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Review: The Deadly Tower of Monsters

Jan 19 // Chris Carter
The Deadly Tower of Monsters (PC [reviewed], PS4)Developer: ACE TeamPublisher: AtlusReleased: January 19, 2016MSRP: $14.99 The silly audio "DVD" commentary right from the start helps cement that B-movie feel Deadly is going for. Permeating through the menus, the "director" of the "movie" you're playing will continue to comment on your actions throughout, much like the narrator from Bastion. This narration however is a bit wackier, and will make fun of everything from gamey elements like finding useful items instantly in unexpected places, why items disappear after you pick them up (the hero "beams" them back to his ship), and how the actors got into a particular costume. He even boasts in one early scene that having his female lead rescue his male lead is progressive, and how he was "ahead of his time" for it. It's amusing enough to keep one interested throughout. So how does it play? Well, it's basically an isometric action game, with twin-stick shooting and melee attacks. The latter can be charged for effect, and players can also roll, or hover with a jetpack in a double jump of sorts. It's a small thing, but intuitive health bars circle each enemy, so you know exactly how much of a beating they'll need. There's also three playable characters available -- Dick Starspeed, Scarlet Nova, and Robot. All of them have unique powers at their disposal, but for the most part, the choice is aesthetic. What I really like about Deadly Tower is how fresh the game constantly keeps things. At first I thought it was going to be a simple sci-fi spoof with aliens, but it's so much more than that. There's Planet of the Ape-esque monkey men, "Energy Imps," a Ghost Pirate ship, and so much more that I won't spoil here. The gimmick is really cool as well, in that the entire game takes place on a gigantic tower that extends from the ground level of an alien planet all the way to space. Players will slowly climb said tower with checkpoints, which you can instantly teleport to after obtaining them. [embed]334028:61857:0[/embed] Great camera work also helps show off these environments in a big way, and I love how you can alter the visuals and music from "DVD" quality to the worse "VHS" setting. Cutscenes can also be fast-forwarded even upon the initial viewing, and there's several funny effects such as a forced black and white section for "budgetary reasons. ACE Team also goes full hog when it comes to the theme -- I'm talking Ray Harryhausen-like stop-motion animation in some cases. If it sounds jarring it really isn't, as the player character is always on point, so the framerate doesn't necessarily drop when enemies like that appear. "For those who are curious, here are the PC visual options and the control scheme. The best part though is the freefalling system. From any point of the tower you can jump off, starting a falling animation that allows you to aim and shoot downwards, collecting helpful objects in the air as you descend. It's a rush to jump off really high points and just take in the scenery, and boss fights that incorporate this mechanic are even more fun. The fact that you can use an "air teleport" system at the touch of a button to return to the point where you fell and teleport to any checkpoint at any time is the icing on the cake, allowing a large degree of freedom when it comes to exploration. This is especially helpful on PC, where I encountered two crashes in my first playthrough. When I loaded the game again I picked up right back where I left off. Despite all my praise though, you should know what you're getting into. My first playthrough only took me roughly three hours to complete, and I managed to spend an extra hour looking for artifacts and completing additional objectives. There doesn't seem to be any option for a New Game+ or the ability to alter the difficulty, which definitely stings a bit despite its strong initial run. I can definitely see replaying it every so often however, and jumping off of the top of the tower is something I did many, many times. The Deadly Tower of Monsters is a fleeting experience, but one that no B-movie fan should go without. I have a few issues with the loot and upgrade systems (namely in that they feel superfluous), but as a straight action game, it mostly succeeds in what it sets out to do. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Deadly Tower review photo
Harryhausen would be proud
I was lucky enough to grow up with parents who had a penchant for classic films, and B-humor. Hell, their first date was Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and as a child, I was raised with an endearment to the craft,...

Review: Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster

Jan 18 // Chris Carter
Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomReleased: January 19, 2016MSRP: $19.99 Zero begins with a rather interesting setpiece: a moving train. Rebecca Chambers, a member of S.T.A.R.S., is sent to investigate crimes in the Arklay Mountains -- conveniently located (and thus, linked) near Raccoon City and the original game's mansion. Here she meets Billy Coen, an alleged murderer and ex-Marine, and starts an "unlikely" partnership. You can probably tell from the setup that the tale is a pastiche of cheesy horror not unlike past games, but it's done just as effectively as before. Sure, the story never really makes much sense, even after the final credits roll, but you'll have a good time while you're along for the ride. Rebecca and Billy have a fun dynamic that is extended throughout Zero. The former can combine herbs and story-related chemicals, and the latter can take more of a beating and move heavy objects. It's not an original concept even for the era it was released in, but it works. This is mostly because of the "zap" partner system that allows both characters to be on-screen at the same time. You can opt to have your AI partner attack or stay idle, which is great if you don't want them wasting ammo. Swapping is as easy as pressing a button to start a second-long heartbeat transition to the other character. You can also control the AI with the right analog stick, which comes in handy for moving them out of harm's way. This idea is used in many different ways that chop up the game's pacing for the better. In some zones, Rebecca and Billy are split, working separately to exchange key items with one another through special devices like service elevators. In other areas, they're working in tandem to solve those wonderful box puzzles, where Billy is moving cubes and Rebecca is operating a device of some sort. Given that so many of Resident Evil's puzzles feature solutions born out of just one avatar, I like that Capcom went with something different here. There's another huge difference when it comes to Zero and all of the games before it: item management. In the past, players would mostly store their items in a magical gamey storage box of sorts, where you could access your armory and inventory wherever a box was located. Now, you can place items on the ground and store them anywhere on the map, no questions asked (well, outside of the single room item limit, which is inexplicably still in this remake). For instance, if you want to split a few typewriter ribbons off a stack of 10 and place them in a save room, you can. The same goes for weapons and herbs, or any key items you may pick up. [embed]332496:61804:0[/embed] Items now show up on the map, so there's no guessing as to where you put them. It's a more challenging system, for sure -- you don't have the infinite box to rely on, and sometimes you'll have to run through gauntlets of enemies if you happen to stash a key item and are required to run back for it. Its use does start to grate mid-way through the game, as it can get rather tedious to juggle everything. The mechanic isn't really re-used, but it helps cement Zero's unique identity (for better and worse) along with zapping, and the level designs mostly accommodate it. This is an old-school Resident Evil game at heart, back when "survival" was still a key factor of the series. Zero features limited ammo, save ribbons, and a lot of decision making, mostly in regards to inventory management. This is especially true given the zapping, because at any moment one character may be forced to fight a boss without the help of another, so ensuring that both cast members are fully equipped is key to your success. In terms of the actual "Remaster" moniker, a lot of the technical details are the same as before. The visuals and framerate have been updated, there's a new non-tank modern control method available, and you can swap between 16:9 and 4:3 resolution (even on consoles) -- but the cheesy FMVs remain untouched. Capcom really could bring back every entry pre-Resident Evil 4 just like this and I'd be happy. Thankfully though, it's slightly more than just a straight touch-up due to the addition of Wesker mode. In this special gametype only found in the remake (that's acquired by beating the game once), Billy is shoved to the side in favor of Wesker, who operates as Rebecca's partner throughout the game. This mode is meant to be silly. Wesker can use his superhuman powers he's flaunted since Code Veronica, including the ability to quickly dash across the room, and use a special energy attack to pop zombie's heads off. He can also mix herbs and doesn't have many limitations. They didn't go the full mile -- Billy is still present in cutscenes, as is his voice -- but it's a meaty enough change.  All of the old unlocks are also present, including additional costumes, weapons, and the Mercenaries-like "Leech Hunter." The latter is a mini-game of sorts that tasks players with escaping a modified version of the Research Center, and gets tougher as you play it. It's not as memorable as some of the true Mercenary modes in other games, but it's worth clearing at least once and should adequately test the mettle of series veterans. As a whole, Resident Evil Zero isn't one of my favorite entries, but with the amount of care that went into this remake, like Resident Evil HD Remaster before it, I'm really coming around. In fact, just get both if you don't have them already. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Resident Evil 0 HD review photo
Welcome, Wesker
For whatever reason, I didn't end up completing Resident Evil Zero back when it was released in 2002 -- in fact, it took me 10 years to truly dive into it. I think it just flew under the radar, but thankfully Capcom has opted...

Review: Gravity Rush Remastered

Jan 15 // Josh Tolentino
Gravity Rush Remastered (PS4)Developer: SCE Japan Studio and Bluepoint GamesPublisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Japan and AsiaReleased: December 10, 2015 (Japan/Asia), February 2, 2016 (NA/EU)MSRP: $29.99 [Note: This review is based on the English-language version of the game released in Asian regions on December 10, 2015. We expect that there will be few if any significant differences between this release and the upcoming North America/EU releases.] The most striking part of Bluepoint's work on Gravity Rush Remastered is on the technical side. The game runs at a smooth, uninterrupted 60 frames per second, at a native 1080p resolution. Higher-resolution textures sport additional detail and sharpening while improved lighting and antialiasing brings out the color in the game's unique cel-shaded aesthetic. No one's going to mistake Gravity Rush Remastered for a "native" PS4 game, but it does look much like the way I (fondly) remember the Vita original, which is high praise considering that I can compare the two side-by-side and see just how much work went into the porting job.  While Bluepoint has made some considerable improvements to Gravity Rush Remastered's graphical quality and performance, it was more conservative in terms of content, opting just to add the original's three downloadable content packs as standard, and a gallery mode to check out concept art, character designs, and unlocked cutscenes. This may dilute the game's value proposition somewhat for existing Gravity Rush owners on the fence about double-dipping since the game is identical in content and design to the Vita version. [embed]334467:61883:0[/embed] If there's anything about the game that qualifies as "bad news," it's rooted in the fact that the content itself is unchanged. As such, the criticisms raised by Jim Sterling in his review of the original do stand, to an extent. The game's mission design never really lives up to the sheer joy of its central gravity-shifting mechanic, and no amount of frame rate improvement or antialiasing can change that. Combat and control in stressful situations can still be a little squirrely, though the better "feel" of a DualShock 4 controller, combined with the extra awareness afforded by a larger screen, makes it easier to compensate. Even players who enjoyed the tilt- and touchscreen-based features of Gravity Rush are accommodated, thanks to the DualShock 4's own motion sensing and touch panel (though these can be turned off if desired). The narrative is also much more proficient at establishing atmosphere and personality than at answering the questions it raises, and by the end of the campaign it can feel like one has just read an incomplete set of obscure foreign comic books, not knowing when or where the next issue will turn up. That said, I'm of the opinion that these rough edges are not nearly as serious in their impact as some may think, and to players in the right mindset, even add to Gravity Rush's considerable charm. The writing, dialog and story all emphasize Kat's character as a somewhat hapless amateur superhero (think "anime Ms. Marvel with a different power set") just getting started in her crime-fighting career, and she's exactly the kind of person who might whiff on landing a gravity kick and go flying into a pile of boxes. Just in the way that deliberately "slow" controls can improve the atmosphere of a horror game like Amnesia, occasional finickiness and flubs reinforce Gravity Rush Remastered's sense of character (albeit unintentionally). In the end, Bluepoint deserves credit for managing to bring out the best in an already-pretty-good game, allowing PS4 owners the chance to experience the charm of Gravity Rush unhampered by the limitations of its original platform.  [This review is based on a retail copy of the game acquired by the reviewer.] UnderRail (PC)Developer: Stygian SoftwarePublisher: Stygian SoftwareReleased: December 18, 2015MSRP: $14.99
Gravity Rush Remastered photo
Falling with style
Gravity Rush is and remains one of the coolest games on the PS Vita, even three years after its original 2012 release. Unfortunately for fans of cool games, the PS Vita didn't get into nearly as many hands as Sony was ho...

PC Port Report: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

Jan 15 // Patrick Hancock
Tested on: Intel i7-4770k 3.50 GHz, 8GB of RAM, Geforce GTX 970, Windows 10. Framerate measured with RivaTuner. First thing's first: the PC version has an option to turn off all Pawn banter completely. In case you think you might be missing something, just know that its gibberish like "IT'S WEAK TO FIRE" and probably also "A FORMIDABLE FOE!" As an aside, I kind of like how annoying the Pawns are. For whatever reason, I get a huge chuckle out of their loud, uncalled for shouts. The PC Port also supports 4k resolution, but as I do not have the capabilities to test this, I cannot comment on how it looks. My bet is that it looks very good. Most players who have played before will have one thing on their mind when it comes to the PC Port: the framerate. While I have not played the original, the framerate was evidently awful. There are three options for framerate in the options: 30, 60, and Variable. The PC port runs smooth as butter on my rig, easily going above 60 framer-per-second in towns and hovering around 60 FPS outside and in combat. The texture quality is, well, the game is from 2012 and it shows. They're a bit muddy, especially when viewed up close. Comparing screenshots and videos, I can't say they are much better than the original, but it's hard to tell without playing the other version myself. Regardless, I wouldn't say it looks bad. Just...not great. There's also some noticeable pop-in with objects. Generally they appear off in the distance, but occasionally when turning a corner, an NPC will magically appear right in front of your very eyes. Damn, this game does have some fancy magic! Key bindings can be remapped to your heart's content, but the same is not true when using a (non-Steam) controller. There are six different presets for controllers though, and you're bound to find something that fits your playstyle between them. The Steam controller works just fine, either using it as a traditional controller or rebinding the keys to your heart's content. I've found that binding "grab" to a back grip paddle makes fighting monsters as melee way more entertaining. It really feels like grabbing! Consumables can be assigned to hotkeys, but only numbers 1-5. It's incredibly simple to do: open up your inventory, select the consumable, then press the number key to assign it. Done! This makes things like pulling out a lantern or using flasks a breeze and is also an incentive to use a keyboard and mouse. The keyboard and mouse controls feel very tight, and aiming bows has never been easier. When switching between keyboard controls and a controller, the game automatically changes the on-screen prompts and recognizes the new input device. I've tested with with both the Steam Controller and a wired Xbox One controller. There are plenty of graphics options, including the ability to change the field-of-view, something not seen too often in PC ports, let alone ports of third-person action games! Regardless of FOV, the camera pans out while a weapon is active, so there's always plenty of room to see what is happening on screen; the FOV slider affects non-combat view more than it does combat view, from what I can tell. Other graphical options that PC players have come to expect are here and can be tuned to fits any player's setup. Remember, Dragon's Dogma is a few years old at this point and shouldn't really be taxing to most gaming PCs these days. One issue is that the graphics can only be changed from the main menu. Once you load a save, most graphics settings are locked in. As for the "double dippers" who are curious if this is worth a second investment, it depends. If you bought it and never spent much time with it because of technical issues, definitely pick it up again. The same goes if you never got a chance to play the Dark Arisen content for whatever reason. If you've had your fill of the game and its expansion originally, then I'm not sure there is much here, except the opportunity to play a smooth game and not a PowerPoint presentation. This is a wonderful port from Capcom. It could have just easily just plopped this on the new platform with little to no care and called it a day. The fact is though, there are many features that are exclusive to the PC version and it runs at a stable framerate. Plus, it's not being released at full price! No, it's not perfect, but for $30 it's hard to say no to such a great RPG. [This PC Port Report is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Dragon's Dogma PC photo
They hold the advantage!
Why didn't anyone tell me Dragon's Dogma was so amazing?! I missed out on the original back in 2012, and I hadn't really heard much about it in the first place. I knew, vaguely, what it was, and had even downloaded it vi...

Review: Oxenfree

Jan 15 // Nic Rowen
Oxenfree (PC [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Night School StudioPublisher: Night School StudioMSRP: $19.99Released: January 15, 2016 I say “horror” in quotes because the actual spook-factor of Oxenfree isn't that high. This isn't an Amnesia-style gorefest or a Freddy's jumpscare marathon. Oxenfree trades in unease and tension more than outright scares. Think of it more like It Follows than Sleep Away Camp. It's an effective technique. Since you're not wading through blood and viscera at all times, the few moments of hard-hitting violence and terror are that much more jarring. Oxenfree starts with a group of teenagers having a party on an island tourist trap (and one-time military base) near their hometown. Testing out an urban myth involving radio signals and a spooky cave, they accidentally unleash a mysterious entity that seems to have a strange relationship to normal space and time and nothing but malicious intentions on them. The island destination is rendered in a gorgeous dreamlike art style of watercolors and soft light. The normally smooth picture-book aesthetic of Oxenfree's world makes it all the more unnerving when the entity breaks its way into reality with Tron-like neon colors and sharp geometric shapes hanging unnaturally in the sky. It soaks it all in a phenomenal synth-heavy soundtrack from SCNTFC (Galax-Z, Sword & Sworcery) that perfectly alternates between wistful and unnerving. Let me say it plainly, Oxenfree is very light on gameplay. There are no real puzzles to solve, no panicky QTEs to click on, no last-minute boss fight to clumsily fumble through. This is a game about talking. The single most mechanically meaningful thing you do in the game is respond to dialogue options in Aaron Sorkin-style “walk-and-talk” conversations that alternate seamlessly between sarcastic teen bonding, stick-a-knife-in-it awkward stand-offs, and genuinely touching moments. Each conversation option is represented by word balloons you pick with a touch of a button. The tone of the response is hinted at by the phrase in the word balloon similar to the system used in Mass Effect (and done noticeably better than in Fallout 4, I might add). Unlike the galaxy-saving Shepard however, Alex's (the playable protagonist) dialogue isn't laced with heroic speeches or badass threats. She's a teenaged girl who had a lot on her shoulders before the whole spooky-possibly-haunted-island thing started happening and she carries herself like one. She jokes with her friends, gets freaked out, and argues over pointless trivia, like a real person who suddenly found themselves in an unreal situation would. There is no outwardly visible karma meter or “so-and-so will remember that” comments in the game, but your words have meaning. You dialogue choices will effect how the other kids see you and your relationship with them. Occasionally you come to linchpin decision moments that can take you down alternate paths in the game, but mostly the choices are subtlety baked into the experience. A nice change from the “pick blue for good, red for bad” dichotomy of many game's dialogue systems. These conversations are not done in cutscenes or discrete “talking moments,” they're the life blood flowing through the entire game. You chat while walking to the beach, cutting through the woods, while exploring an abandoned military base, and the conversation follows naturally. Jump across a chasm between two cliffs while idly chatting and your friends won't just keep talking about the weather, they'll stop to recognize how badass/insane what you did just was. Same goes for conversations interrupted by spooky transmissions, or sudden, jarring hallucinations. Its easy to picture this backfiring. If the characters were tiresome, boring, or two-dimensional, a game all about talking to them would be a painful experience. Thankfully, the teens of Oxenfree are refreshingly likable. With an excellent script behind some amazing voice-over performances, the teens never wear out their welcome. They're smart, funny, and surprisingly sensible (they mostly just want to get the hell away from the island rather than work out its mysterious history). While the setup is as off the shelf as it gets, the characters don't fit into the Breakfast Club-defined roles you might expect. Alex is a bright girl trying to redefine herself after a life-shattering loss. Her brand new half-brother Jonas (yeah, she's meeting him for the first time at a kegger, it's as awkward as it sounds) is from a bad neighborhood and is implied to have spent a little time in jail. But, he's deeper and more vulnerable than the smoldering bad boy you might be picturing. Best friend Ren is a weird little guy who deals with stress with (actually funny) humor, harbors at least one secret crush, and may or may not be seeing a therapist depending on how seriously you want to take a few throwaway lines. Clarissa is the group's mean girl, always ready with a sharp barb or cutting remark in what is a fairly blatant display of a maladjusted defense mechanism. And Nona, a shy and seemingly unassuming girl who nonetheless has spent most of the semester in suspension, is probably the least developed of the characters but reveals some hidden depth if you make an effort to engage her. In what may be the game's greatest accomplishment, these kids are actually fun to hang around (other than the possible exception of Clarissa). In most horror movies, I usually end up rooting for the machete-wielding maniac after being introduced to the typical gaggle of jerks and dummies of a horror movie cast. In Oxenfree, I couldn't help but be charmed by the gang. When the supernatural creeps of the island finally started getting rough with them, it put a crinkle in my brow and an uncomfortable bend in my spine. I was tense, unsettled. Oxenfree never had to spring a jump scare on me or splatter the screen with blood to wrap me around its finger. It just had to make me care about the kids. Once I did that, it owned me. Aside from talking, the other main thing you do in Oxenfree is tune through a radio. At any time, you can pop out your handy pocket radio and scroll through the channels, finding static, 1940s big band tunes, and the occasional Satanic murmuring from some hell dimension. How very Silent Hill. Scattered throughout the game are various opportunities to tune into tourist information stations that reveal background about the island (and hopefully clues as to what you're up against), as well as secret audio anomalies that function as the game's de facto collectable. These are broadcasts that seem to be coming from another time or an alternate reality. Call me a sap, but I thought the anomalies were genuinely disquieting. It brought to mind the same spooky quality as listening to a numbers station broadcast, or the Jonestown tapes. This is a laid-back game. The vast majority of the experience is just wandering around with your friends, dialing through the radio for the occasional audio anomaly while chatting about school, gossip, and how utterly screwed up the situation you're in is. It's short. You can probably play through it in a single evening if you didn't care about seeing alternate story paths or collecting anomalies. If you wanted to be dismissive and sneer at Oxenfree as another “walking simulator” there isn't much that could be said in its defense. But personally, I think it is an excellent walking simulator. Oxenfree is a walking simulator that is confident enough in its characters and dialogue to bet that you won't mind just hanging around with them. It believes in the sinister low-ebb horror of the island to worm its way into your mind without having to crutch on a jumpscare every few minutes. It knows that its atmosphere and style will be enough to make you want to wander through its forests and dilapidated military bases. It's a walking simulator you should play. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Oxenfree Review photo
Dark signals
Stop me if you've heard this one before: A group of teenagers head to a remote, nearly abandoned tourist trap for a night of wild partying. Not long after they get there though, odd things start to happen. Unsettling things. ...

With a little more time, The Division might be a fun romp with friends

Jan 15 // Zack Furniss
When the abilities work, they bring a satisfying immediacy to the numerous skirmishes you are wont to face. If you time your cooldown to finish right as a boss appears and you can pull out a ballistic shield to charge him with, it's hard not to smile and high five your co-op buddy. From what I was able to see, there's a plethora of mods and perks you can use to modify both these abilities and your agent's stats, which could lead to diverse character builds later on down the line. Combined with the crafting system and customizable weapons (grips, scopes, magazines, the usual), there will be plenty of viable options in your quest to purge New York. Throughout our various missions, we improved the three wings of our own bases of operations: Security, Medical, and Tech. Whether we were scrounging up supplies to bolster these facilities or rescuing more personnel with which to staff them, we ended up earning more perks, mods, and weapons. These missions mostly involved finding an area or killing a target, but they were fun to tackle with newly-made friends. We never had to think too hard about anything, but that's not what this game is about. It's going to scratch that same Destiny itch, where you're comparing stats and finding more efficient ways to run through quests. Here's the main problem: like most Diablo-esque shooters that are thigh-deep in weapon stats, developers tend to use enemy health as their most important slider. If you get a better gun, the guy who's wearing a hoodie and shooting you with an uzi will just have more hitpoints. He's an elite, so be prepared to fill his head with bullets for a good ten minutes before he drops. This is an old problem that you've heard about before. But in a game like The Division that really wants you to buy into a semi-realistic what-if scenario, it's hard to believe that a guy who did enough push-ups to reach level 20 can swallow multiple magazines of ammunition. Yes, AI is hard to improve, but damage sponges aren't fun. This was especially apparent when we skipped to a much later scenario when we had better weaponry and skills. Soldiers that used to fall quickly could now shrug off a hailstorm of metal and fire, yet we seemed to take damage at the same rate as the beginning of the game. It all feels rather Uncharted when you're standing next to a man, firing bullets between his eyes, watching him recoil, righting himself, stepping left, and shooting you some more. Most developers would love to have their game compared to Uncharted, but this aspect isn't a selling point. At the end of the day, I don't expect The Division to set the world on fire, but I didn't expect Destiny to keep growing and become the zeitgeist that it has. Serviceable combat, an encyclopedia worth of customization, and cooperative elements are enough for me to want to jump back in with old friends. With some more fine-tuning, this'll be a good late-night game for you and your pals. Plus, the Dark Zone areas seem promising (Joe said everything I would here). Hopefully, we'll all be able to place turrets when it releases on March 8, 2016.
Tom Clancy's The Division photo
8,000 headshots
A week or so ago I drove through Hell Niño in Los Angeles to get my hands on Tom Clancy's The Division in a 2002 Dodge Neon with bad windshield wipers. Let no one ever deny that I am committed. Alongside Ubisoft reps, ...

Review: Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India

Jan 12 // Chris Carter
Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed]) Developer: Climax StudiosPublisher: UbisoftReleased: January 12, 2016MSRP: $9.99 In this tale players will assume the role of Arbaaz Mir -- a cocksure assassin who has just stolen the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a Piece of Eden. The year is 1841, and Arbaaz is caught up in your typical Assassin vs. Templar antics in the brand new setting of India. The narrative mostly takes a backseat, with various puzzles and combat (or rather, the option to avoid combat) challenges to face along the way, and little in the form of exposition or world building. It's...serviceable, much like China, in that the story doesn't really leap out of the screen, but it also doesn't get in the way. India keeps inline with China's unique visual style that looks like it could be housed in an art gallery, but with more vibrant hues and beautiful pastels than the last iteration. Often times I'd stop and ogle at the landscape, which is something I rarely do in recent 2D titles -- but then again, Ubisoft usually nails it in that department (Rayman, Child of Light). In case you're wondering, it's still following the same stealth platformer format from China, so don't expect a whole lot. Levels are very linear in nature, even if specific sections do have a number of different solutions (like whistling to distract guards, going around them entirely with the grappling hook, and so on). Once again the actual platforming mechanics are sound, and the "stealth button/run button" format translates unusually well to the 2D plane. That smoothness starts to grate though once you've made your way through similar looking labyrinthine halls, fighting the same types of enemies over and over. [embed]333470:61826:0[/embed] India still discourages combat and proclaims stealth king, which will probably polarize a few of you out there looking for constant fights. The game punishes you with a low health pool and a limited amount of combat tools, so if you are adverse to stealth you may want to sit out for this series. Personally I revel in the ability to not go in guns (or blades) blazing, so the style suit me quite well, especially with the increased emphasis on the grappling hook. Once the story is all said and done there's a New Game Plus, and a "New Game Plus Hard" option to storm through. Thankfully though Ubisoft added in another element to India in the form of challenge rooms, which are basically in the same surrealistic "VR" style as past entries, with time-based objectives to complete. Sure it's the same old song and dance for Assassin's Creed, but it's nice to have something extra to do, even if there's only six of them. Assassin's Creed Chronicles: India isn't a whole lot different compared to China, which is either a good or a bad thing depending on your prior experience. It sports a slightly less interesting character and setting, but the core experience is replicated, and the addition of a few gameplay tweaks as well as the aforementioned challenge mode ensures that it's on the level. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Assassin's Creed review photo
Hide and Sikh
When the Chronicles series was announced, my response was mixed. I mean, it's cool that we're getting to see new settings outside of the usual suspect after all, but by that same token, I'd rather see those new areas in a fully-fledged 3D game. These Prince of Persia inspired 2.5D gaidens (including last year's China) are the next best thing though, albeit with some provisos.

Review: That Dragon, Cancer

Jan 11 // Laura Kate Dale
That Dragon, Cancer (Ouya, PC [Reviewed])Developer: Numinous GamesPublisher: Numinous GamesMSRP: $14.99Released: January 12, 2015Rig: Intel Core i5-4690K @ 3.5 GHz, with 8GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, Windows 7 64-bit  That Dragon, Cancer is a two hour long, autobiographical exploration of creator Ryan Green's experience of having a young child diagnosed with cancer. At around twelve months old Joel Green, Ryan's son, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given only a few months to live. In spite of his short prognosis Joel lived for several more years, with That Dragon, Cancer exploring the time between diagnosis and Joel's eventual passing away. [embed]332930:61798:0[/embed] That Dragon, Cancer is an odd game to really break apart. When I initially saw it in demo form a few years ago interactions were largely restricted to pacing around a single room, hearing sincere voice acting from a father with a distressed son he could not help. The frustration of being unable to do anything, the pain of pacing this single space and the strength of the writing made this single room experience incredibly moving to experience.  When Cancer focuses on these deeply personal moments, it truly shines as an experience. Be it spinning a simple children's toy in order to hear the thoughts of adults in a room to feeding ducks while Joel's siblings ask questions about his stagnant development, the times where Dragon focuses on very direct interactive representations of what their family went through are definitely not only moving, but meaningful. Where Dragon seems to stumble is when it tries to either abstract its representations of emotional themes, or introduce interactive elements that may not mesh with the tone of the surrounding narrative. With the exception of an incredibly well handled video game within the video game, most sections added to introduce additional video game elements ultimately detract from the experience, rather than adding to it. There's nothing to be gained by breaking up a somber scene with a poorly made, three lap cart race in a hospital with no other racers and no consequences for performance. That scene for example breaks the tone and impact of a much larger scene, feeling like it does so purely so the game is less likely to be labelled a walking simulator. While a few of these moments successfully convey themes, many of the successful scenes also drag on far longer than is sensible, damaging the pacing of the narrative considerably. I feel like this would be a much stronger experience if many of these moments of forced interaction were removed. That small video game inside the video game however? Really damn impressive. There's also a scene involving floating on balloons that, while overly long, did have some value. When Cancer is focusing on telling a direct narrative about a family's life with a son they knew was dying, it truly is an incredible experience. From the ways it conveys the highs and lows of life to the exploration of how Christianity fits into a family expecting bereavement, from the discussions of the future to the enjoyment of the present, it really is an awe inspiringly beautiful experience when it's focused. As a monument to a son, it's incredibly touching to see. The final scenes of the game were a beautiful bookend to a life cut short and without a doubt left me in tears for quite some time. That Dragon, Cancer is a beautiful experience, if one that would have benefited considerably from having content cut to improve the flow, pacing, and tone.
That Dragon, Cancer photo
Beautifully inconsistent
It's a very odd experience as a critic, reviewing something like That Dragon, Cancer. A product that is so clearly an incredibly personal work of art created from a place of sincerity, but also a consumer product being sold t...

Jed Whitaker's dank picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 06 // Jed Whitaker
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is probably my most-played game of 2015 on an "amount of days played" basis, even if it released in 2014. During the past year alone, the game has added two single-player adventures, Blackrock Mountain and League of Explorers, as well as a new expansion called The Grand Tournament, amounting to over 200 cards. The metagame has changed drastically, which kept Hearthstone feeling fresh all through 2015 and is why it deserves a spot as one of my games of the year. Well played. Her Story can arguably be boiled down to a search engine simulator mixed with FMV, but the narrative presented is so interesting and well acted that it is hard not to love. I purchased it one night during a sale and said to my boyfriend, "I've heard a lot of praise for this game. We should play it for a minute." Over three hours later, I was still playing, engrossed in the murder mystery presented on-screen via interrogation videos. Finding a new clip to watch and piecing together the mystery is exciting, even if on paper the plot almost seems like something you'd find in a Lifetime movie or soap opera. I can't stress enough what an amazing story it is and how addictive Her Story becomes once you get started. YouTube videos can't possibly do this one justice -- just buy it and see for yourself without spoiling anything. Westerado: Double Barreled is a rootin' tootin' heck of a great retro-styled western with a large dose of revenge. Each playthrough is randomly generated, but one thing stays the same: someone you love is brutally murdered, and you're out for the kind of revenge that only cold steel can provide. The style, the music, the writing, and the entire presentation are just fantastic, capturing the feel of old-timey spaghetti westerns better than any game I've ever played. That said, even if you aren't a western fan, you can still find enjoyment in the true-to-cowboy-dialect writing. Yeehaw! Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime was meant to be played with a friend or lover, and when doing so, it is damned amazing. You and your partner work together to control a colorful spacecraft searching through space for kidnapped animal buddies. Controlling the ship is done by moving your chosen character around to various stations that handle specific functions including steering, weapons, shields, and so on. It's hands down the best co-op experience of the year, and possibly the past few years. Lovers is a must-own if you've got a special someone in your life who just wants to spend time with you doing your favorite hobby. I know my boyfriend and I love it. [embed]330637:61722:0[/embed] Did you really think my list wouldn't have Splatoon? Nintendo's first shooter turned out to be the most original one in years and everything about the game is on point from the characters to the music, graphics, single-player, multiplayer, and even commercials. Splatoon launched with what seemed like a small amount of content on paper, but since then Nintendo has continually released new weapons, levels, clothing, modes, and Splatfests to make up for it, and all for the low, low price of free. I just hope the rumored Octoling campaign DLC comes true in 2016! Also, in case you missed it the first time, watch Squid Now 2 here to basically see me naked. I'm going to be honest here: I haven't even finished Yo-Kai Watch, but damn do I love it. Just look at this picture of me in my Jibanyan shirt with my Jibanyan piggy bank and try to tell me I don't love Yo-Kai Watch. What could be better than a game that combines Pokémon with cute and colorful ghosts who speak English? Not many games in 2015, that is for sure. The character designs alone make this one of my favorites of the year, and I'm sure I'll love it even more when I get around to finishing it. Speaking of games I love but haven't had the time to finish, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is one of them. Dare I say this is the 'gayest' Zelda game that has ever existed, and I love it all the more for it? So many of the characters are just flamboyant and utterly fabulous. Mix that in with a multiplayer version of that familiar Zelda flavor and you've got yourself a great game. Perhaps the online is sometimes laggy, and other players aren't always so good at communicating, but everyone has, at least, two friends to play with, right? I still laugh every time someone does the cheerleader emote, causing Link to pop up on my screen with pom poms. So cute, so fun, so colorful, and arguably so gay, Tri Force Heroes deserves a spot in your 3DS collection. Castle in the Darkness is the one of those games that flew under the radar for most people while being one hell of a game. If Castlevania and Cave Story had a love child, this would be it. For a game that costs $6, it is packed full of content. It took me around 16 hours just to 100 percent the campaign while unlocking two of the endings, and that is before I touched the other new game plus modes! While you're slaying hundreds of different enemies and giant bosses in this non-linear affair, you'll also be humming along to the best chiptune soundtrack I've heard in years and easily my favorite game soundtrack of 2015. Don't believe me? Then give it a listen. What is more impressive is the game was mostly developed (completely developed?) by one person, Matt Kap, and that includes the soundtrack. Even though it released in February, I've found myself thinking back to my time with Castle in the Darkness throughout 2015. It's easily my favorite single-player game of the year. Halo 5: Guardians is my second-most-played game of 2015 and my favorite multiplayer game of the year. Sure, its campaign is easily one of the worst in the series (what were they thinking having you fight the same boss so many times?), but what shines here is the online experience. 343 Industries took the base multiplayer we came to know and love from previous titles and plucked mechanics from other shooters to make the overall best multiplayer experience in the series. Aiming down sights, unlimited sprinting, clamoring up ledges, spartan charging, and ground pounding are all welcome additions. While there are microtransactions available, they only offer up cosmetics and consumables and are quickly unlockable without spending a dime, however tempting that might be. Because of their inclusion, 343 has promised that all future maps and modes will be provided free of charge. Thus far, it has kept its promise by adding multiple maps and modes since launch.  After putting over 72 hours into the multiplayer, I'm happy to report that this is easily one of the most balanced Halo games, and one that will keep me playing for many more hours to come.  That does it for my main games of the year list, but I'd like to toss out some honorable mentions: Niko: Through the Dream was the best first-person puzzle game I played in 2015. Undertale is the game I'm most likely to fall in love with if I ever play it after having bought it on release day. Rock Band 4 is my most regretful purchase of the year. The Jackbox Party Pack 2 is the best game to play with friends who can't stay off their damned phones. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is the most innovative and stressful game of the year.  Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is the best walking simulator and free experience of the year. Downwell is the best mobile / cheap game that I love that I may or may not ever beat due to difficulty. Xbox One Elite controller is the best controller on the market (sorry not sorry Steam controller). It Follows is the best movie of the year and features a video game-esque soundtrack by Disasterpeace! [embed]330637:61722:0[/embed]
Jed's dankiest games 2015 photo
Bonus: See me nearly naked, again
I've heard a lot of people say 2015 was one of the best years they can remember, gaming-wise, but I can't say I agree. AAA titles last year were mostly more of the same, and most indie titles just didn't click with me. 2015 w...

Oculus Rift up for pre-order right now, costs $599.99, out in March

Jan 06 // Chris Carter
[embed]332092:61753:0[/embed]
Oculus Rift photo
Do you want it?
[Update: All initial "day one" stock has been claimed, apparently selling out in 14 minutes. Further units for sale are now pushed back to May 2016.] This week, Oculus had a few announcements up its sleeve, including the...

Review: Amplitude

Jan 05 // Chris Carter
Amplitude (PS3, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: HarmonixPublisher: HarmonixMSRP: $19.99Released: January 5, 2016 (PS4) / TBA (PS3) Amplitude might be hard to master, but it's extremely easy to pick up. If you've played the series before you'll be able to jump right back in at the highest difficulty level, but for the rest of you, a quick five minute tutorial is all you'll need. Simply put, notes are laid down on tracks that symbolize instruments (or vocals), with L1, R1, and R2 (or Square, Triangle, and Circle) triggering the left, middle, or right notes respectively. Players are required to hit specific notes on beat on each track, then move to the next one. That's essentially it. There are a few more nuances like "Streaking" (combos, initiated by quickly moving and playing notes on a new track), and power-ups (simple concepts like clearing a track instantly), but you'll pick up the basics in no time. And in many ways, that's what's so great about Amplitude. The concept of a ship driving down a literal road that signifies your progress in a song is brilliant, and although it's been done a few times since the franchise's retirement, Harmonix does it best. All four difficulties (plus one bonus unlock) feel balanced, and the highest (Expert) is sufficiently challenging. Amplitude doesn't have a whole lot on offer though, content-wise. The campaign is a mere 15 songs long, consisting of a "concept album" created by Harmonix. It's a neat idea in theory, but it's over before you know it, and will definitely leave players wanting more. The fact that it cannot be played with friends and is required to unlock a handful of songs for multiplayer also isn't ideal. After finishing up the campaign, I had no desire to ever play it again. [embed]328939:61634:0[/embed] In that sense, the vast majority of your time will be spent in the free play mode, which supports up to four players in both versus or team play (1v3 or 2v2) situations. It's just as fun as it was in the past, as there's even more strategy involved with more ships on the track, since you can block out opponents from entering a track by claiming it first. With all of the power-ups being used in tandem, things can get hectic. It's Amplitude at its best, and truly successful players will need to watch their own track as well as peruse the entire board for the next move on top of counter-maneuvers, taking other ships into account. Where Amplitude really falls short is its lackluster 30-song soundtrack. You can take a look at the full setlist here to get an idea of what to expect -- spoiler: it's a lot of in-house work. Most of it is competent electronica crafted by the talented folks at Harmonix, but I just don't dig most of the vocal work -- either the performances or the lyrics -- and the majority of songs are not nearly as memorable as classics from the old games like Garbage's "Cherry Lips" or David Bowie's "Everyone Says Hi." I would play those songs for hours on end years back, but like the campaign, I'm willing to skip out on most of the new tracks. The original games weren't afraid to get out of their comfort zone with songs like "Dope Nose" from Weezer and "King of Rock" by Run-DMC, and the lack of risk-taking really shows with this new iteration. Another general issue I have is the way songs are doled out while playing. Tracks are locked behind the campaign as previously mentioned, but others require players to complete a ton of songs to access them. One even takes 60 plays to unlock! Why did Harmonix feel the need to do this? To gate the experience and ensure it lasts longer? It goes against the party-like nature of the game, and feels like a relic of the past. I wouldn't mind doing this if the reward were greater (like the original), but it isn't. Amplitude is a competent rhythm game that should provide lots of fun at parties, but the hamstrung tracklist is a severe detriment to its longevity. Harmonix was able to preserve the classic experience, but may have gone overboard in its effort to do so. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. I did not contribute to the Kickstarter campaign.]
Amplitude review photo
This Amp doesn't go to 11
Before there was an abundance of rhythm games out there with plastic peripherals, there were developers like Harmonix leading the way with controller-based experiences. Along with some long sessions of Gitaroo Man and Pa...

Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider: Endurance Mode

Jan 05 // Chris Carter
Rise of the Tomb Raider: Endurance Mode (Xbox One [reviewed], Xbox 360, PC, PS4)Developer: Crystal Dynamics (Xbox One), Nixxes Software (Xbox 360)Publisher: Microsoft (Xbox One, 360); Square Enix (PC, PS4)MSRP: $9.99Released: December 29, 2015 Endurance Mode is very light on story, offering up a shaky excuse for its existence which isn't even all that necessary. Lara, seemingly breaking from her travels, is in search of artifacts as is the evil mustache-twirling Trinity organization. Her job is to locate caves and recover said artifacts, then signal a helicopter and high-tail it out of there with as many goodies as she can grab. The catch is, players now have a food and warmth meter. Grabbing supplies such as bark and berries (or killing animals for food) actually has a point now, rather than a gamified version of an upgrade system like the core story. Hilariously, it even goes as deep as needing resources to light the signal fire to even escape, something I failed at in my first run. Ammo is often much more scarce a la Resident Evil as well, which is a nice touch -- I'd almost always find myself out of arrows during nearly all of my runs. Relic caves are actually mini-crypts, and are roughly 5-10 minute, bite-sized dungeons of sorts with random trap types. They're fun to play through, and don't overstay their welcome given their short length. Additionally, the rewards for actually exploring these caves are decent, including credit payouts for more Expedition rewards, and new weapons. I would prefer a lot of these elements to just be baked into the core game, but since I assume a lot of folks would complain that it's "too hard," we have this mode instead -- a risk-reward, arcadey score attack concept. It even features challenges (locate five crypts), which are an achievement-ception of sorts. At times, it feels like a rushed bit of DLC. There's only one Endurance sandbox for starters, and as a whole, the map feels rigid and forced -- with plenty of ways to corral players into specific zones. All of that cheapness generally washes away when you're in caves, but I would have preferred the overworld to be just as enjoyable. The best part is that it involves cards. If you're into that aspect of Rise, this is probably the best game type for it, in fact. For the uninitiated, cards modify the experience -- making it tougher or easier -- depending on what cards you play before match. For example, you can up your rewards by making enemies do more damage, or lower them by taking a specific outfit that automatically grants you the entire Brawler skill tree. Some cards are limited to a one-time use, but tons more, including a large pack that comes with the Survival DLC, are permanent. Deciding whether or not to buy Endurance Mode for Rise of the Tomb Raider is a pretty easy decision. Did you play and enjoy the Expeditions? If so, go ahead and grab it, if not, skip it.
Tomb Raider DLC review photo
Don't starve
I'm surprised how much mileage I've gotten out of Rise of the Tomb Raider. While most developers are keen on stuffing multiplayer into every single project, Crystal Dynamics did the right thing but nixing it in Rise, instead adding in a much more enticing Expeditions gametype. Endurance Mode isn't exactly as thrilling as it sounds, but it expands upon Expeditions quite well.

Chris Carter's personal picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 03 // Chris Carter
Bloodborne What an amazing year for Souls fans. In addition to announcement of Dark Souls III coupled with a solid release date, we also got the fantastic Scholar of the First Sin, and of course, Bloodborne. Sony and From Software were absolutely genius with their timing of the latter. It was released earlier this year, leaving plenty of time to develop The Old Hunters DLC, just in time for our Game of the Year voting process. With a more twitchy action-based combat system in tow, Bloodborne felt significantly different from its predecessors, but was still a Souls game at heart. If the series is to truly end with Dark Souls III, it will end without one bad game under its belt. Yo-Kai Watch I've developed a full-on addiction to this franchise. I watch the TV show, I've acquired a few pieces of merchandise, and I love the first game. Yo-Kai Watch managed to make its way into my heart for one simple reason -- Level-5 put so much effort into this series that it truly shows. Whether it's the endearing references to the basically-but-not-technically Japan setting and hilarious cast, I'm usually smiling when I'm experiencing something Yo-Kai related. Heroes of the Storm When Blizzard first started talking about a "casual MOBA" years back, I never really took the prospect seriously. I was a devoted vanilla DOTA fan (and years later, League of Legends enthusiast), and the concept really didn't resonate with me. Until I played it, of course. The fact that the roster is made up of classic Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft heroes and villains is only the icing on the cake, because as a whole, the game works. I love that I can boot it up for just a bit, play a game that's only 15-20 minutes, and move on, instead of dedicating hours upon hours for it to truly get anywhere. The team-based XP system is brilliant as well. Fellow players are still able to keep up with everyone without getting left in the dust because they didn't last-hit every creep throughout a match. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Expectations were through the roof with Kojima's last project with Konami, but man did he and his team deliver. With open-world gameplay that absolutely smashes so many of its competitors, Phantom Pain was one of the most engaging games I've played in years. It also helped that it looked gorgeous, as every bullet, explosion, and setpiece was beautifully designed and orchestrated. While Metal Gear Online and the sum of its other, seedier microtransaction parts leave much to be desired, the campaign has earned a rightful place among the best work from Kojima's long, storied career. Ori and the Blind Forest I don't think I'll ever get tired of Metroidvanias, and Ori and the Blind Forest is a perfect example of why the formula still works. The platforming is spot-on, the environments are engaging and vivid, and the minimalist story is so well done that it hurts. Clocking in at 12 hours or less, there isn't any fat on Ori -- you need every bit of that game for the package to work. Shortly after completing it the first time, I went back and did another run. I can safely say that it will become part of my annual replay routine. Xenoblade Chronicles X Ah, Xenoblade. I still remember the very moment I knew how polarizing the game was going to be. I had cleared out an afternoon to do a story quest, only to find out that it needed a sidequest as a prerequisite. Having no idea how the flow of things operated, I thought it would be a mere diversion, and I would be able to power through the main questline. Oh how wrong I was, and six hours later, I still wasn't ready to continue the campaign. But you know what? That entire six-hour block was a joyous session. I found a heap of hidden areas, fought gigantic looming world bosses, unearthed a ton of useful loot, and just generally had a blast roaming around the sprawling maps. It's so easy to get lost in Xenoblade Chronicles X, and although it can be a bit too old-school for its own good, the journey is its own reward. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 I usually have one oddball pick every year, and this is it. It sounds like a cop-out to say recent Resident Evil games are better with friends, but damn it, they are. Even Resident Evil 6, despite its general garbage multi-campaign approach, had redeeming qualities with its "Mercenaries" component. My wife and I were hooked from start to finish, and the asymmetrical co-op characters really worked for us. The episodic format was a bit jarring, but ultimately fine, and I liked that some sections had multiple outcomes or endings, among the hundreds of other extras and goodies packed in. I must admit, though, most of my enjoyment is derived from the game's raid mode, which is probably my favorite incarnation of the game-type to date. I've spent more time playing it than practically any other game released this year.
GOTY 2015 photo
Another rad year
As I've said in the past, every year is a great year for gaming if you look hard enough. I see "this year sucked" so many times around the web and just can't relate, because while there may be disappointing releases on a cons...

2015 recap: The ten most popular posts on Destructoid this year

Dec 31 // Brett Makedonski
Ten most popular posts 10. Here are all the names Fallout 4's Codsworth can say Admit it: You clicked on this because you wanted to see if Codsworth can say bumbledick or shitsandwich or fuckface (he can say the latter). Just because Codsworth can say it doesn't mean you can say it, though! We'll wash your mouth out with soap and we're not bluffing this time. 9. The Last of Us multiplayer DLC is not okay Darren has thoughts. Opinions, man. Takes that are hot. He doesn't like the free-to-play multiplayer elements in The Last of Us -- a game that is absolutely not free-to-play. Over the course of, like, a million words, he explains his beef. I don't know if most agreed with him, but a whole lot of people wanted to see what he had to say. 8. E3 2015 press conference schedule They call him SEO Steven* for a reason. I don't have the hard statistics to back it up, but I'd wager that the old Google machine looked kindly upon this post. *No one calls him SEO Steven; they call him Arch Deluxe Steven on account of the crazy high arches in his feet. They're weird. They freak me out. 7. Where to find companions in Fallout 4 Word on the street is you need some friends. Loser. 6. Bethesda doesn't mind if you don't like Fallout 4's graphics Fallout 4 doesn't look great. It's not terrible, but it's not wowing anyone who's used to gaming on a PC, PS4, or Xbox One. Bethesda's perfectly fine with that. Let's face it: If you're playing Fallout for the graphics, you're playing Fallout for the wrong reasons. 5. Some jerk ruined Pixels' perfect zero Rotten Tomatoes score Adam Sandler's summer movie Pixels didn't fare all that well. For a while, it had a zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I don't know much about movies and percentages, but that seems bad. Until some jagoff ruined all of that. Also, I'm pretty sure that I gave Darren the headline for this article, so he owes me a beer the next time I see him. Do me a favor and hold him to that. I'll take my beer in the form of a bottle of vodka. 4. Here are all the amiibo waves and figures we know about I can confidently say that amiibo are bad and Chris is a bad man for writing about them. Some would say that I'm also a bad man for writing about them, to which I'd threaten to sue my defamers for slander. 3. Nintendo's cracking down on speedrunning and ROM hacking videos Speaking of lawsuits, a little copyright talk brought all the attorneys to the yard. And they're like "Actually the purpose of copyright law..." That's not as catchy and I can definitely see why the other song was about milkshakes instead. 2. Man hate-buys Rosalina & Luma amiibo in bulk so fans can't have them Okay, you're right: I am a bad man for writing about amiibo. Almost as bad of a man as the Internet troll who bought a bunch of Rosalina & Luma amiibo so that other people couldn't have them. (In reality, he was probably just flipping them for megabucks.) 1. Bungie gets salty defending Destiny's expansion price Understandably, it didn't go well when Bungie asked Destiny players to re-buy content they'd already bought to get full access to the upcoming expansion. One of the biggest games on the market gouging its user base in this unthinkable manner was bound to be one of the most popular stories of the year. Five most popular reviews 5. Bloodborne Chris Carter does everything around here -- including the top five trafficking reviews of 2015. 4. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Chris, did you ever know that you're my hero? 3. Fallout 4 And everything I would like to be? 2. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain I can fly higher than an eagle. 1. Dying Light For you are the wind beneath my wings. Also, how the hell did Dying Light, with a modest score of seven, end up beating those other titans? I don't understand the Internet, like, ever. This shit more or less makes no sense. Staff picks for five enjoyable posts (in no particular order) 5. 'Is that a Game Boy?' Navigating simple questions as a socially awkward adult Here's a little inside baseball: Darren wasn't even sure he should post this quick editorial he wrote. It wasn't really video game-related. Instead, it was more "How do I describe the nuances of gaming to a naive audience-"related. I'm glad he did because it tackles such an innocent, basic, yet all too familiar scenario: That awkwardness when trying to figure out when explaining becomes over-explaining. It's one that's tough to elegantly deal with no matter how many times you run into it. 4. Experience Points .25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars I love Ben's Experience Points series. Too often, I realize that it has been a long time since I've had anything too nice to say about video games. The magic isn't the same when you deal with covering the industry every single day. Ben's Experience Points pieces come from a place of pure affection and appreciation, though -- an attitude that makes them a joy to read and helps recapture the feeling that got many of us into this gig in the first place. We went with his Super Mario RPG entry because, gosh, that game is so good. 3. Cell games: I tried to build a pacifist utopia but the Internet ate me up Agar.io is a game about being a cell and trying to grow. This is done either by devouring smaller player-controlled cells or by gobbling up an abundance of tiny non-player-controlled cells. Really, it's kind of the very essence of online multiplayer -- everyone out for themselves, hoping to eventually be the biggest dog in the yard. Steven found himself trying to subvert that. He wanted to play as a pacifist, seeing how big he could grow just from eating those insignificant small cells. What transpired was a mutualistic relationship with a fellow player, an unlikely friendship in a game meant to show as little human personality as possible. It's the kind of story that conjures memories of an unknown buddy helping you through the emotional highs and lows of Journey. 2. True Life: One man's descent into deliriumiibo This was the most therapeutic piece that I can remember writing in a long time. Having recently fallen victim to the amiibo craze, I kept stepping back and wondering what the hell I was doing before continuing right along my troubled path. It was a lighthearted reprieve where I could laugh about this sudden obsession while in the back of my mind thinking "Fuuuuck, I'm really doing this, aren't I?" 1. Nintendo announced a new Metroid so we gave Zack a haircut This bucks the editorial trend set by the other four posts, but that's okay because this is one of my favorite things that happened all year. Nintendo (kind of) announced a new Metroid title at E3 -- Metroid Prime: Federation Force -- so, we shaved the iconic alien into the back of Zack's head. Poorly, might I add. Zack, you're gonna go far, kid. -- We wrote a lot of good stuff in 2015. Only five got listed in this round-up, but there was far more that we were proud of. If you'd like, check out the Destructoid Originals tag to rediscover some of it. Now, onto 2016, the ten-year anniversary of your favorite Robot.
Popular posts of 2015 photo
So fetch
Even though the tradition is exactly two years running at this point, I look forward to closing up the calendar year by writing about the most popular posts on Destructoid. It's no secret that we, Internet people as we are, h...

Why are the only interesting parts of Rise of the Tomb Raider's story buried in audio logs?

Dec 29 // Zack Furniss
Remember when Rise of the Tomb Raider was announced at the Xbox's E3 press conference? If not, here it is: [embed]330081:61668:0[/embed] Lara is at a therapy session, and a psychologist is telling her that despite the trauma she faced, she needs to reintegrate into society, maybe "take up some hobbies". She impatiently taps her foot, clad in a hood, eyes downcast, obviously beyond uncomfortable. Her hands are wounded, a fact that she's trying to keep a secret from the psychologist. This all adds up to a surprisingly human look at what someone would face after the (admittedly ridiculous) harrowing events of the first game. That images of her continuing to delve into dangerous situations are woven throughout the trailer add an uncomfortable, yet empowering edge. Most games shy away from dealing with trauma, yet from the outset Rise of the Tomb Raider looked like it might have something to say about the subject. Some viewers interpreted the teaser as showing Lara as damaged, but as someone who regularly goest to a therapist, I saw it as a strength. However, this scene is nowhere to be found in the finished product. These therapy sessions are relegated to simple audio logs, and even worse than that, they aren't ones that you find lying around on the floor. At some point after Ana, Lara's father's lover (and member of Trinity, the capital E evil ancient order that's searching for immortality) betrays Lara, a pop-up tells you that you've unlocked some audio logs. It's easy to miss. If you give these a listen, you'll find an extra layer of fucked-up. These therapy sessions were actually orchestrated by Trinity, and they're pushing Lara to go in the direction that they want. One recording shows that they're trying to separate Lara from Jonah, her friend and fellow survivor. Each tape ends with Ana scheming about how best to further manipulate Lara. This is good stuff, and is so much more interesting than the rote plot that ended up in Rise. Therapy in general seems to be a big no-no in game stories, but this could have been handled in a way that gave depth to Lara's character, giving her more of a reason to detest Trinity. It also makes them seem like a more dangerous enemy, secretly pulling global strings instead of just giving an army of idiots guns so that they can all be massacred by a young woman who built a bow out of sticks. Ana's brother, Konstantin, is a leader of one of Trinity's battalions, and is memorable for three things: a gravelly voice, an under-cooked boss battle, and stigmata on his hands that bleed when his prayers are answered. Sure, I can believe in a holy figure that responds to prayers in a game that has immortal soldiers that explode into blue flames when you blast them with a shotgun. But another audio log from Ana's perspective reveals that Konstantin was directionless, lacking faith. One night, she decided to stab both of his hands so that he would believe he was chosen by God. This gave him the necessary push to keep him searching for the secret to immortality so that he could save Ana from a terminal illness. Why was this not touched upon in-game? Ana abusing her brother's buried zealotry for her personal gain, and him re-opening his wounds because he so desperately wants to believe in a higher power is a huge bit of character development that goes a long way in making these people at least somewhat believable in Tomb Raider's cartoonish world. I'm all for adding a human element into this series instead of making Lara an indestructible globe-hopping terminator (even though that's...still what they're doing), but someone is clearly stifling the writers' potential here. I'm curious how much of what Rhianna Pratchett is writing is getting thrown out in favor of "more explosions, less exposition." Again, I found plenty to enjoy in Rise of the Tomb Raider for the most part, and I'll play a sequel. Hopefully there'll the more thoughtful ideas will be allowed to float to the surface. And seriously, why isn't Lara using two pistols yet, especially since she used them for the final encounter in the first game (in a QTE, but I digress)? I promise you, it's not any less believable than her killing a billion guys. One last thing. Are we taking bets on whether or not Sofia was supposed to be another player character in a scrapped co-op mode? She has braids, a bow, and all but disappears in the last quarter of the game. I have a feeling there was a more volatile development cycle here than we know.
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Short answer: because it's a video game
Pretty boy Steven Hansen enjoyed  our Xbox One Game of the Year Rise of the Tomb Raider, saying that it was "perfunctory Hollywood boilerplate, down to the set up for the sequel, but competently done." I agree with ...

Destructoid's award for Overall Best Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 23 // Niero Desu
Speaking of cereal business: The accidental legacy of the cock-branded corn flakes goes back to the late 19th century, when a team of Seventh-day Adventists began to develop new food to adhere to the vegetarian diet recommended by the church. In 1894, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the superintendent of The Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan and an Adventist, used these recipes as part of a strict vegetarian regimen for his patients, which also included no alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine. The diet he imposed consisted entirely of bland foods. A follower of Sylvester Graham, the inventor of graham crackers and graham bread, Kellogg believed that spicy or sweet foods would "increase passions." Pictured: Mergo's Wet Nurse This idea for corn flakes began by accident when Kellogg and his younger brother, Will Keith Kellogg, left some cooked wheat to sit while they attended to some pressing matters at the sanitarium. When they returned, they found that the wheat had gone stale, but being on a strict budget, they decided to continue to process it by forcing it through rollers, hoping to obtain long sheets of the dough. To their surprise, what they found instead were flakes, which they toasted and served to the insane, who loved it.  In 1906, Will Keith Kellogg, who served as the business manager of the sanitarium, decided to try to mass-market the new food. At his new company, Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, Will added sugar to the flakes to make them more palatable to a mass audience, but this caused a rift between his brother and him. John thought the sugary version of corn flakes would get people laid. Heaven forbid: sex leads to babies, who are born bloody and can go on to produce murderous vicars and martyrs at sixty frames a second. Gross. Photo Credit: Blame Canada In 1907, his same company ran an ad campaign which offered a free box of cereal to any woman who winked at her grocer. To increase sales, in 1909, he added a special offer, the Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures Booklet. You probably had no idea how much the church, insane people, and masturbation have affected what many of you put into your mouths every morning. Luckily, moving pictures have evolved since. Congratulations, Miss Colombia, you're our game of the year. No seriously, she won. Fuck it, I own Destructoid, the Niero does what he wants. Duuude, have you seen that T-Shirt that has the old American food pyramid, but instead it says "I do what I want"? That's hilarious. Also, congratulations to Bloodborne and everyone at Sony and From Software. Sick game. [GOTY artwork design by Raul Cordoba. Miss Colombia photo credit: El Heraldo Colombia] Also, a huge thanks to the game's lead programmer, Jun Ito, who rarely gets his name mentioned by the Western press. I don't know anything about this person or the countless others that also contributed, but Ito-san is surely like many of hard-working developers in the industry who sacrificed countless nights of restful sleep. Taihen arigatou gozaimashita.
GOTY 2015 photo
Jun Ito
The downfall of Japanese game development has been greatly exaggerated. It sort of reminds me of what happened a century ago, when Dr. Kellogg introduced Kellogg's Corn Flakes in hopes that it would reduce masturbation. Kello...

Destructoid's award for Best Xbox Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 23 // Brett Makedonski
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as standalone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Before Nathan Drake, there was Lara Croft. This is important to note because recently, for a good number of years, Nathan Drake was Lara Croft. Shrewdly, developer Naughty Dog took the cinematic action baton and ran far,...

Review: Batman: Arkham Knight: Season of Infamy

Dec 23 // Chris Carter
Batman: Arkham Knight: Season of Infamy (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: WB Games MontrealPublisher: Warner Bros.MSRP: $9.99Released: December 22, 2015 Infamy is a bit confusing. It's not an "Arkham Episode," that's detached from the story by way of a menu option. It's an actual extension of the narrative, taking place before Batman initiates the Knightfall Protocol (the ending), and it's integrated into the open-world campaign. In other words, if you've reached 100 percent completion in the game, just load up your file to start the DLC. Four new missions pop up as a result of booting up Infamy, which you can complete in any order, featuring Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter, Ra's al Ghul, and Killer Croc. Each one is roughly 30-45 minutes long. Let's start with the Mad Hatter, the weakest link in the chain. His effectiveness as a Batman villain has always been questionable, and that goes double for his appearance in Arkham Knight. He was fine as a throwaway sidequest included in City, but the return of his presence does little to justify a premium price here. You'll be done with his bit in less than 30 minutes, running around Arkham with a minor series of fetch quests before confronting him at the Gotham City Police Department headquarters, and enduring another hallucination that amounts to nothing more than three easy combat challenges. It's a neat concept but it's so fleeting that I barely had time to digest it. Killer Croc is another of those one-dimensional foes that often functions as the muscle of an outfit -- a trope that leads you down a predictable storyline in the Infamy add-on. A prison ship has crash-landed compliments of an escape attempt by Croc, and you'll gallivant across the environment, chasing him down for a bit (with more fetch quests in tow of course). Consisting of a few platforming sequences and some combat, there's basically no thinking involved here in just about every facet of the short quest. It works better than Mad Hatter's portion though because most of it isn't comprised of re-used environments, and there is a nice brief reunion with Nightwing. [embed]328895:61630:0[/embed] Mr. Freeze on the other hand, is a villain that has always had a more interesting, nuanced characterization. He's not truly evil in the traditional sense -- rather, he sees his schemes as a means to an end, to save his wife Nora. The actual objectives for his quest aren't all that enthralling, but it's the only one that features Predator sequences, and the concept (and the exploration of his relationship with Nora) is compelling enough to see the tale through until the end. Plus, it has a Batmobile sequence that has more of a reason to exist than most of the ones in the campaign. Ra's al Ghul's quest is the other highlight of the pack, taking place mostly in Eliott General Hospital. Hush's part in Knight was extremely disappointing, especially after the buildup from City, so it's nice to see his family's legacy featured front and center to some degree. Along with some brand new zones you'll also work through a rather intriguing subplot featuring the League of Assassins (who are some of the only new enemies in the Infamy pack), and the Lazarus Pit -- one of the wackier bits of Batman lore. There's also a choice at the end that's actually pretty interesting that I won't spoil here. As a premium add-on, Season of Infamy really fails to produce much that feels like it's essential to the Arkham Knight experience outside of two tales. But on the other hand, it has a number of nice little touches, most notably a small expansion of the GCPD HQ, adding another wing (along with some easy WayneTech upgrade points), and the mission structure in the weaker two stories is competent at the very worst. If you really loved Knight and have been avoiding all the DLC thus far, Infamy is probably worth checking out at some point -- even if it's the only thing you buy piecemeal. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Batman DLC review photo
Ice to see the end of the Season Pass
I've refrained from reviewing most of the DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight outside of the Batgirl add-on, because of the short nature of the mission-based tales. But Season of Infamy has four missions, so that means it's four times as good, right?!

Best Mobile Game photo
Downwell
There were some great slow-paced, methodical games up for this award (Lara Croft GO, Alphabear), but Downwell proves twitch action can still work on phones. It achieves this through its dedication to simplicity. Three colors....

Destructoid's award for Best Vita Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 22 // Laura Kate Dale
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Persona 4: Dancing All Night
The PlayStation Vita has not had the strongest year for releases. With some of the system's biggest exclusives moving to PS4 and a drastic reduction in the number of new games being produced by first-party developers, many ha...

Destructoid's award for Best PC Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 22 // Steven Hansen
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Undertale
This quirky, JRPG-inspired lovefest has been the unexpected smash hit of 2015, resonating strongly with a legion of fans that helped propel it to victory in a large "Best. Game. Ever." poll against some of the indelible class...

Destructoid's award for Best Wii U Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 21 // Jordan Devore
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as standalone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Splatoon
Simply put, Splatoon delivered. Nintendo's inventive take on the shooter genre was the best in its field this year and so much more. It's a multiplayer experience that is both competitive and joyful, one where seasoned player...

Destructoid's award for Best 3DS Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 20 // Chris Carter
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
The 3DS had a rough launch, but over the course of a few years, it bounced back in a big way. At this point if you count digital releases, it's one of my favorite platforms of all time -- and I'm not just talking about the po...

Destructoid's award for Best PS4 Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 19 // Kyle MacGregor
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Bloodborne
Was there ever any doubt? Of all the distinguished and exemplary titles to grace the PlayStation 4 in 2015, few approach the wit and artistry of From Software and Hidetaka Miyazaki's Bloodborne. As the latest installment in w...

The best new IPs of 2015

Dec 18 // Laura Kate Dale
Undertale While Undertale's release this year was a complete surprise to most people who played it, a turn-based JRPG bullet hell game that remembers your actions, allows you to avoid murder, and has dateable skeletons is a pretty easy pitch to get people to check it out. The game has quickly amassed a rather large and dedicated fan following, and it's not hard to see why. The unusual blending of genre mechanics, the homages to EarthBound, the stellar writing, and the screenshotable nature of the cast was just prime for spreading like wild fire. Undertale may not be the longest game, and it's unlikely to ever get a direct sequel, but it has firmly cemented itself deep in the hearts of many a gamer this year. I laughed, I cried a bit, I screamed in frustration, and I walked away guilty. That's more of an emotional ride than can be said for most video games. Even if I now do feel my sins crawling on my back. Bloodborne While Bloodborne had a considerable head start on many of our best new IP contenders, as the spiritual sequel to the highly successful Dark Souls games, this particular IP did not take the easy design route. Taking Dark Souls' unforgiving combat style and pairing it with a rich new lore, additional mechanics that incentivized aggressive combat techniques, and a considerably upped gameplay pace, Bloodborne invites players to fight their way through a world that was memorable, challenging, and surprising on a regular basis. While there is a new Dark Souls on the way, Bloodborne is the franchise I'm more excited to see a sequel to. Splatoon Splatoon is the very embodiment of Nintendo looking at what other people were doing, and creating something fascinating by adding its own Nintendo Twist. The idea is simple: make a competitive online shooter where players' primary aim is not to shoot other characters, but to shoot non-sentient structures and surfaces. Online shooters are incredibly popular as a genre, but there's very little in the way of options for younger players to get into playing (you know, unless they play Call of Duty in spite being seven). It's an under-served market, and Nintendo seized it perfectly. Splatoon not only managed to capture attention with a unique art style and colour palette, its consistent long-term roll-out of new content has kept players engaged longer than many other comparable releases. Life is Strange Okay, I'll be the first to admit my beloved Life is Strange isn't perfect by any stretch. It's melodramatic, it's at times stilted in its writing, and it has some major issues with pacing. Still, the series is also one of the most memorable things I played this year, and it does things no other games are daring to do. Life is Strange managed to get a lot very right. It used time travel as a gameplay mechanic to get around not knowing the context of your choices in episodic narratives, allowing players to properly commit to choices they made. Pick a choice, watch it play out, rewind, check out another choice, decide which you want to commit to, and go ahead fully in favour of your actions. Life is Strange also managed to tackle some tough themes in a tasteful way, giving agency over real-life situations to powerful effect. Oh, and I really, really like Chloe. I played the entire game constantly trying to kiss her at every possible moment. Her Story Her Story is an ambitious game that tried something untested, and managed to pull it off. Set on a late-nineties British Police computer database, the game tells a nonlinear narrative through tagged, live-action video files. The concept was simple. Start with the word "murder," search the database for any relevant clips, investigate a woman's statements to police, and unravel a deeply bizarre crime. The performances of the game's leading lady were truly top notch, as was the narrative and the natural structure for unraveling plot threads. There was always something to look for more information on, and as additional clues became visible, the plot had numerous unexpected turns. Seriously, Her Story is really damn strong. SOMA SOMA is a terrifyingly grounded horror story about themes of desolation, humanity, sacrifice, and what it means to truly exist. Yep, those are heavy themes to tackle, but SOMA handles them admirably. Giving a wholly bleak view of humanity's future, it makes a strong case that everything we do is ultimately meaningless. Not a depressing thought at all. Besides the strong story, it also wowed with its presentation. From elaborate degrading structures to creature designs that twist expectations, I was constantly impressed with the cohesive structure of the game. Also, SOMA is just plain scary. Until Dawn Until Dawn is an interactive horror movie game, built from a collection of well-known genre tropes mashed together. Throw a bunch of kids in a spooky remote cabin with nightmare monsters, and see what happens. The genius of Until Dawn's design is that the tropes being drawn from are not consistent or predictable, making plot turns hard to see. Experienced horror genre fans will at times see what's coming and be able to make informed choices regarding what to do. Personally, I was a fan of deliberate murder. Let's see what we can do to kill everyone off as gruesomely as possible. I suppose you could try and keep people alive too, if you want.  I just hope we get new Until Dawn games in the future that are not on-rails VR shooters. Ori and the Blind Forest On a simple mechanical level, Ori and the Blind Forest is decent, but nothing special. It's a side-scrolling metroidvania that does everything solidly, but doesn't push much in the way of new ground. So, why is it on this list? Because it was god damn beautifully, visually and as a narrative. Picture those Rayman games from a little while back, but done to a much higher level and accompanied by a Ghibli-esque soundtrack. Ori and the Blind Forest is a technical masterpiece and I can't wait to see what the studio works on next. The Beginner's Guide The Beginner's Guide is a weird game, in that it caused a huge splash upon launch, with many reviewers hesitant to say anything at all about it. People were affected by it, not always positively, and it clearly had a strong impact on many players. A few months on, it's still unclear how genuine the narrative told is, or how much we can rely on the narrator of the experience. But if you have around and hour and a half and want to be floored by an unexpected narrative, you'll be hard pressed to do better than The Beginner's Guide. Just make sure to complete it within your Steam refund window, as there are legitimate reasons to want to return this game after purchase. [To clarify the above statement regarding refunds, while I view this game as a work of fiction, and recommend people play it as such, many players view the narrative as an accurate work of non fiction. If you fall into the camp that view this as non fiction, an aspect of the narrative implies that the content is stolen wholesale from another developer. While I paid for the game and believe doing so is a morally acceptable action, what I wish to make clear is that if players disagree with my reading of the narrative and feel I reccomended them an experience they didn't morally agree with, there is a financial way to back out of that purchase. This is not an encouragement to back out of payment due to length, but simply me pointing out that if you finish the game and believe the narrative to be non fiction, and if you believe that you purchased stolen goods, there is a way to avoid your money remaining with that developer in this very specific case. My initial vague comment was an attempt to avoid a major spoiler for the narrative, but has unfortunately left the reasons for my recommendations open to wider interpretation]  Dropsy In the lead up to launch, many people following Dropsy assumed that before its end, it would take some upsetting or dark horror twist. A point-and-click adventure, it is actually anything but a horror experience. It's a simple game about a socially isolated individual who wants nothing more than the simple joys of companionship. Beneath the initial appearance of Dropsy the clown is an individual whose primary interaction with the world is a hug button. Quests are told through pictorial desires. You bring people together, people see the good in you, and you hug. Dropsy is one of those games that's a beautiful palette cleanser. If you're feeling video game murderer fatigue, it's an experience poised to make you feel just a little better about the world. Gravity Ghost Gravity Ghost is a simple game mechanically. You play the ghost of a young girl, jumping among planets and stars to reunite animal bodies and spirits. It's relaxing. There are no punishments for failure, and the experience is almost mesmerically smooth and simple. It is a gorgeous, laid-back experience hiding a deep and relatable human story. The game deals with themes of growing up. It deals with taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions, processing loss, and the connection that remains to those we lose. Gravity Ghost's narrative is simple, elegant, and resonant in a way few games manage. Read Only Memories Read Only Memories is a charmingly written, wonderfully stylised, instantly memorable point-and click-adventure that released earlier this year. It tells a cyberpunk story of crime, politics, technology, and relationships that's super intriguing from start to finish. Oh, and it also happens to have a cast full to the brim with simply handled diversity. You've got gay characters, trans characters, a bunch of other different types of characters, and the fact they may be gay or transgender never becomes the forefront of who they are. They just happen to be those things without any fanfare, and it's wonderful to behold.
Best New IPs photo
Not every series is Assassin's Creed yet
Video games are increasingly expensive products to create. Every generation as graphics increase in quality, the sheer size of teams required to put together new amazing, fantastic worlds grows dramatically. With video games ...

Review: Yakuza 5

Dec 17 // Kyle MacGregor
Yakuza 5 (PS3)Developer: SegaPublisher: SegaMSRP: $39.99 Released: December 8, 2015 (NA/EU)  December 6, 2012 (JP) The tale unfurls from five seemingly unrelated vantage points, picking up two years after the events of Yakuza 4 with former yakuza and series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu attempting to live a quiet life as a cab driver in Fukuoka. Of course, our hero can't seem to escape his past, and with trouble brewing, it isn't long before he's pulled out of his taxi and back into the fray. Far to the north, Tojo strongman Taiga Saejima is nearing the end of a prison sentence in Hokkaido, where he, despite being 2,000 miles away from the events in Fukuoka, feels the ripple effects of what's going on. Meanwhile, Kiryu's adoptive niece Haruka has left her home in Okinawa to chase dreams of becoming a pop star in Osaka, where old friend Shun Akiyama, the affable moneylender from Yakuza 4, also happens to be setting up a new office for his company Sky Finance. Tossed into the mix is newcomer Tatsuo Shinada, a disgraced former baseball player living hand-to-mouth in a seedy corner of Nagoya after being thrown out of the league on suspicion of game-fixing. He, more so than the rest of the cast, appears to have little to do with the goings on of the criminal underworld, much less the tensions between the Omi Alliance and Tojo Clan. And yet he too becomes involved in this nationwide clash between gangs as everything intertwines and comes to a head. Speaking of heads, chances are, unless you're intimately familiar with Japanese geography or the series in general, that synopsis might have left your's spinning. With such a rich backstory and so many characters, locations, and groups, it can be difficult for even the best of us to fully grasp what's going on. But I suppose that's part of the charm; the complicated interweaving of everything makes for one hell of a soap opera delving into the fascinating world of Japan's organized crime families. Another strength of Yakuza 5, and the series in general, is the painstaking lengths at which Sega goes to make that world feel real. Everything from bustling city streets to the convenience stores and ramen shops is rendered with such attention to detail, it might just be the closest you can come to visiting Japan without hopping on a plane. In relief of that realism is the gameplay, which has a certain air about it akin to a smell that can send you back to a specific place and time. Whether you're brawling with gangsters, drag racing, fishing, participating in a FPS snowball fight, hunting, or playing Virtua Fighter or Taiko Drum Master in the arcade, the whole experience feels very much like a Dreamcast-era arcade game. Cut between the ultra-serious story of conspiracy and deadly consequences is a pastiche of ridiculous, over-the-top (and cloyingly dated) mini-games that serve to lighten the mood, smack you in the face, and remind you that it's a video game -- not just a television drama. Nowhere is this more evident than Haruka's portion of the story, which transforms the experience (for a while, at least) into an idol simulation with Hatsune Miku: Project Diva-esque rhythm game sequences and handshake meet-and-greet sessions with fans. Sadly, none of these elements are handled with the same care and dedication given to the story or world-building, which is a real shame, and leaves the experience feeling somewhat archaic. The fighting, in particular, hasn't seen much of a leap forward since the series debuted a decade ago on PlayStation 2. Even considering how long it took Sega to localize this particular entry, its stiff combat just feels woefully antiquated in contrast with most action games on the market these days. However, despite some rough edges like that or a bizarre fixation with hammering home an overarching theme about "dreams" near the point of self-parody, Yakuza 5 provides dozens upon dozens of hours of legitimate entertainment, the sort that kept me engaged and constantly left me torn between rushing ahead to see what twists and turns the story would take next and poking my nose into every single nook and cranny to explore the hostess clubs, remote mountain shrines, and everything in between. Yakuza 5 is exactly the sort of game the expression "greater than the sum of its parts" was made to describe. Each facet of the experience, taken individually, leaves room for improvement, but, reflecting on my time with Yakuza 5, I can't conjure much in the way of disappointment. Some bumps notwithstanding, it's a hell of a ride, one that I heartily recommend. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Yakuza 5 review photo
Who says crime doesn't pay?
With the chairman of the Omi crime syndicate on his deathbed, an uneasy truce with the Tojo Clan hangs in the balance. Anticipating a conflict, Tojo boss Daigo Dojima travels to Fukuoka in search of allies. But before an agre...

Review: King's Quest: Rubble Without a Cause

Dec 17 // Chris Carter
King’s Quest: Rubble Without a Cause (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: The Odd GentlemenPublisher: Sierra EntertainmentReleased: December 16, 2015MSRP: $9.99 per episode / $40 for the "Complete Collection" [No major spoilers are mentioned for the current episode, although events of previous episodes will inevitably be discussed.] Rubble picks up some time after the first tale, after Graham has become king. He's still the same lovable old rascal, but right from the get-go you can see the toll that his new responsibility has taken on him. Graham is chipper and the tone is still light starting out, but you can tell that the developers are slowly easing us into a more serious method of storytelling. Without spoiling too much, Graham and a few members of his kingdom have been taken hostage by goblins, who reside in an underground kingdom. Given his height, he's been tasked with a few daily chores, which allows him access to the tunnels, while the others are forced to rot in prison cells. As you can imagine, a few familiar faces return, but you'll get to meet a few new characters as well. What I love about this setup is that it feels connected to the first episode, but also maintains its own identity. You get to see Graham's relationship with other characters grow in a meaningful way -- even with many of his adversaries. While the goblins can't talk, the animations are incredibly expressive (just like Graham) and full of life. For example, upon entering the dungeon, Graham is exhausted, walking around in a hilariously lethargic manner. After gaining his strength back his state will alter, as will the captives over time. The animation team really deserves a shoutout here, as they deserve to have a long career ahead of them. [embed]326509:61517:0[/embed] In a stark contrast to the first episode, Rubble takes a decidedly more old school approach. You're basically given a giant playground to roam around in, which is gated off by Graham's own "strength meter." It's here that the aforementioned kingly choices will come in, as you'll need to juggle the needs of three prisoners in addition to your own. If you eat -- you can explore more of the cave -- but you'll risk having a member of your kingdom starve. It's such a small, almost gamey thing (it even has heart meters), but since I already had an emotional attachment with these characters, it worked. I was legitimately stressed out (in a good way) trying to keep everyone happy, while constantly divining solutions to secrets in my head. You'll need to keep your wits about you too, as a few puzzles even had me writing down a few in-game events on paper. Again, it's far more detailed than any Telltale game, without getting resorting to "pixel-hunting" and overly frustrating cryptic solutions. Also, if you didn't enjoy the action sequences in the last episode, they're basically non-existent here. The art style is still stunning, and that Don Bluth feel is intact. The goblin's caves also feel unique compared to the mostly above-ground setting of the first episode, and the scale is grand without being too overwhelming. Layout-wise, there's basically a few giant wheels with several spokes -- it's enough where it will be helpful to remember rooms off-hand. In terms of quality of life updates, the entire package gained a skip button in this latest update, which is incredibly useful for repeating dialogue or events. I haven't really noticed much carry-over from the previous tale, but choices made in Rubble that will impact future episodes are somewhat evident -- plus, there's a meta-narrative teased at the end. Second parts tend to be troublesome for episodic series, as they often feel like transitional stories that merely set the table for what's to come. But with King's Quest: Rubble Without a Cause, characters are growing right before our eyes with a subtle and effective tonal shift. The Odd Gentlemen also nailed the script, as it feels like a standalone episode that's also connected to the episodic format as a whole. We still have three tales to go, but for now, I'm feeling pretty good about King's Quest. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
King's Quest review photo
I really can wait to be king
The first episode of the newly minted King's Quest series really took me by surprise. While I had been loosely following it for years, I never expected it to be one of my favorite games of the year. The cast, the animati...

Cloud in Smash Bros. is all about the limit break

Dec 16 // Patrick Hancock
Let's start with his special moves. Neutral B: Blade Beam This is a pretty awful projectile. The best thing about it is that it lasts a decent amount of time and goes straight. It's an okay spacing tool but has incredibly small knockback and pitiful damage. The limit break version, on the other hand, is great. It travels quickly and has multiple hits, doing around 17% damage. It can be a decent edge-guarding tool (it hits hanging opponents) and can be used to catch opponents rolling. Side B: Cross Slash This is an interesting move. The standard version requires multiple presses of the B button to execute, which leaves Cloud with some options. Since people tend to mash button to get out of things, cutting this off early can catch players and force them into an exposed situation. The limit break version is very high damage, but won't kill too early. It comes out pretty much instantly so it's a nice punish if you catch an opponent in a poor position. Up B: Climhazzard First of all, "climb-hazzard?" What?! I've been calling it "Clim-hazzard" forever! Anyway, Cloud has some awful recovery. His normal up special doesn't get much height and definitely doesn't go very horizontal. Be careful not to tap B again, or else he'll head straight downwards, ignoring any and all ledges on his way [he can still grab ledges! Thanks LinkSlayer]. It's also not a very good attack; it's sort of like Kirby's up special, except you don't need to commit to the downward swing. The limit break version has some absolutely wonderful recovery, both vertical and horizontal, however it's still a lackluster attack on the ground. Down B: Limit Charge / Finishing Touch This charges Cloud's Limit Break meter and, more importantly, displays it to the players. The gauge is invisible normally, so knowing exactly where it is can be key. From zero, it takes about seven seconds to get to full charge. Once charged, this special becomes an instant, insanely powerful kill move. But it's all knockback; the hit itself does 1% damage. This is a huge risk/reward. It kills off the top hella early, as low as around 55% on standard character weight like Mario (without Directional Influence). If it doesn't kill, however, all you've accomplished is 1% damage, a huge waste of the Limit Break. While playing online, most Clouds I encountered would charge Limit Break at any given chance, even if it meant giving up stage control. I don't think this is the best strategy. Having a Limit Break can be a hindrance; the next special attack needs to count, which means you can't throw out a random special attack. When Samus has her Charge Shot, she can still shoot missiles and lay bombs without worrying. Cloud is forced into an awkward position where suddenly, everything should be a standard attack until an opening presents itself. Personally, I like to charge sparingly. Since the Limit Gauge charges automatically by getting hit, charging the meter close to 100% forces the opponent into a corner. By hitting you, they give you a Limit Break, but by not fighting, well, that won't get far. This gives the player an opportunity to play around with their specials for a bit before the Limit Break pops. Now, his stats are slightly better when the Limit Gauge is full, but I still feel awkwardly restricted at the same time. It's an interesting trade-off, and one that will definitely need more experimentation. And don't be scared to throw out a Limit Break attack like a Blade Beam, since there's little recovery associated with it. The others, however, are a bit riskier because of the lag time when missed. [embed]327136:61537:0[/embed] As far as notable normals, Cloud has some decent options. His forward smash is absolutely incredible. It can kill around 75% uncharged! It has a decent windup and ending lag, so it's not something that players should just throw out whenever. His forward and up tilts are basic sword swipes and come out pretty fast, so I've leaned on them for some quick reaction attacks. His down tilt is a slide, and damn do I love this move. It's quick and moves Cloud a decent distance, meaning it has use as an attack and a movement option. It pops up the opponent a short distance, leading to easy followups with an up aerial (which also comes out very quick) or a neutral jump/mind games. Cloud's forward tilt takes some time to come out, but has a large arc and spikes towards the end. His down aerial also spikes at the tip, and looks just like Link's. His neutral aerial, however, is easily his best option. It's arc is huge and comes out way quicker than his other options. In general, if I'm jumping, I'm throwing out a neutral air. Cloud has no kill throws at any reasonable percents. I've found that his down throw is a decent setup for followups. It pops them up just enough to perform a short hop and a quick aerial, which is nice. It's not a true combo from what I can tell, though. His grab range is also sort of garbage. As for his stage, it's amazing. No, it won't be at any tournaments ever. However, for groups like my friends and me, which enjoy playing on the wonky-but-not-too-wonky maps, it's perfect. All of the stage alterations from the summons are pretty tame. I'd say it's somewhere in between Pokémon Stadium 1 and 2 in terms of obtrusive stage hazards. Plus, it's got some of the best music so far in the game and YES I LOVE FINAL FANTASY VII SO WHAT I'M NOT BIASED. Unfortunately, I don't see Cloud rising through the ranks to top tier like I did with Ryu. He has some great power and an interesting mechanic, but his lack of recovery leaves him way too open to gimping and his slower moves will leave him at the will of quick characters like Sheik or Zero Suit Samus.
Cloud impressions photo
And the forward smash
Guys, Cloud is in Super Smash Bros. Holy shit.

Metal Gear creator starts Kojima Productions to work on PS4 exclusive

Dec 16 // Steven Hansen
Kojima also loosed this tweet. [embed]327182:61539:0[/embed] Oh, and here's the Kojima Productions logo, as black as Kojima's suit.
New Kojima studio photo
Console exclusive
Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima just formally announced his new studio, Kojima Productions (this was also the name of his in-house Konami studio before parting ways with the company). The above video has Sony's Andrew ...

Bayonetta is in Super Smash Bros.

Dec 15 // Patrick Hancock
Bayonetta in Smash! photo
Get Wicked!
Bayonetta, a character many fans have wanted in Super Smash Bros., has just been officially announced for the game! Bayonetta was the #1 choice in Europe's Smash ballot, and in the top five in North America. In fact, sh...


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