Today, indie developer/publisher Double Fine announced that it had regained the rights to Iron Brigade, a 2011 downloadable title originally published by Microsoft Studios under the name Trenched. From this point on, the game... read
Season 2 of Killer Instinct gave us a golem, a sorcerer, and a Japanese ghost, among other characters. Who's next? The CEO of UltraTech. ARIA may be an artificial intelligence, but that's not about to stop her from getting ph... read
Oh thank goodness: Ori and the Blind Forest "was already profitable a week after release," according to Moon Studios' Thomas Mahler, and publisher "Microsoft is super happy."
Ori wasn't just a delight, it was also something o... read
Two years later, Age of Empires II HD is still going strong. So strong that, according to producer Ryan Chaply, more people have spent 50+ hours with the game than there are actual humans living in Little Rock, Arkansas (~200... read
Max Payne and Alan Wake maker Remedy has delayed its next major game, Quantum Break. The third-person action title will now bring its slick time manipulation to Xbox One next year.
"We thank our fans for their patience," said... read
GOTY 2013, if you don't mention The Last of Us to me
// Stephen Turner
State of Decay was one of those pleasant surprises back in 2013. Sure, the sandbox/RPG-lite horror game was a little rough, but it was an intense experience full of free flow situations, base building, and likable survivors.... read
After finishing Ori and the Blind Forest, a heartfelt Metroidvania-style adventure for PC and Xbox One, I wondered just how the hell I managed to know so little about it going in. What a thrill.
There were moments -- not mere... read
Kudo Tsunoda, the guy who demonstrated Project Natal (now Kinect) at E3 2009, has been off working on Microsoft's crazy holographic headset HoloLens. He's going to keep at that but will also now lead a bunch of Xbox teams, i... read
Available Feb. 27 with the Ultra Edition, March 5 with the Combo Breaker Edition
// Jordan Devore
From a cosmetic perspective, I'm digging this new round of Killer Instinct characters. While the trailer is focused on next week's Aganos, a golem who looks more like a boss than a combatant, there's also a tease at the end for a character everyone seems to be calling "Ghost Girl."
I hope that name sticks. Videogames can and should be weird like that sometimes. read
For starters, you can disable Spartan Abilities in custom games
// Jordan Devore
Given the adjustments to the long-running Halo formula present in Halo 5: Guardians, players were bound to be vocal about what they did and didn't like in the multiplayer beta. 343 Industries is incorporating that feedback in... read
Improved graphics and 'hundreds of smaller improvements'
// Jordan Devore
Oh, right, State of Decay is coming to Xbox One. Rough as it is in spots, the third-person zombie survival game is worth experiencing (though preferably during a Steam sale). Running around town with your crew, fortifying bas... read
At gamescom this year, I found out that Ori and the Blind Forest isn't just a drop-dead gorgeous game; it's also quite the challenging, tight-controlling platformer. In less than two months, everyone can stop taking my ... read
While a new game may not currently be in the works, it's not out of the question
// Rob Morrow
Back in November we ran a story on the head of Microsoft's Xbox division Phil Spencer's visit to Rare's offices where he tweeted about having a look at its latest project. This visit, coupled with the filing for the... read
Forza Horizon 2 shipped this fall with plenty of inclement weather, unlike some other game. Nevertheless, its first add-on centers around even more torrential downpours on the paradisiacal sounding Storm Island.
Storm I... read
Nov 10 //
Abel Girmay Halo 5: GuardiansDeveloper: 343 IndustriesPublisher: Microsoft Game StudiosRelease: November 2015
From the moment I sat down with Halo 5: Guardians, it was clear that the game has a big focus on player movement. If you thought Halo 4's universal sprint was blasphemous (again, you're wrong), enter a Halo game with ledge climbs, running melee's, air stomps, and slides. All of these new abilities are made possible by your thrust pack.
Take the running melee for instance. When doing a normal sprint, your thruster will kick in after a few seconds, sending your spartan into a terminal velocity where your melee becomes a running charge that kills in one hit from the back, and your crouch turns into a slide. The ground pounds are similar to the air stomps in Crysis. To initiate a ground pound, you simply jump, aim by holding down the melee button, and a cursor will appear on any surface below, allowing you to smash down with speed. I do wonder how effective a technique the ground pound will be though, as the entire time you're aiming midair, you hover with the thruster pack, making yourself a painfully obvious target.
In exchange for the extra maneuvers, your shields take a hit, never recharging until you come out of your thrust-fueled abilities. It's quite the trade off, and after more than an hour of play, one that I still hadn't quite gotten the hang of. It feels as if 343 was trying to create some sort trade off between mobility and safety, perhaps even trying to find a middle ground between fans that enjoy sprint and those that long of Halo 3's slower pace. In any case, it led to many instances where I would feel like I was being punished for trying to escape a double team.
One of the odder additions has to be the clamber system. Essentially a ledge grab and climb, clambering allows you to vault up platforms that are just out of reach of your standard jump. Playing Slayer on the map Truth, a remake of Midship, I must have killed and been killed three times trying to jump to the platform ring where the energy sword rests, as it was oddly just out of standard jump range. Finally, we had all wised up to the fact that the clamber was necessary to make it to the top.
A relatively small, inoffensive change to be sure, but more and more I started to feel its implementation was forced. The issue I had with it is that most platforms that seem within jumping range are always just out of reach. Playing on a brand new map, Empire, I found many situations where I would expect to be able to make a jump, only to fall just short without the clamber mechanic. It created this weird chicken or the egg feeling where I'm not sure if clamber is the solution to a problem, or maps were intentionally designed to justify the mechanics existence. My time playing on Truth seemed to suggest the latter, as having this new ability on a well known map never opened up any new or interesting routes, or ways to interact with the map.
For those of you who keep up with NeoGAF and its various leaks, you make have heard that Halo 5 has aim down sights (ADS). Well, yes, it does, and yes, ADS doesn't feel good in Halo. While there is no movement penalty, aiming down does narrow your field of view, as it does in all other games.
The problem here is that aiming down is a feature that works best, and only in games where weapons by design are inaccurate from the hip, and guns are meant to kill almost as soon as you can land your cursor over an enemy. Halo games do neither of these things. Losing your field of vision with no significant accuracy gain is redundant, and at worst, I felt the narrow view caused me to lose my beat on an enemy. Frustrating in a game where it takes five head shots on average to score a kill.
So that covers the new mechanics, but what about the modes? Apart from Slayer, the only other mode available was the all new Breakout. In Breakout, you and your team of four take on an opposing team, racing to win five rounds. Each player has one life per round, is without shields (not unlike in SWAT), and starts off with an SMG. Their are only two Battle Rifles and two Assault rifles between eight players. It's quite a tense mode, and like Grifball or Zombies, can make for good bouts of quick fun.
After I had finished my 90 minutes with Halo 5: Guardians it was clear that 343 wants this game to be more energetic, faster, and physically dynamic. I fear, however, that in their quest the good people of 343 Industries have changed so much that what's left can not be properly identified as a Halo game.
That, in summation, is my problem with Halo 5: Guardians. The sinking pit-of-my-stomach feeling that I left with as I thought to myself, "This is not a Halo game." On a more hopeful note, the upcoming December/January beta the is earliest that a beta has launched in franchise history, and 343 made it very clear they want fans to help them make meaningful changes. So if you have an Xbox One and a copy of Halo: The Master Chief Collection (which you should because that game is amazing), participate, be vocal, and keep your fingers crossed for the next year. I know that's what I'll be doing
Not my granpappy's Halo I am not opposed to change. While certain circles of Halo fans find it popular to hate Halo 4, I've always appreciated what 343 Industries did with that game. Sprint was a logical next step to character movement, while loadou... read feature
Nov 08 //
Bill Zoeker As a little bonus, here's a dumb joke video I made with some of the other footage I captured.
I swear to God, if anyone is confused by that headline...
At a recent Xbox event, I got to play a bunch of multiplayer stuff in Halo: The Master Chief Collection. I was caught off guard when we were suddenly dropped into the online multiplayer for Halo: Combat Evolved's PC version,... read feature
343 and Run Studios' hour-long Halo 2: Anniversary documentary is now up on YouTube.
I enjoyed the first 20 minutes, a nostalgic look at the original game and its sequel with fun behind-the-scenes tidbits sprinkled throughou... read
Blur Studio has been killing it lately. You might not know the company by name, but as someone who plays modern videogames you'll surely recognize the company's visual effects.
When Halo 2 Anniversary debuts in The Master Ch... read
You may have heard that Halo: The Master Chief Collection will require a 20GB day-one update, but did you also know that there's a documentary for Halo 2 Anniversary, one of the games in this compilation, on the way? (I hope... read
I genuinely like the trailer music in this specific setting
// Jordan Devore
Iron Galaxy took over continued development of Killer Instinct for Microsoft following Amazon's acquisition of Double Helix earlier this year. We'll get to see what the studio has come up with starting tomorrow when the firs... read
After looking over IGN's full list of Achievements in Halo: The Master Chief Collection, yeah, I won't be earning all 4,000 (!) Gamerscore points.
Hell, I knew that after reading the literal first Achievement description: "Co... read
Sep 25 //
Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Playground Games (Xbox One) / Sumo Digital (Xbox 360) / Turn 10Publisher: Microsoft StudiosReleased: September 30, 2014MSRP: $59.99 (Xbox One) / $49.99 (Xbox 360)
If you're familiar with the first Forza Horizon, you'll feel right at home. The Horizon Festival is taking place again, except this time it's all the way over in southern Europe by way of France and Italy. Your role is, yet again, to become the top Horizon racer by collecting different colored wristbands as you win championships and work your way up the ladder.
Your progress is tracked a couple different ways. Obviously an overall level is raised by completing activities, and every level gives you one Wheelspin. The Wheelspin is a slot machine that either gives you a credit payout or a free car. I've gotten some sweet rewards from this thing. Tracking your progress is really easy with a win/loss ratio, but in Horizon it's all about how cool you look while doing all this.
Drifting, near misses, getting air, and destroying things in the world can all add to a skill chain if done in a row. After accruing up a certain amount of points, these unlock skill points that can be spent on perks. Everyone loves perks. These are pretty standard, and increase things like bonuses, XP, or unlock certain abilities that make life easier.
There's a couple characters that interact with you over the course of the game; Ben and Ashley. Ben is the guy. He's the type of guy everyone wants to know, party with, and, in Horizon 2, he's that guy everyone wants to drive with. He's the guy leading the Horizon Festival, after all. Be prepared to hear him say "mate" at the end of every single race. I promise it gets funny eventually.
Ultimately, he ends up helping the player learn the mechanics of the game, suggesting where they should go next, and even hooks them up with new rides every once in awhile. Ashley is the mechanic that fixes up all those new rides, and that's all she's really present for outside of being a support character.
As far as story and character development goes, that's as in-depth as it gets in Horizon 2. That's really all one expects from a racing game, anyway. It's non-intrusive (nor over the top) to -- and provides a good foundation for -- the real focus: racing.
Forza Horizon 2 doesn't attempt to shake up the tried-and-true racing formula. The championship event races break down into one of two types: beat everyone to the finish line in one long sprint or in a traditional lap-based race. Instead of structural variety, Horizon instead relies on locale and visual variety to keep players interested. This was totally the right call.
Forza Motorsport 5 was already a visual treat, but the heavily modified engine used in Horizon 2 is absolutely breathtaking. All of the 200-something cars are painstakingly detailed (interiors and all) as always, and are convincingly true-to-life. Southern Europe features back country, densely packed urban areas, coast towns, and everything in-between. It's a very, very big world that's incredibly open and just begs to be explored.
For the first time, Forza now has a dynamic weather system. Truly, this is the standout visual element in the game. Sunsets and sunrises are amazing, and never look the same as the cloud placement/density changes their appearance every single time. At any moment, thick clouds could fill an entirely blue sky and, suddenly, there's a downpour of rain. Radio personalities will also comment on this when it happens, which is also pretty cool the first few times it happens. This isn't just a visual trick either, as rain will puddle up in the roads, bead up on the cars (and windshields), and create slick conditions.
The visual effect on the windshield is particularly jaw-dropping; light will refract off of each individual bead of rain and cause visual interference just as it does in real life. Windshield wipers will automatically clear the windshield, and will leave a line of water wherever their turn radius ends. You have never seen something like this done in a racing game before, and it's something you really need to see for yourself.
In motion, everything comes together to create one of the best-looking titles out there right now. Horizon 2 runs in full 1080p at 30 frames per second, never dipping below that. Some may have an issue with a racing game running at 30 FPS, but it's honestly no problem here. Everything runs incredibly smooth and feels perfectly responsive. If I wasn't told it ran at that frame rate, I would've been none-the-wiser.
Having a vast, detailed world can still feel empty fairly quickly if there's not a lot to do, and thankfully Horizon 2 does not come up short in activities to partake in. Outside of over 150 championship events, there are Showcase events, barn finds, Bucket List activities, speed traps, and online modes.
Showcases have the player up against some type of machinery (not a car) in a head-to-head race. They're easily the craziest out of all the events, and, despite being blatant smoke and mirrors, created some of the most memorable moments in the game. Since there's so few of them, I won't spoil any of the surprise. Definitely be on the lookout for these every few championship events.
Barn finds are nothing new, and still task the player with finding an old, rusted-out vehicles in abandoned barns around the map. They're actually pretty difficult to find. I found an army jeep in one of them, which felt particularly silly to bring into a racing event, but things like that fit right in with the rest of Horizon. It's just a fun atmosphere.
Bucket List activities are pretty straightforward as well. These also involve finding cars around the map, placed on the side of roads. However, these cars are usually the best in the game and give a taste of what they're like by completing small activities in them (with varying degrees of difficulty). Speed traps are simply just cameras that radar how fast you're going on a particular road. Sometimes I'd try and beat my personal best on these over and over before I realized I spent a good twenty minutes doing this.
At any point, two button clicks will take you to the online lobby system. No menu navigating or lobby juggling needed, as it just works within the game and brings you together with strangers or friends in the full game world. You can participate in road trips, championship events, or explore parts of the map together. It's the type of thing where the structured events are certainly fun, but I imagine the community coming up with pick-up games that add to the multiplayer's longevity.
The avoidance of too much menu navigation extends into the rest of the game as well. If you have a Kinect hooked up, a digital personal assistant named ANNA can take your commands and make life a whole lot easier. ANNA allows you to just about play the entire game without ever using a menu of your own doing.
Say you know you just want to do the next championship event -- you can have ANNA set the GPS navigator to take you to whichever one is nearest. She'll also provide suggestions of things to do occasionally, or you can just outright ask her what it is she thinks you should do next. This system creates a nice flow, and truly enhances the experience. It's the perfect use of the Kinect.
I'm all about a stellar soundtrack, and Horizon 2 nails it. There's something to be said about driving a Lamborghini through a super dense field somewhere over 150 mph, barely able to see, with Chvrches is playing in the background. A soundtrack where Chromeo, The Clash, or Thee Oh Sees are just as likely to play as Vilvaldi, Schubert, or Tchaikovsky excites me like nothing else. Playground Games really knows how to make a road trip playlist.
With the original Forza Horizon, we were a little disappointed in the frequency and length of the loading screens. Unfortunately, that's still the case here. Again, the loading screens aren't overwhelmingly long, but they appear before and after every single race. All that time adds up to quite a lot. It's understandable that they're there, but I could've done with less of them.
If you were a fan of the original or its simulator brother, there's no reason to pass up Horizon 2. It's simulation enough to not lose longtime fans, while easing the realistic driving just enough to allow new players to jump in and not feel like the car physics are working against them the whole time.
Every element in Forza Horizon 2 adds up to an exceptional experience. The story isn't over the top so as to get in the way of racing, driving feels as good as it ever did in Forza Motorsport, there's a ton of things to do, and the game looks absolutely beautiful -- especially the long-awaited dynamic weather system. Forza Horizon 2 is a must-have on the Xbox One.
Good racing, mate The original Forza Horizon impressed us back in 2012 with its ability to incorporate what we already loved about Forza Motorsport into an absolutely massive open-world sandbox racing game, while not completely ditching its si... read feature
Wort wort wort!
I recently got to check out Halo: The Master Chief Collection at an Xbox event, which gave me a big ol' happy, because I love me some sweet, sweet Covie-killing action. In 343 Industries' presentation, they spent half of the... read feature
I keep forgetting that Moon Studios' platform adventure game Ori and the Blind Forest is coming to PC as well as Xbox One, despite being published by Microsoft Studios. Big thing to forget!
My takeaway from Brett's preview o... read
The next entry in the long-running Age of Empire series is Castle Siege, a touch-based game built for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 by Smoking Gun Interactive.
Players will gather resources and build up civilizations such as... read
Aug 14 //
For the 30-minute showing, Moon only really wanted to talk about the gameplay and platforming aspects of Ori. Starting approximately three hours into the game, the demo began right as a new mechanic was obtained -- the bash ability. It's just one of the several unique mechanics that will be introduced as Ori runs its course, but the core philosophy will be the same each time.
Like all well-designed games, Ori makes sure that the player knows how to use the tools in its arsenal. When something new is opened, the next several sections will ensure that the player's honed -- if not perfected -- the skill before moving on. Later in the game, an amalgamation of the abilities combined with some platforming prowess will be the only way to advance, so it's essential to know them early.
In our demo, bash (which might as well have been called "dash") was the one that Moon wanted to focus on. It's a multi-faceted tool with many uses to accomplish different goals. With regard to puzzle solving, it's a means to redirect projectiles in different directions. In terms of combat, it's a handy alternate attack if you ever feel like switching things up. And, maybe most crucially, it bolsters the platforming by adding some much-needed distance mid-jump.
Even though Ori looks as if it'll be a lot of things, that last one's the heart of the entire experience -- the platforming. Without it, Ori would be just another beautiful puzzle game (not that there's anything wrong with that). However, it's the incessant platforming challenges that make the game a true test of skill -- something that looks as if it'll cause actual frustration instead of being a walk in the park.
Luckily, that frustration won't come as a result of Ori's ineptitude. If the final release is as polished as the demo was, any failures will fall squarely on the player's shoulders. It's been a long time since I've felt platforming controls that were as tight as Ori's, evoking memories of my time spent with Super Meat Boy. That's not bad company to have in this conversation.
Really, that's the aspect of Ori and the Blind Forest that I'm most excited about -- the well-controlled platforming. These games can have a million tricks up their sleeves -- gorgeous aesthetics, unique mechanics, wondrous music -- the list could go on forever. But, without a solid core tenet tying everything together, it'll ultimately come off as sloppy. Fortunately, that's not the case with Ori; it's poised to be a platformer that we remember for a long time, and not just because it looks so damn good.
There's a really solid platformer in there too One glance at Moon Studios' Ori and the Blind Forest is enough to be immediately enamored by the game's visuals. Actually, it's almost an inevitability. Every piece of media that Microsoft releases for Ori draws att... read feature
The new batch of cars revealed for Forza Horizon 2 brings about a bit of a staunch reminder that open-world racing games aren't all that realistic. Let's face it -- there's a slim chance you'll ever be behind the wheel o... read
Halo's presence at San Diego Comic-Con continued today with some new details on Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
The team at 343 and Certain Affinity showed off for the first time the re-mastered Zanzibar map from Halo 2. ... read
Digital series streaming this November on Xbox Live
// Jordan Devore
Ridley Scott is executive producing Halo: Nightfall, a live-action digital series that will bridge the gap between Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians. The latter game prominently features a new character, "legendary manhunter" Jam... read
Iron Galaxy is picking up Killer Instinct where Double Helix left off with a second season of content and as announced today at EVO 2014, one of the upcoming characters will be Maya.
She's returning to the series with her tru... read