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Stealth

Assassin's Creed photo
Assassin's Creed

Travel to India and Russia in future episodes of Assassin's Creed Chronicles this fall


Fan-favorite Assasins finally have their time to shine
Mar 31
// Alessandro Fillari
Recently, I got to go hands-on with Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China. For this downloadable title, Ubisoft redesigned the AC experience to fit within a 2.5D perspective. With China releasing next month, players will finally...

Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China gives the series a fresh perspective

Mar 31 // Alessandro Fillari
Assassin's Creed Chronicles (PC, PS4, Xbox One [previewed])Developer: Climax StudiosPublisher: Ubisoft Release date: April 21, 2015 (Episode One) / Fall 2015 (Episodes Two and Three) "It's a very exciting and very challenging project to work on," said lead game designer Xavier Penin. "[Ubisoft] had a pretty [sizable] pitch for the project and wanted them to be short, episodic, and each of the stories would have their own specific artstyles that fit the character and time period. We knew we had to focus our efforts on making something that didn't just feel like a smaller Assassin's Creed." For the first episode, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, players take on the role of female assassin Shao Jun, who fans might recognize from the animated film Assassin's Creed Embers. Picking up some time after the events of Embers in 1526, Shao Jun returns to China after her training with Ezio Auditore and seeks revenge against Emporer Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty after the massacre of the Chinese Assassin Brotherhood. During her exploits, she'll acquire new abilities and contacts that will help in her quest, and revitalize the Assassin presence in 16th-century China. China has been a top requested location from fans, along with a playable Shao Jun, and seeing it come to pass is exciting. In the three levels I played, set in The Forbidden City and Fujian Province, we got to experience a starkly different setting and visual palette not seen from the series. Moreover, the brief taste of the India and Russia episodes we saw also feature their own art styles and aesthetic. Granted, the nature of this downloadable title allows them to try different settings, but I was blown away by the potential AC has in such lush environments. This enthusiasm was also shared by the folks behind the title. [embed]289710:57987:0[/embed] "When we were going to do this game with [Shao Jun], I was really excited about it and wanted to get all the information about background and her story, but it was actually pretty thin," said Penin. "So eventually we decided to come up with new ideas and settings, beyond Embers, and we came up with a story that AC fans will enjoy." Understandably, the switch from 3D to 2.5D has brought some changes to the action-stealth gameplay. For the most part, players will still traverse the environment with free-running maneuvers while avoiding detection, and only using combat as a last resort. Players will run and leap across obstacles in the environment and move between the foreground and background during traversal. I was impressed with the depth shown in the environments, and I was quite surprised that areas shown off were largely interactive. In one section during a prison escape, I had to find my gear before making an exit, which meant having to search for a guard's keys. After traveling through a hallway, I entered a large cavern housing dozens of prison cells. Off in the distance in the background, there were several guards making their rounds near a number of prisoners. From the foreground, I jumped onto a fallen pillar, which allowed me seamlessly run across to the background of the environment, which had its own unique layout and design. It was neat to be able to see how much depth the levels have, and the later levels show off much more intuitive and clever design. The stealth gameplay has had a bit of change, however, and the assassins now have to rely more on shadows and darkness to slip past their foes. Instead of the line-of-sight design from past titles, Chronicles utilizes a vision cone system. Similar to Mark of the Ninja's gameplay, all enemies can see and hear only a certain distance ahead of them, which gives you the means to figure out the best way around them. While it's still very much AC, the new design feels different. The lead designer elaborated a little further with how they went about re-designing AC stealth for 2.5D. "We had a lot of work to find the right recipe because this is the type of gameplay that require precise signs of feedback," said Penin. "We experimented a lot with the detection system, which focuses on cones of vision that work really well because it shows accurately in the 2D perspective. While some people initially thought [the visual representation of enemy line of sight] got in the way of the art style, ultimately the function allowed for us to design the stealth for players to be more interesting." Though you can easily avoid all conflicts by sticking in the shadows or hiding inside doorways or off the sides of ledges, there are a whole assortment of gadgets that Shao Jun has at her disposal, such as the rope dart which can sling enemies and help her traverse to new heights. The action and pace of the stealth from past games is present, though there seems to be much more thought put into it. Some sections felt like actual puzzles more than action-stealth gameplay, and I mean that as a good thing. The narrowing of the perspective put a lot more depth into this facet of gameplay, and it was refreshing to have a more refined approach to it. I'm also quite impressed with the visual aesthetic of Chronicles. The developers have stated that each episode will have a unique look to it, and China's style is stunning in its representation of perpetual autumn and uses of inkblot-style visuals and palettes. The colors are vibrant and lush, and the shadows and darkness show a certain roughness, as if it's a place that only the Assassins, history's wet-workers, can venture to. These still-images do not do this title justice -- it's quite gorgeous in action. While I was enjoying myself throughout the China setting, a part of me wished this was a fully 3D title rather than a downloadable side story. Nothing against this game, as it's really solid and makes some clever choices in regards to approach to stealth in a limited perspective, however I feel that such rich settings would be better used for full-fledged 3D Assassin's Creed titles. In any case, Assassin's Creed Chronicles is looking to be a nice surprise for the franchise. Though we can undoubtedly expect to see another main entry in the series this year, Chronicles will serve to be a nice change of pace for those looking for a different take on the series. For those who bit on the Unity season pass, you'll get the first episode on day one. The bite-sized nature of these titles will make them easy to get into, but they're sure to surprise players with how much depth is present.
2.5D Assassin's Creed photo
Stabbin' necks through history in 2.5D
It's not often we see a major player in the big leagues of yearly releases reinvent itself in a more modest and distinct way. With Assassin's Creed titles expected every year, it's been a bit of a challenge for Ubisoft to kee...

Metal Gear photo
Metal Gear

Konami working on a new, likely Kojima-free Metal Gear


'Even if the Metal Gear franchise continues, to me, this is the last Metal Gear'
Mar 20
// Steven Hansen
Konami's website has the first indications of Metal Gear Solid continuing without series creator Hideo Kojima. This note from Konami confirms Kojima will "remain involved throughout" Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain's Septe...
MGSV data transfer photo
MGSV data transfer

More details on transferring data between MGSV: Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain


You're a legend in the eyes of those that live on the battlefield
Mar 16
// Jason Faulkner
Konami has released a bit more info on what will be involved in transferring data from Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Unfortunately, you can't use data from any version of Ground Zeroes for any version of The Phantom Pain. However, Konami made a handy chart to help us out.
The Swindle preview photo
The Swindle preview

The Swindle perfectly balances roguelike mechanics with approachable gameplay


The people's roguelike
Mar 12
// Rob Morrow
On my last day covering PAX East, I had the chance to sit down with the inimitable Dan Marshall from Size Five Games to have a look at his gorgeous, stealthy, steampunk-centric burglary simulator The Swindle. We’ve...

We Happy Few's bright exterior hides a dark secret

Mar 12 // Darren Nakamura
Compulsion was fairly tight-lipped on the story of We Happy Few, but did give a few details to get me started. It takes place in a dystopian city on an island, where everybody exists in a constant state of euphoria thanks to a drug called Joy. At least, everybody except the player, who finds himself to be the only lucid person among the smiling drones. The goal is to find a means and an opportunity off the island, but neither is clear from the outset. Without much obvious direction, the more immediate concern is survival. The player has a few meters to keep track of, including hunger and thirst. Eating and drinking keep those at safe levels, but finding supplies is the tricky part. Or it's one of the tricky parts. Another thing to consider is that the government laces the town's water supply with Joy. It sets up a sort of push and pull, where drinking too little causes dehydration and drinking too much will put a lot of the upper into the player's system. This has some beneficial gameplay effects like increased stamina, but comes with a hard crash after a while. Overdosing can cause the player to black out and lose a day entirely. [embed]288935:57741:0[/embed] Past basic need management, there are other supplies to be found in the world of We Happy Few, many of which can be crafted into more interesting items like lockpicks or weaponry. Fighting isn't always the best option; stealth is often preferable. The interesting thing about We Happy Few's stealth is that it isn't about skulking in the shadows, but about blending in with the population. Walking down the street in broad daylight will garner no suspicion from the locals, but loitering in one spot for too long or sprinting will. I could almost imagine my character passing others with exaggerated arm movements and a forced smile just to avoid any second glances. There is a planned day/night cycle, with different events occurring at different times throughout the day. I was not able to see that in my time with the game, because I jumped out of a third floor window and broke my legs in a botched escape attempt before the day could turn to night. It seems like it's meant to be a fairly short but replayable game, because the team at Compulsion is putting some effort into procedural generation for the city. Though the overarching story and player goals will remain the same from run to run, individual playthroughs may yield different buildings or events, and the layout of the city will always change after the player dies. Creative Dude Guillaume Provost didn't use the word "roguelike," but it did seem to lean in that direction. Combat in the preview build was mostly melee-based, with angry Joy addicts coming at me with skillets and cricket bats. Unlike the crafting and stealth systems, straight combat didn't feel particularly deep, but I didn't have enough time or resources to create any of the cool toys that were available in the menu. Compulsion has already nailed the atmosphere for We Happy Few. As it turns out, there are some cool ideas for a game under that too, and the way the gameplay and the narrative interact via the unique stealth system is a great touch. It certainly needs some more time to fully flesh out the ideas laid out, but so far this looks like one to watch.
We Happy Few photo
Happy, happy, joy, joy!
For a while, the general aesthetic in games was dark and grimy, with muted colors to convey dismal feelings. The more recent counterculture of color was welcomed, bringing happiness back to the medium. But a funny thing happe...

Caretaker photo
Caretaker

Caretaker gets an intriguing announcement trailer


Space stealth adventure with David Hewlett
Mar 10
// Laura Kate Dale
So, I'm personally a huge Stargate nerd. As such, learning that there was an indie game in development that featured the voice of Stargate Atlantis' actor David Hewlett was pretty much enough to guarantee I'd write about thi...

Volume is a more thoughtful approach to Metal Gear Solid VR Mission-like stealth

Mar 05 // Steven Hansen
[embed]288637:57627:0[/embed] You do move around in real time, somersaulting over low walls and sticking to others for cover, but Volume isn't about hunting, human-like AI (especially not with the standard pawns). If you're spotted and cut enough corners to get away or duck into a locker, guards will simply reposition and you'll have another chance to get past them correctly. Thanks to plentiful checkpoints, each level -- there will be 100 -- acts as a series of connected stealth puzzles that tasks you with getting all the little blips and getting out.  Locksley will also be outfitted with gadgets picked up on the scene. You can hold one at a time and they add to the mind teasing. The Oddity will attract the undivided attention of any guard in sight, Figment sends a ghost clone running in a line, Mute will silence your footsteps so you can run, and so on. One other nice thing about the checkpoint system is that every time you die and get sent back, the stage timer reverts to whatever time it was at when you first activated the checkpoint. That way one screw up won't kill a leader board run or require you to replay the entire level from start. While I was enjoying sneaking about and feeling out how Volume plays, there is some story here as a, "near future retelling of the Robin Hood legend" starring the voice talents of Andy Serkis (Lords of the Rings, Enslaved) and Jim Sterling (Destructoid). There will also be hefty map-making and customization options to play with.
Volume preview photo
From the creator of Thomas Was Alone
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, howeve...

Hunger photo
Hunger

Damn, Hunger is unsettling


Almost as unsettling as hunger
Feb 25
// Steven Hansen
LittleBigPlanet Vita developer Tarsier's new project, Hunger, is looking impressive. And spooky. It's that good kind of "everything is off kilter and uncanny" beat of constant unnerving versus any sort of aggressive scare. T...
Neon Struct photo
Neon Struct

Eldritch developer's new game Neon Struct is out May 20


All the good noble gas puns argon
Feb 25
// Darren Nakamura
I didn't think that Eldritch had been out for that long, but it turns out that it has been available for more than a year. So what has developer Minor Key Games been doing in the time since its release? It has been working o...
Don't be Patchman photo
Don't be Patchman

Hahah what: Don't Be Patchman is a 'sneak-and-grow' game


It makes less sense the more I watch
Feb 25
// Darren Nakamura
As I watched the first video of Don't Be Patchman (below), I thought I had an okay feel for what it is. Plant apples, get an apple tree, shake it for more apples. Got it. I'm no Animal Crossing slouch. Next video, ...
Hitman movie photo
Hitman movie

Hitman: Agent 47 looks anything but stealthy


Videogame movies, man
Feb 11
// Jordan Devore
The tone of this trailer for Hitman: Agent 47 matches my playstyle for the game series, which is to go in quietly only to screw up repeatedly and end up having to trade bullets with everyone. While I could have done without ...
Sneaky Ninja photo
Sneaky Ninja

Sneaky Ninja does stealth without any messy throat slashing


Family-friendly ambush and murder
Feb 10
// Darren Nakamura
If you played through Mark of the Ninja thinking, "This is nice, but my word, it is quite gruesome," before dabbing the corners of your mouth with a handkerchief, then Sneaky Ninja might be worth looking into. It has the bus...

Review: Assassin's Creed Unity: Dead Kings

Jan 15 // Brett Makedonski
Assassin's Creed Unity: Dead Kings (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Ubisoft MontpellierPublisher: UbisoftReleased: January 13, 2015MSRP: Free Dead Kings eschews Unity's crowded Paris in favor of the relatively quaint Franciade (present-day St. Denise). It's there that Arno longs for passage to Cairo, but one last task awaits him. He has the wealth of kings to find, and it's wrapped up in layer after layer of mystery. It's the sort of treasured prize that turns men mad and converts former allies into evil, no-good-doers (as confusing and not elaborated upon as that is). Actually, that's the bulk of what Dead Kings does wrong: it weakly strings together plot points that might be okay on their own, but are cohesively unconvincing. There's the greed of mankind constantly trying to one-up one another to be the first to take sole possession of the coveted, secret treasure. There's a supernatural element wherein spirits guide Arno along the way, if he can solve their rudimentary puzzles. And, there's a child sidekick that tries taking the entire operation down from the outside, whom Arno reluctantly teams up with. Not that all of this is outside the realm of possibility for Assassin's Creed; it's just that it doesn't quite work in this instance. Really, it smacks of a love letter to Raiders of the Lost Ark more than anything else. One setting in particular evokes memories of the Spielberg classic if you're willing to trade snakes for rats. [embed]286101:56870:0[/embed] That isn't to say that Dead Kings doesn't feel like an Assassin's Creed game; it very much does. That's wildly evident by the sheer amount of content in the add-on (especially considering how much of it consists of menial tasks). The six main missions are a sizable chunk, and the rest mostly serves as the filler that has become synonymous with Ubisoft open-world games (for better and for worse). Despite Franciade boasting a respectable three outdoor regions, it's the underground interiors that are highlighted for a change. They feel otherworldly in a sense -- a foray through dimly lit, maze-like, narrow passages when we're used to anything but. It's not at all a stretch to say that these spaces double Dead Kings' playspace from three to six different areas -- two halves that are polar opposites from one another. In these tunnels, packs of explorative scavengers roam with intent to loot -- ravaging caves, tombs, and human remains in pursuit of wealth. While their numbers are strong, Dead Kings mercifully grants an out for almost every combat situation. Each group has a leader, and once he's dead, his followers quickly surrender rather than suffering the same fate. Essentially, this means that a well-timed assassination maneuver or a crafty projectile blade to the head disposes of a half dozen men instead of just one. It may seem like a small example, but it kind of acts as a knowing nod from Ubisoft that perhaps the tedium of the Assassin's Creed rubric is in need of some sort of shake-up. Maybe it's not ready to fully relent, but at least it allows clever assassins to work smarter, not harder. That potential revelation extends to the gameplay in that the six campaign sections possibly serve as the best sample platter of Assassin's Creed missions in recent memory. Interchanged with relative frequency, Dead Kings offers stealth (though not required), combat sequences, environmental puzzles, and exploration-based platforming challenges, all in the few hours that it has to work with. Unfortunately missing are elaborate assassinations (hands-down, the best part of Unity), but nevertheless, this add-on should nicely placate the impatient franchise fan that's easily bored with the "same old, same old" despite the fact that it's still kind of exactly that. For all the directional changes that Ubisoft took with Dead Kings, the most confounding decision is that the add-on isn't really comfortably positioned for any one audience. Those that have completed Unity will find it a bit under-challenging, as end-game gear will usually quickly eliminate the mid-level opposition. However, Dead Kings takes place after Unity ends, meaning that anyone that's statistically aligned with the enemies will have to play the game out of order. All in all, Dead Kings adds up to a package that's somewhat schizophrenic in nature. At times, it seems like both the story and the gameplay aren't quite sure where they want to go. Even more surprising, it kind of works. Anyone that knows Assassin's Creed will feel an innate familiarity with Dead Kings and maybe even a bit of excitement (particularly the last section, which conjures memories of a classic series moment). However, there's an air of freshness about it that works in some ways and falls flat in others. Dead Kings isn't likely to reignite anyone's love for Assassin's Creed, but it certainly won't extinguish any existing flames, either. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided for free to the public as apology DLC.]
AC DLC review photo
What's old is new again... kind of
If our time spent wandering the Parisian streets in Assassin's Creed Unity has taught us anything, it's that Arno Dorian is a self-serving man. Almost all of his actions, whether aligned with the cause of the Brotherhood or n...

Ground Zeroes FPS mod photo
Ground Zeroes FPS mod

Metal Gear modders put Ground Zeroes in first-person


Not as cool as people birds, but still cool
Jan 12
// Steven Hansen
Almost disappointed I have Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes on PS4, where it was recently like $6, rather than on PC, where people have been modding all sorts of zany crap into it. The above first-person mod is low on ...
Volume photo
Volume

New Volume trailer reveals additional enemy types


Knights, Hounds, Archers, and Rogues shown off
Jan 12
// Laura Kate Dale
Volume is an upcoming retelling of the Robin Hood legend from Thomas Was Alone creator Mike Bithell, featuring the vocal talents of both ex-Destructoid editor Jim Sterling and Andy Serkis, the talent behind Go...
Ground Zeroes mods photo
Ground Zeroes mods

Modders are having so much fun with Ground Zeroes


Oh my god, these gifs
Jan 08
// Jordan Devore
At this rate, I'll wind up double dipping with the PC version of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. We covered the mod that lets you play as designer Hideo Kojima, and the one that replaces birds with humans, but here are a few more I came across this morning that demanded to be shared. First up, Metal Gear Chico.
Ground Zeroes photo
Ground Zeroes

It's almost 2015, and I just beat my first Metal Gear Solid


Ground zero
Dec 17
// Jordan Devore
As much as wish it weren't true, it is: I've never completed a Metal Gear Solid until now. This is a series plenty of you adore playing, thinking, and talking about and that affection has rubbed off on me over the years. It's...
Fossil Echo Greenlight photo
Fossil Echo Greenlight

New Fossil Echo trailer shows off its Oddworld influence


Shadow of the Colossus influence still apparent
Dec 12
// Darren Nakamura
When we first saw Fossil Echo earlier this year, all we really had to go on was its sharp cartoon art style and a list of influences: Shadow of the Colossus, Studio Ghibli films, and Oddworld. Some of those influences were a...
MGO trailer photo
Game Awards MGO trailer
I thought Metal Gear Online was neat on PS3 outside of Konami's separate log-in system. At the Game Awards, Hideo Kojima introduced a trailer for the online aspect of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Metal Gear Onl...

MGS 4 coming to PSN photo
MGS 4 coming to PSN

Metal Gear Solid 4 will soon be downloadable on PS3


Kept you waiting, huh?
Dec 03
// Kyle MacGregor
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is coming to PSN at long last, Konami announced today. After launching on PlayStation 3 more than six years ago, Hideo Kojima's vaunted stealth game will return to the system as a...
PlayStation Plus photo
PlayStation Plus

Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut free with PS Plus in December


Injustice on PS4 and Hitman HD Trilogy on PS3, too
Nov 26
// Jordan Devore
A whole new audience is about to experience the delightful oddities of Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut (PS3) once it joins PlayStation Plus. They don't know what they're in for, Zach. Hitman HD Trilogy (PS3), which inc...
Hot takes photo
Hot takes

The Marvellous Miss Take is all about the burglary, baby


PFT Commenter's sister am I right folks???
Nov 24
// Steven Hansen
The Marvellous Miss Take is a good, Saturday morning carton style name for a thief, but in today's #content economy I think Miss Take is depriving herself of an even more lucrative scheme: the hot take. Just a thought f...

Review: Sneaky Sneaky

Nov 23 // Darren Nakamura
Sneaky Sneaky (Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Naiad EntertainmentPublisher: Naiad EntertainmentReleased: November 12, 2014MSRP: $4.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit The basic idea behind Sneaky Sneaky is pretty original. As long as the titular thief remains undetected by any enemies in a room, he can move about the Legend of Zelda-esque rooms freely. Once he is spotted by or otherwise alerts a sentry, gameplay slows down to a turn-based affair. Whether Sneaky or the enemies move first depends on if he initiated the encounter through an attack or if he was detected. It sounds good on paper, but therein lies one of the frustrating bits of Sneaky Sneaky, at least early on. With low starting health, being detected almost always results in an automatic fail state where multiple enemies hone in and whale away until the thief explodes in a puff of smoke. The penalty for dying is fairly low: the player must only restart the current room and sacrifice a point bonus at the end of the level, but it is still irritating when a misclick spells automatic failure. [embed]284177:56424:0[/embed] Sneaky can hide in haystacks and bushes; he is safe as long as no enemy tries to enter his space on the grid and nobody watched him enter the space. The different enemies have varying vision cones and movement patterns, and if Sneaky can land a knife attack from outside his target's line of sight, he receives a damage bonus to the attack and a healthy point bonus for the level. In fact, points are awarded for non-stealth kills too. It is a little counter-intuitive for a stealth game; clumsily setting sentries off and cleaning up the mistake is worth more in the end than an artful pacifist route. Since stealth kills are worth the most, it becomes a game about entering a room and calculating the best way to systematically assassinate everyone there. This is not inherently flawed gameplay, and in fact it is entertaining enough once it is clear that is the true goal, but it seems inconsistent with the narrative of a thief whose primary focus is treasure. What throws a wrench in early on is that some enemies move around randomly. When foes have a set path or pattern, then real planning is possible. When there is no predicting where something will move next, then there is no way to safely sneak up behind it, and getting a stealth kill often involves sitting in a patch of tall grass for what feels like several minutes, just waiting for it to happen by. There is a consumable item that helps with situations like this, but as a consumable it may not always be on hand. As the game progresses, new enemies and obstacles show up, and new items are introduced to circumvent those enemies and obstacles. Some of the additions are helpful in keeping the experience feeling fresh, but for the most part the best rooms are the ones that can be solved with careful planning, particular movement, and an undetected knife to the back. Admittedly, that describes the last set of levels well. If the entire game played like the third act, it would be a great little title. Fortunately, getting to the third set of levels is fairly easy. Even with the automatic failures of the early levels, the scoring system is forgiving. After completing a level with what feels like a dismal run fraught with detection and death, a gold medal is still awarded easily. In fact, I never received anything lower than a gold medal, and only had to return to a level once for a ruby that can only be obtained after gaining access to a later tool. Thus is the enigma that is Sneaky Sneaky. It is simultaneously too harsh and too forgiving. It requires too much waiting to optimally solve some rooms and too much rushing for others. It does some things well, but then for the sake of variety it introduces other elements that serve only to muddle the experience. If the game were just about an assassin with a knife put into a sequence of puzzle rooms without any RPG-lite character progression, it would be greater for the simplicity. Still, Sneaky Sneaky is not a bad game. At five bucks for about two hours of gameplay, I could even recommend it to fans of stealth and/or puzzles. But it is by no means a must-play, even for fans of those genres.
Sneaky Sneaky review photo
Slow and stealthy
Stealth is a tricky game mechanic to pull off well. If it is too slow it can be dull, but if it is too fast it is more action than stealth. If it is too predictable it becomes mundane, but if it is too random it requires more...

Metal Gear Solid PC photo
Metal Gear Solid PC

Fun with sliders: Ground Zeroes looks noticeably better on PC


Releasing December 18 on Steam
Nov 21
// Jordan Devore
Nvidia and Konami have released screenshots comparing next month's PC release of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes with the PlayStation 4 version, and I'm glad I waited. Officially, this is what's new: Additional deferred li...
Heat Signature photo
Heat Signature

Even failing looks fun in Heat Signature


Covertly board ships or die trying
Nov 19
// Jordan Devore
Just like with Gunpoint, it's a joy to watch designer Tom Francis play Heat Signature, wonky wrench physics and all, while it's still in development. It's as if he's making the game solely for himself and, hey, if the rest o...
FPS locked at 60 photo
FPS locked at 60

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes' minimum PC specs


FPS locked at 60
Nov 19
// Steven Hansen
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, the prequel bit to Phantom Pain, is coming to Steam next month, December 18. Will you be able to play it? Appears I'd just be able to, according to the specs here, if my computer wasn't...

Crookz brings 1970s style and swagger to heist gameplay

Nov 14 // Alessandro Fillari
Crookz (PC [Previewed], Mac, SteamOS)Developer: SkillTree StudiosPublisher: Kalypso MediaRelease Date: Q2 2015 Set in the 1970s, Crookz places you in charge of a group of thieves, grifters, burglars, and other sneaky individuals in order to break into secure locations that house loot and other treasures. As the trailer suggests, the people you're robbing are sleazy and shady folk that certainly have whats coming to them, and it's your job to ensure the cash moves from their pockets to yours. With each successful score, you expand your arsenal of gadgets and crew members, while taking on increasingly more difficult jobs that will test your skills as a pro robber. While most games follows the more action oriented approach to heists, Crookz takes a very different stab at it by turning it into a quasi puzzle-strategy experience. Instead of getting into massive shootouts and high-speed chances, seeking to emulate the infamous bank heist scene from Heat, you'll have to plan each move step-by-step and utilize your crew's strengths and weaknesses to covertly break into secure locations and procure valuable items and intel. [embed]283824:56325:0[/embed] Similar to a real-time-strategy experience, you can move your characters to specific points on the map, while using their abilities on the fly as you evade guards and avoid alarms. During our demo, we were taking part in a score at a private mansion, and it was loaded with guards and other traps. While it looked daunting at first, it was readily apparent what was required for the score. For every heist, you'll need the right people for the job. Before each mission, you can outfit them with various gadgets and augment their skills to facilitate the needs of the heist. With several characters classes, such as Runner, Tough Guy, Locksmith, Hacker, and of course Robot -- you'll have to learn the lay of the land and get a read on things to succeed. For the mansion job, the runner, tough guy, and locksmith were able to break into the site with ease and take out guards while making it to the loot. If you're unsure of what you need to do, you can take your time and go through each step to figure out the best course of action. But if you're an especially clever planner, than you can meticulously analysis the layout of the environment, guard routes, and security systems to plan out your heist step by step. If done right, you can watch as your crew methodically and expertly tackles the score as if you were witnessing a Rube Goldberg Machine at work with the style and grace of Ocean's Eleven. I found the style and presentation to Crookz to be very refreshing for the heist genre. The music and atmosphere evokes the hip and energetic style of caper films from the 1970s. The music in particular is very much exciting and smooth, the themes throughout the heists pull from influential period films such as Shaft or Deep Throat. In any event, it works well. It has style and swagger in spades, and it feels exciting to play through a heist game that manages to not take itself too seriously, while still looking cool as you pull off the score. Set for release Q2 2015, Crookz is very interesting blend of puzzle and strategy elements sent across the backdrop of 1970s heist thrillers. I'm quite the fan of the era, and the style it evokes is very refreshing to see. With over 20 different mission and some online challenges to tackle, it's very rare to see heist game like this, and I'm very much looking forward to checking more.
Crookz photo
Cleopatra Jones and the Funky Bunch
What happened to the style and cleverness that came from heist thrillers? I remember watching films like Ocean's Eleven and Thief, that had little to no action or shooting. But now, these high-pressure and tense moments just ...

Review: Assassin's Creed Unity

Nov 11 // Chris Carter
Assassin's Creed Unity (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Ubisoft MontrealPublisher: UbisoftRelease:  November 11, 2014MSRP: $59.99 Unity once again adapts entirely to an iconic period in world history: the French Revolution of the 18th century. Without delay you're reintroduced to the timeless battle of the Templars and Assassins, but this time, the former are on the defensive after a witch hunt from the ruling class. It's at this tenuous time that you'll meet Arno Dorian, the hero of the tale. Much like Ezio, Arno's father is killed right at the start, which leads him to the discovery of a conspiracy involving the two major groups, as well as the awakening of his true power as an assassin. Although his story and subsequent actions are mostly predictable, I was on board with Arno from the get-go. He's not quite as memorable as Ezio or as dashing as Edward, but he's likable, and believable in terms of how the team ties him into the narrative. Ubisoft is clearly getting better at drawing emotional performances out of its subjects, and the current-gen visuals help a lot of the characters come to life like never before -- even if what they're actually doing isn't all that exciting. About an hour into the game, you'll get to the actual revolution, and things kick off nicely. Although Ubisoft once again nails the time period, mirroring events with its own signature faction spin, it doesn't have as much charm as Black Flag did. Gone are the vast open-sea sections, the memorable sea shanties, and the sense that at every turn, some new bit of buried treasure or fortress may be there for the taking. Paris is a huge playground, though -- perhaps one of the biggest single-setting areas so far in the series. As long as you don't mind that many areas look similar to one another (there's not enough district variation as in other Assassin's Creed games), there's quite a bit of ground to cover here. The modern half of the story -- or should I say, the modern fraction -- is a lot less prevalent this time around. At the start you're billed as yet another employee of Abstergo Entertainment, the modern-day incarnation of the Templar order, and every three to four hours you'll be contacted by Desmond's crew for a quick briefing on what's going on in the current age as you're recruited into the Assassin order. It's basically more "Templars are bad, mmkay" dialog, and you'll quickly be ported back into Arno's tale after the short expositions. [embed]283448:56272:0[/embed] In fact, everything outside of the 18th-century Arno core is streamlined. There are only three bits of gameplay where you aren't exploring the revolution, which deal with three specific periods in time throughout France's history: the 1800s, Nazi-occupied Paris, and the Middle Ages. These sections are, for a lack of a better word, unified (and roughly 15 minutes long each), and for those of you who aren't fans of the overarching modern-day story, you'll be pleased to know that it's almost non-existent. If you dig it, you may want to look elsewhere to get your fix. I'm not a huge fan of the modern stuff, but I could have stood for a little more of it, much in the vein of Black Flag. Gameplay is relatively the same, with the completely new addition to free run "up or down" by holding the run trigger and a specific button. It's mostly the same as before with a couple of extra button taps to get used to, but the movement system thankfully prevents more accidents than in previous games; you'll rarely jump off cliffs to your doom now because you accidentally jimmied a direction in a way your character didn't like. The animations are also smoother, and I specifically noticed a lot more variation with Arno's parkouring like extra spin moves and tumbles, which were a neat surprise. Unity also adds a more RPG-like element to the game -- the ability to "level up" by doing more missions, gaining new powers in the process. These are things like more health, better lockpicking skills, abilities like restoring your ammo at will, and gaining new close-combat moves. I like this addition since it allows you to build your character the way you want from the start without getting into the minutiae of skill points or anything in-depth. You earn points by doing random actions out in the wild, which encourages you to start tussles and actively level-up. In terms of gear, everything is more streamlined this time around, and you won't be fumbling around gigantic menus to access different variations of smoke bombs. Instead, Ubisoft kept things simple with a few flashy pieces of gear, a sidearm, and the new Phantom Blade -- which is a fancy way of saying "powerful projectile" -- that can be used for long-range assassinations. Like the story, it's not elaborate or new, but it gets the job done and there's enough tools to have fun in multiple situations. Even better, you can fully customize Arno by purchasing new clothes, uniforms, and weapons all from a simple menu. It's a welcome addition, especially since you can switch up Arno's threads right from the start, changing his new blue look to the iconic white setup. There's over 100 different outfit combinations, including classic costumes with a few unlock requirements. The biggest upgrade in Unity has to be the bigger crowds as a result of the current-gen push, and it's noticeable from the start. It's unreal to see a couple hundred citizens rage in what feels like a real revolution, and it feels like a real struggle at points, which is unique to Unity. The draw distance is also greatly improved. You can see the Parisian countryside in the background at nearly all times. Indoor settings are also a sight to behold, as my jaw actually dropped after seeing the interior of the Notre-Dame Cathedral for the first time. Unfortunately, Ubisoft seems to have had some issues adapting the series to current-gen systems; I encountered a number of nasty glitches on the Xbox One. For starters, the most common ones were constantly repeating dialog during key story parts, issues with the close-combat animations, some freezing while climbing tall structures, and falling through the floor during the start of certain missions. Since Unity offers checkpoints constantly it wasn't really a game-breaking affair, but I encountered at least one small glitch every two missions or so. Enough for the technical issues to get annoying. The actual mission types don't stray too far from the classic formula, but there are occasionally more open-ended events that are less structured. I wouldn't say they're necessarily "organic" as described by the developer, since they just add a few optional objectives that make the mission slightly easier, but they're a nice way to jazz up assassination missions, as they make you think of ways to solve a problem other than "get to the target and kill him." If you're a completionist, you'll enjoy the murder mystery optional missions, which allow you to gather evidence and accuse citizens of a crime, netting a "first try" bonus if you get it right. The crowds are also more dynamic this time around; there are thieves to tackle and criminals to stop randomly throughout the town, signified by miniature missions that can just pop up on your map. It's not a new idea, but it's nice to see something happen out in the world that helps those mesmerizing crowds seem more life-like. There's also "Paris Stories" to complete (involving iconic figures in French history), the aforementioned three extra time periods to explore in the form of additional obstacle courses, and of course, funny database entries by Shaun the Assassin. Multiplayer this time around is stripped down in favor of a streamlined co-op experience. There's no competitive element in Unity, no second disc to insert or menu option to select -- it's all built into the campaign in one giant mode. It's the same world as the core story, but with certain missions you can use matchmaking or partner up with three friends to tackle them as a team. It's inoffensive at its worst, as there are some exclusive co-op missions you can play that can't be done solo, and it all fits nicely into Unity without feeling forced. I'm fine with the removal of the competitive gametype, because almost every single game since Brotherhood has included it. It's time to try something different, and although co-op didn't set my world on fire, it does have potential that can be better realized down the line. My lack of enthusiasm for the multiplayer is mirrored by my experience with the rest of the game. Unity does take a few extra strides towards advancing the series, but in many ways it feels like a step back from Black Flag. It was fun to roam around Paris looking for trouble and ogle at the power of current-gen consoles, but the game lacks that grand sense of roaming the uncharted seas in Assassin's Creed IV, or even the open-ended feel of the wilderness in Assassin's Creed III. In other words, it struggles to make its own mark on the franchise outside of the new French Revolution setting. If Ubisoft fixes the glitches, Assassin's Creed: Unity will be a much stronger game, even if the ceiling is a bit lower in general. Unity's potential is not as strong as some of the better entries in the series, but it's good enough for existing fans to continue the journey.
Assassin's Creed review photo
Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death
Assassin's Creed IV was a turning point for the series. While a lot of fans were disappointed by the pointless Revelations and the polarizing Assassin's Creed III, Black Flag delivered everything you could possibly ...

Heat Signature  photo
Heat Signature

Gunpoint designer and artist team up for Heat Signature


The space game about infiltrating ships
Nov 07
// Jordan Devore
Gunpoint designer Tom Francis' next title, Heat Signature, has art! Well, new art, I should say. The stuff we saw previously for this spaceship heist game was just placeholder. John Roberts, who did the art on Gunpoint, has j...

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