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Splatoon map photo
Splatoon map

Splatoon's Hammerhead Bridge drops tonight

More free content updates
Sep 17
// Jordan Devore
The Splatoon community has outpaced me. I can hold my own on the original maps, but the last couple? Not a chance. Here is another, Hammerhead Bridge, to add to that list. It joins the rotation tonight at 7:00pm Pacific.
Plants vs. Zombies photo
Plants vs. Zombies

Meet the six new Garden Warfare 2 characters

Three plants, three zombies
Sep 17
// Jordan Devore
A part of me doesn't want to hear any more about Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 knowing full well that it's not releasing until spring 2016. I was way into the original. I'll be way into this. The cast includes six new ...

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

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

CAVE on Steam photo
CAVE on Steam

Mushihimesama will be the first CAVE shooter to hit Steam

Coming winter 2015
Sep 17
// Chris Carter
As you may have heard, Cave is getting into the Steam business. Today at TGS, the company shared some more concrete info on its move to the PC platform, starting with its debut game -- Mushihimesama. Titled "Bug Princess" in ...
Star Wars fridge photo
Star Wars fridge

There's a Star Wars Battlefront mini-fridge, too

$130 with the game
Sep 15
// Jordan Devore
Walmart is selling Star Wars Battlefront with a Han Solo mini-fridge (PS4, Xbox One). It's not as good as the collector's edition Call of Duty: Black Ops III mini-fridge. It's not even as good as this other Han Solo mini-fridge. Dear future generations: sorry about wasting the planet's resources on this crap. [Via reddit]
Destiny trailer photo
Destiny trailer

The Japanese version of Destiny's Taken King trailer is way better

He just wants us to play this with him?
Sep 10
// Brett Makedonski
The live-action spot for Destiny's The Taken King is okay, but Japan does it better. Just watch this masterpiece. There's overwhelming enthusiasm (borderline verbal assault) happening in a laundromat. There's yelling in...
Destiny photo

Everyone plays it cool in Destiny's Taken King live-action spot

Until the big dude shows up
Sep 10
// Brett Makedonski
Equipped with a gun, an aloof attitude, and some one-liners, this Guardian dares to wander into the lair of Oryx, The Taken King. This murderous bastard holds a bit of a grudge because you killed his son. It's an understanda...
Halo 5 photo
Halo 5

Halo 5's multiplayer won't be a democracy

Or a cheerocracy
Sep 09
// Brett Makedonski
We've written recently about some changes in Halo 5: Guardians that fans will have to get used to. Another of those has surfaced. 343 Industries will be in complete control of what maps get played in multiplayer. Josh &n...
Evolve photo

Turtle Rock gives the lamest PR answer about Evolve's pre-order DLC

'We understand [it] was confusing'
Sep 08
// Brett Makedonski
Evolve's pre-order campaign was, without hyperbole, a shitshow. Jordan weighed in when the game was first announced, and opined that it was way too early to pre-order the game. By the time it released, there was more than $60...

Review: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

Sep 08 // Jed Whitaker
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (Linux, Max, PC, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Asteroid BasePublisher: Asteroid BaseReleased: September 9, 2015MSRP: $14.99 Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime takes place in outer space, the final frontier, a place of wonder filled with various anthropomorphic species, and a heart-shaped space station called the Ardor Reactor, which is powered by love and protected by the League Of Very Empathetic Rescue Spacenauts, also known as The Lovers. Everything was fine and dandy until the dark forces of anti-love destroyed the Ardor Reactor, ripped a hole in spacetime itself and took prisoner many of the lovely inhabitants. That is where The Lovers come in to save the day, running to and fro to control their circular spaceship while spreading love throughout the cosmos. While the story isn't exactly new -- evil force caused by evil being ruins the day, fix it -- the cute presentation and charm more than make up for it. Everything in Lovers is completely adorable, including the enemies. Lots of bright colors fill the screen, and love is emphasized at every turn. As you and a friend guide The Lovers through spacetime you'll be jumping from role to role inside various circular spaceships. Stations include thrusters, shields, turrets, navigation, and laser. Manning the guns is a pretty straightforward affair of aiming and firing, shields can be rotated around the ship to prevent damage from terrain, enemies, and projectiles, and the laser can be triggered causing it to automatically fire while rotating around the ship before needing to cool down. [embed]309747:60277:0[/embed] Piloting the ship is a bit different than any other game I've played. By default, you'll be rotating a thruster around the outside of your ship to determine what direction you'll be heading. If the thruster is on the bottom left of the ship, you'll be heading up and to the right, if it is on the top then you'll head down, and so on. While it may sound confusing, piloting only requires the brief tutorial to get used to and you'll be zipping through the cosmos in no time as if it were second nature.  Your goal throughout each colorful level in the four campaigns you'll be exploring is to find five of a possible ten captive critters to advance to the next stage. Collecting critters also increases your ranking, which unlocks different ships and upgrades for them, so exploring to find all ten critters per stage has its benefits. Gems are also found floating in containers in each stage and can be used to power up each station with power, beam, and metal abilities. Stations can be upgraded to hold two gems each, allowing you to mix and match gems to gain different effects. For example: two metal gems on the shield form a large spiky barrier that rotates a bit slower than other shields but provides more protection, or a power gem and a metal gem on a turret creates a powerful rocket that can be manually controlled. Experimenting with gems until you find the perfect configuration is exciting and leads to hilarious results, especially on the laser.  Campaigns have four levels and then a boss fight with massive creatures based on real-world constellations. Boss fights are as you'd probably expect: learn the bosses pattern, take its health bar down enough to piss it off, avoid an even larger barrage of attacks, success. Don't be fooled though, bosses are no pushovers and we found ourselves teetering on death whenever we finally defeated each boss.  Nearly every level seems to add at least one new enemy or mechanic, which keeps the entire journey fresh. The first campaign gives you the basics, before later campaigns add underwater combat, solar winds, and even wormholes that teleport you throughout the stage. Some of the more interesting stages include stationary defenses against waves of enemies and one particular stage that had to be completed in under five minutes before a star explodes killing everything in sight. We rushed through this time-limited level and ended up getting the last of ten bunnies with ten seconds to spare on the clock. We could see the exit as the clock hit zero, but luckily for us the explosion was a gradual one allowing us to make it by the skin of our teeth. I've never held my breath during a game as much as I have during Lovers, which makes the sigh of relief afterwards all that more rewarding. After finishing each campaign you'll be awarded a badge showing that you've completed it with each ship. While it isn't necessary to complete each campaign with each ship to reach the ending, it does add a bit of replayability and difficulty, especially if you're using the Jelly Roll ship. When piloting Jelly Roll your thruster rotates the entire ship, causing your controls to also change inside the ship along with it. When we played through one campaign with the Jelly Roll we found ourselves getting confused but laughing about it the whole time, though it certainly made the boss extra challenging. Completionists will be happy with the unlockable ships and added difficulty they provide.  Completing each campaign unlocks new cute Lovers to play as which don't change the gameplay, but instead just add to the overwhelming amount of cuteness the game already oozes. One of my favorite things about the Lovers is they have no gender signifiers, thus allowing you to technically be any gender you so wish to view yourself as. Those of you without a couch cooperative buddy -- as there is no online mode -- will be playing alongside a computer-controlled cat or dog that can be directed to man each of the stations at your will. Unfortunately your CPU partner will not control the thrusters, so all driving will be up to you, but the AI is very competent at the other stations. While Lovers is still very much playable as a single player title, it certainly shines as one of the best co-op experiences I've ever had and that is the way I feel it is meant to be experienced. Being able to blast asteroids and baddies out of the way while someone else is driving the ship is far more fun than watching an AI do it for you.  Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime reminds me why I love video games, because it provides a unique and colorful journey to get totally immersed in that can be enjoyed with a loved one. Probably the most original game I've played to completion in the past five years, and worthy every penny of its asking price. If you've got a loved one to play with, do yourselves a favor and play this game as soon as possible, you won't regret a your lovely journey through space.
Dangerous Space review photo
The Power of Love
Throughout my history of gaming there have been games that stand out as important bonding experiences: Bubble Bobble with my mom, Bomberman with my college roommate, and now Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime with...

Binding of Isaac photo
Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth is releasing on October 30

Devil's Night
Sep 07
// Darren Nakamura
When Edmund McMillen brought word of the new Greed Mode in The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth, most of the shouts in the comments were, "Looks great, when can we play it?" Soon enough. The features for the DLC are detailed over...

Bleszinski: I never said LawBreakers wouldn't come to consoles

Sep 07 // Brett Makedonski
But, Bleszinski's adamant that his studio, Boss Key Productions, is too small to handle a console version. Someone else would have to do it. "We're 40 people. Even if we wanted to do a console version, we couldn't right now," Bleszinski commented. "If one of those potential console partners (Sony or Microsoft) reaches out -- and they reach out all the time -- we meet with them, and let's keep the dialogue going. It's just that we wouldn't be able to do the port ourselves. We'd need a really great partner that could knock it out of the park, keep it 60Hz, nail the controls, and make it fantastic." Consoles might seem like an odd destination for LawBreakers, as its roots are firmly planted as a keyboard and mouse shooter. Bleszinski originally thought so too, but realized that there may not be many necessary concessions for it to come to consoles.  Bleszinski elaborated on this realization by saying "Some of the Epic engineers came over and we had a conversation where I was like 'Good luck porting this to consoles.' One of them looked at me and said 'Titanfall's crazy wall-jumping, wall-running, and verticality, and that works on PC and console.' With the right amount of aim-assist and the right amount of little tricks, I could see it working. I wouldn't want to do the cross-platform play, though. I don't think the effort's worth the outcome there." Any amount of success for LawBreakers doesn't seem like it'll be enough for Bleszinski and Boss Key to take on any sort of console port. He wants to stick to that size of 40 employees. "I want to keep the company as small as humanly possible. There may be a time where if this becomes League of Legends big, fingers crossed, where we would need to grow, but that would be a few years out. That would be a best-case scenario. That would be a very good problem to have, but if that's the case, the first 40 to 50 employees will be very happy because we will have crushed it. But, we're going to stall as long as we can on that." Bleszinski justified this mindset by saying "The bigger a company gets, the more accountability happens, the more things get overthought. When that happens, creativity suffers. I'm not saying great things can't come out of big companies, but I'm saying that it's harder than in small companies."
Cliff Bleszinski photo
But Boss Key won't do it
Ever since Cliff Bleszinski announced he was working on an arena shooter, it has had "PC-only" in most people's minds. It's definitely PC first and foremost, but that doesn't mean that it's restricted to PC. Bleszinski's very...

Assault Android Cactus photo
Assault Android Cactus

Assault Android Cactus leaves early access on September 23

Now for the sequel, Fight Robot Grape
Sep 03
// Joe Parlock
I’ve been keeping track of Assault Android Cactus since 2013. The twin-stick shooter has been in early access all this time, and has evolved into a pretty dang fantastic game throughout the process. Now, developer Witc...
LawBreakers photo

Here's a long video showing what LawBreakers really looks like

22 minutes, if you want all of that
Sep 02
// Brett Makedonski
We sat down with Cliff Bleszinski at PAX Prime last week to talk about his studio's new game LawBreakers. We chatted about the gameplay mechanics and the free-to-play model. There's still more to come from that intervie...
Shutshimi photo

Shutshimi: Seriously Swole coming soon to Wii U

Choice Provision's great goldfish shmup
Sep 01
// Alessandro Fillari
Just last week, we were graced with the release of Shutshimi: Seriously Swole on PC, PS4 and Vita. In this bizarre tribute to classic shooters, players take control of a team of gun-toting goldfish with memory issues as they ...
MGSV photo

Kojima: 'I always felt that every chapter I made would be the last'

Director on Metal Gear Solid V
Sep 01
// Steven Hansen
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain's director Hideo Kojima has done a "Debriefing" video timed with the release of his latest and, presumably, last entry in the series. And it appeared on Konami's channel, no less. (And Ko...
Star Wars: Battlefront photo
Star Wars: Battlefront

EA provides details for Star Wars Battlefront October beta

Coming to PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Sep 01
// Chris Carter
EA  has spilled some details for the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront beta. It'll be available in early October on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One platforms, and is a technical test that will feature 40-person battles on Hoth, p...
Destiny photo

Oh for goodness sake, Destiny's Taken King raid won't be in at launch

Aug 31
// Chris Carter
When the last Destiny expansion hit, we got the recycled, poor excuse for endgame content -- the Prison of Elders -- instead of a real raid. Bungie claimed that a raid would be "coming later," leading many to believ...

Cliff Bleszinski: 'I respect that core gamers see free-to-play as a dirty, dirty thing'

Aug 30 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]308383:60188:0[/embed] At this point, LawBreakers co-developer and Killzone series director Arjan Brussee chimed in "If you have a small barrier of entry like an early access fee, then I think that can work. For us, if you look at the game, it's definitely a triple-A type of experience. We don't want to charge $60, but our fans are used to paying money to play games with the Killzone and Gears of War stuff. So, I think we can leverage the free-to-play thing and do cool stuff in that space." Brussee's right in saying that this is a segment of the gaming population that doesn't have a problem coughing up some cash for games. The challenge comes in getting them on-board with free-to-play -- especially those who are distrustful of the model. But, Bleszinski wouldn't want to go back to the traditional sales metrics. "Yeah, for me, that's completely dead. That's pre-orders, that's 'how many do you get in the first two months' and then it's an exponential curve downward after that," Bleszinski said about the idea of his metrics for success suddenly shifting. "People who are still doing that: have fun. For me, that's old. For us, it's about a ramp." Bleszinski continued "We may not make a lot of money in the first couple months. But, in the first year, we may start to ramp up. These games are like a locomotive where they get going and going. Once they get momentum, you look around and say 'How did this game get so damn big?' The marking is a steady launch over the course of a bunch of different beats throughout the year as opposed to blowing the wad at Christmas while everyone else is blowing their wad. Or, the Super Bowl where you try to get Liam Neeson and Kate Upton to do goofy ads. We're in it for the long-run here."
LawBreakers free-to-play photo
But he's done with the traditional model
When Cliff Bleszinski formed Boss Key Productions to create the game now known as LawBreakers, he always knew that free-to-play was the model he wanted. That statement's not as black and white as it sounds. There's a lot of i...

Cliff Bleszinski: We want players to actually use verticality

Aug 29 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]308291:60187:0[/embed] "I don't mean to slag any other games, because those core loops of getting a lot of kills quick are what kill streaks and kill streak rewards are built on," Bleszinski said. "With us, we want to have a little bit of that dance, a little more like Halo where if someone gets the drop on you, you at least have a shot at either getting away or at least taking a dent out of them so they might die by your teammate." The hook that allows LawBreakers this freedom lies in the world-building. Because of a cataclysmic event known as "The Shattering," Earth is left with pockets of low gravity in certain areas. Conveniently enough, LawBreakers' maps are set in some of these areas, which should make for interesting and varied gameplay. Bleszinski was visibly excited about this. "We see these moments where there's this giant zero-gravity pocket where everyone's vertical and people are actually knocking each other around with rockets. One of the comments on Twitter was someone asking if rockets actually propel people. Since you have a rocket jump now, you actually have a radius. We found that with rockets not being a one-hit kill (because we don't really want them to be), even with Kitsune who's a very light character, once we have the law equivalent of her, she probably might be a couple rockets minimum. Still, it's a light character, but we want you to juggle." There's a reason he wants players to juggle. "When you introduce low gravity and the concept of juggling as well as a rocket that you can air-burst with the alt-fire, you see somebody flying through the air blind-firing propelling themselves, and you can suddenly send them over to the other side of the map by air-bursting a rocket and then follow through with your stomp move and kind of chain your moves together. We want the FPS dance to kind of come back." That FPS dance means that players stay alive longer and actually get to make use of the game's vertical axis. "It's a lot greater than your Call of Duty grind. It's a little bit faster than your Titanfall one. It's somewhere around Halo-ish is what I like to say," Bleszinski ultimately said of Spencer's original time until death inquiry. Figuring out exactly how to properly execute all that action is the tough part. LawBreakers' gameplay trailer showed a handful of different characters, each with their own abilities and traits. Bleszinski and his team are now in the position of getting all of those characters work in conjunction with one another without any of them sticking out like a sore thumb. "Perfect balance is nearly impossible to get," Bleszinski commented. "We're still working on it. Right now, in the current build that people are playing off-site, it's very asymmetrical -- two unique classes on both sides. The Law has all sorts of weapons whereas the Breakers have like area-of-effect stuff. That's been really hard to balance. One of the first things we're going to do when we get back is, you have Breacher on the Law side, we're figuring out who the Breacher equivalent is on the Breaker side. That's something that when we go back to symmetrical gameplay, I think it's going to be easier to balance. But, it'll still be slightly asymmetrical." It may not be exactly what he's shooting for, but Bleszinski made reference to a revered fighting game when talking about balanced gameplay. "I saw a graph where they're pointing out the Smash Bros. characters from the original that we've used over the years. Smash Bros. may be the most perfectly balanced game ever because they kept finding a new character and a new exploit without the game ever being patched or updated." An interesting analog, but LawBreakers won't take that approach. Bleszinski continued "Thankfully, we're going to be a living product so we can keep introducing updates, hopefully every couple weeks. Pump that shit through, have test kitchens and things like that. Basically, if we find an exploit that breaks the game, fix it. But, also recognize when there's an exploit that adds to the game. You know, rocket jumping is one of those accidents that actually is cool." Bleszinski and Boss Key can expect to find a lot of those exploits given the combination of possibilities between several unique characters and maps with variable gravity. There are a lot of factors at play. Some exploits will evolve into part of the game, some will get squashed. Those that make verticality more enjoyable and contribute to the FPS dance (as Bleszinski put it) have a better chance of surviving.
Bleszinski interview photo
Doing the FPS dance
Just this week, Cliff Bleszinski and Boss Key Productions pulled back the curtain on LawBreakers -- the free-to-play arena shooter that has been in development under the codename Project BlueStreak. It's more than just the co...

Hive Jump photo
Hive Jump

Hive Jump, coming in 2016 on Wii U, has amiibo support

Looks like a cool shooter
Aug 28
// Chris Carter
Watching this trailer for Hive Jump brings me back to old school shooters like the ones based on the Aliens franchise. I'm really loving the art direction, focus on multiplayer, and gunplay, but it appears as if we...
Star Wars Battlefront photo
Star Wars Battlefront

EA shares first details for Star Wars Battlefront's new planet

Battle of Jakku
Aug 27
// Chris Carter
The desert planet of Jakku is set to make its film debut in Star Wars: The Force Awakens later this year. But it's also making its game debut earlier in December, once Star Wars: Battlefront hits. EA has shared some news rega...
Turok photo

Turok and Turok 2 are being re-released for PC

Remember the kid named Turok?
Aug 26
// Chris Carter
Remember when Acclaim offered $10,000 to parents who named their kid "Turok?" I still get a good laugh out of that whenever I think of the series. Beyond that legacy they were actually fun little shooters, and now both Turok&...

So, how's Gears of War's multiplayer at launch?

Aug 25 // Brett Makedonski
Between last night and this afternoon, I have a fair sample size of matches under my belt. I'm maybe one percent of the way toward the "Seriously..." Achievement, which doesn't sound like much, but it is. The only issue I've encountered was about five seconds of lag at the beginning of one match. Otherwise, everything's been silky smooth. There's one non-performance issue that I have a problem with, however. The War Journal offers multiplayer statistics, but not on how close you are to earning the different Achievements. (If I'm not mistaken, this is a feature that Gears of War 3 implemented quite nicely.) Likewise, Xbox One's "snap an app" feature doesn't track that progress either. The sole indicator is a counter that pops up after a match in which you've hit a milestone toward that Achievement. Hopefully a fix is coming for that. That one insignificant complaint aside, this game holds up its end of the bargain with regard to multiplayer. After the Halo: The Master Chief Collection snafu (that may still be on-going to some degree), it was important for Microsoft to emphatically stick the landing on this one. Fortunately, it lives up to the excellent standard set by the rest of Gears of War Ultimate Edition.
Gears of War photo
Silky smooth so far
I have a novel concept for you: What if a major video game releases and its multiplayer component just works? Like, there isn't a bunch of drama and patches and updates and apologies; instead, you get to play the game immedia...

Destiny photo

Hear the new Nolan North-voiced Ghost in Destiny

RIP Dinklebot
Aug 25
// Jordan Devore
It's a single line of dialog, but here's what Ghost sounds like in Destiny: The Taken King now that Nolan North is voicing the character instead of Peter Dinklage. Time to get worked up! Or not! Resident Destiny fanatic Vikki Blake says "Northbot sounds just like Dinklebot." I'd tentatively call North's performance an improvement based on, again, just this one line, but we'll have to see.
Phantom Pain photo
Phantom Pain

The Metal Gear Solid V launch trailer is bittersweet

One week to go
Aug 25
// Jordan Devore
The first half of this launch trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a short, incomplete reminder of designer Hideo Kojima's legacy. It's sad, knowing what we know. Touching, even. Then a giant-ass mech with a gun on its crotch transforms a fiery whip into a sword and slashes cars.
Splatoon photo

Splatoon's soundtrack is two discs, features 61 tracks

Aug 25
// Chris Carter
Man, the official Splatoon soundtrack sounds amazing! First off it's called "Splatune," which would be reason enough to buy it, but it's 61 whopping tracks. That includes 37 full songs, 14 sound effect tracks, and 10 "ji...

Review: Gears of War Ultimate Edition

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

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