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Shooters

GTA GIF photo
GTA GIF

A GTA Online GIF that sums up why friends are the best


Now that's an Air Bud
Jun 04
// Brett Makedonski
This GTA Online player looked to be dead in the water. The ground isn't much of an advantageous position to have when your enemy is floating in the sky. "Wasted" is imminent, right? Not if your bestie has anything to say about it. I was playing GTA:Online with a friend, and was pinned down by the cops. He helped out by being air support [reddit]
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

Splatoon developers talk about lack of voice chat


It doesn't seem to bother most of you
Jun 04
// Chris Carter
Just two days ago, I asked readers if the lack of voice chat in Splatoon, among other issues, really bothered you that much. Only 6.5% of you answered "yes" as of the time of this writing, and most people were more bothered b...
Dirty Bomb photo
Dirty Bomb

Splash Damage's team-based shooter Dirty Bomb hits Steam


It's still in beta!
Jun 02
// Jordan Devore
Huh. It feels like literal years have passed since I last paid much attention to Dirty Bomb, the free-to-play, class-oriented, multiplayer first-person shooter from Brink developer Splash Damage. It's still around. Stranger y...

Do any of Splatoon's online shortcomings bother you?

Jun 02 // Chris Carter
[embed]293141:58775:0[/embed]
Splatoon photo
No voice chat still a problem?
Splatoon is here, and our review was commented on more than The Witcher 3 or Hatred, which surprised me. People had a lot to say about Nintendo's newest shooter, and not everything was positive -- a lot of folk...

Review: Shooter

Jun 02 // Nic Rowen
Shooter (Book)Released: June 2, 2015MSRP: $5.00 Shooter is a collection of essays from recognizable names in game criticism speaking on a wide range of topics related to games that involve some kind of gunplay. Some chapters take a deep dive into the mechanical and technical details that make shooters what they are. Steven Wright's “The Joys of Projectiles: What We've Forgotten About Doom” for example, laments the rise of “realistic” modern shooters and how their largely interchangeable hitscan assault rifles have abandoned many of the mechanics that made early FPS games so pleasurable and skill testing. Others are more personal, such as Gita Jackson's touching reflection on how Counter-Strike could be seen as a microcosm of the (seemingly one-sided from her self-deprecating perspective) sibling rivalry she shared with her brother. Shooter strikes a great balance, it never gets so bogged down in technical minutia that it feels like a lecture in game design, but has enough mechanical grounding that it doesn't just become a series of anecdotes either. The games Shooter examines are varied and numerous. Of course genre forebears and trendsetters like Doom, Half-Life and Call of Duty are discussed as you would expect, but there is plenty of attention paid to less bombastically popular titles as well. Genre-defying shooters like Red Orchestra 2 with its brutally unforgiving depiction of realistic combat, and the insidious darkness of Far Cry 2, which sets aside the typical rationales for heroic violence to make the player complicit in something unsettling, get entire chapters dedicated to them. It's a great technique. By examining the few games that step outside of the bounds of typical FPS conventions and power fantasy dynamics and figuring out why they feel so different, it is easier to pinpoint the standard tropes and expectations of the genre that have become so ubiquitous that they are nearly invisible. Perhaps the greatest praise I can give to Shooter is that it made me reexamine and reflect on my feelings about a few games. When a piece of criticism grabs you by the collar and demands you take a second look at something, you know its doing it's job right. Filipe Salgado's chapter on the intentional ugliness and barely contained chaos of Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days almost made me want to play through the game again with a fresh set of eyes -- eyes more willing to see past the clunky mechanics and thoroughly unlikable protagonists to scan for deeper meaning. Almost anyway (this is still Dog Days we're talking about). At its best, Shooter feels like a lively conversation with some very smart people who enjoy, but expect more from, their trigger happy games. Its snappy, intelligent, and occasionally funny. At it's worst, the book veers into the pretentious. At times, it feels less like a conversation and more like an awkward dinner party dominated by a lecturing windbag everyone is too polite to interrupt. Thankfully these rough patches are few and far between. The rest of the book is well worth putting up with the occasional eye-rolling turn of phrase. Mostly though, Shooter feels important. The industry needs more “capital C” Criticism to unravel the subtext and ideas behind the games we love. Games mean something. They impart messages, communicate ideas, either by conscious choice on the part of their developers or by the assumptions they make -- the casual omissions and things taken for granted. We have to start examining these ideas in a mature, intelligent, and yes, academic way. Shooter isn't the first example of this kind of criticism in games writing of course; there have certainly been other books written, and articles penned (on sites like Destructoid, I might add) that dive into these waters. But, it is still very much a nascent field. Video games are a young medium, and we haven't had time to establish a critical tradition like film and literature has. We need to cultivate these voices; the generation of writers that will talk about games in a serious manner in the coming decades. What better way to stake a claim in this new field than to gather a variety of exceptionally talented voices to talk about and critically examine what is generally considered gaming's dumbest, most developmentally arrested genre? The thrill of shooting a Cyber-Demon with a rocket launcher may be obvious and simple, but there is a lot to unpack when you take a closer look.
Shooter Review photo
Looking at life down the barrel of a gun
Shooters seem simple. You step into the shoes of your typical tough guy space-marine or mercenary and empty clip after clip into the faces of Nazis, or aliens, or alien-Nazis from the vaguely disembodied gun bobbing up and do...

Splatoon photo
Splatoon

What's your favorite weapon in Splatoon?


#TeamRoller
Jun 01
// Jordan Devore
Splatoon released on Friday. I went away for the weekend, and now a bunch of folks are level 20. It's not a race! (Says the guy who is losing the race at a meager level 11.) Clearly, people are digging competitive painting to...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

Ranked battles are nearly unlocked in Splatoon


More players need to reach level 10
Jun 01
// Chris Carter
Before launch, Nintendo detailed the method in which ranked play (Splat Zones) was unlocked in Splatoon. It's accessible only by players who have reached level 10, but beyond that, there's an additional requirement that enoug...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

Splatoon's servers have held up fairly well at launch


Hopefully they'll stay that way
May 29
// Chris Carter
Splatoon is finally here. There's been quite a bit of community buzz regarding the game, and in my view, it turned out to be a pretty great shooter despite the fact that it's a bit light on content at launch. The really ...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

Why yes, I would like an NES Zapper in Splatoon


Too good to be true?
May 28
// Jordan Devore
This supposed image of the Prima strategy guide for Splatoon shows some curious weapons including, oh my god, NES Zappers. The names even reflect the light guns' release years! Is this stuff real? One of the weapons, the Inkb...
Deals photo
Deals

Humble is bundling Relic's Warhammer 40,000 and Company of Heroes games


Step one: Play Space Marine
May 28
// Jordan Devore
There's a lot to love in this Humble Weekly Bundle of Relic games, but I have to give a special shout out to Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. Years later, I'm still amazed it turned out as well as it did. Satisfying shooting, ...

Review: Hatred

May 28 // Chris Carter
Hatred (PC)Developer: Destructive CreationsPublisher: Destructive CreationsReleased: June 1, 2015MSRP: $19.99 To be clear, I don't have an inherent problem with Hatred. We've seen far, far worse in terms of the video game medium -- in this very generation with Grand Theft Auto V's playable in-game torture scene. Or even Ninja Gaiden III's new "cutting" system, where enemies scream in agony as they're sliced into multiple pieces of flesh. The obvious difference here is that a lot of the targets in Hatred are civilians, which put people on edge. But really, plenty of mainstream action titles have more nuanced takes, killing servicemen and women, officers of the law, and yes, plenty of civilians. Where Hatred partly fails is that it doesn't really make any meaningful statements in regards to its violence. That that it needs to, mind, it kind of just "is." The main character (who is not named) hates the world, so he's going to take down as many people as he can before he dies. That's basically it. He starts in his neighborhood, then branches out across the surrounding area, using various forms of transportation to do it. I suspect there are going to be thinkpieces spouting up across the 'net after release, but don't expect anything as interesting as the ones that were spurred by Hotline Miami playthroughs -- another ultraviolent romp. All the while, he's ranting pseudo-philosophical nonsense. The developers have noted that he isn't trying to quote or channel anyone in particular, and boy can you tell when he says repeats tired phrases like "dust to dust" and "the death is waiting." Half the time you can't even hear what he's saying over the sound of gunfire and explosions. Nothing about the presentation is memorable outside of the distinct visual style. [embed]292912:58710:0[/embed] As a shooter, Hatred is fairly impressive (outside of the sparing terrible vehicular controls). Destructive Creations clearly has a knack for the genre, which makes the fact that it decided to create this lifeless world more disappointing. Shooting feels responsive, and the control scheme is easy to pick up and play, especially on a controller. I don't like that there isn't a toggle option for sprinting (you have to hold it down, which hurts your thumb after a while), but aiming, including the precision-aim system that provides an imaginary laser sight while holding the trigger, is spot-on. Visually, Hatred is somewhere in-between unique and messy. The grey sheen generally looks great, but it does get old after a few levels. Plus, you'll want to jack up the gamma considerably, as the playable character tends to get lost in the fray. Individual objects are all rendered with care though, and the destruction system allows you to do things like craft new exits by blowing through walls. There isn't a whole lot to do in those worlds though. It's level-based, and most missions boil down to "kill [x] number of civilians, then kill [x] number of police, then escape." There's a few unique levels like a sewer chase with the SWAT team or a linear stage taking place on a moving train, but most of them follow this same principle. The train scenario in particular presents some interesting possibilities, in that random civilians on-board are armed. It's often hard to pick them out of a crowd, and if a gun drops, they'll run to pick it up. That mission only lasts a few minutes though, then it's onto the next generic hub. Seriously, that's about all the game has to offer.  I also encountered a few bugs while playing, including disappearing bodies, wonky physics that caused some deaths, and a few fatal game crashes. Several levels were also mislabeled in the level select screen and sometimes, mission objectives wouldn't calculate correctly. The crashes in particular really hindered my playthrough, as they were all at the very end of a level, which forced me to replay them from the start. If it weren't for these issues, it would be a decent twin-stick shooter. Developer tools are evidently going to happen which may allow more interesting levels, but haven't been provided at launch. If you're curious, here's a full video rundown of the options menu. There's nothing really special about Hatred. It's a twin-stick shooter. It has guns in it. It has objectives. Most of the time those objectives involve acting like a menace to society or blowing stuff up. It doesn't have anything new to bring to the table, or anything interesting to say about the genre. You can go back to yelling at it now if you want. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Hatred review photo
Do you hate it?
When Hatred debuted, I pretty much kept quiet. No one can really win in that situation, when the explosion of opposing viewpoints was at its loudest. I decided to wait until the finished product was out and play it for m...

Very Quick Tips: Splatoon

May 28 // Chris Carter
General tips: Try out every weapon in the game. Too intimidated to play online with it? Go to the shop to give it a trial run in the training course. Play whatever you want, but know that early on, there will be a lot of rollers out there to deal with. Talk to the cat in town every day for the occasional bit of free gold. Try to recharge your ammo by going into ink constantly. If you can get somewhere by way of your squid form, do it. There are lots of advanced tactics in this game, but one is done by inking the ground quickly below you, squid morphing, and jumping away from your opponent. Repeat as many times as necessary. In the campaign, you can press any level to instantly super jump to it -- it's really useful for getting around quickly, and I didn't even realize it until the very end.   Turf War: This sounds self-explanatory, but when you're playing Turf War, look for a special (grenade or super attack) that can earn you more turf. For instance, the Splash Wall is a great defensive tool, but other powers will help you actually cover more ground. You always want to be taking turf, even while taking out enemies. Later on in a match, look around for areas that haven't been covered yet. It's safe bet that the enemy team hasn't even realized that this place exists, and likely won't return to it as the match ends. Always watch the GamePad map after a death. Is your ally deep into a base with lots of uncovered ground? Tap them to super jump to them. Mash the screen (gently) in case they die -- you'll jump over there anyway if you tap in time. You'll learn to see certain weapons on the map by the pattern they lay down. For instance, it's easy to spot a roller going in a straight line, switching the territory color. Learn to spot them and stay away if necessary, and get to higher ground. Ambushing people on walls is a great tactic to stay alive if you're outgunned. While running around a corner, quickly ink the wall and stick to it. Most players won't suspect an aerial attack from behind. Don't have enough time at the end of a round after a respawn? Paint objects quickly in your base. You won't have time to super jump or get to any useful location. Splat Zones: Always get to the zone immediately, but create at least one path back. If you have nothing to do and your zone is more than covered, consider ruining the other team's path towards their spawn. It'll significantly slow them down when returning. There are a lot of items here that particularly shine in Splat Zones, like Splash Walls. Use these to block off choke points and prevent enemies from rushing into your zone.
Splatoon tips photo
Jelonzo is the coolest
Just because Splatoon is a light-hearted online experience, that doesn't mean that it lacks depth. Here are some tips to help you along the path to ranked dominance.

Shooters photo
Shooters

Assault Android Cactus looks like the next solid twin-stick shooter


And there's co-op!
May 27
// Jordan Devore
Assault Android Cactus? Didn't that come out ages ago? No, that was merely the initial Steam Early Access build. Some of us -- myself included, now that I've seen this latest trailer -- are waiting for the finished release t...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

Large shipment of UK copies of Splatoon stolen, GAME heavily affected


Check your email UK readers
May 27
// Chris Carter
Our Splatoon review just went up this morning, and a lot of people have been discussing the game in anticipation of Friday's launch. Unfortunately, a number of community members have brought a disturbing series of events...

Review: Splatoon

May 27 // Chris Carter
Splatoon (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No .2Publisher: NintendoReleased: May 29, 2015MSRP: $59.99 Players will start the journey as a measly level one squid in Inkopolis. You should learn the layout in roughly 20 minutes. It's not huge, but it has a lot of character, mostly due to the fact that other players are littered about the townside. No, this isn't quite like a Phantasy Star Online lobby with live players running around, they're more like static NPCs that draw upon the character's avatar, style choices, and Miiverse postings. If you're not keen on walking everywhere to play a specific mode, an easy-to-access map is located on the GamePad -- perfect. There is one annoying thing about the hub world -- the news station. Every so often at certain intervals, a fake "news" show will play, interrupting whatever you're doing. It displays the next set of levels that are up for multiplayer, and any other relevant events that are happening. A lot of you will probably think it's cute, and it is a neat idea, but sometimes they're literally repeating the same phrases on the same stages I've seen multiple times over -- it's not a dealbreaker, I just wish I could just skip through it. Shops, however, are anything but annoying, as I'm a full-on fashion addict. Whether it's the shoe, shirt, or hat boutique, I'm usually inside of a [digital] brick and mortar location ready to spend all of my cash on clothes I will never wear. These items are mostly cosmetic however, and even though they do have some stats attached to them, they're negligible at best. So if you aren't down with the idea of amassing clothes, you probably aren't going to be spending a lot of time in Inkopolis. [embed]291959:58680:0[/embed] It also must be said that the story mode isn't really linked to the hub world, which is mostly for multiplayer. Any acquisitions from the hub are strictly used in online play, though you can unlock some weapon blueprints in the campaign and you'll get a few bonuses to bring back after you complete the story. In other words, think of the single-player narrative as a staging grounds for playing online. The levels themselves are very well designed, and in line with a 3D Mario game -- which is definitely a compliment. There's a lot of variety found in every single stage, with mechanics like geysers, invisible paths, moving blocks, and a whole lot more. Gimmicks never outstay their welcome, and just as you've started to master a concept, Splatoon moves on to the next one. The pacing is superb. Boss fights aren't exactly innovative, as they all boil down to "kill the giant weak point three times," but they are fun to play. They remind me of less inspired Mario Galaxy or 3D World fights, even down to the enemy models. All in all you'll go solo for roughly 30 levels, which should last you 10 hours -- a little less if you rush, a little more if you go for all of the collectibles (which do a great job of worldbuilding, by the way). So how is the game actually played? By inking everything in sight, of course! Well, sort of. In the campaign you'll have access to just the Splattershot, which is like a rapid-fire rifle. You'll use your colored ink to defeat enemies and create paths, which can be crafted on most surfaces on the ground and most walls. By holding the L trigger you'll instantly morph into a squid-form, which isn't capable of attacking (outside of a special super ability), but can traverse quickly in ink. You'll have to master the art of offense as a kid and defense as a squid to really grasp what Splatoon has to offer. Other weapons essentially mirror other shooters (Splat Charger is a sniper rifle of sorts, there's also a grenade launcher and a light machine gun) outside of the Splat Roller, which is utterly unique. In my mind it's easily the most fun weapon to play with in the game, as you'll roll your way to victory, painting the town as you run and destroy enemies along the way. It seems broken at first glance, but it's actually pretty balanced, as skilled snipers and nearly anyone with a gun can counter it from high-ground, all the while earning points online (which I'll get to in a minute). Outside of the story mode there's also "Dojo," which is strictly a one-on-one offline affair, with one player using the GamePad, and another the Wii U Pro Controller. Your goal is to pop 30 balloons, and you'll have the ability to choose from every basic weaponset as well as five arenas. It's fun, but extremely limited, and felt like a momentary distraction from anything else. It was really disappointing once we realized that we can't play together online on the same console. As for the amiibo-centric mode, the only figure I had access to was the Splatoon Boy for the purposes of this review. It keeps the high going from the campaign, mostly because it is the campaign. Each figure features the same levels, but with a new weapon -- in the Boy's case, a Splat Roller. The rewards are mostly gold, with some cosmetic items and the rare weapon variant. So is it worth $35 to pick up the lot? Based on the Boy, I'd say "no," but it's a nice extra. Try the story first, and if you are really itching to play it multiple times, grab them.The main attraction of course is online play. The entire draw of Splatoon is simplicity in this regard. Matches are short, and they don't feature voice chat. In other words, even if you get spawn camped or dominated, matches are only a few minutes, and you don't have another team taunting you along the way. The core mode you'll be playing right off the bat is Turf War, which is a lot like Tony Hawk's Graffiti gametype -- kills don't matter, and the more you paint the battlefield your color, the higher your score at the end. Your personal score is how you level-up online, earn gold for clothes, and unlock the right to use new weapons. I enjoy lots of shooters, and in my mind, Splatoon has easily carved its own little niche around them. It's a more relaxing affair, both in terms of the zen-like qualities of the paint, and the online experience in general. It's refreshing to be able to try out new loadouts without fearing that they might not be viable, and the maps are fairly easy to learn as they are symmetrical. Don't worry though, there's plenty of room for advanced tactics, which the playerbase is already experimenting with just based on the Global Testfire events. My favorite trick that I discovered while playing online is to paint a wall while running from someone, quickly hide as a squid, and leap out from above as they turn the corner. Ranked play by way of the Splat Zones mode, unlocked at level 10, can be a respite from constant Turf War matches. Based on the current XP gain, it should take roughly a day's worth of playing to unlock, and although Nintendo automatically enabled it for my build of the game, a "certain amount of players" will need to reach 10 to play it. It's basically King of the Hill, with more of an emphasis on zone control and kills than Turf War. Your objective is to score as many points as possible while owning a point on the map, keeping everyone else out of the area. It's pretty great, but sadly, these are the only two current online modes. Nintendo has revealed that more are in the pipeline (Rainmaker and Tower are already confirmed), but for now, you'll have to deal with just two. Online play was smooth for me during the past two weeks of testing on pre-launch servers. I've played well over 100 games, and there were only a few sessions that were dropped during matchmaking. Once the game arrives we'll provide a launch-day report of the server situation, but for now, it's been wonderful. There are a few hangups with the way this component was designed though. When you're in the queue for a round, you can't quit -- not even with the home button. It's a bit odd, especially if you realize that you need to handle something in real life, as your only option is to turn the Wii U off. Additionally, you can't switch up your weapons while you're waiting for a game to start, as you can only do that in the previous menu. Also, after a match is completed, if you hit "yes" to quickly start a new match, you cannot change your loadout there either. It's odd, as nearly every other shooter allows you to do so, and it breaks up the pacing to constantly drop games (that you can't quit) to go try a new style. No voice chat actually isn't a big deal to me in unranked Turf War as it's going for a more casual type of gameplay, but it really should be an option in Ranked play. After all, Nintendo set up a grading system that sees your rank drop if you lose. I'd appreciate the ability to at least communicate with my team. Lastly, there's nothing implemented currently for AFKers (I guess Nintendo is relying on short matches to eventually weed them out), and there are limitations in the current build in regards to playing with friends. After matching up and playing a few games, the game will switch you around on opposite sides every so often. An update is coming later this year will allow friends to play together consistently -- odd. None of this really bothers me all that much, but I can see some of these problems being major issues for a lot of you out there. The thing that mostly bothers me about online play is that there's only a handful of maps and two modes at the moment. In some ways, Splatoon's online component is disappointing, and the lack of so many features will likely push other shooter fans away. But most of those shortcomings can be forgiven in my mind because of how damn fun it is. As a shooter it's refreshing, and as a 3D platformer it's up there with some of Nintendo's greatest creations. You'll quickly forget about the fact that you're playing Turf War over and over as you squid down an alley, leap across a gap, and shoot enemies in the air as you fall. All Nintendo needs to do is keep supporting Splatoon, because the foundation is fantastic. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. Nintendo also provided the Squid Boy amiibo.]
Splatoon review photo
A splash hit for Nintendo
If you think Nintendo hasn't been taking risks, you haven't been paying attention. Yes, most fans await the next Mario and Zelda announcement with bated breath during every E3 presentation, but the publish...

Hatred photo
Hatred

GOG refusing to sell Hatred


Still coming to Steam and Desura
May 26
// Laura Kate Dale
Whatever your stance on the controversial game, Hatred is finally getting ready to release. Hatred will be coming to Desura, it will be the first AO rated title to come to Steam, but it will not be coming to GOG.com. GOG, kno...
Animal Crossing photo
Animal Crossing

Go rock this unofficial Splatoon outfit in Animal Crossing


You're a kid now
May 25
// Chris Carter
Do you still boot up Animal Crossing: New Leaf every once in a while? I'm a terrible neighbor -- I've probably caused a lot of woodland creatures to skip town because I never leave my house. For those of you who are stil...
Battlefield 4 photo
Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4 (not Hardline) is getting an update tomorrow


A new mode
May 25
// Chris Carter
Despite the fact that Battlefield 4 launched back in 2013, it's still being updated. Tomorrow, players will get the spring update on all platforms, which includes the Gun Master mode. After an hour of downtime in the mor...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

Remember, the last Splatoon Global Testfire session is tomorrow


Ink out your schedule
May 22
// Chris Carter
Splatoon is almost out, but before then, you can enjoy one last Global Testfire session on Wii U. It'll take place tomorrow at 3PM PST, 11PM UK -- once again it will attempt to cater to players all across the world. As a...
Overwatch Cowboy photo
Overwatch Cowboy

BAMF cowboy McCree gameplay revealed for Overwatch


It's high noon somewhere in the world.
May 20
// Jed Whitaker
Say "Howdy partner" to McCree, the previously announced cowboy for Blizzard's Overwatch, in this hot off the presses gameplay preview. McCree may only use a six shooter, but it certainly doesn't hold him back judging by the ...
KFC game photo
KFC game

KFC takes us through the life of Colonel Sanders in a game


Double Down Browntown
May 20
// Darren Nakamura
Colonel Sanders lived an interesting life. In an attempt to bring him back into the public eye, fast food chain KFC wants to tell the story of his life, though it seems like it might be embellished a bit in the free minigame ...
Kickstarter photo
Kickstarter

Dimension Drive's trolled Kickstarter is back for more


It's time for Jack to let 'er rip!
May 19
// Mike Cosimano
Dimension Drive, the indie game famous for having been trolled by a fraudulent 7,000 euro pledge, has returned to Kickstarter for another shot. "We've had [support] from all over the world. People calling us, sending us ...
Splatoon water gun photo
Splatoon water gun

Target's throwing in a squirt gun with Splatoon


#synergy
May 18
// Jordan Devore
So far, I've missed every single opportunity to try Splatoon. Folks who made an effort to participate in the time-restricted Global Test Fire demo have had encouraging things to say about the game, which has me simu...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

These Splatoon cushions are pretty much the best


Japan-only
May 15
// Chris Carter
[Update: multiple community members have sent in this link to AmiAmi, where they are on pre-order for July.] Nintendo is marketing Splatoon pretty aggressively, and the newest part of the blitz in Japan seems to be ...
Splatoon photo
Splatoon

Nintendo is putting on another Splatoon Global Testfire event


Saturday May 23
May 15
// Chris Carter
During the last Nintendo Direct event, it was revealed that Splatoon would host a limited-run "demo" called the Global Testfire. It turns out that this demo was actually an online-only, specifically timed beta test of so...

Review: Not a Hero

May 14 // Steven Hansen
Not a Hero (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4, PS Vita)Developers: Roll7Publisher: Devolver DigitalReleased: May 14, 2015Price: $12.99 BunnyLord, a rabbit from the future, is running for mayor to prevent humanity from some sort of possibly bee-related extinction on a campaign of hunting down and murdering various crime bosses. His mayoral bid starts with his campaign manager, Steve, and gunman join the cause with rising poll numbers. The health bar shared by Not a Hero's nine playable characters is only a few ticks. It regenerates rather quickly when you're not being shot, but you're often being shot, and one bad volley of enemy fire can kill you immediately. This frailty, which feels more "retro" than the pixel art in and of itself, is mitigated with a cover system, the crutch of the contemporary third-person shooter. Movement here is just as key as shooting, so there is a slide button that you can contextually release before pieces of cover to snap to safety. Shooting while in cover automatically exposes you and enemies can still come head-on and give you a thwack lest you think you can reload in absolute peace. You can play sheepishly -- and cover is helpful when you're down to the last tick of the health bar -- but are not encouraged to. Shots at close range do critical damage while sliding into enemies will knock them out and allow you to perform executions. The result is a cover-supported game rather than a cover-based game. It's there to be used when you're not slide tackling and brutally stabbing folks to death room to room. Your tactics are as brazen as the boss' campaign, which includes perpetuating the war on drugs, rescuing pandas, giving bees to the children, and shooting a not-insignificant amount of police officers. Established trends voters are for. [embed]292134:58536:0[/embed] There are power ups and limited secondary weapon pickups to go along with the nine characters, all of which except the last two feel distinct from one another. There were some power ups I tended to avoid, especially after unlocking an assassin with a devastating, but slow to reload, double barrel shotgun. Coupled with the quick reload power up, the only one not limited to one magazine worth of ammo, it's hard to beat. That same character is quick with a rapid slide which did end in some undue-feeling fall deaths. When I had to jet down a descending series of rooftops, it felt about as precarious as playing a 3D platformer. You can change direction midair which is great for busting out of a window and then busting into one on the floor below, but occasionally I found myself careening forwards to death despite feeling like I'd moved the stick the other way. Having multiple buildings to flit between and different points of entry keeps every multi-floored stage from feeling like a Donkey Kong zigzag to the top, but running or sliding in between any open spaces that weren't perfectly in line with each other just feels a bit off. Additionally, there's just the three visually distinct areas -- the first two of which are even more similar outside of the color swap -- that fall in line with Not a Hero's general flattened action tropes and references. First, it's the Eastern European shipping underbelly. Then it's off to the "urban" (read: dark skinned enemies) area, in an apparent reversal of the first two seasons of The Wire. One of the player characters is Spanish, named Jesus. He wears bright pink, is in a permanent hip thrust animation, and sounds more like Al Pacino doing a Cuban accent in Scarface. Meanwhile the black guy pulls extra magazines out of his afro. On the other hand, the rest of the cast are regional UK in-jokes. The most visually distinct area is the Yakuza-boss-run, an Asian-themed one (much of it related to a sushi restaurant run by bossman Unagi) that also introduces one-hit-kill samurai and ninja, as well as triad folks doing combat barks sometimes not in English, sometimes with thick accents. It also introduces timed door locks which are antithetical to momentum and are often situated at hall ends, meaning you've already done all the murdering on the way there and are waiting for nothing to move on to the next level. And while BunnyLord makes for a unique employer, the extreme irreverence is sometimes amusing and sometimes feels like a forced @dril imitation. There's a bit too much, "Look, it's so random!" at times, like a deadpan presentation of Borderlands 2. More importantly, BunnyLord gives post-mission and pre-mission monologues back to back and to keep the comedic timing you can't just read the text boxes more quickly. It's either wait for the slow text crawl hoping for payoff or just skip it entirely and go shooting. I often went with the latter. Each stage has three optional objectives, too, that go towards determining BunnyLord's political station. Apparently mayor doesn't cut it. But while I completed most everything in the first two areas on my way up from mayor to prime minister to King of England to Global Megalord, I'm stuck as mayor overall. The third act ratchets up the difficulty a lot. I almost spent as much time in the last and third from last stages as I have everywhere else. And I still haven't been able to complete any of the side-goals in the last level, which is basically a boss fight followed by a level, with no checkpoint. It's a bit of a pain, but given how quickly I breezed through a majority of the game, perhaps those more challenging, borderline frustrating bits add to the longevity of what is a pretty lean little game. Translating cover shooters into 2D makes for a good  mix of contemporary and classic sensibilities. It's nice to play a shooter where avoiding enemy bullets is a bit more necessary and I like the tools Not a Hero provides with its slick cover system, mechanically varied cast, and constant chain of slide kicks and executions. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Not a Hero review photo
I can be your hero, baby
Roll7 has received much adulation distilling skateboarding into pixel-based 2D fun with OlliOlli so it's not surprising that the team has been able to do the same with cover-based shooting. But OlliOlli's pixels belie the pol...

Sega's Thunder Blade makes a fierce return in the 3D Classics Series

May 13 // Alessandro Fillari
Originally released in 1987, Thunder Blade brings players to the helm of a heavily armed attack helicopter as they battle waves of foes in tanks, jets, and battleships across a variety of locations. Much like the other Sega offerings of its time, the story is kept light in favor of offering accessible and fast arcade-style gameplay. You're the good guy, everyone else is bad -- shoot them. Though unlike most other shoot-'em-up titles, Thunder Blade features a unique take on perspective, as the action will transition from an overhead angle to the over-the-shoulder look similar to Space Harrier during key sections of the stage. This dynamic switch of perspective made it a welcome fit for the 3D remaster. "We felt that this point of view was extremely well suited for a stereoscopic 3D conversion," said producer Yosuke Okunari. "When we went to actually build the game out in 3D, we found that it gained a very unique sense of actually being suspended in their air, and was even more impactful than the original game. This same thing happened with 3D Galaxy Force II, where by implementing stereoscopic 3D, the game's visual view point style transcended in to its final form, you could say." Thunder Blade has made the transition quite well, and the new hardware has done wonders for the gameplay. The frame rate is rock solid, and the controls for the 3DS are super sharp and make controlling the attack chopper feel very accurate. The left stick controls movement and altitude, while both shoulder buttons control speed (increase and decrease). Though the 3DS is a far cry from the control scheme found on the original arcade release -- which featured a flight stick and a special chair that sought to emulate the cockpit of a helicopter -- I can safely say that 3D Thunder Blade is a fine port, and the action still kept me on my toes during the hectic battles. Much like the other 3D Classic titles, Thunder Blade makes exquisite use out of the new 3D visuals and hardware. One of the most striking elements is its depth of view during altering perspectives, and the new 3D visuals do well to enhance the view and sense of movement during the action. Though the draw distances unfortunately haven't been improved, I was still quite impressed with how the visuals sharpened up. Interestingly enough, the transition to 3D meant having to design the new visuals around the new perspectives independently, and layering them on top of one another. "For this version, we had to implement 3D separately for each of these three types of scenes," said the producer. "The boss stages were particularly difficult. The original game actually had preset depths. Even more so than some of the Genesis games, there were a number of situations where we wouldn't really have to worry about if we left them in 2D, suddenly [having] paradoxical situations when we put them into 3D." "Thunder Blade has three types of gameplay for every stage. The first are scenes that are from the top-down, which allow you to fully appreciate and enjoy changing your helicopter’s altitude. The second are scenes that are 'over the shoulder,' which are reminiscent of After Burner II. The last are the boss battles, where you are not able to change your altitude but you are placed into a forced-scroll situation where you can control your speed and progression. There are no other games that allow you to experience these three types of gameplay all in a single game." Though they were keen on keeping the 3D remaster as it was with the original title, they did implement some new features -- both out of necessity and the desire to include new content with the original game. As some areas didn't take to the new 3D visuals too well, such as shadows glitching out and boss battles resulting in odd bugs, they had to be cut in order to preserve the experience. But in order to make up for this, they implemented a stage that's brand new to the original Thunder Blade. Okunari stated that the new level will be consistent with the rest of the game and really offer an exciting finish. "The new stage feels natural and uses the graphical style of the era, all while taking advantage of the stereoscopic 3D to deliver a scene where you flying into the center of a base, reminiscent of the final Death Star scene in Return of the Jedi. The boss has a really awesome background to it as well, so I encourage everyone to check it out." Not only that, there's the new Arrange mode which is unlocked after completing the arcade mode. In Arrange Mode, players will control an alternate helicopter with different weapons and tackle stages that have some additions to them. While the the original arcade mode is exciting, the extra content goes above and beyond what I expected. I was pretty damn pleased with how 3D Thunder Blade turned out. It helped to scratch that shooter itch I had after playing Space Harrier and After Burner, and Thunder Blade definitely holds its own. While the style and approach is a bit different, I still found it to be a welcome addition to the Classics series. And it's a fine 3D remaster, too. This title is a good one to close out the spring phase of the Classics series, and it'll definitely hold you over till the summer titles come a knocking.
Sega 3D Classics photo
Sans crazy arcade installation
It's been a real joy re-experiencing classic titles from Sega's past. With the recent releases of Outrun and Fantasy Zone II bringing back some serious nostalgia trips, the folks at Sega have still got plenty of 3D remasters ...

Last of Us standalone photo
Last of Us standalone

Standalone Last of Us: Left Behind out now for PS3, PS4


$9.99
May 12
// Jordan Devore
Naughty Dog has sliced apart The Last of Us. If you're curious to try Left Behind, the prequel story starring Ellie and her best bud Riley, you can now do that without committing to the larger story (or Factions multiplayer)....
Arma 3 free weekend photo
Arma 3 free weekend

Military sim Arma 3 free to play this weekend, DayZ on sale


Let's get all ghillied up
May 07
// Jordan Devore
Now through Sunday, Bohemia Interactive is hosting a free weekend for its open-world tactical military shooter Arma 3. Excluding the second and third campaign episodes, everything in the game is playable for free during this ...

Here's everything from the Splatoon Nintendo Direct

May 07 // Chris Carter
[embed]291747:58462:0[/embed]
Splatoon Direct photo
The demo is out today
Nintendo just ran a Splatoon-centric Direct presentation, and it provided a ton of information on the soon-to-be-released shooter. First, to play ranked modes online, you have to reach level 10 (as was previously announced), ...


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