: September 24, 2015MSRP: $14.99 After the apocalypse, humanity has been wiped out by an unknown scourge, and all that is left are machines. With mother nature having retaken the earth, the machines developed their own society and culture in the ruins of the old world. But one day, a poncho-wearing robot longs to discover his origins, and seeks out his creator. Using perspective-warping abilities and his own platforming skills, the resourceful little robot will travel through the landscape and encounter other machines trying to find purpose in the new world. Over the course of his adventure, he'll not only discover the meaning his own creation, but also the truth behind mankind's destruction. In recent years, retro-throwback games such as Fez have become common. What these titles share is an increased focus on subversion and playing with genre conventions, all the while crafting a compelling story that goes beyond what many would expect from the genre they're paying homage to. Poncho is no different. With the ability to travel between different planes of the level -- from the foreground, background, and middleground -- the poncho-wearing robot will have to tackle challenging puzzles and action set-pieces. The developers cite classic platformers such as Super Mario World and Sonic the Hedgehog, which had richly detailed backgrounds, as inspiration. I was surprised by how quickly Poncho ramped in difficulty. Initially, it's a very atmospheric game that focuses on storytelling, but once you're let loose into the various stages, things take quite a turn. While there are no enemies or bosses to battle, the challenges come from figuring out how to navigate the multi-layered levels with the perspectives-jumping abilities. With platforms, switches, and other obstacles that call for quick jumps between the different areas of the stages, there's tricky twitch-based gameplay to the platforming and some genuine three-dimensional thinking to the puzzles. It's trippy while still playing on the 2D plane.  With its release approaching, I got in some quality time from the current build of the game. As you acquire new abilities and skills from schematics, you'll be able to travel back to past stages and explore new areas. These abilities, such as the robot stomp, open a number of new avenues of exploration. This mechanic did a lot to make me understand the true scope of Poncho. It's very much a throwback platformer with modern puzzle gameplay dynamics. There were several moments where I felt I was stuck, but once I figured things out, I was left immensely satisfied.  If you're itching for a puzzle-platformer that plays with the genre's tropes and conventions, then keep an eye out for this little title. While on the surface it looks like a rather humble platforming jaunt through a post-apocylyptic world filled with robots, Poncho quickly goes into mindfuck territory, and it'll raise questions you'll be dying to get answers to.
Poncho preview photo
Out on September 24
Last year, we got a sneak peek at a rather peculiar puzzle-platformer named Poncho. Launching on Kickstarter and debuting at EGX for attendees, it showed a lot of promise in exploring the earth after humans went extinct. Unfo...

3D Gunstar Heroes revitalizes Treasure's debut action title

Aug 19 // Alessandro Fillari
Released towards the end of the Sega Genesis' life in 1993, Gunstar Heroes was Treasure Co.'s first title, and it was certainly a hell of a debut. While it quickly became a favorite among action fans and gaming press, it mostly went under the radar for many Genesis owners. Though the spotlight was on the release of the upcoming Sega Saturn, Gunstar Heroes still managed to become a cult hit among hardcore gamers. But over the years, it's cemented itself as one of the Genesis library's most loved and sought after titles, and even saw a sequel in Advance Gunstar Heroes for the GBA. This made it a prime candidate for the remaster treatment in Sega's 3D Classics series. Speaking with producer Yosuke Okunari, he spoke at length about the respect and admiration they have for the hectic and punishing action title."This was Treasure’s debut game. Everything they ever wanted to do, but couldn’t up until then, is poured into and represented in this game," said the producer while reflecting on the title's legacy. "The game’s volume and difficulty balancing is really spot on in my opinion, and you can feel the passion of the original dev team when you play the game even now. Their follow-ups, Dynamite Headdy and Alien Soldier, were really good games in their own right, and while the games' volume and difficulty were appropriate for its own day, they might not stand up so well in modern standards [In regards to difficulty curves]."Taking place in in a world where a massive army of mercenaries are seeking world domination, it's up to a family of crime-fighters known as the Gunstars to stop them. With the evil Colonel Red (called Colonel Grey in Japan) having acquired four powerful gems to power a massive robot capable of conquering the world, the brothers Gunstar Blue and Gunstar Red have to put a stop to the army's evil plans, all the while finding the whereabouts of their missing brother, Gunstar Green.Unfortunately for me, I missed out on Gunstar Heroes back in the day. While most of my attention was on titles such as Streets of Rage, Mortal Kombat, and Sonic, this one totally slipped past me. It sucks, because my seven year old self would've lived for this type of game. In similar style to Saturday morning cartoons or Japanese anime, the action and tone of the story is extremely over-the-top and takes place in episodic order, allowing you to go about clearing the game in anyway you want.For the uninitiated, Gunstar Heroes blends together high-octane shooting with some light-brawler action set across a series of unique and challenging levels. In the vein of classic side-scrolling shooters such as Contra, two players can utilize a variety of weapons, ranging from close-range flamethrowers, energy beams, and homing lasers. Moreover, players can even select aiming modes with Free-Aim (moving and shooting) or Fixed-Aim (stop and shoot), to suit their play styles. Even at close range, the Gunstars know how to handle themselves. Unlike the Contra guys, the Gunstars can throw, kick, and dive attack enemies that get too close for comfort. Utilizing all these skills is quite easy, and you'll be able to kick ass with ease.I was pretty blown away by the performance of 3D Gunstar Heroes on the 3DS. The original was quite an achievement on the Genesis, and seeing it in action in 3D is a trip. The visuals in the game use a number of graphical tricks and gimmicks that made the action really pop, and the 3D option really does a lot to enhance those aspects of Gunstar's visual design. Some bosses even have some quasi-3D animations and visuals, which was extremely impressive back on the Genesis. With 3D Gunstar Heroes, the overall performance is rock solid. Even with the 3D enabled, I was blasting enemies with screen-filling weapons and watching foes rush the screen with no drops at all. The folks at Sega saw porting over Gunstar Heroes as a major challenge, and actually put it off until they had more games under their belt."When we went about these Genesis 3D conversions, back when we first got the project off the ground, we thought that if we could get Gunstar into what we considered ideal 3D, then there was no way it wouldn’t be a good game," said the producer. "However, we knew that we had to wait until the development team had the experience needed to go about converting the sheer number of stages and all the odd perspectives the game used. In three years, M2’s team has worked on 13 titles (and then some), and they were finally ready to handle Gunstar since they now had the speed and skills to pull it off."Of course, one of the most admired aspects of Gunstar Heroes is its unique power-up system. While you select a core weapon at the beginning of each mission, power-ups acquired while out in the field will act as modifiers to your main weapon. For instance, using the lightning gun with the chaser power-up (green homing laser), it turns the lightning weapon into a homing laser that targets nearby enemies and clings to them until death. The weapon combos get pretty gnarly as you switch things up, and each combo changes the gameplay and strategies up considerably. In keeping with its focus on challenge, the original game only allowed core weapon selecting before the beginning of a mission. This design was to ensure players would commit to a weapon and stick with it for the level. Unfortunately, it was very often players would choose poorly and be stuck with an ineffective weapon for a level that may call for something more versatile. While many of the more skillful gamers could make it work, most players would often have to restart and pick a better weapon. This was one area the developers at Sega wanted to improve upon. With the addition of the brand new 'Gunslinger' mode, players can now switch between core weapons on the fly. While many hardcore fans might find this a bit sacrilegious, the developers had a lot of discussions about the new mode, and even took some inspiration from other titles from Treasure's library. "In Gunstar Heroes, there’s a lot of weapons, but the opportunity to change weapons is somewhat limited, so sometimes you get all caught up in using that one combination you like," said Okunari while discussing their work on Gunslinger mode. "It’s possible that people just never had the leeway to try different weapons or control modes. But by using Gunslinger Mode, you can now try a different weapon combination on that boss that used to give you a hard time back in the day, and you might find that you can beat them a lot faster. It’s a chance to try playing the game the way the developers originally intended. This does have the impact of lowering the difficulty. The 3DS’s controls are different from the Genesis, and we want people who played games back but maybe not so much now to be able to have fun with it. The gamers back then are probably more or less the same age as me, and they might not have the same skills they used to, you know?""This is something we can say for all the ports, but the SEGA 3D Classics development team were all fans of the games back when they were released. We know what makes these games good, so we didn’t need all that much time to figure out what sort of support features a person needs to play the game in today’s world," continued the producer. "The core of Gunslinger mode comes from a sequel made by the same development team called Alien Soldier, a game with a bit of a cult following that was only released in Japan and Europe. The key lies in this game. In Alien Soldier, you can choose from a number of weapons and control modes at will right out the door."Thankfully, I can say that the new mode is in keeping with the core Gunstar experience. The game was still tough as hell, even with the extra room to experiment and adapt to challenges with the weapon switching. I was pretty impressed with how well balanced the game is. Even with the larger arsenal, the enemies still can overwhelm and outmatch the player. I'm more than certain fans of the original will find a lot to like with Gunslinger mode. With the increased access to weapons, you'll be able to get to core of what Gunstar Heroes is about without much hassle.All in all, I have to say that 3D Gunstar Heroes is a pretty stellar port of the original. While I'm still kicking myself for missing out on this one back when I was a kid, I still managed to recall those days of wonder and excitement while spending some time with this installment. I feel as though this entry will bring in a lot of new admirers to the series. In many ways, Treasure was ahead of the curve when it released this title, but not that many people realized it. Thankfully, 3D remastering has done the original justice, and it'll give new players curious about this cult favorite the chance to give it a shot. But take heed: all the hype about this title's challenge was not exaggerated one bit. Be ready for this one.
Sega 3D Classics photo
Lock and Load on August 20
It's been pretty wild re-experiencing many of these past titles in Sega's 3D Classics series. In the last few months, we managed to get 3D remasters of several games that have defined Sega's legacy as one of the most famous g...

Dungeon League turns RPG action into a bloodsport

Aug 07 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]297396:59857:0[/embed] After a dungeon master expresses disappointment with seeing that heroes have lost interest in his labyrinths full of traps and other dangers, he decides to turn his creations into a competitive sport in order to attract adventurers seeking gold and glory. With the creation of the Dungeon League, travelers from all over flock to his randomly conjured deathtraps in order to acquire gold, defeat the opposition, and come out on top. Designed with local multiplayer in mind, Dungeon League re-contextualizes the dungeon-crawl setting and shapes it into an old-school RPG battle arena. From the standard deathmatch variants, territory capture, to the more unusual race gametype, which tasks players with dashing through checkpoints around the dungeon while taking swipes at the opposition, the game does a lot of cool things to the roguelike gameplay system. As you acquire gold and experience, you can level up between matches, upgrade skills, and buy new items from the league vendors. In traditional roguelike and MOBA fashion, character growth is all from the ground up in every game, so you'll have to prioritize which areas you want to focus on. In case it wasn't clear, Dungeon League is very self-aware with its approach to the dungeon crawler. There are several different classes to choose from -- such as the traditional archetypes like Warrior, Rogue, and Archer -- to more bizarre classes such as the rainbow-spewing Unicorn. It's a rush to fight through dungeons filled with nasty traps while cutting down hoards of monsters that get stronger with each stage. It'll take a lot to stay a step ahead of the opposing side and become the champion of the Dungeon League, so choose your class wisely. It's not often we get a unique take on the dungeon crawler, especially one that doesn't take itself too seriously. I liked how lighthearted things are in Dungeon League despite all the over-the-top action and bloodshed, and had a blast battling it out with friends. While there are some single-player options where you can battle waves of monsters, the real draw here is multiplayer, and Dungeon League is quite clever in its design. If you're looking for something a bit different that channels the old-school RPG aesthetic, then this is one you'll want to keep an eye on. Dungeon League [Steam Early Access]
Dungeon League photo
Out now on Steam Early Access
What happens when you turn hardcore RPG gameplay, with hints of roguelike elements, into a sport? Imagine having to grind and acquire loot in order to score points and one-up your competition. Sounds pretty wild for an action...


Grand Ages: Medieval brings open-world strategic gameplay to PS4

Aug 05 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]297244:59819:0[/embed] Grand Ages: Medieval (PC, PS4 [previewed])Developer: Gaming MindsPublisher: Kalypso MediaRelease Date: PC September 25, 2015 / PS4 September 29 Much like its predecessor, Grand Ages: Rome, Medieval allows for total freedom in how you build your empire and expand your reach. Though Rome itself was a major player during its heyday, the empire's time has passed, and now the kingdoms throughout Europe, the British Isles, Northern Africa, and the Middle East aim to leave their mark on the world. With both a narrative campaign and free mode to tackle, players can build their kingdom in any way they see fit. Dubbed as an "open world grand strategy economy' game by the developers, they were very adamant about this title being something more than a traditional RTS game. With the freedom in how you engage with allies, tackle challenges, initiate trade and wartime agreements, and eliminate the opposition all up to your own playstyle, you're given an enormous amount of leeway in how you stake your claim throughout the land. In the campaign mode, players take on the role of Leon Versselios, a young ruler in central Europe who must take over his kingdom after the death of his father. Essentially, this campaign serves as the tutorial and teaches players how to establish towns, trade with neighboring cities, gather resources, scout nearby lands to expand reach, negotiate alliances, and prepare for war against foes when negotiation fails. As you build your nation, Leon will encounter many allies that seek alliances with him and his kingdom, but over time, many events could sour relations and turn neighboring kingdoms to seek out what is yours. As you expand, you're treated to animated cutscenes showing recent relations with allies and the morale of family members and citizens of the kingdom. While there is freedom to be had, you are guided along to an extent in the campaign. According to the developers, the narrative mode can take upwards to 10-15 hours to complete, and features many twists and turns that will keep you guessing. However, once you've reached a certain point in the campaign, which concludes Leon's core story, you're allowed to continue his rise to power at your leisure and continue with your expansion. This also serves as a great segue into where the true game begins. In the open world mode, you can choose a custom character and starting location, and begin your expansion as you see fit. This mode is where most players will spend their time in Grand Ages, as it allows for your to create your story and show the neighboring civilizations how your empire will shape the known world. During my session, I was dropped into a 20+ hour save file. I was initially a bit overwhelmed by how much data there was to keep track of. With many different kingdoms, many of which were allies, and some neutral or hostile, you'll have to keep a close eye on which ones need assistance or require swift action against. But it's not just people you'll have to worry about -- the kingdoms will have to contend with mother nature as well. Earthquakes, thunderstorms, volcanoes, famine, and even the bubonic plague are major threats that will call for immediate action. While these sorts of games are home on PC, the PS4 was able to hand everything quite well. The user interface has been slightly modified to accommodate the controller setup, but overall it's largely the same game as its PC counterpart. While it's very menu intensive, I found it easy to get into once I went through the motions and learned all the tricks needed to engage. There's truly no other game like this on PS4, and it'll definitely please the more hardcore-minded strategy gamers looking for a new title on console.
Grand Ages: Medieval photo
Don't call it an RTS
Last year, I went hands-on with Grand Ages: Medieval, a civilization builder set during the Medieval era. Coming from the developers of Port Royale 3 and Rise of Venice, they've moved onto a bigger stage of Europe. During a t...

Assassin's Creed Syndicate reinvigorates the series with a return to basics

Aug 05 // Alessandro Fillari
Assassin's Creed Syndicate (PS4 [Previewed], Xbox One, PC)Developer: Ubisoft QuebecPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: October 23, 2015 (PC Q4 2015) Unlike its recent predecessors, Syndicate aims to do something a bit more streamlined during its trek through the streets and over the rooftops of Victorian-era London. While Assassin's Creed has had online gameplay components since 2010, Syndicate will follow AC: Rogue's example and focus purely on single-player gameplay. While online has been pretty neat for the AC titles, the developers wanted to make a single-player experience while putting all their resources into making it the sharpest game of the series. "We really wanted to get back to the basics. Our objective was to ship the biggest and liveliest city yet with London, and it was a big challenge, and we wanted to concentrate on building a massive single-player experience," said associate producer Andrée-Anne Boisvert. "Because of that, we were able to refine the core gameplay, adding in the rope launcher for easier traversal, refining the parkour, revamping the fighting gameplay -- so with all these things, we wanted the single-player to be really amazing." Of course, the most unique aspect of Syndicate is its focus on two protagonists with the brother and sister duo Jacob and Evie Frye. While we've already seen much of Jacob and his exploits in London, this marked the first time we were able to go hands-on with Evie, and it's evident who has the brains in this operation. Much like her brother, Evie is an assassin who must find the location of the Piece of Eden, all the while debilitating the Templar's control of the city. Though unlike her brother, she is a far more calculating and cunning assassin, and tends to shy away from the all-out brawls Jacob revels in. With many of her skills focusing on long-range assassinations and stealth, Evie is essentially the scalpel within London's Assassin order. At any time during open-world exploration, you'll be able to switch between the two and engage in missions at your leisure to reassert control of England's capital city. "We found it interesting to have the dynamic between these two; they have different personalities and different narrative storylines," said the producer. "That's something we wanted to focus on. We wanted to make sure that their personalities are reflected in the gameplay with their unique skills that they have." We finally got to put Evie's skills to the test during a key mission to strike at the Templar order. During a Blackbox mission within the Tower of London, Evie infiltrates the site to assassinate the Templar operative Lucy Thorne, who also has knowledge of where the ancient artifact is. Using skills and weapons such as the Voltaic Bomb, which shocks nearby foes, and the chameleon skill, which grants limited invisibility, Evie's approach is far more subtle. Much like its predecessor, Blackbox missions are open-ended challenges that feature multiple approaches to accomplish a single goal. Unity was the first to implement this mission structure, and Syndicate definitely plans to create more unique moments during these specific events. As Evie found her way to a vantage point within the Tower of London, she was able to discover three different opportunities to infiltrate the site and assassinate Thorne. Option one was to stalk the key-bearer and procure the master-key to enter the main tower solo; option two was to work with an undercover tower-guard to sneak into the tower; and option three was to rescue the local Constable and round up a group of loyal guards to battle their way into the tower. The third option was the riskiest and loudest approach, but it also allowed for Evie to utilize her stealth skills in unique ways, so I immediately went for it. The developers felt that with the two protagonists, there was room for much more variety and experimentation with the missions. "For Assassin's Creed: Synidicate, we wanted to make it a lot more about the freedom to choose your own path and ways through missions," said Boisvert. "We want players to be able to tackle the missions in the way they want to do it. Blackboxes are the way we have them do it, which is what we base the game on, giving players choices and offering many different ways to approach an objective for their playstyle." Using many of the traditional Assassin skills, such as Eagle Vision, parkour, and aerial assassinations and takedowns, I was able to sneak into the guard house to free the Constable, and we led a group of loyal guards to assault the main tower. While Evie isn't much for brawling and tends to focus more on the calculated strokes to achieve victory, she can easily hold herself in a scrape when it comes to it. The combat in Syndicate has seen a bit of an overhaul, which the developers felt was necessary after seeing how easily players were able to win encounters by waiting for enemy attacks and using parries. It seems over time the Templar order has finally wised up to the Assassins' tricks and plays a far more defensive game. They'll only attack when they see an opening and will guard many of your attacks. Evie and Jacob will have to utilize guard breaks and dodges to counter them, and parry only when the time is right. I felt far more active during combat, and it was the right move to switch things up. As the guards battled their way through the tower, I was able to gracefully move through the carnage while using Evie's knife throwing skills to make quick work of any oncoming threats. We finally came upon Thorne with her personal bodyguards. With the carnage filling up the central room, I was able to get the jump on Thorne for a quick assassination. At this point, the mission ended in traditional AC fashion with the central character and victim sharing a final moment before their death. But I didn't stop there. Afterwards, I booted up the mission again and went for the other options. The key-bearer was the stealthiest approach, as I was able to sneak through the tower area and assassinate the target with minimal casualties. As you can probably guess from reading this, I'm into the new setting. As one of the most requested settings from fans, Victorian-era London is a stark departure from the previous titles. Not only from the stylistic standpoint, with the dark and grimy streets filled with people who represent the best and worst of what society has to offer, but it's also the first AC game (outside of the present-day narrative) with its toes dipped into the modern era. As swords and axes become antiques, revolvers and rifles are much more common, making combat feel riskier than ever. "It's the first modern-day setting for an Assassin's Creed title [in regards to the core game setting], so it's the first time where we have a city that is so huge like London," said Boisvert. "Traffic is dense, we have carriages and other people walking on the sidewalks, and you also have the police which will chase after you when you cause trouble for others. It's a whole new dynamic for us. With the also the trains and boats, it make the city much more vibrant than any other title." I was pretty impressed with Assassin's Creed Syndicate. The game ran fairly well and I didn't notice any performance hiccups like the ones that plagued the previous AC title. I got the sense that Unity represented a major shift in how Ubisoft develops the series, and with Syndicate re-evaluating its priorities to focus more on the core game as opposed to the meta-aspects and supplementary content, I feel this entry could be a great turning point. I look forward to seeing more from the Frye siblings in the coming months, though I certainly hope the devs will figure out a way to work in Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, and Charles Dickens during the Assassins' trek through the city. To ignore them would be a missed opportunity.
Assassin's Creed photo
There's no place like London
It's not often we get to see a series recognize that things may have gotten off track. As many no doubt remember, Assassin's Creed Unity got hit hard with criticisms about its technical performance and odd design decisio...

Metal Gear Solid V photo
Metal Gear Solid V

MGSV: The Phantom Pain for PC moved up, Metal Gear Online delayed


MGO on PC set for January 2016
Aug 03
// Alessandro Fillari
With less than thirty days until Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain's release, Konami has still been keeping things close to the vest. Which is amazing, considering that the recent extended gameplay demos and videos show...

3D Streets of Rage 2 is a return to classic brawler action

Jul 22 // Alessandro Fillari
Released back in 1992, Streets of Rage 2, called Bare Knuckle II in Japan, was an immediate hit with Genesis owners and still stands as a favorite among beat-'em-up fans to this day. Set a year after the events of the first game, our street-fighting brawlers have to take back control after the sprawling criminal empire the Syndicate kidnapps one of their allies and plunges the city into chaos. Teaming up with pro-wrestler Max, and a young rollerblading brawler names Skate (the brother of SoR1's Adam), Axel and Blaze have to scour the city while scrapping with vicious thugs that work for the ever-elusive Mr. X. I spent many hours with Streets of Rage 2 when I was a kid, and the flashy neon lights and bombastic atmosphere -- along with Yuzo Koshiro's bumping synth score -- are imprinted in my memories of those glorious Genesis days. Surprisingly, there's a strong focus on plot in these titles. While most beat-'em-ups settle for the save X from Y plot and call it a day, SoR goes a bit beyond that by wrangling in government conspiracy and even throwing in some crazy sci-fi angles. Though the narrative is pretty much on par with B-level action movies, it still goes a long way with setting the tone and atmosphere. While there was another follow up with SoR3, the second game is my favorite and holds up remarkably well. Fortunately for us fans, Sega agrees and it's since been ported over to many different platforms, including Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and even iOS. However, with its upcoming release on the 3DS, this marks the first time you'll be able to play the game in 3D. "Streets of Rage 2 was the most popular of the three games in the series, so we actually had 2 slated as a conversion candidate from the very beginning," stated producer Yosuke Okunari. "However, when we first starting the development on these games, there were technical issues around getting this game into 3D, and it was deemed an impossible task so we gave up on it. If you've spent time playing the game, you've probably noticed that these sorts of side-scrolling beat-'em-ups are extremely well-suited for stereoscopic 3D (we actually call them 'belt action' games in Japanese because it's like being on a conveyor belt). The benefit of being able to visually confirm that you are lined up with your enemy and thus avoiding whiffing is huge." Coming off the original, the sequel featured a number of innovations and upgrades that made it stand apart from its predecessor. Aside from the obvious visual upgrade, which features sharper graphics and more detailed environments and character designs, the combat mechanics were greatly expanded to include new character-specific moves and super attacks. While I'm sure there were many who missed the police backup from the original, the focus on character diversity and growth was what made Streets of Rage 2 a true upgrade. During their work on the original's 3D remaster, the developers overcame the challenges of translating the unique visual style to bring over its sequel. "The graphics in these games were not like modern 3D, so there's a lot of pseudo-3D going on [referring to the diagonal side-scrolling stages], and when you take that and apply real stereoscopic 3D to it, you get conflicting visuals. So at the time, we thought we wouldn't be able to get the game into 3D," explained Okunari. "That said, because we were able to get the first game in the series into 3D, the staff's ability and know-how around 3D conversions saw huge improvements, and we found ways to work around these sorts of conflicting situations, and thus making the project a reality." After several playthroughs with the 3D remaster, I was impressed with the quality of the port. I can assure you that the pictures do not do the game justice. The side-scrolling visuals really pop with the 3D enabled, and many of the animations and action sequences feel more pronounced. The visuals on the 3DS feel sharp and with no slowdown or loss performance, which is great for when things get really hectic. While the game is largely as it was, gameplay feels just as precise as it was back in its heyday on the Genesis. It's a true testament to the design of the game, and it feels right at home on the handheld. As with the other 3D Classic releases, Sega has decided to do fans one better with the addition of new gameplay modes. In 3D SoR2, players can now experience the new mode called Rage Relay, which gets people playing as other characters during their run. Upon death, your starting character will switch over to the next one from the roster. For instance, if you start out playing with Axel and you get taken during a tough encounter, then you'll switch over to Max upon respawn. Initially, I found it to be a pretty odd gimmick, but I'll admit it came in handy during tough bosses or enemies which called for a bit more brute force. The developers included this optional mode as a way to encourage trying out the other characters after noticing how often players would stick with their favorites. "The original development team that worked on SoR2 was heavily influenced by Street Fighter II when making this game, so rather than a normal beat-'em-up, they really wanted each character to have their own feel, so each character has a very unique play style associated with them," said the producer. "However, unlike competitive fighting games, people tend to only play with the character the choose first for beat-'em-ups, and we didn't think most people strayed from that initial choice. There's four characters here, each with their own play style, so we wanted to make sure every character got a shot and make it interesting by giving players a chance to try characters they didn't really used back in the Genesis era. Our answer to this was Rage Relay." To say I had a great time with 3D SoR2 would be an understatement. I was pretty damn happy with how this remaster turned out. Not only do the new features help liven up the experience, the core gameplay still shows that simple beat-stuff-up action can be a ton of fun. And with local play available, you'll be able to team up with friends to take down Mr. X. With its release approaching, I can tell that many fans of Streets of Rage 2 will feel right at home with the 3D remaster. Not only has this title held up well, but it makes some impeccable use of the 3DS hardware. Once you fire up the game, and Koshiro's synth score reverberates through the opening title crawl, you'll be hooked. It's a total blast from the past, and it'll get your adrenaline pumping in no time.
Sega 3D Classics photo
Taking back the streets on July 23
Growing up, one of my favorite genres was the side-scrolling beat-'em-up. From Final Fight to Double Dragon, I was quite fond of the action found in traveling through different stages and kicking the asses of gang members and...

Rising Thunder aims to shake up the fighting game scene

Jul 20 // Alessandro Fillari
The developers at Radiant Entertainment have quite a history with the Fighting Game Community -- particularly Tom Cannon, who not only was the co-founder of the development studio, but is also one of the founders of Evolution Championship Series -- and after Seth Killian joined the studio, who's been a key figure within the FGC for many years and has worked on several fighting games during his time at Capcom (the final boss of Street Fighter IV was named after him), they figured it was time they try to bring their own desires for what a fighting game can be into reality."For me, a big part of my history with fighting games has been trying to show them to people, talk to people about them, and try to get people excited about them and give them a chance," said creative lead Seth Killian while discussing his history with genre. "And while I've been doing that for a lot of years, and while I love it and I think fighting games are one of the greatest genres and one of the proudest achievements in gaming period, it's exciting and a little sad to see that of the twenty people I talk about fighting games, only one will have the same experience that I have. Fighting games are really hard, and often times the core game is buried behind this very tall executional wall. And it's not about making it easier so we can all be Justin Wong, but I'm saying the basic moves and mechanics can take a long time to get a handle of. Once you do, then you can start learning the intricacies of player strategy." Set in the far-future, players control a select group of battling robots from different areas of the world and duke it out for supremacy. Each of the six starting characters have their own unique skills and abilities, and special combos used from the variety of weak, medium, and heavy attacks. In addition to that, super moves called Overdrives are activated when the super meter is filled to unleash devastating attacks. Moreover, they can take advantage of kinetic abilities that range from breaking enemy combos and dash cancels. The developers wanted to allow for a great level of customization, and players will be able to select loadouts for their favorite characters, which determine what special moves they bring into battle. The minds behind this title have some ideas on how to make this new fighter more accessible to players who aren't as well-versed in the classic formula of fighting games. On the surface, Rising Thunder looks very similar to titles like Street Fighter IV or Mortal Kombat X. Action is on the 2D plane, with two fighters duking it out until their enemy's health is depleted. Using special moves and strategies unique to each character, players will have to equally overpower and outsmart their opponents to claim victory. Sounds familiar, right? Well, the formula is largely as is, which is a testament to how timeless the setup is. However, the developers saw an opportunity to alter certain parts of the formula in order to remove the initial anxiety and awkwardness from new players seeking to break into competitive play."We were really excited to build a game that could open the door to what's glorious about these games to more people, and to try and let everybody understand what's exciting about these game and kept us excited about them for most of our lives. We basically ended up making a list of all the things that kept most people out of fighting games. For one, Online Sucks, it's terrible and you can't have a serious competitive experience with others. And even if you like fighting games, you also need to be in a place where you happen to be around twenty or so friends that are willing to play with you all the time."Given that it's a PC exclusive fighter, and how candid Killian was about the state of online fighters, the developers wanted to ensure they didn't drop the ball in that regard. Not only is the game completely playable with the keyboard (which feels great, by the way), and they even consider it the default setup, they also have the means to update the title quickly when needed. But course, online play is the make or break point for online fighters. Thankfully, the other founder of Radiant Entertainment, Tony Cannon, is also the creator of the famous GGPO (Good Game, Peace Out) netcode, which started out as a fan-made solution to poorly designed netcode for online fighters, but has since been implemented into retail releases. With Rising Thunder, the creators are bringing in their new GGPO3 netcode, which ensures even more sophisticated tech powering online play. Even during its alpha state, my time online was rock solid and ran at a smooth 60 frames-per-second."The other thing was -- we didn't really know, but it was our suspicion, so we built a prototype to test it -- but when you look at a fighting game match you never go 'Wow, that guy did all his moves. He didn't mess up any fireballs, what a champion.' When you look at the great history of fighting game matches, it's all about the great decisions, reads, an in-genius play, using moves in ways that you would never thought of before -- no one cares about the guy who can do the moves, that's the basic bottom layer of skill," Killian explained. "My thinking was basically, what if we were to make these moves not a problem? What if we were to remove special move inputs?"You might have done a double-take after reading, and I kinda did mentally when he first explained it to me. Accessibility was a major focus for Rising Thunder. Though while many fans may cringe at the thought of moving or adjusting the bar to make things easier for the common player, the developers wanted to think up of ways to allow players who aren't as skilled or knowledgeable as many other players to get into the core gameplay of the fighter much faster. But in doing so, you'd have to go against an established and accustomed idea. In Rising Thunder, all core specials moves, along with the Overdrive moves, are executable with a single button and don't require directional inputs. Every character brings in three special moves, which are activated by three special buttons, and each move works on a cooldown.Initially, I was a bit taken aback. As directional inputs for special moves are pretty synonymous with the genre itself. However, this idea works much better in practice, and Rising Thunder makes great use of the mechanics. I was able to jump into the game pretty quickly, and with much of the initial awkwardness of having to get a feel of the character's inputs and moves correctly, I got over the awkward character introduction phase and started to think about how to utilize their moves within minutes of play. It sort of gave me some callbacks to MOBA titles that emphasizes setups and pick-up and play mechanics, but of course, it's still a deeply refined fighter at its core."Well, all the theorists on the internet will tell you you'll destroy fighting game, it wouldn't make sense anymore, it wouldn't be a fighting game, and if you would've asked me five years ago I probably would've agreed that it wouldn't work," said Killian. "But the way we decided to try it was to build it, and to test it. And not only did the game work, but I started to see things happen in a game ever in my twenty years of talking about fighting games. One guy went from total scrub, to started playing mind-games with me. Like for real. It opened a lot of interesting match-ups. [...] That's where fighting games to me really shine, it's where they can show off people's minds and the way they work in relation to one another."In addition to these tweaks and modifications to the classic fighting game formula, the developers also added in a number of interesting visual and gameplay changes to accommodate the focus on online gameplay. Certain character utilize moves that are telegraphed and use visuals that can used for strategies, For instance, the character "Crow" is able to drop a dome barrier that makes him invisible while inside of it. While the player using Crow is invisible (which is still somewhat visible on their screen), the opponent will not be able to see them during invisibility on their screen. This is to add a layer of unpredictability. With opposing players using their own screens, they'll be able to hide the more nuanced aspects of their moves from their enemies to surprise them.Radiant Entertainment is certainly confident in their new fighter, and given that they're allowing the FGC and newcomers full access to their game very soon (early alpha beginning on the 28th), they're looking forward to hearing their feedback. As with their other title Stonehearth, the community will have a major impact on the state and feel of the game. While Rising Thunder does a lot of things that may go against the more iconic aspects of the genre, there's a lot of thought that went into the intricacies of this fighter. As this title is still in fairly early stages, many features and visuals are not in place quite yet, but the developers are confident enough in releasing it as the true heart of the game is in place. They also plan to actively update the game, introducing new content, updates, and other additions to keep things interesting. "We love fighting games, we've loved them for a long time. We've seen a ton of games come and go, there's plenty of great fighting games out right now, but -- at least in our view -- they're not focusing on the real sources of the trouble [accessibility]," he said. "Don't charge people to try your game, don't ask them to spend six months practicing the game before they can actually start having a real game, and make the online good god dammit."If anything, Rising Thunder will prove to be a pretty interesting experiment. During my time with it, it was clear that a lot of love and passion went into the game, and the folks behind this title are putting a lot of trust into the FGC to be as honest and vocal about the game as possible. Which certainly won't be hard for them. In recent years, the fighting game genre has evolved significantly, and with more players mindful of the true core gameplay with every fighter, Rising Thunder aims to get players to the nitty-gritty of what fighters are all about right from the get-go. Rising Thunder [Alpha Sign-Up] 
Rising Thunder photo
PC, free-to-play, powered by GGPO3
If you were one of the many watching the EVO 2015 livestreams over the weekend, then you no doubt saw a trailer for Rising Thunder, a brand new fighting game featuring battling robots. While viewers didn't get much info about...

The Magic Circle photo
The Magic Circle

The Magic Circle launch trailer pokes fun at games industry egoism


'Trailers are just lies set to music'
Jul 09
// Alessandro Fillari
Back in January, I had the pleasure of checking out The Magic Circle, a charming and funny adventure title that poked fun at the chaotic, often insane challenges of game development. There's a launch trailer to set the mood ...
Fallout 4 photo
Fallout 4

Bethesda will show new Fallout 4 gameplay to QuakeCon 2015 attendees


A private showing for the fans only
Jul 09
// Alessandro Fillari
Since that massive wave of info about Fallout 4 back at E3, I've counting the days till its November release. I'm a big fan of the series, and seeing its debut on the current gen was incredibly satisfying. Unfortunately, Beth...

Into the Stars is an intense Space Opera, hits early access July 9

Jul 02 // Alessandro Fillari
Into the Stars (PC, [previewed], Linux, Mac)Developer: Fugitive GamesPublisher: Iceberg InteractiveRelease date: July 9, 2015 on PC (Early Access)Set in the far future where mankind has populated the outer reaches of the known universe, you take on the role of a captain for the last human ship carrying a most precious cargo. After a war with an alien race destroys the last colony of humans, you must lead the remaining survivors and your crew on an exodus through uncharted territory in order to find a new home in Titus Nova, located in the far end of the galaxy. Along the way, you'll recruit new crew members, trade with neutral alien factions, and wage an on-going struggle with the aliens that destroyed your home planet. With the fate of many lives in your hands, you'll have to make many tough decisions in order to secure the future of humanity, while also keeping your one and only ship in working order. The developers weren't shy about sharing their influences for Into the Stars. From Battlestar Galactica, to Firefly, Star Trek, and even Guardians of the Galaxy -- the folks at Fugitive Games wanted a space adventure that emulated the same wonder and awe from classic Space Operas, while injecting a tense and hectic atmosphere that gave players the sense that one wrong move could lead to disaster. Storytelling was an important area of focus for the devs, and while there aren't really any cutscenes or dramatic set-piece moments, the players will be able to create their own captain, crew, and ship parameters (with adjustable stats and areas of focus) from scratch -- giving them freedom in how they play and choose to forge their way across the galaxy.With an entire galaxy map to explore, you'll have to choose wisely where you want to guide your ship, as many different resources are consumed during travel, and dangerous foes might rear their ugly heads. Taking place on over 90 tiles shown on the galactic map, each space represents a sector of the galaxy that can be explored. Players can freely steer their ship within the tile and explore at their own pace. Each tile possess their own unique points of interests, planets, culture, resources, and other sources of intrigue. While some randomness comes into play, the developers wanted to give the entire universe a hand-crafted look and not rely on procedural generation to fill in the blanks. And the results are quite stunning. The visuals within Into the Stars are a feast to behold, and the work from the Unreal Engine 4 shows great promise. From soaring past gas-giants, derelict spacecrafts, to massive floating artifacts from alien cultures, there's much to explore within the galaxy, and it'll take more than one playthrough to witness all the visuals. Though be warned, spending too much time in a certain section of the galaxy will attract the attention of hostile forces that wish to wipe you out.Taking cues from titles like XCOM and FTL, the developers at Fugitive Games wanted to have a strong focus on crew and resource management while gathering resources and keeping ahead of danger. Your ship will need resources and a strong crew to keep flying, and in order to keep both on the up, you'll have to take risks and even make some sacrifices. When you come across planets and installations throughout your travels, you can send probes or Away Teams (a capable team of explorers) down to the point of interest to search for resources and valuables. Though bare in mind, these places can often be dangerous and result in some deaths or harm to your ship if things go south. During one instance, we sent our away team to a remote planet and found many valuable resources with no incidents. Unfortunately, our luck wasn't so great when we went to a derelict human spaceship. An accident occurred which resulted in the deaths of some crew. [embed]295154:59311:0[/embed]As a whole, Into the Stars is a game about taking risks. While some cases may call for the occasional space heroics, most of the time you'll have to play it safe. During planetary examinations, sometimes its better to send probes, which result in a mini-game where you mine materials. Though keep in mind, the lives of your crew and your cargo of human survivors are a valuable resource as well. While traveling in space, you'll come across merchants that may sell goods at the cost of valuable materials vital to the function of your ship. While giving away minerals may be easy, in some cases merchants may request some humans for the trade. It's a pretty grim prospect, and though it may be easy to turn down a request when its first presented to you, you might be in a tight spot and have to entertain the offer. By any means necessary, your ship has to make to Titus Nova, and you may have to make some decisions that could compromise your own captain's humanity.But what would any space opera be without epic ship battles? When you encounter foes that seek to raid your ship, or just want to wipe out what's left of humanity, you'll have to defend the vessel and command your crew in a battle of wits and instinct. Unlike other space-sims, battles take place in quasi-term based format within the confines of the ship. Within the bridge, you have a clear view of the attackers, and you'll have to simultaneously adjust shields, make repairs, and strike against the enemy when the time comes. Initially, I found the battles to be a bit confusing and somewhat dense. It's all in menus, and you have to keep track of different crew attributes and ship parameters to stay one step ahead of your enemies. When making repairs, your view switches over to the engine room as you monitor hull breaches and causalities, all while the enemies are still attacking. While the smaller foes can be easily defeated, facing groups of enemy ships and some of the more massive cruisers can result in somewhat lengthy battles.I was largely impressed with Into the Stars. While we're definitely seeing an influx of space-sims as of late, this title subscribes more to the technical school of thought, rather than the focus on action and explosions. While I admit I got a bit lost during some moments, and had to consult some tutorials, I found Into the Stars to be an incredibly ambitious game that seeks to install a simultaneous sense of dread and awe from players. Not many games can get me feeling nervous while traveling through a lush and colorful galaxy filled with rich cultures and places to explore. If you're looking for something a bit more introspective and technical for your spacefaring needs, then you'll definitely want to keep an eye on Into the Stars.Into the Stars - Early Access [Steam]
Into The Stars photo
Find a crew, find a job, keep flying
The Space Sim genre has been one of the most ambitious and sought after titles from developers and fans alike. Ever since the early days of gaming, there's been a desire to craft a title that allows for exploration across a s...

Pillars of Eternity photo
Pillars of Eternity

Pillars of Eternity: The White March is set to be one epic expansion


Part one launches this year
Jun 23
// Alessandro Fillari
As one of Obsidian Entertainment's most ambitious titles, Pillars of Eternity earned a lot of respect from fans of the genre. The developers found great success in returning to their roots, and they've got more in store for t...

Mother Russia Bleeds is a brutal throwback to classic brawlers

Jun 19 // Alessandro Fillari
Set in an alternate universe where the USSR has been crippled with crime and drug abuse, leaving society in an ever-present dystopian fugue-state, a group of street fighters take it upon themselves to fight back against the criminal element. Addicted to mysterious drugs in syringes that enhance their abilities, they'll have to use their skills to take down the Russian mafia, the powerful government, and a secret society of sexual deviants to exact revenge on those that have laid waste to the motherland. While the plot is pretty standard for a beat-'em-up, the story gets damn dark throughout. What's interesting is that you're not necessarily a good guy -- just a lesser shade of grey roaming the streets. The presentation does a great job of pulling you into this twisted world. Much like Hotline Miami, it uses dark and hypnotic lights to set the tone, and also manages to mess with your head. There were several points where I really tripped by the visual style. And I mean that as a good thing. The style is trance-like, and once it gets you, it doesn't let go. Much like the classic titles Mother Russia Bleeds pays homage too, its controls are largely easy to get into and remember. With a combination of heavy and light attacks, including grab and dash moves, you'll be able to take out the various enemies trying to rush you down. You'll also find weapons and gear in the field, such as bats, guns, and bar stools. Moreover, each character possesses their own moveset and stats. Out of the three characters available, I chose Boris, a seemingly homeless brawler with serious speed. With his moves, I made quick work of the mobs. Oddly enough, friendly fire was enabled by default, which made battles hectic but also irritating. Thankfully, you can turn it off (unless you're in need of an extra challenge). With that said, there are a number of cool additions to the traditional mechanics. The syringes that the fighters possess grant them buffs for periods of time. When used, the screen turns dark and the fighter on his high will gain super speed and increased strength. Also, they get access to a unique fatality, which instantly kills one enemy. They're brutal and satisfying to pull off, but you'll sacrifice the remainder of your buff period. Also, syringes are used to heal yourself and revive downed allies. Though if you're running on empty, you can sacrifice some of your own life to revive them. Playing Mother Russia Bleeds was a trippy experience. Though there were a number of odd quirks they'll have to iron out before released, I was very pleased with what I played. We also got a peek of some upcoming features outside of the story mode. Along with Boss Rush, challenge missions, Arena, and Versus play, the developers plan on giving the people the total package. I got the sense that this was made from folks that loved the genre, and with their aspirations to help revitalize the brawlers, I can say fans will find a lot to admire here.
Devolver Digital photo
Launches on PC, Mac, and PS4 in 2016
One of my favorite types of games from back in the day was the side-scrolling beat-'em-up. Though the sub-gene has sorta evolved into more standard and narrative-based action games, I still feel there's more to be done with t...

Crossing Souls is a stellar tribute to the 1980s

Jun 19 // Alessandro Fillari
Set in a small town during the summer of 1986, a group of friends stumble across an ancient artifact that allows them to connect with the world of the dead. Interacting with ghosts of former residents, both long-past and recently departed, they begin to learn that things are not what they appear to be in their boring, quiet town. But soon after, they discover that several forces want control of the relic for themselves, and they must evade police, the U.S. government, and other supernatural entities in order to keep it out of their hands. The developers behind Crossing Souls cite '80s films and TV, along with '90s video games like EarthBound and A Link to the Past as their major sources of inspiration. During my half hour with the game, it was clear that this was a love letter to the era. It not only exudes style channeling the playful rebelliousness of E.T. and The Goonies, but also the sense of adventure found in SNES action/adventure titles. Stylistically, it's a charming game featuring VHS-esque distortion during many of the animated cutscenes. And with music from Timecop1983, one of the Internet's more well known Snyth-Pop artists, Crossing Souls pulls those nostalgia strings hard, and it does so in an evocative way. As the group must keep the balance between the world of the living and the dead, they'll have to explore both realms simultaneously. Each of the five friends possess their own strengths, which necessitates switching between them. Some have certain skills for climbing and heavy lifting, while others have access to ranged attacks. While exploring the town, you can freely interact with the folks from both the living and dead realms. It's completely open, and you can uncover side-missions and events that will have you explore the furthest reaches of town. My favorite part of the demo was exploring the town square and seeing ghosts from the past comment about 1980s culture. It was interesting to see the changes between the two. In one world you could be relatively safe in a populated area, but in another you might get swarmed by vengeful ghosts looking to attack anything alive. Also featured in the game will be an Arcade mode. Throughout your adventures, you'll come across mini-games and special encounters that will have you take part in a trial of wits and timing, and after they're completed you can play them again at any time within this mode. During one segment, I had to evade the police on my bike in style very reminiscent of Battletoad's infamous speeder bike sequence. Thankfully, this one was a lot more fun and less stressful. I wonder what else the game has in store. The mini-games were a cool diversion from the core gameplay, and I'm sure most players will find one they'll gravitate to. I wish I could've spent more time with Crossing Souls. I'm a huge admirer of 1980s culture and entertainment, and it hit all the right nostalgic notes. This was totally the type of game any '80s and even '90s kid would want to experience, and it recalled all the cool moments I had playing video games or watching cartoons back then. Fourattic channels that sense of wonder and awe of experiencing something so fresh and charming. I can't wait to see more from this title in the coming months, and with its release next spring, you'll get to re-experience an era of exuberance soon.
Devolver Digital photo
Releasing on PC and Mac in spring
In recent years, Kickstarter has opened the doors for a lot of developers looking to make things happen. It's a real pleasure to see titles that would've never been greenlit by publishers find an audience willing to put up ca...

Frictional Games' SOMA brings true horror to PS4

Jun 19 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]292979:58725:0[/embed] In an underwater research station, you play as an engineer, Simon, who must uncover the mysteries behind the disappearances and deaths of the crew. After finding himself alone in an unknown part of the station, he discovers that things have taken a turn for the worse as machines begin inhabiting human characteristics. Some robots have even gone rogue after merging with the biology of the deep, and will hunt down anything they find. Using his own resourcefulness and whatever gadgets he can find, Simon will have to evade these horrors to reach safety. Following the school of design found in Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the player will not have any weapons at their disposal to take on whatever creatures they encounter. And gadgets and other support tools to help evade the creatures will only do just that. The name of the game is evasion, and hiding behind crates or other furniture scattered around is usually your best bet. Much like studio's previous title, this can make encounters incredibly nerve-wracking. Though my session only had one real encounter with one of the deep-sea abominations, I got pretty tense during it. That sure made solving the puzzle to escape more challenging. The environment is an interesting setting as well. The underwater research facility is dank and in disrepair, and with the horrors of the deep seeping into the facility, it feels like an industrialized take on the Lovecraftian aesthetic. While venturing through the halls of the station, you'll come across the bodies of workers that still possess clues and other secrets. As each member has in internal black-box installed, you can experience their last moments in audio-log form. It's a clever take on the mechanic, and it does a lot to flesh out the story as well. Though I only had a brief session with SOMA, I found the developers made something that felt like a more natural evolution of Amnesia -- a continuation of the same hide-and-seek-style horror that many fans loved. And in such a rich setting, surprises are in store. Without saying too much, there's a lot more going on with the character's journey and his surroundings than you might think.
SOMA preview photo
Releasing September 22 for PC and PS4
Even though it doesn't seem that long ago, it's been five years since a group of indie developers struck it big with the release of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The game became a hit with players looking for...

Elite: Dangerous for Xbox One adds new multiplayer mode

Jun 18 // Alessandro Fillari
With its recent launch on Xbox One, Elite: Dangerous has seen immediate success on the console. Boasting over 500,000 active players, the community is very active and passionate about the game. The developers stated that though PC and Xbox One players can't play with one another, the economy and active-narrative within the universe is consistent with shared, which makes the universe feel more alive than ever before.During our presentation, we got to witness the upcoming multiplayer content, the Close Quarters Championship. Taking place in instanced arenas around the known universe, players will be able to take their best ship and compete with others in a variety of different modes ranging from Deathmatch, Team-Deathmatch, and a altered take on CTF called "Capture the Datasphere". As they level up and acquire currency, they'll be able to upgrade their multiplayer ship and build it up to be a top dog within the CQC. All upgrades made in CQC will only be available for multiplayer. The developers felt the mechanics and systems within the multiplayer were unique and required an extra boost, and that players can already acquire a massive amount of content within the open universe.Though the content is only set for Xbox One as of now, players on PC can expect to see it sometime later this year. The developers felt that the Xbox community was the best place to test out the new mode, given the existing player community that loves their MP content. Speaking of which, the Xbox One version of Elite has developed quite well. As it's in beta presently, the developers are still working on new features and tweaks to the port. One of the proudest accomplishments they had with the development of the console release was that they were able to place all the mechanics into the controller without watering down the gameplay. The controller utilizes context-sensitive prompts and hold-button options to bring up new options. It's pretty clever, given the scope of the original title.If you're interested in giving Elite: Dangerous a shot, and don't possess a beastly PC to do so, then the Xbox One release is your best shot. Currently on discount, this port retains all the best elements of the game, and might even make it a bit more accessible for those who may have been scared off by the scope of the PC title. And with new content coming to console first, there's plenty incentive to give it a go.
Elite: Dangerous photo
Launches in July, PC later this year
As one of the most well-known Kickstarter titles, Elite: Dangerous has really become a massive and seminal title within the PC community. With an entire universe to explore, built to scale according to the developers, they pr...

Total War: Warhammer changes the game of war

Jun 18 // Alessandro Fillari
Moving away from the historical settings of Rome and Attila, the Warhammer lore opens things up considerably for some intense and incredibly over the top action. Set in the high-fantasy universe, players will be able to choose one of four factions (Empire, Greenskins, Dwarves, and Vampyre) and build their nations, either through diplomacy, economics, or the raw might of their military forces. When things come to blows, each faction possesses its own unique style of combat and tactics that the opposing armies will have to deal with.The combat mechanics during battles have been greatly expanded. Units can utilize more moves and abilities from close range attacks to long-range tactics through magic or muskets. Along with the Hero characters, which can be leveled up and imbued with new skills to boost their units, players will be able to summon monsters and other creations to help their armies in a pinch. During one battle between the Empire and Greenskins, one of summoned a massive spider known as Arcanarok, which spawned mini-spiders that mowed down enemy units. I was very impressed with the sense of scale and the pace. I'm interested in seeing more of what the units can do once developed further.Rest assured, the nation-building gameplay from past titles is still present in Warhammer. But naturally, how each of the factions will go about expanding its civilization will vary. As each faction possesses its own unique culture, traditional diplomacy and negotiation may not be as effective as the swing of an ax, and some factions will be more focused on engagements than others. For the Empire, it'll have the traditional and more civilized routes for expansion with politics, trade, and economics as its biggest tools. But when it comes to showing off military might, the Empire will utilize its siege cannons and Demi-grifs to lay waste to invaders.For the Greenskins (Orcs), players will have to use brute force and cunning to expand their own empire. As Orcs don't really have much interest for diplomacy and the political aspects of nation-building, they choose the more direct approach to get what they want. While they possess the standard warrior and shaman classes, the latter who can utilize spells to summon giant constructs to stomp their foes, they also make use of kamikaze goblins that use leather wings to fly into enemy units. Launching catapults, they can be manually aimed while in flight for precision targeting.While the title is in pre-alpha, and the build we saw was hands-off, I was incredibly impressed with what I saw. The new visual aesthetic and a rich setting offers so much potential for what the Total War series can do within the fantasy genre. As you can spend countless hours with just one faction, building them up and taking down opposing forces, I'm very interested in seeing how much lore they can fit into this title. Though Creative Assembly was very hesitant to share any details about the Dwarf and Vampyre factions, it was very clear in stating that all of the factions will be very developed and possess their own unique cultures that will alter how they function on the world stage.It's still a ways off, but the folks at Creative Assembly are on track with developing something unique. Obviously, it's quite a departure for what the series has done before, but it's still very much a Total War title through and through.
Total War: Warhammer photo
Creative Assembly changes the scenery
The Total War series is known for its focus on intense real-time combat and simulation-based nation-building gameplay. As one of the more historical games, the series has garnered a lot of respect from fans and many critics a...

Hideaki Itsuno talks his return to DMC with Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition

Jun 18 // Alessandro Fillari
It's been more than seven years since the release of DMC4 back on PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2008, and things have changed quite a bit. During that time, Itsuno choose to begin work on his passion project, an open-world Action-RPG title for consoles, which eventually became Dragon's Dogma. The sprawling role-playing game was one of Capcom's most intensive projects, and was largely met with acclaim. Though sometime after its release, the opportunity to return to the series presented itself, and Itsuno was keen on giving the series another go. "Once the original DMC4 production was over , I was ready to be done with DMC for awhile, and it was quite good timing," said director Hideaki Itsuno while recalling his work on Dragon's Dogma. "But by that time [after Dragon's Dogma], I felt that I wanted to work on another DMC game, and the topic of the Special Edition came up and it was really good, it came at a great time for me. Also it wasn't too difficult coming back to DMC mentally after awhile. I had actually been working on some mobile titles for awhile before this. It was good to be home with DMC, it was a year and a half project, and and I really enjoyed it all." As the second Special Edition release for the series, many fans have det their expectations high for the return to DMC4. Since its reveal, we've learned much about what the Special Edition will contain, and surprisingly they decided to go further with including the most playable character in a single title that the series has ever seen. While talking about the development of the game, Itsuno recalled what they wanted to focus on when making the Special Edition."Coming off DMC3: Special Edition, including Vergil was a no-brainer really, and it was also something that a lot of fans pretty much expected to happen when you announce another Special Edition," said Itsuno. "The next thing we looked at was bringing it up to speed [...] It's been seven years since the last game, and people may not be as familiar with it as they once were. So even just having tiny things like auto-save, helped bring up to console standards. Then we added Lady and Trish."Right from the beginning of the series, gamers have recognized that DMC is in a class of its own when it comes to combat. After Itsuno took over as director for the series, the combat expanded much further. With experience on titles such as Capcom vs SNK and the Street Fighter series, he used much of his work on honing combat and fighting mechanics and transitioned it over to DMC. With DMC4SE, the developers plan on injecting more of the fighting game mentality into the series with the inclusion of multiple playable characters, as each posses their own unique playstyles.  "You definitely could say I've brought my fighting game experience to bare," said Itsuno while talking about the new playable characters. "Particularly because we got some additional characters and gameplay experiences are quite different for each character, and the gameplay will change for each. It's quite a unique aspect to DMC, compared to other action games where we have this selection of characters, so you're really getting a different gameplay experience with each character. We looked at people's combo play videos for 4 and also 3 Special Edition for Vergil, and we used those as references. But ultimately, we wanted to make sure it was the game you love." During my time with DMC4SE's Vergil, it was clear that he adopted some tricks from DmC Vergil. Ninja Theory's work on the mechanics for Vergil offered some very inventive takes on classic moves and also included some new skills that very clever in their own right. Over the years, DmC: Devil May Cry has been a pretty divisive title among series fans. Many of whom don't tend to view it in the same light as the original series. The director of the series spoke about his work supervising the developers at Ninja Theory, and still holds the game and its developers in high-regard."It was a three year project working on DmC: Devil May Cry with Ninja Theory, and I was going back and forth to Cambridge working on it with them. And I got a lot of great memories, I'm still really great friends with those guys, whenever I see them I'm like 'give me a hug, bro', and even though it was a divisive game, and that was the reaction from fans, obviously -- I still feel it's a well respected game. I don't like thinking of it as this separate other thing from the rest of the other games. My work on that game definitely influenced DMC4SE.As with every upcoming E3, many fans like to hypothesize about what's going to be announced at E3. Just checking on twitter or NeoGAF, you could see massive threads detailing fan theories and speculation about some upcoming news relating to the developers and publishers attending. And though many were convinced that Capcom was going to drop the bomb and announce Devil May Cry 5 at this year's expo, they of course were mistaken. But rest assured, Capcom is totally aware of the enthusiasm for the series. Itsuno had this to say to fans about the current state of Devil May Cry.  "Of course, there was some people rumor and speculating whether or not there'd be a new announcement at E3. Sorry, but there wasn't one this year. But 4SE is something I really wanted the chance to get DMC in the hands of the next-generation console player. It's been that long since the original series, the hardware has changed, standards are different, and I know that people are waiting to play the game again." With the upcoming Special Edition almost upon us, it's going to be a special time for many fans who've longed for the return to the original series. I've spent quite a bit of time with it, and I feel that many long time fans will love what Itsuno and the developers have done to reinvigorate DMC4. The new characters add a whole new level of freshness to the game, and fans who've spend countless hours exploring the nuances of Dante and Nero will love what Vergil, Trish, and Lady bring to the table. Expect our full review from Chris next week.
Devil May Cry photo
This Special Edition goes all in
As you have probably noticed over the last few months, Destructoid has been loaded with articles about the Devil May Cry series and its upcoming titles. The folks at Capcom have been very open with sharing details about the s...

Shadow Warrior 2 goes even more over the top with co-op action

Jun 17 // Alessandro Fillari
Set after the events of the previous game, Lo Wang returns to battle armies of demons that have invaded our realm, and it's up to him and his new ninja warrior buddies to take them out. The plot is as ridiculous as the original, and probably more so with the addition of new characters and a much larger arsenal of weapons. The claws and throwing blades are extremely fast, and make quick work of the demons in incredibly gory fashion. One thing that was immediately clear was that the gameplay of Shadow Warrior has been considerably expanded. The corridor-shooter aspect of the original game has been ditched in favor of more open levels to explore. While not open world, there is much more room for exploration and traversal throughout the environments. Platforming and general movement has been enhanced to take advantage of the new lateral movement gameplay. Wang will no longer have to worry about managing his stamina, as his ninja abilities have given him enhanced strength and dexterity, allowing him to climb walls and run across rooftops with ease.  Moreover, the general structure of the game has been changed as well. With a new hub area, Wang and his allies will be able to acquire quests and upgrade their characters before venturing out into the missions. As the last game was largely a straight shot through a series of chapters, SW2 gives players more freedom in how they tackle objectives. This also allows players to revisit earlier missions much easier to re-engage past foes in order to build up Wang's strength. With the new character progression system, players will be flesh out the Shadow Warrior in very unique ways. Since the last game, the developers decided to seriously up the combat and character growth aspect with brand new RPG mechanics. As you battle enemies, you'll level up your weapons and acquire gems to augment your equipment, giving them elemental properties and buffs. While it's not Diablo-esque loot where you'll find near-infinite forms of the same weapons, the gems you find will give your gear some interesting buffs that will vary from character to character. Of course, you'll be revisting missions very often, and the devs decided to include new procedural content for the level design. Every mission (save for specific story events) will feature procedurally generated level design and content. Enemy positions, terrain, buildings, and weather conditions are all random, which will make repeat visits interesting. During one level, we came across a town with several buildings and mobs of foes to take down. The design itself was impressive, as it encouraged a large focus on vertical movement and flanking of the demons. Keep in mind that this was random, and it will feature an entirely different design. Furthermore, the level design will also take into account side-quests and other events that happen in real time, which will add more flavor. I only had a brief amount of time with Shadow Warrior 2, but I was plenty pleased with what saw. I sometimes get worried when action games go more RPG for their sequels, but the additions to the growth system and action only enhance the core sword/gun play. I was impressed with SW2. Lastly, co-op play looks to be a lot of fun, and though the new characters are mostly anonymous ninjas, each player in group will play as Wang in their own game, while the others appear as the newcomers. It's in a clever way of making sure everyone gets a bit of Wang. With release set for sometime next year across PC, PS4, and Xbox One, fans of the original will be getting more Shadow Warrior into their hands much sooner than they think.
Shadow Warrior 2 photo
Wang is back, baby
2013's Shadow Warrior reboot from Devolver Digital made a name for itself when it was released on PC. As most reboots of classic titles tend to go for a more gritty and toned-down vibe, the developers at Flying Wild Hog went ...

Hollowpoint photo
Hollowpoint

Hollowpoint gives co-op shooting a fresh perspective


Cover shooting from all angles
Jun 17
// Alessandro Fillari
Update: Cross-play for PS4 and PC will not be a feature for Hollowpoint.It feels like you can't go anywhere without seeing another co-op shooter set for release or being announced for the first time. Since the success of titl...

Guitar Hero Live rocks out with a fresher focus

Jun 16 // Alessandro Fillari
Guitar Hero Live (PlayStation 4 [previewed], Playstation 3, Wii U,  Xbox 360, Xbox One, Mobile)Developer: FreeStyle GamesPublisher: ActivisionRelease date: October 20, 2015 First and foremost, if you're a longtime fan of the series that may have felt burned by the last title, Warriors of Rock, you'll be pleased to know that the series has gone back to the basics to keep the focus on jamming out to a variety of tunes ranging from heavy metal, classic rock, and pulsating new metal. While on the surface Guitar Hero Live looks to be a massive departure from the rest of the series, it's very much in line with what was present in the earlier titles. This is purely about the music and experience of building your own personal rocker profile. As you may have seen from the reveal trailers, they've incorporated real video into Guitar Hero this time around. When selecting some of the classics or new tunes, you'll be treated to actual music videos or even concert footage of the band while you play. This is in keeping with the new television aesthetic and architecture that Guitar Hero Live utilizes. Gone are the bizarre storylines and cartoonish visuals showing off your character as they rise from garage-band amateur to international rock star, and in its place is a focus on realism to keep you invested in the songs and the experiences of being a guitar god. During Guitar Hero's absence, the developers have refined the gameplay and tweaked many aspects. The biggest change made is that you can't outright fail songs. As vets know, missing too many notes will fail the song, resulting in game over. In Guitar Hero Live, players that perform poorly can still finish the song. The folks working on the game felt that failing players resulted them in losing interest, so botching songs will only affect your overall score. This gives players the chance to save their performance should they struggle in some spots. Moreover, if players want to take a break during the song, all they'll have to do is stop playing and the song will revert to an attract mode. It's neat, and I feel GHL will be much more welcoming to newcomers. In the two central modes, Live and TV, the game goes about building the rocker experience in different ways; one from the side of media, and the other from in the shoes of a guitar player during a concert. The TV mode will definitely be where most of the action happens. Think of it as the online, multiplayer, and career modes all rolled into one. When in TV mode, you can engage in daily and premium challenges that task you with tackling certain songs to acquire in-game currency and play tokens. Much like cable or satelite television, the TV mode is essentially mix of on-demand and scheduled content. With multiple channels, you'll be able to view the current schedule of upcoming songs that are available to play. If there's one you like, you can jump right in and play. In real time, each 'program' plays a certain genre of music or focuses on a particular band, and is set for half an hour. If there's nothing on the channel's schedule that you like, just switch over to another and check to see what's on. I was impressed with the presentation, and it felt like was tuned to a parallel universe where MTV didn't focus on reality TV and kept with the music. It even made some of the programs feel like events, as you can plan ahead and bring friends over at certain time to rock out. If the channels aren't doing it for you, then you can switch over to the on-demand menu and choose the available songs to add to you playlist and experience at your leisure. Like the previous titles, the base game will come packed with existing songs, and more will be added later. However, the on-demand takes a slightly different approach. While you can play whatever song is present in the menu, they require play tokens for you to add to your playlist. Play tokens are acquired from just playing normally, and you'll accumulate them often. However, if you run out of play tokens, you're unable to play songs on the playlist. If you want to avoid using the tokens -- using them won't technically give you the song -- you can purchase the song outright and make a part of your permanent collection. I suspect this feature draw some ire from fans. While I understand it on an economic level, I feel this can be very annoying for anyone who likes to binge. By my count, there were three different forms of currency in the game: GH credits, real money credits, and play tokens, which will definitely bother people further. While there isn't a cap on play tokens, which can be purchased in bulk from the Guitar Hero store if you don't want to grind, I feel that the system of purchasing that's in place will confuse and annoy people. Thankfully, there are many features to keep players busy. The online mode is robust. Players can compete online against others in real time. During scheduled programs, players will be able to compete for the high score, with the current leader ranks being shown to the left of the screen. There will be many top dogs online, so in order to compete you'll have to make upgrades to your guitar. Using in-game credits acquired from daily challenges and tackling challenging songs, you can invest in a more sophisticated setup. Many of these upgrades range from score multipliers and other boosts to effectiveness. Thankfully, upgrades can only be purchased with in-game currency (which can only be acquired from in-game activity). With the currency, you can also purchase new highways and player cards for further customization. While most of the action will likely be spent in the TV mode, the brand new Live mode offers something a bit different. Ever wonder what it's like to play a guitar to a sold-out concert full of thousands of excited fans and music lovers? Live mode shows that in quasi real-time video that adapts to your performance. With two tours, spread across the U.S. and UK and spanning several sets (songs), you'll jam out with your band as they seek to keep the crowd on their feet and jamming. Playing online is one thing, but the Live mode is incredibly nerve-wracking. Maybe it's just me, because I'm not as good as other players, but watching the crowd and even your band mates turn on me was unsettling. It felt like I was experiencing a bizarre mix between Guitar Hero and those '90s full-motion video games. I don't mean that as a bad thing, however. I was impressed with how well it's presented. It's like those FMV games, except actually good. Shown from the first person, you're in the shoes of the lead guitarist, and when he stumbles, you experience it first hand. It can be tense, especially when your own band starts to turn on you. For the most part, I was largely impressed with my session with Guitar Hero Live. Though I still have some reservations with the game's economy, I still feel there's a lot of good here. The MTV-esque aesthetic was a stroke of genius and it really brought me into the experience much more than any of the other titles did. And given the number of platforms this is on, including mobile, it's clear they want to cover all the bases here. With Rock Band 4 also seeing a release this year, things must be looking up for the music genre now that the two juggernauts have returned. I'm looking forward to seeing how fans will take to it. 
Guitar Hero Live photo
I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!
I remember a time when there was this massive swell of music and rhythm-based games. The most dominant one at the time was the Guitar Hero series, which was quite an obsession among many of my classmates back in college. But ...

Cammy and Birdie are fantastic in Street Fighter V

Jun 15 // Alessandro Fillari
At the Capcom event I went to a couple weeks back, I got the chance to play with the initial four characters, and also the newly announced Cammy and Birdie. Sorry I couldn't tell you before, but the folks at Capcom wanted to keep it a surprise. You had no idea how hard it was to sit on that without telling anyone. I got some quality time with both Cammy and Birdie, and they definitely set themselves apart from the others.Much like the rest of the cast, Cammy and Birdie take unique advantage of the Variable System in interesting ways. As the system allows the fighters to tap into unique skills and tactics to overcome difficult situations, they can be used quite creatively in the hands of skilled players. Just like the others, the Variable System plays to Cammy and Birdie's strengths and their personalities, which fleshes their characters out into pretty cool ways.As one of the original SFII characters, Cammy has been around for a long time. With her prowess for speed and agility, giving her quite the edge in footsies and aerial game, she's an incredible force during fights. And SFV expands upon that in a big way. Her V-Skill, known as 'Axel Spin Knuckle', gives her the ability to do a forward spin move and follow up with a forearm blow. What's interesting about this move is that it not only allows her to pass through projectiles unharmed, but it can also have her spin to the opponent's back and striking them from their blind-spot. But her V-Trigger is where she turns up the heat. Called 'Delta Drive', her Trigger grants her a massive boost of speed and cuts down on the delays for her specials moves, allowing her to use them more often.[embed]294083:59059:0[/embed] And of course, we've got the big guy himself. Birdie is back in action, and after his last appearance in Alpha 3, he's been itching for another fight. This one came of out of left field, and I can guarantee no one expected him to make the cut. Unfortunately, he's sorta let himself go. The once musclebound goon has lost his figure, and he can't seem to keep food out of his hands. With a massive gut, and some Ron Jeremy-esque chest hair, he's not what he once was back in the good ol' days. But his passion for battle is stronger than ever, and he's worked around his new impairment. And he might be a far better fighter because of it.Though he seems like a gimmick character, Birdie has still got the moves to go toe-to-toe with the others. His chains wrapped around his wrist can be used to lasso foes and slam them to the ground, and his famous head-butt still packs a wallop. His V-Skill called 'Break Time' has him scarf down some snacks, which grants him extra buffs. And he'll even leave the trash on the ground, which the opponents can trip over. You haven't lived till you've seen M. Bison slip on a banana peel. His V-Skill also works when using different directional prompts, which will have him eat and discard different types of food. His V-Trigger is called 'Enjoy Time', and after maxing out his V-Gauge, Birdie will scarf down a spicy pepper, which will grant him a boost in damage and guard break potential for his special moves. I'm pretty excited about Street Fighter V. After my session with, I was left super impressed with what the developers at Capcom have in mind for the fans. And with the additions of Cammy and Birdie to the roster, it's clear that Capcom has got plans for both the familiar and the unexpected characters of the series. I can't wait to see more.
Street Fighter V photo
Hands-on with some old friends
As you could likely tell, Street Fighter V is looking pretty amazing. I was very impressed with my hands-on session with the game, along with my chat with Peter 'Combofiend' Rosas, and I can tell that many people will find a ...

World of Final Fantasy photo
World of Final Fantasy

World of Final Fantasy set PS4 and PS Vita, coming 2016


Chibi Final Fantssy
Jun 15
// Alessandro Fillari
During the Sony E3 presser, we got a sneak peek at an upcoming spin-off title for Square-Enix's fabled JRPG series called World of Final Fantasy. It's looks to be an super-deformed take on FF lore, featuring a young cast about to embark on an adventure. It looks quite colorful, and I'm intrigued to see what the gameplay will be like.
MGSV E3 trailer photo
MGSV E3 trailer

Kojima's final MGSV E3 trailer shows off the bloodshed


The Twin Snakes
Jun 15
// Alessandro Fillari
A lot's happened this year with the state of the MGS, and its creator's fate after the launch of MGSV. As Hideo Kojima's final Metal Gear, and this time it's for real, The Phantom Pain will be a very bittersweet title fo...

Combofiend talks Street Fighter V, and the importance of community

Jun 11 // Alessandro Fillari
In many ways, Street Fighter V seems to represent a culmination of many different aspects of the series as they're reaching a fever pitch. With the developers spending many years honing their craft, and the growing popularity of a community of fans that share their passion with others, the genre seems to be in the strongest state yet. In the last decade alone, popularity for the fighting genre exploded thanks to the Internet, and the sharing of many great moments from tournaments. During our chat, Peter "Combofiend" Rosas spoke about how Street Fighter V will bring together many different eras of SF fans, as this new installment will features elements they've come to love over the years. "Everyone is ecstatic about this game; the responses to the character reveals have been immense," said Peter Rosas while discussing the growing fan base. "The series has such a history, you have people from my era, the Street Fighter II dudes, the people from the Street Fighter III era in the early 2000s, and the people from 08-09 that started with Street Fighter IV -- we're all excited for this game. I'd say the excitement for Street Fighter is at an all-time high." Understandably, when there's a new installment to a popular series coming, people are curious about the changes and upgrades. While they're excited at the prospect of the new entry, there's still the budding anxiety of having to master a brand new system that may or may not contradict strategies they've spent years improving. In order to cushion this a bit, the developers took a long look back at the series and decided to incorporate elements from the past and re-contextualize many strategies and tactics into the new system in place here. Rosas elaborated that each character will feel more unique because of it. "What we did was look at all the good things we've done over the years versus all the things players didn't necessarily like, so there are SO many good things, positive mechanics that people loved over the years," explained Rosas. "So we wanted to focus on that aspect, while also having the game feel new and fun. We thought the speed from Super Street Fighter II Turbo was appropriate, so we sped the game...but then, we also wanted each character to feel like a unique experience. When we looked at the V-Skills, we saw an opportunity to see how each character will feel different." One of the more shocking announcements from Capcom, aside from the return of Nash, is that Street Fighter V will be a PS4 exclusive release on consoles. Understandably, this upset many fans who haven't taken to the new hardware yet, or just simply own an Xbox One. Though the title will also be released on PC, there's still that air of unrest, despite knowing that this title is developed with a partnership from Sony and Capcom. Thankfully, the folks working on the game hope to remedy things with the cross-play feature. Players will be able to compete against each other regardless of their platform, and do so seamlessly. "That was extremely important to us, to make sure that all the players are together," said Rosas. "Because previously, you had people on one console, then on another console, then 'PC master race' over here, but the way it goes is that that's never been possible before, and our partnership with Sony has allowed us to do so. We definitely want people to finally be able to compete; everybody is going to be able to play everybody and we'll truly see who the best Street Fighter is." Over the years, the FGC has grown in a big way, bringing together long-time and new fans to the series. However, there are many who feel daunted by the complexity of the genre and competing against more seasoned fighters. In Street Fighter V, the developers hope to balance things out as they focus on accessibility while maintaining the hardcore element. Rosas spoke about the brand new Variable System, which not only features a lot of nuance, but also gives newcomers more options to use against the vets. "[Accessibility] was the one thing we wanted to maintain. For this one, we wanted to make sure everyone could access all the cool stuff. That being said, V-Skills are just two button presses, but they are unique for each character. The V-Trigger is the strongest unique ability that's accessed by pressing heavy punch and heavy kick together, so anyone who may have been intimidated playing Street Fighter because they couldn't access all the things that guys with high dexterity could, they can now do that. It goes back to that old-school feel where a fireball and an uppercut and pressing a few buttons could win you a few games. It goes back to the basics where you can just concentrate on the core mechanics, where it becomes a mind game versus more of a dexterity game." Obviously, one of the most talked about aspects of any Street Fighter is the roster. And with this title setting itself at an interesting point in the SF timeline -- and yes, I tried to ask when but they wouldn't spill the beans -- it's making everyone very curious to see who will pop up next. The folks at Capcom have clearly been listening to what fans want to see, especially after conducting surveys and other forms of outreach. Though they obviously can't say who will show up next until they're ready to, Combofiend did share some thoughts on the developers' rationale and thought process behind the roster for SFV. "We looked at a variety of sources,  but we wanted to make sure that with the roster we selected, it was characters that people would enjoy and it would be fighting styles that would be properly represented in the game, and also to make sure that everything put into the game had meaning. " He elaborated that even the returning characters, some of whom have been present since the beginning, will feel new in the fifth installment. The Variable System aims to reinvigorate the classic SF formula substantially. "We wanted all the characters to feel fresh, and to feel familiar," he explained. "Ryu still has his fireballs, Chun-Li still has her hundred kicks, but at the same time, we wanted [them to be] unique to Street Fighter V. So when were looking into the V-Triggers, we thought 'What would be really appropriate for the characters?' [...]We made sure that all the abilities played to the characters and their personalities." I was pleasantly surprised by his frankness regarding the scope of the game's ambitions, while also discussing the importance of community. Given his deep ties to the FGC, and that they've been helping to keep the series relevant for all these years, there's a clear respect for the fans who have spent so much time with the titles. While there's still many details we don't know about, the folks at Capcom assured us that it's important to keep things a surprise. Though it's still a ways out, Street Fighter V is shaping up to be an exciting title. I was eager to go hands-on with the title before E3, and I wasn't alone in saying that they've got quite a title on their hands. The fans are going to have a field day analyzing all the details and speculating what's in store. I'm very anxious to see what Capcom reveals next. For more info on Street Fighter V, check out my hands-on impressions of the game. 
Street Fighter photo
Variable System aims to change the game
In case you missed it, I had a blast playing Street Fighter V. I spent three hours playing against other journalists and developers from Capcom, and I learned so much about what this new title is all about. Given that they've...

My first three hours with Street Fighter V were immensely satisfying

Jun 11 // Alessandro Fillari
Street Fighter V (PC, PlayStation 4 [previewed])Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease date: TBA 2016 Once Street Fighter V is released, it'll be looked back on as a point in the series for many firsts. For starters, SFV is the first title in the series that will be available on only one console, but will also feature cross-play with the PC release. This is a big thing, as each platform for the previous installments tended to build its own microcosm of players. Not only will they play against each other, they'll share the same patches and updates, which will keep them together and competing regardless of the platform they choose. Moreover, Capcom is ensuring that online play will smooth and swift as ever with its new proprietary netcode called Kagemusha. Using some sophisticated rollback-based netcode, the developers are invested to ensure that the online play is consistent and hassle free. This is also the first in series to utilize the new and ever-versatile Unreal Engine 4. Though there were some concerns about whether or not Unreal could handle a title as twitch-based as SF, given the past iterations of the engine had difficulties with rendering and maintaining a solid frame rate, thankfully my time with the new fighter has made me a believer in the tech employed here. Not only are the visuals incredibly sharp and full of vibrant colors and details, the performance is rock solid. Simply put, this is the best Street Fighter has ever looked, and these images, nor the trailers, can match having the game played right in front of you. But enough about the fancy visuals; you want to hear how it plays. Of course, with every follow up to a massively popular and well-loved title, there comes the ever important question: what did they change? As you could likely tell from the trailers, Street Fighter V looks very similar to its predecessor, taking advantage of the same mechanics, like EX moves for instance, but also the similar focus on defensive gameplay (SFIV's Revenge Gauge). Street Fighter V definitely maintains those elements, but does them in a way that makes them feel unique to this installment. For instance, the Super Moves have now been upgraded to the new Critical Arts, which still require full EX Meter. While many of the signature moves are the same (Ryu's Shinku Hadoken and Chun-Li's Hoyokusen, for instance), the Critical Arts are more deadly and flashier than the supers of past. What I was surprised most by was that it goes further and features echoes to past SF titles -- even some influences from Street Fighter III and the Alpha series. While I initially thought they were just call-backs relevant to the characters (particularly the appearance of Nash), I found that the developers have essentially incorporated many elements that were successful from past titles, sometimes re-contextualizing them in interesting ways. After playing SFV, it was readily apparent that the previous trailers and footage we've seen haven't done the game justice one bit. Especially when you realize that they've been keeping one of their game-changing mechanics a secret. And it's one of the most interesting, engaging systems the series has seen in a long time. With the new Variable System, fighters can take advantage of multiple tactics and abilities that stem from the V-Gauge, an evolution of the Revenge Meter. As they build up bars of the gauge from taking damage or executing special V-Skills (character-specific support moves activated with MP+MK), they can use moves such as the V-Reversal, a powerful counterattack activated while blocking and pressing all punch or kick buttons (at the cost of one V-Gauge bar). But once you max out the meter, you can activate the special V-Trigger (HP+HK), which brings out the fighter's true potential. Despite some speculation, V-Triggers are not stance changes. The Trigger puts the fighters in a unique state for a short amount of time, where they can take advantage of unique buffs and some modified moves. Each character has their own unique take on the Variable System, which not only adapts to their own style, but does a lot to flesh them out. During my three hours of play, I got the impression that Street Fighter V is planning on enhancing the in-game narrative a bit by reflecting more of personality in the gameplay than ever before. For instance, Ryu's take on the system is influenced by his experience as a world-traveled warrior, and during his time, he's educated himself on different fighting styles, giving him the knowledge on how to best confront whoever he faces. In order to give you a better idea of what the Variable System is like, I'll be giving you an overview of things for the four playable characters we know of so far. Starting with Ryu, his V-Skill, called Mind's Eye, brings the return of the legendary Parry mechanic from Street Fighter III. For the novices out there, Ryu can time his skill at the exact moment of contact to block off enemy hits with no chip-damage -- and yes, it can be used for successive hits. Though in order to keep it balanced, it's unusable in the air. Once his V-Gauge is maxed out, he can activate his V-Trigger Denjin-Renki, imbuing him with a powerful aura for a limited time and grants him the ability to charge up his fireballs, giving them guard break potential. Also, his fireballs are given lightning properties, and when they connect you'll see brief flashes of the enemy's skeleton. It's a neat visual callback to SFII. Chun-Li's Variable mechanics focus on her maneuverability and dexterity during battles. As one of the more agile and aerial gifted fighters in the game, her Variable moves play on her strengths in a big way. For instance, her V-Trigger ability Ren-Kiko puts her in a powered-up state and gives her special moves extra hits. Her V-Skill, called Ren-Kyaku, is essentially a command jump that allows her to manually jump in any given direction. While this may seem like an odd skill, this command jump causes damage while leaving the ground and gives her ease of movement for some exceptional cross-up potential. The guys from Capcom I played against used Chun-Li quite effectively, and I left in awe of her acrobatics. It even made me want to shout out 'eh, eh, eh!' during her air juggles. Next up, we have the return of Guile's mentor and best friend Charlie. Since his last appearance in Alpha 3, things aren't the same for Charlie, who now goes by Nash. His new look shows that he's a changed man after his experimentation and torture by the hands of Shadaloo, and many of his former abilities have been modified, adopting a focus on swiftness and gap-closing maneuvers. His V-Skill, known as Bullet Clear, allows for him to absorb incoming projectiles and turn them into energy for his V-Gauge. For his V-Trigger, Nash does something a bit different. While many other characters enter a timed state that enhance moves, his trigger allows him to instantly teleport to a desired direction at the cost of his V-Gauge. Though this may seem a bit hefty of a cost for a teleport move, his V-Trigger can open up foes to a world of hurt if timed during a barrage of projectiles, leaving them vulnerable from behind or even in the air. By far, I had the most fun with Nash. He feels totally different from before, as his previous incarnations borrowed from Guile's moveset, and I'm pleased to say that he's truly come into his own for SFV. Lastly, we have M. Bison. As the main villain for much of the series, he's seen a bit of an upgrade since his last appearance. While older and a bit slower than his previous incarnations, he's still got plenty of tricks up his sleeve. With a far more menacing appearance, the leader of Shadaloo uses his Psycho powers to a far deadlier effect. With his V-Skill, called Psycho Reflect, he's able to conjure up a field of energy to bounce back projectiles and force them back at his enemies. As a charge-focused character, also sporting a modified movelist, this comes in handy when dealing with projectile-heavy opponents. With his Psycho Power V-Trigger, his abilities come into full effect, granting him increased speed and damage for special moves, and replacing his standard dash with a short-range teleport. I was impressed with what the Variable system brings to the table. In Street Fighter IV, the Revenge Gauge was only used to build your Ultra Combos, which for a lot of the skilled players often went unused. Thankfully, Street Fighter V makes better use of the mechanic here by making it a more active element during fights. The system added a whole layer of nuance to an already tried and true system, and I was super pleased with how easy it was to pick up. Though you've likely seen the phrase "easy to learn, difficult to master" thrown out a lot for games, I feel SFV lives up to that in a big way. I suspect many of the pros and hardcore fans will have fun analyzing the depths of the Variable System. It should be stated again at how gorgeous this game looks in motion. The frame rate was solid, and the new visuals have given the characters a greater level of detail. Though in some spots, it's clear that the game has still got things to work on. During the London stage, which looks incredible by the way, the background visuals didn't quite match up with what was going on in the foreground. For one, the frame rate was a bit off with the background action, which became a major distraction during battles running at 60 frames per second. But of course, this title is still a ways off, and it'll likely be cleared up before release. I have fond memories of growing up with Street Fighter II back in the day, and although I've kept with the series since, there were only a few titles that really blew me away and actively got me to up my game in order to compete with friends. Now am I saying that SFV matches those moments I had as a kid? Of course not. I only played a few hours of an unfinished build without the complete roster, after all. But what I did play showed a ton of promise, and honestly, I haven't felt this excited about Street Fighter in a long time. It's a great feeling having a new game in the wings, and I'm just itching to get back into the thick of it. Be sure to check back with Destructoid during the week of E3. We'll likely see more exciting titles from Capcom at the show. It's certainly going to be a good lineup this year.
Street Fighter V photo
Kick, Punch, it's all in the mind
After nearly thirty years, the Street Fighter series has still been going strong. With more incarnations than most people can remember, the series is seen by many as the quintessential example of what the fighting game genre ...

In case you missed it: The Fallout 4 debut trailer is live

Jun 06 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]293232:58797:0[/embed] In the press release, game director Todd Howard spoke briefly about the current development of Fallout 4. "We know what this game means to everyone," he said. "The time and technology have allowed us to be more ambitious than ever. We've never been more excited about a game, and we can't wait to share it." We also have official word about its presence on consoles. Before its debut, there was some concerns about it being a cross-gen title. Meaning, it would be released on current and past-gen consoles. Thankfully that's not the case, and Fallout 4 will be developed for current tech only. I'm glad to see it finally revealed. It felt like the worst-kept secret in the gaming industry, so it's good that the shoe finally dropped. And it's so wonderful have Ron Perlman return.
Fallout 4 photo
You know what it is
No talking, here it is. Fallout 4 is being developed for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. 

Stonehearth is out now on Steam Early Access

Jun 03 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]293233:58798:0[/embed] Like many other crowdfunded projects, Stonehearth began as a passion project, but it soon grew into something more. Working on the game in their spare time, the developers eventually were able to attract major interest from their Kickstarter campaign, which snowballed from there. With its release on Steam Early Access, Radiant Entertainment's Tom Cannon (also the co-founder of the Evo Championship Series) spoke about Stonehearth's inception and its growth into what it is now. "We started the game as a passion project. We had jobs in Silicon Valley that weren't really personally satisfying because we're hardcore gamers, so we did the Kickstarter back in 2013 to see if the idea we thought was cool," he said. "And the Kickstarter went well, and then we could make the game, but we had to pitch the game to our friends, which got them on board as well -- expanding the team. We spent two years making out prototype, which we showed in the Kickstarter video, and turned it into an actual game." In similar vein to the notoriously tricky and complex Dwarf Fortress, Stonehearth tasks players with creating their own unique civilizations in a procedurally-generated landscape from the ground up. Starting with just a few settlers, all randomized with their own personalities and skills, you'll soon be foraging for supplies and using tools to craft shelters and other necessities in order to survive. As you mine nearby mountains, bring in new settlers, build roads, raise your castle, and amass gold, your population will thrive and expand in unique ways. But as you build your civilization, you'll soon catch the interest of the local goblins who've got their own place in the dirt, and they may not take kindly to seeing outsiders take up residence in the same plot of land. The goblins serve as a necessary evil, as they not only serve to be your major obstacle from thriving, but they're also an opposing force that builds alongside your civilization. While in some cases you can simply negotiate terms for peace, resulting in trading of goods or paying them off to leave you in peace, other times you'll have no choice but to confront them head on. Among your settlers are those who've got the prowess to fight the goblins, but bare in mind not everyone has the courage to do so, and they could run away at the very sight of even a lowly goblin. Picking the right troops is just as important as collecting gold or building an installation, as losing a battle can have dire consequences. Though I mentioned it was similar to Dwarf Fortress, don't fret. The folks at Radiant wanted to emulate its complexity and depth found but ultimately sought to make Stonehearth easier to get into. Less daunting. Don't think of this as Dwarf Fortress with training wheels, though. Stonehearth definitely retains the hardcore focus and depth found in other sim titles. A neat trick Radiant employs to make things interesting is the A.I. director, which analyzes your behavior and throws in challenges based on your current pace of play. PC titles that take advantage of work created by fans are commonplace, and the team wanted to ensure players had access to the same tools it used to create the game to build their own additions and tweaks to Stonehearth. As an example, Cannon showed off one of the more humorous mods from fans, which reskined the game to look like a Candy Land tie-in. Trees turned to lollipops, and the ground textures looked as though they were caked in frosting. While most mods will add simple user interface and gameplay changes, many seek to alter the aesthetic and overall experience, and it's encouraging to see that the developers are so supportive. "We're incredibly mod friendly, so we love mods," said Cannon while showing off the Candy Land mod. "Our approach to mods is that all of our file formats are just open text files, and we have a modding forum to talk with others, if that's what you want to do. We give our modders all the tools they need to build the game, we want there to be tons and tons of mods because we love seeing what people do with the game." I was impressed with the level of complexity found in Stonehearth. The developers do a great job showing life and action happen during the creation of your kingdom, and I felt that the voxel aesthetic adds a lot to the charm. Though I'm not too into the sim genre, I was pretty taken with the gameplay in Stonehearth. One of the most satisfying aspects of these titles is seeing your hard work result in a functioning and healthy society that cannot only expand and thrive, but do so without you regularly needing to intervene. I'm interested in seeing where Radiant Entertainment's title goes from here. Games such as this need a passionate community to flourish, and given the already extensive mod support in place, it looks like Stonehearth will have a bright future. It's currently the #1 seller on Steam's Early Access page. I'm quite looking forward to seeing the follow-up to the Candy Land mod. Given time, I'm sure the fans will come up with something crazier than that! Stonehearth [Steam Early Access]
Stonehearth photo
3D Dot Civilization Builder
It's incredible to see how Kickstarter has given rise to so many titles. Sure, there's the heavy hitters like Broken Age, Wasteland 2, and Pillars of Eternity, but there are many others that came out of nowhere to leave such ...

Kickstarter photo
Kickstarter

inXile Entertainment launches Kickstarter for The Bard's Tale IV


Going for the hat trick
Jun 02
// Alessandro Fillari
Just when you thought Kickstarter had plateaued, there comes another campaign set to reignite the fire for crowdfunded game development. After the successes of other titles such as Yooka-Laylee and Bloodstained from different...

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