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3D Realms: Bombshell is the only one who could kick Duke Nukem's ass photo
3D Realms: Bombshell is the only one who could kick Duke Nukem's ass
by Brett Makedonski

3D Realms is keenly aware of what players know it for. Sure, there are plenty of titles in the publisher's history that should stand out, but for all intents and purposes, the company might as well re-name itself The Duke Nukem Guys.

In the case of its next project, Bombshell, 3D Realms is absolutely looking to distance itself from the Duke tropes -- at least as far as this game is concerned. Despite a lot of thematic similarities (oh hey, aliens took over again), Interceptor and 3D Realms have created a hero in Bombshell (Shelly Harrison is her proper name) who is a polar opposite from Duke in a lot of ways. Interceptor CEO and 3D Realms vice president Frederik Schreiber said that the two probably wouldn't get along too well. Then, Schreiber went so far as to say "Bombshell is the only one who could kick Duke's ass."

She's come a long way since our introduction to her last year. 3D Realms fully fesses up that the first take was premature. There was pressure to reveal Bombshell before it was ready. 3D Realms was trying to do something -- anything -- to take eyes off the lawsuit with Gearbox and to prove it was more than just The Duke Nukem Guys. The result was a trailer that was almost universally poorly received. That was more than enough of a cue to go back to the drawing board.

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Severed is full of one-handed vengeance photo
Severed is full of one-handed vengeance
by Caitlin Cooke

There’s something serene about exploring a desolate place for the first time. Too often in games I find myself dropped into an environment, expected to pick up the pieces quickly to achieve a goal and left with little time to absorb. 

Severed is the opposite of that. Despite playing a demo version, I felt like I lived in a different world while I walked through a desert into the remains of a home and out to a haunting forest where enemies appeared more like riddles and less like a forced mechanic. This is the kind of world I like to play in.

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Windows 10 makes it even easier for gameplay videos to go viral photo
Windows 10 makes it even easier for gameplay videos to go viral
by Brett Makedonski

The latest generation in gaming has brought with it an emphasis on sharing. Screenshots and gameplay videos can be relatively easily captured and uploaded for anyone's audience to see. It's a smart way to drive interaction -- whether it's to share an unbelievable kill streak in Halo, or something as irreverent as a lunatic stabbing goats in the butt.

With the announcement that Windows 10 will, in part, contribute to the "Xbox ecosystem," it really opens the door to the accessibility and possibility of sharing content. In what was called a "platform demo" at GDC in San Francisco last week, we got a first-hand look at how simple Windows 10 will make this process.

Available for any game played on Windows 10 (even non-native Xbox titles) is a Game DVR that operates similarly to the "Xbox, record that" function of the Xbox One. Mapped to the Windows + G command, the DVR captures the past 30 seconds of gameplay, regardless of what's playing.

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Firewatch has topless teens, meaty hands, and mystery photo
Firewatch has topless teens, meaty hands, and mystery
by Steven Hansen

I've been firewatching out for Campo Santo's new 'exploration mystery' since hearing about the talent behind it. Artist Olly Moss, Mark of the Ninja designer Nels Anderson, and season one The Walking Dead writers and designers Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin. It's an exciting crew.

And then I saw the dang thing in its trailer and had to wonder why more games don't make use of a distinct tonal color palette, instead defaulting to an obfuscating attempt at photorealism that just drowns everything out. Compare BioShock to a "realistic" shooter; the Arkham series to Shadow of Mordor. It's just nice to see someone use color, and purposefully.

Because while Firewatch is gorgeous, it is also grounded. It is a story about people -- Henry and his supervisor Delilah -- and I felt that the moment I started controlling Henry. Not a blank player analogue or a camera on wheels. I saw Henry's inelegant, meaty paws stretched out in front of the screen still wearing his wedding ring despite divorce. Telling details are important.

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Affordable Space Adventures is the Wii U experience I imagined in 2012 photo
Affordable Space Adventures is the Wii U experience I imagined in 2012
by Darren Nakamura

When Nintendo first unveiled the Wii U, my mind raced with ideas for games that could be created with the two-screen interface. A lot of the cool stuff that the DS did could be transferred to the big screen. Better yet, titles like those that made use of Game Boy Advance-to-GameCube connectivity could surface in a more accessible format.

In practice, it has taken a while for developers to do really interesting things with the GamePad. A lot of the most lauded titles would work fine without the second screen. Affordable Space Adventures is one of the few Wii U titles that feels like it could not be done on another platform. It plays to the console's strengths, finally producing the type of experience the Wii U was made for.

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Hands-on with Cuphead: Equal parts charming and challenging photo
Hands-on with Cuphead: Equal parts charming and challenging
by Steven Hansen

Cuphead has existed in a state of unreality to me since its E3 reveal. Despite seeing footage of the game, it remained in my mind a concept. One that I was in love with, mind. 1930s style animation. A character whose head is a cup. I love it.

But because I've never played a game that was completely hand-drawn on a lightbox to look like a 1930s anime, there was always some weird disconnect between what I saw in the trailer, on-screen, and connecting it to inputting commands on a controller.

This disconnect was mended when I saw a giant corner dedicated to Cuphead at Microsoft's ID@Xbox event last week at GDC. I press a button, Cuphead jumps.

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Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a brilliant asymmetrical game photo
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a brilliant asymmetrical game
by Patrick Hancock

In Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, a game originally developed at a game jam, one player wears the Oculus Rift and sees a bomb that needs to be defused but doesn't know how to defuse it. Their partner only has a binder. Like, a real binder -- no Oculus Rift involved. The binder has all the steps needed to defuse the bomb, but the reader can't actually see the bomb.

It's a game about communication, and it is wonderful not only to spectate, but of course to play. It's really the only game on the PAX East show floor that keeps me coming back for more.

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I nuked the God of Lightning in Mayan Death Robots photo
I nuked the God of Lightning in Mayan Death Robots
by Patrick Hancock

There's been a lot of games that try to copy the success of titles like Worms or Tanks, but often come off feeling too derivative. "Yeah, it's like Worms, but not quite as good" has definitely left my lips a handful of times. Needless to say, I was a little cautious heading in to Mayan Death Robots after hearing such comparisons.

Thankfully, Mayan Death Robots is a unique twist on something that definitely owes its roots to Worms but truly feels like its own experience with innovations. It's exciting to play and exciting to watch, plus you can be a giant robo-monkey and throw banana bombs.

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Final Fantasy XV looks great and feels even better photo
Final Fantasy XV looks great and feels even better
by Kyle MacGregor

Even though the clock was ticking, it was difficult not to stop and smell the roses. I had a behemoth to hunt, but couldn't help myself. A gorgeous landscape teeming with majestic wildlife distracted me from my objective. I whiled away far too much time transfixed by the mosaic of stars painted across the night sky, exploring grottos and forest trails, and poking around a secluded outpost with a stable of Chocobos. I continued to do so until a tap on the shoulder reminded me to get back to the task at hand.

During a meeting with Square Enix today in Boston, the publisher gave me over an hour to delve into Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae, but it just wasn't enough time. I want to spend more time in this world, leaving no stone unturned, and now I find myself eagerly awaiting the opportunity to do just that when the demo launches alongside Final Fantasy Type-0 HD later this month.

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Planet of the Eyes is a treacherous place for Polaroid robots photo
Planet of the Eyes is a treacherous place for Polaroid robots
by Darren Nakamura

Crash landing on an alien planet is the worst. There's hazardous flora, deadly fauna, and even rock formations that seem to have some sort of blood lust. That just piles on top of the existential crisis of being a robot with an unknown purpose. Such is the existence on Planet of the Eyes.

I played through a couple of demo sections at PAX East. One showed off puzzles while the other demonstrated more action platforming. Both were rife with opportunities for robot death and dismemberment. At the very least, the planet is beautiful as it is repeatedly and mercilessly trying to kill me.

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Downwell has a simple premise but it's damn fun photo
Downwell has a simple premise but it's damn fun
by Darren Nakamura

A glance at Downwell's tricolor palette in still shots doesn't really do it justice. Watching it in motion gives a better idea what it does, but not until actually playing it does it all click. It is built around a simple mechanic: press the button to jump; press it again in the air to fire gun boots downward.

The recoil doesn't act as a double jump exactly. No extra height can be gained from the shots, but the little protagonist's descent can be slowed. The catch is that the boots have limited ammunition in a magazine and reloading requires a stop on solid ground. Those simple mechanics produce a surprising depth in the trip down the well.

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Soul Axiom is a cross between Journey and Tron photo
Soul Axiom is a cross between Journey and Tron
by Mike Cosimano

Everything you could say about Soul Axiom feels reductive. It looks like Journey mixed with Tron, except when it looks like Tron mixed with Tron. It’s a puzzler that evokes The Talos Principle in both its non-linearity and its environmental conundrums. And the story is a spiritual successor to developer Wales Interactive’s previous title Master Reboot. This is the kind of stuff I try to avoid when doing previews.

But it’s still accurate, and it doesn’t diminish how interesting this game looks. Soul Axiom is an unsettling and compelling techno/cyber-thriller, with a killer visual style that matches its high-concept premise. Whether it actually delivers on its many promises is another thing entirely, but there’s a lot to be excited about so far.

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Borderlands: The Handsome Collection shines in some spots, has problems in others photo
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection shines in some spots, has problems in others
by Brett Makedonski

Traditionally, Game Developers Conference is a very busy show. After what seems like a three-month hibernation, the game industry slowly creaks back awake and GDC is the first time everything's in full gear again. As always, this conference is packed with games worth lookng forward to.

However, that doesn't mean we can't look back if the circumstances are right. Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is one title that warrants such treatment, as it bundles Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel together on PS4 and Xbox One. It's a big ol' pack of content, but while it promises a wealth of things to do, there are some worrisome snags.

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Dyscourse is a survival game that's light on survival photo
Dyscourse is a survival game that's light on survival
by Mike Cosimano

Owchemy Labs’ Alex Schwartz is one of the bravest men I know. In the midst of GDC, perhaps the most inside baseball-heavy of all conventions, he told a member of the press that Dyscourse was a "survival game." Of course, that phrase was immediately followed by caveats, but to use a genre descriptor that has become an enormous red flag takes an enormous amount of courage.

It also takes a great deal of faith in your game, which, as it turns out, is well-earned. Dyscourse is like Telltale's The Walking Dead filtered through old-school LucasArts. There are branching narratives, witty dialogue, an eclectic visual style, and choices that will affect whether a character lives or dies. But there’s also survival. Except it’s not actually survival. Follow me so far?

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Volume is a more thoughtful approach to Metal Gear Solid VR Mission-like stealth photo
Volume is a more thoughtful approach to Metal Gear Solid VR Mission-like stealth
by Steven Hansen

Volume is a fitting name for a polygonal, Metal Gear Solid VR Missions-looking stealth game with enough rectangles to feed a geometry class for the entire year. In the case of Mike Bithell's Thomas Was Alone follow-up, however, "volume" is more about sound than shapes.

Lead Locksley can't kill or attack. It's all about being a sneak. Noise, then, becomes an important weapon for luring guards from their posts, and every bit of noise fractures the world so you can nicely see its effect, along with the ever-present enemy fields of vision.

It's about sight, too. Sound, sight, shapes. These things come together to make a readable stealth game with enough abstraction that it feels more puzzler than sneaking romp. Think Hitman GO compared to Hitman.

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Smash Bros. dev bringing blocky puzzler BOXBOY! to 3DS photo
Smash Bros. dev bringing blocky puzzler BOXBOY! to 3DS
by Steven Hansen

HAL Laboratories (Super Smash Bros., Mother) has been busying itself with a couple Kirby games recently, but it looks like someone over there had an idea for a lil puzzle game and rolled with it.

BOXBOY! (already released on the 3DS eShop in Japan) is minimal outside of its charming animations. It is black, white, and mostly made of squares. You can walk Qbby left and right in an overworld with a Ms. Pac-Man-esque bowtied Qbby trailing behind. Enter doors to start a world, most of which seem to be designed around a particular technique. Five worlds (with around seven levels each) were playable during my GDC demo. There are 17 in total.

Aside from running and jumping, Qbby can bud blocks from his body. Each level gives you a limit to how many blocks you can produce at any given time, while there is also an overall number of blocks you can use on a stage. Getting to the end while collecting one or two black crowns will net you a "perfect" rating (and give you currency to unlock fun extras).

When you start, you can produce one block from your body and usually throw it to use as a step to reach a higher platform. As the levels go on and the block limit gets higher, you use new techniques. One section is themed around using blocks as a hook. That is, you produce three stacked blocks straight up, followed one to the right, forming a hook atop your head. You can then latch that last block onto a high ledge and have Qbby contract up to that latched block like folding in one side of the accordion.

I'm fine with the absentee art style (and Qbby's dumb lil feet as you move the box back and forth), but I never felt stumped throughout the first five worlds. It was more relaxing than puzzling. Maybe that's the point. Or maybe the later worlds will combine the various techniques a bit more, or make it so the limit of blocks you can produce per stage actually feels like a restriction; I never ran out.

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