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PC Port Report: Mortal Kombat X

Apr 20 // Nic Rowen
Mortal Kombat X (PC)Developer: NetherRealm Studios, High Voltage Software (PC)Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentMSRP: $59.99Release Date: April 14, 2015Rig: Intel i7-920 2.70 GHz, 12GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 770 GPU When I first installed Mortal Kombat X it was unplayable. I don't mean in some sort of prissy, PC elitist "anything less than 60 FPS burns my eyes" kind of way (although you could make a strong argument that if any genre of game has the right to demand a consistent and high frame rate, it's competitive fighting games). I mean in the "this game doesn't work" way. Things went south as soon as I hit the character select screen and the fighters started drawing themselves in one painful frame at a time. Actual fighting was impossible, with the action portrayed like a garish, bloody View-Master reel. I have a fairly decent gaming PC. My processor is admittedly old, but I have plenty of RAM and a muscular GTX 770 to help it power through. I run plenty of modern multi-platform games with nary a hitch. There is no reason for Mortal Kombat X to perform this badly. My situation is far from uncommon, with mobs of flustered would-be-warriors with top-end gaming rigs complaining they were in the same bind in the Steam discussion pages. After some rooting about in support forums, I altered my settings, manually installed some drivers, and fussed about until I got the game in working -- but far from ideal -- order.  I managed to get the game running smooth enough to fart around in the practice mode and work on some combos. Even still, certain stages caused noticeable stuttering and after a few minutes the game would start to hitch and falter no matter where I fought. Oddly, when the performance dipped like this I found that performing an X-Ray move (which automatically locks the action to 30 FPS) seemed to jar the game out of it, restoring a smooth 60 FPS after the move finished (for a short while anyway). I'm about as far from a programmer as you can get, but to me this suggests the problem is less to do with system specs and more with how the game is coded. Something just isn't working right. While being able to unclog the frame rate with an X-Ray was handy during my protracted training sessions, it's also vaguely frustrating to know that a functional game is trapped somewhere inside of this rickety port job, but only accessible by jumping through hoops. Of course, the reason I spent so much time in the training mode this weekend is related to the second major problem with the PC port. The entire online component of the game was up on cinder blocks for most of the time I've played.  Online Kombat was down for the majority of weekend. Either the game would entirely refuse to access the online component, saying it couldn't retrieve my stat card (and therefore refused me entry), or it would simply leave me perpetually waiting to "find a match." Even during the periods where I was able to find regular ranked and player matches (still with large five minute plus waiting times between opponents) other features wouldn't work. The room lobby system, useful for finding similarly skilled or geographically local opponents, was up and down all weekend. Mostly down. The Faction War nonsense has been offline since I installed. Not that I thought that aspect of the game was particularly meaningful, but it's still annoying to have to wait through one more loading screen as the game fails to find the faction server and informs you of such. More annoying still, trying to view the progress of the on-going war effort locked me in an inescapable loading screen. Fun times. Of the online matches I got to play, lag seemed to be a total crapshoot. Some fights were buttery smooth like me and my opponent were shoulder to shoulder in the arcade. Others started fine but eventually de-synced and broke down. Still others were like wading through molasses from start to finish, becoming a game of chicken to see who would blink first and have the dreaded black mark of a Quitality branded upon their house. When the room feature was active, I managed to find a neighboring Toronto player and stuck through a series of humiliating, but silky, matches against a terrifying Liu Kang who outclassed me in every possible way. I worried I wouldn't find another decent online match that night and would rather face his burning fists than chance it, a fear that came to pass when he left the room (no doubt in disgust of my pathetic Kotal Kahn). A succession of smaller quibbles nip at the heels of those catastrophes. Trying to re-configure a control pad or joystick crashes the game (to turn off negative edge I had to pull every USB device out of my computer and go into the menu with the keyboard). Timed features in the Krypt are reportedly not working right. I was mildly irked to notice that the post-character-select animations (Jax slamming his fists together, Cassie snapping her gum and flipping the bird, and so on) are absent in the PC version. I suppose you could say they thought the faster loading times on the PC version would make them obsolete, but the game still drops you to a loading screen before the fight. Why not chew up those few seconds with something to look at? (I realize this is the smallest complaint of all time but this port ripped my heart out of my chest so bear with me.) Maybe this shouldn't come as a surprise. Both Mortal Kombat 9 and Injustice had troubled ports with similar problems. Distressingly, many of those issues never got sorted out. With a simultaneous day and date PC release for Mortal Kombat X though, you would have hopped they would be ready to go this time. Motal Kombat X deserves better than this slipshod port. I want to believe that NetherRealm and High Voltage Software will do right by its fans and iron these problems out, that this rough first week is an unfortunate debacle. Given its track record though, part of me fears the worst. I'll be keeping an eye on this port and will post an update in a few weeks or so to see if the situation improves. As it stands now, I can't put it any plainer: do not buy this broken port of a great game. [This review is based on a retail code purchased by the reviewer, a PC review copy was not made available by the developer.]
PC Port Report: MK X photo
Never-ending Brutality
I have never played a game that I've wanted to love so badly that seems so set and determined to antagonize me than the PC port of Mortal Kombat X. In the abstract, Mortal Kombat X is a great game. The single player content i...

Review: Mortal Kombat X

Apr 14 // Chris Carter
Mortal Kombat X (PC, PS3, PS4 [tested], Xbox 360, Xbox One) Developer: NetherRealm Studios, High Voltage Software (PS3, Xbox 360)Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentReleased: April 14, 2015 (PC, PS4, Xbox One) / June 2, 2015 (PS3, Xbox 360)MSRP: $59.99 It sounds absurd, but the story of Mortal Kombat 2011 is a tough act to follow. The universe was NetherRealm's playground, offering up alliances and betrayals at every turn. There were no rules, and it did a fantastic job to the point where I'd easily call it one of my favorite fighting game story modes ever. With Mortal Kombat X, it's not quite as over-the-top, unpredictable, or even as lengthy. After Shao Kahn's attempt to rule, Shinnok is up to his old tricks again, as was hinted in the previous ending. The warriors of Earthrealm managed to seal him within his amulet, but of course, certain evil characters have an agenda to fulfill, and the realms are once again in peril. Most of the campaign takes place 25 years later, allowing for a certain degree of progeny-based storylines to accompany the new additions to the roster. I'm really torn on the new roster in general (29 kombatants, with five as DLC), not just in terms of characterization, but gameplay as well. I'm a huge fan of Kotal Kahn, D'Vorah, and his gunslinging manservant Erron Black. Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs iterate enough on their parents (Sonya/Johnny and Jax respectively), but Kung Jin and Takeda feel like wasted slots to me. [embed]290360:58138:0[/embed] Takeda in particular has a really horrid background involving abandonment issues from his father Kenshi, and it comes across far cheesier than the rest of the game's attempts to link various relationships. For that matter, Cassie's role in the story feels incredibly forced as well. The strength of the roster overall hides these blemishes for the most part, including the absurd DLC practices by WB, as the on-disc world of Mortal Kombat X is definitely worth exploring, no matter how brief (the story clocks in at just several hours). I think the tone overall is funnier than the last game, and the action scenes are just as entertaining. A few players though (myself included) may feel like it's a bit too streamlined, particularly due to the fact that it eliminates all of the crazy parts of 2011 (like uber-hard boss battles and 1v2 matches) and sticks with standard 1v1 bouts. A lot of you out there will probably love the lack of frustration, but I felt like it was a tad too simplistic despite it being a fun ride. The core fighting system is relatively untouched though, which I'm more than okay with. Two punches, two kicks, and a block button are at the forefront of the game's mechanics, with simple command moves offering up concepts like slide kicks, teleport punches, and projectiles. The lovely three-tiered meter is back with EX moves (powered up command abilities), combo breakers, and X-Ray supers in tow, which is not only easy to pick up, but incredibly versatile. Combos aren't terribly long in Mortal Kombat X but they are complex, and the right ones can deal a deadly amount of damage. It's good then that you can break them by conserving your bar instead of always using X-Rays, and punish with EX moves that you will have access to on a regular basis. There's even advanced tactics like meter burn canceling to avoid punishes, and environmental cues (which can be toggled on or off) that allow you to use the background as a weapon or a jungle gym. As previously mentioned the roster is a great mix of styles, from rushdown to zoning, without going over-the-top with the latter. A number of characters have really interesting wake-up games and other tactics that advanced players will relish -- in other words, this is a pretty deep fighter that you'll have to spend some time with to really stand a chance. I love the new model designs and the engine, which feels decidedly less dated at launch. Existing characters like Ermac now have a lot more personality, which is perfectly accentuated through his move set, including three variations. Yep, every character in Mortal Kombat X has a choice of three modifiers, which in Ermac's case would allow him to fly, or gain access to a set of new command moves. It's not as complex as adding three new characters in my mind, but it will easily serve as a way to vex hardcore players as they'll have to learn every frame of every variant as they spend their time in the "lab" practicing. There are modes beyond the story of course, like Faction War, a meta-game that is constantly being played behind-the-scenes, Towers, a large collective of challenge rooms, and other tidbits like Test Your Might or Test Your Luck. Towers is probably the breakout hit in Mortal Kombat X, with traditional series of fights and "Living Towers," which rotate on a hourly, daily, and weekly basis. Test Your Luck is also a standout, providing random round parameters like "no arms" or other wacky statistical changes. It's perfect for people who don't normally excel at fighting games and don't want to learn every character's ins and outs. Faction War isn't really a game-changing concept, but it is a decent way to keep hardcore people playing. You'll have the choice of joining a certain clan or group at the start (praise Lin Kuei) for a bit of extra little fluff. Each match you win will contribute to your team's overall ranking, and fun rewards like more currency or bragging rights can be yours after a certain time period has passed. Just like the new first-person Krypt mode, it's a great extra to keep you playing even when you don't feel like fighting a traditional match. My experience with the netcode has been mixed. For a good while I'll have fairly uninterrupted matches, but online play is limited by the system NetherRealm currently has in place. In other words, if you are close to someone geographically, it will play better. This sounds like common sense, but in 2015 online gaming is so massive and so global that everything needs to work comprehensively. As such, some matches stuttered -- not to the point of fully breaking constantly -- but stuttering can be the difference between a win and a loss in a competitive match. If you have a local friend to play with this is a non-issue, as nearly every mode is available offline. Likewise, if most of your Mortal Kombat buddies aren't located across the globe, you should be mostly good to go. Mortal Kombat X's impact isn't as explosive as 2011, but it's well polished and a worthy successor. I think with a more reliable netcode it will grow into one of the biggest fighting games of 2015, and as more DLC characters are added to the roster, it will become even more enticing for that Komplete Kollection purchase. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. A Goro unlock code was also provided on launch day.]
Mortal Kombat X photo
Still not ready for a series Fatality
Fighting game developers are in a really tough spot when it comes to sequels. If you don't iterate enough, newcomers will be tempted to call it a "rehash." If you iterate too much, hardcore fans may feel alienated by the vast...

Which low tier character will I waste my time on in Mortal Kombat X?

Apr 11 // Nic Rowen
When it comes to NetherRealm's fighters, I've been in top form. I took one look at Noob Saibot, the ninja-by-way-of-Darth-Vader, and decided to main him in Mortal Kombat 9. He was fiddly and awkward at close range, while being outclassed by more dynamic zoners at full screen where he was supposed (?) to dominate. Sure, his X-Ray move was undeniably dope, but when would you ever get a chance to use it when you were so busy eating Cyrax bombs and Kabal's aerial energy blasts? In Injustice, I mained Lex Luthor from day one and never looked back, even when facing ten game (and higher) losing streaks. Lex was a giant lug of a fighter with all the size and sluggishness of a grappler and none of the damage to back it up. He was a finesse character, based on set-ups and smart use of his hyper armor in a game where the most popular characters could evaporate half a health-bar with one combo and had moves specifically designed to ignore hyper armor. I doomed myself to living under Kryptonian tyranny and had only myself to blame. So which piece of deadweight will I pick up in Mortal Kombat X? Which character will I fall in love with early and stick by, despite it becoming increasingly apparent that they are absolute garbage? What kind of destructive co-dependent relationship will I get tangled up in this time? Quan Chi Quan Chi is a dark sorcerer shitbag that nobody likes, both in the fandom and in the series' narrative. He is a universally reviled toady, unsuccessfully scheming behind the back of whatever master he is currently serving like an incompetent, bald Starscream. The contrarian streak in me that identifies with underdogs finds these qualities strangely endearing (this is also why I'm doomed to fail). Quan has a couple of bizarre fighting styles that rely on the clever use of a summoned bat-demon or cheeky portals to force the opponent into mix-up situations and generally be an annoying jackass. He also has a variation that uses weird glyphs and symbols on the ground for a variety of effects, such as nullifying projectiles or pumping up his damage. Because that kind of gimmick couldn't possibly be a pain in the ass to try and use while Lui Kang pelts you with fireballs and bicycle-kicks right? Another trick-based finesse character that requires a lot of momentum to get going and can be shut down with a strong offense? Sounds like Lex all over again -- sign me up? I don't know, maybe I just have a thing for bald guys.   Jax MK 9's Jax had quite the character arc in the meta-game. He was one of the weakest members of the roster on release, but a few, possibly heavy handed, patches and buffs suddenly thrust him to the top of many tier lists. A real rags-to-riches story (or a great example of why fighting game players hate patches). Skilled Jax players could be a nightmare to deal with, hassling opponents from a distance with earthquakes and projectiles while utterly dominating up-close with powerful grabs and terrifying damage. Later patches toned him down a bit and in the end Jax retired as a respectable, but not spectacular kombatant. I'm not really interested in any of that. I honestly have no idea if Jax will be a ridiculously powerful demigod of command grabs in MK X, reduced back to his meek early MK 9 low tier hero status, or find some middle balance between the two extremes. I just think he looks awesome. Jax is a guy who pummels ninjas to death with a pair of robotic arms, which has been scientifically determined to be the coolest possible way to beat a ninja to death. He has a distinguished dash of salt and pepper in his beard, and the kind of preoccupation with cigars that I'm sure Freud would have something to say about. Or maybe not, considering he likes to alternatively snuff those cigars on his robotic fists, or the bloody neck-stump-turned-ashtray of his opponent. Jackson Briggs has it going on. If I can age half as gracefully (and cybernetically) as Jax, I'll die a happy man. I know it's an odd criteria, but if basing my fighting game character choices on aspirational life goals is wrong, I don't want to be right. Kotal Kahn Kotal Kahn is my wild card. He's a new character, so there's no telling if he'll be good or bad. On one hand, he was built with MK X's unique systems and play style in mind instead of being re-tooled to fit the mold. It's entirely possible he'll be an utter wrecking machine of sun-worshiping bad-assery. On the other, he hasn't had umpteen iterative appearances to figure out his place in the food chain, so maybe longtime favorites like Kung Lao will mop the floor with him using established fundamentals (such as -- hat throw, hat throw, hat throw, dive kick). This is all irrelevant. I've got my eye on Kotal because he looks like some kind of Aztec war-god, and that's pretty tough to beat aesthetically. Why would I want to throw a silly bladed hat at someone when I could fry them with divine sun beams, or cut their heart out with one of those cool wavy cult daggers? Kotal also as a variation where he carries around one of those crazy tribal swords that is basically a wooden board with a row of razor sharp sharks teeth inset along the edges, which seems like the worst thing mankind ever devised to cut another person in two with. It would be like being paddled by a frat brother and devoured by Jaws at the same time, two of my recurring nightmares condensed into one horrific device. I don't know how Quan, Jax, and Kotal will shake out. Going by my track record, the fact that I'm expressing any interest in them at all pretty much dooms them (so maybe you'll want to take this article as a cautionary tale and stay clear of them). Or maybe they'll turn out to be awesomely powerful specimens and I'll be retroactively accused of tier-whoring whenever I select them. It will be interesting to find out in a few months when people have had a chance to dig into MK X and test their might. Until then, I'd be interested to hear what characters you're excited about. Do you plan on sticking with the tried and true like Scorpion and Raiden? Will you embrace the next generation of fighters and take selfies with Cassie Cage and her crew? Or are you going to be that one freaky dude who mains Ferra/Torr from day one and beats everyone down Master Blaster style? At the end of the day, tier placement really doesn't mean much, what matters is your skill and enjoyment. As long as you're having fun and improving your game, any character is the right choice.
Low tier heroes photo
You do it to yourself, you do, and that's what really hurts
They say you should never marry for love, but I always do. Every single damn time. I guess you could call me a romantic. If you felt like being less charitable (and possibly more accurate), you could call me a scrub. I couldn...

Won't somebody think of the children?

Apr 09 // Nic Rowen
[embed]290207:58107:0[/embed] Thankfully, I had a secret weapon to get MK off the black list in my home. Aside from being a nightmarish murder simulator, I knew that MK was also fucking ridiculous; a fact all those self-serious senators stumping on the public decency ticket always seemed to forget to mention. Despite all the media hubbub, my mom was, thankfully, still inclined to give me the benefit of the doubt and listen to reason. We struck a deal, I'd be allowed to rent the neutered, bloodless SNES version under the condition that she would watch as my brother and I played it. If she felt it was too violent for our sensibilities or somehow mentally damaging, she would banish it straight back to the Netherrealm of Blockbuster Video and the veto would stand. In the end she didn't watch for more than an hour before realizing that MK was just too stupid to be considered harmful. When you break it down, MK is a game about karate men fighting each other one-on-one to save the world from a four-armed claymation monster and his boss who looks suspiciously like Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China. Even the famed gore of the series, when not breathlessly described by a dour parental advocacy spokesperson, was too dumb and cheap looking to take seriously. The production values on those original fatalities were a joke, character sprites awkwardly sticking into and through each other at angles and depths that don't line up quite right. The obvious cost-cutting steps of re-purposing animations and sprites stole a certain degree of gravitas from the executions. MK 1 has the same disarming flimsiness of a student film effort about zombies. It's hard to take stumbling freshmen in thrift store clothes splattered with red food coloring seriously -- the effect is more slapstick than sinister. My brother and I were left alone to throw fireballs and exchange uppercuts with the understanding that we weren't to tell anyone we were allowed to play MK (because who wants to have to explain that to the other moms) and that any attempt to actually rip a sibling's heart out would result in a summary grounding. I thought it was a pretty fair compromise. I felt mature. I was proud that I was able to hold my ground and defend a piece of media I thought was being unfairly vilified. But more than that, I was gratified that my mom believed in my ability to separate fantasy from reality. To know my own boundaries and limits and be able to compartmentalize what was totally rad in a game, but horrific in real life. Which is why I feel like the biggest, shittiest hypocrite in the world when I worry about kids playing MK X. It makes me feel like a crusty old man shaking his fist at those damn kids for doing the exact same thing he did when he was younger. I want to be able to extend the same charity, the same vigorous defense I gave MK 1 to MK X of the difference between fantasy and reality. But holy shit, have you seen this game? It is CRAZY. The way bones snap and break during x-ray moves, how skin will peel and tear to reveal musculature and ligaments, the fully detailed models of organs and intestines that are ripped apart and strewn about during fatalities, it's just so -- ewww. You can't say the game is too silly to take seriously anymore. If anything, if I were a kid now trying to convince my mom to let me play MK X, I think I'd probably focus on how it would be a great way to study up on human anatomy for biology class. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't the twist ending where I say it turns out all those senators and other finger wagglers from back in the day were right all along. They were wrong (and hysterically stupid) then, and they're wrong now. I still don't think MK X is intrinsically harmful. I don't think that the kids who weasel their way into playing it (and I absolutely guarantee they will) and watch Scorpion cut Sub-Zero's face off to let his brains slide out on the pavement will turn into a generation into of serial face-slicers. But I also know I'd hesitate to let a nine-year-old play MK X, especially a nine-year-old I was in charge of raising and ensuring didn't turn into a complete sociopath. I also know I'd probably feel a certain brand of ugly judgmental smugness, a lofty “tsk, tsk,” over any parent or guardian who didn't. There is a disconnect there that I can recognize but have trouble explaining, even to myself. Because at its core, I don't think MK X is really all that different from MK 1. Ed Boon is honestly just making the same game he has been making for 20 years. I don't think he is a different person now, that over the past two decades he really has taken the villain's part and is trying to corrupt young minds. The tone and intention of the MK series hasn't really changed at all, it's still all about silly ninja-men killing each other in completely ludicrous ways. But the technology behind that intention HAS changed. With two decades of graphical advancement and a production budget that dwarfs the cost of anything imaginable in 1992, MK X has reached a point where the fatalities and violence really ARE as gory and disturbing as the moral hand-wringers always claimed. This is the source of that disconnect for me. I've always defended the MK series as campy fun under the guise of gritty violence, and I still absolutely believe that is true. While the fatalities are not as outwardly silly as Johnny Cage uppercutting a guy so hard three heads pop off, they still rely on a completely over-the-top kind of violence that goes so far it loops back to comedy. When Kano cuts open his opponent's ribcage mid-match, only for his victim to promptly stand back up and continue fighting like nothing happened, I think there is still a sort of winking-at-the-camera comedy there. “Don't worry, none of this is too serious.” But the joke isn't as plain to see anymore, and it's even more difficult to articulate to others. There is a small shitty part of me that worries that kids won't “get it.” Ironically, part of the technological advancement that has made MK X slightly uncomfortable compared to its predecessors also ensures that there has never been an easier time for kids to circumnavigate any attempts to keep that material away from them. I mean, not that any of those efforts have ever worked. When I was a kid trying to play MK in 1992, my back-up plan if mom did ban the game was to just sneak off to the arcade or go over to a friend's house who had slightly less strict parents and play it there. Now, thanks to downloads, YouTube clip reels, and streaming Let's Play series, kids won't even have to leave the house to sneak a peek at a few fatalities. And overall, it's probably for the best. You can't stop culture or technology. Games will get gorier and crazier, and kids will find their way to them younger and younger. If little Johnny is going to eventually see a bisected brainpan or a perforated liver in full anatomical exactitude, he might as well see it in MK X; a game that is ultimately stupid and non-hateful (and I mean that in the most affectionate sense). So won't somebody think of the children? Well I have, and it's complicated and uneasy and difficult, but at the end of the day the old tricks are probably still the best tricks. Kids will play MK X, and it's going to be a little fucked up. But with proper parental oversight and a good explanation of boundaries and the divide between fantasy and reality, it shouldn't be anymore harmful than watching a 16-bit Johnny Cage awkwardly stick his foot kinda, sorta, into another digitized sprite. With that off my chest and out of my brain, I can get back to feeding Quan Chi to a buzzsaw-hat -- guilt free.
MK X Gore photo
Decapitations for the YouTube generation
When I was a little boy, Mortal Kombat was a tough sell around my home. Like most pre-adolescents of the era, I was darkly attracted to the idea of ninjas and movie stars decapitating each other in bouts of gladiatorial comba...

What is your favorite Souls series boss?

Apr 07 // Chris Carter
Chris Carter: Ornstein & Smough I'm already a sucker for humanoid encounters already, so a dance with two of the most fearsome warriors in all of Lordran is pretty much a perfect situation for me. It helps that they were sufficiently tenacious in taking me down, leading to the source of most of my deaths in all of Dark Souls. It wasn't just the fight that was memorable though. Forging on to Anor Londo for the first time and seeing the stark contrast of brightly lit skies was breathtaking, and felt like a brief respite from the challenging areas that lied ahead. Stephen Turner: Capra Demon The Capra Demon scared the shit out of me. Then I realised he had a problem with stairs. He didn't seem too scary after that. Also, Moonlight Butterfly because I made the ghost witch with the big hat do all the hard work while I cowered in the corner. Honestly, I gave up after the Gaping Dragon and stopped at the gates of Blighttown. Never went any further than that. I heard there was a lot of poisoning going around and it was a bit rundown, so I imagined it looked exactly like Swansea. Occams: Gravelord Nito Talk about doing more with less?!  Just a writhing ball of skeletons wearing darkness like a cloak.  And it's arm ending in that wicked scythe. For such a simple design, it conveys a lovely sense of dread and power. From Software could have made Nito some undead Lord and gone the ornate route.  Instead, they focused on making it a primal force of nature.  For me, this elevates Nito to one of the most memorable designs in a series rife with amazing bosses. Mike Martin: The Asylum Demon Meeting him for the first time set the tone of the game and showed you what you were in for. His size, his design and his moves all seemed to be designed to intimidate. It's not a hard a fight at all, but it really sucked me into the world. From the moment he crashed down from his chicken-like flight, swinging his hammer, destroying pillars I knew this was a game I was going to be absorbed and challenged by. Best tutorial ever. Ben Davis: Tower Knight I think the Tower Knight from Demon's Souls will always be my favorite Souls boss, although a few other bosses from the later games, like Sif and the Looking Glass Knight, come pretty close. The Tower Knight was the second Souls boss I ever fought, and it's all thanks to him that I fell in love with Demon's and the series in general. The Tower Knight beat me to a pulp so many times that I didn't want to play the game anymore, but everything about the battle (aside from the losing) was so awesome that I couldn't stop thinking about it. The music, the sheer scale of the giant knight, the knowledge that I could die in an instant if I made even the slightest mistake...something about all of this made me feel like this was a game I needed to beat, a game I would love if I was ever able to master it. And so I came back and finally beat the Tower Knight, and promptly fell in love with Demon's Souls. Nic Rowen: Black Dragon Kalameet There are more imaginative bosses (Smough and Ornstein), ones with better atmosphere (Nito, Gwyn), and better soundtracks (Seath), but Kalameet is the one and only dragon I've ever fought in a videogame that actually felt like fighting a dragon. After watching Kalameet douse the entire battlefield in black flame, snatch an adventurers life away with a quick swipe of his tail, or pound through a knight's tower shield with relentless tearing claws, who could ever go back to the listless, floaty dragons of Skyrim or even the immobile Dragon God of Demon Souls? Jordan Devore: Gwyn, Lord of Cinder As you push through the fog gate leading into Gwyn's ash-covered domain, he's off in the distance, waiting patiently. It's all come down to this. Somber music fades in and the Lord of Cinder charges at you, culminating in a massive leap with his fiery sword aimed at your chest. After fighting and slaying so many huge bosses that looked scary at first glance but ended up being clumsy or easy to read, Gwyn intimidates. He's not much bigger than you, but he's swift and persistent. For me, the hardest part of this duel wasn't timing individual blocks, or rolls, or sword strikes during vulnerable moments -- it was remaining calm throughout the entire fight. And when I finally did kill Gwyn many attempts later, any satisfaction I felt was quickly replaced by another feeling: guilt. From Software somehow made me feel guilty for killing the final boss. Kyle MacGregor: Tower Knight The encounter with the Tower Knight is far and away the most indelible moment I've experienced in a From Software game. Just crossing paths with the hulking warrior means charging across a bridge patrolled by a giant fire-breathing dragon and a small army of men armed to the teeth with crossbows and other instruments of death. And it gets no easier upon reaching the end of the line. The Tower Knight is an utterly massive, imposing figure. He stands two stories tall, greeting players with a stomp of his colossal solleret and impenetrable tower shield. Behind him a clown-like man chuckles, as dozens of crossbowmen flank the player from the surrounding ramparts. The battle figures to be a short one where the player either ends up riddled with crossbow bolts or flattened under the behemoth's boot. Then the music kicks in. It's an eerie chant accompanied by unsettling horns and strings that heightens the mood. It's harrowing. Death seems all but certain. More so than the Phalanx before it, the Tower Knight sets the tone of what players can expect out of Demon's Souls and the rest of the series. This doesn't feel like a fair fight. Not in the slightest. But if you keep your wits about you and are persistent you'll eventually triumph. It's an incredible challenge, but a totally surmountable one. And that victory is all the sweeter for your hardships.
Favorite Souls bosses photo
It's hard to pick just one
Yesterday, we talked about From Software Director Hidetaka Miyazaki's favorite boss fight from the Souls series. Interestingly enough it was the Old Monk from Demon's Souls, an encounter that blurred the l...

Review: Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious

Mar 31 // Steven Hansen
[embed]289632:57948:0[/embed] Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious (Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Playground GamesPublisher: Microsoft StudioReleased: March 27, 2015MSRP: Free until April 10, then $9.99 Steven: I don't got friends... I got family. Want to talk about 2 Forza 2 Furious? Brett: Yeah, we can talk for review. Start with some dialogue, send it, and I'll respond. S: Too late. I'm counting the preceding as "started." Everyone is going to see how the Destructoid sausage gets made. Boring fucking emails. I am so very torn (I'm all out of faith, this is how I feel) on Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious. On one hand, I am playing a free (without Xbox Live, but only until April 10) sampling of Forza Horizon 2 that feels like it contains enough of what Forza Horizon 2 is about -- especially to me, as not a car person. On the other hand, the Fast & Furious partnership that bore this free thing feels too crass, too spurious. It's just not there thematically because this is still Forza Horizon 2 (a very fun car driving game). NOS and racing for pinks feel like set dressing. Ludacris' voice over linking races just feels sort of bland. They couldn't even throw in a "Did you see that?" B: Fantastic Natalie Imbruglia reference aside (I have a whole story about "Left of the Middle" for another day), this feels less Fast & Furious and more like a large-scale demo for Forza Horizon 2. If I can add a third and fourth hand to your two, this might be the best that Forza Horizon 2 ever gets. No boring C and D class races -- just fun cars, and a campaign with a digestible scope. However, the Fast & Furious veneer isn't fooling anyone. The one-minute unskippable movie sizzle reel at the beginning is the strongest the tie-in ever gets. I don't know that anyone expected this to be anything more than fan-service, but it barely qualifies as that. The NOS mechanic is the one alteration made to gameplay, and it doesn't even do anything! It adds a filter to indicate that you're going real fast, but you don't actually gain ground on other cars. Maybe they're all using their NOS at the exact same time I am. If so, it's uncanny how that keeps happening. S: It's probably the weakest boost I've felt in a racer. Seems to slowly up your top speed on straightaways. The digestible scope thing is interesting because for as short as it is in terms of providing you with explicit objectives, the pace felt kind of whack. I already drove a McLaren in one of those skill point challenges before I won one in a race, and even then it was arguably not better than the Nissan GTR I used to win it. Plus, the few more cars you unlock down the line mostly drop from these super cars to A level or whatever, and it's like, why am I going to trade down? If you're a car nut, I guess. Or really want to drive a Jeep Wrangler. Races are engaging at any level, though, whether your top speed is around 90 or 200 mph which is good because the latter half in the race progression doesn't solely scale to super cars and will make you pick out other options in your garage. The skill point challenges, on the other hand, are rather dull or too easy. I drove around haphazardly burning out and running into things and aced most of them without much effort, save for the one that was like 25,000 points, which just took a bit longer. On the other hand, one challenge that was a combination of the two -- race to an end point in under two minutes and score 15 near misses with other cars -- was a nice mix and fit a bit more into the Fast & Furious theme of skilled drivers doing exceptional and cool things with cars. Even if "get close to but don't hit this many cars for no particular reason" is, well, arbitrary. Being able to come in first place consistently despite being a horrible driver that crashes monstrously evokes the opposite feeling, despite helping to keep things light. B: That isn't so much a problem that's inherent to this particular piece of content, so much as it is of Forza Horizon in general. And, if you want to go broader, it's really the case for any racer that doesn't pride itself on being simulation-like, or whatever. I mean, it's easy to forget when the mediums stay in their respective corners, but when you try crossing them over, you realize that in a lot of ways, Forza Horizon 2 basically already was Fast & Furious: The Videogame. That is to say, it's just a lot of fast racing and over-the-top stunts that generally require a suspension of belief. The #synergy between the two franchises is obvious, so the tie-in makes sense on a base level. However, tacking a movie known for being ridiculous on top of a game known for being ridiculous elevates expectations in a way that's near impossible to deliver on. This game falls flat in that sense, because those are heights this never had a chance to soar to. S: That's it. This is fun because Forza Horizon is fun and it is nice that it's free (until April 10), glorified demo that it is, but it makes me yearn for an actual Fast & Furious game with a "Press F to drink a Corona" prompt and a Han lives retcon. [This review is based on a retail build of the game downloaded for free on the Xbox Marketplace.]
Fast & Furious Forza photo
Just a quarter mile
Forza Horizon has long been considered the Fast & Furious of games, so this standalone release makes sense. Unfortunately. it's not much more than a thin, thin Fast & Furious skin over Forza Horizon 2, a bit of a disa...

Review: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: Ascendance

Mar 31 // Chris Carter
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: Ascendance DLC (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Sledgehammer Games (Current-gen) / High Moon Studios (Last-gen) / Raven Software (Zombies)Publisher: ActivisionReleased: March 31, 2015MSRP: $14.99 ($50 Season Pass for four packs) Site 244 is Call of Duty's take on Mount Rushmore, with a tad more destruction and radioactive waste to boot. Set to the theme of a ruined test site, the map looks cooler than it actually plays. The constant attention to detail is something you'll notice immediately, and the actual mountain itself isn't immediately apparent unless you look up in the distance. Unfortunately, the cheap crag-like layout feels limiting in a game that's supposed to be about freedom of movement. The layout is handicapped by "paths," which are basically just giant crags that block you from experimentation and herd you into various chokepoints. Because of its aesthetic value I don't necessarily vote to skip it during the loadout screen, but I'm not thrilled with it either. Another map in the bunch, Climate, follows the same style-over-functionality principle with a gorgeous design and a boring layout. It reminds me of Zoo on paper, one of my favorite maps of all time, but the layout itself is similar to Site 244 in that it feels far too restrictive. It's very flat outside of one particular quadrant, and you'll spend a lot of time shooting across long stretches and hallways, which feels counter-productive with an outdoor map. Filling the area with acid is a nice touch that occurs later in a match, but it's not enough to really make this one stand out. One arena shines above all others in the pack -- Perplex. It takes place in a five story apartment complex in the heart of Sydney, Australia, and it's just as amazing as it looks. Both the background (with the Sydney Opera House and active sailboats) and the interiors of Perplex look painstakingly crafted, and you can even see the details like the weather channel on TV, which at this point, is actually visible on-screen sans blur. It doesn't end there though as the design is genius, providing a five-story meta-game that has players constantly moving up and down to get a proper vantage point. It's also neat to see new modular apartments being flown in by drones, which end up being part of the level. As a welcome surprise, Perplex is now one of my all-time favorite new Call of Duty maps. With the new grapple playlist (more on that in a second), it's even more enjoyable.  While Site 244 and Climate felt different enough to justify the identity of the DLC, Chop Shop just feels like a decent map that should have been included in the base game. It feels like a mix of Horizon and Ascend from pretty much every angle, which you already paid for. Every time I geared up for Chop Shop it didn't feel premium in any way, but it's a decent map for objective-based games if that's your thing. To add a little oomph to Ascendence, you'll also net the OHM-Werewolf gun, as well as the aforementioned grapple playlist. The weapon itself is an SMG-shotgun hybrid that shoots blue energy bullets, able to switch between both modes of fire with a quick d-pad tap. It feels new without being overpowered, as you're inherently limited by your lack of range no matter what toolkit you use. The grapple playlist ended up being a joy to play, as everyone's Exo powers are eliminated and replace with a grappling hook, which can be used mid-jump or to scale pretty much anything. With a low cooldown meter you can pretty much grapple at all times, and it's just as fun as it sounds. Of course, the main attraction for many is the Exo Zombies mode, which also comes with a new map called Infection. It takes place in a decidedly less industrial setting, with a burger joint and an interconnected sewer system. Long time fans will remember Burger Town, which has been a "Pizza Planet"-like Easter Egg since Modern Warfare 2. The more I play Exo Zombies the more I really start to see the effort that was put into it, as zombies don't just aimlessly shamble along through windows like they did in the past -- they slip through cracks and dynamically approach you throughout the level, even if their spawn points are scripted. It's also nice to see Activision commit to an interesting cast (Bill Paxton, John Malkovich, Rose McGowan, and Jon Bernthal) rather than have them as a one-off like past DLCs. The Exosuit (once you locate it) continues to add an extra layer to the classic co-op formula, as double-jumping and air-dashing is still just as exciting when you're running from zombies. And you'll need to run, as there's plenty of formidable foes that can infect you or shut down your Exosuit temporarily. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare doesn't really have a killer Season Pass so far, but if you're still into zombies, it's worth the investment -- mostly because you can't even access the mode without buying some form of DLC. There are a few flashes of brilliance in the maps delivered in Havoc and Ascendance, but I'm hoping that John Malkovich and the crew won't have to carry so heavy a load for the next two add-ons. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
COD DLC review photo
A new meaning for Cyrus 'The Virus'
I've come to really enjoy Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's multiplayer months down the line. It's withstood the test of time, and although I was skeptical of Sledgehammer Games' first Duty outing, it has done a decent jo...

Review: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel: Claptastic Voyage

Mar 29 // Darren Nakamura
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel: Claptastic Voyage (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developers: 2K Australia, Gearbox SoftwarePublisher: 2K GamesReleased: March 24, 2015MSRP: $9.99 (included in Season Pass and The Handsome Collection)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit With the premise of entering the mind of Claptrap, The Pre-Sequel had a ton of freedom with where it could go and what it could do. As with the Dungeons and Dragons-esque setup for Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, the narrative hook allows Vault Hunters to leave the planet of Pandora (or its moon Elpis) in favor of even more fantastic locales. In practice, Claptastic Voyage takes players from the samey blue-gray moon surface and industrial complexes to samey blue-gray electronics (that look a lot like industrial complexes). At least, that's how the first half goes. It's immediately disappointing that the limitless setting produces such uninteresting environments, but that changes further in. A little ways into the DLC the Vault Hunters can access Claptrap's old memories, revisiting areas featured in previous titles like Fyrestone or Overlook. Eventually, the shooting goes deep enough into Claptrap's mind to find wholly original, diverse environments. The Escherian temple of Claptrap's subconscious is particularly fun to explore. One thing that Claptastic Voyage does especially well is to fill in gaps in the overarching story that have only previously been hinted at. It does this with the memory exercise in Overlook, illustrating the town's deterioration to the state players find it in Borderlands 2. It ends with a direct lead-in to BL2, showing how Claptrap meets Sir Hammerlock in the frozen tundra on Pandora. It even goes so far as to explain Claptrap's penchant for dubstep where it wasn't present in the original Borderlands. [embed]288904:57729:0[/embed] All that said, while the details are cute for fans of the lore, the main plot in Claptastic Voyage has been done several times in the Borderlands series. Perhaps it's intentionally self-referential, but the plot device that introduces the main villain early on as an ally who "unexpectedly" betrays the heroes is tired at this point. He is clearly designed to let the player know what's up, so watching the characters go along and be flabbergasted by the betrayal creates a sort of disconnect between player and protagonist. At a micro level, the writing follows what we have come to expect from the series. Though it isn't as laugh-out-loud funny as Tales from the Borderlands has been, it hits the right notes of dark comedy. It manages to get through its eight-to-ten hour campaign without making nearly as many pop culture references as the last few games in the series have done. Gameplay is largely unaltered from The Pre-Sequel's main campaign. It remains fast and frenetic to moon jump and butt slam between enemies. There are very few zero-atmosphere environments in Claptastic Voyage, so players are free to use the double jump without having to worry about running out of oxygen. Almost all of the enemies are new in some way, with viruses, bugs, and protection software given physical manifestations to explode. Even the old standby enemies like bandits and psychos behave a bit differently, able to phase in and out of existence occasionally since they are computer projections generated by Claptrap's memory. The theme of software given life extends to in-universe advertisement, with foes who do nothing but stream audio to the player until they are destroyed. There are also pop-up ads: chest-high walls that appear from the ground and can either be closed or serve as randomized mini stores for health or ammunition. The final boss deserves special mention, though not necessarily for the best reasons. It begins as an interesting fight, with a lot of different tasks the player has to juggle. There are jump pads, helpful "volatile bits" to trigger, lava to avoid, small enemies to keep at bay and use for revives, and the main boss who can deal some serious damage if he is ignored. It's exciting for the first 10 minutes. Then it keeps going. Then the boss transforms and recharges his shield. Then it keeps going. Then he transforms and recharges his shield again. I timed it; it took me 45 minutes to solo that one fight, and that was on my second try. (On the first try, I spent what felt like an hour, made it to his final form, died, and started back at the beginning of the fight. I quit for the night.) It illustrates how 2K Australia can get some aspects of Borderlands so right, but just miss the mark in other ways that bring the whole experience down a bit. The boss just has too much health, and that one element turns it from an interesting fight into a slog. It's almost as if it is intended to be a raid boss, except that it's required in order to complete the story. In fact, there is no optional raid boss like there have been in past Borderlands DLC packs, which is a little disappointing considering how phoned in the raid boss in The Pre-Sequel's main game is. That said, 2K Australia does its own thing for high level content. In addition to farming the end boss for Legendary drops, a special arena unlocks after getting through the story. It boils down to fending off waves of enemies in an arena, but it allows parties to customize various aspects of the battle. Players can increase or decrease the difficulty and add "mutations," like bonus damage for certain gun manufacturers or increased magazine size at the cost of decreased reload speed. Of course, more difficult settings yield more valuable loot. It's an interesting idea that I'd like to see explored further in future installments. Overall, Claptastic Voyage is an improvement to Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. It seems like 2K Australia has been listening to a lot of the criticism of the base game. Aside from some invisible walls, I didn't experience any of the bugs here that detracted from The Pre-Sequel. The environmental design starts off disappointingly unimaginative, but soon goes to unexpected places. The core gameplay is as fun as it has ever been. However, Claptastic Voyage still suffers from some of the problems that plague the entire series. The main plot is average, lacking any real standout moments worth discussing. It exists as a vehicle to get players between gunfights or to the more entertaining optional missions. This won't go down in history as an example of exceptional DLC, but it does what it does well and it's worth the time to play through.
Claptastic Voyage review photo
PreSequel++;
With Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, I like and dislike different parts of it in almost equal measure. The combat is exciting and the characters are likable. On the other hand, the environments are a little dull and it suff...

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Sword in the Darkness

Mar 25 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: The Sword in the Darkness (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: March 24, 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.] Like the previous episode, The Sword in the Darkness opens with Asher across the Narrow Sea. Hothead that he is, his sections always seem to be more action-oriented than the others. As an introduction to the episode it sets an energetic tone, though most of the other sections follow the more subdued light exploration and dialogue trees Telltale is known for. Asher is presented with a major this-or-that decision early on, and it comes during such a panicked situation that I was actually caught off guard by it, despite knowing what to expect by now. The scene does a good job of getting the adrenaline pumping and then presenting players with an impossible decision. I think I shouted some profanity at my monitor when it showed up. Well played, Telltale. Though Asher is charming and fun, Mira's tribulations in King's Landing continue to be the most interesting. Cersei, Tyrion, and Margaery all show up, and each wants something from the eldest Forrester daughter. Though the audience with Cersei in episode one was nerve-wracking, the politicking here provided the most sustained tenseness in the series. [embed]289414:57887:0[/embed] Cersei doesn't want Mira associating with Tyrion, Margaery wants her marriage into the Lannister family to go smoothly, Tyrion wants to team up with Mira to make some money, and Mira wants to give her family the best chance at survival by manipulating relationships in King's Landing. Keeping everyone happy while still achieving Mira's objective requires delicate balance, and there are very real consequences presented for crossing any of the major players. Mira's navigation of nobility politics feels more like Game of Thrones than any previous encounter. Previously, Gared hadn't been too important in the overall story of House Forrester, but now his purpose is made clear. The North Grove plot point introduced in episode one and ignored in episode two is revisited, and it sets a more tangible goal for future episodes. Where before it seemed like Gared being sent to The Wall was just an excuse to show scenes with Jon Snow, now it seems like a carefully calculated decision, both in-universe by Duncan and outside by Telltale. I'm much more interested to see where Gared's story goes now than I was coming into episode three. The most focus is placed on the events at Ironrath, where the Whitehill soldiers are becoming increasingly unruly. There are a couple of different approaches to take, but even if the player decides to go down one path, there are a number of scenes that test resolve. The smart choice for the long run is rarely the one that feels right in the moment. It's a strange situation, because Ironrath's state by the end of The Sword in the Darkness is obstensively worse than it was at the end of The Lost Lords, but I feel more optimistic about the future. As Rodrik, I made choices for the greater good that I thought might let other characters down, but the team all appeared to be on the same page. For the first time in the series, I don't feel like I have made all of the wrong choices. For sure, sacrifices had to be made. Not everybody ended up happy. By some metrics, each of the playable characters is worse off than before. But as a whole, the group finally has direction. Where the first two episodes took their time setting up the narrative machine, The Sword in the Darkness finally puts that machine into motion. Telltale's initial promise that each character's actions will ripple out and affect the others is coming to fruition. I only expect to see that even more with the next episode. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Game of Thrones review photo
The wheels are in motion
Telltale seems to be getting into the swing of things with Game of Thrones, in more ways than one. For starters, it only took seven weeks since the last episode for this one to come out. If Telltale can keep up that pace, the...

Review: Life is Strange: Out of Time

Mar 25 // Brett Makedonski
Life is Strange: Out of Time (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One[reviewed])Developer: Dontnod EntertainmentPublisher: Square EnixRelease date: March 24, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) This is a tremendous step in world-building, but Dontnod did too little with the time it had in this chapter. Episode two spends entirely too long plodding about and convincing others that, yes, Max's time-rewinding powers really do exist. Despite so much screen-time given to Max and Chloe, neither Max's personal narrative nor the relationship between the two was advanced significantly from the foundation laid in episode one. Major pacing issues plague most of this installment. While the tempo has problems, Life is Strange has no difficulty reaching incredible crescendos at the drop of a hat. These are the moments that will surely make a long-lasting impression. The final act of Out of Time holds an encounter that almost the entire episode builds toward. When it happens, it's tough to swallow the raw emotion of it all, regardless of which outcome you're saddled with. But, those type of pinnacles wouldn't pierce so strongly if they weren't slowly built upon. Small interactions accumulate as puzzles are pieced together across multiple sources. Out of Time deals heavily with subjects such as drugs, sexual abuse, and debilitating depression. That'd be daunting enough in its own right, but the player's given perspective of both the victim and those who are maliciously perpetuating the gossip. It's tough to stand by and watch someone that down and out, but it's heart-wrenching to see them relentlessly bullied. [embed]289314:57864:0[/embed] Out of Time's lasting mark will be that it's the episode where choices begin to actually matter. Those aforesaid peaks in action come to a head eventually, and many decisions made (no matter how seemingly innocuous they may have been) act as the winds of change that could very well trigger a maelstrom. There's just too much gray area between good and bad for everyone's arc to have a pleasant conclusion. Dontnod has done well so far to not telegraph a clear-cut route to achieving a desirable outcome. While Out of Time has a tendency to meander (like Max herself), it hits hard in its critical moments. This episode succeeds in that it's adept at creating sincere concern for most of the inhabitants of Life is Strange. That depth is appreciated, but Out of Time felt like a giant step to the side, as we aren't much further along than we were at the end of episode one.
Life is Strange review photo
The squirrels and the birds come
I just finished episode two of Life is Strange, and I've spiraled down a playlist of Ben Folds songs. Out of Time is Kate Marsh's story, but "Kate" is too cheerful; this tale isn't about daisies, dandelions, and butterfl...

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 ...

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 ...

What can save Titanfall 2?

Mar 14 // Nic Rowen
Fine, just go ahead and make a single player campaign As someone who almost never bothers with the single player campaign in a shooter, I applauded Respawn's decision to axe any kind of bloated, roller-coaster ride of narrative mode like I was a 18th century French peasant cheering at the guillotine. I looked at all the stats and figures showing how most CoD players never touch the SP game and thought of my own history of aggressively ignoring most shooter stories since Quake 3 and thought it was a savvy move. A good way to cut down the cost of development while making sure the full focus of the project was placed on the most important part of the game, the multiplayer. And I was wrong. Well sort of. Personally, stubbornly, I STILL think it was a good idea. I was fine with the window dressing of the “campaign multiplayer” mode which added a few lines of story-based radio chatter over the usual MP action, leaving the player to draw in the details. But given the massive popular backlash against the decision, it's clear that the absence of a SP campaign hurt the reputation and perception of Titanfall more than whatever dollars they saved in the process could have. It may be silly, but so many people were offended by the lack of a SP campaign (that they were statistically unlikely to have played) that it killed a lot of enthusiasm for the title. It made Titanfall feel like half a game sold at the price of a full title. Even as just an optics thing, the trade-off wasn't worth it. As much as I hate to admit it, Titanfall 2 should have an SP campaign. Whether it's fair or not, it is something that is seen as part of the complete package for a first-person shooter. They gave it a shot without one and it didn't work, to stick to that stance on principle would be foolish. Besides, I don't know about anyone else, but I could probably stand to learn a little bit more about the history behind the development of the Titans and the lives of the colonists living on those monster-infested planets. Ironically, Titanfall's world is probably one of the only FPS settings that actually could get me to sit through a five-to-eight hour campaign! For God's sake, give us more robots Surprising nobody, the biggest draw about Titanfall was the mechs. I thought they looked cool, had a satisfying weight in the world compared to the pixie-like pilots, and had an intimidating presence on the battlefield. They were powerful and desirable without making the average pilot on foot feel useless. I just wish there were more of them. Three Titans aren't enough. Not by a long shot. I get why, from a gameplay perspective, Respawn might have wanted to keep it simple and stick with “the fast one, the Ryu, and the big one” so players could clearly see the trade-offs of each and easily size up the opposition while wall-running down a four story building trying to aim a rapid-fire rocket launcher. Maybe that was the right call for the first game, but this is the sequel. It's time to add some more wrinkles, some more complexity, some more crunch. I want to see weirder, more specialized Titans. Robots with particular abilities and roles, or weapons that can only be equipped on specific chassis rather than one-size-fits-all solutions. Maybe mechs that can use larger cannons or launchers by deploying in a static position, making themselves an easy target temporarily while they break out the big guns. Or maybe a Titan that has less offensive power but a sophisticated sensor system to compensate, creating a more tactically minded option for coordinated teams. I don't want to get bogged down in imagineering up robots (that's a rabbit hole I could waste an entire day in), but you get the idea. The Titans are supposed to be what sets the game apart against all of the other “hold left-trigger, squeeze right-trigger” shooters out there, they should be front and center and there should be plenty of them. Robot bling  While emblems and custom AI voice options for your Titans were eventually added into Titanfall with a patch almost half a year after release, it was a classic case of too little, too late. It's mind boggling to me that those options weren't in the game from the start and that Respawn was so timid with them when they finally added them in. I mean, one little patch on the shoulder of your three story tall robot? Nuts to that. I want to be able to paint my Titan hazard yellow with orange and gold trim, people should recognize me when I come stomping. I want to be able to select between a few different types of leg joints and shoulder pads, give my robot just the right swagger. I want to be able to adjust the look of my individual pilot characters by class and type, deck out my own imaginary crew of jetpack-wearing badasses. This is a futuristic sci-fi setting, why not have some fun with it? Adding in a ton of unlockable cosmetic gear isn't just fun for players, it also solves another problem Titanfall had -- content and progression goals. While I personally liked that there were only so many guns and attachments in the game and they were all relatively quick to unlock, a lot of players complained that it felt like there was nothing to “do” in Titanfall, that they were never working towards a goal (like you need more incentive to climb into the cockpit of a missile spewing robot? I don't understand people). Cosmetic gear could be used to give progression minded players something to shoot for without messing up the pace of weapon unlocks or stuffing the game full of useless sights and foregrips just for the sake of having them. If Respawn sticks to its admirable “no micro-transaction” policy, fancy helmets and mech bling could be a nice long-term carrot for players that who don't hold robot brawling as a self-justifying reward. What do you think? As I said before, I loved Titanfall, so while I have plenty of suggestions on how to improve the game, maybe I'm not seeing what turned everyone else off. So what do you think? Is there anything Titanfall 2 could do to make you interested in a jet-pack/robot deathmatch, or is Respawn doomed to repeat history a second time out?
Titanfall 2 wishlist photo
I've got a few ideas
I absolutely adored Titanfall, but going by the comments and blogs I've read over the past year, it seems like I'm the only person on Earth who did. Every article, news post, or blog written about the game invariably becomes ...

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.

Review: Ori and the Blind Forest

Mar 09 // Chris Carter
Ori and the Blind Forest (PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Moon StudiosPublisher: Microsoft StudiosReleased: March 11, 2015 (PC, Xbox One) / TBA (Xbox 360)MSRP: $19.99 Ori is soaked in style from the very start. The amazing score makes me feel like I'm watching a Ghibli movie. The visuals look similar to the new pair of Rayman games, but easily surpass them in quality. I'm immediately enamored by the gibberish dialog that I fondly remember from the Nintendo 64 era. Everything is nearly perfect, setting the stage for the rest of the game. The narrative is light. Rather than lengthy cutscenes, you'll have a lot of interaction and on-screen text that appears without interrupting gameplay -- it's so well executed. Your story begins in the Nibel forest, taking the role of Ori, the daughter of the Spirit Tree. One day you're separated from your father due to the acts of the evil bird Kuro, and your adventure begins to save the forest. You'll accomplish this goal by way of metroidvania-style gameplay, and your compatriot, a sprite named Sein. Said sprite will allow you to attack enemies with a sort of mid-range homing attack, and damn does it feel good. Most of the combat is done by mashing the button, but there's nuance when it comes to jumping around and position -- a lot of foes can do serious damage to your health bar, so you still have to be aware of your actions. [embed]288779:57679:0[/embed] Soon enough you'll start earning more powers like a charge attack, a wall-jump, and so on. There's not a lot of sequence breaking involved (there is some though), but again, it all flows perfectly to the point where you'll never feel bored. This is especially true once you start ranking up with the three-pronged skill tree, allowing you to focus in certain areas like offense or defense, or become a jack of all trades. Ori herself feels remarkably nimble, and controlling her is a joy. Jumps feel deliberate, attacks have weight, and often times I'd just hop around the world for the hell of it to test my abilities. By the time you earn the triple-jump and air-dashing powers, it's a blast. There are a lot of other tiny gameplay bits like health pods that won't pop unless you attack them that really show how detailed Moon Studios was willing to go from a design standpoint. Killing enemies also grant you experience directly, encouraging combat. Another cool mechanic that's unique to Ori is the "Soul Link" power. In short, it's a burst move that costs energy (MP), but allows you to save your progress and create a checkpoint at any time. The game also saves at key events and there are traditional Metroid-like "save points," but it's awesome to restart basically anywhere you want. If you feel like testing a certain tough area or checking for a pit, just Soul Link, run off the cliff, and go back to your own checkpoint. If you're so inclined there's plenty of health and energy-increasing orbs to find, and plenty of extra areas to search for. The average first completion run will likely take roughly six hours, and there's an Achievement for beating it in three. Exploring everything will probably take you 10 hours or so. It's not a massive game by any means, but all of it is meaty. It succeeds in being both a great introduction to the genre and a rewarding experience for the hardcore audience. The only problem I have right now with Ori is that you seemingly can't continue your game after beating it -- the save screen doesn't show the option to re-enter your file or start a New Game+, which may be a huge problem for some of you out there. Nor is there a hard mode or other such variant. Personally I didn't find this element to be a dealbreaker, as I immediately started another game after the credits rolled. Some of you will, no doubt. From a mechanical standpoint, Ori and the Blind Forest isn't an evolution of the genre, and you've seen most of what's on offer here before. But aesthetically it's in a league of its own, and everything it does, it does well. If you're looking for a metroidvania, I'd consider this a new classic. I wish Moon Studios the best of luck on its next project. I'm looking forward to it. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Ori review photo
Beauty, digitally distilled
Every so often I come across a game that just makes me smile. I mean, I play videogames almost daily because I have fun doing it, but certain titles have me grinning from ear to ear the entire journey for a myriad of different reasons. Ori and the Blind Forest is one of those games. It's just plain enjoyable from start to finish, and doesn't waste your time.

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: Screamride

Mar 02 // Chris Carter
Screamride (Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Frontier DevelopmentsPublisher: Microsoft StudiosReleased: March 3, 2015MSRP: $29.99 (Xbox 360), $39.99 (Xbox One) Believe it or not Screamride actually has some semblance of a story. In a dystopian future, a mega-corporation has recruited thrillseekers to test out various dangerous rides and experiences "for the future of mankind." It's all very eerie while at the same time adding in comical effects like people flying off the back of a boat to their death. It's never laugh-out-loud hilarious but it strikes a nice balance tonally to the point where I'm typically smiling. The thing I like most about Screamride is the commitment to the theme. Whether it's the chill electronic soundtrack or the bright and beautiful skylines, I'm constantly in a state of therapeutic bliss. The actual game on the other hand is very simplistic -- often to a fault. Everything is broken up into three core concepts, strung across six different zones. You'll get the "Ride," "Demolition," and "Engineer" subtypes, with roughly three to four stages for each activity. A certain score is required to progress through the campaign, which should take you roughly 10 hours or so to complete. [embed]287893:57556:0[/embed] "Ride" is probably the least exciting of the bunch, as it's basically Kinect Sports without the Kinect. Some of you out there might be jumping for joy at the lack of motion controls, but a fair bit of Kinect Sports Rivals was actually well done and innovative. With this minigame, you're just controlling a coaster, literally on rails, to its destination. Your job is to boost every so often and not fall off. "Demolition" is easily my favorite, and the one I play most often. In short, it's a 'roided up Angry Birds, subbing in orbs with people in them as the "bullets," so to speak. You'll control a catapult as you aim and fire each shell into various buildings and targets, with a slight aftertouch control to ease you into your destination. On the Xbox One, the physics are beautiful, and the destruction is gloriously detailed. You'll also get quite a bit of variety here as the game ramps up and gives you more powers, like the ejection pod or the jet-propulsion pod. To hinder or help your chaos there's a bunch of bounce pads, explosive barrels, wall-blocks, and basketball hoops to navigate through, adding a lot more depth over time. What feels like a basic Angry Birds clone eventually turns into something much more than meets the eye. "Engineer" is the last bit, which is basically more of a tutorial for the sandbox mode. You'll get to create the coasters that you got to play with in "Ride," adding in your own twists like bigger drops, tighter corners, and higher hills. The only real selling point here is challenges, which aren't present in the sandbox mode. Sandbox will be the bigger draw for creative types, as there are a lot more tools at your disposal. If you're so inclined you can also add in objectives for other players and share them online. There's already some crazy developer creations that were more fun to ride around in than the campaign, so as if the community stays active, there will be extra content to play around in down the line. That's a big "if" though. The main problem with Screamride is that the creation process doesn't feel as grand as it could. I was hoping that I'd be able to jump in and craft a giant universe of rides, but instead the game only gave me smaller islands to work with. Creating your own coaster with hundred-foot-high hills can be thrilling, but it can only go so far until you want to move onto something else. In a future sequel, I'd love to see ten or more concepts, not three, all working in tandem. Screamride is a limited romp, but its core selection of minigames are fun to play. It's enjoyable for what it is, whether you have a creative mind or just want to blow shit up. I can see myself going back from time to time to top my best score -- I just won't be creating things for months on end. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Screamride review photo
More like mild yelling
When I first saw the debut trailer for Screamride, I assumed it was a simulator. Growing up with Sim Theme Park and RollerCoaster Tycoon, I relished the idea of creating and managing my own commercial park and divining n...

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...

Mortal Kombat X introduces online factions and brings back the Challenge Tower

Feb 06 // Abel Girmay
Mortal Kombat X (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) Developer: NetherRealm Studios, Showtime StudiosPublisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentRelease Date: April 14, 2015   If you spent any significant amount of time with Mortal Kombat 9, you remember the Challenge Tower. Consisting of 300 challenges, the tower would test and frustrate you to wits' end as you worked your way up to the top. Mortal Kombat X's Living Towers fill a similar role with key differences. The biggest changes are that the towers are now split in three, and the challenges in each will update with new content. To start, you have your quick tower comprising of only five challenges, but it updates every two to three hours. The daily tower carries an intermediate level of difficulty, and updates its eight fights every 24 hours. For those more than confident in their fighting mastery there is the premier tower, built with long-form challenges and events in mind that will run for a few days or even a week, depending on how special the event is. Unlike the Challenge Tower, the Living Towers don't determine which character you can fight with. So if you're like me and only learn about four fighters, you won't find yourself awkwardly trying to learn characters on the fly as everything moves at double speed and the bombs come raining from the sky. That's another major difference -- Living Towers consist entirely of regular fights with various modifiers. Where Injustice's S.T.A.R. Labs and Mortal Kombat's Challenge Tower had silly stages where you'd break into a museum as a cat, or shoot a horde of zombies, these stages have none of that. A change for the better if you ask me. My biggest knock against S.T.A.R. Labs was how often the mission would turn out to be awkward platforming sections or some other distraction from the core fighting.  More noteworthy still is Mortal Kombat X's Faction Wars, a macro-level approach to traditional online clans. When you first boot up your copy, you are going to be prompted to join one of five factions, all based on series lore: Lin Kuei, White Lotus, Black Dragon, Special Forces, or the Brotherhood of Shadows. Once you choose a faction, it really tries to become your game's identity. Menus, interfaces, and even loading screens, will become themed after your faction. So Lin Kuei members may get scenic snowy forests for a main menu, while the Brotherhood of Shadow loading screens will greet you with images of the fire and brimstone Netherrealm. From there, everything you do in both multiplayer and single-player will give you faction points, which feed into your faction's total score. You can clear sections of Living Towers, complete faction-specific challenges, or even face rival factions in online battles. Again, all of this feeds into the collective faction war effort, as well as your individual faction progress. The faction war is platform agnostic as well, so fellow White Lotus accomplishments in the PlayStation 4 version will feed the White Lotus on PC and Xbox 360. The winner at the end of each week-long faction war will be rewarded with anything from profile icons to faction-specific finishers. And if you are the type to swap sides, just know you will not be able to bandwagon to the winning faction. Once a war starts, you are locked into your group, and switching after a war means losing all of your current faction rewards and progress. Of course, what's a fighting game without great fighters, and fight I did. Ermac and Reptile were not available in this build of the game, but all other announced characters were. That did not seem to matter though, as I spent nearly all of my time playing with the Buzz Saw variant of Kung Lao. For those unaware, every fighter has three variations to choose from, each variant adding its own moves to a characters base moveset. Buzz Saw is far and away my favorite. This is the rush-down, in-your-face Kung Lao that you either loved or hated in Mortal Kombat. While Buzz Saw is more focused on projectiles with the classic hat throw and ground hat, it's not in the interest of zoning. Both the ground hat and regular hat tosses are slow, much slower in fact, than in Mortal Kombat 9. The real fun here is to throw out the hat and close the distance. A basic example of this would be to toss it, which does a great deal of stun as your opponent is trapped in an animation of getting buzz-sawed in the chest, and close the distance with a dive kick. Basic I know, but even in my limited time, I honestly felt like Buzz Saw will be the variation of choice for those who previously enjoyed Kung Lao's breakneck pace. Of course you could also try out his Hat Trick variant, which focuses on controlling the hat as an independent entity, or Tempest, which emphasizes control and spacing with his signature spin.  While I still have lingering questions about Mortal Kombat X, what's been shown so far has been great. Living Towers' direct approach to challenges is good fun, and the Faction Wars (all hail White Lotus!) is something I already know will turn into a time sink for me. The last taste before launch has been a good one. Now I just need to hold out for two more months for the real meal.
Mortal Kombat X photo
Karnage with friends
Two more months. Just two more months. That's what I have to keep telling myself while agonizing over the release of Mortal Kombat X. As someone who logged nearly 7,000 matches into the last Mortal Kombat, and still plays Injustice from time to time, any new info is good news, and NetherRealm has recently dropped a lot of details on the game's online modes. Let's dig in.

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) / Raven Software (Zombies)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...


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