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King's Quest developer talks silent film influences, possible Wii U port

Jul 28 // Chris Carter
Destructoid: Can you give us a bit of background on the history of The Odd Gentlemen and the acquisition of the King's Quest rights? This is a rather long story but I'd like to hear it from your perspective. Matt Korba: Many people have tried to bring back King's Quest over the years, in many different ways.  Our game and concept was built from the ground up, so besides public knowledge I don't know anything about the direction other teams wanted to take the series.  What I do know is that a little over two years ago, Activision was looking to fund and support a development team to reimagine King's Quest. They put out a call for ideas to various studios. I had been meeting with Activision since I was a student working on Winterbottom about possible collaborations, but it wasn't until King's Quest came along that we found a match.  King's Quest is my favorite series of all time so you can imagine how excited I was for a chance to bring the classic series back to life.  I met with Lindsey (our producer) and Evan (our art director) on the roof and we put together a pitch over a very long lunch for what we thought would be an interesting direction. It centered on King Graham as a very old man sharing stories from his past with his curious granddaughter Gwendolyn.  At the time we were only nine people, but Activision loved our creative pitch so much that they took a chance on us.  This rarely happens in the industry. It was a big risk for them because, they could have gone with a larger team, or a team that has shipped more titles on more platforms, but they decided to go with a small team that had the best creative (and the biggest KQ nerd). I am externally grateful to them for that. From there, Sierra was brought back, they fostered the growth of our company and here we are today.  What lead to the choice to include action sequences in this new rendition? I particularly liked how everything wasn't just a QTE. The original directive was to reimagine and update the classic series for a modern audience.  But, for us that wasn't a good enough reason to include small action sequences.   One of the most important parts of a good adventure game is pacing, and for us we are always trying to strike a balance between gameplay, story, and art.  If we were going to include anything it needed to serve that purpose. The action sequences help to break up the pacing and keep it interesting. When we put an action sequence in the game it usually has a puzzle element, branching choice, or a story point to it. We decided early on that if something can be played it should be, as opposed to watching a cutscene. This theory is not new to our game, the classic series mixed things up with action as well. The early games even had jumping and swimming controls. Remember climbing the beanstalk in KQ1 or the whale tongue in KQ4? The games felt pretty dangerous when you had to time a click just right before a wolf ate you or to throw a pie at an attacking yeti in KQ5, and of course using the arrow keys to avoid the paths of monsters added tension to the exploring.   Will we see the same cast of characters, notably the knights, pop up in other episodes? The game takes place over the lifetime of Graham.  That means that not only does much of the cast return, but they age as well. Players will get to control Graham from a young squire to a very old man.  Each chapter will also introduce new characters. How was it working with the voice cast? I noticed that all of them seemed to have a lot of fun based on the strong performances. It was an amazing experience. The fact that we got all those people still baffles me.  Our casting director Eric Weiss, did a phenomenal job of getting together a great cast. There were few occasions where we had placed a sample voice clip into our casting doc and Eric would just say "Why don't we just cast that person". To which we would say "Huh? We can do that"? We had done some small VO work in the past but this was definitely a huge learning process for the whole team. I think in general the cast got excited, because games like this don't come around everyday. This was a story filled with charm and humor, they wouldn't need to record 500 stabbing exertions or one line taunts. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for young Graham's mannerisms? I noticed that he seemed familiar when he'd get really excited about something. The inspiration for him was really only the classic series.  With other characters I can say, oh Groucho Marx inspired him, or Monty Python inspired them, but Graham was difficult.  We wanted to allow Graham to grow into a hero.  We didn't think it would be appropriate for a Graham to be a traditional "Bad Ass." We have seen enough characters like that already. We looked at the classic series and knew where we needed to take him, so we worked backwards.  I wrote this line early on to describe Graham and everything stemmed from there. "While other knights returned from their quests trailing bloody victories behind them, Graham returned with friendly dragons and yeti companions." Oh, and silent film, we pulled a ton of his physicality from the silent film greats; Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd.  Do you have any sort of timeline in mind for future episodes? We want to make sure the games are great and of high quality.  When we announce the schedule I think people will be impressed.  This is not a game you will have to wait a year in between chapters.   Was there any consideration in terms of developing for Wii U? If the game does well it can definitely end up there as well as some other platforms. But, we are still a relatively small team and 5 platforms at launch almost killed us! Just in case you haven't heard this yet, I feel like I need to make the case for the Land of the Green Isles (I saw the tapestry Easter egg on the wall in the castle). Is there a chance we may see them and some Alexander adventures in the future? Season 1 is focused on Graham's adventures, but if there is a demand for it anything is possible. That said some of your favorite charters just might be coming back in future chapters.   Likewise, if you can answer this question, where does the series stand on re-releases of the classic entries? This game is a big testing ground for many people.  If it can prove that there is still an audience for this type of game at this type of scale, then I think it opens many opportunities for us, Sierra, and other development studios as well.
King's Quest interview photo
'This game is a big testing ground'
As you could probably tell from my review, I was blown away by King's Quest: A Knight to Remember. I went in with very little in terms of expectations and at the end of it, I was looking at a Game of the Year contender. Spurr...

Life is Strange: Episode Four Achievement guide

Jul 28 // Brett Makedonski
Dark Room: Finish Episode 4: Dark Room This is the only Achievement that's earned through story progression. Just finish the fourth episode. Easy peasy. Ambient: Take optional photo #1 in Episode Four: Dark Room The first photo op takes a while to get to. It's available as soon as Max has control of her camera again. Take a picture of Chloe while she's working hard at her computer. Time-Lapsed: Take optional photo #2 in Episode Four: Dark Room Fortunately, we don't have to wait as long for the second photo as we did for the first. Once in step-douche's garage, go take a gander at the bird's nest that's hiding behind the plank. Move the plank to the side and take a picture for Max's Arcadia Bay Wildlife Series. Make sure to move the plank back when you're done; drill sergeant David doesn't like people messing with his stuff. Balance: Take optional photo #3 in Episode Four: Dark Room You know that ominous totem pole in the corner of the Blackwell Academy courtyard? Well, now there's an ominous pile of stones in front of it. Go ahead and take a picture of the "Blair Witch" rocks for this episode's third Achievement. Rangefinder: Take optional photo #4 in Episode Four: Dark Room This one's also in the Blackwell courtyard. Go talk to Samuel -- he's sitting on the bench -- about animals, squirrels in particular. He'll throw a nugget of food, which attracts one furry friend. Use the box of food next to Samuel to lure another squirrel over. When they're snacking together, take a picture of them. Gamma Value: Take optional photo #5 in Episode Four: Dark Room Once in the boys' dorms, take the hallway to the right and look out the window. There are some footprints that Max finds photo-worthy. Dioptic Power:Take optional photo #6 in Episode Four: Dark Room Before long, you'll end up on the beach. This episode's sixth photo is the third beached whale from the right. Snap a picture for some of the saddest Gamerscore you'll ever earn. Fisheye: Take optional photo #7 in Episode Four: Dark Room This one requires some quick reflexes and possibly a rewind or two. Off to the left of the barn is a bird posted up on the fence. Take a quick photo of it. If our feathered friend flies away, reverse time until he sits still long enough for a picture. Manually Exposed: Take optional photo #8 in Episode Four: Dark Room The next one's owlfully easy to find. There's an owl hanging out in the corner of the loft in the barn. Once you're up there, do what Max does best. Slideshow: Take optional photo #9 in Episode Four: Dark Room This one's inside the End of the World Party. Go around the outside of the pool and up to where the VIP booth is. Go into the unmarked door. When in there, take a photo of Justin at the sink with his lower half lined up with the skeleton graffiti. Tripod: Take optional photo #10 in Episode Four: Dark Room In the pool area of the End of the World Party, move off to the right side and look up and out the windows. Find a place where you can line up a nice double moon shot. Wait. Double moon?! Shutterbug: Take all optional photos in Episode Four: Dark Room This one will unlock as soon as you pick up the last optional photo. Two Achievements for the price of one!
Life is Strange photo
Point camera, earn Gamerscore
We're inching ever-closer to the conclusion of Life is Strange. As we get nearer to knowing what the narrative holds for Max and Chloe, we find a bit of familiarity in the Achievements. Like always, episode four Dark Roo...

Dragon Quest XI photo
And it looks fantastic!
[Update: According to a statement made to IGN, the NX version is only "under consideration." Nice backpedal attempt Square Enix]. Square Enix just officially announced Dragon Quest XI, the next mainline title in the publ...


Review: Adventure Time Puzzle Quest

Jul 27 // Chris Carter
Adventure Time Puzzle Quest (Android, iOS [reviewed])Developer: WayForward, Cartoon NetworkPublisher: D3 Go!Released: July 23, 2015MSRP: Free (with microtransactions) If you've never played a Puzzle Quest game before, the concept is fairly easy to grasp -- it's a match-three. All you have to do is switch tiles to create matches of at least three of a certain color, and you'll do a certain amount of damage to enemy forces, which you'll do battle with in an RPG-like format. That's basically it, as the series is a bit more active than a lot of other puzzlers in the same subgenre. Except with Adventure Time, a few extra cogs have been thrown into the machine to spice things up a bit. Enemy mice tiles will slowly make their way to the top of the screen, worms will periodically lower your health if they aren't dealt with, and other tiles may explode after a certain amount of time. It's up to you to manage offense and defense, alongside of your party abilities (such as Jake's taunt) to clear out your foes as quickly as possible. On paper, it actually sounds pretty cool. You'll start with Finn and Jake on a fun little adventure to rescue Ice King's drumset, and go from there to other quest-givers like Princess Bubblegum and Flame Princess. The animations for attacks are neat, especially Jake, who transforms into giant boots and jackhammers to smite baddies. But as time goes on, you'll start to understand more of how the freemium nature of the game spills into every facet of the experience, which significantly sours things. For one, combat is painfully slow. Even on the fifth mission of the game, damage starts to become woefully low, both on your side and with the enemy forces. There were times were I was doing 5% damage to one enemy with a multi-combo attack, and sometimes it takes up to 10 seconds for the matches and your attack animation to play. These aren't epic boss fights with villains like Hunson Abadeer or the Earl of Lemongrab either -- they're mere skirmishes with rats. This all plays into the in-app purchase (IAP) scheme. Multiple confusing currencies can be used to heal or revive characters (a soft energy system), buy them equipment, and buy temporary "recruits." Almost everything ties into IAP, to the point where after only an hour the game tempts you to constantly replenish your party and buy new items to make battles go faster. It's just too much, and even though there is a tournament mode that hosts different daily events, it all feels like a slog. If you've never played the series before and the concept sounds interesting, just go with the original game (which has hit multiple platforms at this point), the legion of other match-threes that spawned after it, or the superior Marvel Puzzle Quest, which is a much more respectable mobile rendition. Cartoon Network really needs to re-evaluate the developers it chooses for the Adventure Time license, because this series deserves better, and has performed poorly for far too long. [This review is based on a retail build of the free-to-play game.]
Puzzle Quest review photo
Vengeance for Orgalorg
I have a love-hate relationship with Adventure Time. In recent years, there hasn't been much in the way of consistent character development or advancement of the core plot, outside of a select few instances per season. Yet, I...

Splatoon photo
Matchmaking and more
Earlier this year, Nintendo promised a big update for Splatoon in August, and we now have official confirmation that it will arrive on August 5. It'll bring Squad Battle and Private Battle matchmaking modes -- the former...

CAPCOM photo
But Capcom's working on it
This weekend's Street Fighter V beta could be described as many things. Smooth isn't one of them. Players have struggled to get past the start screen since the beta launched Thursday evening, and those that have actually mana...

Podtoid 300: Randy Pitchford's Little Asshole

Jul 26 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]296683:59691:0[/embed] What We Discussed Beer and Philly Cheese Steaks Space Jam 2 ft. Lebron James Shenmue 3 successfully funded Capcom's new business strategy for Street Fighter V EVO 2015 was a thing that happened Van Halen is bad and should feel bad Deep Silver dumps Dead Island 2 developer Yager Speaking of huge Koch... Rise of the Tomb Raider timed exclusivity details Itagaki and Devil's Third Darren once tried to punch a little girl Batman Arkham Knight SATPOTPAQ Randy Pitchford is still a dick Recent Episodes Podtoid 299: Blast Ball Podtoid 298: Tales of E3 and Batman: Arkham Knight  Podtoid 297: E3 2015 Predictions, Tips & Tricks  Podtoid 296: On Fleek Podtoid 295: Squidnapped Send any and all questions, tips, and Brett Makedonski fan art to [email protected]
PODTOID photo
Hobby-grade genre-blended meta-growth
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. The newest episode of Podtoid is here and ready to caress your ear holes with the latest, sexiest video game news and whatever inane nonsense Destructoid editors enjoy talking about.

Chinese console ban photo
Approved for manufacture, sale anywhere
China is lifting nationwide restrictions on video game consoles, The Wall Street Journal reports. The nation eased the embargo last year by allowing console manufacturers to operate in Shanghai's free-trade zone, leading to M...

Experience Points .20: Red Dead Redemption

Jul 25 // Ben Davis
The desert life There really aren't enough games that go for the Wild Western setting, and probably no other game pulls it off quite as spectacularly as Red Dead Redemption. It's set in an area inspired by the Rio Grande Basin connecting Texas and Mexico, as well as the deserts and prairies of Arizona and New Mexico. It also takes place in a time of Wild West cowboys, horses, outlaws, gunslinging, and saloons, so it basically feels like playing a classic Spaghetti Western film. The desert vistas in this game are absolutely gorgeous. In fact, my favorite thing to do was just to ride around and look at all the different locations. The sandy expanses, the majestic rock formations, the fields of cacti and desert shrubs, the old Western-style towns and dilapidated structures, and those sunsets... my god. Every inch of this game is stunning. Sometimes I just sat around on top of my horse for a few minutes and marveled at the world around me. I've only been out West once in my life, when I was like five years old, so I didn't really get to appreciate it as much as I would have liked. I'd love to take a trip around that area again sometime, in part because Red Dead Redemption makes it look so beautiful. It's rare that a game makes me want to go out and see the world like this one did. Draw! Good old-fashioned duels are a staple of the Western genre, so it's no surprise they make an appearance here. I've been obsessed with Western duel scenes ever since I watched The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which has quite possibly the most glorious duel ever filmed. Two men (or three, in the case of the film) standing at a distance, their hands readied above their guns, sweat rolling down their faces, waiting for the signal to draw their weapons to see who can shoot faster and become the victor... it's always such a thrilling scene to watch. The duels in Red Dead Redemption aren't quite as long and fancy as the ones from Sergio Leone's films, but they're still very satisfying. Some duels take place as a part of the story, but many occur randomly. Marston may be challenged to duels by outlaws just by walking through a town, or if he's caught cheating at poker, or even if he rudely knocks over a passing stranger. If he accepts the duel, then the standoff begins. The camera shows both participants before coming in close to focus on Marston's hand hovering above his holstered gun, and then time slows down as shots are fired. It's very cinematic, which makes it feel even more like an homage to its film inspirations. I also like that, in some cases, Marston can win by simply disarming his opponent rather than killing them. Doing so generates both honor and fame, while killing only generates fame. It makes me feel good to play as the virtuous Western hero sometimes, so I always tried to aim for my opponent's gun hand whenever possible. It's what the man with no name would have done (unless he's dueling against Angel Eyes, that is!). John Marston, with the rope, in the conservatory Speaking of being honorable, I particularly enjoyed the option of using the lasso to subdue foes. It's not always the best method, but I tried to use the lasso as often as possible, not only because it means I don't have to kill as many people, but it's also just really fun to use. Bad guys can be lassoed, hogtied, and lifted onto the back of Marston's horse to take them to jail kicking and screaming. It's a bit trickier to capture bounties this way, because the player often needs to act quickly before the criminal's pals appear to help him out. Plus it feels good knowing that it's possible to solve problems non-violently. I'm always pleased when games give me these kinds of options. Of course, if the player wants to be a bit more villainous with their lasso, that's also a possibility. Marston can lasso someone while on horseback and drag them along behind him to kill them, hold on to the rope with the lasso around their necks to choke them, lasso their horses to try and buck them off a cliff, or even go the old-fashioned dastardly route and hogtie someone and then leave them lying on the train tracks to meet their demise. All you need is a bit of creativity to turn the lasso into a deadly weapon. A horse with no name John Marston wouldn't get very far without a trusty steed, and luckily there are plenty of horses for him to choose from. While the horses in Red Dead Redemption may not be as memorable as, say, Epona or Agro, they still play a very important role as companions. The game provides Marston with his own horse early on, but it also allows him to steal other people's horses or even capture and tame wild horses whenever he wants. If a strong-looking stallion is spotted in the wild, Marston can use his lasso to reign it in and then jump on its back to try and tame it. This was my favorite method of finding horses. I tend to go for the solid white or solid black horses, which seemed to be kind of rare and challenging to tame, but they're just so impressive-looking. I liked to pretend I was riding around on Shadowfax or one of the Black Riders' horses. Many players probably go through a lot of different horses during their playthrough, but I usually tried to keep my horses as long as possible. They tended to be more trustworthy and stronger the longer I kept them around, and I also couldn't help but feel a sense of connection with my horse friends after a while. I hated to see them get hurt, especially the ones I captured in the wild since so much work went into finding them and gaining their trust. For something that could easily be seen as a disposable item within the game, Red Dead Redemption sure did a fantastic job of making the horses feel alive and full of personality, something more than just a mode of transportation. Gambling man While the story and free-roam play of Red Dead Redemption was phenomenal, I also just could not get enough of the mini-games. Poker, liar's dice, five finger fillet, horseshoes, arm wrestling, blackjack... I spent so much time playing all of these games in each of the settlements, trying to master them and win money. They're all really fun and impressively fleshed out. While I probably spent the most time playing poker, my best game was definitely liar's dice. I'd actually never heard of it before playing Red Dead Redemption, but I quickly mastered it and raked in the cash. Horseshoes, on the other hand, was definitely not my game. I was terrible at aiming correctly, but it was still fun to learn. Five finger fillet was also enjoyable simply because I would never want to try it in real life. I value my own hands, thank you very much, but I don't mind the risk of butchering Marston's body parts. Although it is kind of strange how his hands seem to be just fine even if he accidentally stabs himself repeatedly with a knife. I messed up so much that I'm surprised he still had fingers! A grizzly encounter There is almost nothing more terrifying than hearing the snarl of a cougar while Marston is roaming the wilderness in Red Dead Redemption. Cougars are fast and powerful, they can easily kill in one or two strikes, and they're very difficult to detect due to their tan color which blends in well with the sandy desert environment. Usually, the player won't know a cougar is near until they hear the loud, ferocious snarling. The sound always stopped me dead in my tracks, as I desperately tried to search for the location of the animal before it was too late. Then when they pounce, it's a strenuous fight to the death as I try to avoid their attacks and get a few shots in as they're running around. Even when I was being careful, they mauled me to death on more than one occasion. The cougars are no joke! But even the cougars pale in comparison to the grizzly bears. The bears make a loud growling sound as well, but more often than not, I would see the bear before I heard it. I would just be minding my own business in the woods, then turn around and BAM... there's a big old grizzly bear bounding straight toward me! It scared me every single time, and sometimes I'd even have to pause the game for a bit just to take a breather before confronting the animal. The bears in Red Dead Redemption are arguably even more dangerous than the cougars. Sure, they're slower, but they're so powerful and difficult to take down that I found them to be way more frightening. And usually, once I killed one bear, two or three more would come running out of nowhere to avenge their friend. It was almost certain death once I found myself surrounded by multiple bears. Chill out, bears! I can only handle so much bear at once! Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing.14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.15: Super Mario Sunshine.16: Final Fantasy VII.17: Nier.18: Chrono Trigger.19: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Red Dead Redemption photo
John Marston! Remember the name!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Obscure Video Games: The Sniper 2

Jul 25 // Obscure Video Games
Gameplay is the least interesting thing here. The real star is the bizarre, ridiculous storyline. You and your friend C.A. pick up a hitchhiker as you're driving through the desert one day. You stop for lunch, and the Mafia accidentally hits the three of you with a bomb full of a nerve gas called "Tacklmacain." C.A. gets kidnapped by a mysterious stranger. You find out that the gas is slowly killing you, and you have to find the antidote. The restaurant owner turns out to be working undercover for the CIA and offers to help get you the antidote in exchange for your sniping skills. It gets weirder, but I won't ruin the rest. If you want some more info (and spoilers), watch this video: [embed]295876:59482:0[/embed] The game isn't very long -- only about 12 stages -- but there is a branching storyline as well as challenge missions that give you some replay. But again, the sniping part is just not that fun, so even if you hit an ending, you'll probably be fine missing the rest.
Obscure Video Games photo
Hit or miss?
The Sniper 2 is not a good game. In fact, it's pretty much the epitome of "kusoge." But that's what makes it so entertaining. Terrible voice acting, mediocre graphics, and an incomprehensible story are what kept me playing al...

Red Ash prototype footage looks pretty rough

Jul 25 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]296626:59685:0[/embed] The work-in-progress was developed by Hyde Inc. using placeholder assets, some of which were pinched from Mighty No. 9, to give prospective backers a vague idea what Red Ash might be like. Hyde also showed off a character model of protagonist Beck that looks more representative of the concept art. Between that, the prototype, and this mock-up of a screenshot, maybe you can conjure a mental image of how the final product will turn out, you know, should it ever get funded. Red Ash: Prototype Check [Comcept via Kickstarter]
Red Ash gameplay photo
Too little, too late?
Red Ash hasn't become an overnight success for Comcept. Unlike Mighty No. 9, the project is struggling to meet its $800,000 Kickstarter goal, having raised just over half that with 9 days to go. With the clock winding down, Comcept is trying to turn the campaign's fortunes around, announcing a potential PlayStation 4 release and sharing some early footage of a pre-alpha prototype.

Street Fighter V photo
1080p beta gameplay
[Update: Capcom has provided the following statement to Destructoid: "We apologize for the ongoing issues that users have been experiencing with the SFV beta test. In order to allow us to fix the issues as quickly as po...

Review: F1 2015

Jul 23 // Brett Makedonski
F1 2015 (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Codemasters BirminghamPublisher: Bandai NamcoMSRP: $54.99 (PC), $59.99 (PS4, Xbox One)Released: July 10, 2015 (Europe), July 21, 2015 (North America) Most of F1 2015's missing horsepower comes in the form of features. Only the barest of essentials are to be found, and even those feel further stripped-down. The mode that everyone will get the most mileage out of is a single season of play (either 2014 or 2015). Pick a driver from the pre-set list of real racers, practice, qualify, and race. Repeat 18 more times, and F1 2015's longest goal has been completed. There's no career mode, creation tools, or management simulator present, so season play has to carry a strong sense of progression. Unfortunately, that's almost completely absent apart from watching you and your teammate earn points after each race. There are no contracts to chase or sponsors to keep happy. Your crew assigns goals, but they are absolutely pointless. After they're achieved or failed, they're never spoken of again and they don't affect anything. There isn't even a calendar to keep track of how many races are left; I had to look it up on F1's official site. [embed]296540:59670:0[/embed] Compounding matters is the race length. The shortest possible race in season mode is 25 percent of a real race. This usually works out to about half an hour. If you add in practice and qualifying, it's upward of an hour. That's quite the time commitment to a game that doesn't adequately reward you for playing. It becomes a slog before long. Other modes offer little reprieve from the tedium. Time trial puts you on a track alone. Quick race is a better suit for seeing the different tracks than anything else. Multiplayer is plagued by a litany of bugs -- one of my first races there saw a player finish last by more than 30 seconds only for the game to award him first place by more than a minute, with a best lap time of 457 minutes. This lack of polish isn't isolated to the netcode. F1 2015 is an uninspired-looking game. Driver models are almost offensively bland. Several of the tracks are adorned by blocky, blurry backdrops. Crowds are completely static. The screen tears regularly, which thankfully isn't always easily noticed due to concentrating on racing. There are exceptions to this, though. Codemasters put in care in the most obvious spots -- where it knew players would look for it. Iconic courses in Monaco, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi are absolutely fantastic. The claustrophobic streets of Monaco almost feel like an entirely different game given the attention to detail on all the close-quarters buildings. And, like in real life, it's where F1 is at its most exciting. Strangely, for a title that's supposed to simulate the highest tier of performance racing, F1 2015's cars handle remarkably easily. There's a disconcerting disconnect to the road. The pavement offers little in the way of challenge, as simply steering in the correct direction at full throttle works flawlessly. Brake for those tight corners and then slam the gas back down. It's nowhere near as nuanced as one would expect, and it takes a lot of skill out of what should be the most skilled driving in the world. The saving grace for the driving mechanics -- and I say this without an iota of sarcasm or irony -- is the tire wear. Over the course of a race, the tires degrade to the point of being nearly useless. The turns you once took efficiently suddenly have you pointing in the wrong direction. It adds a sense of tension around the midway point and final laps. You'll know that you have to pit as you're losing time on each circuit, but when's the best time? Have your opponents pitted yet? Can you squeeze out one more lap? Similarly, rain adds a lot to the driving. While it's visually unimpressive, it certainly negates the problem of cars being too easy to steer. All of a sudden, these vehicles might as well be on ice. If it starts pouring, it's paramount to tell the crew to switch to a different style of tire and hit the pits as soon as possible. Otherwise, drivers who have already adjusted will overtake you in no time at all. One last mode in F1 2015 also takes care of the "too easy to drive" issue. Pro Season is the most simulation-like the game has to offer, and it's only for the most hardcore of players. It ramps the difficulty up to the highest degree, turns off all assists, locks the view to cockpit, and sets everything to full length. It's intense. Realistically, only a small percentage of people will care enough to attempt this, and those are the ones dedicated enough to the genre that they have much better offerings with way more options in several other games. But, it's not only those racing enthusiasts who will see F1 2015 as lacking. Everyone who tries it will. Its development was short-sighted, and its appeal is thusly short-lived. This is a game that excels in a very small handful of areas -- imagine how thrilling it is when your tires wear away in Monaco! -- but is mediocre or bad almost everywhere else. As centuries of racing have taught us, no one remembers the guy who finishes toward the back of the pack. That will be F1 2015's legacy: a forgotten one.  [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
F1 review photo
Caution's out
No matter the length of race chosen, F1 2015 mandates at least one pit stop per outing. When pulling into the pits, control of the car is seized from the player and the steering wheel displays the words "pit limiter." Th...

Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Xbox console exclusivity lasts one year
Rise of the Tomb Raider will be shedding its Xbox exclusivity next year, coming to PC sometime in early 2016 and PlayStation 4 later on during the holidays, Square Enix just announced. The title is currently planned for a November 10, 2015 launch on Xbox One and Xbox 360, which gives Microsoft a full year before Lara Croft's latest adventure winds up on a competing console.

Nintendo Download: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Jul 23 // Chris Carter
If you missed last week's edition, here it is. As for what I'm getting, Isaac on 3DS seems pretty rad. It's been a long time coming, and I use my New 3DS quite a bit, so I'll easily be up for doing a few runs every now and then on it. For those who are interested, sales are going on for both the Wii U and 3DS.
Nintendo Download photo
Also, 3D Streets of Rage 2
The time has finally come -- The Binding of Isaac is hitting Nintendo platforms, on both the Wii U and New 3DS. Also on Wii U is Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria, Canvaleon, The Quiet Collection, DK Jungle Climber...

Deadliest Warrior photo
A confusing console release
Just as quietly and sneakily as one of its own ninjas, a new Deadliest Warrior game stealth-released on Xbox Live Arcade today. There had not even been a whisper that a follow-up was in the works. After downloading the t...

Heroes of the Storm's Leoric is another unique addition to the entire MOBA genre

Jul 21 // Chris Carter
Leroic's Q is a simple bash called Skeletal Swing, and would be extremely boring if it didn't do double damage to minions and cause a slow. Because of this, it has a lot of utility in terms of clearing waves and chasing or escaping. It also has a much longer range than I thought it would with a giant modified cone (you can spec it to reach even more distance!), and can go through gates/walls. Not to mention the fact that it's perfect for clearing out smaller creeps in the mines and garden. Drain Hope (W) is a bolt of sorts that allows him to heal, which helps his viability as a warrior class and adds some range to his kit. It only works on heroes, just like Thrall's wolves, so he can't just heal himself in any circumstance -- plus, he needs to maintain a specific distance to channel. Wraith Walk (E) is a really cool teleport, which lets Leoric become unstoppable for a few seconds and phase shift a short distance. He's much more mobile than a lot of other heroes because of this, but his body is vulnerable while he uses it. As you can see, most of his abilities can be countered. In terms of his Heroics, Entomb is a good way in theory to guarantee a single enemy death (it literally causes an impassable tomb to appear), but after extensive testing, I'm going to say that it's just straight-up not very good. It's a little tougher to aim than Butcher's Lamb to the Slaughter, and it's easily countered with a quick Bolt of the Storm or any teleport right towards the open side. His other Heroic, March of the Black King, is likely going to be the top pick by most people. In essence, Leoric whacks everything in front of him in rapid succession, which causes him to heal while he's at it. It's an amazing initiation, as most enemies will likely have to run away from its fairly big area of effect, lest they allow him to heal. [embed]296386:59624:0[/embed] Ok, so it's a fairly easy-to-grasp kit, but his trait is really where he shines -- even when he's KOed, he doesn't technically "die," and can still persist on the battlefield as a wraith. He doesn't do direct damage, but he can use his abilities to reduce his death timer, and return to the board wherever you happen to leave his ghost. Because of this, Leoric has 100% uptime. Now, rising from the dead isn't a completely new MOBA concept -- it isn't even new to Heroes (Uther) -- but since the entire character is built around it and he can do it at level one, it makes for some very interesting gameplay. I love how a lot of his traits are built to work for both variants, and you can even hearth back to base while "dead." It obviously works best with specific objectives, like the Dragon Shire shrines, where you can come right back while the enemy is low on health. Since you can clearly see his ghost as an enemy, it's easy to plan for his resurrection, but the vision his death form grants is a huge factor. When I played the Butcher the day he debuted, I could tell he was fairly balanced with only 10 or so games under my belt. He has a pretty straightforward role, and there are a multitude of counters you can use against him so long as the enemy team is working together. With Leoric, it's much harder to tell where he fits in the current meta, and whether he will need buff or nerf tweaks long term. He's not particularly bursty until later levels and his deaths do grant full kill bonuses for the enemy team, so I can see a lot of players being reckless at low-level play to balance him out in Quick Match. Additionally, he's slow in general, doesn't quite feel as sturdy as some other dedicated tanks, and all his cooldowns take a while to recharge. Right now, I'm fairly happy with where Leoric is at, but again, it's too early to tell what plans Blizzard has for him and if he'll end up being a viable hero in the future. We'll have to keep a close eye on his win rates.
Heroes of the Storm photo
What is dead may never die
Today, Blizzard dropped Leoric the Skeleton King, the newest addition to Heroes of the Storm. He's a melee Warrior with one very intriguing trait, and has a heavy amount of lore to draw upon from the Diablo series. In short, he's a perfect candidate for the game, and Blizzard has been on a roll since debuting Kael'Thas, Johanna, and Butcher respectively.

Review: The Magic Circle

Jul 20 // Nic Rowen
The Magic Circle (PC)Developer: QuestionPublisher: QuestionMSRP: $19.99Released: July 9, 2015  The Magic Circle (the aforementioned meta-game inside of this real life title) is Ishmael “Starfather” Gilder's brainchild. The long awaited sequel to his beloved fantasy game 20 years in the making, mocked as vaporware by detractors and seen as the holy grail by his fans. A monochromatic fantasy world (that was a Doom-like sci-fi game for the first ten years of development) and probably the worst game ever made. Until you come along that is. Inserted into the game as a nameless play-tester, you see the drama play out in front of you. A world made of patchwork fixes and temporary assets while the developers, represented as giant floating eyes, loom overhead, changing things by whim. If the project wasn't already doomed by constant redesigns, oversized egos, and feature-creep, things take a surreal turn when something reaches out to you. Something that lives inside the game. Something that seems vaguely sinister, with its own agenda, an axe to grind against “the gods” as he calls the developers. What is it? A rampant A.I. that's somehow grown deep inside the mess of code? A machine spirit? You don't find out its exact nature until fairly deep into the game, and even then there is room for interpretation. What's important is what it shows you, how to get elbow deep into the guts of the code and rewrite it to your liking. How to use a simple but powerful editor to take the legs off one creature and stick them onto another. How to turn an enemy into a friend into an enemy of your other enemies. How to remake the world to your design. Then he sets you loose, a poltergeist in the programming, hacking in features, resurrecting cut content. Sometimes you play the part of a technological necromancer, finding content in the limbo of vaporware and dragging it back into the game. More often, you're Dr. Frankenstein, ripping bits and pieces off of creatures and stitching them back together to make your own beautiful little monster babies. The result has a pleasing effect, satellite dishes and broken bits of star ships poking out of the cliched castle walls of Ishmeal's would-be opus, an army of weaponized mushroom men following at your heel. Once the tutorials are over and the rather unorthodox premise established, the middle chunk of the game opens up into a sandbox that has you solving puzzles and indirectly slaying monsters by breaking all the rules. The flexibility of the editor, what you can do with a few swapped abilities here, a slight behavioral shift there, is astounding. Many of the puzzles (such as they are) can be solved in so many ways that I was almost always unsure if I did it the “right” way, or if I just bent and broke things until the pieces all fell where I hoped they would. I love that feeling, it's beautiful when games that are confident enough in themselves to not only let that happen, but applaud the player for doing so. There is a light tone to the whole affair. The various developers are chatty, with some great performances turned in from James Urbaniak (better known as Dr. Venture from the Venture Bros.), Ashley Burch, and others. There are audio diaries to discover, developer commentaries from a defunct version of the game to collect, and change logs detailing the carnage of the development process scattered around, all of which reveal not only what a comedy of errors The Magic Circle has become, but also the various neurosis and flaws of the team members. The comedic tone of the writing and performances feed right back into the gameplay. Silly decisions abound, like the developers (the real ones) always went with the fun idea rather than the easy or clear one. For example, there is no upper limit on how many creatures you can have following around you at once, so things can, and likely will, easily devolve into chaos as you walk around with a fire-spewing zoo trailing behind you. Similarly, there are no limits on how you can swap abilities so it's easy to make truly ridiculous creatures, like a flying demon puppy with a railgun mouth. But aside from the obvious circus-show of zaniness, there are tons of small jokes and clever winks. Little details like picking up copies of your own avatar to increase your health (represented by placeholder art that looks like a cylinder with arms). Being able to re-name every creature you hack so you can make your own fun. At one point I ended up changing the name of the game to “Duke Nukem Presents The Magic Circle” and I giggled at my handiwork off and on for the rest of the night. It's just fun to tinker around in. The objectives of the game are purposely vague -- you need to wrest control of the title away from its current creators, how you're supposed to accomplish that as a disembodied phantom inside the game isn't clearly laid out – but they don't have to be. Exploring the half-built world of The Magic Circle, this pitiful thing, marked with the visible scars of development notes, vestigial remains of deleted content still clinging to it, concept art hastily plastered over the seams, is the meat of the experience. One you wouldn't want to rush through even if you knew exactly what you were supposed to do. And one, that even with a healthy amount of goofing around and experimentation, is over too soon. The sandbox is tiny, and once the game enters its final chapters there is no coming back to it. While The Magic Circle has a compelling third act and some neat surprises to throw at the player (sometimes with the intent of harm), it's hard not to feel like the game is a little thin on the whole. While the central conceit is fun, you don't spend as much time playing with it as you'd hope. The runtime is already short, and a good chunk of it is taken up with monologues that occasionally veer into full on lectures as well as multiple epilogues. For a game that is about grand ideas betrayed by shaky execution, it's tempting to explain the lack of substantive content as more sneaky meta-commentary, but while the idea makes me smirk, I don't think it's good enough to give the game a free-pass. But The Magic Circle isn't just about the gameplay, it has a message. A whole lot to say about what it's like to make games in the modern video game industry. The stresses it places on people, the incorrect assumptions creators have about their work, and the untamed expectations of a judgmental audience. Despite being a commentary on the industry, The Magic Circle isn't gauche enough to single out a specific target. Ishmeal is a composite of several flawed, egotistical developers who are big on hype, hazy on details, and always ready to blame someone else for their shortcomings. There are shades of Molyneux in the mix, flickers of Cage, a sprinkling of Garriot, and a heady musk of Romero to round it out. Coda, an ardent fan of Ishmeal's former works who worms her way onto the team, represents the new era of the participant fan; The streamer, the wiki editor, the super-secret pre-beta fan tester, and all the good and ill that's come along with that shift. Her passion and reverence for the virtual worlds she's dedicated her life to is engaging and even a little familiar -- we're all enthusiasts around here. But, her obsessiveness and the sheer gall of her skewed priorities quickly become unsettling. Beneath all the fan-girl glee is a shrewd, nasty sense of undeserved entitlement and ownership, the sort of overly-invested fan that will send shamelessly ego-stroking love letters to a developer one day and thinly veiled death threats the next. Less well defined is Evelyn Maze, a former eSports celebrity who is unwillingly tied to Ishmeal's sinking boat through contractual chains (a clumsy way of explaining her combativeness while dodging the question of “why doesn't she just quit?”). She represents the “games are for playing” kind of gamer who has no patience for cut-scenes and a thirst for competition. A philosophy which directly collides with the “Starfather's” vision of a story-heavy RPG yarn with no combat. As Maze is the unofficial second-in-command of the studio's disorganized hierarchy (that seems to work like a hippie-commune as run by Joseph Stalin) her and Ishmeal's constant bickering results in a lot of flushed efforts and confusion on the part of the team, right in line with some of the horror stories we've heard about the industry the real world. And somewhere in there is you, simultaneously gawking at the car crash while pouring more gasoline on it. Are you just another player in this world? A different sort of creator? Are you sabotaging this whole thing, or just giving it the sharp kick it needs? The problem with talking about a game that aims to surprise is it's hard to get specific without ruining the experience. But I guarantee, in the near future a lot of ink is going to be spilled about The Magic Circle. The final third of the game goes to some weird places that demand to be dissected. The message is a little muddled, with so many accusing fingers thrust in so many directions that I'm sure different people will come to radically different conclusions of what it all means. But it's a message worth hearing, and a world worth exploring, if you care about video games and the people that make them. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
The Magic Circle Review photo
The medium is the message
The Magic Circle is a game set inside of a game, where you bend and break the rules to make it another game entirely. This is all in service of makings a meta-contextual statement about the game making industry and the tension between the creator and the audience. Still with me after that? Then you're probably The Magic Circle's target audience.

EVO 2015 is over, here's how it ended

Jul 20 // Ben Pack
Ultra Street Fighter IV Juri, Decapre, Adon, Rolento, and Abel were just five of the 12 different characters represented in the top eight for Ultra Street Fighter IV. The huge character variety was surpassed only by the quality of play demonstrated by this international forum of competitors. Infiltration going into winners showed off an amazing roster of characters, but it ultimately did not mean much as he would lose to Momochi. Meanwhile, GamerBee managed to claw through losers bracket, beating Infiltration in losers finals. Grand finals came down to a reset, and eventually in the last game a technical mishap lead to each of the contenders having one round each with Momochi clutching it out in the end. Top 8 1. EG|Momochi [Ken/ Evil Ryu]2. AvM|GamerBee [Elena / Adon]3. Infiltration [Evil Ryu / Chun-Li / Abel / Decapre / Elena / Juri]4. BE|Nemo (Rolento)5. /r/Kappa|AiAi [Juri]5. MCZ|Tokido [Akuma]7. EG|PR Balrog [Balrog]7. Liquid|NuckleDu [Decapre, Guile] Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Marvel has always been considered America's game. Since MvC 3's EVO debut in 2011, there have only ever been two non-Americans in top eight. That's why it was such a shocker to have only three Americans in the competition today. Favorites including Justin Wong, Chris G, Filipino Champ, and Flocker were nowhere to be seen as the foreign legion attempted to lay waste to America three characters at a time. It came down to grand finals between Chile's own BE|KaneBlueRiver [Hulk / Haggar / Sentinel] versus New York native CTRL|RayRay [Magneto / Dr. Doom / Sentinel], with KBR taking it. Top 8 1. BE|KaneBlueRiver [Hulk / Sentinel / Haggar]2. CTRL|RayRay [Magneto / Dr. Doom / Sentinel]3. ApologyMan [Firebrand / Dr. Doom / Super-Skrull4. TA|Frutsy [M.O.D.O.K., / Captain America / Dr. Doom]5. YKWIS|GoldenBoyNeo [Magneto / Dr. Doom / Phoenix]5. TMP|Cross [Zero / Dr. Strange / Dante]7. T3|Dizzy [Zero / Dr. Doom, Vergil[7. R.F. [Morrigan / Dr. Doom, Vergil] Super Smash Bros. Melee Some dreams were born while others were dashed in the Melee top eight. C9 Mang0 failed to take his third EVO trophy home, but the real shocker was Florida's PG|Plup claiming fourth, beating TSM|Leffen, the possible favorite to win the entire competition. The always-solid Alliance|Armada managed to take home the gold pretty convincingly, dropping almost no sets throughout the entire tournament. Top 8 1. Alliance|Armada [Fox / Peach]2. Liquid|Hungrybox [Jigglypuff]3. EG|PPMD [Marth / Falco]4. PG|Plup [Sheik / Samus]5. TSM|Leffen [Fox]5. C9|Mango [Fox / Falco]7. Tempo|Axe [Pikachu]7. MH|ChuDat [Ice Climbers] Mortal Kombat X Even though several upsets preceded the top eight for Mortal Kombat, spirits were generally high. While ninjas were crushing each others skulls on the screen, players were hugging it out on stage. cR|SonicFox managed to pull an amazing run through the losers bracket with Erron Black and Kitana and managed to reset grand finals against Foxy Grandpa's dominant Kung Lao, leading to a victory for the 17-year-old Sonic. Top 8 1. cR|SonicFox [Erron Black / Kitana]2. PND|A Foxy Grandpa [Kung Lao]3. cR|HoneyBee [D'Vorah]4. YOMI|MIT [Tanya, Sonya Blade]5. PND|Ketchup [Quan Chi]5. YOMI|DJT [Kung Lao]7. JLA|MilkySituation [Reptile]7. YOMI|Zyphox [Liu Kang] Guilty Gear: Xrd -SIGN- Starting at the designated anime time slot of 9am, Guilty Gear had a very important job of hyping up any attending early-birds. It did not disappoint, and while there were plenty of heartbreaks, there was some serious competition the entire way through. Ogawa managed to show off why people consider Zato to be the best character by taking the tournament over ODG|Nage's Faust.  Top 8 1. Ogawa [Zato]2. ODG|Nage [Faust]3. Woshige [Millia]4. Nakamura [Millia]5. Dogura [Sin]5. Rion [Ky]7. Syuuto [Axl]7. Zidane [Leo] EVO 2015 day 1 wrap up EVO 2015 day 2 wrap up Street Fighter V new character announcement Guilty Gear Xrd player stands up too early, loses Jamie Lee Curtis cosplayed as Vega at EVO Street Fighter V DLC can be unlocked for free EVO attendee steals PS Vita dev kit from Atlus 
EVO recap photo
Street Fighter, Marvel, Melee, and more
The final day of Evolution 2015 has concluded, and we are left with a slew of new champions. There were upsets and heart-breakers, but most importantly hundreds of hours of the highest-level fighting games. Games featured today were Ultra Street Fighter IV, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mortal Kombat X, and Guilty Gear: Xrd -SIGN-.

Capcom reveals first new Street Fighter V character

Jul 19 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]296312:59602:0[/embed] Here's the full rundown on Capcom's latest creation, straight from the horse's mouth: "Possessing a wide variety of savage and close range attacks, all of Necalli’s moves have been forged through the heat of battle to ensure he’s inflicting maximum pain upon his opponents.  "Making full use of the Battle System mechanics, Necalli’s V-Skill allows him to pound the ground with both fists, creating an explosion that damages the enemy whereas the powerful V-Trigger allows him to channel a mysterious energy that changes his hair colour and alters his personality for a short period of time." Capcom says to expect more information on Necalli's origin and storyline in the coming months. Street Fighter V is coming to PlayStation 4 and PC next spring. The first beta is taking place later this week exclusively on PlayStation Network. You can find more details regarding that right here.
Street Fighter V photo
Meet Necalli
Today at EVO 2015, just before kicking off the final round of Ultra Street Fighter IV competitions, Capcom unveiled the first of four new fighters joining the roster of Street Fighter V. His name is Necalli, a wild-looking grappler who -- Aw hell, just watch the damn trailer.

Guilty Gear Xrd player stands up too early, loses

Jul 19 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]296294:59596:0[/embed] Ogawa eventually went on to win the tournament, while Woshige advanced to the losers bracket and ultimately wound up in placing third overall. He's still number one in my heart, though. [Video via RoBoT SheKeiB -- Thanks, Southsing]
Woshige photo
Best moment of EVO so far?
Today's top story from EVO came from a Guilty Gear Xrd match between Woshige and Ogawa. After pulling off a comeback victory in the second round, Woshige mistakenly thought he'd won the match in its entirety. He stood up and ...

Street Fighter V photo
Or pay to get it faster
During a Street Fighter V panel at EVO today, Capcom announced a shift in strategy for the series. The publisher is moving away from its long-standing pattern of releasing a major disc-based update to the latest version of th...

Experience Points .19: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Jul 18 // Ben Davis
When it rains, it pours Metal Gear Rising is full of insane, high-energy boss fights. Sometimes Raiden will be up against gigantic war machines which he can climb all over, and sometimes he'll be in one-on-one duels against villains roughly his size. But no matter what, the fights themselves are always impressive. My personal favorite boss is Monsoon. He's a cyborg ninja with distinctive red and black armor and a helmet covering most of his face save for his creepy grin. His weapon of choice is a pair of sais, which he's quite deadly with. And true to his name, his boss fight takes place in the pouring rain. His most unique feature, however, is the fact that his body is actually made up of a bunch of smaller segments held together by electromagnetic forces. This allows him to separate his body at will, which he does quite often in order to attack from great distances and to easily dodge incoming attacks. If Raiden tries to attack normally, he won't be able to land a single hit with Monsoon's body constantly shifting, separating, and reconnecting at high speeds to avoid injury. Patience and clever tactics are required to even scratch this guy. After a while, Monsoon will begin demonstrating another ability which allows him to lift and hurl enormous objects. He starts chucking tanks and aircraft at Raiden like it's nothing, even going so far as to meld a bunch of them together into one giant Katamari-like ball of metal. Things get pretty crazy! This fight in particular forces the player to master parrying, a skill which quickly becomes essential for survival. If Raiden is unable to parry effectively in the fight against Monsoon, he'll be taking far too many punches, kicks, and sais to the face to survive for very long. It's one hell of a fight, complete with an excellent heavy metal-ish theme song, and it perfectly encapsulates the frantic, over-the-top combat of Metal Gear Rising. The incredible backflipping feline There is possibly no greater character in Metal Gear Rising than the cat. What cat, you ask? You know, the ninja cat! It can be found walking around the beach in R-01. It's kind of hard to spot sometimes, so the player has to really be looking for it, but it's totally worth it to seek the animal out. What's so great about this small white cat? It doesn't really do much of anything, just wanders around the beach lazily. That is, unless Raiden tries to attack the poor, defenseless kitty. Don't worry though, there is no way Raiden is going to land a hit on this cat. When attacked, the cat will perform a killer backflip and dodge out of the way. Every single time! No matter what attack Raiden throws at this ninja cat, it will demonstrate its impressive evasive skills and come away unscathed. I spent so much time on the beach just watching this awesome cat backflip out of the way of every move Raiden attempted. Had the cat decided to go on the offensive and scratch back, Raiden surely would have been defeated by this nigh invincible feline. The ninja cat also makes another appearance later in the game, during a long cutscene where Monsoon is having a chat with a weakened Raiden. The camera can be controlled during this scene, and if Raiden looks to his right, he'll see the cat walk right up to one of the cyborg soldiers. The soldier gets really excited, getting down on the ground on all fours to pet the kitty before it leaves him in disinterest. Then the soldier gets back up and sadly waves goodbye. It's really adorable and goofy, and it completely turns Monsoon's serious monologue into a bit of a joke. ¡Muy guapo! Early on in the game, Raiden has to swing by Mexico to infiltrate a cybernetics lab. He was apparently told to wear a disguise so as not to draw too much attention to himself in this foreign country, so of course he goes the full stereotypical route and decides to wear a poncho and a ridiculously large mariachi hat. Excellent choice! Immediately after stepping out of his car, everyone around notices his strange appearance and starts freaking out, commenting on his outfit and wondering if he's actually a mariachi player or rather a cyborg in disguise. He quickly descends into a sewer, ditching the outfit and saying, "Adios, amigos," as he disappears. It's pretty much the best cutscene. Then mission R-02 begins with Raiden back to his normal suit (lame!). I was pretty disappointed, as I was really hoping I would get to play the entire level as Mariachi Raiden. Fortunately for me, the mariachi outfit becomes unlocked as an alternate skin after completing R-02, meaning I could play the remainder of the game in a totally absurd costume. Obviously, I only played as Mariachi Raiden from that point on. I mean, how could I not? Cyborg's best friend Raiden's mechanical canine companion, Blade Wolf, is such a joy to have around. He may not be useful for combat (his AI apparently lacks brutality), but he is very helpful for scouting purposes, and he's a surprisingly entertaining conversationalist as well. He may be a robot, but he has quite a unique personality since his AI was created to be similar to a human brain. He's especially noble, often questions why killing is necessary, and is always yearning for freedom. I particularly enjoy Wolf's dry sense of humor. He always takes notice of Raiden's jokes and likes to point out that he doesn't think Raiden is very funny. He's also quick to pick up on puns and expressions, such as when Raiden said they should "throw him a bone" and Wolf quickly noted that his choice of words was amusing on two levels, since his body is modeled after a canine and canines like bones. Wolf was even popular enough to get his own DLC chapter where he was featured as a playable character. It's a pretty neat side chapter which requires the player to be extra sneaky to get stealth kills, since Wolf himself is not that great at fighting (even though he has a giant chainsaw which he can fling around with his tail). I'm glad he got so much recognition as an excellent character, worthy of being playable even though he's not humanoid. Honestly though, who wouldn't want to play as a badass robotic wolf? The perfect hiding spot Ah, cardboard boxes. A classic staple of the Metal Gear franchise. They're back once again in Metal Gear Rising. Raiden can of course find cardboard boxes scattered around which he can hide under and walk around in a most (in)conspicuous manner. And not just cardboard boxes, but metal drum cans as well. Plus, if he's wearing the mariachi outfit, the boxes and drums he hides under will be decorated with his festive hat. Totally not suspicious-looking at all! My favorite thing to do is to have Raiden hide inside a drum can while wearing the mariachi outfit and then go into a ninja run. This causes him to fall over and start rolling around sideways inside of the drum can, with the hat somehow remaining firmly fastened to the top. This move can actually hurt enemies and destroy parts of the environment, but eventually Raiden gets sick and has to stop rolling to vomit. Metal Gear Rising even went a step further with the cardboard boxes by including enemy soldiers which hid inside boxes themselves and could be found and killed for an achievement. There are a total of five of these MIBs (Men In Boxes) to find, and locating all of them unlocks a special wooden sword. The first one I found made me laugh pretty hard, because I honestly wasn't expecting anyone else to be using the cardboard box tactic. Apparently, it's becoming quite a popular technique! A million little pieces It may sound twisted, but slicing enemies up into tiny bits in Metal Gear Rising feels incredibly satisfying. It probably helps that most of the enemies are machines, and even the humanoid enemies are riddled with cybernetic enhancements, so slicing them up doesn't really result in a bloodbath of internal organs and icky stuff. It's mostly mechanical body parts, with a bit of blood splatter thrown in for color. But still, it feels amazing. Raiden has a special ability which allows him to essentially slow down time in what's known as "Blade Mode," so that he can hack and slash enemies with quickness and precision. With Blade Mode activated, a single cyborg soldier can become hundreds of sliced up pieces of cyborg soldier within a matter of seconds, as Raiden unleashes a flurry of sword swipes in every direction. It's almost hypnotizing to watch it happen. And it's not just the enemies Raiden can obliterate. Most of the environments are fully destructible, so even when he's not in combat, Raiden can enter Blade Mode and slice things up to his heart's content. I spent a lot of time running around the levels trying to see what all I could destroy, slicing up trees, tearing through cars, turning crates into splinters, bringing down entire staircases. It just felt so satisfying to watch the world crumble at my hands. Mwahahaha! Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing.14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.15: Super Mario Sunshine.16: Final Fantasy VII.17: Nier.18: Chrono Trigger
Metal Gear Rising photo
Nanomachines, son
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Shenmue 3 Kickstarter photo
Most funded video game in site's history
The crowdfunding campaign for Shenmue 3 has drawn to a close, raising a total of $6,333,295. That sum makes the project the most funded video game campaign in the history of Kickstarter, beating out the previous record holder...

EVO 2015 is underway, catch all the action here

Jul 17 // Kyle MacGregor
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EVO 2015 photo
Day one is a go!
EVO 2015, the largest fighting game tournament of the year, has begun. Get hype! Kicking off today's competitions are pools for Ultra Street Fighter IV, Super Smash Bros. (both Melee and Wii U), Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, and T...

What the hell was Rocksteady thinking with Batman: Arkham Knight's Riddler?

Jul 17 // Chris Carter
The good First, let's take a brief look at the other games in the series to see how it measures up. It was slightly annoying to have "Catwoman only" trophies in Arkham City, but that game never took it to this level -- plus, Riddler was still relatively fresh at that point. Asylum also had just the right amount on a smaller map to encourage nearly everyone to go for them, and I like how Origins had a little extortion story weaved into the activity, making it a bit less tedious. Arkham Knight just goes overboard. Thankfully, there's a little bit of brilliance peppered in that shows what might have been. Most notably, the riddles that feel like actual riddles are great. I love how the game leads you towards horizons where you can find Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and Wayne Manor in the distance. It's a great way to link the series, and the Knightfall ending gives it a nice conclusion. You'll also find a lot of really cool stories that tie up loose ends for characters like Bane and Calendar Man. This is how all of the riddles should have been presented. The bad and the terrible Instead, there's over 300 miniature quests to complete, carved out by way of trophies, riddles, "Riddler bombs," and breakable objects. While the trophies are generally par for the course for the series, the riddles (as mentioned previously) are often good, and the bombs are few and far between, it's the objects that broke my soul. And here's the worse news -- to get any locations without consulting a guide, you'll have to "interrogate" Riddler cronies. To find them, you'll wander around the town with detective vision on and locate green cars or green men, isolate them in combat, and press a button to have a few icons appear on the map. It's a painfully slow process, and come to find out, some thugs don't even give you information after tracking them down (this seems to be a glitch, as this has happened a few times, even on thugs I used counter on)! Divebombing from the sky and sending a Riddler car careening for information was cool the first time, but on the 50th occasion, it gets unbearable. While patrolling the streets, I must have heard Steve Blum (who still plays every thug with Nolan North, like WB can't afford a thug budget) say "who is Robin anyway?" approximately 10,000 times. How did they think this was a good idea? For the broken object "riddles," you'll often need to find at least 10 emblems to finish one entry, and cronies only give you a select few of them at a time. The entire affair, for the most part, consists of jumping in the Batmobile, aiming at a target, and shooting it. These aren't "riddles," and have no business being in the game, full stop. The worst part? They're all required for the true ending You know what? The actual Riddler questline in Arkham Knight with Catwoman was bearable, and featured some neat uses of the Batmobile (for once) -- even if driving on walls is still horrible thanks to the wonky camera angles. But to complete said lengthy questline, fight a Mecha-Riddler for 10 seconds, and have him say "LOL! Actually you need all 250 trophies to fight me for real!" is a kick in the teeth. It gets worse than that, as the true ending is tied to said riddles, clearly to pad out the game. At launch, a lot of fans even speculated that it was a bug, and that you couldn't possibly be required to slowly gather every trophy to nab Riddler -- nope, you actually have to do it. It would have been a lot cooler if taking Riddler in (after the quest) triggered Knightfall, but if you wanted to get more audio tidbits you could go after the trophies, as he taunted you from lockup. Now sometimes, I'm playing Arkham Knight and I'm wondering "how is this level of detail even possible?" Rocksteady has truly crafted an amazing open world that feels like a true current-gen experience, and that should be commended. But of course, a budget of multi-millions doesn't preclude criticism (Michael Bay) -- so many facets of Arkham Knight could have been done better. So don't wait up, Alfred -- I'll just be aimlessly flying through the streets of Gotham, looking for green dots for an ending I already looked up on YouTube. I think it's about time to hang up the cowl.
Batman Arkham Riddler photo
Holy tedium, Batman
If there's two things Batman: Arkham Knight does too much of, it's the Batmobile and The Riddler. For the purposes of an upcoming project, I'm working towards a 100% completion rate in Knight, and I'm running into a wall...

Nintendo Download: Blaster Master

Jul 16 // Chris Carter
If you missed last week's edition, here it is. As for what I'm getting, I can't resist the call of Blaster Master. For those who are interested, sales are going on for both the Wii U and 3DS.
Nintendo Download photo
Also, Tiny Galaxy
Although this week's downloads are pretty boring, Blaster Master is headlining the Wii U releases. It already existed in Virtual Console form, but now you can play it without going to the poopy Wii emulation mode. Also o...

Mistakes were made with the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter

Jul 16 // Chris Carter
Lack of transparency When Shenmue 3 was announced during E3, the whole world (myself included) went crazy. Series creator Yu Suzuki was teasing it a day before, but no one really could have expected it given how long the series had been on hiatus. Then the questions starting coming, and things got a little more complicated. It came out the day after the announcement that even though the team was asking for money on Kickstarter, Sony would be funding the game. I kind of feel bad for Suzuki as he had to apologize for "misleading" people, but the entire "Sony is funding some of it, but we're not actually going to tell you how much" business was a bit weird. That's definitely something that should have been explained at E3. If there's one thing we learned about backers over the years, it's that they want an idea of what they're contributing to, and where their money is going. With Shenmue 3, there are still some doubts though in terms of the latter point Yu Suzuki has confirmed that all of the campaign proceeds are going directly to the game, and not Sony. Stretch goal wackiness Yes, one of their stretch goals, one they haven't reached yet, is actually a "new Kickstarter [cash] record." I'm speechless. While the campaign runners did end up catching on to the concept of stretch goals, it took them days to scramble to come up with ideas. At first, the campaign only had a mere few mentions of what they'd do if they surpassed their funding amount. The days of "let's just see how much we get on Kickstarter and be surprised later!" are over. Campaigns need to think about the big picture and keep the train running with constant engagement and new goals and activities. IGA's Bloodstained campaign did this impressively, with multiple social media metagames and daily stretch goal updates. Maybe the Shenmue team can up their funding with a good post-Kickstarter PayPal campaign and reach that lofty $10 million mark. Of course, a lot of future Kickstarter success is going to be contingent on luck and timing. Having Sony announce Shenmue 3 during its E3 press conference did wonders for the campaign, yet Inafune is struggling to have lightning strike twice with Red Ash -- his unofficial Mega Man Legends project, announced at Anime Expo. The Shenmue 3 team has your money -- now we just wait for the finished product. As for myself, I backed it at the $29 level. Shenmue means a lot to me as a series, and it got me through some really tough times. If the campaign was handled a bit better and was more focused, I may have upped my pledge.
Shenmue 3 photo
But everyone loves Shenmue so it's okay
The Shenmue 3 Kickstarter has surpassed five million in funding with just under a day and a half to go, but creator Yu Suzuki has insisted that they need roughly $10 million to have a fully realized open world. It's shooting for the stars for sure, but a number of different choices could have been made to bump the campaign up significantly.

PlayStation Mobile photo
It's now or never
In case you ever considered purchasing a PlayStation Mobile game, the time to act is now. Sony is shutting down the service tomorrow, July 15, after which point consumers will no longer be able to purchase any new content. Th...

Review: The Fall

Jul 14 // Mike Cosimano
The Fall (Linux, Mac, PC, PS4 [reviewed], Wii U, Xbox One)Developer: Over the MoonPublisher: Over the MoonMSRP: $9.99Released: May 30, 2014 (PC) / July 14, 2015 (PS4) The Fall opens with style, as gravity slowly kicks in for a mysterious suited figure entering the dusky atmosphere of an alien world. This figure is Colonel Josephs, a soldier in a generic future army. But the good Colonel is in critical condition, leaving his life in the hands of ARID, the AI controlling Josephs' suit. Unfortunately, she's trapped in a decrepit android repair facility, packed with hostile security drones and run by a fantastically creepy caretaker. Her one ally is the facility's mainframe, who is understandably happy to see a friend after decades of loneliness. The character writing is fantastic. ARID doesn't know it, but every attempt to save the meatsack trapped inside her suit brings her closer to escaping her restrictive programming. At first, her determination appears to be a result of coding, but as Josephs comes ever closer to expiring, genuine emotion begins to push through her automated facade. Rogue artificial intelligence hasn't been this compelling since the Portal games. The same goes for the other characters. The caretaker's job is to designate malfunctioning units, but nothing is safe from its critical eye. Both malfunctioning robots and innocent humans are killed and literally crucified by its hand -- a result of overly rigid programming. The character is brought to life by some delightfully creepy animation and a holographic disguise gone horribly wrong. The mainframe, on the other hand, wants to be closer to humanity in the hopes of being treated fairly. ARID exists in a space between these characters; between rigid adherence to the rules (the caretaker) and simulated humanity (the mainframe). Without spoiling the game's killer ending, ARID does make something of a decision between the two. [embed]295646:59464:0[/embed] It's also worth noting that The Fall is not technically over, with two more parts supposedly on the way. The ending of Part One brings closure to the game's themes and ARID's character arc, so it's difficult to guess where the game could end. There's certainly something to be said for exploring characters after a major revelation, so I have faith in the future of The Fall. As long as the writing stays at this level, we'll be in good hands. If there's one area where the game could improve, it's the puzzles. ARID's suit has a series of abilities that can only be activated if her human pilot is in danger. In order to get through the facility and make it to the medical center, ARID has to find a way to manipulate both her environment and her programming. This leads to clever scenarios, where you transform a harmless security door into a death trap, all in the hopes of activating your cloaking mechanism. Unfortunately, most of the puzzles can be reduced to "use item on other item." In retrospect, they seem well-telegraphed, but they're frustrating in the moment. The bulk of the item-based puzzles take place in a domestic droid training center, which makes up for the frustration with atmosphere and some clever jokes. I imagine pumping up the game's brightness would also help a lot with finding interactive objects. Like a fool, I went with the default. Don't be like me. There's also combat, made more tactical by ARID's weak shields. Although the health bar is fairly sizable, both the shields and life support regenerate more slowly than a dead turtle. The real penalty for poor performance is having to sit around and wait. Or you could take a page out of my book -- I was able to make a quick sandwich, eat it, and clean up in the time it took for ARID to come back to full health. This doesn't matter after a certain point; once you get a certain gun upgrade, you can pop headshots like nobody's business. When you nail The Fall's combat, you feel like a badass. The Fall Part One's minor gameplay shortcomings don't even begin to tarnish the sheen on everything else. It's a seductive old-school sci-fi yarn, with characters that somehow manage to represent greater ideas and exist as fully-formed beings. Even though two more episodes have been confirmed, the game ends on an exciting conclusion that could function either as a cliffhanger or a definitive finale. If you're into books like The Martian Chronicles, there's no reason to let some potential head-scratchers keep you from a great experience. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
The Fall photo
Fallen angel
The Fall's opening act is something out of a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories, where hard science leads to deeper questions of morality puzzled over by engaging characters. It's the right sort of science fiction,...


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