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Stealth

Review: The Swindle

Jul 31 // Zack Furniss
The Swindle (PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox One)Developer: Size Five GamesPublisher: Curve DigitalRelease Date: July 28, 2015 (PC, PS3, PS4, Vita) / July 31 (Xbox One) / TBD (Wii U)MSRP: $14.99 I'll be honest, this review didn't come out on release day because I couldn't beat the fucking game in time. The Swindle starts off simply enough: the robotic police force that defends all of that sweet future funding projects a light in front of them indicating their line of sight. If you take a second to observe most obstacles and enemies, chances are you'll understand how they'll react in any given situation. That's the beauty of Size Five Games' newest creation: through its hand-drawn art and deft understanding of visual cues, a glance at your surroundings is usually enough to convey all of the information regardless of your location. With a general lack of tutorials, it's appreciated that there was a strong knowledge of mise-en-scène (ha! I've justified taking that one directing class now) involved in The Swindle's creation. A successful robbery goes as follows: from a side-scrolling perspective, your scoundrel will arrive at a procedurally-generated location ripe for the plucking. With a combination of climbing, sneaking, and watching, you just might be able to walk away with a considerable sum of money. Small vaults/chests/containers are strewn about, but aren't worth much. Computers (which are hacked through deliciously tense QTEs) are where you'll want to focus your efforts, as they offer the best payday. If you're spotted, you run the risk of dying and losing your character, though your purchased abilities are universal. The police will send increasingly deadly forces at you, but you can still get away if you reach your escape pod without dying. For the first 40 days or so, I felt like I was building a slow, subtle mastery over my surroundings. Though I started by robbing the poor to work my way up, the ramshackle security systems were enough to keep me vigilant. The intricacies of wall-climbing became more familiar to me, and various upgrades to my thieves expanded the possible approaches available at each newly-generated building. I watched many of these swindlers embrace sweet death via bullets, failed hacking attempts on explosives, and oh-so-many plunges off of tiled roofs. Each time, a new one rose with a new outfit and name: Lafeyette Weedbruiser lasted six successful heists before a wheelchair-clad robot shot her down from a magnificent double-jump. I eventually earned enough money to move onto the warehouse districts and the mansions. Each area was progressively more difficult but offered more lucrative lucre. I bought bombs, money-accruing bugs, and the ability to hack doors and security systems, feeling as though the Devil's Basilisk would be mine with days to spare. It wasn't until I purchased the right to try to pilfer from the casinos and banks that I hit an iron wall of challenge. Instead of skulking into buildings with multiple access points and hacking easily-reached computers for big bucks, I was relegated to picking up chump change and scrambling back to my escape pod before the tenacious security bots spotted me during one of my many slip-ups. The titular swindle is actually the final stage, where you attempt to steal the AI device. You need to be prepared for the big event by having the right tools and upgraded thieves, but you also need to pay for entry. Saving up £400,000 is already hard enough; however, failure requires you to pay the whole amount for each successive attempt. Since you'll be spending your hard-earned money on necessary upgrades like teleportation, triple-jumps, and being able to stop in the middle of a wall slide (seriously, buy this), that buy-in price makes an already difficult game feel ludicrously unfair. There are ways to buy extra days towards the end, but the price goes up each time. That's the game over screen, which I saw at the end of multiple attempts at all 100 days. I'm not one to balk at a challenge, but the finite lives combined with the money requirement of the last level feel like an artificial attempt to gate willing players away from the ending. I have no doubt that somebody is on Twitch at this very moment, controlling The Swindle with Donkey Konga drums ghosting through the final stage, but the vast majority of players will mostly find the latter half of the game frustrating. I think it's telling that most of the coverage I've read has only shown screenshots of the first few stages.  There's also the weird bloom effect that permeates some of your jaunt through London. While it makes sense to have your vision obscured when the alarms are blaring and the lights are flashing red, occasionally the screen is bloomed beyond belief and you can't discern the minutiae on the screen. I've committed almost-perfect crimes, hacking security systems and clearing out guards, only to land on an explosive I could barely see. Get used to seeing starbursts of paper money explode from your fresh corpses for the slightest of transgressions. The collision on spike pits also is a bit wonky, and I've died a fair few times just for standing close to one. Depending on the kind of player you are, you might just start finding exploits to accelerate your progress. I'm not all that ashamed to admit that I took advantage of bugs, which seem to go against the whole risk/reward theme of The Swindle. If you get close to a computer, you can place a bug that will siphon cash to your account at a rate of £/second. This goes directly to your account, so you can avoid having to run back to the escape pod to keep whatever you earn. The thrill of sneaking off with a sack full of cash is somewhat diminished when you can place a bunch of bugs and wait by the exit, but I found myself relying on this method in order to actually reach the Devil's Basilisk. Since hacking is accomplished via directional QTEs, you can just spin the stick in a circle without punishment (unless it's a mine, which will explode upon an incorrect input). I only did this once out of curiosity, but it feels like an unnoticed exploit. Hacking is my favorite part of the game, so I couldn't cheat myself out of that experience without feeling like a sad sack. For the record, I played on a gamepad, which was much more comfortable than the keyboard layout. The Swindle is nowhere near an entirely negative experience. It's a festival of moments, of anecdotes filled with failures and smiles. I found myself holding my breath as I hacked a computer with just enough time to dodge three heavy guards coming my way, jumped over two electricity traps, clung to a wall to let a patrol pass, and bombed myself a new escape route. These pockets of perfection kept me hooked, and made me boot up The Swindle again and again in order to preserve this world of rogues. That, and my dedication to you guys. Now, the Devil's Basilisk is for all of us to share. You're goddamned welcome. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the developer.]
The Swindle photo
Steal shit, get hit
A band of thieves in Steampunk Victorian London has been tasked with preventing Scotland Yard's creation of the ultimate surveillance device: The Devil's Basilisk. If they fail to swindle said device in 100 days (read: lives)...

Tangiers photo
Tangiers

Tangiers is what happens when stealth meets horror


Concrete hell
Jul 30
// Jordan Devore
Tangiers is said to be a surreal stealth game with a hint of horror, and the latest trailer checks out. It doesn't seem outright scary, but the world, characters, and sound design sure are uncomfortable. Like a voice in the b...
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided photo
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex Mankind Divided dev 'rectifies' issues for non-lethal play styles


'Supporting all different play aspects'
Jul 28
// Vikki Blake
The decision of whether your foes live or die in Deux Ex: Mankind Divided -- particularly in your boss battles -- will once again be yours and yours alone.  Talking to OXM, Deux Ex: Mankind Divided directo...
In Japan photo
In Japan

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a 25GB download


Also, bloody Quiet tits
Jul 23
// Steven Hansen
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain popped up on the Japanese PlayStation Store and weighs in at 25.1GB on PS4. On PS3, it is a svelte 11.7GB. There numbers can vary by region (the addition of localization files, like those recently scrounged out of ICO) and platform (it's coming to PC, Xbox One, and Xbox 360), but here's a decent ballpark. Also, new poster below.
Dishonored, cheaper photo
Dishonored, cheaper

Dishonored remaster $20 cheaper if you own the original (update)


Do you own it digitally on PS3?
Jul 23
// Steven Hansen
[Update: Bethesda confirmed to Eurogamer that the half-off price is available on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One for those who own a digital copy of the original game. If you bought the disc, like a sucker, "retailers will ha...
MGO photo
MGO

Metal Gear Online gear customization doesn't affect stats


Though it affects visibility
Jul 22
// Steven Hansen
I've already played two days worth of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It's good stuff. Anyone attending gamescom in a couple weeks will be able to play it, too, in the first public hands-on. All well and good. But Metal...
Deus Ex men united photo
Deus Ex men united

Deus Ex creators play the original 15 years later


Warren Spector on his seminal project
Jul 17
// Steven Hansen
The Deus Ex YouTube took a break from giving me fodder for Mick Foley jokes to host some of creators of the original game for a "Let's Play" down memory lane. Project director Warren Spector, writer Sheldon Pacotti, and lead...
The Swindle photo
The Swindle

The Swindle gets down with the sneaky sneaky


Here's a PC preview
Jul 15
// Zack Furniss
I’ve just spent a few hours with Size Five Games’ (of Time Gentlemen, Please! and Ben There, Dan That! fame) newest offering, The Swindle. As a coalition of thieves in alternate-reality Victorian London, you&rsquo...
Metal Gear Solid V photo
Metal Gear Solid V

Konami removes all Kojima branding from MGSV: Phantom Pain cover


Shock horror what a surprise
Jul 14
// Vikki Blake
In the latest of a long line of hideously public oh-my-God-will-this-ever-fecking-end-I-love-Mummy-and-Daddy-equally-why-won't-they-stop-fighting spats since Hideo Kojima parted ways with Konami, the publisher has now removed...
Dishonored photo
Dishonored

Ahh, so that's how you're supposed to play Dishonored


Why is he... oh
Jul 13
// Jordan Devore
Dishonored gives us the freedom to look like a total fool or an unstoppable force of nature. In this video, YouTube user StealthGamerBR shows once again that he knows what his targets are thinking before they do. And he even makes use of the rat swarm! Daud never stood a chance.
New Hitman photo
New Hitman

Hitman releases digitally this year, on disc in 2016


'Sizable chunk' playable at launch
Jul 09
// Jordan Devore
Amidst the rush of E3, I missed hearing about IO Interactive's unusual release plan for Hitman. In a Q&A today, the studio reiterated some of those points and highlighted new details. To recap: "What we release on Decembe...
The Phantom Pain photo
The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid V producer responds to early 'downgrade' complaints


The Phantom Pain
Jul 09
// Steven Hansen
Wow. If my math is right  (it always is), we're 69* days away from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but enterprising gamers are getting a jump on graphics downgrade controversies, sarcastically tweeting at Konami pr...

Dishonored 2's leads play differently and you have to choose between them

Jul 07 // Steven Hansen
Interesting move. I'll be going with the fresh face. Smith says the missions are the same regardless of your choice, but both characters are fully voiced, so you'll get a different tinge depending. I kind of would like to see how the non-entity Corvo gets turned into an actual character this time. "There's a different theme in the narrative sense, in the literary sense," Smith says, "Corvo's an older guy, he's coming home for the first time to Serkonos. Emily is like an empress outlaw on the run, and she's young, she's 25. So their perspectives are very different." Then again, one look at my music library is all you need to know that I identify as a 25 year old empress outlaw, so maybe that's still the choice for me after all. From damsel to hero: How Emily became Dishonored 2's new badass [Mashable]
Dishonored 2 photo
Will you play as Corvo or Emily?
Hello, Dishonored 2. I missed you. I was eating a hamburger and watching the Warriors game when you were announced, and then it was a whole week of E3, then working on the Arkham Knight review. I finally caught the Dishonored...

Battle dress photo
Battle dress

Alternate Metal Gear Solid V footage puts Snake in a dress


Phantom Pain E3 demo, but differently
Jul 06
// Steven Hansen
Konami showed off a lengthy Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain demo during E3 this year. But Metal Gear has been more about supporting different play styles in the latest entries and The Phantom Pain's open world and large...
Hitman release plan photo
Hitman release plan

New Hitman releasing unfinished, will get free content updates


Content updates through 2016
Jun 18
// Steven Hansen
Square Enix announced something of a reboot for the Hitman series this week. It's just called Hitman and is coming December 8. It won't be finished then, though. It will be $60. There will be "no DLC or microtransactions." St...
Hitman photo
Hitman

Our first look at the new Hitman


Not a mobile game!
Jun 15
// Jordan Devore
"Good to have you back." IO Interactive debuted a first look at its new Hitman during Sony's E3 2015 press conference. Somewhat of a different vibe, at least from the trailer, but that's still Agent 47. Boy, just l...
Volume photo
Volume

Volume gets a release date and trailer for PC, PS4, and Vita


VR Robin Hood coming August 18
Jun 10
// Laura Kate Dale
Volume is an upcoming retelling of the Robin Hood legend from Thomas Was Alone creator Mike Bithell, featuring the vocal talents of both ex-Destructoid editor Jim Sterling and Andy Serkis, the talent behind Gol...

Sneak king: 14 hours of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Jun 09 // Steven Hansen
[embed]293558:58900:0[/embed] There is a reason I am excited about Snake's horse having a poop button and it is not only that I am a dumb idiot. While I never managed to confirm, I am sure that you can do something like strategically place poop so an enemy walks into it and stops, or maybe slips. Because things like that are what elevate Metal Gear Solid V above typical stealth and/or open-world titles. It's the idiosyncrasies, like calling in a supply drop from Mother Base right onto the head of a stationary guard, knocking them out. It's knowing winks like hiding in a PS4 cardboard box, or the ghost from PT being an item, or a spoken, in-universe tutorial where you're told fourth wall breaking things like "press X" while under extreme virtual duress. The opening segment, which has mostly been covered in diced up trailers, stuck with me in hindsight for how long it goes on with you controlling a crawling, limping Snake in the under siege, burning hospital. It's a while before you're given any power back (guns or even the ability to walk properly), which I appreciated. Kojima ratchets up the direness here, too, as loads of hospital patients get brutally murdered all around. The meat of Phantom Pain opens after this mix of spectacle and terror with a trip to dusty Afghanistan to save Miller that ends in a frightening [redacted]. This plays similarly to Ground Zeroes, of course, but with a horse and more scouting and enemy tagging to do. I wormed my way up to where Miller was captive, climbed up a crack in a building, and jumped from one roof to another to neatly sneak in. Carrying a less-limbed Miller out did get me plenty shot up, but a whistle for my buddy D Horse got both of us out of there quickly. Back on Mother Base, the structure becomes clear. There are main missions you must travel to (by helicopter to a nearby landing zone, or on horseback/by ground vehicle) and they are not all story heavy, though you're always treated to beginning and ending credits, as if each mission was a TV episode, just in case you forgot that this was directed by Hideo Kojima. One mission simply tasked me with rolling up on a compound and assassinating three Russian officers. I fulton'd them all -- attached balloons to them to send back to Mother Base -- against Miller's wishes instead, which proved wise as the officers had some high statistical aptitudes. These poached soldiers fill out your private army and get cool names like Blue Mastadon. Eventually you can scan them ahead of time to know which have high stats, or you can sometimes interrogate soldiers into informing you if an en elite operative is nearby (provided you've acquired a translator for your support team, as Snake's language skills are limited). [embed]293558:58893:0[/embed] It's a lot of contract work in addition to the narrative goal of stopping the Hamburglar-masked Skull Face and generally figuring out what the hell is going on with things. I was actually a bit surprised by how infrequently missions came with cutscenes or main story ties. Sometimes they open up three at a time and you can take them on in any order. You can also choose to repeat a mission at any time if you want to aim for a better performance ranking. I did this with a prisoner extraction mission I had previously finished, but barely. Turns out using the Phantom Cigar to speed up until nighttime, coupled with the night vision goggles, made that particular mission a five minute cakewalk. Going at it in the day led me to enough deaths that I was offered the Chicken Hat, which makes things easier and slows down enemy reaction time. Other dynamic weather events -- rain or sandstorms -- can also come into play, sometimes not at opportune moments. The low visibility caused by sandstorms helped me a few times, but also led me to walk right into an enemy soldier, once. There are also useful side missions that pop up for you take at your leisure, often en route to the next mission point. The Afghan desert is huge, but much of the terrain is empty or cordoned off by mountainous areas or steep cliff sides that encourage you to use the main roads. These roads are littered with enemy outposts, however, often with small platoons of three to four and a watch tower. Sneaking through them isn't too tough, because often you can take a longer loop around them, but they often house collectables (you can pinch a huge assortment of music from enemy tape players) and valuable resources that tie into the upgrade system. Oil, alloys, raw diamonds for straight cash, plants to upgrade the sleeping toxin in Snake's tranquilizers or the time-shifting Phantom Cigar -- you'll be scooping up all of it, though other means of acquisition open up when you can start sending squads out on missions. Plus, those posts are full of soldiers to abduct and, after you upgrade your Fulton balloons, things like heavy artillery to nick. [embed]293558:58895:0[/embed] Everything you Fulton, barring bad weather or bad luck with nighttime visibility, ends up back at Mother Base, which is large enough, especially once you get construction going, that you can actually take a helicopter to other parts of it. Or you can take a long, straight drive in a jeep. Going back to visit helps your troops' morale. They're also proud and happy to have you practice your close quarters combat on them at any time. During my lengthy hands-on, I never got to the point where my Mother Base came under attack, though that's supposed to be a big part of it, up to the point where you can consider nuclear capability as a defense. It's worth noting that 14 hours or so with Phantom Pain and I didn't feel close to finished. Back at Mother Base, I was still building an animal sanctuary (necessary to house all the wandering sheep and other creatures I kept bringing back) and trying to get an imprisoned, sun-bathing Quiet as a deployable buddy like D-Horse and Diamond Dog (the adorable wolf pup that grows into a super-scouting badass). She just sat in the cell, face down, top undone (got to watch those tan lines) listening to tunes from an eclectic, amusing soundtrack. Adorably, construction scaffolding on Mother Base is all stamped with a picture of a dog in a hardhat with a pick axe. It's the little things. Like changing my Diamond Dogs logo from a boring, stencil font "DD" to a cool ass octopus emblazoned with the words "VENOM WOMAN." You can even paint Mother Base if that Giants-orange is too much for you. I find a tasteful dark blue goes well with the sea. My favorite Mother Base quirk so far, though, is the giant shower Snake can jump into to come out feeling refreshed. It also washes off all the blood that accumulates on him while out on missions (if you end up getting shot, at least). [embed]293558:58891:0[/embed] While there are reasons to return home, you can manage a lot of Mother Base, like troop allocation and base development, while out in the field through the iDroid. It also acts as Snake's cassette player, useful for Codec-replacing heaps of exposition, which is just about the only place I heard Snake do much talking.  From the iDroid you can also develop new or better versions of weapons and items. There are upgraded critter traps, different abilities for Snake's robot arm, enhancements to the binocular scanner, extra Fulton balloons to heft heavier weight. I mostly played with a stealthy approach so I didn't dabble much with the vast assortment of snipers, machine guns, or rocket launchers you can call in. Nor did I ever run up on a lack of funds that would prevent re-supply drops of my own essential Fulton balloons and tranq darts, but the fact that you have to call in and then get to the supply drops means that the feature rarely made things too simple. Especially because missions often end up in close quarters or indoors where a supply drop would be useless anyways. I was impressed by how naturally set piece sort of areas exist in Metal Gear Solid V's world. There are long tracts of dusty road, vast open desert, but suddenly you stumble upon an enormous, imposing compound. In the case of one early mission, it was an Uncharted-style winding, honeycomb-esque historical labyrinth, which you get to by creeping through an excavation camp. There are mission areas that would feel like obvious "levels" elsewhere, but here they mesh cleanly with the open world. Just starting or ending a mission (the latter, usually by reaching a helicopter and flying out in real time) is seamless and the day/night cycle persists in cutscenes. I did hit one snag with this open-world structure, though. When you start a mission (or side-mission), you're then restricted to a "mission area." Leaving it ends the mission. I only ever noticed after one challenging mission that ended with [redacted] and [redacted] coming up on [redacted] and holy hell [redacted] -- anyway, towards the end I tried to hightail it on my horse, but I ended running clean through the mission area and having to start from way, way back. It wanted me to sneak to a nearby chopper extraction point instead of just racing to safety and calling one in. This is, incidentally, when I noted the cutscene and subsequent segment I originally did at night now took place during the day. [embed]293558:58892:0[/embed] Phantom Pain feels like the freshest, most distinct use of an open world since Far Cry 2 and it does this without sacrificing the cozier feeling of the series' past level design. While I can't say anything about the story, I don't actually know much at this point, either, besides various "holy shit" moments that have only raised questions. It's appropriate, then, that this Sutherland-voiced Snake speaks sparingly. He always seems sad and a little bit confused, retreating into the rote, work-like task of soldier stuff hoisted upon him by Ocelot and Miller, who seem to be a bit at odds with each other as well.  While Ground Zeroes' sadistic storytelling might raise concerns over how this extra grim tale will play out (Snake is basically a devil what with the horns, the intro is pure brutality before giving way to surreal insanity, there's still a whole thing about child soldiers at some point), I've come away nothing but impressed with Phantom Pain. I don't miss codecs, I don't miss Hayter. I've embraced the open world, I love the tangible Mother Base. And I feel like I've only scratched the surface. There's so much more to do. I've barely used the cardboard box -- you can leap out the sides or hang out in delivery zones and actually have enemies unwittingly pick you up and drive you into outposts. I haven't used to inflatable decoy to bop someone off a cliff. In a world of blockbuster clones and genre convention, Metal Gear Solid V manages to feel fresh. I can't wait to get someone to slip on my horse poop.
First hands-on! photo
First hands-on with Metal Gear Solid V
Trailers from as far back as two years ago offer evidence enough, though. Do you all remember the giant, on-fire man supplanted in malevolence seconds later by the even more giant, on-fire whale careening through the sky to ...

Yandere Simulator photo
Yandere Simulator

Yandere Simulator lets you poison Japanese schoolgirls


Hey, I didn't use that much poi...
Jun 05
// Steven Hansen
We should talk more about Yandere Simulator, which we last covered when YouTube had a fit about its upskirt creep shots (an optional mechanic for gaining favors) and pulled development videos for sexual content. The Hitman-l...
Upskirt game photo
Upskirt game

Natsuiro High School is a pervy creepshot simulator


Out on PS3 and PS4 in Japan
Jun 03
// Steven Hansen
Natsuiro High School is out for PS3 and PS4 today in Japan. It is mostly about crawling on the ground to take illicit pictures of high school age girls' underwear. Or somehow getting them into those threadbare bikinis that a...
Hack photo
Hack

Locked Steam achievement requires you to hack game's code


Invisible, Inc.
May 26
// Steven Hansen
It's not to say that secrets are no fun anymore, but the internet sure can take the luster out of 'em. I mean, what would have been the point of my dog eared, note scribbled Myst notebook if I could solve the whole thing cons...
MGO photo
MGO

Metal Gear Online: 16 players on PC/PS4/Xbox One, 12 players on PS3/360


Player counts detailed
Apr 21
// Steven Hansen
Konami's Japanese Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain website has detailed the player count for The Phantom Pain's online component, Metal Gear Online. The PC, PS4, and Xbox One versions of Metal Gear Online will support up...
Full ghost photo
Full ghost

You won't have to fight the bosses in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided


We all asked for this
Apr 15
// Steven Hansen
You asked for this. I had my own problems with Yellowest Game of Forever (YGF) Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but it seemed the internet shared universal disdain for its forced boss fights that completely upended no-kill runs an...
Awww heck yeah! photo
Awww heck yeah!

Invisible, Inc launching May 12, PS4 version in development


Awww heck yeah!
Apr 15
// Steven Hansen
I love Invisible, Inc. I gave it a game of the year award despite it being in Early Access. Well that's all done with. The excellent stealth-strategy game -- yes, you read that right, read the preview here -- will officially...
Assassin's Creed photo
Assassin's Creed

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


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

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

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

Metal Gear photo
Metal Gear

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


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

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


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

The Swindle perfectly balances roguelike mechanics with approachable gameplay


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

We Happy Few's bright exterior hides a dark secret

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


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