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Cities: Skylines gets nightlife with After Dark expansion

Aug 21 // Steven Hansen
[embed]297379:59852:0[/embed] There is also, "a new specialization for the commercial areas," leisure areas like casinos and night clubs, "the downtown area, the nightlife center of the city." Nighttime also brings about higher rates of crime, helping to fill out prisons. Daytime has unique additions, too. New beachfront property thrives during the day like the casinos and clubs of nighttime, and the cities can also allow bike lanes for cyclists (or let them travel more slowly on sidewalks), thereby reducing traffic. The team wants to add, "smoother ways of handling large systems" with its updates, "helping people do what they're already doing in a more elegant and streamlined way," like by adding bus stations that can accept multiple bus lines and allow for in-building transfers. The $15 expansion launches September 24. The day and night cycle itself is a free update added to all owned copies of Cities: Skylines, while the After Dark expansion will house additional content.
September 24 photo
September 24
Cities: Skylines' major expansion, After Dark, has been dated for September 21. After dunking on SimCity, the successful city simulator is, "focusing on making large expansions over making many small ones," Colossal Order's l...

Secret Ponchos: Most Wanted is an improvement on the original release

Aug 20 // Chris Carter
The long road to Most Wanted started a few months after the original hit the PS4, notably by way of the PS+ program. Mapara and his team started working on a complete overhaul in the game, and development culminated when he took his preview build to EVO this year. "They don't hold their punches, in a good way," Mapara said. He noted how most of the attendees aren't interesting in visuals or artistic elements, but how the game plays, if your hitboxes are correct, and other technical aspects. "We always intended on having our game be catered to hardcore players, so this kind of feedback was perfect," he said. The entire experience is re-balanced around 3v3 fights to have a perfect mix of chaos and skill -- "4v4 was a little too hectic," stated Mapara. Improving Secret Ponchos is a two-layer strategy -- support features, and content. In terms of the former, Mapara mused on how they quickly shifted their philosophy after launch, saying, "We learned so much about the game at launch. This is new territory for an indie team, making a heavily online game. So we tried to base our system off of bigger games like TF2, and we learned that the model doesn't really work for us. For instance Call of Duty has millions of players at all times. We need to make our game work even if there's only 100 people playing." As a result, they've made matchmaking easier, merging lobbies together while allowing a rookie and ranked option. In terms of content, there will be 10 characters, five of which who weren't present in the PS4's launch, and four new maps. One of the new additions is "Gunman," who is described as the "[Street Fighter's Dan] of the game. He's a dumb cop who was kicked out of his town, and still thinks he's the law. After going hands-on with him it's clear that he's a support version of the Killer character, complete with a six-shooter, and the ability to mark enemies with a defense-lowering target. The Mad Trapper is another cool newcomer, who is literally all about traps and a massive amount of range. He's incredibly technical, as he has a low health pool, and can manually hide traps, luring players into all sorts of situations. Although she has been playable before I also had the chance to check out the reworked Wolf, who is one of my favorite arena shooter characters in recent memory. She's all about crits and precision, which grant her extra damage for subsequent shots, and shots right after she dodge-rolls. She also runs faster with her knife out, and can pounce on enemies, slashing them on the ground. Also included in the game is Gordo, a minigun toting maniac, and an unnamed character who wields two tomahawks. I was actually influenced to level them all up individual as well, as there's a new progression system in Most Wanted that ties into Steam achievements, and rewards players with in-game cash and content. Other additions include a tutorial, a more improved rookie matchmaking queue, AI bots, and a new mode called "Protect the Posse Leader" (think Gears of Wars' VIP). Secret Ponchos: Most Wanted will arrive on September 29 on Steam for $14.99. Much like what happened to Rovio with Awesomenauts' shift over to Steam, PS4 updates hinge on the success of the PC version. It's great to see a developer continue to support a game months down the line, and Mapara and his team seem to be incredibly invested in it.
Secret Ponchos preview photo
Coming to Steam on September 29
Back in December, I reviewed Secret Ponchos. It was a pretty interesting online arena shooter, and I saw a ton of potential in it that hadn't yet been tapped, mostly due to a lack of content. When Switchblade Monkeys' Yo...

First hands-on with Ninja Theory's Hellblade

Aug 08 // Steven Hansen
Hellblade is the story of Senua, a Celtic warrior suffering from mental illness that manifests in her world. Her state of mind affects the world around here. The weather gets gloomy, rainy, sky full of lighting and rolling thunder. Beefy, imposing enemies come menacing in one at a time. Working with mental health experts and sufferers, the team is still learning about the "diversity we can bring in with the psychosis element," "different visualizations" based on "the range of experiences people have." But these are not mere hallucinations or effects, as is common in games as recently as Far Cry and Batman. Ninja Theory is focused on "representing this as the reality, because, to [Senua], this is reality. There's no switch to turn it off and on; everything is real to her." It's an interesting contrast to the frequent stylistic separation between real and unreal. The first Hannibal Lector film, Manhunter, uses excellent visual affects to distinguish how its villain sees the world, versus the objective film reality. The recent TV adaptation does the same with its hero. Here, though, playing as Senua, there is no objective reality to turn to, just hers. Given Ninja Theory's past, this then manifests itself more on the nose as a literal "fight your demons," because it is still a third-person action game (there was a light puzzle in the build I played, too). [embed]297247:59881:0[/embed] I enjoy the focus on one-on-one combat, which restricts the camera and brings it in tighter because you, as the player, don't have to protect ya neck worry about additional enemies coming in from all sides. In combat there is a quick evade, block (and parry), and a few strikes. Combat feels well weighted. A successful block still feels perilous, as it should with  sword just inches away from killing out bangs on your own steel with force.  It does have the draw back of making movement less key, based on the fewer than 10 encounters in this current build. Footwork is important to a fighter, be they using sword or melee, and while most action games don't make movement too important, the ping-pong between combatants give the illusion they do (I'd argue Resident Evil 4 does it better than the typical walk/roll/sprint). Ninja Theory has the right approach with Hellblade. It uses the limited third-person perspective to render Senua's problems physical; and to "tell her story," which happens to be the story of someone with mental illness, and "represent her character in a truthful way" that is unique to her experience. "What we don't want to do is reduce [mental illness] to mechanics," Matthews said, referencing things like Amnesias "Sanity meter." Hopefully Senua's story will be a good one.
gamescom preview photo
Action game for PS4 and PC
Ninja Theory has felt like a mercenary of late. Enslaved didn't sell as well as it should have (neither did Heavenly Sword), and so the last five years has been spent 1) making a mobile game for EA-owned publisher Chillingo, ...

Star Wars Battlefront's Fighter Squadron mode needs some variation

Aug 08 // Brett Makedonski
The build of Fighter Squadron that we saw essentially operates as a team deathmatch. There were X-Wings battling against TIE Fighters -- ten humans to a side with another ten AI-controlled vehicles, which brings the total to 40 players in each game. Aside from attempting to shoot down others, occasional large transport ship would spawn. They needed to be either defended or destroyed. The way your ship functions is the best thing about Fighter Squadron. Everyone has a set of blasters that are prone to overheating, a homing missile that's effective (yet still challenging to use properly), and a set of evasive maneuvers. The difference between sides is that TIE Fighters have a boost mechanic, while the X-Wings get a shield. The trick is that everything needs to be used in moderation because reusing it all is on a short timer. Generally, this sort of fast ability freeze-out wouldn't be too big of a deal, but it is because of the pace that Fighter Squadron moves at. With all the other pilots making quick cuts across the battlefield, you need to perfectly time when you pull your punches. Otherwise, your lasers get lost in the great void. [embed]297271:59829:0[/embed] For a more authentic experience, players can switch to a cockpit view. This first-person seat is where Fighter Squadron looks the greatest but plays the worst. As previously mentioned, this mode is relentlessly fast. Trying to play from the pilot's seat only decreases the already limited time to get off a good shot. Despite everyone controlling a standard vehicle, Fighter Squadron has bigger opportunities. Power-up icons put the player in a hero ship -- The Millenium Falcon and Boba Fett's Slave I are the two we were told about. We didn't see either, but those situations will likely draw the attention of everyone in the skies. These hero ships are an example of the potential that Fighter Squadron holds but doesn't live up to yet. Simple team deathmatch grows old quickly, as it needs more variation. TIE Interceptors, A-Wings, and Y-Wings are all planned and might accomplish that goal if they play differently enough from one another. Better objectives need to be implemented too. Defending and attacking transports felt largely without consequence and tacked-on. Star Wars isn't necessarily all about dogfighting, but it's integral enough to the franchise that it can't be overlooked either. If Star Wars Battlefront is going to be the seminal title in the series for the foreseeable future, it needs to do dogfighting right. Fighter Squadron just misses that mark because it isn't quite interesting enough yet. There's still time for that to change, though.
Battlefront preview photo
For now, it's a nice distraction
Thoughts of dogfighting over the surface of the planet Sullust should raise your heartbeat a little bit. It's an exciting prospect. Really, that goes for piloting any vessel in the Star Wars canon through any franchise l...


Assassin's Creed Syndicate reinvigorates the series with a return to basics

Aug 05 // Alessandro Fillari
Assassin's Creed Syndicate (PS4 [Previewed], Xbox One, PC)Developer: Ubisoft QuebecPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: October 23, 2015 (PC Q4 2015) Unlike its recent predecessors, Syndicate aims to do something a bit more streamlined during its trek through the streets and over the rooftops of Victorian-era London. While Assassin's Creed has had online gameplay components since 2010, Syndicate will follow AC: Rogue's example and focus purely on single-player gameplay. While online has been pretty neat for the AC titles, the developers wanted to make a single-player experience while putting all their resources into making it the sharpest game of the series. "We really wanted to get back to the basics. Our objective was to ship the biggest and liveliest city yet with London, and it was a big challenge, and we wanted to concentrate on building a massive single-player experience," said associate producer Andrée-Anne Boisvert. "Because of that, we were able to refine the core gameplay, adding in the rope launcher for easier traversal, refining the parkour, revamping the fighting gameplay -- so with all these things, we wanted the single-player to be really amazing." Of course, the most unique aspect of Syndicate is its focus on two protagonists with the brother and sister duo Jacob and Evie Frye. While we've already seen much of Jacob and his exploits in London, this marked the first time we were able to go hands-on with Evie, and it's evident who has the brains in this operation. Much like her brother, Evie is an assassin who must find the location of the Piece of Eden, all the while debilitating the Templar's control of the city. Though unlike her brother, she is a far more calculating and cunning assassin, and tends to shy away from the all-out brawls Jacob revels in. With many of her skills focusing on long-range assassinations and stealth, Evie is essentially the scalpel within London's Assassin order. At any time during open-world exploration, you'll be able to switch between the two and engage in missions at your leisure to reassert control of England's capital city. "We found it interesting to have the dynamic between these two; they have different personalities and different narrative storylines," said the producer. "That's something we wanted to focus on. We wanted to make sure that their personalities are reflected in the gameplay with their unique skills that they have." We finally got to put Evie's skills to the test during a key mission to strike at the Templar order. During a Blackbox mission within the Tower of London, Evie infiltrates the site to assassinate the Templar operative Lucy Thorne, who also has knowledge of where the ancient artifact is. Using skills and weapons such as the Voltaic Bomb, which shocks nearby foes, and the chameleon skill, which grants limited invisibility, Evie's approach is far more subtle. Much like its predecessor, Blackbox missions are open-ended challenges that feature multiple approaches to accomplish a single goal. Unity was the first to implement this mission structure, and Syndicate definitely plans to create more unique moments during these specific events. As Evie found her way to a vantage point within the Tower of London, she was able to discover three different opportunities to infiltrate the site and assassinate Thorne. Option one was to stalk the key-bearer and procure the master-key to enter the main tower solo; option two was to work with an undercover tower-guard to sneak into the tower; and option three was to rescue the local Constable and round up a group of loyal guards to battle their way into the tower. The third option was the riskiest and loudest approach, but it also allowed for Evie to utilize her stealth skills in unique ways, so I immediately went for it. The developers felt that with the two protagonists, there was room for much more variety and experimentation with the missions. "For Assassin's Creed: Synidicate, we wanted to make it a lot more about the freedom to choose your own path and ways through missions," said Boisvert. "We want players to be able to tackle the missions in the way they want to do it. Blackboxes are the way we have them do it, which is what we base the game on, giving players choices and offering many different ways to approach an objective for their playstyle." Using many of the traditional Assassin skills, such as Eagle Vision, parkour, and aerial assassinations and takedowns, I was able to sneak into the guard house to free the Constable, and we led a group of loyal guards to assault the main tower. While Evie isn't much for brawling and tends to focus more on the calculated strokes to achieve victory, she can easily hold herself in a scrape when it comes to it. The combat in Syndicate has seen a bit of an overhaul, which the developers felt was necessary after seeing how easily players were able to win encounters by waiting for enemy attacks and using parries. It seems over time the Templar order has finally wised up to the Assassins' tricks and plays a far more defensive game. They'll only attack when they see an opening and will guard many of your attacks. Evie and Jacob will have to utilize guard breaks and dodges to counter them, and parry only when the time is right. I felt far more active during combat, and it was the right move to switch things up. As the guards battled their way through the tower, I was able to gracefully move through the carnage while using Evie's knife throwing skills to make quick work of any oncoming threats. We finally came upon Thorne with her personal bodyguards. With the carnage filling up the central room, I was able to get the jump on Thorne for a quick assassination. At this point, the mission ended in traditional AC fashion with the central character and victim sharing a final moment before their death. But I didn't stop there. Afterwards, I booted up the mission again and went for the other options. The key-bearer was the stealthiest approach, as I was able to sneak through the tower area and assassinate the target with minimal casualties. As you can probably guess from reading this, I'm into the new setting. As one of the most requested settings from fans, Victorian-era London is a stark departure from the previous titles. Not only from the stylistic standpoint, with the dark and grimy streets filled with people who represent the best and worst of what society has to offer, but it's also the first AC game (outside of the present-day narrative) with its toes dipped into the modern era. As swords and axes become antiques, revolvers and rifles are much more common, making combat feel riskier than ever. "It's the first modern-day setting for an Assassin's Creed title [in regards to the core game setting], so it's the first time where we have a city that is so huge like London," said Boisvert. "Traffic is dense, we have carriages and other people walking on the sidewalks, and you also have the police which will chase after you when you cause trouble for others. It's a whole new dynamic for us. With the also the trains and boats, it make the city much more vibrant than any other title." I was pretty impressed with Assassin's Creed Syndicate. The game ran fairly well and I didn't notice any performance hiccups like the ones that plagued the previous AC title. I got the sense that Unity represented a major shift in how Ubisoft develops the series, and with Syndicate re-evaluating its priorities to focus more on the core game as opposed to the meta-aspects and supplementary content, I feel this entry could be a great turning point. I look forward to seeing more from the Frye siblings in the coming months, though I certainly hope the devs will figure out a way to work in Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, and Charles Dickens during the Assassins' trek through the city. To ignore them would be a missed opportunity.
Assassin's Creed photo
There's no place like London
It's not often we get to see a series recognize that things may have gotten off track. As many no doubt remember, Assassin's Creed Unity got hit hard with criticisms about its technical performance and odd design decisio...

Hitman studio just wants to 'get back to Hitman'

Aug 05 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]294082:59060:0[/embed] From what we saw, creativity should be a pillar of gameplay this time around. There's so much happening at any given time, leading to seemingly endless possibilities. Seifert pointed out how almost everything could be used as either a distraction or an instrument of death. Chandeliers can be cut loose, gas lamps can be tampered with, weapons could be smuggled inside electrical equipment, liquor could be poisoned, et cetera ad nauseam.  Our approach was a bit more customized. We planted an explosive device behind a guard and then threw a coin to alert him. Proficient in his line of work, he noticed the mine, disarmed it, and picked it up so no one would get hurt. He took it to the guard center inside which was past security. All we had to do was retrieve it later. Sucker. People who know and love Hitman might pick up on this style immediately, but newcomers won't necessarily know how the game's systemic nuances work. Seifert's solution to bridging this gap is an "opportunity alert" that doesn't quite guide the player, but informs them that something can be done. He noted that it's very important that the feature be able to be disabled. "Hardcore players will turn it off right away," Seifert said. "They want to discover things on their own." There's a lot to do in Hitman, and all these unique methods stem from the density of the levels. The stage we saw was set at the iconic Parisian Fashion Week (not my first time virtually touring the French capital). Seifert said that this was one of the smaller settings, yet it's still six times larger than anything in Absolution. Likewise, Absolution had around 30 NPCs with their own routines and lifecycles per level; Hitman will have around 300. Everything's bigger in Hitman, but it's not just for the sake of being bigger. It all leads to more options, which is exactly what players want from a Hitman game. There's no trick to being more efficient implementing this, either. It simply just takes more time. Seifert says that it has taken IO Interactive around a year to complete any given level. They take a while to create, but those levels will likely get a lot of use over time. One of the major planned features is an assassination mission that rotates out every two days or so. The catch is that players are only given a single try. If they botch it, the target gets away and they have a black mark on their permanent record. Success will be rewarded with unique items to carry into the campaign and leaderboard glory. This is indicative of Seifert's beliefs on post-launch content. He doesn't think that developers should spend four years creating a game, put it out, and then get working on another four-year cycle. Instead, he wants to offer players new things with regularity. That mindset isn't too unique, but Seifert is interestingly against paid DLC. That's why Hitman will have none. He said it's a model that he lobbied for, and admitted that it was a "tough sell." Everyone likes their money, after all. Still, somehow he won. The price of the base game is all people will have to pay to fully experience his game. Really, when you boil it down, Seifert's adamant attitude toward constant content is just another angle for all that Hitman wants to accomplish -- it's another way to give players options. The appealing idea here is that everyone will have a personal experience with the game -- their own stories to tell about an assassination gone right or awry. That, as Seifert would put it, is how they're getting back to Hitman.
Hitman preview photo
And the response to Absolution
"Hitman is 15 years old," IO Interactive head Hannes Seifert said. "That's a long time. Tastes change. It's time to get back to Hitman." That was Seifert's explanation for why the next game in the series has forgone a su...

Superhot asks that we do something different with a gun in our hands

Aug 04 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]297228:59815:0[/embed] "Time only moves when you move." That's Superhot's very to-the-point slogan. The game's stuck in a perpetual bullet-time that slows to an absolute crawl. Upon touching the left stick, it speeds up to the degree that you sped up. It's important to manage these movements almost like a resource of sorts. The polygonal enemies will swarm in the event that you're wasting movements. The most challenge lies in figuring out where exactly these enemies should be shot. Significant leading is required because they aren't going to stay where they were when the bullet was fired. Stylish headshots are tempting, but the smart money's on a well-placed round in the body. It accomplishes the exact same thing, but again, several years of experience have taught us to aim for the dome. Before long, a pattern forms. Slowly line up a shot, inch along in any direction at a safe pace until the bullet hits, stop and find the next foe. It's easy to understand but so counter-intuitive for most. That's why even when they showed restraint, they eventually gave into the urge to press forward quickly. That's a death sentence in Superhot. If you'll notice, I've been using most of this preview to critique others' performance at Superhot. That's because I played it on VR at E3 2014, and I was very good at it. Blazed through the demo, in fact. This non-headset business would be a breeze. Dammit, I just died. Okay, no problem, just a quick restar--son of a bitch, I died again. This doesn't make sense. I know what to do, I'm just not doing it for some reason. Oh, god. Am I playing just like all these foolish other journalists? Ugh, this is embarrassing. That's exactly what was happening. When I was cool, calm, and collected, Superhot was easy to manage. The second I got either too confident or flustered, everything went awry. The ability to throw the player between those two mental extremes at such a quick pace is a defining attribute of the game. And, a constant source of anguish. Just take it slow, and everything will work out.
Superhot preview photo
Keep your cool
One after another, I watched everyone play Superhot wrong. They all made simple mistakes, threw their hands up in pleasant frustration, and then made the same mistakes again. Every single person was bad, and it was kind ...

Gears of War HD is fine, but why wasn't active reload its legacy?

Aug 03 // Steven Hansen
[embed]297093:59771:0[/embed] Fergusson calls Ultimate Edition "the first at its best." The team didn't want to update the gameplay to reflect every change brought about by the second and third sequel. It's a "balance between modernization and breaking Gears 1." You still can't move while downed, for instance, but you can spot enemies. Still, the ten-year-old game could use some cleaning up. Fergusson has talked about the slapdash putting together of the original. He noted that, "When you look at Gilligan's Island today, it's a terrible show that should never be watched." That it isn't really funny, "but Mary Ann was hot." This comparison doesn't make a ton of sense because Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a tech overhaul. It's a shot for shot, line for line remake, like that Psycho with Vince Vaughn. An HD, visually remastered Gilligan's Island would still be Gilligan's Island. I played some Gears Ultimate last week in San Francisco. For shock value, they had Xbox 360s set up to play one round of multiplayer in the original. It is gritty and monotone. Characters feel appropriately like tanks and I struggle to discern between human and alien bug ground monster. This problem didn't go away completely when we switched over to Xbox One, but we can chalk that up to me being not particularly great. I think my team only lost one round, though the win piles were not me carrying folks. Here's a more important question: why is the gruff marine third-person cover shooter the thing that feels most copied from Gears and not active reload? Active reload is still so fucking good. It engages the player when they'd otherwise be waiting for an animation to finish, it has practical advantages, more button presses (in repeatable timing instances) makes for more rhythmic and fluid play. Why didn't everyone do this? The rest of it is still fun, too. The insult of walking patiently up behind a sniper and casually chainsawing them dead. The hulking movement and exploding heads. That one level with a killer train in between halves. And there are new additions like TDM, differing "competitive" and "social" matchmaking, 4K displays if you buy it on PC, additional content if you never played the original PC release. Playing Gears Ultimate will net you the previous Gears games when Xbox One sorts out its backwards compatibility, too, and you of course get early access to Gears 4 down the line.
Hands-on preview photo
Hands-on with the rebuilt Gears of War
Gears of War was not alone in ushering in an era of grimdark, of repetitive third-person cover-based shooting, but it ground our faces deepest into the dirt and grit. At one point an officer yells at prison-broke Marcus Fenix...

Neverwinter: Strongholds might get me back into the game

Jul 31 // Joe Parlock
Building your Stronghold [embed]296961:59747:0[/embed] With the goal of providing “interesting and meaningful experiences to guilds”, the process of creating and upgrading your guild’s stronghold is at the heart of the expansion. All buildable structures and upgrades are ultimately decided by the leaders of the guild, but those goals are worked towards by every member through the “Coffers” system. Coffers are the total resources available to a guild to help build up their stronghold, and they’re separated into three categories: materials, which are found in the lands surrounding your stronghold such as lumber; treasures, which are earned by playing through the campaign zones of the wider game such as the Dread Ring campaign; and stockpiles, the normal loot, gold, and astral diamonds players earn throughout the game. Finding these resources ensures creating a good stronghold for your guild isn’t just a case of the leaders fiddling with the UI; every member of the guild would have a role to play, be it collecting resources or planning out where structures will go.  Once there are enough resources to build a new structure in the stronghold, or to upgrade an already existing one, the guild leaders can then start the work of upgrading, while also setting the next goal for the guild to work towards. However, the amount of upgrades you can apply to a structure depends on the overall level of the guild’s keep. While structures have a maximum level of 10, the keep can grow up to level 20. However, structures can’t out-level the keep, so sometimes an effort must be made to upgrade the keep rather than simply rushing for all the new and shiny buildings. As players donate these hard-earned resources to their guild’s coffers, they are awarded guild marks with which they can buy new gear and items for themselves at the marketplace. It’s a way of incentivising altruism among the guild, and is one of the few times in the game players can make decisions for themselves that aren’t directly linked to the decisions of their wider guild. Another way the guild must coordinate in building their stronghold is in the new added boons. Boons are passive bonuses granted to players, and in Strongholds, structures can be built to grant the entire guild specific types of boons. There are currently four categories: offense, defense, utility, and Player vs. Player (PvP). The catch is not every type of boon would available for a guild at the same time, as there are only a limited number of boon structures that can be made. This requires decisions to be made about how players within the guild will be buffed. An example given would be a raiding guild may put more emphasis into PvP or offensive boons to increase their power. The boons in each category would be optional for each individual player, however what type of boon is available is up to the guild. It’s a neat mechanic, as now other players who you’d regularly play with have an active impact on how your character works, and how these buffs influence your character may well change in the future. Should the guild decide to change an offensive boon structure to a defensive one, the boons you previously had would no longer apply. It’s interesting, however I could also see it causing some conflict within guilds. The area given to a guild to build its stronghold on is the biggest zone Neverwinter has ever seen: it is three times bigger than the biggest previous one. The zone is split into multiple, smaller themed areas, each with their own enemies and quests. For example, there may be faetouched areas, or there may be areas that are more desolate, and different enemies may be encountered in each one. It’s nice to see some variance in the zone, as Neverwinter does have a problem of each zone being its own themed thing that gets boring sometimes: the snowy zone, the desert zone, or the city zone and nothing but that. Some areas will be sealed off and hidden until the stronghold has been built up and expanded on, but what’s interesting is that the future of the zone isn’t entirely known even to Perfect World yet. The strongholds system is planned to be expanded upon over the course of at least the next two expansions: Strongholds and a currently unannounced expansion after that. According to them, being “done” with building a stronghold simply isn’t possible, as new structures and boons will be made available in future updates.  While there is a storyline planned out for Strongholds and the expansion after that, the specifics of what sort of boons and structures will be included in them are apparently down to player feedback and community suggestions. New Player vs. Environment Content Building up a guild’s stronghold isn’t the only new addition to Neverwinter. Alongside it comes a new range of player vs. environment content, much like in the previous expansions before it. However, a lot of this will still directly help your stronghold grow. Firstly, the act of actually acquiring your guild’s new keep will be part of a quest line that changes as the stronghold grows. At first, your guild and a travelling band of Orcs will both arrive at the same time, causing there to be multiple skirmishes and missions available. Finding guards, protecting farms, and driving off Orcs to ensure that your keep is safe in the early days. As the keep levels up, new enemies will start to appear in the zone. For example, the second phase of the zone involves mercenaries appearing to try and steal the keep from you, giving you multiple quests involving dealing with them. The zone’s campaign appears to play out in much the same way as previous campaign zones such as the Dread Ring have, however there is also the added dimension of it being dependent on your keep’s level. Of course, there will also be a series of daily quests available from your stronghold’s steward too, and they will also help guide players to the next of their campaign quests. Greed of the Dragonflight That’s all pretty standard expansion stuff: more of what Neverwinter players will be used to. What’s particularly interesting is the major new boss fight that occurs in the Strongholds zone. Dubbed Greed of the Dragonflight, the boss is designed to be played by guilds of 40 or more players who must coordinate and plan out how to take down four powerful dragons simultaneously across the map. If one dragon is killed, the other three will flee shortly afterwards, requiring guilds to figure out which players are best suited to take on each dragon, and make sure all four of them die at the same time. Doing so will net the guild huge rewards, some of the most powerful items in the game, according to Perfect World. However, failure to nab all for dragons doesn’t mean nothing was gained. Due to some guilds not having enough players to take down all four dragons, there is a sliding scale of what rewards are given. The more dragons the guild can kill, the better the loot given. What I saw of this event reminded me of my favourite bit of Neverwinter: the timed boss events. Instances are great, questing is fun, but seeing the alert to head to an area of the map to slay as big-as-hell lizard was always really cool to me. It’s involving, it’s hectic, and it looks as though adding in the extra element of needing to size up who takes on which dragon will make it all the more satisfying when the guild succeeds. The difference between normal timed events and Greed of the Dragonflight is that it isn’t only a timed event. Due to a large amount of player requests, Perfect World is allowing guilds to trigger the event manually whenever they like, and so it could become a pretty big part of guild social life somewhere down the line. A New PvP mode inspired by MOBAs Player vs. Player in Neverwinter has been the centre of Perfect World’s attention for a while now: originally offering a fairly basic 5v5 arena mode, an open-world PvP was later added in Icewind Dale, and of course Strongholds will be adding even more for those who like stomping other players. The PvP added to Strongholds is a 20v20 Guild vs. Guild mode, which when I first heard about it reminded me a lot of Guild Wars 2’s World vs. World feature. However, it appears as though the new mode is being more inspired by the likes of Dota and League of Legends. This isn’t a compulsory feature, guilds must queue up to enter the mode. Once in the game, guilds will find their strongholds and surrounding lands “glued together”, with a river separating the two. The MOBA inspiration comes on the emphasis of controlling the various lanes between the two strongholds, while pushing forward and sieging the enemy guild. Perfect World has also catered to smaller guilds that might not have 20 players online at a time. When in queueing, if a guild has enough players to spare, they will be transferred temporarily to the other guild and fight for them instead. It’s a nice way of evening the playing field, but it will also be interesting to see where their alliances lie once the match is underway. It’s worth noting I didn’t get to actually see any PvP in action, due to the problems setting up a game with 40 players just to show me it would’ve caused. As such, all of this is only how it was described to me by Overmyer. Final Thoughts As previously mentioned, I’ve got a fair amount of experience with Neverwinter, however the lack of something to keep me interested once I’d finished the story quests meant I dropped out of the game soon after. Guilds have always been something in MMOs I’ve had an interest in, but never found the right match – I always ended up in quiet, inactive guilds where nothing ever happened. Strongholds looks like it wants to solve both of my problems, while giving me more of the solo content that got me into the game at first. I’m somewhat concerned that finding decent guilds might still be tricky, but maybe the new toys guilds can play with will convince people to give running guilds a go. PvP has never been a big interest of mine. I got into Rift’s quite a bit, but still eventually found myself going back to questing. Neverwinter in particular has been quite notorious for equipment you can buy in the store being perceived to be more powerful than stuff you can earn in-game, which always put me off PvP. However, if it’s true that the rewards from Greed of the Dragonflight are some of the strongest in the game, it could go a way to fix that problem. Overall, I’m excited. I’m definitely going to be going back into it just to see how all of these new mechanics change how people interact within guilds, if at all. Plus Dragonflight is a condensed version of everything I like about Neverwinter, which is great. Neverwinter: Strongholds will be released on August 11 as the next free expansion on PC. Neverwinter is free-to-play on both Xbox One and PC.
Neverwinter: Strongholds photo
An in-depth look at all the new stuff
On August 11, Perfect World will be releasing the latest expansion to their Dungeons & Dragons-based MMO Neverwinter, Strongholds. With its action-based combat, fantastic locations, and relatively simple mechanics, N...

How the hell did Galak-Z hide a Gundam for three years?

Jul 24 // Steven Hansen
Let's recap for a second if you haven't been following along. Galak-Z is broken into five seasons each with five episodes. The fifth season will be added in for free post launch. This is one diversion from the typical roguelike set up, in that when you die, you don't start all the way at the beginning of the game, but rather at the beginning of whichever "season" you're on. "One of [Kazdal's] pet peeves with roguelikes" is that playing very beginning segments over and over can get boring, so this blends that death-based need to replay with earned progression. More typically, levels are randomly generated, and you get different fractions of story and dialogue every time. This way you won't hear the same repeated bits death after death, but slowly glean more information until you finally get through the season. The space shooting half we already knew about is not just a twin-stick shooter, either. The ship maps thrusters (and a boost) to the triggers. There's also a backwards thruster so you can shoot and flee, a dodge thruster, and a a barrel roll (square) that juts the ship "toward" you like it's coming out of the screen (and over incoming bullets on the 2D plane). You have your standard weapon and an Itano Circus missile salvo (limited, but you can buy more if you find the shop during levels). [embed]296589:59676:0[/embed] Ok, so the not-Gundam? You can morph the ship into the robot at any time with a smooth, Transformers-like animation and change up the playstyle completely. It has a beam sword, which can be charged for a stronger, wider attack, and a shield that has parry capabilities. Perhaps most fun, though, is the extending claw arm that can grab dangerous space junk and throw it at enemies, or grab enemies themselves, bringing them in close so you can start wailing on them with punches. Keeping the mech locked up this long is impressive. The feature was locked off in the many public shows Galak-Z has been demoed at and no one slipped up about it. Kazdal tells me there were plans for a third, stealth-focused character, initially, but that it made for too many mental hoops in dealing with all the other things that could be happening at any given moment. Galak-Z is smooth, feels great to play, and the mech is a welcomed addition, adding one more layer to the game. There are warring factions you can sometimes pit against each other, environmental hazards to be aware of (and sometimes use to your advantage -- thanks alien trapdoor spider who saved my ass!), and instant shifts between ranged and close-quarters combat. It's tough, gorgeous, encourages exploration (beyond mission goals, there are blueprints for new gear and other upgrades to find), and a ton of fun.
HANDS ON: Galak-Z  photo
Spelunky by way of Macross...and Gundam
We've covered the "Spelunky by way of Macross" space shooting roguelike for a couple of years now and the follow-up from Skulls of the Shogun developer 17-bit is almost here, coming to PS4 August 4 and PC a few months down th...

Rising Thunder aims to shake up the fighting game scene

Jul 20 // Alessandro Fillari
The developers at Radiant Entertainment have quite a history with the Fighting Game Community -- particularly Tom Cannon, who not only was the co-founder of the development studio, but is also one of the founders of Evolution Championship Series -- and after Seth Killian joined the studio, who's been a key figure within the FGC for many years and has worked on several fighting games during his time at Capcom (the final boss of Street Fighter IV was named after him), they figured it was time they try to bring their own desires for what a fighting game can be into reality."For me, a big part of my history with fighting games has been trying to show them to people, talk to people about them, and try to get people excited about them and give them a chance," said creative lead Seth Killian while discussing his history with genre. "And while I've been doing that for a lot of years, and while I love it and I think fighting games are one of the greatest genres and one of the proudest achievements in gaming period, it's exciting and a little sad to see that of the twenty people I talk about fighting games, only one will have the same experience that I have. Fighting games are really hard, and often times the core game is buried behind this very tall executional wall. And it's not about making it easier so we can all be Justin Wong, but I'm saying the basic moves and mechanics can take a long time to get a handle of. Once you do, then you can start learning the intricacies of player strategy." Set in the far-future, players control a select group of battling robots from different areas of the world and duke it out for supremacy. Each of the six starting characters have their own unique skills and abilities, and special combos used from the variety of weak, medium, and heavy attacks. In addition to that, super moves called Overdrives are activated when the super meter is filled to unleash devastating attacks. Moreover, they can take advantage of kinetic abilities that range from breaking enemy combos and dash cancels. The developers wanted to allow for a great level of customization, and players will be able to select loadouts for their favorite characters, which determine what special moves they bring into battle. The minds behind this title have some ideas on how to make this new fighter more accessible to players who aren't as well-versed in the classic formula of fighting games. On the surface, Rising Thunder looks very similar to titles like Street Fighter IV or Mortal Kombat X. Action is on the 2D plane, with two fighters duking it out until their enemy's health is depleted. Using special moves and strategies unique to each character, players will have to equally overpower and outsmart their opponents to claim victory. Sounds familiar, right? Well, the formula is largely as is, which is a testament to how timeless the setup is. However, the developers saw an opportunity to alter certain parts of the formula in order to remove the initial anxiety and awkwardness from new players seeking to break into competitive play."We were really excited to build a game that could open the door to what's glorious about these games to more people, and to try and let everybody understand what's exciting about these game and kept us excited about them for most of our lives. We basically ended up making a list of all the things that kept most people out of fighting games. For one, Online Sucks, it's terrible and you can't have a serious competitive experience with others. And even if you like fighting games, you also need to be in a place where you happen to be around twenty or so friends that are willing to play with you all the time."Given that it's a PC exclusive fighter, and how candid Killian was about the state of online fighters, the developers wanted to ensure they didn't drop the ball in that regard. Not only is the game completely playable with the keyboard (which feels great, by the way), and they even consider it the default setup, they also have the means to update the title quickly when needed. But course, online play is the make or break point for online fighters. Thankfully, the other founder of Radiant Entertainment, Tony Cannon, is also the creator of the famous GGPO (Good Game, Peace Out) netcode, which started out as a fan-made solution to poorly designed netcode for online fighters, but has since been implemented into retail releases. With Rising Thunder, the creators are bringing in their new GGPO3 netcode, which ensures even more sophisticated tech powering online play. Even during its alpha state, my time online was rock solid and ran at a smooth 60 frames-per-second."The other thing was -- we didn't really know, but it was our suspicion, so we built a prototype to test it -- but when you look at a fighting game match you never go 'Wow, that guy did all his moves. He didn't mess up any fireballs, what a champion.' When you look at the great history of fighting game matches, it's all about the great decisions, reads, an in-genius play, using moves in ways that you would never thought of before -- no one cares about the guy who can do the moves, that's the basic bottom layer of skill," Killian explained. "My thinking was basically, what if we were to make these moves not a problem? What if we were to remove special move inputs?"You might have done a double-take after reading, and I kinda did mentally when he first explained it to me. Accessibility was a major focus for Rising Thunder. Though while many fans may cringe at the thought of moving or adjusting the bar to make things easier for the common player, the developers wanted to think up of ways to allow players who aren't as skilled or knowledgeable as many other players to get into the core gameplay of the fighter much faster. But in doing so, you'd have to go against an established and accustomed idea. In Rising Thunder, all core specials moves, along with the Overdrive moves, are executable with a single button and don't require directional inputs. Every character brings in three special moves, which are activated by three special buttons, and each move works on a cooldown.Initially, I was a bit taken aback. As directional inputs for special moves are pretty synonymous with the genre itself. However, this idea works much better in practice, and Rising Thunder makes great use of the mechanics. I was able to jump into the game pretty quickly, and with much of the initial awkwardness of having to get a feel of the character's inputs and moves correctly, I got over the awkward character introduction phase and started to think about how to utilize their moves within minutes of play. It sort of gave me some callbacks to MOBA titles that emphasizes setups and pick-up and play mechanics, but of course, it's still a deeply refined fighter at its core."Well, all the theorists on the internet will tell you you'll destroy fighting game, it wouldn't make sense anymore, it wouldn't be a fighting game, and if you would've asked me five years ago I probably would've agreed that it wouldn't work," said Killian. "But the way we decided to try it was to build it, and to test it. And not only did the game work, but I started to see things happen in a game ever in my twenty years of talking about fighting games. One guy went from total scrub, to started playing mind-games with me. Like for real. It opened a lot of interesting match-ups. [...] That's where fighting games to me really shine, it's where they can show off people's minds and the way they work in relation to one another."In addition to these tweaks and modifications to the classic fighting game formula, the developers also added in a number of interesting visual and gameplay changes to accommodate the focus on online gameplay. Certain character utilize moves that are telegraphed and use visuals that can used for strategies, For instance, the character "Crow" is able to drop a dome barrier that makes him invisible while inside of it. While the player using Crow is invisible (which is still somewhat visible on their screen), the opponent will not be able to see them during invisibility on their screen. This is to add a layer of unpredictability. With opposing players using their own screens, they'll be able to hide the more nuanced aspects of their moves from their enemies to surprise them.Radiant Entertainment is certainly confident in their new fighter, and given that they're allowing the FGC and newcomers full access to their game very soon (early alpha beginning on the 28th), they're looking forward to hearing their feedback. As with their other title Stonehearth, the community will have a major impact on the state and feel of the game. While Rising Thunder does a lot of things that may go against the more iconic aspects of the genre, there's a lot of thought that went into the intricacies of this fighter. As this title is still in fairly early stages, many features and visuals are not in place quite yet, but the developers are confident enough in releasing it as the true heart of the game is in place. They also plan to actively update the game, introducing new content, updates, and other additions to keep things interesting. "We love fighting games, we've loved them for a long time. We've seen a ton of games come and go, there's plenty of great fighting games out right now, but -- at least in our view -- they're not focusing on the real sources of the trouble [accessibility]," he said. "Don't charge people to try your game, don't ask them to spend six months practicing the game before they can actually start having a real game, and make the online good god dammit."If anything, Rising Thunder will prove to be a pretty interesting experiment. During my time with it, it was clear that a lot of love and passion went into the game, and the folks behind this title are putting a lot of trust into the FGC to be as honest and vocal about the game as possible. Which certainly won't be hard for them. In recent years, the fighting game genre has evolved significantly, and with more players mindful of the true core gameplay with every fighter, Rising Thunder aims to get players to the nitty-gritty of what fighters are all about right from the get-go. Rising Thunder [Alpha Sign-Up] 
Rising Thunder photo
PC, free-to-play, powered by GGPO3
If you were one of the many watching the EVO 2015 livestreams over the weekend, then you no doubt saw a trailer for Rising Thunder, a brand new fighting game featuring battling robots. While viewers didn't get much info about...

Into the Stars is an intense Space Opera, hits early access July 9

Jul 02 // Alessandro Fillari
Into the Stars (PC, [previewed], Linux, Mac)Developer: Fugitive GamesPublisher: Iceberg InteractiveRelease date: July 9, 2015 on PC (Early Access)Set in the far future where mankind has populated the outer reaches of the known universe, you take on the role of a captain for the last human ship carrying a most precious cargo. After a war with an alien race destroys the last colony of humans, you must lead the remaining survivors and your crew on an exodus through uncharted territory in order to find a new home in Titus Nova, located in the far end of the galaxy. Along the way, you'll recruit new crew members, trade with neutral alien factions, and wage an on-going struggle with the aliens that destroyed your home planet. With the fate of many lives in your hands, you'll have to make many tough decisions in order to secure the future of humanity, while also keeping your one and only ship in working order. The developers weren't shy about sharing their influences for Into the Stars. From Battlestar Galactica, to Firefly, Star Trek, and even Guardians of the Galaxy -- the folks at Fugitive Games wanted a space adventure that emulated the same wonder and awe from classic Space Operas, while injecting a tense and hectic atmosphere that gave players the sense that one wrong move could lead to disaster. Storytelling was an important area of focus for the devs, and while there aren't really any cutscenes or dramatic set-piece moments, the players will be able to create their own captain, crew, and ship parameters (with adjustable stats and areas of focus) from scratch -- giving them freedom in how they play and choose to forge their way across the galaxy.With an entire galaxy map to explore, you'll have to choose wisely where you want to guide your ship, as many different resources are consumed during travel, and dangerous foes might rear their ugly heads. Taking place on over 90 tiles shown on the galactic map, each space represents a sector of the galaxy that can be explored. Players can freely steer their ship within the tile and explore at their own pace. Each tile possess their own unique points of interests, planets, culture, resources, and other sources of intrigue. While some randomness comes into play, the developers wanted to give the entire universe a hand-crafted look and not rely on procedural generation to fill in the blanks. And the results are quite stunning. The visuals within Into the Stars are a feast to behold, and the work from the Unreal Engine 4 shows great promise. From soaring past gas-giants, derelict spacecrafts, to massive floating artifacts from alien cultures, there's much to explore within the galaxy, and it'll take more than one playthrough to witness all the visuals. Though be warned, spending too much time in a certain section of the galaxy will attract the attention of hostile forces that wish to wipe you out.Taking cues from titles like XCOM and FTL, the developers at Fugitive Games wanted to have a strong focus on crew and resource management while gathering resources and keeping ahead of danger. Your ship will need resources and a strong crew to keep flying, and in order to keep both on the up, you'll have to take risks and even make some sacrifices. When you come across planets and installations throughout your travels, you can send probes or Away Teams (a capable team of explorers) down to the point of interest to search for resources and valuables. Though bare in mind, these places can often be dangerous and result in some deaths or harm to your ship if things go south. During one instance, we sent our away team to a remote planet and found many valuable resources with no incidents. Unfortunately, our luck wasn't so great when we went to a derelict human spaceship. An accident occurred which resulted in the deaths of some crew. [embed]295154:59311:0[/embed]As a whole, Into the Stars is a game about taking risks. While some cases may call for the occasional space heroics, most of the time you'll have to play it safe. During planetary examinations, sometimes its better to send probes, which result in a mini-game where you mine materials. Though keep in mind, the lives of your crew and your cargo of human survivors are a valuable resource as well. While traveling in space, you'll come across merchants that may sell goods at the cost of valuable materials vital to the function of your ship. While giving away minerals may be easy, in some cases merchants may request some humans for the trade. It's a pretty grim prospect, and though it may be easy to turn down a request when its first presented to you, you might be in a tight spot and have to entertain the offer. By any means necessary, your ship has to make to Titus Nova, and you may have to make some decisions that could compromise your own captain's humanity.But what would any space opera be without epic ship battles? When you encounter foes that seek to raid your ship, or just want to wipe out what's left of humanity, you'll have to defend the vessel and command your crew in a battle of wits and instinct. Unlike other space-sims, battles take place in quasi-term based format within the confines of the ship. Within the bridge, you have a clear view of the attackers, and you'll have to simultaneously adjust shields, make repairs, and strike against the enemy when the time comes. Initially, I found the battles to be a bit confusing and somewhat dense. It's all in menus, and you have to keep track of different crew attributes and ship parameters to stay one step ahead of your enemies. When making repairs, your view switches over to the engine room as you monitor hull breaches and causalities, all while the enemies are still attacking. While the smaller foes can be easily defeated, facing groups of enemy ships and some of the more massive cruisers can result in somewhat lengthy battles.I was largely impressed with Into the Stars. While we're definitely seeing an influx of space-sims as of late, this title subscribes more to the technical school of thought, rather than the focus on action and explosions. While I admit I got a bit lost during some moments, and had to consult some tutorials, I found Into the Stars to be an incredibly ambitious game that seeks to install a simultaneous sense of dread and awe from players. Not many games can get me feeling nervous while traveling through a lush and colorful galaxy filled with rich cultures and places to explore. If you're looking for something a bit more introspective and technical for your spacefaring needs, then you'll definitely want to keep an eye on Into the Stars.Into the Stars - Early Access [Steam]
Into The Stars photo
Find a crew, find a job, keep flying
The Space Sim genre has been one of the most ambitious and sought after titles from developers and fans alike. Ever since the early days of gaming, there's been a desire to craft a title that allows for exploration across a s...

Willy Chyr's Relativity is Escher art come to life

Jun 26 // Jordan Devore
I only got to play around in one world, but there are others, each with a different theme or pattern. One was straight out of House of Stairs. Their designs make a lot of sense once you know that Chyr does, among other things, installation art. It shows. Relativity is somehow his first game. He has something cool in mind for how those worlds connect, but wouldn't say any more about the transitions. I'm curious to see how everything ties together, assuming I don't get totally lost.
Relativity preview photo
Walk on walls
When you jump off a ledge in Willy Chyr's Relativity, you can keep falling. Forever. The abstract world, made up of floating platforms and puzzle rooms, loops. Why climb a huge flight of stairs when you can just "fall" to the...

Goliath eliminates the repetition found in survival games

Jun 25 // Zack Furniss
In a hands-off session with Whalebox, I got to see some of the mechanics setting Goliath apart from other survival games. Playing as a 1930s fighter pilot who finds himself in a bizarre coalescence of time periods and alternate worlds, you're as likely to find a pyramid as you are a spaceship. Or lizard people. Or spacecrafts. Oh, and you have a fancy robot arm. The arm's purpose isn't solely to make your anachronistic character look dorky; this limb serves as your axe, pick, or other resource gathering tool that you would have to create in another game. Since you start out with it, dying is less heartbreaking since you won't have to gather rocks and logs just to build tools to begin your process anew. You won't have to wait long until you can build one of the titular Goliaths. I was told that you can access the first one, the Wood Goliath, within ten minutes of starting. Whalebox wants you to get right into the fray, since you can't fight in human form. Since the denizens of the wild may find you to be a delectable treat, it's usually wise to stay in your Goliath. If it's ever destroyed, you get about 80% of your materials back so it isn't too much of a grind to get it back up and running. If you need to get out to craft or forage, you can set it on autopilot to let it fend for itself. There seem to be plenty of options as far as Goliaths go, too. You can choose from three on the fly, but there are fifteen variants of the wood, iron, stone, and crystal types. You earn these variants via achievements; for example, using long-ranged weapons often can earn you a sniper Goliath. You can also draw on them to create your own custom designs, provided you find the right berries to create paint.  The stone type was my favorite out of what was shown in the demo. There's a temperature gauge whenever you reach extreme climates, and the stone Goliath acclimates to these rapid shifts in heat. When in snow, it covers your rocky exterior and you gain a defensive bonus whereas fiery surroundings give you a magma form with flame damage. Combining all of this with head, torso, arm, and leg slots to customize means I'll be spending most of my time trying to look fashionable. We went through a few basic quests in the beginning that showed how strange this world could be. The first one that we saw was given to the player by a self-aware robot who wanted his pet robot bird back. After tracking down the bird, we learned that he had found a group of real birds and thought he belonged among their number. After that, we saw various factions, including the fantasy-esque Forest Folk (read: fox people), a group of religious robots who worship their creator, and some lizard people. You can build reputation with these groups by doing tasks for them that start simple but become complicated. Since everyone that you meet was also warped into this new world, no one trusts each other. By aligning yourself with a faction you can earn special Goliaths, but midway through the game the opposing groups find themselves in an all-out war. You had better be confident in your choice by then. Though the world is procedurally-generated, it's broken up into fifty levels called shards. They're not very large, which eliminates the need for fast travel. Since this is more structured than an average survival game, death isn't permanent. When I asked them how death would work, they had one of my favorite ideas I've heard re: video games in awhile. They're not sure if they can get this to work yet, but they want several years to pass if your character dies. When you come back, faction dynamics will change and the world will look different. Everything you knew before has been altered in some way. Cool! The story will have multiple endings and will be written by an Eisner-nominated comics writer. Though they only showed the fighter pilot, Whalebox plans on having more characters so that players can identify with what they see on-screen. They mentioned a female medieval knight who has been masquerading as male. The more options the better, as there is going to be both co-op and player versus player modes. Four-player co-op will function similarly to Borderlands, where you can drop in and out of a friend's game and get credit for completing your own quests. While the team is undecided as to how many players the versus mode will support, they are going to let you bring your own customized Goliath. A "Capture the Human" mode was also mentioned as a possibility. While Goliath sounds enormously ambitious, even the early state in which I saw it showed promise. A survival action-RPG with a focused story mode, limited repetition, and customizable giant robots is right up my alley. It'll be coming out Q1 2016 for PC, Mac, and Linux. Consoles are an eventual possibility.
Goliath preview photo
This time your arm is the tool
Survival games like Don't Starve can provide some of the best moments in gaming. The early hours of trying to fathom how this new world works, the slow strengthening of self until you gain confidence, and the s...

Super Dungeon Bros plays like garbage, with humor to match

Jun 25 // Mike Cosimano
Super Dungeon Bros takes place in Rökheim. There are four rock-themed brothers: Axl, the angry one; Freddie, the one who knows no fear; Lars, the one who keeps saying 'love' ad infinitum; and Ozzie AKA Michelangelo From TMNT, But A Rock This Time. I had to look up this information on the provided fact sheet, because the 'bros' are not characters. They have a "thing" and that "thing" is drilled into your skull like a well-placed icepick at an Italian dinner party gone wrong. Here's an example: when the party encounters some enemies, Lars can say "Careful, they've lost that lovin' feeling." This is the patent pending "Bro Banter" system, controlled by the player via the d-pad. Now, imagine hearing this line dozens of times over the course of a single dungeon run. It's a joke that would be right on the edge of amusing...if told once. And that's not even the worst of it! Ozzie's catchphrase is "That's what she said," a phrase I literally have not heard in years. When this was presented to me, I had to check my calendar to make sure I had not been trapped in some kind of 2011-centric time vortex. The Bro Banter system is supposedly reactive -- you can respond to banter from your compatriots with banter of your own, but I never got it to work organically during my play session. I did manage to get a confirmation that more recorded lines would be coming. Although I wouldn't get my hopes up for that, considering the fact that somebody told somebody else that recording a line from everyone's collective middle school experience and putting it in the game was a good idea. Playing the game is on the same level as the writing; it's bad. The characters are floaty and unresponsive, it feels like you're controlling an invisible character pushing the player character around. And the combat is somehow worse. The heavy attacks and the light attacks feel almost indistinguishable. I also found myself struggling with the controls more often than I'd care to admit in mixed company. It's not that the game is complex, it's just flat -- like a can of soda left out in the sun. The enemies feel same-y, both in terms of design and attacks. What separates an ice giant from a small goblin? Not much aside from their health bars. And when the weapons feel so inefficient, that larger health bar can be a real nuisance. Some of the loot in the full game could potentially mitigate this issue, but the game still has fundamental control issues. Maybe it was that 'last day of E3 funk', but the action made me want to take a nap. In order to complete 100% of the game, players will have to spend about 100 hours of their time with Super Dungeon Bros, which feels like a threat. The game plays terribly, and it's not amusing. Yes, it has couch co-op, but so does the excellent Diablo 3 console port. There are funnier games, there are better brawlers, there are more engaging couch multiplayer titles, there are more rewarding dungeon crawlers. Just because Super Dungeon Bros comprises all of those elements doesn't mean any of them work.
Super Dungeon Bros photo
Keep that dungeon locked
Unnecessary negativity is a blight, especially for writers. It can poison the mind and alienate the reader; a cancerous state of mind that serves nobody. Personally, I try and avoid it whenever possible. That mentality does m...

Mega Man photo
The classic series returns with remixes
Mega Man Legacy Collection bundles the first six Mega Man games for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and 3DS. I played a bit at E3. Gut reaction: it's probably going to be worth the $14.99 asking price. You might be wondering what's up wit...

Eitr photo
Eitr

Hands-on with 2D Souls-like Eitr


Eitr? I hardly even know her!
Jun 22
// Steven Hansen
Zack and I finally played Eitr, which I've talked about before, at E3 this year. Then we sat very close together in camping chairs, shared a mic, and talked about it. To quote a YouTube comment, "Is everyone is dtoid just ga...

Pee on sandwiches and poop on hot dogs in Butt Sniffin Pugs

Jun 22 // Jed Whitaker
[embed]294562:59185:0[/embed] While not a very deep experience, Butt Sniffin Pugs was good for a laugh and a break from all the seriousness that was at this year's E3. I laughed, I pooped, I pissed myself, I smelled butts; what more could I man want in life?
Butt Sniffin Pugs preview photo
Poop EVERYWHERE
Sometimes you're walking around a convention floor and you just find the diamond in the rough of the show. This year's E3 2015 diamond is for certain Butt Sniffin Pugs, a game played with a giant tennis ball, two buttons, and...

Need For Speed is back with double spoilers and customization galore

Jun 21 // Jed Whitaker
While the cosmetic customization in the build I played was deep, it was nowhere near as in depth as the beloved Need for Speed: Underground. The car tuning was fantastic and simple enough for a none car guy like myself to understand. There is a slider that allows you to make cars control more like modern games in the series (drift handling), or more like classic games in the series (grip handling). You can also manually adjust features of cars to make them control as you see fit.  Hundreds of events are scattered around a large open world, and players just need to pull up and hit a button to start the event. Other players can fill out the roster as competing racers. Completing the events advances one of five stories based on different types of driving: speed, style, customization, hanging with your crew, and messing with the cops. It is still unclear how exactly these stories will be advanced, but story is rarely important in racing games. Need for Speed is looking like it really could be the definitive game in the series. Get your hype engines revving. 
Need For Speed preview photo
Definitive version of NFS
The upcoming Need for Speed doesn't have a subtitle because it wants to be the definitive game in the series, according to Craig Sullivan of Ghost Games. The developers have cherry picked the best parts of the previous subtit...

Mother Russia Bleeds is a brutal throwback to classic brawlers

Jun 19 // Alessandro Fillari
Set in an alternate universe where the USSR has been crippled with crime and drug abuse, leaving society in an ever-present dystopian fugue-state, a group of street fighters take it upon themselves to fight back against the criminal element. Addicted to mysterious drugs in syringes that enhance their abilities, they'll have to use their skills to take down the Russian mafia, the powerful government, and a secret society of sexual deviants to exact revenge on those that have laid waste to the motherland. While the plot is pretty standard for a beat-'em-up, the story gets damn dark throughout. What's interesting is that you're not necessarily a good guy -- just a lesser shade of grey roaming the streets. The presentation does a great job of pulling you into this twisted world. Much like Hotline Miami, it uses dark and hypnotic lights to set the tone, and also manages to mess with your head. There were several points where I really tripped by the visual style. And I mean that as a good thing. The style is trance-like, and once it gets you, it doesn't let go. Much like the classic titles Mother Russia Bleeds pays homage too, its controls are largely easy to get into and remember. With a combination of heavy and light attacks, including grab and dash moves, you'll be able to take out the various enemies trying to rush you down. You'll also find weapons and gear in the field, such as bats, guns, and bar stools. Moreover, each character possesses their own moveset and stats. Out of the three characters available, I chose Boris, a seemingly homeless brawler with serious speed. With his moves, I made quick work of the mobs. Oddly enough, friendly fire was enabled by default, which made battles hectic but also irritating. Thankfully, you can turn it off (unless you're in need of an extra challenge). With that said, there are a number of cool additions to the traditional mechanics. The syringes that the fighters possess grant them buffs for periods of time. When used, the screen turns dark and the fighter on his high will gain super speed and increased strength. Also, they get access to a unique fatality, which instantly kills one enemy. They're brutal and satisfying to pull off, but you'll sacrifice the remainder of your buff period. Also, syringes are used to heal yourself and revive downed allies. Though if you're running on empty, you can sacrifice some of your own life to revive them. Playing Mother Russia Bleeds was a trippy experience. Though there were a number of odd quirks they'll have to iron out before released, I was very pleased with what I played. We also got a peek of some upcoming features outside of the story mode. Along with Boss Rush, challenge missions, Arena, and Versus play, the developers plan on giving the people the total package. I got the sense that this was made from folks that loved the genre, and with their aspirations to help revitalize the brawlers, I can say fans will find a lot to admire here.
Devolver Digital photo
Launches on PC, Mac, and PS4 in 2016
One of my favorite types of games from back in the day was the side-scrolling beat-'em-up. Though the sub-gene has sorta evolved into more standard and narrative-based action games, I still feel there's more to be done with t...

Frictional Games' SOMA brings true horror to PS4

Jun 19 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]292979:58725:0[/embed] In an underwater research station, you play as an engineer, Simon, who must uncover the mysteries behind the disappearances and deaths of the crew. After finding himself alone in an unknown part of the station, he discovers that things have taken a turn for the worse as machines begin inhabiting human characteristics. Some robots have even gone rogue after merging with the biology of the deep, and will hunt down anything they find. Using his own resourcefulness and whatever gadgets he can find, Simon will have to evade these horrors to reach safety. Following the school of design found in Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the player will not have any weapons at their disposal to take on whatever creatures they encounter. And gadgets and other support tools to help evade the creatures will only do just that. The name of the game is evasion, and hiding behind crates or other furniture scattered around is usually your best bet. Much like studio's previous title, this can make encounters incredibly nerve-wracking. Though my session only had one real encounter with one of the deep-sea abominations, I got pretty tense during it. That sure made solving the puzzle to escape more challenging. The environment is an interesting setting as well. The underwater research facility is dank and in disrepair, and with the horrors of the deep seeping into the facility, it feels like an industrialized take on the Lovecraftian aesthetic. While venturing through the halls of the station, you'll come across the bodies of workers that still possess clues and other secrets. As each member has in internal black-box installed, you can experience their last moments in audio-log form. It's a clever take on the mechanic, and it does a lot to flesh out the story as well. Though I only had a brief session with SOMA, I found the developers made something that felt like a more natural evolution of Amnesia -- a continuation of the same hide-and-seek-style horror that many fans loved. And in such a rich setting, surprises are in store. Without saying too much, there's a lot more going on with the character's journey and his surroundings than you might think.
SOMA preview photo
Releasing September 22 for PC and PS4
Even though it doesn't seem that long ago, it's been five years since a group of indie developers struck it big with the release of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The game became a hit with players looking for...

Elite: Dangerous for Xbox One adds new multiplayer mode

Jun 18 // Alessandro Fillari
With its recent launch on Xbox One, Elite: Dangerous has seen immediate success on the console. Boasting over 500,000 active players, the community is very active and passionate about the game. The developers stated that though PC and Xbox One players can't play with one another, the economy and active-narrative within the universe is consistent with shared, which makes the universe feel more alive than ever before.During our presentation, we got to witness the upcoming multiplayer content, the Close Quarters Championship. Taking place in instanced arenas around the known universe, players will be able to take their best ship and compete with others in a variety of different modes ranging from Deathmatch, Team-Deathmatch, and a altered take on CTF called "Capture the Datasphere". As they level up and acquire currency, they'll be able to upgrade their multiplayer ship and build it up to be a top dog within the CQC. All upgrades made in CQC will only be available for multiplayer. The developers felt the mechanics and systems within the multiplayer were unique and required an extra boost, and that players can already acquire a massive amount of content within the open universe.Though the content is only set for Xbox One as of now, players on PC can expect to see it sometime later this year. The developers felt that the Xbox community was the best place to test out the new mode, given the existing player community that loves their MP content. Speaking of which, the Xbox One version of Elite has developed quite well. As it's in beta presently, the developers are still working on new features and tweaks to the port. One of the proudest accomplishments they had with the development of the console release was that they were able to place all the mechanics into the controller without watering down the gameplay. The controller utilizes context-sensitive prompts and hold-button options to bring up new options. It's pretty clever, given the scope of the original title.If you're interested in giving Elite: Dangerous a shot, and don't possess a beastly PC to do so, then the Xbox One release is your best shot. Currently on discount, this port retains all the best elements of the game, and might even make it a bit more accessible for those who may have been scared off by the scope of the PC title. And with new content coming to console first, there's plenty incentive to give it a go.
Elite: Dangerous photo
Launches in July, PC later this year
As one of the most well-known Kickstarter titles, Elite: Dangerous has really become a massive and seminal title within the PC community. With an entire universe to explore, built to scale according to the developers, they pr...

Hideaki Itsuno talks his return to DMC with Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition

Jun 18 // Alessandro Fillari
It's been more than seven years since the release of DMC4 back on PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2008, and things have changed quite a bit. During that time, Itsuno choose to begin work on his passion project, an open-world Action-RPG title for consoles, which eventually became Dragon's Dogma. The sprawling role-playing game was one of Capcom's most intensive projects, and was largely met with acclaim. Though sometime after its release, the opportunity to return to the series presented itself, and Itsuno was keen on giving the series another go. "Once the original DMC4 production was over , I was ready to be done with DMC for awhile, and it was quite good timing," said director Hideaki Itsuno while recalling his work on Dragon's Dogma. "But by that time [after Dragon's Dogma], I felt that I wanted to work on another DMC game, and the topic of the Special Edition came up and it was really good, it came at a great time for me. Also it wasn't too difficult coming back to DMC mentally after awhile. I had actually been working on some mobile titles for awhile before this. It was good to be home with DMC, it was a year and a half project, and and I really enjoyed it all." As the second Special Edition release for the series, many fans have det their expectations high for the return to DMC4. Since its reveal, we've learned much about what the Special Edition will contain, and surprisingly they decided to go further with including the most playable character in a single title that the series has ever seen. While talking about the development of the game, Itsuno recalled what they wanted to focus on when making the Special Edition."Coming off DMC3: Special Edition, including Vergil was a no-brainer really, and it was also something that a lot of fans pretty much expected to happen when you announce another Special Edition," said Itsuno. "The next thing we looked at was bringing it up to speed [...] It's been seven years since the last game, and people may not be as familiar with it as they once were. So even just having tiny things like auto-save, helped bring up to console standards. Then we added Lady and Trish."Right from the beginning of the series, gamers have recognized that DMC is in a class of its own when it comes to combat. After Itsuno took over as director for the series, the combat expanded much further. With experience on titles such as Capcom vs SNK and the Street Fighter series, he used much of his work on honing combat and fighting mechanics and transitioned it over to DMC. With DMC4SE, the developers plan on injecting more of the fighting game mentality into the series with the inclusion of multiple playable characters, as each posses their own unique playstyles.  "You definitely could say I've brought my fighting game experience to bare," said Itsuno while talking about the new playable characters. "Particularly because we got some additional characters and gameplay experiences are quite different for each character, and the gameplay will change for each. It's quite a unique aspect to DMC, compared to other action games where we have this selection of characters, so you're really getting a different gameplay experience with each character. We looked at people's combo play videos for 4 and also 3 Special Edition for Vergil, and we used those as references. But ultimately, we wanted to make sure it was the game you love." During my time with DMC4SE's Vergil, it was clear that he adopted some tricks from DmC Vergil. Ninja Theory's work on the mechanics for Vergil offered some very inventive takes on classic moves and also included some new skills that very clever in their own right. Over the years, DmC: Devil May Cry has been a pretty divisive title among series fans. Many of whom don't tend to view it in the same light as the original series. The director of the series spoke about his work supervising the developers at Ninja Theory, and still holds the game and its developers in high-regard."It was a three year project working on DmC: Devil May Cry with Ninja Theory, and I was going back and forth to Cambridge working on it with them. And I got a lot of great memories, I'm still really great friends with those guys, whenever I see them I'm like 'give me a hug, bro', and even though it was a divisive game, and that was the reaction from fans, obviously -- I still feel it's a well respected game. I don't like thinking of it as this separate other thing from the rest of the other games. My work on that game definitely influenced DMC4SE.As with every upcoming E3, many fans like to hypothesize about what's going to be announced at E3. Just checking on twitter or NeoGAF, you could see massive threads detailing fan theories and speculation about some upcoming news relating to the developers and publishers attending. And though many were convinced that Capcom was going to drop the bomb and announce Devil May Cry 5 at this year's expo, they of course were mistaken. But rest assured, Capcom is totally aware of the enthusiasm for the series. Itsuno had this to say to fans about the current state of Devil May Cry.  "Of course, there was some people rumor and speculating whether or not there'd be a new announcement at E3. Sorry, but there wasn't one this year. But 4SE is something I really wanted the chance to get DMC in the hands of the next-generation console player. It's been that long since the original series, the hardware has changed, standards are different, and I know that people are waiting to play the game again." With the upcoming Special Edition almost upon us, it's going to be a special time for many fans who've longed for the return to the original series. I've spent quite a bit of time with it, and I feel that many long time fans will love what Itsuno and the developers have done to reinvigorate DMC4. The new characters add a whole new level of freshness to the game, and fans who've spend countless hours exploring the nuances of Dante and Nero will love what Vergil, Trish, and Lady bring to the table. Expect our full review from Chris next week.
Devil May Cry photo
This Special Edition goes all in
As you have probably noticed over the last few months, Destructoid has been loaded with articles about the Devil May Cry series and its upcoming titles. The folks at Capcom have been very open with sharing details about the s...

Mirror's Edge preview photo
Good shoes
With Mirror's Edge Catalyst, DICE is giving us more freedom while robbing Faith of hers. This is an origin story, and an open-world one at that. It's the same fun first-person running, rolling, jumping, and sliding as before,...

DICE's Star Wars Battlefront feels like a half-assed Battlefield mod

Jun 17 // Jed Whitaker
Air support has to be called in by finding tokens placed throughout the battlefield that randomly give you either a special weapon or a ship to fly, thus removing the need to rush for a vehicle to have the chance to pilot one. The flying mechanics feel a bit better than Battlefield games, where I typically can only stay in the air a few moments before crashing, but the hit detection was shit. As I flew my Y-Wing around Hoth, I tried to get a bit closer to the ground to lay down some fire for my comrades below and my ship inexplicably exploded -- I was told I'd killed myself. I'd estimate that I was at least 100 feet off the ground, so I'm not sure what I could have possible collided with. [embed]294292:59136:0[/embed] Upon starting each spawn you can select from loadouts, of which we had two to choose from. A primary weapon can be selected, and then the actual loadout is basically support options including: grenades, bubble shields, and short-use jetpacks. One particular option let you lob three explosives a great distance and this was typically an instant kill if aimed correctly. I fell to this the most. Gun-wise, there were a few different blasts available, none of which felt much different in third-person view, but had different scopes in first-person view. The former option felt similar to the old games: holding the left trigger allowed you to focus your shot while slowing down your movement speed. First person felt ripped from Battlefield, with aiming down sights or through scopes. In one of the trailers it shows swapping seamlessly from third person to first, but I couldn't figure out how to do it for the life of me other than using a menu, only taking effect after respawning.  Aim assist was on by default which had the crosshair sticking to enemies and turning red whenever aiming relatively close to one of them, which would be fine except for most shots miss if they are moving. This aim assist issue happened in both third and first person, causing me to have to fight with aim assist to try to line up shots for moving targets. After turning it off it felt a bit better, so perhaps for less advanced players it will be a great option, but more serious players will want to shut it off. I found myself dying far more often than I remember in classic Battlefront games, and that has been a problem for me in Battlefield games as well. Indicators that you're taking damage aren't obvious enough and by the time you do realize you're taking fire, you're dead. While there is a health meter that ticks down, I still felt like I was dying nearly instantly as if I were playing a Battlefield game. The demo I played was presented on PlayStation 4, and the amount of graphics popping in just a few feet ahead of my character was disturbing. I realize this is an early build but it was still shocking. There was a choice between locking the game to 30 frames per second and having better graphics or playing at 60fps. I didn't get a chance to test if the pop-in still happened at 30fps before the battle was over, but I certainly don't want to play a shooter at 30fps in 2015. Overall I wasn't impressed with what little time I spent with DICE's Star Wars Battlefront. It really did feel like a half-assed mod slapped onto Battlefield 4, and I'm surprised modders haven't created something better already. That being said the game was still enjoyable -- it looked and sounded like Star Wars -- but this is not the Battlefront you're looking for.
Battlefront preview photo
Not the Battlefront you're looking for
Ever since the announcement that EA's DICE studio would be developing Star Wars Battlefront, fans of the series -- myself included -- have feared it will be "Star Wars Battlefield" and it seems like our fears have come t...

No Man's Sky dev happy he didn't end up at 'Fuktown' at Sony conference

Jun 17 // Brett Makedonski
To be fair, there are systems in place to safeguard against it. Hello Games has implemented a filter to prevent those types of names from popping up. But, it's not perfect, and there's always the chance that something will be spelled in such a way to circumvent the filters. Murray anticipates it'll probably happen when No Man's Sky eventually releases on PS4 and PC. They'll just have to deal with it as it happens. That was the light-hearted side to our time with Hello Games; the rest was about the serious scope of No Man's Sky. In a way, it might be positioned to be an accessible EVE Online for the PS4 crowd. Murray said that three distinct styles of play pervade the game: exploration, trading, and fighting. He remarked that while most players they've seen blend the three activities, almost everyone leans more toward one than the others. Those who just want to find new planets and species can earn currency by uploading their finds to Atlas, the corporation that pays for this sort of thing. Others can invest their time in economy -- buying, selling, and trading to turn a profit. If anyone doesn't have the patience for those first two methods, they can make their living by attacking or protecting others. [embed]294286:59135:0[/embed] Murray was hesitant to talk about it, but there is an overarching objective to No Man's Sky. We hadn't heard much about that before, and after this interview, we still haven't heard much about it. The ultimate goal is to reach the center of the galaxy by expanding the breadth of your hyperdrive. However, we don't have any idea what we'll find there. When asked about it, Murray's colleague chuckled and said "Now he's going to start talking about metaphysics." And, he sort of did. Murray tangented to classic game design in titles such as Super Mario Bros. and how we've been trained to know what to expect from most games. He wants to move away from that, even if it means shrouding his game in mystery. Actually, maybe especially if it means that; he seems to revel in people not knowing what to expect from No Man's Sky. Murray's done a good job keeping everything under wraps. The truth is, we aren't all that much closer to understanding No Man's Sky than when it was announced a year and a half ago. Its universe holds untold secrets and discoveries, the likes of which no one's willing to divulge ahead of time. It's now apparent that it's by design. After all, no explorer ever knows the end-game; they just want to unravel the universe's mysteries.
No Man's Sky photo
That was a real concern
When Hello Games' Sean Murray stepped on the stage at PlayStation's E3 press conference, he had one fear, and he never bothered to voice it to Sony; he just hoped like hell that he wouldn't get bitten by all the randomness in...

Just Cause 3 somehow makes explosions easier than ever before

Jun 16 // Brett Makedonski
Immediately after beginning, fellow editor Jordan Devore tethered three grapples to the crotch on a statue of an oppressive ruler, pulled it until the entire thing crumbled to pieces (dick tater, am I right?), hooked the statue's head to a helicopter, and flew it off a cliff to a fiery death. Yep, Just Cause 3 is pretty fucking wonderful. The third installment in Avalanche's over-the-top action thriller franchise has a plot, but you wouldn't know it from what we played. Now that he has a few kills under his belt, Rico's returned to the Mediterranean-inspired area that he left as a child to overthrow an evil dictator. Our sandbox was more concerned with defying physics with the parachute and grappling hook, and using the wingsuit to glide far over the land and sea alike. Ironically, the wingsuit moments provided a nice touch of tranquility as we floated over the gorgeous landscape. From that high up, everything looked so serene and peaceful -- it was almost impossible to believe it's the work of an oppressive regime. That was immediately cut short when the next thought was "this needs more explosions." Because Just Cause 3 prioritizes the ridiculous over the believable, Rico is a one-man demolition crew and his supply never wanes. Avalanche has equipped him with a never-ending supply of C4, meaning that explosions are never more than a second or two away. What's the best way to dismantle this factory or to put this bridge out of commission? Our good friend C4 does the trick nicely. A lot of the design decisions were seemingly made as a result of Avalanche shrugging its shoulders. Regarding infinite C4, a studio representative told us "Why not?" Likewise, a new helicopter stunt trick where you hang upside down from the bottom was implemented because "That's just cool." After playing Just Cause 3 for a half hour, it appears that the developer put anything in the game that would make for a good time. It's certainly not a bad direction to take. Another point of emphasis for Avalanche pertains to traversal. The developer wanted to create a world that's easy and fun to move around. That's why the wingsuit, grappling hook, and parachute seemingly offer an infinite amount of momentum -- because slowing to a crawl just isn't as thrilling. It's also the reason why cars can be saved in garages and then recalled anytime you're near one. Hey, if you're going to take the discreet way around Just Cause 3, you may as well do it in style. Regardless of method, getting around Just Cause 3 may take a bit longer than you'd think. Avalanche developers tell us that the world is at least as big as Just Cause 2, but the layout's inherently different. The third installment will feature lots of islands, archipelagos, and little towns (Just Cause 2 kind of did too, but we're just going with what we're told). Also, Avalanche says that all the towns feel varied from one another and have their own sense of culture, so to speak. We wouldn't know a ton about that, because we were restricted to the first area of the game. Zooming out on the map, we could see the other two regions. They were significantly larger, and, as we were assured, significantly more difficult. When that's all available, players will get to experience what might be the developer's biggest goal: To create a perfect flow through the world. When all is said and done, Avalanche wants you to be able to flawlessly travel anywhere you want, however you want, and have a blast doing it. While it was nice seeing first-hand that Just Cause 3 nails all the things you'd expect Just Cause to nail, it was almost disappointing that the demo was completely unstructured. Okay, the sandbox element works great, but what does it have to offer players who want a reason to press forward? We weren't given a glimpse at that. Hopefully it's as competent as the free reign component is. Really, the takeaway from our time with Just Cause 3 is blowing up a lot of stuff makes for an enthralling time. It's not a revelation necessarily, so much as it is a good reminder. As we concluded the demo by demolishing a water tower that towered over a military base, a rep for the developer told us with a half-grin on his face "we're not really into subtlety." That's great, Avalanche, because neither are we.
Just Cause preview photo
That's saying something
So many preview events obsess themselves with presenting a carefully crafted slice of game. Here's a chunk of gameplay that puts the title's best foot forward. Don't deviate too far off the path, stick to the rules, and a P...

It's truly fun traversing Assassin's Creed Syndicate's London

Jun 16 // Brett Makedonski
As these things go, our E3 demo was free of any sort of missteps that would hint at a repeat performance. No surprise there; these showings are almost always incredibly polished even though they're all in "pre-alpha." What is worth noting is that Ubisoft actually let us have hands-on time this year. In 2014, it was a one-on-one hands-off session while a developer played. That could be a small indicator that the publisher has more faith in this year's iteration. I was turned loose in a very small section of London, and I immediately felt a knowing comfort. Assassin's Creed isn't going to change that much, after all. Having just walked out of a pub, protagonist Jacob was on the ground and surrounded by three story (or so) buildings. Rooftops are the much preferred method of getting around, so it's time to start ascending. This is where Syndicate made its open-world pacing apparent. Rather than climbing the face of every structure, Jacob can shoot a grappling hook that will almost instantaneously transport him to any summit. It may seem like it wouldn't be all that noteworthy, as several titles have implemented the same feature in recent years. But, it does such a great job of opening up the Assassin's Creed traversal, it's impossible to ignore its significance here. [embed]294140:59097:0[/embed] Once on the rooftops, it was simple to shoot ziplines across to even further destinations. It's no longer necessary to go from roof to ground and back up when trying to cross a city. Now, pathfinding is incredibly simple because it just requires a quick tap of a button to fire across the chasm. These ziplines serve another purpose too, though. Partway between two points, Jacob can decide that whatever's underneath him needs a quick blade in the back of the neck. Performing air assassinations while gliding along proves to be quite satisfying, not to mention efficient. This particular demo tasked me with clearing out a relatively small compound, which was a great opportunity to test out the only new weapon I was shown. Jacob has hallucinogenic darts at his disposal, which make enemies easy to deal with. What's more, shooting them into a fire gives them an area-of-effect radius instead of only harming one target. I took out three people with one dart and then threw a knife to drop some cargo on the head of a fourth. It was a pretty great way to quickly and creatively dispatch a handful of enemies. That's when the faction leader began fleeing, necessitating commandeering someone's buggy to chase them down. With a terrified horse pulling me around with all the grace you'd expect from a panicked animal, I eventually caught up. This initiated a "gang war" where I fought alongside approximately ten others to kill those on the other side, which concluded the demo. For the few takeaways I had, I was left with more questions. What role would Evie play opposite of Jacob? Will either be playable under any circumstance, or do they each have scenes dedicated to them? How will gameplay differ between the two? What are Ubisoft's plans for the modern story? How will the boroughs of London seem unique? I had a lot of inquiries, but the developers were tight-lipped about almost everything, simply stating that oft-repeated line "We're going to be talking about that later." Frustrating as it is, it's par for the course. Information's always locked down until the publisher's ready to reveal. From what we saw, everything about Syndicate is very Assassin's Creed. That's not much of a revelatory statement, but it is what it is. The grappling hook -- the one thing that isn't very Assassin's Creed -- was undoubtedly the finest feature. It's not the type of change that will be at the forefront of someone's mind when they think about the game, but it's an improvement that will keep traversal from becoming too much of a slog. That's a welcome addition if I've ever heard of one.
AC Syndicate preview photo
And a whole lot quicker
Ubisoft finally had all the perils that come with annual franchise installments come crashing down on it last year with Assassin's Creed Unity. It was the most ambitious Assassin's Creed title to date -- with its insanel...

Cammy and Birdie are fantastic in Street Fighter V

Jun 15 // Alessandro Fillari
At the Capcom event I went to a couple weeks back, I got the chance to play with the initial four characters, and also the newly announced Cammy and Birdie. Sorry I couldn't tell you before, but the folks at Capcom wanted to keep it a surprise. You had no idea how hard it was to sit on that without telling anyone. I got some quality time with both Cammy and Birdie, and they definitely set themselves apart from the others.Much like the rest of the cast, Cammy and Birdie take unique advantage of the Variable System in interesting ways. As the system allows the fighters to tap into unique skills and tactics to overcome difficult situations, they can be used quite creatively in the hands of skilled players. Just like the others, the Variable System plays to Cammy and Birdie's strengths and their personalities, which fleshes their characters out into pretty cool ways.As one of the original SFII characters, Cammy has been around for a long time. With her prowess for speed and agility, giving her quite the edge in footsies and aerial game, she's an incredible force during fights. And SFV expands upon that in a big way. Her V-Skill, known as 'Axel Spin Knuckle', gives her the ability to do a forward spin move and follow up with a forearm blow. What's interesting about this move is that it not only allows her to pass through projectiles unharmed, but it can also have her spin to the opponent's back and striking them from their blind-spot. But her V-Trigger is where she turns up the heat. Called 'Delta Drive', her Trigger grants her a massive boost of speed and cuts down on the delays for her specials moves, allowing her to use them more often.[embed]294083:59059:0[/embed] And of course, we've got the big guy himself. Birdie is back in action, and after his last appearance in Alpha 3, he's been itching for another fight. This one came of out of left field, and I can guarantee no one expected him to make the cut. Unfortunately, he's sorta let himself go. The once musclebound goon has lost his figure, and he can't seem to keep food out of his hands. With a massive gut, and some Ron Jeremy-esque chest hair, he's not what he once was back in the good ol' days. But his passion for battle is stronger than ever, and he's worked around his new impairment. And he might be a far better fighter because of it.Though he seems like a gimmick character, Birdie has still got the moves to go toe-to-toe with the others. His chains wrapped around his wrist can be used to lasso foes and slam them to the ground, and his famous head-butt still packs a wallop. His V-Skill called 'Break Time' has him scarf down some snacks, which grants him extra buffs. And he'll even leave the trash on the ground, which the opponents can trip over. You haven't lived till you've seen M. Bison slip on a banana peel. His V-Skill also works when using different directional prompts, which will have him eat and discard different types of food. His V-Trigger is called 'Enjoy Time', and after maxing out his V-Gauge, Birdie will scarf down a spicy pepper, which will grant him a boost in damage and guard break potential for his special moves. I'm pretty excited about Street Fighter V. After my session with, I was left super impressed with what the developers at Capcom have in mind for the fans. And with the additions of Cammy and Birdie to the roster, it's clear that Capcom has got plans for both the familiar and the unexpected characters of the series. I can't wait to see more.
Street Fighter V photo
Hands-on with some old friends
As you could likely tell, Street Fighter V is looking pretty amazing. I was very impressed with my hands-on session with the game, along with my chat with Peter 'Combofiend' Rosas, and I can tell that many people will find a ...

E3: First hands-on Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's The Division

Jun 15 // Steven Hansen
[embed]294064:59046:0[/embed] We sure as fuck weren't as team work oriented as Ubisoft's carefully directed demo, which will basically be the case if you aren't playing regularly with a couple pals. Quoting the developer, it's a "standard shooter" in terms of controls. Each character had a few different abilities, which later can be customized (there's a turret, remote sticky bomb, a homing mine that follows you until it finds an enemy to go after) and my character was outfitted with a shotgun that somewhat unsatisfyingly took chunks of my opponents' health bar out. Like, that's not what shotguns should be doing. But The Division is heavy on its crazy tech UI theme, and the co-op focus means it could end up something like Destiny -- kind of a boring loot fest, but fun with friends. It's cool that you're at risk of losing your high level loot if you're killed in this instance and that might make even strangers try and team up (loot is evenly split, too). There are crazy dudes with flamethrowers to worry about and "Rikers," a gang of murderous inmates escaped from Rikers Island prison, which kind of doesn't make sense given how many prisoners in the United States are non-violent offenders and probably would return to their families if released rather than into a group of murderous thugs, but, hey, gritty apocalypse. Of course there are also other players to worry about. At any moment they can go rogue and start fights between fire teams (in our demo, we all tried to kill each other), but you can also all work together and wait for an extraction out of the instance. The goal seems to be making it so your first impulse isn't to kill anyone you come across, because that just makes things harder and puts your gains at risk. The Division isn't quite for me. I don't need endless progressions, bars, and numbers to play a game. But folks who got well into Destiny might find a nice little squad-based multiplayer shooter here. But I also still have no clue how the open-world element works, as this demo might as well as have been any old multiplayer map.
The Division photo
Divisioning a division in Division
Tom Clancy may be dead, but The Division isn't. It's been two years since Ubisoft announced its apocalyptic "online, open-world action RPG," but I finally got hands-on at a Ubisoft event this E3. We were set up in a boiling h...


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