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Konami drama photo
What the hell?
"After we finish [Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain], Mr. Kojima and upper management will leave Konami," a source within Kojima Productions told GameSpot today amidst speculation that some real crazy shit is happening at ...

Review: Bladestorm: Nightmare

Mar 17 // Josh Tolentino
Bladestorm: Nightmare (Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS3 [reviewed])Developer: Omega ForcePublisher: Koei TecmoReleased: March 17, 2015MSRP: $59.99 (PS4/Xbox One), $49.99 (PS3) [Note: Screenshots used in this review are taken from the PS4 version of the game.] As an aside: this game, based on 2007's Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War, is one of the weirdest choices anyone could've made when deciding on which games to add to the growing number of "remastered" titles popping up on current-generation consoles and PC. Despite initially generating excitement among the Dynasty Warriors-loving crowd as a long-desired European-themed entry to the franchise, the original game came and went without much comment. That was thanks to its odd-duck design, which even led Jim Sterling, a much bigger Warriors fan than yours truly, to call it a real-time strategy game in his review. I'm not quite as inclined towards that drastic recategorization, but ol' Jim does have a point: Bladestorm is, for good or ill, of a more thoughtful mind than most of Omega Force's  offerings. Indeed, whereas typical Warriors games take history's leaders and convert them into armies unto themselves, Bladestorm takes the player and molds him (or her) into a leader of their own squad of troops. If Dynasty Warriors is about being a human Cuisinart, Bladestorm attempts a wartime version of Katamari Damacy. More on that in a bit. [embed]289070:57824:0[/embed] Bladestorm: Nightmare comes with two main modes. "The Hundred Years' War" mode is essentially identical to the original 2007 release, aside from graphical/mechanical tweaks, and drops player-created mercenaries -- or "merthenaries" to hear the comically bad European-accented voice-acting say it -- on the battlefields of medieval France. There players can work for the French or English factions, supporting one or the other as pay and scruples dictate. They'll interact with luminaries of the era like Edward, the Black Prince, Philippe the Good, and Gilles de Rais, and participate in key engagements like the Battle of Crécy and the Siege of Calais.   The second mode, "Nightmare," is a more linear, scripted campaign set when a monster invasion interrupts the Hundred Years' War, forcing France, England, and the merthenaries they employ to ally against hordes of hellbeasts commanded by none other than Joan of Arc herself. Interestingly, though Nightmare mode is clearly designed to be played after finishing off The Hundred Years' war, players can switch between the two freely, with progression data like levels, money, equipped gear, and distributed skill points carrying over with virtually no restriction.  Graphically, Bladestorm works best on newer hardware. Aside from the added special effects and improved draw distance and environments, the frame-rate drops that I experienced on the PS3 are absent on the PS4 version. Additionally, the Nightmare campaign on PS3 is prone to drastic loss of frames as well, likely due to the much larger squad sizes and the hordes of monsters.  Both modes essentially boil down to an expansive form of territory control. Each of the battlefields is divided into numerous forts, towns, and castles defended by allied or enemy troops. Most missions ("contracts" in merthenary lingo), particularly in the more open-ended base campaign, will task players with conquering one or more settlements by killing off their defenders and beating their commanding officer. The bigger the settlement, the tougher the commanders, and some particularly large castles are basically defended by mini-boss enemies with distinct attack patterns. In Nightmare mode, those defenders can even include dragons, cyclopes, or grim reapers. Doing the killing involves taking command of a squad of troops. Though broken down roughly by weapon type, each soldier type is unique, with strengths, weaknesses, and a set of special attacks mapped to the face buttons. Players can pick up or drop squads they find in the field, or summon reinforcements directly. New to Bladestorm: Nightmare is the ability to create multiple squad leaders, commanding them separately via the battle map or attaching them to a personal unit as a bodyguard, ultimately allowing for up to 200 troops to move and act as a single unit, rolling everyone in the way (hence the Katamari analogy). This type of of structure provides Bladestorm with the same kind of dynamic as the typically more action-oriented Warriors games. Like in those titles, players in this game are often "fire-fighting," moving as quickly as possible between crisis zones, keeping scores and rewards up by plowing through everything along the way. Though ultimately shallow, Bladestorm's battle mechanics do lend the game an impressive sense of scale, particularly when playing as a cavalry leader. I must have done it hundreds of times in my hours with the game, but it never gets old to trigger a charge and flatten dozens of enemies under the hooves and lances of your soldiers. It also never gets old to watch horses slide across the ground like they are hovercrafts, a testament to how rough-hewn the game can be at times. Balance issues are also a concern, as properly leveled cavalry units basically trivialize the whole game except at the highest difficulty levels. I'd actually be more mad that cavalry are so overpowered if they weren't already the most fun class to play, but that's neither here nor there. Bladestorm: Nightmare isn't a Dynasty Warriors game, but it doesn't aim to be, and still ends up being good time when taken on its own merits. In fact, it's a little ironic that its unusual qualities doomed the original release commercially, but help this new release feel much more fresh and engaging than even the latest "core" franchise entries. [This review is based on a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.]
Bladestorm review photo
Merthenary Lyfe
Bladestorm: Nightmare is not a Dynasty Warriors game. That bit of information might be good or bad news, depending which side of the fence one falls on with regard to Tecmo Koei's long-running brawler series. At the same...

Jackbox Games talks You Donít Know Jack, Twitch, and the future

Mar 17 // Chris Carter
Destructoid: Tell us a bit about how you started Jackbox Games, and how you ended up here from Jellyvision so many years back. Mike Bilder: Jellyvision Games was originally Jellyvision Inc. which was originally Learn Television. Harry Gottlieb, creator of You Don't Know Jack, founded the company in early '90s and is still very much a part of both Jackbox Games and its sister company The Jellyvision Lab. Like you, I was a big fan of YDKJ and left Midway Games in 2008 to join Harry and others in rebooting the games company. How successful has the recent You Don't Know Jack series been? Would you say it's still your flagship franchise? You Don't Know Jack is certainly our flagship franchise. The franchise has sold over 5.5 million units since the first release and our recently retired social and mobile versions had over 5 million installs. The 2011 console reboot was a huge hit critically and with fans, and the latest version, You Don't Know Jack 2015, can be found in our most recent game release: The Jackbox Party Pack. We’ve been very pleased with the reception to our new party bundle. Longtime fans seem to love the new YDKJ and new players that have discovered The Jackbox Party Pack through Fibbage and Drawful can enjoy YDKJ for the first time. I noticed that the newer titles have toned down some of the graphic content from the older series -- did you want to bring the franchise to a broader audience, and do you have any plans to bring back an adult-oriented Jack at some point? If you asked our editors they’d tell you they’re pushing the boundary of a T rating now more than ever. I guess if you looked at the old CD-Rom versions there may have been a few more over-the-top questions, but in these ESRB days we have to be a little careful not to attract an M rating. And at least for now, we’re going to try to avoid that M rating. Overall, we think the tone is on par with the older games, but updated for today’s comedic sensibilities, of course. For example, some of our most recent fake commercials and prizes have been for The STD Superstore (“parking in the rear”), Peeping Todd’s Pervert Supplies, Fat-Mouth Fascist Fish, Ted’s Drop-Dead Gorgeous Body Bags, and a dating show where women vie to mate with a horse. I could go on. So let's talk about Quiplash, heading into its Kickstarter this week. How did you come up with the idea? After Fibbage came online last year, we began rapidly prototyping other game ideas that worked with our mobiles-as-controllers technology. Many prototypes later and we had our first Jackbox Party Pack. After the content for that game was locked and production was well underway, the idea of Quiplash came about. The more we played the Quiplash prototype in the office this year, the more fun we had. Unfortunately our production plans for 2015 are full, and yet this prototype kept bubbling to the top. We want to finish Quiplash as a full game and bring it out by summer 2015 which is why we’ve turned to Kickstarter. With help from backers, we can bring on the resources we need to finish the game. What moved you towards supporting Twitch play directly? Do you see this new type of gameplay catching on? Our recent games have been developed with parties in mind. Our expectation was 2-20+ players in the same room laughing and enjoying party games – much like you might do with board games, Rock Band, or Cards Against Humanity. After we launched Fibbage we realized that despite the stream delay, people were streaming their games and viewers could join and play along anywhere in the world. By the time we realized this we were pretty far along with development of The Jackbox Party Pack, but we took some extra steps to further embrace the streaming mode of play by extending timers in Drawful and making some tweaks to Lie Swatter. With Quiplash, and our future games (if it makes sense for the game mechanic), we’re going to fully embrace this streaming mode of play. We’ve seen many large streamers play our games and get 100 or more people joining their game and playing along with their live stream. We want to let thousands of viewers participate. We think it’s an amazing way to use Twitch and other streaming services. Instead of viewers only being able to comment or perhaps affect gameplay through comments (as has been done in some games), we’re giving viewers a way to actively participate with their favorite streamers by playing the game with them. And, we’re giving streamers everywhere a multiplayer experience they can share with their audience. In terms of the mobile functionality, I have to say, it's pretty genius. How long did it take you to develop the tech, how does it work, and how long do you plan on supporting it? Thanks! We think it’s great too. We spent a few months prototyping the technology and then proving it would work and the experience would be fun…and then we spent about a year perfecting it. Although it seems simple on the surface, it’s a very complex system. Besides the game itself and all of the platforms it runs on, there’s a large scalable server architecture that hosts and manages the “rooms” for each game as well as the customized controller systems that display the real-time game interfaces on your mobile/tablet/browser. We worked hard to eliminate any friction with getting people into our games. There isn’t any app to download or install nor is there a need to sync devices or ensure they’re on the same Wi-Fi. As long as your device has an internet connection and a browser, you can participate in our games. We fully believe in this method of play and we’re planning to support it with all of our future party games, at least until VR and telepathy interfaces take hold. What platform have you had the most success with from a programming perspective? The Jackbox Party Pack is on a ton of platforms. While we’ve had different financial success on different platforms, I’m not sure any programming successes stand out in one platform vs. any other. Each platform has its own quirks. Thankfully, we have a very talented team that’s built a robust cross-platform engine that can run our games from the most powerful current-generation consoles down to the simplest set-top box. Honestly, the biggest success was getting the console manufactures to allow us to use mobile phones as controllers. What a challenge that was – but they all supported us! I see that you haven't focused on the Wii U yet. Is there a reason for that? In that same vein, what is your experience working with Amazon's platforms, Ouya, and the Roku? We’re a small team and we’ve done the development for all of our platforms in-house and we’ve self-published all of our recent games. We like the Wii U and may support it in the future but our recent lack of support is really a function of production resources, as well as market size. Amazon, Ouya, and others have been easy platforms to get to because of our technology. We really feel the type of games we make – party games – are uniquely suited for this recent generation of set-top-boxes that feature games. Consumers of those boxes aren’t looking for AAA console quality games. If they are, they likely already have a console. But, some awesome, affordable party games (our games) that you can easily fire up on your TV seem like a perfect fit for that audience. Finally, if you can share them, what are some ideas you have that are on the cutting room floor? We have hundreds of ideas and dozens and dozens of prototypes. I feel very fortunate to work with such a creative, talented, and funny group of people. One day we may release Willy Pee, Everybody Help Grandma, or Space Farts, but until then, you’ll have to put up with our recent games in The Jackbox Party Pack… and hopefully Quiplash!
JackBox Games photo
Quiplash is on Kickstarter this week
Jackbox Games has been busy. In addition to reviving the You Don't Know Jack franchise for modern consoles, it's also built an intriguing online infrastructure from the ground up. As an innovative way to solve the "contr...

Resident Evil Revelations 2's extra episodes are fun, but non-essential

Mar 17 // Chris Carter
[Small spoilers below in regards to the main ending in "The Struggle" section.] The Struggle The first bit involves Moira, post-campaign, surviving on the island after Claire has left. You'll get a little background as to what it takes to truly deal with a zombie threat after the "big bad" is out of the picture, which is an interesting little way to deal with an epilogue. The only thing I'm not big on is the fact that it wraps up a few loose ends, which you can't access if you bought everything piecemeal. In that case just go ahead and watch it online. The most interesting part of The Struggle is the setup. Old school Resident Evil fans will remember pre-RE4 Mercenaries -- the game mode was born out of RE2, but really started to take form in 3. Before the endless arena setup in 4, players were tasked with getting from point A to B in a certain amount of time, killing enemies they see fit for score, and scavenging for supplies along the way. The Struggle is just like that, but with a twist. Permadeath is a thing, but if you hunt animals while fighting off enemies you can earn "rations," which act as extra lives. The entire affair isn't lengthy, clocking in at roughly 30 minutes per playthrough, but it's definitely fun and hectic on the higher difficulty level. All of the areas are from the core game so don't expect anything new. The fact that it's co-op only adds to the replay value. I wasn't expecting much, but I still go back from time to time to replay it again even after beating it. Little Miss This side-story that takes place in the middle of the story features Natalia, with an interesting little dynamic -- an alter ego named Dark Natalia, which can be operated by a co-op partner or with the "switch" mechanic found in solo play. Your task is to find her missing teddy bear roaming about various existing maps and sneaking around enemies to do it. The kicker is that Natalia can no longer sense enemies through walls, or point to highlight areas of interest. That role is passed on to her dark persona, which is now completely invisible to enemies and has all of the original abilities from the campaign. Her catch is that she can't interact with doors or objects, so you need to lead around both personas in tandem to succeed. With a co-op partner it's a really fun way to spend an afternoon, even if it's also on the shorter side. For either of these episodes I wouldn't go out of my way to buy them, but as an extra for the Season Pass or disc, they're absolutely worth playing.
RE: Revelations 2 extra photo
Exclusive to the Season Pass or the disc
As you might be aware, Capcom is taking a really weird approach to Resident Evil: Revelations 2. In addition to bringing in an episodic format, they've also hitched two secretive "extra episodes" to the package, exclusive to ...

Review: Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 4

Mar 17 // Chris Carter
Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 4 (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomReleased: March 17, 2015 (Episode 4)MSRP: Four episodes ($5.99 each), Season Pass ($24.99), boxed ($39.99) [Now that everything is said and done, you can read reviews for the first three episodes here (1, 2, and 3), an assessment of the Raid Mode DLC here as well as a tips guide, an explanation of what the "Extra Episodes" are here, and a full breakdown of all the prices here.] While Claire and Moira took the main stage last time, Barry and Natalia are decidedly the focus in the final episode. The former pair has a really short episode ahead of them, which answers nearly all of the questions posed so far and explains how everything unfolded before Barry ended up on the island. You'll make your way through a cool little laboratory area to get said answers, with a final non-combat confrontation with the Overseer, and a short action-oriented sequence. It's brief, and sweet. I'm really impressed by the Barry side in the fourth episode however, as it may be the best chapter yet. It's long, varied, and full of tense moments, especially with the continued dynamic of Barry and Natalia. There are plenty of miniature puzzles on-hand that surpass the crate-based affair of the previous chapter, and the maps are a bit more open this time with plenty of hidden areas and nooks. One of my favorite elements involves areas with a deadly gas, where both Barry and Natalia are forced to constantly move to higher ground to get a breath of fresh air. You can spend roughly 30 seconds in the gas before the screen starts to become hazy and you pass out, which lends itself well to some tricky sections with lengthy mine tunnels filled with enemies who are impervious to its effects. To say it gets tense is an understatement. The finale, without spoiling too much, takes place in a setting similar to the very first Resident Evil game. It's a lot smaller than a fully fledged Spencer Mansion, but it's easily the highlight of Revelations 2 for me, and brings back plenty of fond memories -- especially so for the Tyrant-like final boss fight. More of this, Capcom. [embed]288704:57767:0[/embed] It's at this point that I started to really go back and see what I could squeeze out of everything -- and it's a hell of a lot. I completed a few previous chapters in the Time Attack mode setting, one chapter with invisible enemies, and I went back and found a lot of hidden emblems and secrets that I missed. There's a ton of special extras like a classic black and white horror filter setting, bonus weapons, costumes, concept art, and multiple difficulty settings to master. Finding out that Episode 3 had a small alternate ending for Claire's story is also pretty awesome. Over the past month, Raid Mode has also stood the test of time, and I still play it on a weekly basis. I've said pretty much everything that needs to be said about it in past reviews, but I can't stress enough how deep it is, and how long it will take to truly complete, even with one character. Capcom really outdid itself for this one, and I'm looking forward to the next evolution. At the end of its road, I'm happy to recommend Resident Evil: Revelations 2. It's my favorite Resident Evil in years, and with a pricetag that's $20 cheaper than most retail releases, it offers up hundreds of hours of entertainment for those who are willing to dig into Raid Mode. Like many other classic entries before it, I'll be happily playing this one years down the line. [This review is based on a retail build of the game's Season Pass provided by the publisher. DLC was purchased by the reviewer.]
RE: Revelations 2 review photo
A fitting finale
That's it, folks. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is finally done with its odd episodic format, delivering small chunks every week for the past month or so. The final package is out in all of its glory, including the disc v...

Review: Tales from the Borderlands: Atlas Mugged

Mar 17 // Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: Atlas Mugged (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: March 17, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] To its credit, Telltale owns up to the long wait between episodes. The opening line is Marcus commenting on how long it has been since the last part of the story. Then he goes into a recap of the main events from Zer0 Sum, leading into the beginning of Atlas Mugged. Hyperion executive Rhys and Pandoran con artist Fiona have stumbled onto some unknown but hopefully valuable Atlas technology, just in time for a digital reconstruction of Borderlands 2 antagonist Handsome Jack to load into Rhys's mind. Jack comes and goes over the course of the episode, typically when Rhys suffers head trauma, and he often offers his brand of morally bankrupt help. Though he only appears during certain scenes, Handsome Jack sort of steals the show. Rhys, Fiona, and the rest of the gang have some good lines, but Telltale's treatment of Jack is on point. He is simultaneously deplorable and hilarious, which serves the concept of Telltale adventure games well. In Borderlands 2 he was a likable villain; in The Pre-Sequel he was a detestable hero. Here, he can be either, allowing the player to choose whether to heed his more outlandish suggestions or to risk progressing without his aid. [embed]288757:57654:0[/embed] Episode 2 has the two protagonists separating and reuniting again and it still works great as a narrative device. Seeing the what from one perspective and then the why from the other gives extra insight to events, though Atlas Mugged lacks some of the punchier revelatory moments that Zer0 Sum had. There are still some secrets set up for later, like the function of the Gortys Project or the identity of the paddy hat-clad character. Fiona gets an upgrade to her single-shot pistol in this episode, allowing it to deal an elemental damage of her choice among incendiary, shock, and corrosive. Knowledge of the shooters in the series seems to help with knowing which element to use in which situation. Another kink thrown in is in addition to having limited ammunition, each element appears to be usable only once, so players may be locked out of one they want for the future. It's the kind of inter-episode mechanic that may or may not pay off intellectually until later. Neither of the established characters who made cameos in the first episode show up again here, but a few new ones do. Scooter and Athena are among those who make an appearance, and I hope for the narrative's sake that this isn't the last we see of them. Given her background with the Atlas corporation (see: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx) Athena plays a particularly interesting role that brings up questions I hope to see answered. From a gameplay perspective, this runs by the standard of modern Telltale titles. It includes the unique Borderlands hooks like Rhys's bionic eye and Fiona's management of money, but they are less emphasized than in the previous episode. Tales still feels like a Borderlands game, but slightly less so now than before. Though puzzles have basically been expunged from Telltale's modus operandi -- and I have come to terms with it -- there is one section where it still stings a little to think about. In it, Rhys has to restore power to an electronic system and it skirts the edge of requiring just a touch of critical thinking, but it ends up being a simple exploration exercise. The setup almost begged for some sort of puzzle; it was disappointing that the solution was so mundane. Past that, the main gameplay is exactly what we all expect from Telltale. Dialogue trees, quick-time events, and the occasional big choice to make. Keeping consistent with the first episode, the writing is sharp, the jokes are plentiful, the plot is intriguing, and the action is over-the-top. What it lacks is easily forgiven because what it contains is really good. Visually, Tales from the Borderlands is as great as ever. The bright colors and hard edges still work well with Telltale's engine, and they juxtapose against the dark comedic themes in a way that never seems to get old. I did experience a couple of minor graphical glitches, but 99% of it ran like a dream. In the end, Atlas Mugged is not quite as good as Zer0 Sum. It had me chuckling five minutes in, but there were fewer laugh-out-loud moments. It maintained high intensity in its action sequences, though none quite compared to the earlier death race. It used the unique Borderlands mechanics just a bit less. Its narrative lacked any jaw-dropping twists or powerful moments of clarity, but it still remained engaging throughout. Though it is slightly less than excellent, it is still great, and I can hardly wait to see where it goes next. Telltale, please don't make me wait so long before Episode 3. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Borderlands review photo
It's here Atlas
[Disclosure: Anthony Burch, who consulted on the story for Tales from the Borderlands, was previously employed at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] Tales ...

Review: Dragon Ball Xenoverse

Mar 14 // Patrick Hancock
Dragon Ball Xenoverse (PC, PS3 [reviewed], PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: DimpsPublisher: Bandai NamcoReleased: February 26, 2015MSRP: $49.99 (PC, PS3, X360), $59.99 (PS4, Xbox One) Most players could probably guess exactly what events of the Dragon Ball timeline that Xenoverse visits. Events surrounding Raditz, Frieza, Cell, and Buu are all present, with a few more thrown in for good measure. The twist here is that some jerk is going through the timeline and messing everything up by making the "bad guys" way more powerful than they should be. For example, when this mysterious time finagler makes Nappa much stronger, both Nappa and Vegeta become giant apes and attack Goku. These "What if" scenarios are usually great, but often very short. There will be a brief "what if" clip, then it cuts back to the original. That's where the player steps in with their created character. Players can choose from five races: Buu, Human, Saiyan, Namekian, and Frieza Race. Yes, it's actually called "Frieza Race." Each race has their own traits, like improved defense for Buus or the ability to go Super Saiyan for Saiyans. From there, players customize their character's look in a variety of different ways. My guy was a purple Namekian with a spiky mohawk head, for example.  Customizing a character is easily the biggest draw of Xenoverse. Tons of people have dreamed of adding themselves into the Dragon Ball universe (shoutout to all the "SSJ Franks" of the world) and this is that opportunity. The downside, however, is that players can not create a second custom fighter until the story is completed. So anyone who just wants to experiment with different options or has someone else on the same console who wants a go will have to delete the first character or complete the story mode first, which is a huge bummer. [embed]288589:57792:0[/embed] The player's created character is tasked by Future Trunks to go back into the timeline and correct all the wrongdoings to preserve the timeline. This often requires the player to team up with the beloved cast of Dragon Ball Z to take down the most notorious baddies. After the timeline is the way it is supposed to be, the character gets warped back out. Characters like Goku and Krillian do react to the presence of this unknown being, but never seem to remember them from one event to the next. Something along the lines of "hey it's that giant purple Namekian again here to save our butts" would have added consistency. The difficulty of the story mode battles range from pitifully easy to "ok this bullshit isn't even fair." Some battles are quick 1v1 battles, others are strings of fights back to back, and some are wave-based. For the longer battles, failing at any stage and selecting "Retry" will boot players all the way back to the beginning, including all of the opening mission cutscenes. There are times when failing a fight results in 7-15 minutes lost, only to then mash start and skip through about two loading screens and four cutscenes to get back to the beginning of a five-stage battle. There is nothing worse than having to re-do a series of fights after losing towards the end of the mission. The story missions fall into one of three categories: "tedious and boring," "completely bullshit," and "okay I guess."  Others task the player to protect their AI allies. These are interesting, since they force the player to be very aware of their surroundings, but the AI is completely unreliable. Sometimes they'll be awesome and create an incredibly awe-inspiring combo from the player's combo. Other times players will be fighting with Kid Gohan and Krillian and they are both useless and why are we fighting the same three enemies seven times? For context, there is a mission in the Frieza Saga that tasks the player to protect Kid Gohan and Krillian while beating 20 enemies. Said enemies are the same three henchmen repeated over and over again. It is is no way challenging, interesting, or worthwhile.  There are items to help curb the difficulty. Some items will regenerate health and stamina for the player, others will heal their allies. For certain missions, it is imperative that the player has these items with them. The game might be hinting that the player should be a higher level, but considering how ridiculous the difficulty swings are at times, it doesn't seem to be the case.  I would recommend to completely skip the Story Mode, but unfortunately players must complete it to create more than one character. The other modes, Versus and Parallel Quests are way better uses of time. Versus mode is both online and offline support, and the former has general player matches and ranked matchmaking. Most people seem to be playing player matches, however that generally leads to my character getting completely demolished by someone much higher level than me. When I search for ranked matchmaking players close to my level, I often get zero results.  The Parallel Quests are the game's strongest point. These consist of missions with various goals that players can cooperate together to complete. Some missions are simple fights, while others are to gather items like the Dragon Balls, while simultaneously keeping the bad guys at bay. These missions also have item drops which can be viewed before starting a mission. However, drops are random, so players may need to repeat quests to get the drop they want. This can be quite enjoyable since these missions are far superior to anything the story mode has to offer. After a mission, whether failed or succeeded, players will gain experience for their created character (even when playing as other characters in Parallel Quests). As the character levels up, they can allocate attribute points to different categories: Health, Ki Meter, Ki Specials, Melee Attacks, Melee Specials, and Stamina. This is great to add a strong sense of personalization to each player's created character, though it's hard to decide early on what exactly to spend points on since the players have no familiarity with how they may want to play. The fighting system itself is easy to understand, yet complex enough to yield a lot of freedom. The player has a health bar, a stamina bar, and a Ki bar. The stamina bar is used for blocking attacks and other defensive moves, while the Ki bar is used for Ki attacks. There are two melee attacks, light and strong, a Ki Blast button, and a defensive teleport that relocates the player behind the enemy at the cost of stamina. By holding down one of the triggers, players then gain access to four special moves (Galick Gun, for example). Another trigger brings up Ultimate moves, which cost more Ki than the basic special moves (Final Flash). While experimenting, players are sure to find links between melee attacks and special moves that jive well, which can really give a sense of accomplishment as players discover their own combos. Combos definitely have the Dragon Ball flash to them; launching an enemy, teleporting, and then launching them again always feel satisfying, especially since it is possible to perform a special move instead of the second or third launch for some extra pizzazz (and possibly damage). Depending on the environment, the camera can be a huge burden to the player. If backed up against a wall, it becomes near impossible to see what's happening and can easily lead to frustration. On PS3, however, the framerate of the game absolutely tanks if there are four or more people involved in the fight. The total number of combatants can go up to six, but becomes borderline unplayable, even offline. This makes the fights feel more like slideshows than the fast-paced ballet that Dragon Ball Z battles are known for. It got to the point where if I saw that it was a large-scale battle, I groaned knowing that the framerate would tank as soon as the action started.  The framerate also takes a huge dip in the game's hub world, which connects to every aspect of the game. There is no traditional menu system; everything goes through the hub world. Here's the process for starting an offline, 1v1 fight: Press start on the main menu, attempt to connect to the servers, then choose a created character. The game will then try to connect to the Xenoverse servers again. This tends to fail a lot and is never guaranteed. Load into the hub world, which is now populated with player-created NPCs like "SSJ_Shadow" and "Gloku," which make the framerate incredibly poor. Slowly meander over to the NPC robot that allows local fights, select the mode and characters, and then it can begin! The hub world is a nice idea that has its moments, but the lack of a conventional menu system, at least for the offline modes, is not a good design at all. The servers are incredibly spotty at the moment, but when they connect, the hub world is filled with actual players and their created characters. While there, players can do all sorts of pre-created chat messages and emotes. You can even do the fusion dance with other people! The framerate is poor, at least on PS3, but it's still a blast to see what other people have created and goof around. If players lose connection to the server, it will boot players back out to the main menu. The strange thing is, I've also had this happen to me when playing offline. It seems that if it tries to upload something to the leaderboards and can't, it still forces you to log out of the game only to re-login and walk back to where they were when they were disconnected. When the game is first booted up, the first thing players will hear is "CHA-LA, HEAD CHA-LA!" and so naturally the game's soundtrack is amazing. The background music for the menus and hub worlds is catchy, and the music during fights and cutscenes hits all the right notes. The art style likewise does an amazing job of looking like the cartoon while still being a polygonal videogame. Thick, bold lines and strong colors help to make each character, especially the player-created one, really look like a Dragon Ball Z character. The environments are a bit hit-or-miss, as some of them are pretty bland while others rekindle fond memories of the show.  Fans of the series will definitely find some enjoyment out of creating their own character and watching them fight and grow alongside Goku, Vegeta, and everyone's favorite, Gohan. However, Dragon Ball Xenoverse has some of the worst design decisions ever embedded into a videogame. There are no menus, the story mode's difficulty is all over the place, and the game's best aspect, creating characters, is locked behind hours and hours of frustrating play. It certainly has its moments and the core fighting mechanics are great, but the game falls flat in too many other areas to be standout title.
Xenoverse Review! photo
Is this the final form?
Dragon Ball Z games have been quite the rollercoaster over the past couple decades. The Budokai series often stands out among fans as some of the best entries into the crowded scene, thanks to its developer Dimps. Well, Dimps is back with Dragon Ball Xenoverse, so naturally fans are excited. A Dragon Ball fighting game developed by Dimps, what could go wrong?

Amplitude's multiplayer mode has been reworked for the better

Mar 13 // Darren Nakamura
At its core, the multiplayer mode plays the same as the single player. Different tracks are set up, each representing a piece of instrumentation used to build a song. Gems are arranged on the tracks, and it's up to the players to hit the right buttons with the beats to collect the gems. Standard rhythm game fare. In multiplayer, everybody is sharing the same set of tracks, but only one person can score from a given track at one time. Whichever player has been on a track the longest is at the front of the line; those behind have to switch to a different track to collect gems. One of the great things about Amplitude is that it encourages a sort of zen state, where the player is not only focusing on the track at hand, but also dedicating some almost subconscious processing power to the periphery. Not only does a high-level player watch the track currently being played, but also the next track to jump to. Additional players and another layer to this. Now it's necessary to keep tabs on other players, predicting their movements and reacting accordingly. [embed]288465:57583:0[/embed] There are other ways to interfere with opponents. While a track is usually first come, first served, certain powerups can tip the balance. One allows the player to jump to the front of a track, essentially stealing it from another player. In my play time at PAX East, I was able to hop in behind another player, deploy a series staple Autocatcher to delete his track and claim it for my own, then zip off before he realized what had happened. Classic. Harmonix's Annette Gonzales also described a cooperative mode, though I didn't get a chance to try it out. It came from experiences similar to my own with the older titles. When there is a significant skill gap between players, competitive modes aren't really fun for anybody. Like Rock Band, Amplitude can be a place where people come together to (re)create music, not just to see who can press buttons better. Amplitude is expected to release for PlayStation consoles this summer.
Amplitude at PAX East photo
Vying for position
I have some good memories of playing single player FreQuency years ago. However, the only memories I have of the multiplayer mode are of me playing against my friends in high school and crushing them, then going off...

The Last of Us actress 'wasn't prepared for the positive' response to Ellie's sexual orientation

Mar 13 // Laura Kate Dale
[Small spoilers below for The Last of Us.] When asked if she would be interested in reprising the role of Ellie in a future The Last of Us sequel, she replied simply with an energetic "Oh fuck yeah!" before apologizing to the amassed journalists for her use of language. When pushed on the issue and asked how she would go about portraying an older Ellie, she cautiously told us: It just depends if they want to revisit the story again. Ellie could go either way, [Joel] lied to her so you don't know how she would take that -- would she be mad at him, would she be okay with, there's many places you could go. Interestingly, we also learned that while Ashley Johnson has done on screen roles in huge projects like The Avengers, she is still recognized more often for her work voicing Ellie. I probably get recognized for The Last of Us more than anything, which is crazy because it isn't physically my face. Last of Us has changed my life in so many ways and we shot it for over three years so, and including the DLC I guess four, so being part of something for that long and the experiences you have, the relationships you form, I wouldn't change it for anything, it's one of my favorite things I've worked on. Considering Johnson was up against some pretty tough competition for this years Best Performance award including Kevin Spacey and Troy Baker, we asked her how she felt about her win and if there were any nominees she expected would win the award instead of her. I feel good, I mean I'm kind of a little overwhelmed I guess, shocked and um, yeah. Struggling to find my words. Everybody up for the award was awesome obviously, that's why they were all picked out. For me Troy Baker, and I'm not just saying that because I know him, but his character in Far Cry 4 was so ridiculous and amazing. Melissa Hutchison, I'm such a fan of those games, she's just incredible. Obviously Kevin Spacey, he's a pretty good actor. Those first two in particular though they both really stood out to me. Even though Ashley Johnson had just won a BAFTA for her performance as Ellie, we asked her if there were any aspects of her performance that she looks back on and cringes. There are definitely times playing through Left Behind where I wanted myself to get out of the way. Ellie would just get right in the way and I'd be like "just fucking move." She'd start whistling randomly and Clickers are right there and it's like "Okay they're right there can you please just shut up because now they're definitely going to hear us." Just as our time talking with Ashley was coming to a close, we decided to ask her a couple of ending questions about Left Behind being a coming out story for her character. Firstly, we wanted to know how she felt watching players learn that her character is gay. Usually when I try to tackle any role I know early on in the process what the sexual preference of that character is because that can be a huge part of who they are. With Ellie it was something that wasn't ever really discussed. I think with Ellie growing up in this world it wasn't something that was every really necessarily brought up. When we finally got to the DLC and Neil Druckmann told me what he wanted to do, I was like yeah of course, that completely makes sense for who Ellie is and why her relationship with Riley was so important to her. I was surprised by the way people reacted. We didn't know how people were going to respond and I think I was more prepared for the negative comments. What I wasn't as prepared for was the positive ones. I've had so many men and women come up to me and told me things sometimes they haven't even told their parents. It has profoundly changed my life. We finished up the interview by touching on the critical reception that Left Behind had. I wanted to know if Ashley Johnson thought Left Behind would have won the BAFTA for Best Story if Ellie had been in a heterosexual relationship rather than a homosexual one.  I don't know, I think for me it's just hard to answer because now that's who Ellie is and that is what it is. I know that Neil didn't want to make that decision based on trying to make a crazy statement of get any kind of controversy. It was just a character based decision and I think that relationship did have a big impact on people. I don't know, but I'm really going to think about it. I think they definitely took some risks with the story. I think if you told most people Left Behind was just the story of two teenage girls hanging out and figuring out their place in the world, I think a lot of people wouldn't be interested in playing that. I think after the full game came out and players had a chance to connect with Ellie, I think they wanted to know more about who she was. I sat down with Neil and he told me what the story would be and he just sort of said to me "I think Ellie is gay, this is her story. I think Riley was her first love and that's the story that I want to tell" and right then I was like "Yeah, I'm on board, let's do it." I think in general the story is focused on their love and that relationship and the importance of that which excited me a lot.
Ashley Johnson Interview photo
An interview spanning high and low brow material
Last night Destructoid attended the videogame BAFTAs in order to do some hard-hitting journalism. Speaking to Ashley Johnson following her BAFTA win for Best Performance for voicing Ellie in The Last of Us and its story DLC L...

Review: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

Mar 10 // Chris Carter
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number  (PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Vita)Developer: Dennaton GamesPublisher: Devolver DigitalReleased: March 10, 2015MSRP: $14.99 For those of you who didn't play the first game, Hotline basically functions as a top-down shooter with a completely open-ended style of play. Each map features a host of different enemy types and weapons, all of which can be used in an almost endless combination of ways. Your goal is to simple destroy an entire floor of foes, move on to the next part, and repeat the process until everyone is dead. It's that simple. After the very first broken-down door I was hooked again. Heck, even when I proceeded to die five times in rapid succession immediately, I had a blast. It's still amazing to me how many different ways you can approach a room, and no two methods between players are the same. That's due in part to a slight randomization for each spawn, where select enemies may not have the exact same weapons or may vary in their patrol routine -- but for the most part, the maps are technically laid out in the same manner, allowing you to divine a plan of sorts. Of course, plans almost never go off without a hitch, and you'll constantly have to reinvent the way you approach every level. While it may seem like going in guns blazing in a certain room is the quickest way to clear out the guys impervious to melee attacks, it's easy to miss a window right where you're standing that leaves you open to gunfire. It's variations like this that cause you to think twice before doing anything, and patience ultimately wins out in most circumstances. It's not just a shooter, it's a thinking man's game. There are still are some cases of poor AI though, where luck will win out above all else. While most enemies will come running if they hear gunfire, some are oblivious to muzzle shots two feet from their face. In very rare occasions, baddies glitched into doorways, rendering them invincible for a few seconds, only to re-materialize and take me out when I wasn't looking. It's maddening to die repeatedly, especially on tougher stages, but these instances are so few and far between that they didn't impede my overall enjoyment. [embed]288703:57643:0[/embed] One of the big draws of Hotline 2 is the addition of more masks, which function as playable characters. Powers like roll dodging can change the game up significantly. Another character can't use lethal weapons, and ejects bullets from guns Batman-style. A different style, one of my personal favorites, focuses on lethal punches, but cannot use weapons at all. "Alex and Ash," another standout mask, actually features two people at once in an Ice Climbers-like situation. If Alex dies both perish, but the duo wields a chainsaw and pistol, respectively, that are controlled with two different buttons. Without giving away the context, there's also a number of jungle scenes that really remind me of the old-school MSX and NES Metal Gear -- the character featured here can even switch between CQC at will. There's also a cool "heist-like" level featuring multiple perspectives and rapid character switching. Thankfully, Hotline 2 has plug-and-play controller support for those of you who prefer it -- it just worked. You can also fully customize your keyboard or gamepad controls. Musically, Hotline Miami is still at the top of its game, and Hotline 2 is easily one of my favorite gaming OSTs in recent memory. The hard-hitting electronica beats fit perfectly with the high-octane atmosphere, and artists such as M|O|O|N, El Huervo, Perturbator, and Magic Sword absolutely nail their compositions. From a narrative standpoint, Hotline 2 jumps around a lot more than its predecessor. There's no cohesive "Jacket" and "Helmet" tale this time around, as Dennaton is content on shifting the perspective to multiple gangs, a corrupt cop, a soldier, and a few other surprises. The entire affair is framed around a violent action movie, and once again the concept of what's real and what's not comes into play. There are a select few cutscenes of sexual nature, but the latter can be turned off, and everything is par for the course for the series in general. The story is often engrossing, but the content not surprising in games where you brutally murder hundreds of people to "win." When Hotline 2 is said and done, there's 25 levels to play with. And in case you're worried: no, the totally manageable stealth level that everyone hated for some reason does not return -- it's all action all the time. There's also a hard mode to tinker with if you're so inclined, which restarts your journey back to the first level and functions as a new playthrough. In addition to the inherent score-attack element built into the game, you'll also have the level editor to play with, exclusive to the PC version. It's shockingly easy to use, and right now, the interface reminds me of '90s first-person-shooter editors. Everything is an instant click away, from furniture to stairs to enemies, meaning pretty much anyone can craft stages without advanced programming knowledge. While I'm not super keen on creating my own puzzles, I'm anxious to see what the community comes up with. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is more of the same, but that's not a bad thing if that's all you want out of it. After beating the sequel I was immediately inspired to go back and play the original, which in turn inspired me to start playing Wrong Number again. Between the level editor and the iron-clad gameplay, I'll be enjoying this franchise for years to come. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Hotline 2 review photo
More of the old ultraviolence
For some, Hotline Miami was an existential look at the current macro-state of videogames. You were told to commit random acts of murder seemingly without remorse, and at the end, you get a bit of interesting commentary on the...

Review: Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Episode 3

Mar 10 // Chris Carter
Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 3 (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomReleased: March 10, 2015 (Episode 3)MSRP: Four episodes ($5.99 each), Season Pass ($24.99), boxed ($39.99) This time around Claire and Moira find themselves in a spooky ruined factory, which keeps the good creepy vibes of the past two episodes going. The area isn't as straightforward as most, offering up a few fun puzzles, including a classic Spencer Mansion spike ceiling, and a neat flashlight-centric section. It gives Moira more to do without forcing it, and is especially fun with two players. I particularly loved the slaughterhouse part of the episode, with waist-high pools of blood and plenty of creepy slasher-flick imagery -- same with the sewers. The stealth sections also feel warranted and not wasted. The pair is definitely the focal point this time around, as their story is roughly twice as long as Barry's portion. Claire's conclusion features a boss fight, which operates similarly to past Tyrant confrontations. All in all it's a great outing for the duo. Barry's bit doesn't last that long, but it's basically one big box puzzle after a short foray into the sewers. Natalia's sixth-sense powers still come into play in a big way, but with a lack of new enemies it isn't quite as exciting as the previous episodes where anything could happen. The box part as a whole isn't bad, per se, but it's reminiscent of the tedium that older games exhibited from time to time. Still, the combat holds up, and makes up for any dull moments. [embed]288386:57668:0[/embed] Plus, I'm definitely happy with how the big picture is coming along this far into release. At this point I've gone back to past episodes to earn more costumes and extras, trying to get the best rank possible to unlock even more while earning experience along the way. I've also been on a medallion hunt kick, and damn those things are hidden quite well. It's old-school gaming at its finest, and it feels more true to the series than a lot of other games have. Of course, Raid Mode is still the main draw for me, and the more I've played, the happier I've become. The systems are starting to show even more depth than before as I accumulate a larger weapon pool, and the modification system used for customizing weapons and making them your own is excellent. I've also stumbled across the Inherit mechanic, which allows you to pass on unique traits or abilities (like Wesker's evade cancel or Hunk's cloaking) to other characters. I have zero interest or need for DLC, which hasn't been necessary even this far down the line. Playing Very Hard mode with all of your skills in tow and the weapons you've crafted is simply amazing. If you were on the fence for Resident Evil: Revelations 2, you may as well wait a week and pick up the disc version. Stay tuned next week to find out how the final episode is and what my thoughts are on the complete package. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
RE Revelations 2 review photo
I hope you like sewers, kid
When I first approached Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I was fairly cautious. I had been burned many times by Resident Evil games in the past, but having played through Episode 1 and 2, most of my concerns were alleviated. At this point, I think I can heartily recommend Revelations 2 as a whole, even if Episode 3 drags momentarily.

Powers is a cheesy action romp, but I'll still watch it

Mar 09 // Chris Carter
Described as an "edgy, dramatic series" (I'm a sucker for drama, not so much for the edge if it has to be advertised), Powers focuses on two detectives that investigate crimes of a super-powered nature. The show is going for a Hancock-vibe, where those with powers may not have a propensity for being heroic and are a bit more nuanced. Or in some cases, downright criminal. On paper, Powers has a rather impressive cast. It's not front-loaded with Hollywood stars, but pretty much everyone involved has a long history in TV.  That said, lead actor Sharlto Copley is no stranger to the big screen -- just look no further than his meek role in District 9 as Wikus, or his domineering turn as Agent Kruger in Elysium. The supporting cast is also fairly impressive, boasting the always great Eddie Izzard as one of Copley's mysterious old associates, or Noah Taylor as chain-smoking teleporter Johnny Royalle. The production pedigree is also enticing, with comic writers Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming at the helm. Copley plays the role of Christian Walker, a superhero-turned-detective formerly known as "Diamond" who now works to bring down those with abilities who break the law. Much of the narrative is hinged on Walker's struggle to cope with having a normal life due to the loss of his powers, and with Copley's effortless charm, this gimmick mostly works. He has the beginnings of chemistry with partner Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward), but I'm far from sold on the longevity of their relationship. Walker kind of just accepts his new younger partner right off the bat, partially through pure apathy. There's no annoying "you don't understand, rookie" hurdle to cross, but there's also a strong lack of emotional attachment both on and off the screen.  Because of this though there's a distinct lack of a dynamic between them, and any and all conflict stems from Walker's own personal struggle. [embed]288658:57639:0[/embed] Powers may be super, but it does operate under the framework of a police procedural -- though it is thankfully shying away from "villain of the week" for now. Noah Taylor is interesting as chain-smoking teleporter Johnny Royalle, and Izzard's character is central to the overarching plot as well as Walker's hero's journey. As most avid TV-watchers know, dramas often have an underlying hook to keep viewers interested week to week, and the producers have attempted to do that with Calista, played by Olesya Rulin. As a "wannabe" who thinks she has latent powers, she's stuck between a rock and a hard place with Walker and Royalle, who try to bend her to each of their wills. Copley's character, ultimately, is my hook. Elsewhere in the show though the lore is worth exploring, like the origin of certain character's powers, and the possibility of learning how said powers are granted or "discovered" in the first place.With the source material running for so long, there's plenty of storylines to draw from. On a macro-level, Powers is also in part a commentary on the current era we live in, from millennial entitlement to the lack of privacy facilitated by the age of handheld technology. Walker notes that "back in his day" growing up with powers, his friends would go on patrol and strive to "be something." Driving through a youth gathering in the present day, he sees them partying and laments the new generation. It's all fairly trite and not particularly "new" given how other programs do it better. The only benefit is the occasional amusing "TMZ-esque" vignette from guest stars like Mario Lopez. While I'm not a fan of the phrase "edge," there is a fair bit of violence, swearing, and sex to elevate it above what would normally be considered acceptable on network TV -- so giving it a home on the PSN is a smart move. On a technical level the effects are practical, and never really border on the level of cheese that the soap-opera drama sometimes achieves. Royale's teleportation effect is clean and amusing (complete with a signature "pop" sound), and there's some impressive CG aerial work.  The balance of effects is spot-on as Powers is not keen to overdo it, but gives you enough of a spark to keep you interested. Each episode is roughly 45 minutes in length, and at that runtime it has a propensity to overstay its welcome if it ends up giving us filler -- though I think we're safe for now. Aging fans of Heroes will have plenty to enjoy with Powers, as they're already used to plenty of soap-storylines. While I wouldn't necessary run out to recommend it to the general public, I will be watching it week to week to see where Copley's character ends up. You can stream the first episode here on March 10, purchase it on the PlayStation Store as each episode debuts, or if you have PlayStation Plus, you'll get it for free as it airs.
Powers TV review photo
A review of the first three episodes
Powers, an upcoming TV show from Sony, has an interesting debut on the PlayStation Network on March 10 as the PSN's first real foray into original programming. Powers has been in the making since 2001 (one year after the comi...

Review: Helldivers

Mar 03 // Conrad Zimmerman
Helldivers (PS4 [reviewed], PS3, PS Vita)Developer: Arrowhead Game StudiosPublisher: Sony Computer Entertainment AmericaReleased: March 3, 2015MSRP: $19.99 Helldivers is a squad-based sci-fi shooter, presented from an overhead perspective. Players take the role of a Helldiver, a special forces soldier trained to drop onto enemy planets from orbit as the tip of humanity's conquering spear. Given command of a ship, Helldivers are directed to venture into star systems controlled by three alien races which threaten Super Earth's way of life, pressing forward in an effort to conquer alien homeworlds. While there's an absence of any real plot, the setting of Helldivers does enough to establish itself as a pointed satire of American exceptionalism, colonialism, and military pride. From propaganda messages promoting the idea that Super Earth is spreading "democracy" through the galaxy (by the totally legitimate means of conquest), to the flavor dialogue spoken by Helldivers in the midst of a firefight ("Have a nice cup of liber-tea!"), it presents a scenario in which it's made perfectly clear that there are no "good guys" in this war, only conquerors. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the sparse but effective setting material does just enough to allow the player to consider what they're engaging in without distracting from the action, while delivering wry chuckles here and there. [embed]288491:57587:0[/embed] Gameplay takes the form of planetary assaults, planned from the player's orbiting ship. Choosing between one of the three fronts of the galactic war, players are presented with a range of incrementally difficult worlds to attack, each with missions which must be completed to deliver it into the control of the Super Earth government. Missions consist of objectives which, while varying based on which race is being fought, boil down to defending control points, activating Super Earth technology already on the planet, escorting people and supplies, and destroying enemy installations. It's a decent variety, and missions tend to offer a mix of objectives across the maps, rarely weighing too heavily on any one type of activity once the player is taking on missions with three and four objectives to complete. Escort tasks will probably still be everyone's least favorite thing to do, whether it's leading a group of survivors or following a supply train, but there isn't a whole lot of punishment received for failing objectives on a mission, so long as you can get off the planet. Every mission ends with a last stand scenario where the team must hold out against oncoming enemies for an extraction shuttle to carry them safely away, and at least one Helldiver must extract for the mission to succeed. On the ground, Helldivers plays with an interesting balance of stealth and combat. Enemy patrols roam the map, looking for your squad. At worst, these are small packs of a few enemies that can be easily dispatched, but they're a tremendous threat to the mission. If a patrol spots the squad, they have to be killed immediately. Within seconds, patrol units can call in reinforcements to do real damage. And, while those troops are being dealt with, more patrols are moving in and calling their own squads of heavy hitters, snowballing into an massive conflict. Before long, the only options available become retreat or death. This system allows the game to produce two distinct, potent forms of tension for the player. Combat encounters are exhilarating, with enemies actively working to flank and surround, Helldivers firing madly into hordes. That's all good stuff. But the system of patrol units makes it equally tense to be out of combat, knowing that an encounter with the potential to escalate into an unsalvageable mess could happen at any moment. The three enemy races, Bugs, Illuminates, and Cyborgs, are all distinct entities. Illuminate patrols consist of lone scouting robots, while the Cyborgs have a pack of light troopers surrounding a sturdier commander and Bugs use units of four scouts, all able to call reinforcements. Cyborgs focus more on ranged weapons and Bugs take up a hard melee approach to combat. All of the races have their light, medium, and heavy enemy types, but that and a common enemy in humanity is about all they share. Helldivers can access many implements of destruction to help bring democracy to the galaxy. Players select a primary weapon before missions from a pretty standard selection of assault rifles, shotguns and submachine guns, though more exotic flamethrowers and laser cannons are options too. All of the weapons are fun to play with and there is no weapon with disadvantages that cannot be overcome by skillful use. In addition to guns, players complete their loadout with four "strategems," special abilities provided by the Helldiver's vessel in orbit. Strategems come in many shapes and sizes. Some drop in a pod with extra ammunition, powerful secondary weapons, or even vehicles. Others provide defensive countermeasures, like enemy lures and antipersonnel mines, while more offensive strategems lay down strafing fire or drop explosives. They're even used to heal and return fallen comrades to the battle. Coordinating with your squad in selecting them further enhances their power, as more squad members means more options. These powerful tools also come with some downsides. Deploying a strategem is a two-step process which begins by using a communication device to input an authorization code, achieved by correctly tapping out an onscreen sequence for the desired strategem with the directional pad. This puts a targeting beacon in the player's hand, which may be thrown into the field to indicate where the strategem should be deployed. Here's the hitch: If one wanted to get technical, one could say it's actually a three-step process, in that the first step is putting down the gun. If you're tapping away at codes, you are not shooting that horde of cyborgs bearing down on you, and you're certainly not going to be able to take out that patrol creeping up from behind. And then there's gravity. The Helldiver's requisitions arrive on the planet essentially the same way the Helldivers themselves did; they're dropped in from orbit. And while it seems obvious that you would avoid the immediate area around a beacon to which a phone booth sized hunk of metal is expected to plummet any second now, that little beacon can be overlooked when the bullets are flying (this is, of course, also a useful tactic for eliminating more troublesome enemies). It's especially risky when reviving squad members, as there's always doubt as to exactly where in the proximity of the beacon one to three people are going to suddenly crash on. Losing one Helldiver in the act of reviving another is a common occurence. There is a certain measure of glee to be taken from Helldivers' unsympathetic attitude toward its rules of engagement. Friendly fire isn't a possibility; it's a certainty, but it's one the game applies to all living things and can be exploited as a combat strategy. Defensive turrets are able to distinguish friend from foe, but they cannot distinguish between foe and friend standing in front of foe. They'll just cut down anything in the direction of a target, knocking a hapless Helldiver prone and struggling for life. Death happens so often and so quickly, it becomes a source of constant humor. You will eventually see someone crushed by an extraction shuttle as it lands and you will probably laugh. They will probably laugh too. Completing missions earns experience points toward increasing rank, with higher ranks gaining access to more powerful weaponry. Weapons and strategems can be upgraded by spending resource points, earned with each rank and by collecting samples scattered throughout mission areas. Finishing all of the missions on a planet provides its own reward, either a new strategem or bonus experience points. Missions also award influence, representing the player's contribution to the larger galactic war participated in by all players. Influence is earned by finishing all mission objectives successfully, escaping with the full squad intact, and keeping casualties to a minimum, with higher difficulties multiplying the amount of influence earned. These points are used to determine leaderboard rankings, but also to determine the course of the war. A single war will last four to six weeks, with the results affecting the difficulty of the war to follow. Each front is represented by a map with sectors separating Super Earth and the enemy homeworlds. Sectors become controlled by Super Earth when enough influence has been earned by all players, eventually extending all the way to the enemy homeworld. Reaching a homeworld triggers an event during which players have a limited amount of time to assault the source of an enemy race in the hope of conquering them completely, a feat which will require far more people than the small group playing in pre-release. The galactic war doesn't have a huge impact on the game, other than providing an excuse for event missions to occur. Yet, it does make you feel as though you're contributing to the accomplishment of a goal, and it's satisfying to see the rundown of which sectors have been taken and lost since the last time you played. It feels like something's happening around you, even if that something may just be statistics. Helldivers is best experienced as a multiplayer game, and joining an online session is about as quick and easy as starting a mission of your own. A couple of quick menu selections and you will, quite literally, drop in on another player's mission in progress. Local multiplayer is also an option and, in the absence of outside life, it's still enjoyable solo. Playing alone requires different strategies and offers less flexibility in strategem selection, which does make the already brutal higher difficulties seem even more insurmountable, but the satisfaction of single-handedly conquering a planet cannot be denied. Unrelenting and brutal, Helldivers delivers fast-paced combat, epic standoffs and a comical approach to death. Its enemies are varied, powerful and a constant threat to the players. While the full impact of the larger multiplayer experience remains to be seen, it still adds a nice little scratch to the progress itch. The strategem system provides great flexibility in squad building with many ways to build out team roles to maximize defensive and offensive capabilities. With procedural map generation and just enough mission and enemy variety to prevent a sense of repetition, the twelve levels of difficulty ought to keep players challenged for a good long time. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Helldivers review photo
In the grim darkness of the near future...
Mankind has expanded throughout the galaxy, having come together under one government, a "managed" democracy. From the Super Earth homeworld, humanity spreads its message of liberation and freedom to every planet they land upon; the liberation of their natural resources and freedom from human opposition, that is. And if you don't like it, expect them to spread a whole lot of ordinance instead.

Review: Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Episode 2

Mar 03 // Chris Carter
Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Episode 2 (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomReleased: March 3, 2015 (Episode 2)MSRP: Four episodes ($5.99 each), Season Pass ($24.99), boxed ($39.99) [For a better idea of what to expect in terms of mechanics, you can check out my initial review of Episode 1, which includes an overview of the base package.] The story picks off minutes from our last journey with Claire and Moira, braving the unknown island and coming to terms with their captor. I'm really liking the pacing in each episode, as you're given little nuggets here and there to help uncover the mystery. It helps keep you interested without giving away too much, and I'm especially enjoying the ties to the older games in the series. Towards the end, there's a big reveal that deals with a particularly popular character. Claire and Moira's starting area is one of my favorites yet, evoking more Resident Evil 4 memories, including a crazy chainsaw (drill) fiend. My favorite bit? A Michael Jackson "Thriller" house survival portion. Like I said, RE4. There's also lots of nooks and crannies to explore with items to help you on your journey. Item placements are frequent but never overdone, leading to a good compromise between the scarce-ammo old titles and arsenal-based new ones. Don't get it twisted, though -- this is a linear game at heart. Barry and Natalia once again steal the show, especially with a new type of monster that is completely invisible to Barry. It's really fun if you're playing co-op, as the second player will have to literally direct the first -- which can be tough even in split-screen. It leads to some tense and hilarious moments, and helps accentuate how Capcom nailed co-op in Revelations 2. Claire's tale has a few new enemies as well, including one boss fight that's a (delightful) pain in the ass on higher difficulties. [embed]288191:57768:0[/embed] As I've progressed through each episode and unlocked more of the experience tree, Revelations 2 has started to show its depth. I think the evade cancel maneuver is probably the biggest game-changer, as it allows you to cancel out of moves instantly, turning the experience into more of a technical action game. Again, the legacy controls are still there if you want them. Truly the best of both worlds. In terms of replay value, there's a lot here for a budget-priced game. The collectibles are very well hidden, and I've only found half of them with a decent amount of searching. It will easily take multiple playthroughs to find and complete everything, and I'm happy to do it. Oh, and the new Raid Mode stages (roughly 50 with each episode) are par for the course, which is a good thing. If you enjoyed the first episode, it's safe to say you'll get your money's worth in the second. So long as you can deal with some backtracking, Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Episode 2 has enough action to keep you interested throughout, in addition to a few unique concepts. But really, it's Raid Mode that keeps me coming back for more on a daily basis. The episodic presentation is odd, but at this part it's starting to feel like a complete game. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
RE Revelations 2 review photo
We're gonna need a bigger drill
I didn't expect to enjoy the first episode of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 as much as I did. It was nice to see Barry and Claire back in action, and the co-op elements were implemented in a neat asynchronous manner. Not ...

Review: Blackhole

Mar 02 // Conrad Zimmerman
Blackhole (PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One)Developer: FiolaSoft GamesPublisher: FiolaSoft GamesReleased: February 27, 2015MSRP: $14.99 Blackhole tells the story of the star ship Endura and its crew who, tasked with saving the Earth from impending doom, find themselves trapped inside a multi-dimensional entity. Only the ship's most menial laborer and its artificial intelligence, Aluria, can rescue the crew, repair the Endura, and finish the mission. As "the coffee guy," players will explore the entity's varied dimensions, collecting "selfburns" (nanobots capable of fixing the ship) while looking for critical ship components and missing crewmembers. The writing in Blackhole is surprisingly good, with an intriguing mystery behind the origins of Aluria and the true purpose of the Endura's mission slowly revealed as the player progresses. Peppered liberally with jokes riffing on pop culture and sci-fi tropes, conversations with the crew are fully voiced with solid performances throughout. Occasionally corny but never dull, it scores big on charm despite suffering a bit in presentation due to its stage-based progression. [embed]288460:57582:0[/embed] Each dimension in the game contains a central hub area with about ten stages to explore, each containing multiple selfburns to be collected and ending with levels in which a crewmember can be rescued and a missing ship part retrieved. And this is where the plot progression becomes a bit of a hassle, as finishing a level opens up a new dialogue with a crewmember (who is supposed to be locating the next part or crewmember), but the player is expected to travel back to the beginning of the hub area to speak with them and get an update on their progress. It isn't mandatory that you speak with crew members immediately, and the hub stages are designed to loop back to their origin point (so the player will get to them eventually if they just keep moving forward), but then those conversations just stack up and the player has to sit through them all right after the high of accomplishing a dimension's most challenging stage. It kills the pacing and has the potential to turn what should be a light break from the action into a chore to be endured. Blackhole offers puzzles and platforming through its central mechanic, gravity platforms. Touching a gravity platform rotates the world around the player, usually opening a new route through the same environment they just traversed. Every stage in the game features this mechanic as a central component, tucking selfburns into areas only accessible when approached from the proper stage orientation. Only one selfburn has to be collected from a stage to unlock the next (and there's usually one that's significantly easier to nab), which allows the player to progress past levels which present a struggle. Eventually, stages will have to be revisited to collect more selfburns, as each dimension has a minimum requirement before allowing progress to the next set of levels. The gravity platform mechanic puts a tremendous demand on level design, and Blackhole delivers brilliantly in this respect. Every stage brings a new challenge that feels fresh and each dimension is unique, with its own stage elements that utilize gravity platforms in new ways. These include pulley systems, climbable walls, trampolines, and more, all of which function in different ways based on the stage orientation. The variety is broad and each environmental object is explored thoroughly, as levels squeeze every bit of potential use for them through the course of the dimension. It's a thinker's game, but equally demanding of platform skills. Knowing how to reach a selfburn is one thing, while actually executing that plan can be quite another. Simply collecting the selfburns isn't enough either; the player must also exit the level from where they started it and death returns the coffee guy to the stage entrance to start all over again. Only the selfburns collected in the best run count toward the total, meaning that to actually earn all of them requires a perfect, single run through the stage in which all selfburns are picked up and the exit reached. It often means executing a variety of difficult maneuvers, one after another, and completely finishing a stage feels like a real accomplishment. Packed full of challenges in an endearing package, Blackhole is an excellent 2D platform adventure which succeeds in nearly every aspect of its design. It's polished, visually attractive, and doesn't skimp on variety or difficulty. While the story could be delivered in a more convenient fashion, its writing is of a quality rarely seen in action/puzzle titles, performed skillfully by its actors and accompanied by catchy stage music. In a time when there seems to be a sudden rush of 2D platform titles, Blackhole is a cut above the rest. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Blackhole review photo
In space, no one can hear you giggle
There certainly have been a lot of creative 2D platform games releasing over the last couple of months, enough that there seems to be some genuine competition in the genre. If you're finding yourself in a position where it has become difficult to choose, allow me to make it easier.  Get Blackhole. Problem solved.

Review: Aaru's Awakening

Feb 24 // Conrad Zimmerman
Aaru's Awakening (PC [Reviewed], PS3, PS4)Developer: Lumenox GamesPublisher: Lumenox GamesReleased: February 24, 2015MSRP: $14.99 Players control Aaru, tasked by his master to destroy the temples devoted to the world's other deities. His tale, told through a storybook narration, is one about the trappings of faith, subservience, and the necessity of questioning authority. The plot is unremarkable and straightforward, serving up enough to establish the world of Lumenox and the character of Aaru, but little else. The game presents a 2D platforming style of play with an emphasis on challenging level design. Aaru can run left or right, jump, and employ an air-dash in any direction, but what makes him truly special is his teleportation ability. This is performed by firing a ball of light into the environment, acting as a targeting beacon Aaru can instantly move to. Like the air-dash, this teleportation ball can be fired at any angle and can also be charged up to increase its velocity. The ball is also a physical object that will bounce off surfaces and be destroyed by nearly anything which would also injure or kill Aaru. These properties of the teleport ball open up vast possibilities that the game's environments take full advantage of. To be successful, players will have to learn to use the ball in a variety of ways, such as firing it through tiny corridors Aaru is too large to pass, using it to keep aloft over lengthy stretches of deadly spikes, even applying it as a weapon by teleporting into enemies. By the mid-point of the game, maneuvers which require precise application of all three of Aaru's abilities become commonplace with little room for error. [embed]287961:57479:0[/embed] Controlling Aaru works well enough with a gamepad, but the better choice for most players will probably be to use keyboard and mouse. From an accuracy standpoint, aiming air-dashes and the teleport ball seems a touch easier with a mouse than an analog stick. The default controller scheme also binds the jump command to up on the left stick which makes it easy to accidentally jump at the wrong time, but the necessity of the right stick to aim effectively prohibits use of face buttons, so there aren't a lot of options to work with. Players will want that level of precision in the controls, too, as Aaru is not a hardy warrior. Most of the world's surfaces are covered in spikes, thorns, or water, all of which will kill instantly. Hell, just about everything kills instantly, with the exception of some enemy projectiles and pockets of gas or flowing water that can be survived if further contact can be avoided during a brief healing period. Odds are, if it looks like it might kill you, it probably will, sending Aaru back to the last checkpoint reached in the stage. It's likely players will die in excess of fifty times on their first attempt to navigate later levels. Thankfully, the game is generally liberal with checkpoints, though there are a few sequences which seem almost unreasonable in length, chaining together one difficult maneuver after another without any break. If this proves to be too simple for players, an additional challenge can be found in attempting to clear stages within target times, rewarded with medals. This is totally optional and excruciatingly difficult to accomplish in most stages. There is satisfaction to be had from earning these medals, but some elements in many levels appear in a random fashion, which undermines the goal of achieving that flawless, fast run through repetition. Aaru's Awakening features nineteen standard stages and five boss encounters, which take the form of more environmental puzzles but with a non-linear twist. Each features glowing targets in a variety of colors which need to be teleported to. Clearing all the targets of a set will grant access to an adjoining room with a challenging sequence to complete, but each destroyed target also impacts the main room where the boss resides by provoking a special attack or adding more obstacles. The targets can be approached in any order, which gives some control over how difficult the main room becomes, but all will eventually have to be hit to clear the stage and defeat the boss. This approach to boss design is excellent in the context of the game's minimal combat mechanics. Much like standard stages, checkpoints are established often (with the clearing of every secondary room), cutting down on the frustration of having to retread old ground. Unfortunately, the targets have no distinguishing characteristics beyond their color. This can make it difficult to differentiate between them, which in turn makes it harder to establish an effective approach. It's especially a bummer when considering how much attention has been paid to other facets of the visuals in Aaru's Awakening. The world of Lumenox is conveyed through a pencil drawing style which gives it a detailed, somewhat grungy look. Animations are smooth, particularly in the case of Aaru, as plenty of frames have been dedicated to animating him to reflect the changing angle of the targeting arrow. Sound design hits and misses in equal measure. Ambient music tracks which play during stages set an appropriate mood and do a lot to enhance the experience, but sound effects are often a bit grating and there are instances where respawning after a death produces a sharp noise which borders on painful, especially when you're likely to hear it fifty times or more over a few minutes. A fine game which presents a grueling challenge, Aaru's Awakening is perfect for the player who thinks 2D platform games today just aren't difficult enough. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Aaru's Awakening photo
Darkness before the Dawn
Aaru's Awakening is an unrelenting challenge of a game, which places players in the world of Lumenox, a mystical land in a precarious state of balance between four deities who rule it, Dawn, Day, Dusk, and Night. Now that balance is being disrupted, as Dawn sends a faithful warrior, Aaru, to travel the domains of the other gods on a quest to remake the world. Dark and twisted lands await.

Very Quick Tips: Resident Evil: Revelations 2's Raid Mode

Feb 24 // Chris Carter
General tips: This isn't obvious, but Raid Mode is fully playable via split-screen. Instead of selecting it from the main menu just like the campaign, you'll have to press start in the main room, then select co-op. Online play will not be enabled until roughly the final episode launches. Don't be so hasty to exit the level. You'll want to clear every enemy first to get the "clear" medallion, so hang out before you go through each key gate to see if you missed anyone. At the end when the exit medal is at hand, make a last stand to clear out the remaining enemies, and punch it if you get into trouble -- at least you'll get a completion. To conserve ammo you'll want to get head or legshots and follow up with a powerful RT (R2) attack, then a possible ground attack. These do massive amounts of damage can can equal an entire clip of early handguns. Try your hardest to never use herbs by playing cautiously. You'll want to get that full clear medallion every time, which is only possible if you don't use herbs and kill every foe. Always identify items. The sell price 90% of the time exceeds the cost you put into it. Likewise, sell doubles of weapons that are inferior, with one exception -- if you happen to play lots of split-screen co-op, then you'll want to keep extras for your partner, as they share your weapon pool and can't use the same items as you. Don't waste your gold on buying weapons or attachments -- at least early on while you're in the first episode's selection. Instead, spend your money on replenishing your items and ammo at the store (the phone). Remember that the B (Circle) button dodges. If you're backing up while aiming, you can press back and B to duck backwards. Try to legitimately do the daily missions whenever you can. They give you a massive gold boost in case you get the itch to actually buy something.
RE Rev 2 Raid Mode tips photo
It's pretty deep this time around
I'm thoroughly impressed by Capcom's efforts with Resident Evil: Revelations 2's Raid Mode. It's much deeper compared to previous efforts, augmented by a sleeker interface and a seamlessly integrated mini-story. Because of that it may take a little bit longer to acclimate, so here are some tips.

Review: Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Episode 1

Feb 24 // Chris Carter
Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Episode 1 (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomReleased: February 24, 2015 (Episode 1)MSRP: Four episodes ($5.99 each), Season Pass ($24.99), boxed ($39.99) Revelations 2 is being presented in a peculiar way. Instead of using the traditional retail model, Capcom is opting to release the game episodically, with one chapter each week and a chunk of Raid Mode missions. You can buy individual episodes for $6 a piece, spring for the $25 Season Pass, or buy the disc-based version for $40, which comes with a few extras (though, eventually, said extras will be on sale via DLC). Weird distribution aside, Revelations 2 is worth paying money for at any level. The core story sees series regular Claire Redfield in the line of fire once again, this time paired with Barry Burton's daughter, Moira. After an ambush at a benefit involving their employer, the pair are whisked away to a dungeon-like setting with no real memory of how they got there, or where they are. Around their wrists are bracelets that change color based on a person's fear level, which are seemingly part of some human-testing initiative. It's here you'll encounter the newly minted Afflicted, the main enemy of Revelations 2. Like past games they're similar to the more flighty undead seen from Resident Evil 5 on, but there are plenty of slow-moving zombies of old and unique denizens to outwit. Claire and Moira will move and operate as a team which, yes, means that co-op or forced AI partnership is in. Don't worry though, because Capcom has made some compromises to how the system works. Instead of two powerhouses running around with a mini-arsenal blowing up zombies at will, Claire is the brawn, and Moira functions as a support class of sorts. While Claire wields the knife and pistol combo early on into the story, Moira can blind enemies with her flashlight and beat zombies down with a crowbar. This system is framed in such a way that Moira "hates guns" due to an incident in her past, and for the most part works. AI is competent enough where it doesn't constantly screw you, and isn't so powerful that it cuts the tension. Plus, you can change between characters if you want. [embed]287982:57454:0[/embed] Local co-op is where it's at, especially if you have a dynamic where the first player taking the mantle is a Resident Evil veteran, and the second is a newcomer to the series. Moira can shine her light to highlight certain areas, which is great for co-op play, as well as locate and identify extra items for Claire. Moira also isn't a pushover, as her blinding power and crowbar are fun to use and work well in tandem with another player. The other pair is Barry and Natalia, who serve as the second act of the first episode, taking place at an undetermined time after the first duo's adventure. While Barry is just as badass as he was in his STARS days, Natalia is a little girl who can't directly attack enemies unless she finds a brick in the environment. There is a catch that makes her a bit more interesting than Moira -- she can "sense" enemies and traps through walls (represented with a mist of sorts) -- and point at locations or weakpoints to make them visible on Barry's screen. It sounds like a passive mechanic, but it's really fun to see it in action as it can get fairly tactical. In one area a small army of enemies piled through a barrier, and my co-op partner quickly identified each enemy to assist in my attack while I made sure to protect her from harm. It's a unique way of doing things as long as the second player is ok with the role. Control-wise, Revelations 2 also uses the "new" action style of play, which allows for full movement control and dodging. If you're feeling a little nostalgic you can opt for a handful of other control schemes, including one that mirrors Resident Evil 4 -- nice touch, Capcom. To top it all off there's an experience system kept up between episodes, which lets you customize your skill set slightly by way of a skill tree. In terms of the story, while the dialog is just as "B-movie" as the rest of the franchise (Moira's swear-heavy millennial dialog is groan worthy), the Saw-like premise is interesting enough to keep you entertained throughout. The identity of your captor is always on your mind, as is the function of Claire and Moira's bracelets, and the origin of Natalia's powers. It's a shame that Alyson Court wasn't asked to return to voice Claire. Whether it's the brevity of each episode or other details like Court's absence, you can't shake the feeling at times that it doesn't quite feel like a full game. Having said that, I appreciate other improvements like the attempt to tie in Revelations 2 with the rest of the series (but not so much so that newcomers will be lost), which the original Revelations didn't really do. There is retreading involved between the two stories, but it's minimal and mostly justified. Of course, there's a cliffhanger to keep you on edge for the next episode. One of my favorite bits is the setting, which should make classic fans happy. Although the Queen Zenobia from the first game was a cool enough area with its endless supply of dark hallways, I wasn't digging the snowy tundras or the swanky office buildings later in the story. The atmosphere in Revelations 2 is well done, from the creepy bloody dungeons to the dark forests that dot the island. The eerie outdoor scenes really remind of Resident Evil 4, which is a good thing. Raid Mode returns, but it's completely new, and dare I say, superior to any past incarnation. This time around there's a cool new setup similar to BioShock 2's multiplayer, with a miniature story integrated into the experience. As part of the Red Queen Alpha simulator, you'll slowly unlock more audio bits as time goes on, giving you some background as to why you're doing what you do. For the uninitiated, Raid Mode is basically a modified version of Mercenaries. Instead of taking on a giant endless playground of foes for a top score, you'll engage in mission-based combat with various parameters as you acquire new weapons, gear, abilities, and characters. If you're a fan of Mercs, Revelations 2 may have the most fully-fledged mode yet, even if you're just picking up the first episode. Missions range from locations that appear in the current game to past entries (mostly RE6 in Episode 1), and task you with killing enemies, protecting objectives, or making it through a miniature campaign mission alive. Some levels are structured as actual stages with a start and end point, some are playgrounds to slaughter enemies until the exit appears. Since the rewards come fast and often, it's addicting to just play "one more stage" to try and reap the rewards and experience, unlocking completely new tactics and powers. Abilities range from active to passive, such as Molotov cocktails and the power to heal yourself more often. Your primary objective beyond leveling is to get "Medallions" -- the maximum of which are awarded if you don't use healing items and kill every enemy in the mission. While you can shamble through some of the earlier levels, you'll need to gather some Medallions eventually to unlock the later stages, or the Hard and Very Hard modes -- where Merc veterans will thrive. To say I was surprised by the new Raid Mode is an understatement, as I would pay full price just to play it. Plus, you can make Barry do the robot or dance like he's in a hip hop video. GOTY? There are 54 Raid Mode missions in the first pack, and over 200 when all is said and done with the final episode. There are secret characters to unlock for Raid, costumes, and the campaign features extra time attack and invisible enemy modes. There are 89 unlockables in all, which is hefty considering the price. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 feels like a budgeted release at times visually, but given the interesting environments and insanely detailed Raid Mode, that's okay. Either mode is worth the $6 entry fee alone, and I will be playing this for weeks to come both alone and with a partner. Expect reviews for subsequent episodes each week. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
RE Revelations 2 review photo
Barry is back, baby
Resident Evil is in a weird place. After the middling Resident Evil 6 and the public flogging of Operation Raccoon City, I'm sure Capcom got the message that it needed to go back to basics. It did just that with Revelati...

Review: Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late

Feb 20 // Kyle MacGregor
Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late (PS3)Developer: French Bread, Arc System WorksPublisher: Aksys GamesReleased: February 24, 2015 (NA) February 27, 2015 (EU)MSRP: $39.99  Under Night In-Birth has a story, but it certainly isn't much of a draw. Arc System Works may have helped French Bread bring Under Night In-Birth to consoles, but don't go in expecting a tale on the same level as other titles in Arc's prolific catalog. A paranormal phenomenon called the Hollow Night is happening and demons are spilling from the rift. So, naturally, it's fighting time. And that's really why we're all here, isn't it? Thankfully, the combat at play is just fantastic, as French Bread has carved out a niche for itself between the breakneck air-dashers and slower, more grounded titles like Street Fighter. It's fast, but, with precious little in the way of aerial defense, you'll probably want to keep planted on terra firma most of the time. Space control is a critical element of Under Night In-Birth, as nearly every character on the roster has some sort of long-range attack to jab at opponents and keep them at bay. This creates a fascinating dichotomy at the heart of the experience, giving players the tools to zone adversaries and bait them into vulnerable positions while also heavily encouraging aggressive play. Notice that bar at the bottom of the screen between the special gauges? That's the "GRD." It's a baffling thing, really. In the center of the meter there's a ring that makes a rotation every 17 seconds. At the end of each cycle one player is awarded "Vorpal" status, granting the winner a damage bonus and the ability to "Chain Shift," which can be used to perform special combos and momentarily pause the fight. It certainly adds a layer of strategy to the game. One gains GRD by landing attacks, blocking them successfully, and rushing forward. It can also be charged manually, though it's risky. This doubles as way to deplete the opponent's reserves. GRD is lost by moving away from the enemy, backdashing, or having one's attacks blocked. GRD essentially punishes those clinging to predictable strategies and attack patterns, thereby incentivizing intelligent play and giving rise to all sorts of mindgames. Matches often feel like a tug-of-war, where the timing of an assault or execution of a block or pushback could be the tipping point in battle. That said, a Vorpal bonus is a fleeting advantage, not a surefire path to victory. [embed]287677:57430:0[/embed] Melty Blood fans will be glad to see Sion make an appearance as a guest character in Under Night In-Birth, though she's now named Eltnum. Her dialogue is brilliant too, as she frequently references the fact she shouldn't be in this universe, breaking the fourth wall and even giving the Type-Moon franchise a plug here and there. French Bread also pays homage to its doujin roots with another guest, the title character from Subtle Style's 2D fighter Akatsuki Blitzkampf. All the game modes you'd expect (arcade, training, versus, time attack, survival, and score attack) make an appearance here, though the overall presentation is somewhat spartan. That's not a knock on Under Night In-Birth's visuals, mind you. The art and animation here is just stellar, even if some of the character designs and background environments look pretty run-of-the-mill. Arc System Works did a great job with the network mode, which works seamlessly across all regions. I was able to take on a number of players from Japan (as well as westerners who decided to go ahead and import the game) without experiencing any lag or disconnects. I do have concerns about the title's longevity, though. It's a niche game, one currently lacking a vibrant community. While finding a match wasn't a tremendous challenge, I never noticed more than a dozen or so players in the unranked lobbies at any given time. Hopefully the impending localization can inject some new blood and give the online mode a good kick in the pants. That's really my one concern, how much appeal an obscure fighter on a sunsetting system will have. It's an apprehension not levied at Under Night In-Birth itself but the circumstances surrounding it. French Bread has crafted an intelligent, tactical fighting game that I'll surely be playing for a long time to come. I certainly hope you'll join me.  [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
UNIEL reviewed photo
It's a total knockout!
The competition is fierce, and I'm not just talking about the folks delivering beat downs online. With so many fighting games on the market nowadays, fans of the genre are spoiled for choice. Studios are vying for mindshare, ...

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is more than just a remaster

Feb 05 // Alessandro Fillari
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin (PC, PS3, PS4 [previewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: From SoftwarePublisher: Bandai Namco GamesRelease date: April 7, 2015MSRP: $59.99 "It's about the rediscovery of the Dark Souls II experience, from the director's perspective," said Yoshimura during his presentation on Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. "That was something that the team at From Software in Japan really wanted players to experience." The developers and publisher Bandai Namco have kept many details close to the vest, in part due to the studio working on another Souls-esque experience with Bloodborne, and wanting to keep fans in suspense. It's easy to think of this as nothing more than a remastered game-of-the-year edition, which is totally fair, but From Software wanted to set the record straight. In the cursed kingdom of Drangelic, you play as an afflicted traveler looking to find a cure to end their suffering. With the kingdom filled with monsters and other nefarious foes, you'll discover that the curse, and those crazy enough to remain in the defiled lands, are all linked in the fate of Drangelic. Granted, you know this if you played the original Dark Souls II. You might even be comfortable with what lurks in the cursed lands. But what if I were to tell you that things are a bit different with the coming of Scholar of the First Sin? With this release, From Software wanted to spice things up by adding characters as well as overhauling and retweaking gameplay. "If you played Dark Souls II on Xbox 360 or PS3 all the way through, then you would think of this game, Scholar of the First Sin, as roughly the same game with all of the DLCs," said marketing director Brian Hong. "But what we're really trying to get across with players is that with [current-generation systems], we have a completely different experience for Dark Souls II." A common criticism of the original release last year was that it was much easier than its predecessor. While there is an argument for that case, even though it was still an immensely challenging game, the folks at From Software want to address those concerns head-on. Scholar of the First Sin is to Dark Souls II what Master Quest is to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It's not only for newcomers looking to see what the Souls experience is all about, it's also for those who may think they've mastered Dark Souls II. In my brief time with the game, it was apparent the game wanted me to feel very uncomfortable with what lied behind the corner even though I've already cleared the previous title. But of course, the feeling of discomfort is a normal part of the series' experience. One of Scholar of the First Sin's most apparent changes is that enemy and monster placements have been reworked. Foes you encountered at certain points in DSII will appear much earlier, and in greater numbers. During my session in the Forest of Fallen Giants, Ogres were wandering throughout, and Hollow Infantry are in larger groups. Surprisingly, the Heide Knights were nowhere to be seen, as they've been moved to other locations. With the increased number of foes, and different placement of them, I found myself having to effectively relearn aspects of areas I was quite familiar with. What's even more surprising was that the A.I. was not only improved, but the enemies of Dark Souls II had also lost their fear of Bonfire spots. They will have no qualms about chasing players down to their safe havens. To put it simply, you're more vulnerable in Scholar of the First Sin than in the original, which means you'll be using your hoards of lifegems far more often. As any fan of the Souls series will tell, mastering your environment and knowing the limits of your enemies is everything. So it was especially interesting to see that Scholar of the First Sin pulls the rug from under the players. From Software has especially had fun in placing monsters in areas that were not present in the original game. For instance, elevators that lead to bosses or shortcuts now house enemies that lay in wait for the player. With the technology that the current-gen has brought, the developers were very keen on getting the title out on the new hardware. With the increased horsepower, From Software was able to bring a visual boost to the Souls experience. In addition to the title running at 60 frames per second and at 1080p, the texture quality and lighting are improved to give the atmosphere an extra kick. Moreover, online multiplayer has also seen a boost with a maximum of six players during engagements. Much like another upcoming remaster, the developers were also inspired by much of what PC modders were able to accomplish, and wanted to offer the same level of content boosts (like textures and lighting) to the console releases. "Thanks to those players online, we were surprised by what they came up with," said Yoshimura. "Just one week after the release of [Dark Souls II], we saw all these mods being released, and the team at From Software were surprised and like 'This mod is awesome!'" Surprisingly, the producer was candid about the state of parity between each version. As there was some controversy over the differences in the original game to the one that was ultimately released, Bandai Namco was very adamant about what's in Scholar of the First Sin. "All [current-gen] versions will run at 1080p and 60 frames per second, including the Xbox One. So it is not 900p blah-blah-blah, it's 1080p and 60 FPS for all three platforms. Though some people said that it is worse to play the game on PC without DirectX 11, and the answer is yes. I'm really confident about clarifying this, because the improved lighting and shadows, clothing effects, and etc. -- this is only available on DirectX 11 technology, and not on DirectX 9." If you have the PS3, Xbox 360, or PC (DX9) versions of Scholar of the First Sin, then you might find yourself surprised to see that nothing has been altered visually or tech-wise, though you'll definitely experience the gameplay enhancements and new content. I dug what I played of the PlayStation 4 version. Though I was a little disappointed that no new areas were implemented, it's exciting to see that the developers sought to redefine what Dark Souls II was. The graphical boosts are very apparent -- quite stunning in person, even -- and the smooth 60 FPS combat is immediately noticeable. Though it's a bit disappointing that only those with new hardware will be able to experience it (without mods, of course). It's an interesting experience to re-learn Dark Souls II. Coming off of its predecessor, it seemed to have gotten flack for not quite living up to that standard while wanting to try something different. But with Scholar of the First Sin, which the folks at From Software consider the definitive edition, it feels like the game has gotten a much-needed invigoration -- especially with Bloodborne coming out the month before. It's not often you get to experience a game like this for the first time all over again, and that's something fans should love.
Dark Souls II photo
Prepare to die harder
I'll be the first to say it: it's going to be the year of Souls. With the release of Bloodborne only a month away, which looks to redefine the experience along with its wonderful change of setting, From Software has been...

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Lost Lords

Feb 03 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: The Lost Lords (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: February 3, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (episode), $29.99 (season)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] That is to say, one of my versions of House Forrester is doomed. For Iron From Ice and now The Lost Lords, I have run through with two separate save files. I do not recommend doing this for a couple of reasons. For one, playing through more than once lifts up the curtain on which choices actually make any sort of difference in the story and which ones lead to the same place regardless. Most choices do not have any immediate impact; only a select few shape the narrative into something unique to an individual player. This is standard Telltale modus operandi at this point, so it should not surprise most who have been following the developer for the past few years. For two, it shows how utterly inept I would be in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe. For my initial playthrough, I live in the moment and make the decisions that feel right. Sometimes I mouth off, sometimes I am defiant, but often I keep cool and try to maintain allies. My second save is labeled "Jerks" and in it I play House Forrester as a group of inconsiderate, self-serving assholes. For my first save, I find myself sparing lives when I should kill, making promises I should never keep, and helping others before helping myself. For my second save, I do the opposite. By most measures, the Jerk Forresters are in much better shape than the True Forresters. [embed]286540:56983:0[/embed] Where Iron From Ice set the stage for the series, The Lost Lords begins to put everything into motion. The Stark-esque scattering of the members of House Forrester is deliberate, planned to coincide with major events from the novels. Mira continues to serve Lady Margaery in King's Landing just prior to King Joffrey's wedding. Gared has completed his journey to The Wall to begin training before Mance Rayder launches his assault. Newcomer Asher is traveling between Yunkai and Meereen just as Daenerys is campaigning to liberate the slaves in Essos. Of course, plenty of focus is given to Ironrath, the seat of House Forrester, in the aftermath of Episode One. In a way, it works against The Lost Lords to be set precisely when it is. The build-up will likely be worth it once everything is in place and it all starts to hit the fan, but in the moment it feels like a lot of waiting. Consequences for some of the major choices from the last episode show up here. If Mira asked Margaery for help last episode, then Margaery will be unwilling to provide any assistance now. Ethan's choice of Sentinel in Iron From Ice affects how the Whitehill soldiers are treated in The Lost Lords. The former consequence seems like a major one; an entire avenue of intrigue involving the Queen of Thorns may be locked away in the future. The latter does not appear as important; Lord Whitehill is ornery and spiteful regardless. Thus far, Mira had only been exposed to the diplomacy, secrecy, and espionage of King's Landing. In The Lost Lords, she gets her first taste of the more overt awfulness of Westeros. Her story is still the most subdued of the playable characters. Her audience with Queen Cersei in the first episode was chilling and tense, but there are no comparable scenes in this episode. Gared still holds the cryptic information given to him by Gregor in the beginning of Iron From Ice, and he hopes to become a ranger in the Night's Watch in order to investigate that further. It only comes up optionally, but it seems like he will be the center of that subplot in addition to being present during the huge battle at The Wall. Asher was teased in the first episode as the hothead exile brother, and his scenes show as the most action-oriented. He is apt to fight his way out of trouble, but he does have a sharp wit when he needs it. His story about returning to Westeros from Essos to help save his house has potential to be interesting, but it is only starting out. The oil paint aesthetic remains constant, with both its pleasing 2D backgrounds and distractingly fuzzy 3D objects. I did experience a few typical Telltale glitches, like teleporting character models, but nothing gamebreaking. Overall, The Lost Lords is a fine episode for Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series, but it does not stand out. It is not exactly filler, but it does feel like it exists almost entirely as exposition, putting the pieces into place for all of the really exciting stuff to happen in a future episode. It does begin to demonstrate the far-reaching consequences of each character's choices, but it lacks the truly memorable scenes found in the first episode. If Iron From Ice felt like a punch to the gut, The Lost Lords is the throbbing pain afterward. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Game of Thrones review photo
Feeling the Ironrath
I would not last a day in Westeros. My best hope would be to spend some time in Oldtown to train as a maester, and even though it would help to protect me from personally going to war, I would probably be too close to the pol...

Life is Strange: Episode One Achievement guide

Jan 29 // Brett Makedonski
Chrysalis: Finish Episode 1: Chrysalis This is the only Achievement that's earned through story progression. Just finish the first episode. It shouldn't give you any trouble at all. Macro Eyes: Find optional photo #1 in Episode 1: Chrysalis After Max gets up from her desk in the classroom, "Rachel Amber <3 4 Ever" is scrawled into the desk in front of her. Just take a picture of it.   Wide Angles: Find optional photo #2 in Episode 1: Chrysalis After some plot developments take place, Max will be forced to go to Blackwell Academy's outside courtyard. Directly in front of her is a statue in the center of a fountain. Walk around so you can see its face and snap a photo. Telephotogenic: Find optional photo #3 in Episode 1: Chrysalis This is the first photo that takes a bit of trial and error. In the courtyard, there will be a group of skaters. Talk to Justin. After he calls you a "poser," rewind time and tell him that you came here to noseslide. When he asks what trick you want to see, select a tre flip. Trevor attempts it and, well, things don't go great. Take a picture of him in agony. Then, maybe rewind time because that looks like it hurt. Close-Ups: Find optional photo #4 in Episode 1: Chrysalis Outside of the dormitories, there will be some football players playing catch. Next to them is Kate sitting on a bench. Across from Kate is a tree that's hiding a cute little squirrel with a can. Grab a picture to snag the Achievement. Red Eye: Find optional photo #5 in Episode 1: Chrysalis In Max's dorm room, there's a mirror on the wall next to her door. Just take a selfie for this Achievement. Focused: Find optional photo #6 in Episode 1: Chrysalis When going through Victoria's room, notice the collage of photos next to the door. Select to mess them up, and Max arranges them into an...umm..."creative" design. Snap a photo of Victoria's new decor. Zoomed In: Find optional photo #7 in Episode 1: Chrysalis After leaving the dorms, one of the jocks will spike a football and hit Alyssa in the head. Rewind time and warn her to move out of the way. The football will bounce past her and break a window. Take a picture of the damage. Focal Pointed: Find optional photo #8 in Episode 1: Chrysalis There's a giant, filthy RV in the school's parking lot. Go up to it and write "Clean me" in the dirt on the window. Snap a picture of your harmless graffiti for an Achievement. Maximum Aperture: Find optional photo #9 in Episode 1: Chrysalis This is the most nuanced of episode one's Achievements (and even it isn't too bad). Inside Chloe's house, wander into her parents' room when you're on the hunt for tools. A bird will smack into a window and injure itself. Rewind time to open the window. If you did it right, the bird will fly into the room and land on top of the large wardrobe opposite the bed. Then, when you and Chloe are in the woods walking toward the lighthouse, that same bird will be perched on top of a rock. Take a picture and bask in the warm fuzzies knowing that you probably saved that little guy's life. Light Leak: Find optional photo #10 in Episode 1: Chrysalis Right next to the lighthouse, Chloe takes a seat on a bench overlooking the bay. Simply take a picture of her from behind. Visionary: Find all optional photos in Episode 1: Chyrsalis This unlocks as soon as you find the tenth optional photo. Two Achievements for the price of one!
Life is Strange guide photo
Point camera, earn Gamerscore
It's always great when a game's Achievements exploit the mechanic or feature that the title does best. That's what Life is Strange's set does -- at least for the first episode. Almost everything in episode one can be unlocked...

Review: Life is Strange: Chrysalis

Jan 29 // Brett Makedonski
Life is Strange: Chrysalis (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One[reviewed])Developer: Dontnod EntertainmentPublisher: Square EnixRelease date: January 30, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) Life is Strange's first episode, Chyrsalis, is aptly named and hints at Max's transformation that the audience can presumably expect to see over five installments. She's in a transitory state -- not still a youngling, not yet a full-fledged butterfly. Instead, she's wrapped up hoping to simply survive. A hard shell is necessary because most everyone in Max's hometown of Arcadia Bay, Oregon is ruthlessly hostile. Blackwell Academy, the private school she's enrolled at (and where the bulk of episode one takes place), is filled with the clique-iest of cliques, all of them an over-the-top depiction of mainstream stereotypes. The jocks are brainless bros filled with piss and vinegar. The popular girls are mean as can possibly be. The artistic kids speak in try-hard, exaggerated prose. In almost all circumstances, secondary characters eschew any semblance of subtlety or nuance. Because Max doesn't really fit into any of these archetypes, she's excluded by almost everybody. There's an early scene where she pops in her earbuds just to walk down the hall. It feels less like an opportunity to listen to music, and more like a necessary suit of armor to protect her from incoming immature insults. There's even an anti-bullying poster along the way that she responds to by thinking "This must stop bullies dead in their tracks." [embed]285097:56689:0[/embed] That poster's actually indicative of Life is Strange's strongest characteristic: exploration. Every setting is littered with objects to interact with, should anyone want yet another tiny glimpse into the brain of Max or the culture of Arcadia Bay. There's so much to discover, but most of it's in the finer details. Occasionally those items will offer assistance in a later situation, but most of the time they're there to be the filler that gives the world depth. Always looking, after all. It's nigh-impossible to not be enamored by the hand-drawn world that Dontnod created. It has a wonderfully flawed look about it, maybe one that suitably reflects Max as a central character. The animations are similarly imperfect, with the mouth movements being the most detracting culprit. The dialogue and voice acting are a wild card, though. When they're good, they're really good; but, when they're off, they're noticeably bad. However, everything is generally charming enough to look past all that. As Life is Strange is all about exploration (self- and worldly), the gameplay has a twist that aligns nicely with that core tenet of discovery. Max learns early on that she's recently acquired the ability to rewind time. The reasoning behind this supernatural power isn't explained in episode one, but nevertheless, it allows for as much poking around as anyone could possibly want. The obvious draw to the rewind mechanic is to forge gameplay through puzzles. The earliest of these sections required Max to reverse a few seconds in order to keep her camera from breaking. Then, when she didn't know the answer to a teacher's question, she rewound after he reprimanded her in order to achieve desirable results. These are basic examples, but the first installment didn't delve into anything much beyond the most rudimentary of brain-teasers. But, the more intriguing prospect to time manipulation is to further explore. Branching dialogue options can all be chosen to see the immediate aftermath. If the effect is negative, rewind and try again. It also offers the ability to snoop without anyone knowing. For instance, a later area gave the option to look at some files, but grabbing them from a high spot would result in them spilling everywhere. Looking and then reversing until they're back at their resting place leaves Max with the information and no one else any wiser. However, all those choices that have to eventually be made might have far-reaching consequences. It's too early to tell, really. After one-fifth of Life is Strange, it feels like a love letter of sorts to Donnie Darko and, to a lesser extent, The Butterfly Effect. That's not to say it's derivative, though. It may draw inspiration, but Dontnod has crafted its own world worth trekking through. The plot that serves as the undertone to the introduction to the Max Caulfield Show is that of a missing classmate. There are fliers everywhere serving as notice of her disappearance, but strangely enough, so few people give a damn. One person who does is Chloe, Max's former best friend, who has wholly adopted the punk-rock lifestyle since Max last saw her. Once the two are reunited, it's obvious that rebellion is on the horizon. Presumably, future entries will center around finding Chloe's friend while the two learn a bit about who they are. For now, we're left with our first glimpse at Arcadia Bay, our initial look into the life of Max. It was a slow, yet well-paced initial chapter that set the table more than anything else. There's no telling where the story will go from here. But, as Chrysalis faded out, an indie song played that felt wonderfully at home in this setting, and served as a warning of things to come. It chanted "We will foresee obstacles, through the blizzard, through the blizzard." [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Life is Strange review photo
Always looking
"If I'm not looking through a viewfinder, I'm looking through a window. Always looking." Max Caulfield, the introspective protagonist of Life is Strange, spends her life searching, observing. Actually, it might be more akin t...

Review: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: Havoc

Jan 29 // Chris Carter
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: Havoc DLC (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Sledgehammer Games (Current-gen) / High Moon Studios (Last-gen)Publisher: ActivisionReleased: January 27, 2015MSRP: $14.99 ($50 Season Pass for four packs) First up is Core, a yellow-toned map set in the Gobi desert. While the actual environment is plain, I really like the emphasis on more vertical movement as a result of the Exosuit. That mechanic alone has managed to differentiate multiplayer in Advanced Warfare from the rest of the series, even if Core only marginally takes advantage of that fact. It basically just Frankensteins a ton of different concepts together and hopes it works, like multiple tunnels that only stretch for a few seconds. It's a small and underwhelming arena but when it comes up I don't groan, so that's something good I guess. Urban is probably the coolest looking map in the pack, as it's the only one with a futuristic theme. Now all of the FPS genre's signature browns are subbed out for neon blue hues, and you'll definitely feel like you're playing something you paid a premium for. Having said that, the layout is a standard office/city theme, and there aren't enough windows to crash through or unique identifying aspects. That motorcycle in the picture above kind of just hovers there, and the map itself feels fairly static. Like Core though it's nice that it's in the rotation. Call of Duty is no stranger to ski resort DLC, and here we go again. Drift is another medium-small map that features a hamlet town with a few diversions like a carousel. There's a few alleys to duck in and plenty of windows to crash through, but that's about it. Havoc's name of the game is underwhelming, through and through. I'm a sucker for snow maps, but this feels like something that should have been in the base game. I know it's important to not overdo the whole "future thing," but retreading doesn't really help the appeal of this package. Sideshow is probably my favorite map of the pack, as it feels more like a Garden Warfare arena than a Call of Duty level. It has a rectangular symmetry to it, with a big open field in the middle and plenty of opportunities for cross-map shootouts. The theme is set to the tune of an abandoned township, but it also has an old-west field to it. I particularly like the fact that there was somehow a "Clown Inn" that existed somewhere that's creepy as hell. Every time I play this map it feels like everyone adapts to a new shooting style, which helps keep things fresh. Even then, Sideshow doesn't feel like something you'd pay for. Sick of zombies yet? I'm not! While the rest of the Havoc DLC is average at best, the new Exo Zombies mode single-handedly saves the map pack. Activision has opted to bring back a Hollywood cast, this time with Bill Paxton, John Malkovich, Rose McGowan, and Jon Bernthal. The prior holywood casts had horror (Gellar, Englund, Trejo, and Rooker), and mob (Palminteri, Pantoliano, Madsen, and Liotta) themes, but I think Havoc has the most interesting cast yet. While Paxton is probably the standout performance here, everyone in Havoc provides a good show. No one sounds phoned in, and they all seem like they're having fun. There's a short intro to help introduce the new pack of mercenaries, which are brought in to clean up a zombie mess Atlas started. It's a great way to link the core game and this is probably the most coherent story yet -- which should please those of you who hated how cryptic past zombie modes were. One of the cooler bits is how you'll start off practically naked, and you'll have to find the Exosuits eventually, granting you the power to jump and dash around. But with your added maneuverability the enemies will have the movement to match, so you won't be able to just kite dumb zombies around constantly. There's also a lot of cool elevated areas to visit. I love the future theme, and even if the Mystery Box serves the same function as it has in the past, it's neat to see it represented as a 3D printer. Plus, all of those new wonderful laser toys are great for blasting zombies, and they don't feel out of place like they did in the past. Zombie modes have the tendency to come out of the gate slowly, and although the first map doesn't have any real "out there" concepts, it's more than enough for those of you who still want more of the undead. The maps alone in the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Havoc DLC are an average affair, but Exo Zombies rises this package slightly above the cut. I love the new cast, the Exosuits makes a world of difference, and I'm digging the Hollywood cheese of the story. I'm interested in seeing where this goes, even if Sledgehammer wasn't able to carve out their own signature mode. If you're just in it for the maps, you can probably skip this one.
Call of Duty DLC review photo
Being zombie Malkovich
Call of Duty map packs are definitely a mixed bag. Fifteen dollars is pricey by any standards, and the prospect of one or two remade maps and a grand total of four arenas isn't anything to get excited about. Advanced Warfare's new Havoc DLC has just arrived this week on Xbox platforms, and it's par for the course in terms of what you'd expect. As usual though, zombies save the day.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 brings Barry Burton and Raid mode center stage

Jan 27 // Alessandro Fillari
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (PC,  PS3, PS4 [previewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease Date: February 24, 2015 (Episode One) MSRP: $5.99 per episode / $24.99 season pass (including DLC) / $39.99 retail disc Taking place between Resident Evil 5 and 6, Claire Redfield and Moira Burton (daughter of S.T.A.R.S veteran Barry Burton) have been kidnapped and trapped on an abandoned prison island filled with deadly creatures known as the Afflicted. Using their wits and teamwork, they fight their way through the facility and manage to send a distress signal to the mainland. Realizing that his daughter has been kidnapped, Barry Burton journeys to the island ready for battle. Once he reaches shore, he meets a young girl named Natalia, who possesses strange powers and close ties with the mysteries on the island. Barry and Natalia's story picks up about halfway through Episode One. Once Claire and Moira reached a certain point in the plot, the perspective switches over to the second duo. Though Barry is definitely up to the challenge, he'll have to combat with nastier variations of the Afflicted. Similar to Resident Evil's crimson heads, these new creatures are more aggressive and are far more mutated than the ones Claire and Moira encountered. Some use neat tricks such as invisibility, and some have pustules that explode after being damaged. Like its predecessor, Revelations 2 will show different perspectives to the story. With Claire and Moira leading the charge while Barry and Natalia witness the aftermath of their ordeal and make their own unique way through the island, you'll experience multiple sides of the story as it unfolds. Additionally, decisions and actions made throughout the story will have an impact on the other team. For instance, while in a room filled with traps, Claire and Moira used to them cover their escape from the Afflicted. Unfortunately, as Barry and Natalia enter the facility in an different way, and they find themselves on the receiving end of the traps and must deactivate them to proceed. Much like the dynamic between Claire and Moira, Barry and Natalia use their own unique skills together to overcome the odds. With one focusing on all the fighting, the other offers support with finding items and reaching spots that the first cannot. Things are a bit different for the second duo. As Barry has come to the island prepared and ready for battle, he brings with him a lot more firepower than Claire had. Moreover, Natalia possesses mysterious abilities that allow her to track nearby enemies, even through walls. One moment during Barry's trek outside the facility showed just how important teamwork was. While moving through a seemingly empty wooden storage house, the duo senses another creature nearby. Not knowing where its coming from, Barry pressed on. Once we got to a wooden door that was jammed, the creature began to get closer. Though I could have ignored it and continued with the door, I chose to investigate the surroundings. Eventually, I discovered the creature in the ceiling, which was a mutated version of the Afflicted known as the Revenant. Using Barry's arsenal, including his trusty Python, I was able to take down the creature. It was a pretty tense moment, and if I had chosen to ignore the creature, then it would've gotten the jump on Barry and Natalia. At this point, my time with the campaign came to a close. It was incredibly exciting to finally play as Barry Burton in a legitimate entry in the series. Yes, there's Resident Evil Gaiden, but that's regarded as non-canon, largely ignored on account of it being unceremoniously released on the Game Boy Color. Barry is such a bro, and seeing him take charge and kick ass was pretty great. Even though his side of the story feels largely the same as Claire's, it was still pretty exciting stuff.  My time with Revelations 2 didn't end there. After switching off the campaign, we moved right over to the new and improved Raid Mode. As one of the biggest successes with the original Revelations, Raid Mode was something of an experiment to see if they could try something new with the standard RE bonus mode. As an alternate take on the popular Mercenaries mode, Raid Mode tasks players with battling through a gauntlet of enemies while leveling up, acquiring buffs, and collecting new weapons. Think Monster Hunter, but with Resident Evil shooting and waves of enemies to take down. It was easily the most time I spent with the original game, and Capcom has decided to expand upon it in a big way. Now featuring a light story to offer some context to the chaotic battles, you play as an A.I. within a battle simulator from the Red Queen Alpha database. Within the digital HUB area, represented as a vestibule within a mansion, you're tasked with collecting data from different characters while running simulated battles against challenging foes. As you complete tasks, you'll find audio-logs that reveal more about Red Queen Alpha and its connection to the outside world. As you conquer challenges, the A.I. gains gold which can be spent on upgrades, new weapons, and new missions to engage in. Moreover, the A.I. can take the form of many different characters from RE's past and present (including Wesker and Hunk), and use their unique skills in digitally recreated areas from the main campaign, and even from previous Resident Evil titles. Instead of just running through a single gauntlet of missions, there are several different types to select from. Main Missions are the central focus in Raid Mode, but cost currency to take part in. In order to prevent players from repeated loot runs on specific missions, you'll have to take part in daily missions and event challenges to gain more cash to re-enter the main missions. Each main mission pack has six levels to fight through, each with their own medals and rewards to find.  Every playable character can level up (maximum level 100) and has individual perks to acquire and strengthen. Much like the previous titles, you can find new weapons and upgrades for existing gear. Just like the original, Raid Mode spices up the cannon fodder by making the foes a bit beefier. Some of them possess buffs that increase speed, strength, size, and even bestow them with force-fields that soak up damage. The stages I played in were set in Tall Oaks and Edonia from Resident Evil 6, and the objective was to clear waves of enemies while making it to the end goal. I had a blast playing through the Raid Mode in Revelations 2. Not only is it far more comprehensive than Mercenaries mode, but RE:R2 ups the ante with new features and content. It was great fun battling through Tall Oaks with Barry, and the variety of different enemies I faced kept things pretty interesting. Though I'm a bit worried that repetition could detract after the long haul, and that Raid Mode will not have online co-op play available until sometime after the release of the final episode, Capcom seems to be pretty headstrong with supporting the game. The idea of daily challenges and updates makes me look forward to what's to come. With the release of the first episode of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 next month, it's going to be interesting to see how Capcom's experiment with episodic gaming will turn out. The plot certainly feels as though it wants to evoke discussion and debate among fans, and coming off the win the publisher just had with Resident Evil Remastered, it's looking like there's a bright future ahead for the once troubled Resident Evil franchise.
Resident Evil photo
Sans Jill Sandwich
Capcom has been on quite a roll lately. With the announcement of Street Fighter V, new releases in the Devil May Cry series coming, and the recent success of its HD Remaster for Resident Evil, it seems like the once trou...

House of Wolves might be Bungie's last chance to save Destiny

Jan 26 // Chris Carter
Let's take a look at some of the biggest problems plaguing Destiny: The heavy ammo bug A lazily implemented Crota's End Hard Mode Fixing exploits (cheeses) before fixing more egregious glitches Introducing more items and not more bank space Forcing the userbase to upgrade Exotic items via RNG No new core bounties since launch outside of the same small pool of Eris DLC Three measly DLC story missions that take 30 minutes to complete Underpowered new Exotics that make the expansion weapons pointless No glamor or outfitter options; everyone looks the same Vendor gear that can be acquired day one of the expansion blows prior raid gear out of the water No in-game grimoire to read lore, story is still weak No matchmaking for weekly Heroic Strikes or Nightfalls No real events to speak of outside of a lazy PVP reskin (where is Queen's Wrath?) This isn't a list compiled from outside sources -- this is something I've experienced personally as a player. Bungie said Destiny would continue to "evolve" after launch, but if this is its evolutionary process, it's still a bacteria. Bungie lead designer Luke Smith jumped into a recent NeoGAF thread to address a few concerns, stating that some mistakes won't be repeated. According to Smith, vendor gear won't invalidate prior raid gear, and the Exotic upgrade process will not reset talents (though nothing has been said about the RNG element). That's an okay start, but Bungie has to do much more to win back disenchanted fans, especially after the recent Hard Mode raid debacle. For many players this is the breaking point -- the final equilibrium when the grind and issues of Destiny outweigh the enjoyment factor of playing with friends. It's easier to overlook blemishes while you're in good company, but as many of those people start to drift away, you start to see more clearly. Wait, people still play Destiny? Yep, there's over 10 million players out there as of December 2014. It's one of the most active online games out right now, and one of the biggest games of last year. Often times when I'm trying to utilize matchmaking in another game I'll get bored, move over to Destiny, and find a game manually in 30 seconds. That's how big it is. But Bungie won't be able to rest on the laurels of its hype for much longer. If the studio doesn't deliver with House of Wolves, there will be a severe drop-off of players who refuse to pony up for the next bit of DLC. At that point it'll have to bring old fans back into the fold, and convince people who made their mind up at launch to join the party. That won't be easy. If Bungie has to delay the next expansion to make it better, so be it. If not, a lot of the Destiny detractors may have their wish later this year when it becomes a collective echo in the annals of one-hit wonder history.
Destiny woes photo
The Season Pass buck stops in March
Before Destiny was released, it was hyped into oblivion. Hundreds of thousands of fans bought into it, and by extension, purchased the Season Pass consisting of the first two expansions -- the second of which, House...

Review: Resident Evil HD Remaster

Jan 19 // Chris Carter
Resident Evil HD Remaster (PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomReleased: January 20, 2015MSRP: $19.99 So what is Resident Evil HD? It's basically a shot-for-shot remake of the GameCube version. As fans know, this iteration featured a remixed layout of the mansion, newly minted dialog, and of course, a brand new visual sheen. Said sheen has been severely upgraded for the modern era with HD, in addition to a few other tiny extras and a budget price. It's also available for pretty much everything but the Wii U. This review is based off the PC version, and I have to say, Capcom did a good job. In addition to the built-in options for a wide screen and original aspect ratio, there's also support for resolutions up to 1920x1080 natively, a 30/60 FPS toggle, and a few other bells and whistles. It's not going to excite hardcore PC fans in terms of enhanced functionality, but it gets the job done. You can get a full view of every PC option in the video below if you're curious. Although it's enhanced, there's still plenty of cheese in terms of the tone. The intro still evokes nostalgic feelings of old horror flicks, the dialog is still hilariously campy, and the "door opening loading scenes" are retained. While some may feel like all of this could have been updated to elevate it even further than the GameCube remake did, I'm glad that Capcom didn't alter the heart and soul of the franchise. One of the biggest problems of the recent games is the penchant for an attempt at serious storytelling, which doesn't mesh well with the amazing boulder-punching and teleporting Wesker action. [embed]285886:56814:0[/embed] You'll still get plenty of enhancements though, because the models look great, especially on a high-end PC with all of the settings jacked up. It blows the GameCube version out of the water, and looks incredibly smooth and fluid. This gels very well with the new controls, which eschew the "tanky" ones of old (though you can still toggle it on if you want), allowing for an instant directional switch and automatic running without awkwardly holding down a button (remember that?). For the longest time Capcom claimed that tank controls were a necessity, and added to the "tension" of the series. While I don't necessarily have a problem with them having grown up with the concept, I'm glad there's now the option to use modern handling for those who want it. Now everyone is happy -- and guess what? The tension is still there. Silly Capcom. Though in the end, it should be noted that the developers weren't so progressive as to add the ability to move and shoot. Also, items still need to be equipped manually by way of pausing, accessing the inventory, and selecting a new item or weapon. It's a fast process once you get the hang of it, but a bit of a relic, particularly since you need to still manually equip the knife. Fixed camera angles are also still a thing, which you can view as both cinematic or annoying. I'm somewhere in the middle. It's jarring to run forward, have the camera change, and become disoriented (if you keep holding the previous direction your character will still run in that direction, so it's not maddening), but I love that "last stand" feel when you square off against an approaching zombie at the end of a hall. The actual game is still pretty much perfect, and I truly believe that the mansion is still the best setting to date. Years later I still don't have every floor mapped out, and there's plenty of surprises in store even for veteran players. The fact that both playable characters (Chris and Jill) don't have the same story or layout still blows me away, because they feel like two fundamentally different playthroughs despite the fact that they're in the same location. Just when Resident Evil is starting to get stale, that's when Capcom throws a new concept, enemy, or shiny weapon your way. The pacing is spot-on by any standard, whether you're completely lost or know every path. If you so choose you can also opt for an easy, easier, or normal mode right off the bat, with hard arriving later. In this man's opinion, the new easy mode is probably the best introduction for newcomers in the entire series. There are also a few other modern fixins like a completion leaderboard, a movie gallery, an in-game manual, and some old-school unlocks like an invisible enemy mode. Given that the game should last you five hours on the low end and 10-15 on the high-end, and it's worth completing at least twice, there's a lot to enjoy here with Resident Evil HD. Although I'd love the chance to play a remastered Resident Evil 2 for the first time with updated controls, I'm glad Capcom decided to revive the first entry again. Resident Evil is truly is a timeless classic that every generation should enjoy, and a perfect example of how to do survival horror without decking players out with a full armory. Welcome back to the mansion. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
RE HD review photo
The legacy of the mansion lives on
Playing the original Resident Evil was an experience. The mansion, the campiness, the mystery of it all -- before walkthroughs were easily accessible from all corners of the internet, getting lost was practically a given...

Review: Saints Row IV: Gat out of Hell

Jan 19 // Brittany Vincent
Saints Row: Gat out of Hell (PC, PS4 [Reviewed], Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360) Developer: Volition/High Voltage Software Publisher: Deep Silver Released: January 20, 2015 MSRP: $19.99 The game opens on the gang aboard the Zin Ship during a celebration of Kinzie Kensington’s birthday. During the festivities, Matt Miller produces a possessed Ouija board that was previously owned by Aleister Crowley, and it opens a portal to Hell. The Boss (your player character in the previous Saints Row games) is sucked through the portal and kidnapped by Satan. Johnny Gat and Kinzie follow through the portal to save their friend, and upon arriving in Hell go to the biggest building in sight. Ultor HQ. Dane Vogel, head of Ultor Corporation and previous adversary of the Saints, has started his business anew in Hell and lets the duo know that Satan has arranged a marriage between The Boss and his daughter. Vogel has big plans to corner the real estate market in Hell, and he needs Satan out of the way to do it. He presents Johnny Gat with Lucifer’s Broken Halo, a powerful artifact that imbues the user with fiery wings and arcane power, to assist in the assassination of the Dark Lord. All of the previous statements contained a lot of names that you may or may not remember depending on which games, if any, you’ve played of the series. This is one of the biggest things that marks this as a standalone expansion. This game is very self-referential, and unlike the main entries in the series doesn’t ease players into the world of Saints Row. It makes the assumption that you’ve at least played Saints Row IV, and spends little time on exposition or background other than some short illustrations and voiceover. [embed]285618:56942:0[/embed] This was a bit frustrating, because even though I’ve played through all the Saints Row titles, it’s been a while. It would have made the game more inviting to have at least a short flashback when meeting a character from a previous title, and unfortunately many players might miss out on some of the enjoyment and nostalgia from not having just a bit more context. However, there are a few new characters, and they are a blast. Shakespeare, Vlad the Impaler, and Blackbeard all join the cast, and although this entry is a bit short, I hope that future iterations will introduce as interesting of a cast as this one did. The setting is where this game really shines though. Hell looks, well, hellish. Instead of another romp through Steelport, we spend our time in New Hades, which is dominated by the Ultor Tower. It’s sometimes hard to notice flying and sprinting at high speeds, but different sections of Hell have different aesthetics, and the whole map, although smaller than Steelport, feels more alive and organic from all the unique buildings. Gone also are the nameless civilian fodder, replaced by “Husks,” which are the souls of the damned who are made to feel pain for all eternity. The police are instead demons who drive monster trucks, and there are a host of flying, shielded, and gigantic enemies, all with their own styles and methods of attack. All in all they made a much more entertaining and interesting adversary than the Zin, and the whole world feels much more polished and finished than Saints Row IV’s Steelport simulation. Much like the last game, you have access to a host of superhuman powers. With Lucifer’s Broken Halo you can sprout wings to glide, sprint at high speed, stomp the ground with various elemental powers, call upon demons to fight for you, and turn enemies to stone with power blasts. Whether in a simulation or powered by a demonic artifact, the result is much the same: you’re pretty much the most powerful being in Hell. I think powers are much more interesting in Gat out of Hell. Something about the last game’s powers being due to computer hacking and being trapped in a simulation was insanely boring. These games are a zany good time, but when I play something like this I like to feel as though I’m actually affecting the world I’m playing in, and getting powers from the broken crown of the Morning Star himself is way cooler. I do have a bit of a qualm with the missing character customization element, though. I understand that the game centers around having to play as Kinzie or Johnny Gat; but it would have been nice to at least change their outfits or accessories. So everything seems pretty positive about this game, right? It’s a high quality production, and totally awesome, so what could go wrong? Well, that cool setting, low price point, and interesting gameplay came at a cost, namely in the form of content. Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell is short. Really short. The first time I saved my game I had been playing for about an hour, and I was shocked when the screen said that the game was already 14% complete. I figured it was like Saints Row IV where that number didn’t really mean a lot or indicate how much content was left other than at a superficial level. Well, I was wrong. Gat takes about 6-7 hours to complete the main plot, and it could probably be easily taken to 100% within 12-13 hours. Honestly, I’ve paid $20 for a lot less fun, and although the game is short, what is there is solid gold. Plus, if you’ve never played Saints Row IV, or just want it and all its DLC on latest gen consoles, you can get Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, which includes this expansion for about $50. Gat out of Hell was a great swan song for Saints Row IV, and it is now one of my favorite entries in the series. There are plenty of games out there about depression, sexuality, violence, politics, and so on, and sometimes it makes me tired. I love Saints Row because I never have to deal with any issues within. There’s no agenda and no life lessons to learn. There’s only pure escapism. which is what games are meant for in my view. If I wanted to worry about all that, I’d just go to a college campus and listen to people complain for a few hours. As it is though, I hope that more developers take a cue from Saints Row and realize that it’s still okay to tell jokes and implement cartoony violence that’s still ridiculous and fun. I know gaming as an industry is maturing and people want to present new ideas and make statements using the media, but luckily, whenever I feel like I need a break, I will have Saints Row proudly on my shelf. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
SRIV: Gat out of Hell photo
Like a sinner before the gates of Heaven
There’s something about a series that doesn’t feel the need to make a ton of social commentary, or really feel grounded in reality. The Saints Row series is like if the worlds of The Naked Gun and Grand Theft Auto...

Review: Super Mega Baseball

Jan 12 // Chris Carter
Super Mega Baseball (PS3, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: Metalhead SoftwarePublisher: Metalhead SoftwareReleased: December 16, 2014MSRP: $19.99 I'm not going to sugar coat it. Super Mega Baseball doesn't have a whole lot of options or extras in its downloadable incarnation. There's no training camp, massive simulation mode, coaching options, or batting and pitching minigames. Instead, Mega does one thing and does it very, very well: a modern arcade rendition of baseball. One of my favorite things about Mega right off the bat is that it has a really cool tutorial that's designed to just "let you play." I'm too used to going straight to the help menu these days, and immediately the developers put in a little message saying "we recommend you play a game first before reading!" I love it! Another easy sell is the cartoony veneer that reminds me of old-school arcade baseball games. It's easy to get into as the characters look semi-lifelike but exaggerated, with ridiculous hair and accessories. Teams are mostly named after animals, including the Moonstars and the Wild Pigs, and have their own special focus like power pitching or batting. The crowd effects are also impressive and the stadiums are interesting, which all help set the tone. [embed]285877:56854:0[/embed] Every system from batting to pitching to fielding is set up so that it's easy to learn, but tough to master. The former lets you aim a contact swing with the analog stick, compensating for where you think the pitch is going to go -- once you're ready, just hit the corresponding button. Flavor text will pop up that tells you whether you swung early or late, which not only adds to the charm, but also helps you improve. You can also bunt or hold a different swing button to charge up a power hit, giving you a roughly three-second window to garner the highest amount of power before the charge fizzles out. It was here that I realized how deep Super Mega Baseball really was. It may have a silly art style, but the depth is real, and even hardcore sports fans will have a skill ceiling to work towards. You can edit your batting lineup if you so choose. Baserunning is also fun, as you can hold L1 to advance all runners, R1 to return, and hold both to freeze -- which makes pickles particularly fun. You can also individually control runners with the analog stick. Fielding is probably my favorite part. Players can automatically gravitate towards a pop fly, but the more you jack up the "Ego" meter at the start (read: handicap), the less automation you'll get. Think "All Madden" and you'll have some sort of idea of what to expect. Again, there's plenty of advanced options here, including the choice to toss power or light throws (the former is timed just like power hitting), and you can cut throws from the outfield to the infield by pressing L1, or throw to any base by pressing the applicable face button that matches up to the diamond. As expected pitching is also a well-crafted system. You can choose your pitch type from plenty of options like a two-seam fastball and a forkball, in addition to your typical sliders and curves. Pressing the button for a perfect pitch is also timed like nearly every other skill-based mechanic, and you can of course choose the trajectory. As a result every pitch is intense, and the transitions are so quick that it doesn't feel like any particular game is dragging on and on. The default setting is for five innings, but you can go up to the standard nine. Custom characters are a big focus, with options to edit first and last names, gender, appearance, skin tone, mood, and jersey number. If the team names were any clue this isn't your typical baseball game, and you can have whoever you want in your particular lineup. If you're the type of person who likes to put their family and friends into games and painstakingly recreate every detail, this is your chance. Again, don't expect to be playing Super Mega Baseball for months down the line if you don't dig massive amounts of exhibition games. There is a season mode, but it's basically just a string of games without a whole lot of meta-options. And while there are technically unlocks, they're more like marginal perk-like increases for your team such as "Yoga Classes" that provide a small stat increase. They aren't all that exciting. If you so choose you can go at it solo, but the game supports up to four players. Super Mega Baseball should be your next purchase if you moderately enjoy baseball on any level. Although it doesn't have the bells and whistles you may expect from a recent sports title, you'll be playing for quite some time based on the strength of the core game alone, whether it's by yourself or with friends. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Mega Baseball review photo
Indie in the outfield
Like many people out there, I learned how to play most sports through videogames. By the time I entered various real-life leagues for baseball, basketball, and football, I had a grasp of the basic concepts of each, mostly tha...

Far Cry 4 issue photo
The Great Elephant Shortage of 2015
[Update: Far Cry 4 has been reinstated on the Xbox One games store, restoring permissions for several users. For those who are still experiencing difficulties, Ubisoft officially recommends a hard reboot of the Xbox One conso...







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