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impressions

So, how's Gears of War's multiplayer at launch?

Aug 25 // Brett Makedonski
Between last night and this afternoon, I have a fair sample size of matches under my belt. I'm maybe one percent of the way toward the "Seriously..." Achievement, which doesn't sound like much, but it is. The only issue I've encountered was about five seconds of lag at the beginning of one match. Otherwise, everything's been silky smooth. There's one non-performance issue that I have a problem with, however. The War Journal offers multiplayer statistics, but not on how close you are to earning the different Achievements. (If I'm not mistaken, this is a feature that Gears of War 3 implemented quite nicely.) Likewise, Xbox One's "snap an app" feature doesn't track that progress either. The sole indicator is a counter that pops up after a match in which you've hit a milestone toward that Achievement. Hopefully a fix is coming for that. That one insignificant complaint aside, this game holds up its end of the bargain with regard to multiplayer. After the Halo: The Master Chief Collection snafu (that may still be on-going to some degree), it was important for Microsoft to emphatically stick the landing on this one. Fortunately, it lives up to the excellent standard set by the rest of Gears of War Ultimate Edition.
Gears of War photo
Silky smooth so far
I have a novel concept for you: What if a major video game releases and its multiplayer component just works? Like, there isn't a bunch of drama and patches and updates and apologies; instead, you get to play the game immedia...

Superhot is more of a turn-based puzzle RTS than an FPS

Aug 19 // Laura Kate Dale
As someone who sucks at first-person shooters due to their twitch reaction nature, this focus on a slower, almost puzzle-based approach to combat really suited me. I got to feel like the potential to be a badass gun-wielding VR murderer was truly within me. One of the aspects of the game I had managed to stay completely oblivious to before playing Superhot was the narrative and plot presentation. Everything is presented to you as being part of a hacked video game that seems to be taking over people's minds and devouring some innate part of them. The creepy glitch aesthetic of the presentation, alongside the slow build of a maddening descent into complicity really gave a creepy weight to the gameplay systems at hand. I was in control of the gameplay, but I was certainly not in control of the plot. That juxtaposition was really interesting and something I had no idea Superhot was planning to throw at me. My biggest take away from finally getting my hands on Superhot was simply that it seems to be living up to the potential that it's early, eye-catching trailers promised. The gameplay system is polished, level design is tightly refined and the narrative presentation around that core is intriguing and uniquely presented. Superhot looked cool in trailers, and the chunk of time I've spent with it reassures me that this is going to be something special when it launches.
Superhot preview photo
Take it slow and steady
Superhot has been the talk of the town ever since it was first shown off to the world. A first person shooter where the action slows to a near stop unless you're currently moving, the game's visual style and odd momentum are ...

Revelations 2 Vita photo
Revelations 2 Vita

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is not so great on Vita, stick to the console version


Framerate issues
Aug 18
// Chris Carter
Despite the polarized reception, I loved Resident Evil: Revelations 2. It might have something to do with the fact that I beat the entire core game, as well as every Raid Mode level with a co-op partner, but I had a blast ev...

You don't need a GamePad to play ZombiU

Aug 18 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]306573:60033:0[/embed] Still, it's not anywhere near a deal-breaker. The Xbox One controller and DualShock 4 are serviceable in their one-button press menu summoning. It all just requires a little bit more care. Honestly, if you're playing Zombi carelessly, menu navigation is the least of your concerns. There are some other slight drawbacks in the Xbox One version of Zombi. Textures and character models seem a bit outdated, which can be expected from a game that launched before current consoles released. Also, the frame-rate tends to dip when action gets too thick. Those annoyances are nothing too detrimental to Zombi, though. The captivating environment and the unique survivor-after-survivor gameplay easily overshadow the flaws. And, we shouldn't view the switch from GamePad to regular controllers as a downgrade; we should view it as a fantastic opportunity for a wider audience to experience everything Zombi has to offer.
Zombi impressions photo
Well, just 'Zombi' now
To date, ZombiU has been one of the best (and only) non-Nintendo published Wii U exclusives. It has turned into something of a cult classic, as many have praised the way that it felt more like a survival game and resiste...


Rocket League DLC photo
Rocket League DLC

Rocket League's Supersonic Fury DLC is cooler than I expected


Love that new pearlescent paint finish
Aug 14
// Darren Nakamura
Rocket League just released two DLC packs: Utopia Coliseum is a new arena to play in and is available for free while Supersonic Fury contains a host of new car customization options and runs about four bucks. The two new cars...
Gathering Sky impressions photo
Gathering Sky impressions

Gathering Sky is out today on Steam and mobile, and it's quite relaxing


I want to fly like an eagle
Aug 13
// Ben Davis
Gathering Sky, a game from indie studio A Stranger Gravity about controlling a flock of birds, released on Steam, iOS, and Android today. I got a chance to play around with the Steam version this week, and it's a pretty neat ...

Turns out I'm still in love with Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons

Aug 13 // Brett Makedonski
Yet, the controls -- a scheme that's supposed to represent the bond between the siblings -- is as ineffective as ever. Again, I never got a consistent feel for how to operate the two in tandem. Everything would be fine for a moment until one veered into the wall, meaning I'd have to stop controlling one to focus on another and the whole harmony was ruined. I've felt this way the entire time, but it's such a testament to the rest of Brothers that a central mechanic can be this broken, yet the game is still superb. Brothers' relative ease softens the blow, but the vast majority of titles in this situation would be immediately relegated to a mediocre score and a short-lived legacy. Brothers has far exceeded that fate. With regard to improvements in this version, I'm not sure there are many. If memory serves correctly, I believe this re-release has a deeper palette of hues. Everything seems richer in color which enhances the experience. More notably, the Xbox One and PS4 re-release includes director's commentary, the soundtrack, and a gallery of concept art. Inessentials, but a nice addition for some people. [embed]305002:59971:0[/embed] The rub here is that nothing in the re-release is far and away better than the versions on legacy consoles or PC. That's sort of how it goes with games that launched later in the last-gen life-cycle -- there's a fair parity across those versions. Brothers doesn't feel like a game you need to play on current consoles. This investment is better reserved for those who missed it the first time 'round, or those who have a burning desire to shell out extra money in hopes that it encourages more titles like this to be made. For more in-depth analysis of Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons, read my review from the summer of 2013. If you need help with the game's Achievements or Trophies, check out my guide.
Brothers impressions photo
Impressions of the re-release
I may not have picked it up in two years, but I still remember every second of Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons. It's just that kind of game. It leaves you in a more fragile mindset than when you started. I don't care if that so...

Heroes new map/Monk photo
Heroes new map/Monk

Quick thoughts on Heroes of the Storm's Monk and new Infernal Shrines level


Currently on PTR
Aug 11
// Chris Carter
Blizzard has unleashed a host of new changes onto the public test realm (PTR) for Heroes of the Storm, including a new character (Kharazim the Monk) and a new map (Infernal Shrines). I had a chance to take them both for a spi...

Panic! Dark Souls III is so easy I didn't die by the boss once

Aug 05 // Steven Hansen
[embed]297197:59811:0[/embed] Site Souls-expert Chris Carter reckons this slice of Dark Souls III was about five hours into the game, so it's no first boss gimme that I took down casually and without a sweat. Also, henceforth, I am Destructoid's resident Souls expert. Chris was the first to beat the boss out of everyone (I came in a close second), but not even he managed to do it first try and so he is usurped. In fact, I almost made it all the way to the boss without dying until I got stuck investigating a corner and some malnourished dogs attacked me. My attacks got caught on the shelves and wall on either side, interrupting the animation, and I was pinned. Streak nixed, I explored a bit more, fought a black tendril-y roof monster, and so on. My natural investigative nature is probably the only reason Chris beat me to the boss, if you think about it. Even to a handsome newbie like myself, Dark Souls III was instantly familiar. Despite matching Bloodborne's speed, it doesn't have that same novelty learning curve that came with playing sans shield, with a giant transforming axe scythe thing and a gun. The big new addition, Weapon Arts, are activated by holding L2 and then doing attacks for alternate strikes, but I never put them into play during combat. The skill went from unlimited to a cap of 20, refueled at bonfires, which should help undercut my joking fear mongering regarding the difficulty level of the game. All of this could change and likely will. We were shown a stage and system that feels completely final (art, animation, etc.) save for the most important thing: balance and tuning to feel. [Disclosure: Bandai Namco provided local travel to the event, as well as dinner.]
Dank souls photo
Hands-on preview
When I wrote about why Souls games are not that hard earlier this year, I told you all that I was neither expert (under 30 series hours total) nor savant (not skilled at anything). And yet, this lumbering galoot, after quite ...

Dark Souls III wears its Bloodborne influences on its sleeve

Aug 05 // Chris Carter
Our demo started out in an era called the "Wall of Lodeleth," which to me, looks like a mix between the Undead Burg and Boletarian Palace. The layout was fairly linear, but offered up a ton of surprises like the standard "dragon guarding loot" offshoot, and a mini-boss of sorts. Lodeleth was multi-tiered, and featured a number of side rooms accessed by way of ladders, as well as some rooftop shenanigans. It was par for the course, but still felt right. Combat as a whole is quicker, which is likely a direct response to Bloodborne changing the game. Rolls and dodges are faster, and enemies as a whole feel faster, too. It's not quite "fighting game" fast, but it's a comfortable medium between Souls and Bloodborne, which I'm more than okay with. One big addition is "Battle Arts," which are basically super moves triggered by different equipment combinations. "Not all shields parry now," I was told by Bandai Namco producer Brandon Williams, and you can see that distinction by way of an icon on the item itself in the lower-left equipment corner. A shield icon denotes a defensive action, and a sword icon is more aggressive. In this instance, it allowed my axe to power up for a short period, granting me a damage boon, which was depicted by a glowing aura on my weapon. In essence, it's a more "on-demand" spell system for folks who prefer direct combat -- I say bring it on. My personal style for Souls games involves using the shield as blocking insurance, but not necessarily for parrying, so I'm all for this change. As a note, these are limited-use abilities, and will recharge at a bonfire much like flasks. As I made my way through the demo, I eventually encountered the only boss, the Dancer of the Frigid Valley (1:45 in the trailer). Based on my experience, it was very similar to Bloodborne's Vicar Amelia fight -- for the most part attacks are easy to dodge, but if you get caught up, you're going to get punished, and possibly one-shotted. The boss also sports a flaming sword, which produces chip damage even if you block, forcing you to be more aggressive. It was a standard but fun fight. [embed]296887:59812:0[/embed] One problem area I noticed during my hands-on session however was the frame rate. There was often times a lot of enemies on-screen, but it chugged on all of those occasions. Bloodborne was 30fps as well, but it's high-time that the series moved on without needing a re-release to bring us into higher territory -- Scholar of the First Sin is incredibly smooth at 60fps. For reference, the build we played with seemed to be PC-based, using an Xbox One controller. Another sort of more personal issue I had was the fact that it felt a little too samey. As I mentioned above, Lodeleth felt like an amalgamation of existing areas in past Souls games. Even something like Huntsman's Copse in Dark Souls II, which is for all intents and purposes a "forest area" that had been done before, felt like something completely different. Bloodborne was a breath of fresh air, providing a unique perspective with a harrowing blight and a darker tone in general. With Dark Souls III, I'm distinctly getting the feeling of "more Souls," which for the most part is a good thing, but did wear on me a bit even during my brief time with the game. It took me roughly 30 minutes to make my way through the demo area and defeat the Dancer -- of which I was the first in the group to do (though Steven beat the boss in one shot!). At the end of it all, amidst the claps from my colleagues and the Namco Bandai reps, I felt that sense of accomplishment that I've felt since downing the Phalanx boss in Demon's Souls. I think Dark Souls III will be fine. [Disclosure: Bandai Namco provided travel to the event, as well as dinner.]
Dark Souls III preview photo
I also see a few problem areas
It's crazy to think that we're on the verge of yet another Souls game right after Bloodborne and Scholar of the First Sin. From Software doesn't seem to rest, and as soon as the studio has wrapped up one project, it's on...

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.

Omni Plus Beanbag photo
Omni Plus Beanbag

Our butts and backs tested the Omni Plus beanbag


With improved model photos!
Jul 18
// Mike Cosimano
Unless you're one of those lunatics with a standing desk, you likely play a lot of video games sitting down. And whether you're a writer with a looming review deadline, a recently single game enthusiast, or a bored teenager, ...
PS4 / UE4 Ethan Carter photo
PS4 / UE4 Ethan Carter

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter looks better on PS4 but runs worse


There are some frame rate issues
Jul 16
// Jed Whitaker
It hasn't been highly publicized, but the PlayStation 4 version of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was rebuilt from the ground up in Unreal Engine 4. The current PC version runs in UE 3. Due to the new engine, this mysteri...
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...

Until Dawn still hasn't wowed me, but I'm intrigued

Jul 13 // Chris Carter
Until Dawn (PS4)Developer: Supermassive GamesPublisher: SonyRelease: August 25, 2015 This is largely the same experienced that's been teased for the past few years or so -- a horror movie simulator with stars like Hayden Panettiere, Rami Malek, Brett Dalton, and Nichole Bloom lending their likenesses and performances to the experience. As previously stated I played the first four episodes, which is roughly three hours, and enough time to ramp up the "horror" bit of the plot after three episodes of table-setting. Yes, this is very much an adventure experience similar to Indigo Prophecy and Shenmue, complete with mild exploration and plenty of quick-time events, so you can show yourself out if that's still not your thing. Until Dawn started its life as a Move game, but thankfully Sony has retreated on that device over the years, and it's now possible to play it with a traditional controller scheme or controller-based motion. After a cheesy intro explaining the butterfly effect (like no one saw the Ashton Kutcher movie here), Until Dawn places you a year before the current storyline, in a snowy isolated cabin in the woods. You'll learn of the tragedy that happened there through the eyes of the victims, which sets up the ensuing (and illogical) return to a year later, where all of the remaining friends attempt to move on with their lives. The key plot point here is that they don't know the deaths were actually murders, and they're setting themselves up for the same possible fate -- I mean, they should know, but this is a horror work after all. [embed]295431:59461:0[/embed] Visually, I actually dig the move to the PlayStation 4, and there are very little remnants of it being a PS3 game. I feel like with Arkham Knight we've finally started to move on in terms of fidelity, and I'm noticing the generational gap with each passing month. The setting is also sufficiently gloomy and impressive, but sadly, I experienced severe slowdown during some action sequences -- as in, sub-30 FPS -- something I hope is fixed in the final version. Gameplay mostly consists of walking around, picking up and manipulating items (like Resident Evil), and making choices that can either modify short-term conversations and actions, or long-term decisions that will drastically change the narrative, and perhaps even kill off major characters. Although I haven't gotten the full taste of this mechanic in just four episodes, it already feels far more impactful than any recent Telltale game. Telltale is great at telling its story, but that's just it -- it's its story for the most part. Until Dawn gives me hope that multiple playthroughs will be worth it. It's all very linear though, which I'm sure will scare some people away. There's very little in the way of exploration, to the point where at most, there's only one stray path (and it's usually obvious) to take beyond the other road that continues the story. QTEs, Until Dawn has 'em, and they're here in spades. Personally I still don't mind them, even if they're a cheap device when overused, so your mileage may vary here. As for myself, I found them to be entertaining and helped fuel the endearing cheese-factor of the package. And I mean that with sincerity -- this doesn't feel like a cash-in, but a proper love letter to horror in general, complete with a great atmosphere and creepy, ingenious camera angles. Cheesy it may be, but I actually wanted to find out more about the game's world, and that's where Until Dawn excels -- lore building. You can find totems that show tiny visions of the future (good or bad, but mostly bad), which eventually complete a little meta-narrative on the history of the surrounding area, and a possible curse that dates back hundreds of years. I also wanted to find out exactly who the assailants were and what their motivations are -- and I won't even spoil the insanely interesting meta-narrative with the always talented Peter Stormare. My gut is telling me that Until Dawn is going to turn out far better than the lackluster Heavy Rain or Beyond: Two Souls, and having grown up with the adventure genre, I'm excited to see what it can dish out. I suspect like many horror movie staples, this one is going to be pretty polarizing upon release regardless of your opinion on these types of games though.
Until Dawn photo
Murder at Teen Mountain
I'm a sucker for horror, even if it dips in "B," heck, "C" territory. While I can turn off my brain and enjoy slasher and gore flicks like the Saw series (they walk the line of "so bad it's good" so well), more often tha...

League of Legend's Tahm Kench is hard to play, but rewarding

Jul 10 // Chris Carter
First off, his overall design is brilliant. He's billed as a southern gentleman with an acquired taste, which works perfectly juxtaposed to his horrid visage. The character is hilarious, spouting out quotes like "I refuse to resign to culinary degradation" while devouring enemies whole, and his standard getup (as well as his chef skin) just work. It's a good balance between absurdity and fitting within the confines of the League universe. While a lot of depth lies under the surface, Kench is fairly easy to pick up, as he sports a skillshot tongue lash (Q), close-range devour (W), a passive/shield (E), and a straightforward (R) ultimate. By hitting an enemy with auto-attacks you can apply "acquired taste," which buffs tongue lash (giving it a stun) or devour. Devour specifically requires you to apply three tacks of taste before gobbling an enemy Champion, forcing Tahm Kench to be more aggressive than most people may like. It's also limited, as his movement speed is severely slowed while carrying an enemy -- so you can't instantly dive back to your own tower unless they're really aggressive. Stacks of acquired taste are shown very clearly with a fish-icon overlay, and applying a slowing debuff with tongue lash while chasing is a great way to gradually earn said stacks while an enemy is running away. Devouring enemy Champions doesn't feel cheap, as it requires a bit of finesse to pull off, and again, you're slowed as a result. His grey health regeneration passive can also be activated as a shield to deceptively increase his tankiness.  Kench's ultimate allows for a certain degree of map control since he can instantly become a "hub," so to speak, for another ally to click on. Reactivating said ultimate employs a swift means of transport to a target location in a large radial area. It's really fun to find an enemy teleporting in plain sight on the map, ult over, and tongue lash them to prevent them from running off. Likewise, you can easily set up ganks at early levels by transporting carries in and allowing them to get a kill. It's not instantaneous, though -- it takes a few seconds to channel and you have a second or so of a delay after arrival. One thing to note is that devour is a bit buggy at the moment. You're supposed to be able to tongue lash into a devour, but it doesn't work a good deal of the time. This (presumably temporary) limitation highlights the fact that if you want to play Tahm Kench at a high level, you need to work for it. Since he doesn't do much damage, you need to complement your team more than a lot of other supports. With the right amount of communication, he can shine. [embed]295757:59457:0[/embed] Playing Tahm Kench is probably the most fun I've had with League of Legends in months. He's unique from a gameplay perspective, with a personality to boot, and I think that once people start getting the hang of him, he'll be a viable pick in ranked play.
League of Legends photo
A real southern gentleman
Despite its tenacity in the past, Riot Games hasn't added a lot of Champions to League of Legends' roster this year. You have Bard in March, Ekko in June, and now, Tahm Kench this month -- that's it. Having said all that, all three have been great additions overall, and the fishy Kench is no exception.

Tower Control is the best mode in Splatoon

Jul 08 // Patrick Hancock
[embed]295623:59421:0[/embed] Tower Control This mode starts with a neutral, floating tower platform in the center of the map and tasks players to move it into the enemy's base by standing on it. The path of the platform is marked on the map, so everyone knows exactly where you're going. My enjoyment with this mode largely depends on the map, but Tower Control has provided my best moments in Splatoon. Most maps are great in Tower Control, but one gets special mention for being not-so-great, and that's Saltspray Rig. I love map to death, but its Tower Control variant is just so darn small. I've won or lost rounds within a minute multiple times, often only being able to respawn once before the round is over. This isn't to say that it's impossible to have intense rounds on Saltspray, but I don't find them as common as in other maps. The beauty of Tower Control is how it made previously unappealing weapons super awesome to me. I've never touched a Squelcher before, but the Custom Dual Squelcher with Squid Beakons and the Killer Wail is a favorite in this mode. Squid Beakons assure that my teammates can come back to the action quickly, and the Killer Wail is absolutely perfect for defense. Remember, you know exactly where the enemy will be, and I've used this information to score a triple-kill many times using the Killer Wail in Tower Control. It's so good. I also started using the Classic Squiffer, which I used to think was a garbage weapon. Its sub abilities, the Point Sensor and Bubbler, are also perfect here. Many people "hide" in the ink when on the tower, so the Point Sensor allows me to show my team exactly where they're lurking. The platform isn't big, but the tower itself will block some ink if they're in the right spot. The Bubbler is always amazing, but when a team needs a final push, it's exciting to jump on the tower and protect everyone with a Bubble all at once! Plus, it doesn't hurt that all snipers are awesome in this mode, especially ones that don't need a long charge like the Classic Squiffer. .96 Gal Deco This weapon is a re-skin of the .96 Gal, but comes with a Splash Wall and Kraken as its sub abilities. The Splash Wall becomes way more effective in Tower Control, but the Kraken's recent nerf makes it way more underwhelming (see: balanced). As much as I love the .52 Gal weapon, the .96 leaves me hurting for ink too much to feel "in control." Considering Splash Wall takes a ton of ink, I'll continue to stick to the .52 Gal from here on out. As great as Splash Wall is for Tower Control, I still believe the original .96 Gal is a better option. Both the Sprinkler and Echolocator are some top-tier abilities regardless of mode, and their pairing on the original make it a hard option to pass up. Sploosh-O-Matic This is my new favorite gun. I generally stick to the Inkbrush or Blasters, so I'm a fan of close-quarters combat. The Sploosh-O-Matic feels like an honorary blaster with its short range and incredible damage output. I can't stress the short range enough, though. In an Inkopolis dominated by Aerosprays, short-ranged weapons are often caught out if they're not careful. One thing that surprised me was how incredibly fast this gun can fill its special. I was getting my Killer Wail ability way more often than with anything else. The best part is, since ink management can be tough with a gun like this, and using a special instantly refills ink, it's good to have a quick-use special like the Killer Wail. It's wonderful to ink a ton of ground, use the Killer Wail to kill or deny an area, and then keep on inking. Squid Beakons are just the icing on the cake, since they will always be a great choice to help out your team. Is anyone else as addicted to Splatoon as I am? If so, which new weapons are your favorite? Feel free to add P-Dude to your friends list to play together sometime!
Splatoon update is good photo
The Sploosh-O-Matic is my new favorite
Splatoon has gotten very frequent update ever since its initial release, and I have been gobbling them up as much as I can. New weapons, maps, and modes have consistently kept the game fresh, even for those who have alre...

Heroes of the Storm's Butcher is another great inclusion

Jun 30 // Chris Carter
The Butcher is an interesting mix of styles, despite his labeled as an assassin. While he is big, he's not necessarily "tanky" in that he's an easy target while being focused. You also have to micromanage him at the start, as he needs to collect "meat stacks," power-ups dropped by enemy minions to charge up his attack power. Using the various talents acquired on your journey to level 20, you can reward yourself for constantly staying on top of your meat meter, with abilities like a higher meat cap and the ability to heal yourself from pickups. Or, you can simply build up your abilities. His standard "Q" is a straight line skillshot, and slows enemies in its path. It's very aggressive. You can chase down enemies, Q them, and a few seconds later, Q them again. Much like wandering with enemy stealth combatants unaccounted for, going solo with the Butcher roaming around isn't a great idea. This is exacerbated by his "E," which is a mad dash that grants him "unstoppable" status and stuns the enemy for a second after reaching his target. I actually found some neat ways to use this, like running away from enemies by targeting minions, or saving teammates who are being chased. It's also a dramatic move, with the target getting a demonic mark on their head and the Butcher giving in to his inner, terrifying bloodlust. It's powerful for sure, but it also has a long cooldown of 20 seconds. His "W" is probably his least interesting ability, as it can mark a target for a limited time which grants him health while attacking said marked enemy. I've found that for the most part in teamfights, the amount of healing involved isn't really sufficient enough to prevent you from dying, and it would have been more interesting if it gave teammates a low leech percentage (though you can spec it to heal more and grant movement speed). [embed]295040:59292:0[/embed] His ultimate (Heroic) powers are much more interesting. Furnace Blast is an area-of-effect (AOE) blast in a circle around him, and Lamb to the Slaughter chains an enemy to a hitching post for four seconds (it chains anyone in the radius at level 20). The first Heroic doesn't sound all that interesting, but it has a cool visual effect and can be used while charging with your "E," making it a bit more nuanced. The hitching post is my personal favorite, as it augments the Butcher's keen ability to kill lone heroes while they're hilariously chained in place. This works even better if you're ganking enemies with a partner like Nazeebo, who has enough time to set up his Zombie Wall. I also had a chance to test out the "Iron Butcher" skin as well as the "Butcher's Battle Beast" mount that's exclusive to his bundle. The mount isn't anything to write home about, as it's mostly just an existing Battle Beast with some iron armor added on top. It's exclusive to the bundle though, so some of you may want to spring for it. As for the Iron Butcher, it's a pretty safe choice, but it does fit the character and the fact that his face is covered does give him a new enough look compared to some of the other skins. While the jury is still out on whether or not the Butcher is balanced (it's the first day!), he certainly feels like it. To really capitalize with the hero you'll need to play your cards right, and with a distinct lack of escape abilities and the meat mechanic, players will need to master his ins and outs to truly perform. For now though, I'm happy with the results, and I'm tempted to work on my fifth master skin with him.
Heroes of the Storm photo
15,000 gold or $9.99
Heroes of the Storm has just kicked off its Eternal Conflict event, which will bring more Diablo-related content into the game over the course of the next few months. Characters, mounts, and a new level are a part of the cele...

Rodea: The Sky Soldier might be a bumpy ride

Jun 25 // Kyle MacGregor
Rodea: The Sky Soldier was initially conceived as a Wii game, but it came too late in the day for a system nearing the end of its life cycle. It needed to be reworked as a Wii U and 3DS title. The thing is, the Wii is a special console, and Rodea was developed with its unique attributes in mind. Motion controls are a tad different than standard inputs, and the transition between the two seems to have left an indelible imprint on Rodea's design. Taking to the skies in this aerial action game doesn't come as second nature. With the press of a button, Rodea lifts into the air and hovers for a moment as you aim where you want him to go. He can't fly indefinitely, though, and will fall to his death unless you find another object for him to bounce off within an allotted time frame. It seems like the type of interface that would work seamlessly with the Wii's IR pointer, but on Wii U GamePad, I found myself flying off at odd angles, often coming frustratingly close to objectives that seemed just out of reach. Perhaps it's the sort of thing that comes with practice, but in a brief demo on the E3 show floor, I only got a glimpse at what sort of joys Rodea might have to offer.  Though it never felt intuitive, there were flashes when I managed to soar through the air with some semblance of precision. And in those fleeting moments I could really feel Yuji Naka's (Sonic Adventure, NiGHTS into Dreams) fingerprints all over the game, as I bounded from one floating isle to the next, collecting rings in this ethereal obstacle course. More than anything, my time with Rodea: The Sky Soldier made me oddly happy the Wii U version is coming tethered with a copy of the game on Wii. I'm not sure how much easier it will be to pilot on its original platform, but it feels like that's how it was intended to be experienced. Either that or flight isn't a skill easily mastered in a few mere minutes.
Rodea impressions  photo
Awkward aeronautics
My first flight with Rodea: The Sky Soldier wasn't a smooth one. But perhaps that's to be expected of a title that's seen such a turbulent development history. The project went dark shortly after its initial announcement in 2010, then underwent a change of platforms -- something that seems all too apparent after a few minutes with the final product.

Heroes of the Storm's Battlefield of Eternity may be the best map yet

Jun 24 // Chris Carter
[embed]294694:59216:0[/embed] The layout is extremely simplistic. It's the game's only other two-lane map, in addition to Haunted Mines, and sports a few extra hallways for mercenary creeps, as well as its main event in the middle (which I'll get to later). In short, I'm happy to see another smaller map in the fray, as Heroes is built on short matches and fast, frantic team fights even towards the beginning of the game. New minion and creep skins make everything feel fresh, as does the Heaven vs. Hell theme which permeates throughout the entire arena, and differentiates both sides more than any MOBA I've seen. Random Treasure Goblin events (which can happen on any map) featuring Deckard Cain as a guest announcer only drive this point home. The main gimmick (objective) is flashier for sure. In short, two immortals will be locked in battle after a certain period of time passes, and it's up to both teams to tip the scales in their favor. While your respective God is fighting, you can either defend it, or go after your rival, which will test your teamfighting mettle right off the bat. You'll have to do this while the other immortal is occasionally stopping to attack your team, so it can be a really risky affair (much like the Grave Golem) -- but it's worth it not only for the reward, but to see the badass animations that the immortals boast while fighting at certain intervals. It's a thrill, to say the least. Unlike some other objectives it feels paramount to help your God out, and constantly keeps you entertained. After destroying the other God your ally will jump into a lane and help you push, which usually destroys an encampment as long as most of your team is there to assist. The key is that the skirmishes feel like they matter, but they don't completely determine the flow of the game -- you can win some, and lose some. Another main reason why the immortals are a good idea is because they don't take you out of the game or force new players to learn a new strategy, like the Garden Terror and Dragon Knight do. Really though, it's just great to have another Blizzard franchise properly represented in Heroes of the Storm with an original work. Many complaints were levied against the current maps for being "Heroes of Warcraft"-esque, so adding in one that helps balance the scales a bit is a good move. It will be available on June 30, and a smaller map rotation will be implemented until July 7 so you have a higher chance to get Battlefield of Eternity.
Heroes of the Storm photo
Angels and Demons
The newest patch for Heroes of the Storm has hit the public test realm (PTR), which includes a number of character changes and reworks, in addition to the big piece of new content set to hit next week -- the Battlef...

Mobile Tomb Raider Lara Croft GO feels lovely

Jun 18 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]294301:59143:0[/embed] At first glance, Lara Croft GO bears a strikingly close resemblance to Square Enix Montréal's first effort. It echoes the quiet, clean aesthetic of Hitman GO, while featuring similar turn-based puzzle design, but pushes the concepts further. Fresh elements like verticality quite literally add new dimensions to the experience, and go a long way to making this feel like a legitimate Tomb Raider. The characters are no longer static figurines, as the designers felt it wouldn't be natural for Lara, a character known for her athleticism, to be portrayed in such a rigid fashion. So while our heroine is still navigating an on-rails obstacle course, she's fully animated, looking very much at home as she climbs and scrambles around ancient, subterranean ruins. Perspective is also used to great effect, with the isometric camera allowing the developers to add little flourishes like a silhouetted beetle crawling along a tree branch in the foreground, or see a bridge appear in the distance when Lara toggles a switch. Square Enix Montréal is also keen on avoiding unnecessary hand-holding. The title's 40 levels (which are quite a bit larger than those found in Hitman GO) are based around trial and error. With each stage now divided into segments with checkpoints, new mechanics can be introduced and then used in rather sophisticated ways in short order without a loss of progress.  One example of this is terrain that will fall away when walked over or climbed across twice. Shortly after being introduced to this by falling to my death, I was using it to evade an enemy. Knowing a certain surface would crumble away, I used it to lay a trap for the giant lizard nipping at my heels.  Not all of the obstacles I saw were quite that compelling, though. While it was a rush to see an Indiana Jones-style boulder trap, the turn-based nature of the game makes this sort of scene less compelling than if were to play out in real time. Still, what I've witnessed thus far has me eager to see what else awaits in the full game. Lara Croft GO is coming to iOS and Android devices sometime later this year.
Lara Croft GO photo
Small in scale, but no less impressive
Square Enix Montréal possesses a genuine talent for artfully distilling series down to their essence. In 2014, the developer released Hitman GO, a turn-based deconstruction of IO Interactive's stealth franchise, w...

Deception IV photo
Let me show you
When Deception: The Nightmare Princess was announced, a wave of confusion crept up on every Deception IV owner. Is it DLC? Is an an expansion? Well, it's a weird combo! I just got my hands on a US copy of the game ...

Medieval fighter For Honor defies description

Jun 16 // Kyle MacGregor
While there is some sort of story mode to ostensibly explain why feudal soldiers from opposite ends of the planet are sharing a battlefield, Ubisoft is keeping quiet about the single-player campaign. Instead, the publisher has opted to thrust the multiplayer component into the foreground. And what a strange and alluring experience that is. On the heels of its E3 media briefing, Ubisoft whisked the press off to a tower in downtown Los Angeles to compete in a mode called "Dominion." There, groups of eight players skirmished in 4-on-4 matches with an emphasis on territory control. With three King of the Hill-style zones to vie for, it's set up an awful lot like an online shooter. And at a glance, it gives off a Dynasty Warriors vibe, with hordes inept minions fighting battles of attrition while player-controlled hero characters grapple over objectives that, you know, actually matter. Neither of those comparisons really nail what For Honor actually feels like, though. The combat system is far more intricate than Koei Tecmo's hack-and-slashers, at any rate. This is no mindless action game. Each and every encounter with the enemy requires a great deal of care.  For Honor is all about sword mastery; success or failure largely hinges on one's proficiency with a blade. Being overly aggressive is a good way to get flayed, as defense is of vital importance here. Predictable attacks are easily blocked and countered, and even knights, despite being clad in heavy plate mail, can be felled surprisingly quickly after a string of defensive miscues. In some respects this is more of a fighting game, where opponents feel one another out with pokes and jabs, hoping to discern the enemy's plan of attack and capitalize when given the opportunity. You really have to pay attention to where the enemy's weapon is positioned, be ready to counter it while working to read them, and get an opening yourself. I quickly found myself outmatched when going toe-to-toe with the developers on the other team. They seemed to move with lightning speed, feigning attacks and throwing me off balance, only to hit me from my unguarded side a moment later. Thankfully, strategy and teamwork play a central role. When I figured out I wasn't a skilled enough fighter to take enemies on by my lonesome, I focused my attention on sneaking up the flanks and capturing the objectives. Eventually, somehow, after flailing in the early going, our team came back from the brink of defeat to pull off an unlikely victory. (Maybe they let us win.) On top of that, players act as field generals, earning mid-game perks called "Feats" that allow one to call in ordnance support catapults and archers, or even inspire your cohorts to fight better. Knowing how and when to play these cards figures to play a key role in turning the tide of battle. For Honor is a fascinating fusion of genres that has me eager to return to the battlefield.
For Honor impressions photo
Whatever it is, I like it
Ubisoft Montreal's For Honor seems to borrow inspiration from as many places as it does warriors. The newly-revealed project sees medieval knights clash with samurai and viking raiders, warping time and space to bring together foes as distinct as the overarching experience that unites them.

Call of Duty photo
Call of Duty

I sucked at Call of Duty: Black Ops III's multiplayer


But I still had fun!
Jun 16
// Zack Furniss
It's easy to be cynical about a new Call of Duty release. Between the series' annualization and aggressive marketing, the urge to fire with phasers set to snark is strong. But every year I end up thoroughly enjoying an a...
Gears of War photo
Yep, it's Gears
At launch, Gears of War never really caught on in my circles. It was always second (or third) fiddle to Halo and Call of Duty, but I still played the campaign with my wife nonetheless, and dabbled in online play. N...

Runbow photo
Runbow

Runbow for Wii U is freaking weird and I kind of love it


Do a chicken dance as a red muscle-man
Jun 15
// Chris Carter
When I first heard of Runbow, I didn't know what to make of it. It's a nine player "runner," a subgenre that's become way too over-saturated with the dawn of the mobile market. But after actually playing it, I can definitely ...
Mutant Mudds photo
Mutant Mudds

Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is true to its namesake


About on par with the Granny levels
Jun 15
// Chris Carter
Mutant Mudds has enjoyed quite a ride on Nintendo systems and beyond. It was original released in 2012 on 3DS, but eventually made its way to the Wii U, PC, Vita, PS3, and even iOS. While it was touted as a return to retro a...

Roy's not quite our same boy in the new Super Smash Bros.

Jun 14 // Chris Carter
First off, it has to be said that Roy is even less similar to his Fire Emblem brethren in this game. He wields his sword backwards, which provides him with a unique set of animations, as well as different hitboxes for his attacks. Roy is a much more close-combat oriented fighter than Marth or Lucina, with nearly all of his attacks, including his neutral-B charge move, sporting a smaller distance. There's no tipping here -- Roy does most of his damage up close with the hilt, and feels completely different right off the bat. In addition to his neutral charge he also has his patented upwards slash, counter, and forward/backward sword combo. Don't dismiss him as a clone though, as all of these moves have different timings and animations to get used to. Take his Up-B -- it's a tad slower, but it hits multiple times, so you don't have to worry about executing it perfectly. Everything else is best used close-up, due to the lack of a tip-damage bonus. As a general rule, Roy is also speedier, so you won't be able to acclimate as a Marth or Lucina main immediately without getting a feel for how he moves. Oh, and his grabs are much better at setting up combos. Out of all of the Fire Emblem characters in the game, he likely has the most depth. While Ryu is a sexier brand new addition and Lucas is a fan favorite, I think Roy will end up being the best part of this DLC drop today as more veterans get their hands on them. Out of all three, he's my personal favorite. In fact, he really puts Lucina in an odd spot, as she feels less relevant when compared to both Marth and Roy's uniqueness. Yep, the crowd still chants "Roy's our boy" -- amazing.
Roy Smash photo
He's changed for the better
When playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, I always tended to side with Marth. I dug his aesthetic, his animations, and his moveset over Roy. But with the release of his DLC incarnation in the new Super Smash Bros., Roy is now my boy.

Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is yet another competent port

Jun 12 // Mike Cosimano
[embed]293774:58944:0[/embed] Payday 2: Crimewave Edition (Xbox One [reviewed], PS4)Developer: Overkill SoftwarePublisher: 505 GamesReleased: June 12, 2015 MSRP: $49.99 In Payday 2, you're a gang of criminals in Washington, D.C, intimately familiar with the ins and outs of crime and crime-related activities. You and three friends (or AI partners if that's how you roll) apply this skillset liberally, transforming places where once there was no crime into a veritable haven of villainy. In some ways, you could say the Payday Pals are some kind of wave...of crime. These dirty deeds range from bank robbery, to jewelry store robbery, to museum robbery, to art gallery robbery, to murder. To be fair, unless your team is quite good, each mission ends with a sizable body count, so there's murder to be found in just about every mission. This is a sticking point with Payday 2 -- it's very difficult to pull off a controlled heist. Even if you're rolling with a team of people you know and everybody's using microphones, there are still a lot of unknown factors and most of the best stealth gear is locked behind dozens of hours worth of progress. Since the core shooting is tight and responsive, stealth attempts quickly transitioning into explosive gunfights was never a genuine problem. At first blush, locking different approaches behind progression is at the very least disingenuous, but if you're going to be playing the game for that long anyway, rewarding time spent with variety is a smart play. But in this case, appreciating design must take a backseat to player enjoyment. Pistol suppressors -- a crucial tool for stealth missions -- are either the luck of the draw or hidden behind some labyrinth of menus. It's impossible to tell which. Although there's a limited pool of missions, I never saw them all in my 16 hours with the game. This is partially because I spent time grinding out shorter, easier missions for cash and experience, but there's still a fairly respectable amount of content available. Since Crimewave Edition comes with all the DLC released up to that point, there's a lot even beyond the missions. There's more guns, a new character class, and even new characters (including a female member of the Payday Pals, and the boogeyman himself: John Wick). Something also has to be said for the game's atmosphere. When the relentless, driving soundtrack kicks in right as a fresh wave of pigs rush your crew, it's hard to not get swept up in the moment. I'll always choose stealth over action, but I never felt the need to restart a heist in Payday 2 because I had grown accustomed to the combat -- it had become a regular part of life in this fictional capital. Maybe there's something there about the normalization of violence, about how the endless war of attrition between the law and those who operate outside it only serves to perpetuate a culture of death -- when the authorities perform a show of force, perhaps they are creating the very criminals they seek to apprehend. Look, there are a lot of re-releases in stores right now, and even more coming this year. More often than not, they are slight, if competent, upgrades from the last batch of consoles. They've got nothing on the PC versions, but not everyone can afford a monster rig. Payday 2 is reasonably engaging, and the Crimewave Edition works as advertised. The framerate is solid, which is a nice bonus. But this is still a slightly new wrapper on a two-year-old game. Know this, at the very least: if you choose to skip this game in the hopes of drawing a line in the sand regarding split-gen ports, there are worse titles to pass over.
Payday 2: Crimewave photo
Yeah, I'm thinking I'm back
Much like the president from Resident Evil 6, the last generation of games has risen from the dead to feast on the living. We’ve seen so many remasters, remaster collections, and straight ports in the past year that it ...

Based on the new demo, I have a good feeling about Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Jun 11 // Chris Carter
[embed]293784:58947:0[/embed] The first ever playable build of the game that's been released to the public features three levels -- a water ruins location, a desert, and an action sequence that takes place on a conveyor belt. The first two heavily feature transformations, which thankfully have returned after their absence in Pirate's Curse. For the first stage you'll have the opportunity to change into Shantae's classic monkey form, which can climb up walls and jump with ease, and on the second, she sports a crab transformation with heavy defensive capabilities. As always, her new forms are downright adorable. Unlike Mighty No. 9, which doesn't match its great gameplay with a similarly impressive visual style (it still looks a little bland), Half-Genie Hero is gorgeously hand-drawn. In other words, it looks almost exactly like the concept art: a rarity these days. It also plays great, as the simplistic three-button system (jump, attack, and dance for transformations) works perfectly even in this early build. I dig the bright settings, platforming design, and art direction. Get a look at two of the stages above yourself -- you'll have plenty of time to decide on whether or not to pull the trigger, as WayForward has made it clear that there is still no solid release window for Half-Genie Hero.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero photo
Three levels in Early Access
Back in 2013, WayForward crowdfunded a new project by way of Kickstarter called Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, the fourth game in the storied Shantae series. It managed to raise almost a million dollars in funding, whic...


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