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Splatoon splitscreen photo
Splatoon splitscreen

Splatoon to have splitscreen mode, ranked battle

So much for local multiplayer matches
Apr 01
// Jed Whitaker
As reiterated during today's Nintendo Direct, Splatoon is going to have four-versus-four online ranked battles with specific rules that differ from the normal mode. Splat Zones is a ranked mode where players battle over speci...

Calm down: Nintendo still has a lot in store for Wii U

Mar 30 // Jed Whitaker
Splatoon - May 2015 The paint-splattering Splatoon comes out in under two months and is Nintendo's first attempt at a third-person action shooter. Information has quickly been trickling out as release nears with Nintendo posting a huge dump of screenshots revealing new characters, modes, weapons, and stages. Chris Carter recently previewed the game, saying "I see a lot of classic Mario platforming design in Spaltoon's campaign" and seemed to have fun with the multiplayer.  Xenoblade Chronicles X - TBA 2015 The original Xenoblade Chronicles was a great game, and Xenoblade Chronicles X is shaping up to be even better. Character customization, multiplayer, beautiful graphics, and JRPG goodness make this one to watch for this year. No precise release date has been announced thus far. Yoshi's Woolly World - First half of 2015 Yoshi's Woolly World hasn't had much press since E3 of last year where it won over Steven. Taking Yoshi's Island-style gameplay and making it have a nice yarn aesthetic seems like a winning formula to having the best Yoshi game since Yoshi's Story on the N64. With the lack of information and the peculiar absence from Nintendo's game release calendar, I won't be surprised if this one slips to later in the year to fill in the gap Zelda left. Star Fox - TBA 2015 Star Fox for Wii U was originally teased with a blurred screen behind Shigeru Miyamoto, and only the above screenshot has ever been shown to the public. We do know that you play with a dual-screen perspective, and you pilot Arwings, tanks, and a new helicopter vehicle, but other than that it hasn't really been mentioned since E3 of 2014. That means less has been shown than the now-delayed Zelda.  Project Giant Robot and Project Guard - TBA 2015 Miyamoto has his hands full, as he has been working on not only Star Fox but also Project Giant Robot and Project Guard, two games shown last year at E3. Giant Robot has players building skyscraper-sized robots on their Wii U GamePad and then battling them to the death, while Guard is a mix between tower defense and watching security cameras. Neither game has been shown or mentioned since E3 last year, nor has a release date been announced.  Mario Maker - TBA 2015 While the name is pretty self-explanatory, Mario Maker looks to have a lot of depth, offering the ability to make levels in the style of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U. Not just easy levels either, but levels described as masochistic. No firm release date has been announced. So there you have it, seven games that potentially could be coming to the Wii U this year, pending any "please understand" cancellations that Nintendo has become infamous for. A nice mix of genres that should have something for everyone. Nintendo won E3 2014 in my opinion, so hopefully it can bring surprises to woo me again this year. The Wii U isn't dead, long live the Wii U.
The Wii U isn't dead yet photo
Unless it delays everything, please understand!
After the recent announcement that Zelda for Wii U wouldn't be releasing in 2015, people all around the Internet have been losing their collective minds screaming that the Wii U is dead when really, it is anything but. So join me as I refresh your memory and get you back on the Nintendo hype train for 2015.

Splatoon photo

New Splatoon screenshots reveal clothing, weapons, stages, and characters

May is going to be messy
Mar 26
// Jed Whitaker
Nintendo released over 100 screenshots for Splatoon today, my favorite of which are in the gallery below, that reveal new characters, enemies, modes, weapons, maps, and clothing for customizing characters. Looks like there ar...

I see a lot of classic Mario platforming design in Splatoon's campaign

Mar 23 // Chris Carter
Splatoon (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 2Publisher: NintendoReleased: May 2015MSRP: $59.99 Splatoon's setup is not unlike a typical Saturday morning cartoon. The evil Octarians have "squidnapped" the sacred Zapfish, and the heroic Captain Cuttlefish has tasked you with getting them back. To help you along the way you'll have a cast of eccentric sea-dwelling creatures to sell you upgrades, like the goofy jelly fish Jelonzo that doesn't speak the Inkling language all that proficiently, or Annie, a shy sea anemone who has an asshole fish named Moe living in her head. While the theme is cute enough to draw anyone in at first glance, it's the commitment to classic platforming precepts that I really took note of during my hour-long campaign play session. Everyone knows the classic Mario design by now -- developers will often craft a level to show you a new concept in a safe manner, then kick it up a series of notches, culminating in an explosive and dangerous finale. That philosophy is followed to the letter in Splatoon with unique concepts used to test the limits of your ink skills. Geysers were a particular favorite of mine, allowing you to swim to the top after turning into squid form. While they're sometimes required for platforming, it's an interesting optional way to change up the height differential for various enemy placements. Sponges are another really fun mechanic, which expand as you ink them and shrink from enemy fire. There's a few high-tension sequences that force you to attack enemies while simultaneously managing your sponges so you don't plummet to your doom. Another stage featured a series of mini-bosses, designed to help you ease into multiplayer against more humanoid opponents. Nearly every level I played introduced a new concept like this, and I can see it riding through until the very end. The campaign also allowed me to really dig deep into the core of what makes Splatoon tick. What I love about the ink mechanic is that it always has a purpose, unlike other shooters where errant shots are basically wasted. Even if you don't hit your target, you're slowly working your way towards victory with each zone that's covered. Ink means extra maneuverability, cover, and in some cases, platforming opportunities. Creating your own path has a cool maze-like feel to it, and reacting to enemy fire is now multi-faceted affair as you plan out your above and below ground strategy in tandem. Much like the multiplayer component however, I'm not entirely sold on the longevity of Splatoon's campaign, as I can see myself breezing through it in an afternoon (I couldn't get an exact estimation from Nintendo, but I'm told the focus is mostly on multiplayer). However, I'll be damned if I didn't have an amazing time with what I've played, and I'm excited to try out the final build come May.
Splatoon campaign photo
Definitely a good thing
While Splatoon's multiplayer was on display for all to see at E3 2014, the single-player campaign was fairly under wraps. We now know that it will be a completely separate affair from online play, complete with a full na...

Nintendo on Splatoon photo
Nintendo on Splatoon

Nintendo: 'Splatoon is aiming to do for action shooters what Mario Kart did to racing'

Reggie Fils-Aimé is hopeful for the future of this 'major new IP'
Mar 23
// Chris Carter
At a recent event at Nintendo of America's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, I was able to play Splatoon for the first time since E3 2014. It's come a long way since then, and Nintendo is particularly proud of what it...

Splatoon's multiplayer feels promising for casual and hardcore shooter fans, but will people buy it?

Mar 23 // Chris Carter
Splatoon (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 2Publisher: NintendoReleased: May 2015MSRP: $59.99 The concept that Splatoon "isn't just about kills" is exemplified in Turf War, the 4v4 mode that everyone saw last year at E3. In short, it's a lot like "Graffiti" from the Tony Hawk series -- two teams must ink up as much territory as possible, and whoever has the most when the clock strikes zero wins. The game keeps track of kills and deaths at the end of each match, but it's all about who covers the most territory, not a skill-based ratio. Nintendo notes that even without voice chat the gameplay facilitates organic teamwork, and after quite a bit of playtime with it, I mostly agree. The emphasis on four-person squads ensures that no one gets lost, and there's a major feature that instantly allows players to teleport (by way of a rocket-like animation in the sky) to teammates by tapping their icon on a map on the GamePad. It's a cool concept to get people constantly in the action without feeling left out. The layout of each map naturally helps this concept as well, with the three on display themed like a skate park (Blackbelly Skatepark), warehouse (Walleye Warehouse), and oil rig (Saltspray Rig). I noticed that each arena has two to three forks almost immediately and throughout the spoke-like design, allowing players to naturally fan out and start taking over different areas. Like a MOBA you'll meet other players in your lane at the start, and will have to adjust for one-on-two or teamfight situations. I really like this ideology, as it allows newcomers to the shooter genre to participate without becoming overwhelmed, all while providing familiar territory for hardcore veterans. Nintendo notes that it's "bucking the trends from other shooters" with this design philosophy. That wouldn't mean anything if the gameplay weren't fun, and thanks to a wide array of weapons Splatoon kept my interest. While there are plenty of standard loadouts similar to rifles, pistols, and snipers, the Roller in particular is definitely my favorite. It's as simple as you'd expect -- it's literally a paint roller that allows you to squish enemies or "flick" the attack button to fling paint as a miniature projectile. [embed]289194:57884:0[/embed] Rollers change the flow of a match quite a bit, especially if you're going up against an opponent who is also rocking one. Jousting matches were commonplace, and you always have to be aware of another Roller coming up from behind. It also holds a number of therapeutic qualities to it, since the only action you need to perform is holding the button and moving around. Thankfully, the weapon is balanced, even if it can cover a lot of ground in Turf War. For those of you who crave a less casual experience, Ranked Battle has been confirmed. It's described as a "completely separate mode" that will be released "post-launch." To unlock it you'll have to reach rank 10 in standard multiplayer, at which point you'll gain access to a new ranking system. Everyone will start out with a letter grade (in this case a C-), and you'll rank up dynamically by winning matches. There will be multiple supported modes, and I was able to try out one of them -- a King of the Hill-esque gametype called "Splat Zones." Much like the popular aforementioned mode, each map will have one static "zone" to capture. Teams will be required to ink up the majority of a zone to claim it, and then fend it off against their opponent while a team timer counts down to zero. All you have to do is protect it and you win -- there's no "crazy" modifier that shifts the zone around. While the lack of a moving hill sounds boring on paper, it's here in Splat Zone that I really started to see Splatoon's tactical depth. Weapons that felt useless in Turf War were suddenly being cycled in by players in my session. Snipers and shield loadouts were particularly popular, especially on Saltspray Rig, where the zone was open to errant long-range shots. My favorite strategy that was kind of adopted on the fly by my winning team was to deploy multiple Bubblers, which are one-way shields that allow you to fire out, while suppressing enemies who fire at you. We locked down multiple choke-points to prevent the enemy from encroaching on our territory, and won a few games handily. Our opponents eventually adapted however, arcing grenades over our shields and into our zone. If all this sounds pretty advanced that's because it is -- developer EAD has created a cool little meta-game with all eight loadouts we were able to try, and Nintendo promises more will be in the final build. One thing I took issue with however was the way that loadouts are handled. Apparently once you're locked into one, you cannot switch to another mid-match. Also, you can't even see what other players have picked with the current build. This can create issues where everyone picks the same weapon, such as a Roller, and the team has significant problems winning a match. When asked about whether or not either of these concerns would be addressed, the rep didn't seem hopeful, noting that "it wasn't a priority at this time." While it's not necessarily a dealbreaker, I can see quite a few frustrating matches were everyone picks the same weapon and loses by a landslide. The rep even noted that while "all the weapons are balanced, you will find certain advantages and disadvantages to specialized weapons like the Roller on specific levels." This is Nintendo's first real foray into the shooting world, so hopefully everything will be balanced in the final build. Nintendo hasn't shared any details regarding split-screen play -- when asked, a rep stated that "we are focusing on the GamePad at this time, not other control methods." While I did have a lot of fun with Splatoon in a closed environment, the combination of a lack of Wii U sales and the risk of launching a new IP isn't exactly a winning formula for a thriving online community. If split-screen isn't available come launch, I think a lot of people are probably going to wait for a sale. [Both lunch and dinner were provided at the event at Nintendo's offices in Redmond, Washington.]
Splatoon multiplayer photo
Ranked battles are confirmed, but are coming post-launch
Nintendo isn't exactly known for its online experiences. With the exception of a few recent titles like Mario Kart 8, the public is typically clamoring for some form of online support. Games like Mario Party 10 would pro...

The Order: 1886 photo
The Order: 1886

Embrace the bomb: The Order is $40 right now on Amazon

That's only $10 per hour of gameplay
Mar 21
// Robert Summa
If you were hesitant to go all in with The Order: 1886 when it first came out last month, then now may be a good time to see what this cinematic adventure is all about. Currently, Amazon is offering the game for $39.99. Considering the oft-debated length of the Sony exclusive, this just might be the right price for the more stubborn of us. [Amazon]

Review: LA Cops

Mar 13 // Conrad Zimmerman
LA Cops (PC [Reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: LA Cops LtdPublisher: Team17Released: March 13, 2015MSRP: $14.99 LA Cops attempts to evoke American police fiction of the 1970s through a number of recognizable tropes. Vignettes preceding missions include the beleaguered police chief trying to wrangle loose cannons, cops willing to go outside the law for justice, and even a nod toward gender integration conflicts as a female detective joins the squad. These touchstones are there but never thoroughly explored, winding up as little more than weak references to the genre. It doesn't help that the cutscene content is shoddy. A simplistic plot somehow manages to be a bit confusing, as half the scenes set up character conflicts which see no expansion or satisfactory resolution while others introduce key characters without any clear exposition to give the player a reason to care. Dull writing is performed with stiff voice acting across the board, falling emotionally flat in nearly every example. Worse yet, all such content sounds as though the actors wore buckets over their heads for the recording sessions. [embed]289031:57776:0[/embed] Missions play out from a top-down perspective, with players using two detectives to raid buildings and dispense justice to occupying criminals. Vastly outnumbered and easily killed, the idea is that the player is to use these characters in tandem by directly controlling one and issuing move orders to the other to even the odds. The most basic strategy for this is ordering the inactive cop to move in and then timing movement of the controlled cop to enter at the same time to clear rooms in a hail of bullets. Another option would be to position one cop on a blind corner, then assume control of the other cop and use them to lure enemies into a trap. It doesn't seem to matter which approach is used because AI controlled partners are, to put it mildly, inconsistent in their combat abilities. A vision cone shows which direction the partner is focusing their attention, but that doesn't mean they won't whip around and tag a guy running up behind them. They might. They might not. It also doesn't mean that they're any more likely to immediately shoot enemies within range and line of sight. It could happen, sure, but they could also just get gunned down by enemies who have walked right past a corner into the cone before pulling off a shot. Trying to use both cops through the entirety of the game, even the halfway point, is miserable. Despite warnings that players won't get very far without their partners, it's actually much easier to work through levels one cop at a time, treating the stationary partner as an extra life because using both cops is basically just asking for one of them to die. But by eschewing the tandem strategy, LA Cops becomes just a game where the player moves from room to room picking off enemies before they can shoot back and there are much better examples of that gameplay to be found elsewhere. Worse, the scoring system used to determine performance runs totally counter to the teamwork mechanic. Aside from being shot, criminals can also be arrested with a melee attack which renders them harmless. Arresting earns twice the points of killing, but there's no good way to do it using both cops because the AI might just shoot the nearest crook before they can be arrested (or not, whatever). It's as if LA Cops is actively encouraging the player to completely ignore its main selling point which, in light of how that's worked out, might be just as well. At least there's plenty of it. There are nine "story" missions with an additional five unrelated bonus stages and three difficulty settings. Nearly all contain multiple floors, and there are some secondary objectives which at least attempt to offer some variety. The more interesting missions include waves of enemies coming in from specific points on a floor or civilians to avoid shooting, but other tasks like reaching a hostage within a time limit (irrelevant since it cannot be achieved before dealing with all criminals on the floor) and the usually pointless destruction of environmental objects just feel like time wasters. There are six characters the player can select from to complete missions. While they differ at the outset across four statistics (speed, health, damage, and clip size), they're ultimately all the same due to the experience progression system. Completing missions earns XP which may be spent to increase individual stats or unlock new weapons, but all characters have the same potential and can gain access to the same guns, making there no reason to choose one over another apart from aesthetic appeal and little reason to switch to new characters once experience has been spent on those who have been used before. The pop minimalist art style of LA Cops is probably its most redeeming quality, sadly. Clean lines and high contrast colors make it stand out in the field of top-down shooters, and this design serves the gameplay by making it easy to pick out enemies and objectives. The visuals and the soundtrack, which consists of funky guitar tracks that fit neatly with the themes, are about the only elements of the game that aren't actively working against it. While there was clear opportunity in the buddy cop formula LA Cops attempted to create, the end result is a mess. Totally undermined by poor teammate AI, the central strategic hook is lost, resulting in a bland game confused about what it wants the player to do.
LA Cops review photo
Move along, nothing to see here
At first glance, the potential for LA Cops to be an interesting title is great. A top-down shooter in the style of a retro cop squad drama, its main appeal lies in the combination of real-time action with teamwork management, one player using two characters to systematically take down a criminal enterprise. It's just too bad that one of those cops always has to be Barney Fife.

The Order: 1886 photo
The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886 won't find safety in the London Underground

But, I found The Postal Service
Mar 12
// Brett Makedonski
I was waiting for a cross-town train in the London Underground when it struck me. I've been waiting since February to find a game that would look and sound like a movie. So, I changed my plans; I rented a PS4 and a TV, and t...

Review: Zombie Army Trilogy

Mar 06 // Chris Carter
Zombie Army Trilogy (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Rebellion DevelopmentsPublisher: Rebellion DevelopmentsReleased: March 3, 2015MSRP: $49.99 What you're getting for $50 is three games, which take place over 15 levels called "chapters." They're roughly 20-30 minutes each, and are kind of designed like the maps from Left 4 Dead, but with less of a point "A to B" feel to them. The gist is that in 1945, Hitler has unleashed the depths of hell as a last-ditch effort to win World War II, and...that's basically it. Except now in addition to the previously all-male cast, you're getting four new female combatants. None of the characters have any real personality, but it's a nice little extra. Since this is based on Sniper Elite after all, your primary weapons are long-range rifles, with the secondary slots going to weaponry like SMGs and shotguns, in addition to a last-ditch pistol. You'll also have a few incendiary devices at your disposal like mines, grenades, and trip wires, as well as the power to kick, which functions as your only melee attack. Trip wires are my favorite part of the arsenal, as it's incredibly fun to set traps and watch zombies spring them. The first thing you'll notice after a few rounds though is that the animations feel slightly off. The kick in particular is ridiculous looking, especially if you keep stomping on enemy after enemy. Depending on your view this might either be Army of Darkness-level camp or a flaw of the outdated engine -- I'm mostly somewhere in the latter group. [embed]288533:57630:0[/embed] Having said that, the gunplay is fun, taking place mostly from a third-person perspective, with the option to zoom with rifles. The zombies themselves are well crafted, as they're both sufficiently cool looking and have an interesting set of movements. Other denizens like skeletons help spice things up -- it helps that they look like they were taken straight out of a Harryhausen film. Checkpoints flow through each stage, allowing you to recover and play again if you happen to fail on the last section of a lengthy level, and you'll find the occasional safe room just like Left 4 Dead, allowing you to stock up and continue your journey. The pacing is spot-on, as Zombie Army Trilogy doesn't have a whole lot of down time. You'll also have interesting objectives to pursue, like finding the location of an ancient artifact to summon a powerful foe, or turning off a factory that creates an army of armored zombies, or defeating elite or boss enemies. If you get really cocky you can tackle the higher difficulty levels, like "Sniper Elite," which allows for wind contingencies, bullet drop physics, a heart rate to control, and an impact on your stance. It's cool in theory, but all of these don't feel all that important when you're tangoing with the wonky engine half the time, or battling lag in online play, which I experienced on occasion. Solo play is fun when you're going through each chapter and encountering new scenarios at a decent rate, but once you're done, replay value plummets. You're going to want to play online with three other people, especially if you have the skills to tackle the four difficulty settings which cleverly can scale to up to four players, even if you are going solo. Horde mode is another way to keep the party going, but the "endless" style of play can get tiresome given that there are hundreds of horde-style games out at this point, and Zombie Army Elite doesn't stand out above them. It's basically something to play after you've exhausted all of the campaign, but if I ever have the itch to play online, it probably won't be with Horde mode. If you can get past the cheap-feeling engine and have three buddies on hand, you'll have a lot of fun with Zombie Army Elite. It's a blast to overcome particularly tough sections with a team, and hitting an on-point shot from 50 feet away can provide quite the rush. While the package has a lot of problems that prevent it from justifying that $50 price tag, I enjoyed my time playing the entire campaign online. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Zombie Army review photo
One giant horde mode
The Sniper Elite series has been around for quite some time, entertaining fans since 2005 on pretty much every platform known to man. But alongside of the core historical-centric games there has been a lesser known sub-franch...

Zombie Army Trilogy photo
Zombie Army Trilogy

Zombie Army Trilogy video tells us what Zombie Army Trilogy is

Apparently it has something to do with zombies
Feb 27
// Robert Summa
The zombie saturation of the current videogame landscape will soon see another mindless meat shooter with the release of Zombie Army Trilogy this March. As if the literally hundreds of other zombie-themed games weren't enoug...

Review: Ironfall: Invasion

Feb 27 // Chris Carter
Ironfall: Invasion (3DS)Developer: VD-DevPublisher: VD-DevReleased: February 26, 2015MSRP: Free (campaign and MP are paid downloads, $9.99 each) If you have a Circle Pad Pro or a New 3DS, you're going to feel right at home with Ironfall, as it functions just like a full-on console shooter. The controls work especially well on the New 3DS, with extra shoulder buttons for sprinting and reloading, as well as the C-stick functionality for aiming. L aims, R shoots, and B ducks into cover -- that's basically all you need to know, and it plays out wonderfully. Ironfall has a neat mechanic that ties actions to your health, by way of a meter called "heart-rate." There are certain thresholds you cannot cross unless you take damage, but sprinting and shooting will raise your heart-rate ever so slightly -- forcing you back into cover to lower it faster. While it may seem like an action-hindering design choice, it actually makes things more strategic, as avoiding enemy fire altogether will inherently limit your meter.However, the campaign doesn't really make use of the strong foundation, mostly wasting your time through 11 boring levels. It's basically a corridor shooter with uninspired locales and minigames you've seen a thousand times over. The alien menace is also painfully generic, to the point where you won't even care about killing them, instead focusing on the clock all the way. Visually Ironfall looks fine on the New 3DS, especially with the 3D effect on. The main problem is that the actual art style is dull as heck, and reminds me of a budget PS1 title -- not in a good way. Although the framerate is consistent, it's hard to really get on board with playing through the story when everything looks so mundane and washed out. [embed]288276:57548:0[/embed] Thankfully, multiplayer saves the day, as it's quite fun. If you've ever played an old school shooter like WinBack, you'll feel right at home here. It's surprisingly robust for a portable game too, featuring online and local play, as well as a decent amount of weapon types. You'll only get standard free-for-all and team modes, but some are ranked, which allow you to bet "credits" and gain a higher rank for bragging rights. Don't expect a fully-fledged Call of Duty-like perk system here -- you play just to play, not to earn more gear. While multiplayer works well as-is, a couple things I really want in a future update are more weight to the combat and direct notification of kills outside of a unceremonious "this player died" banner. While everything is smooth and the bullets actually connect, it's really hard to tell if you killed another player at times, or if you are even hitting them. As you can tell by the info box above, Ironfall has a unique pricing system. You can download the base game for free, which nets you the first campaign level and a limited multiplayer demo -- consisting of one character, the assault rifle, and grenade launcher. If you want to pony up for either mode you'll pay $9.99 each, with a bonus jukebox feature if you buy the bundle. Don't get the bundle. If the idea of a 3DS cover shooter entices you at all, the best course of action is to play the multiplayer for free, then go from there. Personally, I was sold based on the old school feel alone, which is more excusable for a fun arena-like setting than it is for a rushed campaign. Multiplayer is the saving grace of Ironfall: Invasion. Although it doesn't offer anything new, it should scratch that itch for arena shooter fans who are looking for something to play online long term on 3DS. With a relatively smooth connection process and simplistic gameplay that works, it should keep you busy for a while. Just avoid paying for the campaign at all costs. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Ironfall Invasion photo
Someone call Marcus Fenix
Developing a Gears of War-like cover shooter for Nintendo 3DS is unconventional, but that's just what VD-Dev did with Ironfall: Invasion. Featuring both local and online multiplayer, as well as an 11-stage campaign, the project seems fairly ambitious for the handheld, and as you'd expect, there are mixed results. While multiplayer turned out well enough, the campaign is a mess.

The Order: 1886 photo
The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886's launch trailer sure looks nifty

Cinematic as all get up
Feb 19
// Brett Makedonski
Well, I don't know what to believe anymore. This trailer has explosions, lycanthropes, and action up the wazoo. Everything looks so pretty, and the mustaches look real enough that I'm trying to pet them through my computer s...
Splatoon photo

Splatoon's adorable squids originally looked like tofu

Sounds tasty!
Feb 19
// Kyle MacGregor
Can you imagine Splatoon's "Inklings" looking more like tofu than squids? Speaking with Famitsu, the shooter's designers (Hisashi Nogami, Yusuke Amano, and Tsubasa Sakaguchi) revealed the creatures actually started out that w...

Review: The Order: 1886

Feb 19 // Chris Carter
The Order: 1886 (PS4)Developer: Ready at Dawn, SCE Santa Monica StudioPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentReleased: February 20, 2015MSRP: $59.99 The Order reeks of style and sucks you in immediately. With a grand backstory involving an alternate history set to a backdrop of an ancient order's lengthy war with stronger half-breed humans, you can tell a lot of thought when into the concept. The writers went the extra mile to tie in familiar territory like the Arthurian legend, and there are a lot of cool nods like the feud between Tesla and Edison. But despite the source material, The Order feels like its own creation and not a summation of existing ideas. It also has the visual panache to back this up in-game. The lighting and environments are fantastically detailed, and the finely crafted character models make this feel like a true current-generation prospect. Picking up newspapers and reading them in-game doesn't just present bland text on the screen -- you actually get to read the paper itself. Items in the world can often be inspected by rotating them around and turning them over, further showing off the sheer amount of detail within. It feels organic like the built-in user interface in Dead Space. It's sharp and well done throughout, and the first time I was able to see the township from high-up was legitimately a "wow" moment. [embed]287624:57354:0[/embed] As a third-person shooter The Order can safely be compared to Gears of War, with a simplistic snap cover system, over-the-shoulder aiming, a chapter-based story, and a basic melee attack that can be used when up close. 1886 delivers the latter with more flair than most titles, with cool contextual attacks like slamming an enemy head into a wall or sliding them across a table. You'll have access to grenades, and a two-gun setup (sidearm and main weapon), with your usual sniper, shotgun, and rifle fare. There are a few mixed-in fictional pieces of weaponry as well, like the Tesla raygun and a weapon that shoots a gassy material into the sky by way of alt fire, allowing you ignite it with your primary shot. That's about it, though. Beyond the literal smoke and mirrors it's a very standard shooter. Well built, but standard. There's also a good amount of quick-time events, which don't bother me personally -- bring them on, I say, as long as there's gameplay to match. Where The Order ceases to be great isn't the excessive time spent on QTEs, it's the self-indulgent camera angles and need to focus so much on turning the game into a walking simulator. 1886 does have a good amount of extra paths and collectibles to explore, but man is it linear. There's tons of unskippable cutscenes, and even when you're playing, it can still technically be considered a living cutscene at times -- you just have the ability to walk slightly forward without taking any other action. Maybe the developers at Ready at Dawn felt this was atmospheric, maybe they didn't have enough development time, but either way it feels like padding. So do the standard videogame lockpick and stealth sequences. The story doesn't really have room to grow as a result of said padding because so much time is spent getting from place to place. Although the premise is interesting, the narrative is fairly predictable, and characters don't have any real chance to make their mark; you'll likely forget a lot of their names before the credits roll. And leading up to right before they do roll, just like Shadows of Mordor, I was pissed that the final boss had to be a QTE -- and a retread fight at that. As you may have heard, The Order is also short. How short? Well, on normal or hard difficulty it should take the average gamer roughly seven hours to complete it -- a little less if you rush through and don't explore any other hallways, a little more if you check every inch. While the length doesn't bother me on principle, keep in mind that there's very little in the way of replay value, and there's no multiplayer -- not even co-op -- to speak of. Outside of the sleek presentation and interesting world building, there's nothing truly special about The Order: 1886. It's a shame in many ways, because I'd love to see a more tactical style of gameplay in line with Valkyria Chronicles, or a more in-depth game in general using the same engine and lore. I sincerely hope this isn't the last we've seen of this universe, but for now, it's only worth visiting once, briefly. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
The Order: 1886 review photo
Not enough chaos
The Order: 1886 opens up in a fairly gritty fashion -- a first-person sequence involving a near drowning, by way of water torture. It begins with a bang, thrusting you into this unknown, and frankly frightening world whe...

The Order photo
The Order

How short is too short? Controversy over The Order: 1886's length

$60 for less than 10 hours
Feb 16
// Chris Carter
Although the embargo for The Order: 1886 is Thursday morning, many gamers have gotten their hands on the title this past weekend and...they've completed it. Since there is no multiplayer component, controversy has been s...
The Order: 1886 photo
The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886 collector's edition is unboxed, under fire

Take cover, Galahad!
Feb 04
// Brett Makedonski
Third-person shooter protagonists spend a bulk of their time glued to chest-high walls, so it's fitting that the highlight of The Order: 1886's collector's edition depicts this very action. In this unboxing video that P...
Splatoon photo

Splatoon targeting a May launch on Wii U

Still a few months away, but coming
Jan 14
// Laura Kate Dale
Splatoon finally has a launch month announced on Wii U, and it's May 2015. Announced during today's Nintendo Direct presentation, we also got a couple of new details for the upcoming colorful third-person shooter. Splatoon is...
1886, 1887, 1888, 1889 photo
1886, 1887, 1888, 1889

Expect The Order: 1886 to be a series, not a one-off

'We build a world purely for the purpose of making more than one game'
Jan 13
// Steven Hansen
As a single-player only, narrative-driven game, The Order: 1886 feels a tad quaint (in a good way), as even the most classically cinematic, narrative-driven things of recent years (Last of Us, Uncharted, Mass Effect) aff...
The Order photo
The Order

The Order teaser ditches 'cinematic' for creepy singing children

Lil Bobby Paige, innit guv'nuh!
Jan 13
// Steven Hansen
I'm still a bit wary of the PS4-exclusive The Order, but if they've last minute reimagined the game as a collection of Scary Stories to the Tell in the Dark sung by disgusting children, they might have a good 2D horror game on their hands. 
The Order: 1886 photo
The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886 trailer tries taking cues from a Gears of War classic

What a horrible night to have a curse
Dec 26
// Brett Makedonski
This feels vaguely familiar, doesn't it? A somber trailer punctuated by an eerily haunting, soft-spoken song. Gears of War struck gold with this approach many years back with the "Mad World" trailer. The Order: 1886's a...
Evolve beta photo
Evolve beta

Evolve launches open beta for Xbox One on January 15

Will be playable till launch
Dec 18
// Alessandro Fillari
The first quarter of 2015 looks to be an exciting period for games. But one such title is looking to keep players satiated all the way till its release. After a successful closed alpha period, Evolve is gearing up for another...

Evolve offers a refreshingly robust and devious co-op experience

Dec 18 // Alessandro Fillari
Evolve (PC [previewed], PlayStation 4, Xbox One)Developer: Turtle Rock StudiosPublisher: 2K GamesRelease: February 10, 2014MSRP: $59.99 "It's given us this extra push, that extra motivation," said Chris Ashton, co-founder of Turtle Rock Studios and design director of Evolve as he recalled the general reception from fans. It's been about a year since its debut, and the fans have certainly taken to the game. After two alpha test periods, and its wildly popular station at PAX Prime -- I tried playing, but the line was ridiculous -- Turtle Rock was keen to show off more of what the game has to offer. "I think all the good and positive reception has added to the pressure, y'know, but I keep telling a lot of the guys that's it's the hardest thing we've ever done in our careers," said Ashton. "But I keep telling everyone 'great pressure makes for great games sometimes.' Though everyone is tired and worn out, seeing the news stories and positive reviews has made it all worthwhile." One of the new bits to share was the reveal of the new monster class, the Wraith. In addition to the Goliath and Kraken, essentially different takes on the warrior and mage archetypes, the Wraith is very much like the assassin class, except it's a twenty-foot-tall monster with massive claws and tendrils. Despite its size, the Wraith is the fastest thing in the game and can easily make quick work of the hunters, though it'll definitely take some time to master. Unlike the other classes, the strength of the Wraith lies in its stealth tactics and speed. The creature can warp in and out of danger with ease, and can use sneak attacks to quickly defeat the hunters and lesser prey. Its decoy ability allows it to summon a Wraith clone to attack nearby enemies, leaving the player in an invisible state, and the Supernova move gives a massive speed and power boost to the creature. Though the other classes were fun, I had a real blast with the Wraith. During the rescue game type, I stalked the group of hunters while they were struggling to find survivors to take back to base. Using my decoy ability, I sent my clone in against the group. As they scattered trying to take it out, I found the medic straggling behind them. At this point I used my Abduction move, which allowed me to warp to the hunter and drag him back to where I came. Alone, the medic was downed rather quickly by the Wraith's attacks. After they found the wounded medic and attempted to revive him, I swooped in like a hawk and used my Supernova ability to wipe the party in a frenzied flurry. It was awesome, and hearing the opposing team shout "He's on us!" felt oh-so satisfying. One of the most impressive things about Evolve is how well it was balanced. Even though the monsters are extremely powerful, the hunters are well equipped to handle the beast. Turtle Rock took a lot time refining and fixing issues with the game in order to maintain the balance and consistency with the asymmetrical multiplayer. "We playtested the crap out of it, iterating and finding what works and what doesn't -- and we forced our way through that idea of four vs. one gameplay to shipping the game now," said the design director. "It always seemed like a straightforward idea to us, like four quarters equals a dollar, right? In our minds, it always made sense. For four hunters who work together, and they use their teamwork right and coordinate, then they could be as powerful as this two-story monster." Though the Hunt mode offered quick and easy fun, the recently unveiled Evacuation mode will no doubt offer the most comprehensive and epic experiences that Evolve can produce. Referred to as a "grudge match across five maps" by its design director, five players are brought into a multiplayer campaign that shifts and alters depending on which side wins. For Turtle Rock Studios, this was an opportunity to up the ante on their previous work with the Left 4 Dead series. "We wanted to have a campaign in Evolve, but we wanted to do it in a different way," said Ashton as he described the genesis of Evacuation mode. "In Hunt, you can have a fifteen minute experience, and that's a good time for a lot of people.  But there's another scenario where me and you want to get online tonight and we want to play roughly an hour, and have an experience that has a beginning, middle, and end. That we all felt like we saw really cool things and that it all wrapped up nicely. We wanted to focus on replayability, to potentially have thousands of different possibilities." With four players taking on the role of the hunters, and one as the monster, you'll have to secure, defend, hunt your enemies to expand your power. On the final round, Evacuation reaches its crescendo as both sides must use all their acquired resources and skills to finish off the opposition. Spanning different game types spread across several maps, each round feels like a real struggle to succeed. If the hunters win a match, then they can acquire teleport machines that allow for easy travel or armor plated turrets for stronger defenses, but if the monster wins a match, then the environment will become corrosive to the hunters, and new beasts will come to assist your side. It's incredibly dynamic, and no campaign will feel the same. I played games on both sides, and the two felt incredibly different. I was impressed with how balanced it felt. Initially, I worried that being pitted against a skilled opposition would make the game unpleasant and result in a string of losses, but the mode also includes an auto-balance feature that will sightly boost the strength of the losing side, just to keep things interesting. The developers at Turtle Rock Studios wanted to ensure that the game is still winnable, despite the odds. Sometimes matches can feel like they can drag out, especially if both sides know what they're doing, I still felt the urge the pick up another game upon completion. Moreover, there's plenty of content that covers almost all the bases. Don't want to play with other players or deal with matchmaking? Then you can stick with bots offline that are just as competent as real opponents. Bots are an often overlooked feature, so it's reassuring that the developers are giving players options. As a huge Left 4 Dead fan, I found Evolve be a real evolution of the formula. You remember those moments in L4D where you just knew that the enemy was toying with you? Well, this title certainly brings those moments back in a big, and even more devious way. I found my time with Evolve to be incredibly fun, and it brought out the best of what co-op play is all about. There's a signature moment that's constantly happening, and I'm just dying to see what I can expect from the full release next year.
Evolve photo
I'm gonna have me some fun
There's been a lot of buzz surrounding Evolve, the new co-op shooter from Turtle Rock Studios. Helmed by the same developers of the original Left 4 Dead, fans have certainly been chomping at the bit for more information. Afte...

The Order: 1886 photo
The Order: 1886

Maybe just steer clear of The Order: 1886's police station

I don't think you'll like what's in there
Dec 15
// Brett Makedonski
Ready at Dawn released a new trailer this morning imploring prospective The Order: 1886 players to "join the London police." Before you rush into things headfirst, take one minute to watch what happens to those law...

The Order: 1886 sure is, uh, cinematic

Oct 28 // Steven Hansen
[embed]279471:55243:0[/embed] There's also a strange bit of inaction in the room when cutscenes finally end and you're asked to find a way out. I was drawn first to a paper at the bar, which had a numbered map, and, if you press to flip to the backside, names, some of them crossed out. It didn't prompt anything, like a quest, or a cutscene. Context-less, maybe it's just a piece of environmental story-telling referring to early events. Maybe it's a clue, though, an important piece of info that an interactive, attentive player can use somewhere down the line. That'd be nice, at least. Then I walked around the small room, over the dead body, several times trying to figure out how to get out before a button prompt started a cutscene wherein we thermite burn through a giant metal stove or something that was (kind of) blocking the door (but probably could've just been moved by four people?). Maybe something this cinematic and story-driven just needs is to be played in full. And only once. Maybe vertical slices aren't helpful. I liked the weapon you're given. It shoots out clouds of thermite which you then fire flares at to ignite. It was fun to watch the fire come to life in an instant and spread, though never out of control, because this is a tailored experience. Sometimes judging the distance of these clouds was tough, though it didn't matter. I don't know if the cover-based shooting gallery was easy because it's a public demo meant for people to have a good time with or because it is typical and easy, serving to get you to the next set piece. Quickly I changed my tactics and fired flare first, then thermite cloud. I tried to brain people with flares and then ignite their friends. Towards the end of the short demo I gave up on the shooting gallery, left cover, and just danced circles in the courtyard spitting fire indeterminately. That isn't what the game wants, no doubt, but I still didn't come close to dying, and it was a bit more amusing.
The Order: 1886 photo
Not saying we should 86 this order, but, hoping there's more to it
I finally played The Order: 1886, Ready at Dawn's upcoming PS4, monster-filled, alternate-London-history third-person shooter here at Paris Games Week. I still really want to like it. I like a lot of things about it. Well, ma...

Review: Sunset Overdrive

Oct 27 // Chris Carter
Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One)Developer: Insomniac GamesPublisher: Microsoft StudiosReleased: October 28, 2014MRSP: $59.99 Sunset Overdrive is in your face from the get-go with a punk theme that permeates through its sound and visual style. It's immediately obvious from the character creation screen (which offers male and female options) that this is a wacky affair, with comic book style "POPs" and "BAMs" flying through the air as you attempt to make sense of an impending zombie outbreak. No time is wasted as it throws you into the action with a quick and dirty tutorial of its jumping, bouncing, grinding, and shooting basics. The gist is that if you see a rail or siding, you can grind it, and if something looks like you can bounce off of it, you can do that too. The free-flying movement system is just one facet of this over-the-top experience, as the first gun you get is essentially a cock-and-balls blunderbuss. Although it tends to have that "trying too hard" feel at times (some jokes fall flat, namely one mission that's a big Breaking Bad joke), I genuinely loved the atmosphere from the start. It nails that comic book veneer, but it also manages to deliver a ton of its own signature charm Insomniac is known for. It's present in just about every area of the game, from a gun that shoots records called High Fidelity, to a flaming bowling ball gun called The Dude, and a kangaroo-head codpiece. Weapons even have mini tutorials that explain how they work with full voiceovers, and there's tons of personality present throughout. I particularly love one mission hub that's full of quest givers that communicate entirely through texting (shown on-screen in a style similar to Sherlock). [embed]282603:56109:0[/embed] When you die in Sunset Overdrive, you'll respawn in a number of different ways, like rising from the grave or getting beamed down from an alien ship. Fast travel is usually represented by drinking a beer, blacking out, and "appearing" at the desired location -- seriously. At no point is this a boring game. The main drawback to this style though is that it can become a bit much, particularly when it comes to the main story. In fact it's not really so much a story as it is a constant string of jokes and references, which hit more than they miss, but leave you with a feeling that something is missing. Before you know it you're back to grinding and blasting like there was no tomorrow, but sometimes it feels like there's no real point to it. The free movement system definitely takes some getting used to, but once it becomes second nature it's a blast. As I mentioned, you can bounce and grind on just about anything. But beyond that you can actually "hang" on grind rails from below, run on water, air dash, and much more. It's awkward at first because you have to hit X to grind every time you want to plant on a rail, similar to the Tony Hawk series, and some rails are so short that it's barely worth the effort. The first few hours will feel odd, which is unfortunate, but once you start getting more movement options Sunset opens up. Eventually, you start to piece together the world like a puzzle, and integrate every trick in the book until you're flying around like a pro. Again, there's also fast travel, but I almost never used it because roaming around was too much fun. The "Overdrive" system allows you to pump up a special meter (that decays) for killing enemies while grinding or bouncing. It's both intuitive and fun, as it constantly goads you into actively playing. The amount of customization is insane, and there are a large number of "Amps" to attach to weapons to change their properties, as well as a ton of perks, some of which are really out there -- like the "Screw the Fourth Wall" perk that does nothing more than initiate an announcer who talks about how awesome you are. I've played for nearly 20 hours and haven't scratched the surface of the game's Amp and perk system. Speaking of Sunset's world, the game is broken into three distinct districts, all of which look similar in nature with a slight variation in themes (factory, residential, and a mix with some Tokyo flavor). It's large but not overly so. You'll come to recognize landmarks and know your way around without a map, but it doesn't feel like you're going to the same few areas over and over. Sunset plays out like a typical open-world action game, offering a main story that eventually brings the narrative full circle, as well as over 100 sidequests ranging from races, to score-attack modes, to tower defense scenarios. The latter is probably the standout bit, as you have the option to set up traps (which are also customizable) while you defend the objective. Even the fetch quests try to play it cool with self-referential jokes on the genre, and wacky concepts like luring a robot dog across a map with an exploding kitten gun. You can also star in a makeshift episode of "Redneck Running Man." Almost everything gives you some form of reward, and during one mission I even "leveled up" by way of perk system tokens 10 times (since you get separate rewards for just about every action you do). The amount of collectibles will also frustrate or excite you to no end, with everything from neon signs to lenses, cameras, and sneakers strewn about the sprawling map. If you're completionist, you can buy maps from vendors that show the location of everything on-screen. While I enjoyed Sunset's single-player experience, online play, titled "Chaos Squad," really surprised me. If you've ever played a game like Need for Speed: Most Wanted you'll have some idea of what to expect. Basically, up to eight players are brought into a single instance of the game, which takes place on the exact same map as the campaign. A mission will randomly pop up at a location, which players will race to, earning bonuses if they're among the first to arrive. I love this system because it feels organic and seamlessly integrated into the game without seeming tacked-on or like an afterthought. The racing system will earn you points but it's completely optional, and you can take your time to see the sights and do your own thing as well as join the group. Once you get to the objective, the game will allow you to vote on one of two missions, which are similar to the campaign but balanced with more enemies for more players. It's amazing to see the sheer variety of Sunset online right in front of you, as no two players I ever saw looked or controlled alike. While there were definitely a few shared gun loadouts in games, everyone had their own personal style on display, and seeing the synergy between people using frost and flame guns to change the state of enemies and others working in tandem to destroy or slow them down is a sight to behold. I played for hours with no signs of repeating the same pattern or seeing similar co-op partners. The end of the session culminates in a tower defense blowout, which is often the most fun, and allows you to rejoin another match with the same people. The best part of Chaos Squad for me is that you can bring back rewards into your core game -- there's no separate solo or multiplayer layouts, and the better you do, the more rewards you get. Sunset also has a set of weekly challenges, as well as Sunset TV, an ongoing video series that highlights new aspects of the game at different intervals. Sunset Overdrive may have a few flaws inherent to many open-world games and lacks an engaging narrative, but it's an incredibly fun, vibrant game that's a nice break from the overly gritty tone we see far too often in today's market. After Fuse, this is exactly what Insomniac Games needed.
Sunset Overdrive review photo
This game has a goat-head codpiece in it, 'nuff said
After booting the game up, it's apparent that Sunset Overdrive is the result of Insomniac Games going back to its roots. Before the developer was called upon to release the shades-of-brown-tinted Resistance and...

Sleeping Dogs photo
But it's still a very good open-world game
Tomorrow, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition will be released to the public. It's basically the same idea as Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition -- a re-release with promises of enhanced visuals for current-gen systems ...

PvZ Garden Warfare DLC photo
PvZ Garden Warfare DLC

Free update for Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare adds tweaked classes, tacos

Do you want to taco 'bout it?
Sep 29
// Darren Nakamura
Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare has already done right by its users by providing good post-launch support via free downloadable content, and it is continuing on that path with tomorrow's Legends of the Lawn update. The DLC...
Uncharted 4 photo
Uncharted 4

Uncharted 4's Nathan Drake looks 'next gen as f*ck'

Naughty Dog's words, not mine
Sep 29
// Brett Makedonski
What can we expect from renowned development studios when it comes to creating games for current consoles? If you're in the camp that prioritizes stunning visuals and character models, Uncharted 4 looks as if it'll scra...

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