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Guitar Hero Live rocks out with a fresher focus

Jun 16 // Alessandro Fillari
Guitar Hero Live (PlayStation 4 [previewed], Playstation 3, Wii U,  Xbox 360, Xbox One, Mobile)Developer: FreeStyle GamesPublisher: ActivisionRelease date: October 20, 2015 First and foremost, if you're a longtime fan of the series that may have felt burned by the last title, Warriors of Rock, you'll be pleased to know that the series has gone back to the basics to keep the focus on jamming out to a variety of tunes ranging from heavy metal, classic rock, and pulsating new metal. While on the surface Guitar Hero Live looks to be a massive departure from the rest of the series, it's very much in line with what was present in the earlier titles. This is purely about the music and experience of building your own personal rocker profile. As you may have seen from the reveal trailers, they've incorporated real video into Guitar Hero this time around. When selecting some of the classics or new tunes, you'll be treated to actual music videos or even concert footage of the band while you play. This is in keeping with the new television aesthetic and architecture that Guitar Hero Live utilizes. Gone are the bizarre storylines and cartoonish visuals showing off your character as they rise from garage-band amateur to international rock star, and in its place is a focus on realism to keep you invested in the songs and the experiences of being a guitar god. During Guitar Hero's absence, the developers have refined the gameplay and tweaked many aspects. The biggest change made is that you can't outright fail songs. As vets know, missing too many notes will fail the song, resulting in game over. In Guitar Hero Live, players that perform poorly can still finish the song. The folks working on the game felt that failing players resulted them in losing interest, so botching songs will only affect your overall score. This gives players the chance to save their performance should they struggle in some spots. Moreover, if players want to take a break during the song, all they'll have to do is stop playing and the song will revert to an attract mode. It's neat, and I feel GHL will be much more welcoming to newcomers. In the two central modes, Live and TV, the game goes about building the rocker experience in different ways; one from the side of media, and the other from in the shoes of a guitar player during a concert. The TV mode will definitely be where most of the action happens. Think of it as the online, multiplayer, and career modes all rolled into one. When in TV mode, you can engage in daily and premium challenges that task you with tackling certain songs to acquire in-game currency and play tokens. Much like cable or satelite television, the TV mode is essentially mix of on-demand and scheduled content. With multiple channels, you'll be able to view the current schedule of upcoming songs that are available to play. If there's one you like, you can jump right in and play. In real time, each 'program' plays a certain genre of music or focuses on a particular band, and is set for half an hour. If there's nothing on the channel's schedule that you like, just switch over to another and check to see what's on. I was impressed with the presentation, and it felt like was tuned to a parallel universe where MTV didn't focus on reality TV and kept with the music. It even made some of the programs feel like events, as you can plan ahead and bring friends over at certain time to rock out. If the channels aren't doing it for you, then you can switch over to the on-demand menu and choose the available songs to add to you playlist and experience at your leisure. Like the previous titles, the base game will come packed with existing songs, and more will be added later. However, the on-demand takes a slightly different approach. While you can play whatever song is present in the menu, they require play tokens for you to add to your playlist. Play tokens are acquired from just playing normally, and you'll accumulate them often. However, if you run out of play tokens, you're unable to play songs on the playlist. If you want to avoid using the tokens -- using them won't technically give you the song -- you can purchase the song outright and make a part of your permanent collection. I suspect this feature draw some ire from fans. While I understand it on an economic level, I feel this can be very annoying for anyone who likes to binge. By my count, there were three different forms of currency in the game: GH credits, real money credits, and play tokens, which will definitely bother people further. While there isn't a cap on play tokens, which can be purchased in bulk from the Guitar Hero store if you don't want to grind, I feel that the system of purchasing that's in place will confuse and annoy people. Thankfully, there are many features to keep players busy. The online mode is robust. Players can compete online against others in real time. During scheduled programs, players will be able to compete for the high score, with the current leader ranks being shown to the left of the screen. There will be many top dogs online, so in order to compete you'll have to make upgrades to your guitar. Using in-game credits acquired from daily challenges and tackling challenging songs, you can invest in a more sophisticated setup. Many of these upgrades range from score multipliers and other boosts to effectiveness. Thankfully, upgrades can only be purchased with in-game currency (which can only be acquired from in-game activity). With the currency, you can also purchase new highways and player cards for further customization. While most of the action will likely be spent in the TV mode, the brand new Live mode offers something a bit different. Ever wonder what it's like to play a guitar to a sold-out concert full of thousands of excited fans and music lovers? Live mode shows that in quasi real-time video that adapts to your performance. With two tours, spread across the U.S. and UK and spanning several sets (songs), you'll jam out with your band as they seek to keep the crowd on their feet and jamming. Playing online is one thing, but the Live mode is incredibly nerve-wracking. Maybe it's just me, because I'm not as good as other players, but watching the crowd and even your band mates turn on me was unsettling. It felt like I was experiencing a bizarre mix between Guitar Hero and those '90s full-motion video games. I don't mean that as a bad thing, however. I was impressed with how well it's presented. It's like those FMV games, except actually good. Shown from the first person, you're in the shoes of the lead guitarist, and when he stumbles, you experience it first hand. It can be tense, especially when your own band starts to turn on you. For the most part, I was largely impressed with my session with Guitar Hero Live. Though I still have some reservations with the game's economy, I still feel there's a lot of good here. The MTV-esque aesthetic was a stroke of genius and it really brought me into the experience much more than any of the other titles did. And given the number of platforms this is on, including mobile, it's clear they want to cover all the bases here. With Rock Band 4 also seeing a release this year, things must be looking up for the music genre now that the two juggernauts have returned. I'm looking forward to seeing how fans will take to it. 
Guitar Hero Live photo
I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!
I remember a time when there was this massive swell of music and rhythm-based games. The most dominant one at the time was the Guitar Hero series, which was quite an obsession among many of my classmates back in college. But ...

Sneak king: 14 hours of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Jun 09 // Steven Hansen
[embed]293558:58900:0[/embed] There is a reason I am excited about Snake's horse having a poop button and it is not only that I am a dumb idiot. While I never managed to confirm, I am sure that you can do something like strategically place poop so an enemy walks into it and stops, or maybe slips. Because things like that are what elevate Metal Gear Solid V above typical stealth and/or open-world titles. It's the idiosyncrasies, like calling in a supply drop from Mother Base right onto the head of a stationary guard, knocking them out. It's knowing winks like hiding in a PS4 cardboard box, or the ghost from PT being an item, or a spoken, in-universe tutorial where you're told fourth wall breaking things like "press X" while under extreme virtual duress. The opening segment, which has mostly been covered in diced up trailers, stuck with me in hindsight for how long it goes on with you controlling a crawling, limping Snake in the under siege, burning hospital. It's a while before you're given any power back (guns or even the ability to walk properly), which I appreciated. Kojima ratchets up the direness here, too, as loads of hospital patients get brutally murdered all around. The meat of Phantom Pain opens after this mix of spectacle and terror with a trip to dusty Afghanistan to save Miller that ends in a frightening [redacted]. This plays similarly to Ground Zeroes, of course, but with a horse and more scouting and enemy tagging to do. I wormed my way up to where Miller was captive, climbed up a crack in a building, and jumped from one roof to another to neatly sneak in. Carrying a less-limbed Miller out did get me plenty shot up, but a whistle for my buddy D Horse got both of us out of there quickly. Back on Mother Base, the structure becomes clear. There are main missions you must travel to (by helicopter to a nearby landing zone, or on horseback/by ground vehicle) and they are not all story heavy, though you're always treated to beginning and ending credits, as if each mission was a TV episode, just in case you forgot that this was directed by Hideo Kojima. One mission simply tasked me with rolling up on a compound and assassinating three Russian officers. I fulton'd them all -- attached balloons to them to send back to Mother Base -- against Miller's wishes instead, which proved wise as the officers had some high statistical aptitudes. These poached soldiers fill out your private army and get cool names like Blue Mastadon. Eventually you can scan them ahead of time to know which have high stats, or you can sometimes interrogate soldiers into informing you if an en elite operative is nearby (provided you've acquired a translator for your support team, as Snake's language skills are limited). [embed]293558:58893:0[/embed] It's a lot of contract work in addition to the narrative goal of stopping the Hamburglar-masked Skull Face and generally figuring out what the hell is going on with things. I was actually a bit surprised by how infrequently missions came with cutscenes or main story ties. Sometimes they open up three at a time and you can take them on in any order. You can also choose to repeat a mission at any time if you want to aim for a better performance ranking. I did this with a prisoner extraction mission I had previously finished, but barely. Turns out using the Phantom Cigar to speed up until nighttime, coupled with the night vision goggles, made that particular mission a five minute cakewalk. Going at it in the day led me to enough deaths that I was offered the Chicken Hat, which makes things easier and slows down enemy reaction time. Other dynamic weather events -- rain or sandstorms -- can also come into play, sometimes not at opportune moments. The low visibility caused by sandstorms helped me a few times, but also led me to walk right into an enemy soldier, once. There are also useful side missions that pop up for you take at your leisure, often en route to the next mission point. The Afghan desert is huge, but much of the terrain is empty or cordoned off by mountainous areas or steep cliff sides that encourage you to use the main roads. These roads are littered with enemy outposts, however, often with small platoons of three to four and a watch tower. Sneaking through them isn't too tough, because often you can take a longer loop around them, but they often house collectables (you can pinch a huge assortment of music from enemy tape players) and valuable resources that tie into the upgrade system. Oil, alloys, raw diamonds for straight cash, plants to upgrade the sleeping toxin in Snake's tranquilizers or the time-shifting Phantom Cigar -- you'll be scooping up all of it, though other means of acquisition open up when you can start sending squads out on missions. Plus, those posts are full of soldiers to abduct and, after you upgrade your Fulton balloons, things like heavy artillery to nick. [embed]293558:58895:0[/embed] Everything you Fulton, barring bad weather or bad luck with nighttime visibility, ends up back at Mother Base, which is large enough, especially once you get construction going, that you can actually take a helicopter to other parts of it. Or you can take a long, straight drive in a jeep. Going back to visit helps your troops' morale. They're also proud and happy to have you practice your close quarters combat on them at any time. During my lengthy hands-on, I never got to the point where my Mother Base came under attack, though that's supposed to be a big part of it, up to the point where you can consider nuclear capability as a defense. It's worth noting that 14 hours or so with Phantom Pain and I didn't feel close to finished. Back at Mother Base, I was still building an animal sanctuary (necessary to house all the wandering sheep and other creatures I kept bringing back) and trying to get an imprisoned, sun-bathing Quiet as a deployable buddy like D-Horse and Diamond Dog (the adorable wolf pup that grows into a super-scouting badass). She just sat in the cell, face down, top undone (got to watch those tan lines) listening to tunes from an eclectic, amusing soundtrack. Adorably, construction scaffolding on Mother Base is all stamped with a picture of a dog in a hardhat with a pick axe. It's the little things. Like changing my Diamond Dogs logo from a boring, stencil font "DD" to a cool ass octopus emblazoned with the words "VENOM WOMAN." You can even paint Mother Base if that Giants-orange is too much for you. I find a tasteful dark blue goes well with the sea. My favorite Mother Base quirk so far, though, is the giant shower Snake can jump into to come out feeling refreshed. It also washes off all the blood that accumulates on him while out on missions (if you end up getting shot, at least). [embed]293558:58891:0[/embed] While there are reasons to return home, you can manage a lot of Mother Base, like troop allocation and base development, while out in the field through the iDroid. It also acts as Snake's cassette player, useful for Codec-replacing heaps of exposition, which is just about the only place I heard Snake do much talking.  From the iDroid you can also develop new or better versions of weapons and items. There are upgraded critter traps, different abilities for Snake's robot arm, enhancements to the binocular scanner, extra Fulton balloons to heft heavier weight. I mostly played with a stealthy approach so I didn't dabble much with the vast assortment of snipers, machine guns, or rocket launchers you can call in. Nor did I ever run up on a lack of funds that would prevent re-supply drops of my own essential Fulton balloons and tranq darts, but the fact that you have to call in and then get to the supply drops means that the feature rarely made things too simple. Especially because missions often end up in close quarters or indoors where a supply drop would be useless anyways. I was impressed by how naturally set piece sort of areas exist in Metal Gear Solid V's world. There are long tracts of dusty road, vast open desert, but suddenly you stumble upon an enormous, imposing compound. In the case of one early mission, it was an Uncharted-style winding, honeycomb-esque historical labyrinth, which you get to by creeping through an excavation camp. There are mission areas that would feel like obvious "levels" elsewhere, but here they mesh cleanly with the open world. Just starting or ending a mission (the latter, usually by reaching a helicopter and flying out in real time) is seamless and the day/night cycle persists in cutscenes. I did hit one snag with this open-world structure, though. When you start a mission (or side-mission), you're then restricted to a "mission area." Leaving it ends the mission. I only ever noticed after one challenging mission that ended with [redacted] and [redacted] coming up on [redacted] and holy hell [redacted] -- anyway, towards the end I tried to hightail it on my horse, but I ended running clean through the mission area and having to start from way, way back. It wanted me to sneak to a nearby chopper extraction point instead of just racing to safety and calling one in. This is, incidentally, when I noted the cutscene and subsequent segment I originally did at night now took place during the day. [embed]293558:58892:0[/embed] Phantom Pain feels like the freshest, most distinct use of an open world since Far Cry 2 and it does this without sacrificing the cozier feeling of the series' past level design. While I can't say anything about the story, I don't actually know much at this point, either, besides various "holy shit" moments that have only raised questions. It's appropriate, then, that this Sutherland-voiced Snake speaks sparingly. He always seems sad and a little bit confused, retreating into the rote, work-like task of soldier stuff hoisted upon him by Ocelot and Miller, who seem to be a bit at odds with each other as well.  While Ground Zeroes' sadistic storytelling might raise concerns over how this extra grim tale will play out (Snake is basically a devil what with the horns, the intro is pure brutality before giving way to surreal insanity, there's still a whole thing about child soldiers at some point), I've come away nothing but impressed with Phantom Pain. I don't miss codecs, I don't miss Hayter. I've embraced the open world, I love the tangible Mother Base. And I feel like I've only scratched the surface. There's so much more to do. I've barely used the cardboard box -- you can leap out the sides or hang out in delivery zones and actually have enemies unwittingly pick you up and drive you into outposts. I haven't used to inflatable decoy to bop someone off a cliff. In a world of blockbuster clones and genre convention, Metal Gear Solid V manages to feel fresh. I can't wait to get someone to slip on my horse poop.
First hands-on! photo
First hands-on with Metal Gear Solid V
Trailers from as far back as two years ago offer evidence enough, though. Do you all remember the giant, on-fire man supplanted in malevolence seconds later by the even more giant, on-fire whale careening through the sky to ...

Disney Infinity Star Wars photo
Check and check
If you're making a Star Wars game with pilotable ships, I'm going to want to zip around Hoth in a snowspeeder and tie knots around some AT-ATs. I'll also want to shoot down a bunch of TIE Fighters on my path to destroy the De...

Disney Infinity 3.0 expands with the Star Wars and Inside Out playsets

Jun 01 // Alessandro Fillari
For those who aren't familiar, or maybe just a bit confused about what Disney Infinity is, this title brings players into an open world and unified experience to craft unique and original playgrounds for Disney characters from the past and present. Much like the Skylanders series, characters are acquire by purchasing actual figurines that can be uploaded into the game via a world disc, a real world scanner. While you can create levels and unique scenarios and share them with others online, you can also dive into unique playsets centered around specific Disney films and television shows. In its third year now, Disney Infinity has seen a number of upgrades and additions. With last year's expansion introducing Marvel characters, they've also spent some time upgrading the gameplay and general design. In order to do this, they recruited help from independent developers such as Ninja Theory, Sumo Digital, and United Front Games where they worked on the key areas of combat, racing, and additional character support respectively. With general development handled by Avalanche Software (note: not the same Avalanche behind Just Cause), they've found the creation of Disney Infinity to be a rewarding and satisfying experience. "The two words that come to mind are 'humbling' and 'gratifying," said the GM of Avalanche Software John Blackburn while reflecting on his work on Disney Infinity. "I feel so fortunate to work with all these brands, and it's a dream come true in a lot of ways[...] I'm pretty happy that people have responded to it in the way that have, and have accepted it and are looking forward to the new versions right now. I want to make sure we're doing a good enough job that we're really trying to make high quality kids and family entertainment, because that's been more and more difficult as a business to do. So it's very gratifying to see that we're doing it right." With the 3.0 expansion, new environments and characters will be added to the core game, such as the recently announced Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic (based on the prequel trilogy), Rise Against the Empire (original trilogy), The Force Awakens, and also Pixar's Inside Out playsets. While Star Wars will be largely combat and vehicle focused experiences, Inside Out will experiment more with platforming in surreal environments. Much like the film, the gameplay centers around the emotional state of a young girl named Riley and her changing perception and feelings. Set sometime after the film, players take control of Riley's emotions Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear, when she experiences a nightmare after falling asleep during a scary movie. The playset focuses on platforming gameplay through Riley's dreamscape, where environments and enemies take on a variety of different properties, such as warped gravity and the ground turning into hot lava. Each character has their own unique abilities and skills which will serve them throughout the adventure. After seeing the movie, I was itching for another trip into the bizarre and evocative world from Inside Out, and the Disney Infinity playset serves a great follow up to the film as it's basically the sequel to the film. Moreover, it fleshes out many of the settings and areas from the film, such as the dream productions studio where Riley's subconscious craft her dreams by way of old school film production. It's a very colorful and imaginative world, and it's likely the most unique playset Disney Infinity has had yet. The devs at Disney Interactive were very excited about what the new playsets can offer. "Every year a new fan is born," explained the VP of production John Vignocchi. "We're sitting here in the hallowed halls of Pixar, and everyone there will be someone who sees Toy Story for the first time, and we want to make sure that when they pick up Buzz Lightyear, or another favorite character, and when they play with them inside of Infinity, that he is just as cool as he was in the film." Even though I've only had some minor experience with Disney Infinity, I was quite surprised with the creativity found in these playsets. Perhaps this was coming off of my high after seeing Inside Out a month early, but I was very pleased with the translation from film to game. With the writers and directors from the film working with the devs, along with the same voice cast including Amy Poehler and Bill Hader, they wanted to ensure that it would be as faithful as possible. It's pretty crazy to see how much Disney Infinity has grown over the years. What was once a strange experiment trying to catch on to the Minecraft and Skylanders craze, has now turned into a title that's really come into its own. It's pretty impressive to see how much detail and content is packed in the title already, and with the new 3.0 expansion hitting this Fall, the Disney universe is about to get a bit bigger for fans to explore.
Disney Infinity photo
It's a small world after all
Who knew that Disney's strange and bizarre mishmash of characters into one large game would turn out to be such a big hit? I know, a Disney title with a bunch of Pixar, film, and legacy characters would've sold regardless, bu...


This could be the Godzilla game fans have always wanted

Apr 15 // Jed Whitaker
Godzilla (PS3, PS4 [tested]) Developer: Bandai Namco EntertainmentPublisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment Release: July 14, 2015 Fans of the classic Godzilla movies will be pleased, as the development team at Bandai Namco Entertainment has focused on making the new game as close to the original films as possible, and it has mostly nailed it; the monsters feel huge and lumbering, the cities crumble and the fights are epic, camera angles mimic the look and feel of the original movies. Buildings exploding is especially on point, as it looks like the fake, firework-esque explosions from the original Japanese films. The presentation of Godzilla as a whole is really impressive. When I first laid hands-on with the PS4 version of the game I was confused. The left stick makes Godzilla walk forwards or backwards, but the right stick only rotates the camera. After investigating the cardboard instructions stuck to the demo television I was surprised to find that the shoulder buttons, L1 and R1, are used to turn Godzilla slowly left and right. At first I was perplexed. "What a stupid control scheme" I thought, then after smashing through a few buildings and starting a fight with Ghidorah it finally clicked. The turning mechanic mixed with the cinematic camera makes you feel like a giant fucking monster and it is the first Godzilla game I've played that achieves this. [embed]290478:58183:0[/embed] Godzilla isn't the only playable monster as every monster in the game is controllable, each with its own variation of the story. Radio communications by humans during the battles paint a story of destruction and desperation. Each stage has an objective, typically destroying specific buildings, but while doing so can lure up to two other monsters for battle where the game keeps a surprisingly solid 60 frames-per-second. Monsters include Mechagodzilla, Destroyah, Jet Jaguar, Mothra, Mothra Larva, Gigan, Biollante, Hedorah, and more. Even Space Godzilla made it in as one of the exclusives for the PS4 version. The game will be launching this July for PS4 at retail and PS3 via digital. The PS4 version isn't just a direct port of the PS3 game as it has more monsters, an exclusive multiplayer mode, and the ability to battle two monsters at once. Those who preorder the PS4 version will receive Hollywood Godzilla, or the Godzilla model from the recent film, as DLC. If you've been waiting for the defining Godzilla game, this might be the one.
Godzilla goes old school photo
Hail to the king, baby!
I've dabbled in Godzilla games since the NES game Godzilla: Monster of Monsters, a game that for some reason took place in space; Mothra and Godzilla fought monsters and literally kicked rocks in this fondly remembered title....

Amplitude's multiplayer mode has been reworked for the better

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

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.
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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...

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...

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 brings the mystery back to survival horror

Nov 07 // Alessandro Fillari
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (PC,  PS3, PS4 [previewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease Date: February 17, 2015 (Episode 1) MSRP: $5.99 per episode / $29.99 full release (including DLC) Between the events of Resident Evil 5 and 6, Claire Redfield and Moira Burton, daughter of fan-favorite Barry Burton, awaken to find themselves in an abandoned prison on an isolated island. With strange bracelets on their wrists, they discover they are under watch and in communication with someone observing them through security cameras throughout the facility. After getting situated, they soon learn the prison is inhabited by bizarre creatures known as the Afflicted, and they must fight to stay alive and uncover the truth about their kidnapping. As Claire and Moira delve deeper into the facility, they'll have to solve puzzles and take out these monsters while acquiring new items and abilities. But in typical Resident Evil fashion, things are not what they appear and the stakes are much higher than you would initially expect. The original Revelations was well-liked among fans because of its happy mix of action and horror elements from both modern and classic Resident Evil titles. Revelations 2 definitely aims to rekindle the same atmosphere and pace. When you're exploring the ruins with no enemies around, the eeriness and dread is more pronounced, as at any moment you can be attacked by the Afflicted. But during combat, action is tense and relentless, especially when fighting multiple foes. Though the beginning of this episode is fairly linear and doesn't leave much room to explore and find clues about prison, you'll have more opportunities to trek at your own pace as you continue with the story. One of the most talked about aspects of Revelations 2 is the release plan Capcom has in mind. Following the success of games such as The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, Revelations 2 will release episodically. While the first game felt like binge-watching an entire season of television, the sequel plans to release an episode each week after its first installment launches. With four unique episodes covering different sections of the story, you'll venture across the island while also experiencing events from the past that have great significance. With the popularity of episodic gaming and shifting TV viewing habits, Capcom wants fans to engage in 'water-cooler' style conversations after each episode. As with the original, Revelations 2 will play with perspective and time, showing things through the eyes of another, which ultimately tie into the present events. Since each episode ends on a cliffhanger, the clues and references left behind should arouse discussion. Though, if episodic games aren't your thing, you can always wait for the full package, which coincides with the release of the final episode. It was great to be in the shoes of Claire again while also getting to see Moira Burton, whom was referenced all the way back in the original game -- though she was definitely a lot more foul-mouthed and punk-ish than expected. You haven't lived until you've heard someone in a Resident Evil game say "What in the cock did I just see?" I suppose Revelations 2 is aiming to retain the strange dialog from classic games. In order to survive the prison's dangers, Claire and Moira will have to work together. While Claire will handle most of the combat and action, Moira offers support abilities, such as using a flashlight to navigate dark areas, and finding hidden items. At any time you can switch between the two characters, as each has their own role. Oddly enough, Moira is adverse to guns and refuses to use them entirely, even during such trying circumstances. While Claire can definitely handle herself in high-risk situations, Moira will need to be cautious and avoid conflict, as the only defense she has is a crowbar and flashlight, which can momentarily blind the Afflicted. Each character has their own inventory menus, meaning you'll have to switch out resources and divvy up health items. Although Moira seems like she'd be an annoying character to escort, she largely stays out of danger during combat. In some cases, you can use neat tactics between the characters to get the upper hand on your enemies. Blinding the Afflicted with Moira's flashlight can allow Claire to deliver devastating blows to the stunned enemies. One thing that became apparent early on was how responsive the movement is. As one of the first RE games to allow both moving and shooting with expanded melee combat, Revelations definitely improved on issues that plagued past titles. In Revelations 2, movement and aiming feel much tighter, and with the addition of a dodge button, you'll no longer have to rely on the spotty contextual action dodge. Moreover, item management is far riskier than before. Inventory management is in real time, and using health items is no longer instantaneous. For the first time in the series, players will be able to use crouching as a means of navigation. While crouching, you can sneak past enemies or get the jump on them. This is especially handy during areas where you are vulnerable and need to evade the enemy. I got the impression that the danger is much higher in this title, and it seems the developers want players to feel more in control when it comes to how best to handle the situation. Of course, every Resident Evil game needs a set of creatures to fight, and the sequel has them in the form of the Afflicted. The former residents of the prison were infected with a virus that turned them into mutated creatures that stalk and hunt anyone who isn't under the influence. Resident Evil fans will recognize them as a mix between past series enemies -- the Ooze's muddy and melted exterior with the Ganado or Majini's brutality and resourcefulness. While they're a challenging presence in the prison, they felt derivative compared to other types of monsters from the franchise's past. But, this was just the beginning of the game; here's hoping they have more tricks in store. Though I was a bit disappointed to not get a glimpse of the returning Raid Mode, I was happy to hear that it will unlock after completion of the first episode. So, fans of the addictive, super fun action gameplay will be happy to jump back in early on. Moreover, Raid Mode will feature online co-op for those looking to take on the difficult challenges with a partner. The mystery surrounding Revelation 2's plot is one of its greatest strengths, and discussing the story with other fans after each episode should add intrigue to the experience. Given time to play the first episode for about half an hour, I very much want to know more about what led up to the events in the prison, and which other characters from the series' past are involved. This will be an interesting experiment for Resident Evil, and I'm keen on seeing how it'll unfold.
Resident Evil photo
To binge or not to binge...
There's certainly been intrigue surrounding Resident Evil: Revelations 2. Since its existence was leaked a few months back and several cryptic images of a derelict prison made the rounds, there has been speculation about what...

Resident Evil was a difficult game to remaster in HD

Oct 23 // Alessandro Fillari
Resident Evil Remastered (PS3, PS4 [previewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease Date: Early 2015 Resident Evil Remastered is a high-def release of Capcom's 2002 remake of the original game from 1996. Set in a seemingly abandoned mansion in the woods, the elite police unit S.T.A.R.S. must investigate and uncover the mysteries behind a series of gruesome murders. Taking control of either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, players will experience the events from their unique perspectives and uncover a greater conspiracy that will haunt them for years to come. More than a decade after its release, fans still hold the remake as one of the best entries in the series. Blending enhanced visuals with greatly refined gameplay, RE devotees were yearning for more titles in this vein. But since the release of Resident Evil 4 in 2005, and along with the influence of the hugely popular live-action films, the series has steered toward more action-adventure gameplay and scenarios. While Revelations and its upcoming sequel are certainly a blend of the series' action and survival aspects, there's still a desire for the pure survival horror experience that came with Resident Evil. And that desire will undoubtedly be satisfied here. The most talked about aspect of REmastered is the updated visuals, and with good reason. Considering the unique circumstances of this HD reworking, many fans are worried that this might end up like a certain other botched remaster. Standard-definition televisions and the 4:3 aspect ratio were commonplace in 2002, but those aren't the only issues Capcom faced for the remake. Resident Evil blended 2D background images and in-game FMV (lighting, candles, and other 2D animated visuals) along with 3D characters and objects. As the 2D backgrounds were set in stone and obviously couldn't be reworked, this made creating an HD remaster with a 16:9 aspect ratio a difficult proposition. Original Speaking with producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi, he described at length the challenges the team had to tackle in order to maintain the original style during the transition into HD. "The biggest challenge for us in raising the resolution was the backgrounds themselves and the effects in them. Originally, these had been created from still images, so there was a lot of work done by hand to the assets we had in order to raise the quality bar," he said. "If the original data had been large enough, this would have been a relatively easy process, but the assets we're working with were created for a game over a decade ago, so we didn't have a lot of high-resolution source material to work from. We had to find a way to take what we had on hand and work hard to make resolution and other adjustments bit by bit." In order to work around these limitations, the developers used editing and manipulation techniques to get the most out of the graphics, while retaining the 'look' of the original game. Most apparent of the changes are the use of cropping and pan & scan techniques. The former sections out the desired part of the image that serves as our visual focus, while the latter gives the illusion of a moving camera to keep the action and important aspects of the picture in focus. Remastered Initially, I found the HD look to be a bit jarring. Not because I'm a purist, but I was so used to original that it was noticeable where changes were made. The static look of the original is very much an element of the game's atmosphere, so seeing the focus shift around and certain areas of background cropped out was instantly apparent. Having said that, I did find the HD aesthetic to be remarkable. The screenshots don't do the visuals justice; in motion you see a number of the visual upgrades working at once, and it helps to breathe new life into the game. Granted, there are some noticeable places where the background looks slightly stretched out, but I still found they had a greater level of detail. In addition to this, I felt the new touches to the animated atmospheric details helped make the environments feel more terrifying and spooky -- which was yet another challenge for the developers. "As far as effects are concerned, these were all redone from scratch," said Hirabayashi. "Even then, we had the original designer on hand to personally look over all of these and ensure that they were in line with his vision. We used multiple techniques depending on the needs of a particular scene. Our goal was to preserve the feeling and atmosphere of a given scene while raising the resolution. Each scene, each cut, was judged on its own merits as we determined the best way to handle them one at a time. That was a tough process. There is definitely a sort of flavor or sensibility in backgrounds created as 2D pieces that can be very hard to replicate in polygons." Moreover, the 3D character models have been updated as well. The texture work on all the models is significantly improved, giving them some much-needed polish and detail. But sensing that graphical changes might upset purists, Capcom has included an option to switch back to the original visuals and 4:3 resolution at any time within the options menu. Not content with just offering updated visuals, the team looked to add gameplay tweaks and other content to the remaster. In addition to new costumes, specifically the Resident Evil 5 BSAA outfits for Jill and Chris, Remastered features a brand new control type called 'modern' mode. With it enabled, players can use the analog stick for auto-run and 360-degree movement without having to deal with the traditional and somewhat cumbersome 'tank' controls. Now when I first heard about the controls, I felt that a new movement method would undermine much of the terror by giving players too much freedom, especially when you consider enemy AI and movement was designed around players using tank-style controls. But Hirabayashi was well aware of the difference it would make and had the team behind the remaster rework the controls while maintaining a balance. "We spent a great deal of time fine tuning everything from the characters' movement speeds to the button layout in order to replicate as closely as we could the tempo and difficulty of the original control scheme," said Hirabayashi. "I think that people who have played the original iteration of this title will much prefer the original controls as that is how the game was initially designed. That said, we know that there is also a portion of the audience who will be experiencing the game for the very first time. For those uninitiated in this series who may be more accustomed to modern 3D games and controls, I imagine they might have a hard time wrapping their heads around the original scheme. By implementing both, we are able to bring new players in without making sweeping changes to the overall difficulty." As one of the defining aspects of classic RE was the...unusual control type, it certainly felt sacrilegious to use an easier method of movement. For better or worse, this also cemented its reputation as a punishing game that demanded precision. With that said, I found myself taking quite a liking to the new controls after some time passed. I appreciated not having to hold down the run button to move with haste, and I also liked being able to round corners faster. But I still found myself having to readjust my movement when moving out from a different screen, which was a common problem for classic RE. Though if you're not a fan of the controls, or want to go for an old-school run, then you're totally free to select the classic control type. What made me appreciate the modern setup more was how I would utilize both options at once. Modern mode also has the classic tank controls on the d-pad, and in some cases I preferred using those over the new type. While I used modern controls for basic traversal throughout the mansion, I mostly stuck with the d-pad for combat, as back-stepping wasn't available for modern mode, and the aiming wasn't as precise. After spending about an hour with the game, I felt right at home with the HD remaster, which I imagine must be the best compliment you give it. While I came into this series with RE4, I ended up playing the classic games to see how they stack up, and found a new appreciation for the series. With the release of REmastered, it certainly brings up a discussion for fans about which style of game is more faithful to the series. And while that debate can be worthwhile, Hirabayashi feels both types of Resident Evil experiences can coexist. "As for the RE series itself, we have fans on both sides of the fence. Each user has their own specific taste and things they look for in games. I don't think we can narrow this down to finding the 'right' answer since there are actually a plethora of 'questions' we're attempting to address," said the producer. "For me personally, the important part of this series is the survival horror aspect. Whether a game tends more toward the older style, focuses on action, or even breaks ground and does something entirely new, the important part is that that core element of survival horror is maintained. Put simply, the specific style of a given game is less important to me. What's important is that survival horror ethos." I'm quite liking the direction the franchise is taking. It's not too often you see publishers hold up both the past and present simultaneously, and with two upcoming releases showing the best aspects of the series' past, I'm very much looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Resident Evil. With the remaster set for release early next year, it's a great time for new players to take the plunge. But for those who want an excuse to re-enter survival horror, Resident Evil Remastered will rekindle that familiar feeling of dread.
Resident Evil photo
Capcom talks challenges of remastering a classic
With the rise of high-definition re-releases, many fans have likely made a wish list of titles they hope will eventually get the HD treatment. Whether they be classics from the '90s or 2000s, we're seeing a variety of games f...

Far Cry 4 features a more dynamic and vibrant open world

Oct 14 // Alessandro Fillari
Far Cry 4 (PS3, PS4 [Previewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One, & PC)Developer: Ubisoft MontrealPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: November 18, 2014After the release of Far Cry 3, the developers at Ubisoft Montreal took a lot of criticisms and affirmations to their open-world shooter to heart. They received some flak from those who found Jason Brody and his exploits on the Rook Islands to be a bit of an annoyance. By setting the next installment in a war-torn country and giving all the central characters a deep and emotional connection with it, the developers hope that the narrative will resonate with players, and give them a greater sense of the tension and suffering in the land of Kyrat. Though to be frank, the opportunity to include rideable elephants was also a driving factor for this setting. Speaking with game director Patrik Méthé, he spoke at length about the origins of Far Cry 4, and what players can expect."After we shipped FC3, we had a discussion about what IS Far Cry. With the past games, we saw that we blended open world with shooting mechanics, while having lots of animals to interact with. After some talking, I said that I wanted to be able to ride an elephant," said the game director proudly. "At first, the programmers thought it would difficult, but once we agreed upon it we started looking at possible locations for the game. That's when the Nepal region came in, and with it came the sense of verticality [in terms of terrain and landscape], along with a rich culture and varying types of weather and environments. It was a challenge, but we wanted to turn that into an advantage."Set in the fictional Asian country of Kyrat, players take on the role of Ajay Ghale, who returns to his homeland after many years living in North America. Seeking to fulfill his mother's last wish to have her ashes scattered in her home country, Ajay is soon caught up in a conflict with Pagan Min, a charismatic and sadistic warlord who has named himself Kyrat's ruler. As the country is tearing itself apart from civil war, we learn that Ajay and his deceased father had deep ties to the country and its people. Ghale soon joins the Golden Path rebellion to fight for the freedom of Kyrat. But in order to take down Pagan Min and his personal army, he'll have to reconnect with his roots -- and of course, learn the ways of a warrior.At first, it all sounds very familiar. I was watching the cutscenes during my session and engaging in missions, and I felt an odd sense of déjà vu. Of course, the plot and gameplay structure for Far Cry 4 take many influences from its predecessor, particularly the fish out of water trope and along with the now standard Ubisoft Open-World Formula. While this may disappoint those expecting a complete reinvention, I can say that FC4's approach to storytelling and the country of Kyrat makes things felt incredibly fresh. In the few hours I spent with the game, I felt more of a connection with Ajay's struggle with the fate of the country than most of what I experienced with FC3 (which I still enjoyed).In another lesson learned from Far Cry 3, the developers wanted to ensure that exploring Kyrat would be different from what players experienced on the Rook Islands in Far Cry 3. Visually, the terrain and locales are much more varied, featuring snow, tundra, jungle, and urban locales, and as a result the color palette is much larger. The lush green jungles are accompanied by snow-capped mountains and ancient catacombs decorated with clay statues and ceremonial decor. In regards to gameplay, the mission structure in Far Cry 4 was expanded and reworked. In FC3, the missions themselves were fairly static and finite in nature. If you played long enough, the content would basically dry up, leaving players with only minor mini-games and small skirmishes to entertain themselves with."When we saw that the majority of players spent so much time in the single player, one of the first things we did was to put much more emphasis on the open-world," said Méthé. "So that's why we came up with multiple types of quests, new types of encounters, new collectibles -- everything is much more embedded in the fantasy of the world, to make sure that as a player, spending fifty, sixty, seventy percent of their time in the open world, that they always have new stuff and new surprises along the way."During certain story missions, players will have to choose to side with some characters over others, which can cause a rift in your relationships with them. In one mission, I had to choose between helping two of the rebel leaders, Sabal and Amita. Sabal wanted me to break into an enemy camp to save hostages, while Amita wanted me to acquire intelligence instead. Opting to go for the intel, the following mission had me sneak into an enemy location, use my hunting bow and knife skills for silent kills, and acquire the intel. Upon completion, my next mission for Sabal had him reacting to me unfavorably, asking if what I did was worth it. It certainly made me cautious about how we would proceed from here. Choices during the main story matter, and with several different endings, the main campaign looks to be far more developed than in previous FC games.To oust Pagan Min from power, Ghale will have to take down outposts and cripple the resources for the enemy army. Ultimately, Ghale has to increase the rebels' power to have a fighting chance against Min's strongholds in Northern Kyrat. Of course, how to do this is up to each player. The choices include completing story missions for the Golden Path, side-missions for the civilians of Kyrat, hunting missions, the optional and trippy Shangri-La side-story that goes on a journey to a world of myth and legend, or the brand new Karma Missions. Karma Missions are dynamic and randomly generated micro-objectives that occur while in the open world. At some point, players will find allies in danger fighting the enemy, being led to an execution, or requiring general support. Such missions yield Karma Points (KP), which levels Ajay's overall Karma level. Upon leveling your Karma, you can upgrade members of the Golden Path with better armor and weapons and get discounts for the Trading Posts. Of course, you can ignore these objectives and leave the GP members to their fates, but doing so would miss out on Karma growth.Much the like the one in FC3, completing missions and other objectives yield experience points and currency, which can be used to level up a character and purchase gear respectively. The arsenal Ajay can acquire is vast, ranging from pistols, machine guns, shotguns, sniper-rifles, cross bows, flamethrowers, and more. There's even a weapon that's a wonderful nod to last year's Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon -- but I won't spoil that. Upon leveling up, Ajay can use attained skill points to purchase new abilities, perks, and other augments -- now in a much more streamlined two-school skill menu. Skills are sorted in two schools; Tiger skills focus on offensive abilities, while the Elephant skills focus on support perks. I appreciate this attempt to streamline, as the last skill menu felt needlessly spread out and had skills that should have been standard for players.The dynamic nature of the missions, including weekly updates for the hunting challenges, and constant threats from enemy soldiers looking to retake territory, are designed to ensure that players will stay active even after the main story is finished. Moreover, this makes the world feel alive and reactive to the choices made. With the wildlife constantly on the move looking for new prey -- by the way,  honey badgers are indeed vicious little bastards -- walking tradesmen looking for your business, and enemies waiting for the right time to strike and take back territory, the land of Kyrat feels organic and lived-in.Back at E3 2014, we got a chance to see the newly designed co-op play for Far Cry 4. Opting to go in a different direction, the developers chose to implement the co-op mode directly into the open world setting of the main story. Those who enjoyed the stand-alone co-op mode with its own side-story from Far Cry 3 will likely be disappointed, but I had a lot more fun than I expected exploring the the open world with a buddy. And going by what the game director says, that's exactly what they were going for."Very early when we had the discussions about what we want to do next, the first thing was that we wanted to put more emphasis on the open world," said Méthé. "It took only seconds, but we saw that most players just wanted to play with a friend in the open world. What would it feel to take part in quests, to attack outposts with a friend  -- so that's why we wanted to explore that."At any time, players can activate the Guns for Hire option, which springs up the option to initiate online co-op or call in NPC allies to help. The Guns for Hire option is not dedicated to just co-op, players offline can still utilize this feature and receive help from friendly AI squad mates. But with the co-op, things can get pretty hectic. Once connected, the main story missions are disabled, leaving players to focus on any other objective they wish. The player joining takes on the role of Hurk, a returning character from Far Cry 3 who somehow made his way to Kyrat. During my session, my partner and I engaged in a hostage rescue mission that required stealth and quick thinking. I stayed behind for sniper support, while the other guy snuck in and made quick work of the enemy with a blade. Or perhaps, players can just drive around and cause chaos, which is exactly what Max Scoville, Bill Zoeker, and I did during our play sessions. We pulled off drive-bys against Pagan Min's forces in our beat-up compact vehicle. We rode around in the Buzzer, a gyrocopter that was fun to fly, but got us into more hairy spots than we could manage. Flying too far up into the sky will cause the vehicle to malfunction, and unfortunately, we didn't have a parachute or wingsuit to save us.Speaking of heights, one aspect of Kyrat that is apparent is the increased focus on vertical gameplay. Throughout the landscape are grapple points that can be used to climb steep surfaces and get the high ground. With the surprise appearance of the wingsuit in Far Cry 3, players began to experiment with ways to explore and engage the enemy. And because of its popularity, the developers plan to give players access to it much earlier in Far Cry 4. Unfortunately, the enemies can also take advantage of vertical terrain to their advantage. "Right from the get-go, we wanted to make sure the NPCs are able to navigate the vertical environment, " said Méthé. "In FC3, you could climb a ladder or climb a ledge and you were out of their territory. But in this game, they can use the same traversal tactics as you."Not all was great during my journey through Kyrat. I had some issues with the technology powering the game. While this title was running at a mostly solid 30FPS at 1080p, I found that there were some points where the game would become extremely sluggish, which resulted in performance dropping and serious texture pop-in issues. While the developers stressed that the build we were playing was from four weeks prior to this event, I still found a lot to feel a bit worried about.I also had misfortune of encountering many bugs and glitches during my travels. In some cases, I had to restart missions, as NPC characters I had to meet with were completely absent from the game world. During a mission with Sabal, I followed the waypoint into an ancient temple of worship, with many followers and visitors nearby. Unfortunately, I couldn't find where to go as the marker pointed to an empty space in the temple. I ran around temples and the jungles outside looking to see if I missed something, only for an attendant to tell me that I encountered a bug. On one hand, I felt a little disappointed that FC4 largely uses the same formula as its predecessor; on the other, I recognize that it's a much more refined and developed game. Far Cry 4 does a better job with utilizing space, as the world size is roughly the same as FC3, but is much more dense with content. I was constantly coming across missions, side-challenges, and skirmishes -- and it made me want to just drop everything and see what trouble I could get into. Though we're still in the dark about the game's competitive multiplayer mode, I feel that Far Cry 4 already has a lot to offer players come release next month. Though I still do have concerns about the technical issues, and since it's almost down to the wire with only a month get them ironed out, I'm ready to expect some quirks on launch day. With that said, I came away pretty jazzed with what I played, and with a musical score from Cliff Martinez (Drive, Only God Forgives, and The Knick) -- I'm looking forward to seeing what chaos I can cause come release.
Far Cry 4 photo
Beware the Honey Badger
Back in 2012, Far Cry 3 turned out to be a surprise hit for Ubisoft. It became the bestselling title of the series, appearing on many game of the year lists, and also created a rather excellent spin-off title. But with the an...

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Sadly, the C'caine Tiger has been un-stabbed to near-extinction
Max was poring through some new Far Cry 4 footage and spotted a few things that he didn't quite understand. Here's his top picks of interesting things he can't explain, because this game isn't out yet and we thought you might want to see some of it because this is a videogame website, you clown.

Four things I loved about playing Assassin's Creed: Rogue

Oct 13 // Alessandro Fillari
Assassin's Creed: Rogue (PS3, Xbox 360[Previewed], PC)Developer: Ubisoft SofiaPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: November 11, 2014 (PC Early 2015) Set after the events of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and taking place before Ratonhnhaké:ton's story in Assassin's Creed III, players take on the role of Shay Cormac, a newly trained assassin in North America. While slowly becoming disillusioned by their ways, he is eventually betrayed and left for dead after a mission goes south. He manages to escape and retreats back to New York, but vows vengeance against the Order of Assassins. He later meets Haytham Kenway of the Templar order, and joins their fight against the Assassins -- using their own skills and training against them. "We wanted to tell the story that was left unfinished with the Kenway saga, and what happened in North America," said producer Karl Luhe. "There's a big piece of the story, a corner piece of that trilogy that hasn't been told yet." While the timeline of events can get a bit confusing here, Rogue serves to bridge the gap between Black Flag and ACIII, showing why the Brotherhood of Assassins was in such disarray during Ratonhnhaké:ton's journey, but also has ties to the events of AC: Unity. So fans who have the opportunity to play through both Rogue and Unity will no doubt get more enjoyment out of the story. 1. Steppin' to the bad side While the Order of Assassins is often seen as a force for good, or rather a lesser shade of gray, the events of Rogue aims to show a different side to the conflict. If Black Flag fulfilled the pirate fantasy, then Rogue seeks to put players in the shoes of a cunning operative working for a shadowy organization. As the first full Templar experience in the AC series, it's your duty to undermine and weaken the Assassins' influence on civilization. This might be a shock to the system for many, as you'll no doubt come into conflict with those you've helped from other games. But this change of perspective also gives players a different way to play. "We really wanted to tell a story of what it's like to be a Templar, and we felt it was important to have it from a perspective of someone who really believed they're doing the right thing," said Luhe. "He honestly believes what he is doing is right for human kind, and he's horrified by what he sees some of the assassins are doing early on in the game, and hence he ends up hunting them down." While playing the early missions, it was certainly a bit jarring to see how things are different from the other side. But I quickly realized that the Assassins are nasty foes indeed. While exploring the open city of New York, I had to bust up some territory controlled by the Assassins. While exploring for ways break into their base, I found that several new types of enemies, one of which called Stalkers, would scout around and try to locate me. While Shay's eagle vision made finding them a bit easier, they still managed to get the jump on me in some cases by using the same stealth tactics, such as hiding by benches, using crowds, and haystacks. Sound familiar? Well get used to feeling a bit uneasy around such spots, as the Assassins are quite adapt at using them. But then again, so are you. 2. New York and the great pond In keeping with its predecessor, Assassin's Creed: Rogue aims to maintain the dual open-world design for the high seas and the urban environments. Set across the Eastern coast of North America and the North Atlantic, you'll quickly find that you have a much larger space to play in than previous games. Judging from what I saw, this is likely the largest AC game that Ubisoft has released yet. "With every new Assassin's Creed game, we want to be true to that fantasy, and this time you're a Templar," said the producer. "We wanted to try a new setting and we went up north around Canada, with icy terrain, and this gives us new experiences with gameplay and the ambiance. Also, this is set during the Seven Year War, so there's this big war raging between the French and the British, and we really play upon that." In New York, Shay must capture and amass the cities resources to benefit the Templar Order. This can be done by winning over the hearts of New Yorkers by renovating city institutions, and of course weakening the Assassins' hold over the environment, which in turn frees up economic resources. While New York is the only major city that players can expect to explore, the addition of two fully open-water areas, the North Atlantic and the River Valley, gives players a large variety of places to explore. Much like Black Flag, you can explore the oceans, capture territory, raid forts, hunt animals, engage in naval warfare, and use the spoils to strengthen Shay's resources and the Templar Order's hold in the Atlantic. 3. This wonderful bag of tricks One of the benefits of being the bad guy getting to play with all the cool toys. As a Templar, Shay has access to a vast number of resources that greatly dwarf what the Assassins of the 1700s possess. Because of this, you'll be utilizing weapons, ships, and other gear that will allow the Templar to explore and control areas of the world that the Assassins could not. Early in his Templar career, Shay meets Benjamin Franklin, who gives him access to experimental equipment and gear. One of which is a modified pellet gun that fires various sleeping, poison, and tracking darts, in addition to doubling as a grenade launcher. In one mission, I had to enter a gas factory and use both sleep grenades to knock out clusters of guards, while using the shrapnel grenades to destroy dangerous chemicals would be used against the populace. Using these tools in conjunction with his Assassin training makes Shay a serious predator, and also inspires you to try and experiment. Shay's handlers from the Templar Order have also bestowed him a powerful vessel to conquer the seas. Called the Morrigan, this beauty is outfitted with special cannons that fire rapid rounds at enemies, weaponized oil to burn the ships that try to follow, and a powerful Ice Ram that can punch through sheets of ice scattered around the ocean and punch holes into ships. 4. Dangerous Waters Avast! Ye Matey. Your adventures on the oceans along with a hearty crew did not end with Black Flag. Though the upcoming Unity has removed the naval exploration entirely, Rogue aims to fill the void by expanding upon the high-seas gameplay that began in ACIII. The Templar Order will have to sail through dangerous waters and battle countless ships to take control of the new world. Much like Black Flag, players must explore the waters to claim territory from the enemy, all the while expanding your own resources by capturing or salvaging ships, finding loot, and exploring the small areas of land. However, with the new locations around the Atlantic, players will have their work cut out for them as the environments are much more dangerous than before. In the River Valley, players will have to navigate their ship through tight canals in mountainous areas. In the North Atlantic zone, the low temperature has caused ice and blizzards to form. If your ship is unprepared, expect to face serious danger when traveling into waters that require special upgrades. Though the environment can be an equally strong foe, it can also become your greatest ally on the high seas. In some areas of the ocean, particularly the icy waters of the North Atlantic, you can use the iceberg and heavy ice to your advantage. If your ship is being pecked at by schooners or gunboats, you can destroy the icebergs nearby to create heavy waves to sink or damage enemy ships.Well, now that I've shared my thoughts on what I dug about it, now I gotta switch gears and discussed what rubbed me the wrong way. I know, this seems like an expected complaint, and you've likely already noticed in the pictures, but the game looks incredibly dated. Granted, I was playing on Xbox 360 and not a PC build, but I still got the impression that it was held back by the old consoles. I found it to run rather sluggishly. There were long load times, and the visuals and performance came to a crawl at some points. Failing a mission became a point of frustration, as I'd have to wait for an extended period to start playing again. Perhaps this is because I've already become used to playing on the new hardware, but the visuals in Rogue are aged. Which is a shame, as there are a number of beautiful environments and great art directions throughout. I really enjoyed going through the environments and taking at a look at the locales, but then I saw that there were points with graphical artifacts and texture pop-in would come in. It's a bit jarring how rough the game looks, and it took me out of the moment at some points. But in any event, I still found my time with the game to be quite enjoyable. Of course, this isn't a major step forward for the series. By all intents and purposes, it's Black Flag with much more content and a new storyline. And that sounds great to me. With over 30 hours worth of content in this title, which will no doubt be plentiful, I can definitely see myself returning to the high seas to hunt for more assassins once the game is released next month.
Assassin's Creed photo
And some things I didn't like
It's been four years since Assassin's Creed became an annual fixture. Every year, like clockwork, Ubisoft releases a brand new, fully developed title in the AC series. But things have changed slightly this year. In a surprisi...

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 raises more questions than answers

Sep 19 // Brett Makedonski
After enemy numero uno had been dealt with, Moira tapped into her inquisitive side and questioned "What the COCK did I just see?" She's kind of awkward at cursing. Just a bit earlier, she outwardly said that she "didn't give a moist barrel of fucks." Maybe she'll grow into it; she's still young, after all. As the girls traversed the overrun scientific facility (that had jail cells, for some reason), Claire keenly observed that it's sort of a dangerous place. She tried giving Moira a gun, who firmly declined and declared that she "won't hold a gun again, not after what happened." Okay then. However, she's comfortable holding a flashlight, so she's relegated to light duty and spotting resources for Claire to pick up. Along the way, I found a gem tucked inside a desk that obviously acted as some sort of currency. I asked PR what purpose that served, to which I was given the response "we're not talking about that yet." Of course. However, Capcom alluded to the fact that it'd be used to purchase "character-related stuff." That's better than nothing, I guess. Continuing forward, Revelations 2 made the executive decision to throw a whole lot more enemies at me. This was a bit of a problem, because it also puts an emphasis on resource management, meaning that I needed to make every shot count. That's easier to do than I initially figured, because Revelations 2 actually controls decently. That's not always the case in survival horror games. [embed]281060:55605:0[/embed] However, control competence aside, I still managed to find myself in quite the snafu. With three aggressors and not nearly enough bullets (the knife doesn't do a whole lot of damage), I had trouble either fighting them or running away (those bastards can climb ladders faster than I can). With a fortunate combination of dodging, healing, and finding more ammo, I eventually cleared the room, but in critical condition. I didn't want to continue. I knew one of these dudes was going to jump out, scare me, and then kill me. Cautiously, I proceeded, knowing that my fate was all but sealed. Turns out I was wrong. The demo ended shortly thereafter, as the two ladies questioned what the deal was with the glowing green bracelets they were wearing. Lucky me. My introduction to Resident Evil: Revelations 2 continually did that -- raise questions. Why were these two imprisoned? What happened at this facility? Why are we wearing bacelets? The list goes on and on. Something PR was happy to talk about was the way in which the game will be released. On Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, and PC, it's episodic and priced at $5.99 per installment, with four "core" episodes planned. Each episode is estimated to be two to three hours in length the first time through. In early 2015, Capcom will start releasing weekly over the course of a month. There's a season pass for $24.99 that offers some extras, and a physical retail version for $39.99 that has even more additional content. Even though not a lot was divulged, this brief look gave some insight as to the base facets of the game. So far, it seems as if the atmosphere and combat are on-point, even if the swearing isn't. That's a perfectly acceptable start.
Resident Evil preview photo
And, Moira's really awkward at swearing
My time with Resident Evil: Revelations 2 at Tokyo Game Show was brief -- maybe 20 minutes if we're being generous. Swiftly dumped into the beginning of the game, I was left to try to unravel the mystery of what exactly ...

Watch Dogs: Bad Blood goes punk, features co-op play and new modes

Sep 15 // Alessandro Fillari
Watch Dogs: Bad Blood (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [previewed], PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U)Developer: Ubisoft MontrealPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: September 23, 2014 (Season Pass) / September 30, 2014 (Retail) Set a few months after the end of the main campaign, players take on the role of Raymond "T-Bone" Kenney, a fellow hacker who helped Aiden Pearce during his fight against Blume Corporation. As he tries to tie-up loose ends before leaving Chicago for good, T-Bone encounters an old acquaintance that needs his help -- not wanting to leave him hanging, he must once again take on the Blume Corporation, while trying to cover his tracks and get out of the game in one piece. First and foremost, anyone expecting a Blood Dragon style addition to the main game will be disappointed. Bad Blood serves as an epilogue to the main story of Watch Dogs, tying up loose ends and showing what became of the main characters after Aiden Pearce succeeded in getting his revenge. Don't expect a tongue-in-cheek and self-aware title here, this is still Watch Dogs. With that said, Bad Blood seems to have a lot more fun with the material, opting to go with more of a punk take on the computer hacker, rather than a brooding and oh so serious anti-hero. T-Bone is a really fun character to play as -- he'll offer witty banter and show sass to the other characters, all the while using bizarre gadgets and tricks to take down the competition. Basically, he's the exact opposite of Aiden. Speaking with Project Manager David Thériault and Senior Game Designer Aurélien Chiron, the developers at Ubisoft wanted to keep the core of the Watch Dogs experience the same, while at the same time adding a shift in tone and new gameplay tweaks. "It's great to come back and show something new for fans," said Thériault. "We feel it will bring a lot of freshness and newness to the franchise." Much like Aiden, T-Bone possesses the tools to hack into Chicago's computer network to manipulate the city's installations to his whim. He'll have to use these tricks, along with some heavy firepower and cunning to overcome the many enemies that are out to get him and his allies. Unlike the other hacker, T-Bone has got some unique tricks up his sleeve. The veteran hacker can bring his customized R/C car Eugene out into the field, which has a taser and access to the same hacking abilities. Eugene can enter smalls spaces and avoid the sights of guards to complete tasks too difficult by traditional means. Of course, since the game is still set in Chicago, many players will likely feel at home when starting Bad Blood. However, the developers hope to switch things up by adding in a few surprises. "While it is still set in Chicago, we added in a lot of new locations that the player hasn't seen in Watch Dogs," said Aurélien while discussing the new content. "In these new locations, we play with the space much more. In terms of tools, you can use Eugene, which allows you to sneak past enemies and in tight spaces to accomplish goals." In order to spice up the side-content, the developers opted to create a brand new series of side-missions called Street Sweep. After a certain point in the game's story, T-Bone will make contact with an ally in the Chicago Police Department who has a whole stack full of case files that need solving. In addition to the existing side content, these new missions allow T-Bone to level up, acquire currency to upgrade his gear and buy new costumes, and help clean the streets of Chicago to boost his reputation. Think Person of Interest, but with a main character that wields a giant wretch and an all-purpose smartphone as his weapons of choice. "We wanted to add more variety to the side-content, and we wanted to add more objectives to the types of missions and places, and with Street Sweep we now have endless missions available for players," said Aurélien while elaborating on the new Street Sweep missions. "The goal was to never have two missions that are the same, they are all generated but they are never the same. With the Street Sweep, players can enjoy the side-missions as much as they want." Moreover, the Street Sweep missions can also be played in Watch Dogs' brand new co-op mode. Much like the existing online mode, players can seamlessly enter or have another player join their game where you can take down gangs and rival hackers. The co-op play offers an interesting change of pace from the existing multiplayer mode. Instead of being constantly cautious of anyone entering your game, you can now have a buddy with you helping out. It makes you wonder why they didn't include something like this in the first place. With that said, and being totally honest, I didn't really see much difference between the Street Sweeps and regular side-missions. Especially since they're in mostly the same urban and outdoor environments in and around Chicago. The added story for the Street Sweep, with the female police detective and T-Bone brought some charm to the missions, but I found myself mostly doing the same shoot or hack X while avoiding everyone else missions. It felt repetitive, but the solid shooting mechanics and combined with the hacking gameplay still kept things entertaining. Granted this was still pretty early on in the game. So perhaps once you progress further, we'll hopefully see just how much different things can get -- I really do like the idea of a randomized mission system. But in any case, I rather enjoyed myself with Watch Dogs: Bad Blood. While it seems to be sticking very closely with the same formula from the main game, for better or worse, I found T-Bone to be much more of an interesting character to play as than Pearce. Perhaps it's because he's got a serious set of dreadlocks and a heavy melee weapon, which definitely sets himself apart from Aiden. I feel the change in tone, making it a little more fun and cool, can do a lot to set itself apart from the main campaign. T-Bone was a fun character to play as, and I'm looking forward to going back in seeing where his trek through Chicago will take him. Bad Blood will be available for Season Pass holders on September 23, a full week earlier before it will be available for all on September 30 -- with the release of the Wii U version coming sometime later.
Watch Dogs photo
Hack the planet....again
Say what you will about Ubisoft, but they've got a knack for trying something a little different for their DLC offerings. After the incredibly successful launch of Watch Dogs back in May, it seemed like they've been biding th...

BioWare is working to specifically differentiate Dragon Age: Inquisition from Dragon Age II

Sep 12 // Chris Carter
Speaking to BioWare's Mark Darrah (Executive Producer, Inquisition), and Aaryn Flynn (BioWare Edmonton General Manager), I immediately led with the question "what did you guys learn from Dragon Age II that didn't go over as well as you had hoped?" Darrah fielded this by stating that "we did a lot of experimentation in Dragon Age II. The hero is a reactive hero, as opposed to a hero that causes reactions like the Warden from Origins. I think that lack of clarity made the story more convoluted. It's a story of people as opposed to a story of events, and I think that was a problem for many people." Darrah continued, speaking on the issues with combat in Dragon Age II. "I think that's what got us in trouble with Dragon Age II -- the new story method, and that it was faster and easier gameplay wise. It feels like you're just swinging this sword around and it doesn't weigh anything, whereas combat was more deliberate in Origins. We're fixing that in Inquisition. Combat will have a lot more weight to it than both prior games. We're balancing it towards a more difficulty middle-ground, so that you have to use some of the tools you're given. Maybe you don't have to master the tactical camera, but you'll have to master some aspect of the game and use them together to really master Inquisition." Flynn sounded off as well, stating, "I think we misjudged there with Dragon Age II. People wanted something that they could really master over time. We didn't do that with the sequel." To me, that's good news in terms of where Inquisition is headed. A middle-ground of fun, engaging combat that's maybe a little less clunky than Origins but deeper than Dragon Age II is a great compromise. Another thing that bothered me though about DA II though was the lack of customization of party members and characters, so I pushed on that point. Darrah commented on how they are addressing that in Inquisition, stating, "in the sequel, we removed the ability to equip armor to your followers. That was intended as a way to really make the characters stand out, but we realized that people wanted that element in the game. So in Inquisition we added it back, but still kept that feel of individuality. We didn't want people putting plate mail on every character and having four walking trash cans. In Inquisition if you put armor on Cassandra for instance, she still looks like Cassandra." [embed]279148:55276:0[/embed] Flynn shed some light on the developmental process of both existing games as well. "Origins was a six-year project. There was a big desire to experiment on Dragon Age II after that long development time. A lot of people thought that their ideas weren't heard for the original, so we incorporated some into the sequel. I do think we experimented too much in Dragon Age II. Some of it was too big of a price to pay." Following up, I asked if there was a certain group of people that reacted well to the game. Darrah responded, "yeah, I think what a lot of people had a problem with was that it felt like a different series. Most of the people who loved Dragon Age II didn't play Origins. If you go to the sequel after playing tons of Origins you'll probably wonder how the series could progress that way. That was its biggest sin. It was too many new things." Another big thing that disappointed me in DA II was player choice -- or the lack thereof. I described the scenario in Origins where you've given at least five choices as to what to do with a possessed child. In the sequel there's nothing comparable, and choices are usually limited to two major options. I continued on down that path, asking how BioWare was going to improve on player choice in Inquisition, and got some pretty good answers. Darrah responded, saying, "Yeah the tone icons caused some confusion in Dragon Age II. We meant well with them, but we're backing away from them in the third game. We're using them now sparingly, just to warn players that they're being sarcastic, for instance, or letting them know that they're about to jump in bed with someone. It's not so much to spoil the surprise, but prevent players from reloading the game after accidentally kicking a party member out of the group." The duo also went on to cite Mass Effect's Saren as a great way to ground moral choices in games. On the topic of anchoring morality, Flynn stated, "I think that the lack of clarity in Dragon Age II hurt things a bit. With Origins you had a clear evil, and you could play off that. It's what made Saren such a tragic figure -- you could really see his evil side as well as his clear good side, and that made him more complex. But there was some grey there, just not all grey. That's something we are looking to bring to Inquisition." So how about gameplay? Darrah was on point with the improvements in Inquisition. "You can dye items, and Inquisition will feature the most advanced crafting system we've ever had. The tactical camera is also even better than it was in Origins. Before, you could just pause, give orders, and unpause. Now you can move the camera around a lot better in more advanced ways. The creature inspector tool will give you more information now. There are still synergies and now you can see how to combine them better. Weapons will have hilts and blades. Runes will be more customizable to give you the weapon you want." The romance system is something I always felt that was lacking in either game, and Darrah was excited to tell us how they're changing it. "The affection system was always very gamey, in a bad way. We made it a bit more organic. All your party members can approve or disapprove of your choices. You can't just give them 30 wet loaves of bread to make them fall in love with you. You really have to talk to your companions to romance them rather than game them. There are no meters anymore, you have to have a real conversation." Of course, I had to bring up DLC at some point. People are rightfully wary of EA's influence, and Darrah noted that they are going to mostly going to listen to fan demand to shape post-game support. Although he wasn't able to confirm anything, DLC will likely be comprised of sandboxes -- large new areas that players can wander around and complete a main quest in, but also find sidequests for. There isn't going to be another expansion like Awakening though, sadly. Darrah said that it was "far too much work, and very expensive, as everything has to interact with the original game." Well there you have it. Whether you enjoy Origins or Dragon Age II more, it seems as if elements of both will make their way into Inquisition. From what I've played that's a very good thing, but time will tell if it all pays off when the actual game launches on November 18.
BioWare interview photo
They learned quite a bit from the second iteration
When I entered BioWare's offices and had a chance to speak to the game's Executive Producer and Studio GM, I had one goal in mind -- to find out how Dragon Age: Inquisition was going to be more like Origins, and les...

Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell was inspired by Disney movies

Sep 02 // Jordan Devore
In Gat Out of Hell, your player character from Saints Row IV, the President, is pulled into hell to marry Satan's daughter Jezebel. The devil believes the Saints boss to be the most dangerous person alive -- a perfect general to lead his army against heaven -- but Jezebel isn't interested. Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington journey to hell to save their fearless leader and from there, it's up to you playing as either character (or both, in co-op) to wreak havoc however you see fit. Perhaps you'll use some of the ridiculous new weapons based on the seven deadly sins. My favorite one shoots locusts, which is almost as good as a gun that fires bees. Almost. You're meant to run around -- or fly; you have wings -- and fill up a piss-off-Satan meter at which point the story will unfold as various milestones are met. Gat Out of Hell features historical figures and even characters from past games, including Dane Vogel and Dex, plus "well over 30 instances of open-world things to do," according to Jaros. After reaching 100 percent completion on a given island of hell, you'll be rewarded with an epilogue relating to its central character -- like spymaster general William Shakespeare, for example. Completionists will also be able to unlock a "crazy epilogue" for the full story. Asked if Gat Out of Hell was considered canon or if it'd have an impact on the series' story going forward, Jaros just kept saying "I recommend that you play it" with a smile on his face. "It is not a Saints Row V. It is not a sequel," he said. "It's a fun thing for our fans. A new place to go and play around with super powers. Another city to go and terrorize. [A chance to] play as a character that people really seem to dig, and just have another excuse to have a lot of fun and do some shit that we're able to get away with." [embed]280509:55544:0[/embed] Okay, so about that Disney connection. "I'm pretty certain that we'll be the only open-world game that comes out with a full-blown musical number in the middle of the critical path," Jaros told Destructoid. "One of the things that we lean on [heavily] for inspiration for this is Disney movies. I'm a big Disney fan. For instance, if you remember stuff like in Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella, the beginning of the movies [have] the ornate story book that opens up. It's illuminated text and story-book pictures, and a narrator -- that's kind of our story structure. Jane Austen narrates you through this fairy tale; Jezebel is very much a sort of Disney princess." The creative director made it clear that "It's not a parody of Disney at all, but it echoes some of those themes." There aren't any talking animal buddies here, but Gat does have a talking gun who wants to help him become the ultimate killing machine. Basically, Gat Out of Hell is what a fairy tale would look like in the Saints Row universe. "It's a whimsical, weird fucking game."
Saints Row photo
There's a full musical number and everything
I've played and enjoyed all of the Saints Row games to date, but wonder how much longer this can last. How much more ridiculous can the series get, and even if there is room to up the insanity, do we even want that? Where Vol...

Geometry Wars 3 may look different, but it feels right

Sep 01 // Jordan Devore
For my appointment, I was free to play whichever single-player levels I wanted and much as I would've liked to try them all, I attempted to get a good feel for the variety. Some levels are reminiscent of past games in that the playing field is (more or less) flat, while others used Pacifism as a foundation. Even then, there's further variety -- one Pacifism level had no enemies and required me to fly through as many "gates" as possible in a time limit, while another was more traditional with enemies chasing my gun-less vessel. Shooting and movement feels great, as expected. Your past Geometry Wars skills will directly translate to Dimensions, though it will take time to acquaint yourself with the new level designs. You're free to move across the 3D environments at will, but so are enemies. Lot to keep track of. Stages themselves can also have moving walls, which was interesting. These are great at blocking foes from reaching you, but can also trap you in a crowded corner. Thankfully, you still have bombs, and there are drones to help out too. You select yours before starting a stage and equip it with a power -- one could drop a black hole, while another placed proximity mines (that I could fly over, free of harm). Helpful but, again, there's lots happening on-screen and it can take a while to adjust to what is and isn't dangerous. You can earn up to three stars in a level based on how high of score you attain, but only a single star is needed to unlock the next stage -- unless it's a boss fight, in which case there will be a set amount of stars needed to unlock it. Bosses, at least the two I tried, seemed right at home in Geometry Wars. It was like playing any other level, except there was this Big Thing I had to shoot at when its shield went down. Still plenty of other stuff to dodge in the mean time. When choosing levels from a grid-like world map of sorts, you're told which game type they represent and if a friend tops your high score, you'll see that level glow. I stopped the person giving me my demo to thank them for that feature. So crucial. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to try out any of the cooperative or head-to-head multiplayer offerings, but I'm expecting similarly good things out of those. If you enjoy the series on the whole, you'll dig Dimensions -- or parts of it, at the very least. It wasn't until the end of my appointment that I began getting into a groove and at that point, I just didn't want to put the controller down. Sorry about the wait, Patrick Klepek.
Geometry Wars photo
Hooray for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One
There was some initial skepticism when it came to Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions and its so-called "3D action." For starters, it's been several years since the last games entered our lives to rekindle old leaderboard feuds. Ther...

I could've been a pirate ship but I was a disco ball instead in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Aug 31 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]279529:55279:0[/embed] Being a non-carbon entity as he is, Claptrap's abilities are based around running a series of random computer sequences. A variety of different effects can take place like getting bumped up to full health or spawning a little minion helper, but once every few times, a disco ball appears and lights up the party. When this happens, enemies need to stay off the dance floor. The disco ball launches an area-of-effect attack that hits baddies with every elemental damage type at once. Every. Elemental. Type. Yeah, it's badass. Moon jumping around, power bombing on enemies, then melee attacking while the shiny ball does its thing makes quick work of most everything around you. Apart from the quirky capstones, playing as Claptrap had another major perk. Being a robot and all, he doesn't need to be constantly aware of oxygen levels like the other characters do. This means you can jump, jump, jump to your heart's desire and not really care about suffocating. Robots don't have lungs, at least not yet. Other than that, The Pre-Sequel felt a lot like more Borderlands. Shocking, right? The new emphasis on verticality will maybe frustrate anyone looking to get to the next waypoint as quickly as possible. However, loot hunters should find it appealing because of all the extra nooks and crannies where chests can be hidden. And, if you get bored doing that, just throw a disco party; it should liven things right up.
Borderlands photo
Disco ain't dead
As I sat down for my appointment with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, I had to make my toughest decision at PAX Prime. Running through Claptrap's capstone abilities, I was faced with the following dilemma: Do I want to become a ...

Costume Quest 2 is still cute, trying to be more engaging

Aug 29 // Steven Hansen
[embed]280362:55487:0[/embed] I was starting from the beginning of the game, so the fights may ramp up in intensity, but I was able to make it through the first area on auto-pilot, just using the attack of whichever costume I felt like wearing. Still, I didn't mind the basic JRPG battles, either, as I was taking in the colorful world. Down in the starting bayou, I smacked alligators to retrieve pieces for a clown costume. You can zip around on what I'm pretty sure are Heelys, which someone recently told me still exist. One of the starting enemies had a digital clock in its chest and they were all set to 4:20 (you know, the weed number), though that's going to be changed to 2:30. 2:30. Tooth hurty. The main antagonist is a dentist. At the start of the game, a rip in time brings you to the dentist-ruled, terrifying, authoritarian future. He's collaborating with some evil witch. You're then rocketed back in time to stop him after a cyborg ninja crow teaches you how to fight. Also, there's a Thomas Jefferson costume. Its special move is the Declaration of Destruction. He throws it dramatically at enemies, who will put on reading glasses and look at it closely before it explodes. And Jefferson's out of battle ability, Diplomacy, is great, even though I never used it properly. I was only chastised, "This doesn't seem like the time for diplomacy," which amused me endlessly. You also duel a little, fiddle-playing boy in a devil costume using your goofy clown horn. Costume Quest 2 is just precious.
Preview photo
New costumes, from Thomas Jefferson to a pterodactyl
Costume Quest, like every Double Fine game, is charming. It's a fresh-feeling, low stakes take on the JRPG genre, more Earthbound than Final Fantasy. Though, as Chad put it in his review, it's "RPG Lite," accessible...

Life is Strange is a world you'll want to lose yourself in

Aug 13 // Brett Makedonski
Life Is Strange is Dontnod’s sophomore effort, the follow-up to Remember Me. It chronicles the tale of high school students Max Caughfield and her friend Chloe as they investigate the disappearance of a classmate. While it’s rooted in the adventure genre, it feels like it’ll be an experience piece more than anything else -- a coming-of-age story about the struggles of two girls looking to make sense of a world that hardly seems fair. Exploration and curiosity mark every turn in Life is Strange. An early scene that played in front of us showed a house highlighted with objects just begging to be interacted with. Most of the items will serve to let the player dig as deep into the story as they please. In the same vein as Gone Home, this knowledge isn’t absolutely essential to the plot, but it provides finer details. It’s the information that helps you relate and care about the characters you’re controlling. That’s most of the objects -- not all. Some serve a greater purpose. These will alter the course of the story -- sometimes in big ways, other times small. For instance, as we were rooting through Chloe’s stepdad’s garage to find tools to repair a camera, we took a peek at some personal files that he had lying out. In a later scene, he barged into her room, enraged that she had been snooping. It’s a bit of ill will that’s going to linger and be easier to build upon with future actions. However, Life is Strange’s biggest hook is that it gives you complete control over future events by always being able to alter the immediate past. Max has the supernatural ability of time manipulation, which makes for an interesting mechanic that serves two purposes: as a means to solving puzzles, and to allow things to play out exactly as you intend. With a quick screen blurring/burning/tearing effect, Max can rewind time to her pleasing. After inadvertently breaking Chloe’s snowglobe, we took advantage of it to undo that clumsy misstep and keep her from getting a little annoyed with us. Later, while trying to knock some tools off of a high spot, we properly dislodged them, but they fell in a hard-to-reach place. By rewinding time, we first slid some cardboard to where they would land, and then proceeded. Now we could pull the tools toward us. Voilà! Puzzle solved. Where the rewind mechanic will most likely shine the brightest is in conversation. Most times, dialogue will have branching options, and it’ll be ambiguous as to what the outcome of each selection will be. All exchanges can be rewound to fit your liking, something that looks as if it’ll be easy to obsess over. During the demo, we ratted out Chloe when her stepdad found her weed. Not thrilled with the results, we tried again and took the fall for her. After a quick scolding and some harsh words, it was clear that he’d be more wary of Max, but Chloe would be more loyal. That’s how it seems as if everything in Life is Strange will play out -- as a trade-off. The developers said that no choices would be clear-cut, there’d always be some sort of negative off-setting a positive. Maybe it wouldn’t be immediately apparent, but it’ll always lead to some sort of different sequence down the road, even if it’s only marginally different. With the ambiguity playing such a big role, there’s not really a right or wrong way to play. The developers confirmed that there are no fail states or reloading. Additionally, there aren’t any action scenes to “succeed” at. While there are situations where death is imminent for Max, Life is Strange gives her the somewhat mandatory option to rewind time to a safer point. It won’t actually kill her. Early on, the developers referred to Life is Strange as “triple-A indie.” My eyes might’ve popped out of the back of my head if I rolled them any harder, but it kind of made sense once the game was played in front of us. Despite having a full studio and Square Enix’s backing, Dontnod’s created a world that feels like it has an indie edge. Underscored by a modern folk soundtrack, the Pacific Northwest setting might as well be a Japanese garden. It’s so uncompromisingly serene, when it really shouldn’t be. As you control characters that are very uncertain about themselves, it’s tough not to feel an immediate sense of empathy and nostalgia. It can almost have a calming effect when the individuals are anything but calm. It’s tough to pinpoint what it is exactly about Life is Strange that makes it so promising. The exploration aspect is definitely alluring, especially with the time mechanic bolstering it. The plot is interesting, even if claims of dynamic story-telling rarely play out as advertised. But, it might be the atmosphere that Dontnod’s cultivated that’s the real draw, if not the centerpiece that ties the entire game together. Even if you haven’t lived similar circumstances, it’ll evoke some sort of adolescent memories. When it does, it’ll be easy to care about what Max and Chloe care about so much. It might not make sense looking from the outside in, but it will when viewed from the inside out.
Life is Strange preview photo
You won't be able to help it
Gamescom is a noisy, crowded mess. Shoulder to shoulder with patrons that didn’t seem to care what they bump into, I trudged my way to my next appointment. As I stepped through the door to the meeting room, something un...

Alien: Isolation is haunting and uncompromisingly scary

Aug 13 // Alessandro Fillari
Alien: Isolation (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [previewed], PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Creative AssemblyPublisher: SegaRelease Date: October 7, 2014 Back when the uproar over Aliens: Colonial Marines happened, the developers at Creative Assembly were hard at work on Isolation and waiting for the time to unveil their project. "No one ever made the Alien game I wanted to play, which was about taking you back to the roots of the series -- which is one Alien, who is really meaningful," said creative lead Alistair Hope. "What would it be like to encounter Ridley Scott's original Alien? Who's massive, intelligent, and just something that's hunting you down." First off, forget everything you know about the sequels to the original Alien. This game is set several decades before those events, and many of the buzzwords, tropes, and other plot points for the colonial space-marines don't exist yet. The ship from the original film, the Nostromo, is destroyed, the Alien was blown out of the airlock, and the fate of lone survivor Ellen Ripley is unknown. Taking place 15 years after the original film, Alien: Isolation tells the story of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of the series' central character. After receiving word that the space station Sevastopol has recovered the Nostromo's flight recorder, she hurries to the station to learn of her mother's fate. Upon arriving, she finds the station in chaos as staff have gone into disarray after an Alien has taken up residence there. Now with the lives of herself and her crew on the line, Amanda must venture through the Sevastopol looking for answers, while evading the near omnipresent Alien. Now when I first heard that we'd be playing as the daughter of Ellen Ripley, I sorta rolled my eyes and thought of it as a gimmick to eek some connection from the first movie. But I was wrong -- in the few hours I had with the game, I saw a lot to like with Amanda's character. She's scrappy, determined, and can definitely handle herself. "We wanted to tell a story that had an emotional connection to that first film, to focus on someone who actually cared about the Nostromo," said Hope. "She has a lot of the same qualities of her mother, but she's taken her own path and she's very much her own character." With more people clamoring for strong female heroes to play as, Ripley is exactly the kind of character many would like. Not only does she set herself apart from her mother by being more talkative, and more knowledgeable and handy, but she feels like a unique character that works well on her own. It's refreshing to play as a regular character with an unusual history brought into a trying circumstance, as opposed to just another space-marine that you'd likely forget about by game's end. In more ways than one, Alien: Isolation is very much a throwback to the bleak and haunting sci-fi and horror films of the 1970s. Everything from the character look, atmosphere, and visual style have been recreated to match the tone and style of the original Alien film. To take things further, film grain and the color palette match with what many fans saw from the first film, and Creative Assembly wanted to recreate the same atmosphere for this new game. "One of the big things I love about Alien is that '70s view of the future," said Hope. "That low-fi sci-fi. It's cool because it owns its own space, it's not the style of science fiction that we're used to, and it looks great and very immersive." One of the big takeaways I had from this game is the art design. Isolation's aesthetic comes from the past's view of the future. As future prediction is relative to the times, the 1970s view of the future features structural designs and computers that feel analog and mechanical, CRT monitors with charming and antiquated graphics are placed in every room, and multilingual welcome signs show a coalesced human society of the future. The developers at Creative Assembly did an admirable job with replicating the "used" future look, as seen in Alien, Moon, and Star Wars. And it definitely makes for a more visually appealing haunted house. In case you haven't figured it out by now, Alien: Isolation is almost the opposite style and tone seen in James Cameron's Aliens, and from all the derivatives that followed. While Aliens emphasized action-horror with powerful characters stretched to their limits, Alien is a horror-thriller with characters who are outmatched by an unknown force. Creative Assembly wanted to return to the original tone and atmosphere, as it's still largely unknown for gaming. "One of the things we put up on the wall [during initial design] was to 're-Alien the Alien'. You can go back to the original Alien, which is over 35 years old, and even though it's old you can still get an emotional response from it," Hope stated. "And it's a testament to the power of the craft. It was important to me to have the Alien not run around your waist like a rabid dog, but to be big and imposing, that commanded your respect." Respect is a great way of putting it. In the previous games, players are used to mowing down swarms of aliens without feeling any real fear. It's very ingrained, when you think about it. This aspect of the human vs. alien conflict is what CA wanted to change, and in order to do so, players had to be knocked down a few pegs. "Horror I think is about small victories. It's those tiny moments where you think 'maybe I can make it,' and if I keep doing it maybe I can." In an atmosphere filled with dread, the tension is incredibly heavy. You're not playing as a badass space-marine with ammo and firepower to blow away swarms of Aliens; you're a regular person with limited resources that has to think about firing a shot or even whether to make the tough decision to peek around a corner to see if the enemy is near. You're vulnerable, and the odds are against you. And the creature you're up against is intelligent, cunning, and unkillable by conventional means. And encountering it is quite possibly the worst thing that can happen to your character. During my session, I had to find a trauma kit to heal an injured crew member. I carefully made my way through an abandoned crew's quarters, and suddenly the Alien crashed down from a shaft in the ceiling. Not noticing me, I ducked under a table and watched as he lurked through the halls, looking for a new prey. For most other Alien games, we would've ended the encounter there with a few shots from a pulse rifle. Not so here. Stealth and careful use of your gadgets, such as the invaluable motion tracker (which shows movement and objectives) and noisemaker gadget (which does exactly that) are necessary for survival.  Once the Alien discovers you, you're pretty much done for. Within the first ten minutes of encountering this thing, I was killed twice. Both times featured unique death animations, one where the Alien yanks Ripley and finishes her with a single bite, and another where the Alien crawls on top of Ripley and goes for the kill. It was certainly humbling to face against something that I was no match for, I was definitely on edge throughout my few hours with the game. In keeping with its "throwback" style, the gameplay feels very much like a return to classic survival horror. Specifically in the vein of early Resident Evil titles and Alone in the Dark. Your resources are limited and sparse, you face unrelenting and powerful odds, and you're vulnerable to attack at the unlikeliest of moments -- to say things are tense would be putting it lightly. Moreover, Isolation also uses a fixed save point system. Creative Assembly cited this as a design choice to get players to think about where they want to set their flag, but also to prevent players from taking advantage of checkpoints and save-anywhere options, which would mitigate the tension. There were definitely times where I felt too nervous to make a move, as the Alien would have a general sense of where I was and stay around the area. And no, it usually won't go away if it knows you're there. Safety feels like a luxury, and moments that felt like downtime only resulted in the creature re-emerging from its hiding spot, almost as if to remind players who's boss. "We certainly don't want players to feel 100 percent safe, however this game has to be about tension and release," said Hope, while discussing the balance between creating tension. "It can't be unrelentingly oppressive and constantly overbearing, you need to be able to breath, before you can embark into the unknown." While he's definitely correct about striking a balance between tension and release, I myself was mostly tense throughout the experience. One major criticism I had was that the objective locations are kept fairly vague while only giving you a general direction to head to. Picture this: you're looking for a small keycard located in a hallway with multiple rooms. You don't know where it is, and you have to sneak through each room searching for it, all the while having the Alien lurking about. You begin to get frustrated, you can't find what you need to leave and you start to panic, you knock over a nearby object (objects create noise which attracts the Alien), and the creature rushes off to your room. At times, it felt like I was in a hopeless situation and that a restart was necessary. I was stuck in a supply closet and the Alien stuck its head toward the vents of the closets to see if I was inside. During this point, you can hold your breath and wait for the Alien to pass, but I let go of the button and let out a big gasp for air -- of course, the Alien heard it, ripped the doors off its hinges and dragged me to my death. It's moments like these that make the experience incredibly suspenseful, but in order to survive, you have to be prepared. To get the upper hand on the Alien and overcome many other obstacles, Ripley must use her engineering skills to craft items and weaponry to survive her trek through the Sevastopol. The in-game crafting system allows players to make Medkits, ammo, and other tools to survive. While you will acquire core weaponry, such as the revolver, stun-baton, and flamethrower, many other gadgets like the noisemaker and Molotov cocktails require components that are found from looting dead bodies and crates. Though be careful, crafting will not pause the game and if you're in an unsafe location, you can be easily picked off by the Alien. While the Alien is unrelenting and intimidating, it isn't the only enemy you have to worry about. Throughout the station you'll find other humans doing whatever it takes to survive the chaos. Even if means taking out Ripley. While there are people that players can peacefully interact with, others will attack on sight. Which is not only a problem, but the noise from this conflict will also attract the Alien. Though depending on how you play, this can work to your advantage. If you're clever enough, you can lure the beast out of hiding with gadgets and use the humans as a distraction. If done right, the Alien will leap out from whatever vent or rafter it's hiding from and make quick work of them, allowing you to pick up resources after the carnage. "It's not about killing, it's about survival. It felt like there had to more interaction with this creature than just pulling a trigger," said Hope while discussing the different options you have for combat." You can actually finish the game without killing anyone, so it's down to your choice. It's a big part of the game experience, we put these situations in your hands." Another enemy to watch out for are the Working Joes, or synthetic androids as seen from the films. Throughout the Sevastopol there are Working Joes on standby, and in some cases players can activate them for assistance, such as locating and procuring sensitive equipment. However, the Working Joes are also kept to maintain the integrity of the station, and if players tamper or destroy sensitive equipment, the androids will treat you as a hostile threat and enter a search-and-destroy protocol. While they appear slow and crude, they're extremely powerful and possess some sharper senses than the creature. The Alien is intimidating and scary, but Working Joes are just plain creepy. I came in expecting a game that would be better than the previous titles by default, but I ended up playing a game that not only surprised me with its cleverness and complexity, it gave me a greater appreciation for the original film as well. Alien: Isolation knows exactly what it's doing, and its approach to offering an uncompromising and harsh experience that'll frighten and humble players should win over many who wrote off the series. With its release on October 7, Isolation's return to classic horror will likely give gamers looking for a survivalist experience -- and those in need of a good scare -- something to look anticipate. And with the Alien lurking the halls of the space station, the odds will certainly be against you. But to quote the cunning android Ash from the original film, "I can't lie to you about your chances, but … you have my sympathies."
Alien: Isolation photo
Admire its purity
Though it was initially seen as "Jaws-in-space," the legacy for Alien is certainly much more pristine than the one with the giant shark. Originally released in 1979, the first Alien would eventually become a much-loved horror...

Assassin's Creed Rogue gives you more open ocean goodness

Aug 13 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Assassin's Creed Rogue (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)Developer: Ubisoft SofiaPublisher: UbisoftRelease: November 11, 2014 You play as Shay Patrick Cormac, a former assassin who was betrayed by his brotherhood. So Shay is out for revenge, and he's teamed up with his former nemesis the Templar in order to accomplish his goals. This is a story of revenge, and from what little I got to play I could really feel the experience was more violent compared to playing as an assassin. Specifically, it's the ship combat that felt way more brutal compared to Black Flag's. It is a smaller vessel this time around, so you're much quicker on the ocean. You also have a giant ram at the front of the ship designed to break apart ice on the water, but it can totally be used to plow into enemy vessels all the same. The overall firepower is nothing to laugh at either, with a cannon that acts like a machine gun of sorts now, and the ability to release burning oil from the rear of the ship and set those giving chase on fire.  There's no shortage of assassins in Rogue and you'll be hunting them down. Remember how in Assassin's Creed III there was a great shortage of assassins in the North American territory? Yeah, blame Shay for that. The events in Rogue set up that aspect of ACIII, and Haytham Kenway himself happens to be your second in command aboard your ship, in fact. The assassin we dealt with in our demo was holed up at a base with some of his allies in the open world outside of a story mission. You have to hunt down the assassin when you get to his base, but you have to be careful as you go about it. Your targets can do everything you could always do in past Assassin's Creed games. In this particular case, the target literally got the drop on us, and then fled the area. As we gave chase, we saw him call in allies, hide in bushes, and use his environment to his advantage. He even shot an explosive barrel just as Shay ran past it, knocking him over.  [embed]279374:55278:0[/embed] At one point the assassin dropped a smoke bomb, but Shay does have plenty of his own new tricks to directly counter his former allies. In this case, he dawned a gas mask to bypass the smoke bomb, and eventually was able to corner the assassin to finish him off.  Shay was also using a primitive grenade launcher to take out some enemies. He even had this poison that was able to cause anyone in the vicinity to go wild and attack each other; a great way to infiltrate bases. This would cause civilians to go nuts too -- which, by the way, you can totally kill civilians without any consequences. You're a Templar now, who cares!  Again, if you got your fill out of Black Flag you may just want to focus on Unity. If you're looking for more of that seamless open-world ocean experience with new and expanded features -- and the ability to play on the other side of the war -- then Rogue may just be the game for you. 
Assassin's Creed Rogue photo
Except now you're a bad guy so you can totally kill everybody
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag was a huge game. Like, you could easily sink 100 hours into that whole experience before getting 100 percent completion. So Assassin's Creed Rogue may or may not be quite the game for you. It ...

Dragon Age: Inquisition plays like a solid mix of Origins and Dragon Age II

Aug 13 // Chris Carter
Dragon Age: Inquisition (PC [previewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: BioWarePublisher: Electronic ArtsReleased: November 18, 2014MSRP: $59.99 I got a chance to play Dragon Age: Inquisition extensively with multiple classes, and one of the areas I encountered was "The Bog" -- the subject of the gamescom demo. During this portion, I played as a Qunari warrior, who happened to be taking advantage of the two-handed skill tree. One of the first things I noticed is that attacks actually had weight to them in Inquisition, as opposed to the floaty feel of Dragon Age II. As executive producer Mark Darrah told me, "faster and easier [combat] got us in trouble in Dragon Age II, so we're moving away from that." The two-handed skillset in Inquisition is ferocious, consisting of abilities like a running charge attack, multiple stuns, and whirlwinds. I was able to answer just about any situation, and close the gap with my dash -- but all of the Warrior's powers felt right within the confines of the class. You can also jump now, which allows you to tactically retreat or gain a better vantage point. There were multiple times where I found a new foothold by way of leaping up to a new location and it felt natural -- like the option had always been there. Of course, the classic tactical camera is back, with all-new improvements in tow for those of you who loved the option in the PC version of Origins. I found myself going back and forth from the satisfying behind-the-back action camera and the tactical view consistently, enjoying both on their own merits. Inside and out, combat has been improved this time around. When asked how much tougher it will be even on normal mode, Darrah responded, "You'll have more tools at your disposal, and you'll have to master at least one of them to get by. Whereas in Dragon Age II you could just wing it, Inquisition will challenge players to master something." In terms of player choice, BioWare notes that it's "going back to the personal story that was originally contained in Origins, while opening up the scale." One of the core faults of Dragon Age II, I felt, was that it had such a small scale and didn't really do much in terms of advancing a personal story. Speaking to the developers, they stated that Inquisition aims to fix those issues, with four playable races and two genders. BioWare informed me that not only will your race and gender affect how people around the world treat you, but it will also change the core story a bit. [embed]279148:55276:0[/embed] Just as your Origins avatar was the Warden, the new Inquisitor position comes with a lot of responsibility, which ramps up over the course of the game. While your authority may be rather tame towards the start, eventually you'll be able to pass judgments on others -- with the choice to make them an agent of the Inquisition, a prisoner, or even execute them yourself. Even with experimenting on select scenarios throughout my gametime, it seemed clear that the story would have an impact on the rest of the world, which is great news for those of you who crave a more open, epic tale. The build I played was on PC, and you could really see that new engine working overtime. As the wind blew and the rain fell in The Bog, trees really twisted and flapped in the breeze, adding to the feel of the environment as you hacked your way through hordes of the undead. As a general rule I'm not a big proponent of visuals over gameplay, but it's nice to know that Inquisition has both bases covered, and has plenty of detail. I was assured again that no areas would be re-used like in Dragon Age II, and everything I saw during my time spent with the demo backed up that claim. BioWare states that the current-generation versions of the game should look roughly the same as the PC build. I also got a chance to test out the new map icon system, which adds a bit more exploration to the mix. In short, many objectives aren't exactly spelled out for you with a conveniently-wrapped Google Map-esque tack like in the past. Instead, select quests will give you a giant circular "gist" icon as I call it, letting you know that your quest is somewhere in the area. It's a nice compromise since the exploration zones are around ten times bigger than any previous zone in the series, so you won't get completely lost -- but you'll have to at least work for it. Dragon Age: Inquisition is shaping up to be a glorious return to most of what made Origins so great. The jury is still out on whether or not BioWare can keep that greatness up throughout the course of the entire adventure, but from what I've played so far, I'm pretty satisfied, and most of my fears have been quelled. There's more Inquisition coverage on the way later this month, including a big announcement that I can't wait to share.
Dragon Age 3 preview photo
This is coming from a big supporter of Origins
I wasn't very happy with Dragon Age II. Whereas Origins was a glorious return to old-school RPG sensibilities, Dragon Age II played like an action game that took place in the same universe. I liked the sequel for di...

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Thunder butts and meat popsicles
I got my hands on Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel recently, and I've got some hot info on the new mechanics, and one of the new player characters, Athena the Gladiator. The game's new Stingray vehicle has a neat trick to it, the...

Natural Doctrine is a brutal, sort of ugly turn-based strategy game

Jul 07 // Steven Hansen
Natural Doctrine (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita)Developer: Kadokawa GamesPublisher: NIS AmericaRelease Date: September 16, 2014 Natural Doctrine's UI has been an illegible clutter in what we've seen so far (which is sort of extensive, as it's been out in Japan for months), so I was glad to finally get some clarification, though nothing will beat playing it for a few hours to figure everything out.  First, it's like a cross between Valkyria Chronicles and a grid-based SRPG. Though large, outlined, adjacent squares? You can move anywhere within one -- moving into a new square, crossing a boundary, is what counts as a movement. And your free positioning within squares is actually meaningful. The first map shown involved catching up to protecting a character who will essentially be your first mage, if you succeed. If you don't succeed and he dies, you should probably start over. I'm told that's the case with any character, really. "You come in with a team, you better leave with that team." And so part of defending this mage involved getting your troops to his square and actually setting up a defense wall around him because enemies will need line of sight to hit (I saw a lot of shots from a ranged gunman bounce ineptly off of a piece of wall later in the demo -- third person view is helpful to avoid that). As for the messy top of the UI, that's the turn order, but it's fungible. Doing an action with in the same square (or an adjacent square) as one of your units activates Linking, which changes up the turn order. While the Initiative above may alternate you, enemy, you could theoretically link everyone and get all your turns in -- though you've opened up for your enemy to do the same. Also key are same square Link attacks which get stronger as you move your linked characters away from each other, which is great for extra offense but could compromise any defensive positioning you were working with. Grouping is also useful because everyone in an attacked square will counter. An adjacent, ranged fighter can also counter without being attacked if close enough.  Things like terrain and positioning also matter (for line of sight). You can even friendly fire your own units if you're not careful. Killing an enemy also makes the attacking unit move into the adjacent section (provided it isn't filled with further enemies), which can sometimes screw you over, as I saw in a later level.  You could spend three turns trying to close a gate, requiring enemies to flank around (and giving you more turns to pick them off slowly) or brute force your way through. Our demoer took Jeff and set him up with some buffs and set him to guard the space right behind the gate. This prevented enemy troops from moving up and allowed him to counterattack while ranged units also attacked. But our demoer fell a few times, once when a successful attack forced Jeff to move up a square, into the open, where he was unceremoniously wrecked. After finally making it through, more, stronger enemies showed up. Thankfully, someone asked Kadokawa to throw some checkpoints in so some of the longer stanges wouldn't need to be fully replayed (especially since you're advised to restart upon character death). This is more of an XCOM situation than other SRPGs. There's no grinding, just the main missions. And you're given the soldiers you have to use for each mission, though you can respec characters at the onset to some degree. They have specialties, of course, and you'll want to keep your mages for their invaluable healing and strong offensive magic -- if you conserve enough Pluton, the MP source, which doesn't always replenish between stages.  It all seems as if Natural Doctrine is a bit antagonistic. It is. But at least you can hold down a button to fast forward enemy turns.  It won't be cross-buy, but the PS3, PS4, and Vita versions will be cross-save and cross-play -- there's also a multiplayer component where you play with units of all four in-game races (in the story, you only play as humans) that you earn by playing multiplayer and getting trading cards. Each unit card has a cost to play, so you will hopefully not get steam rolled by someone just because they have stronger units than you.  And I forgot to only refer to the game as Natty Doc. Shoot. 
Preview: Natural Doctrine photo
Hmm...how about we go with 'homely'
Sure, Natural Doctrine doesn't look great (well, the environments; it does look better in miniature on the Vita). It's a far cry from director Atsushi Ii's gorgeous minimalism in Patapon. But Kadokawa Games' first intern...

Escape Dead Island is a single-player 'survival mystery'

Jul 01 // Steven Hansen
Escape Dead Island [PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360]Developer: Fatshark SwedenPublisher: Deep SilverRelease: Fall 2014 Contrary to the above image, Escape Dead Island is a stealth-reliant (and story-focused) game. Those two things are interwoven, too. Escape is in part a response to critique of the series' absent characterization and story (hence no multiplayer). There's even a mysterious, Emmy-winning writer behind the script.  The story, like the aforementioned Groundhog's Day, loops. Escape's lead is part of a three-person documentary team trying to figure out what's going on on the closed off island from the first game (it's six week after those events and bridges Dead Islands 1 and 2). This, of course, gets the three stranded on a terrible island of zombies.  You play as Cliff, the loudmouth of the group. He's got some obnoxious combat barks. Cliff's (other) problem is that he keeps waking up at 4:37 and going through time loops, during which he will end up scavenging items that will then be used to open up new available branches. It's a fairly linear world, but with different branches, a "3D Metroidvania, like Darksiders or Zelda." Cliff also experiences color-drained Insanity segments. I played the fifth or so mission of Escape, which was actually the first time Cliff encountered a zombie. Without weaponry, I had to sneak around the zombie and get to a rope, which I used to get down to a beach. That rope, then, becomes part of cliff's inventory and he'll hang on to it when he cycles back.  From the beach, the goal was to meet up with the ambitious woman and hipster wearing a scarf in a tropical climate that are the rest of Cliff's crew. Sneaking through some buildings, I found a screwdriver, which could be used for stealth kills as some mysterious person kept calling phones in the office I was crouching through, alerting the zombies.  After making it through the area, I ended up looping back to washing up on the beach with Cliff's crew. We walked around for a while, listening to them talk at me, until we reached a point where I'm told, from then on, the game would be more "like a Dead Space" in that you're in communication with your friends, but not directly, and they don't entirely believe everything you're going through. If you're counting, there's been a number of grand comparisons to some well-liked things (I just last night dreamt Bill Murray was evicting me, but he felt bad about it). I don't anticipate Escape Dead Island will live up to any of them. It's a different look for the series, though, and will release to the past generation of consoles for a more appropriate $40. Those who buy get access to Dead Island 2's beta as well. 
Dead Island preview photo
And now for (another) something different
The next Dead Island game isn't Dead Island 2. Of course, Dead Island: Riptide already showed the series' disregard for numeration. Counting the early access MOBA, Dead Island 2 should be Dead Island 5. But Dea...

Platinum is making a Legend of Korra game, and it's pretty awesome

Jun 26 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
The Legend of Korra [PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [previewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One]Developer: Platinum GamesPublisher: ActivisionRelease: Fall 2014 For all you fans of the series, The Legend of Korra game takes place right after book two, centering on the consequences of what happened at the end of last season. Think of this as more of a self-contained episode, a nice side story before we deal with the real consequences in Book 3: Change which debuts this Friday on Nickelodeon. Show creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko worked closely with Platinum to develop the game. They even jointly created the new villain, one that uses a new type of Chi blocking that has left Korra powerless at the beginning of this adventure. Her powers haven't been taken away completely, and as you go through the levels (with set pieces taken from the show such as Air Temple Island, Republic City, more), Korra will remember how to use her bending abilities once again.    The story here will reference elements from the show and there will undoubtedly be a lot of callbacks that will make fans happy. That said, don't let that keep you from this game. The action elements are pretty awesome, thanks in large part to Platinum's skills at making great combat mechanics. All you need to know is that you're playing as a real badass who can bend the four elements of fire, water, air, and earth to her will. As Korra re-discovers her various bending skills, she'll find that she's stuck using more of the basic attacks with each element. But as you progress and level up, you'll upgrade your attacks and learn new combos. What makes the fighting top notch here is how seamlessly you can swap between your four powers as you're unleashing combos on enemies. Water bending, for example, is good for long-range attacks -- either throwing out projectiles, or using a "water whip"-like move to reel enemies closer to you. On the other hand, air bending is best as an area-of-effect attack when dealing with a group of enemies surrounding you. Each bending style offers something unique, and it's best to mix up your attacks as much as possible. Oh, and you totally can summon an air ball and ride it around just like in the show. Between your light and heavy attacks, you also have a special charge attack for more powerful bending moves, plus there's a dodge and counter move as well. Countering is especially encouraged, most of all when dealing with boss-type enemies. It's a similar counter system to that of Revengeance, where you have to learn the enemy patterns to best time the counter over being babied and getting some notification to time the counter correctly. Though, admittedly, the learning curve for timing is way smaller in The Legend of Korra.  And yes, you can go into the Avatar state. The specifics of what will allow you to summon your special ability haven't been quite nailed down yet, but ultimately the game will let you know when you can go full out, and at that point you'll be unleashing all your bending abilities at once for a duration of time. Again, for an alpha, the combat system was pretty damn fluid. The camera was a little finicky during my hands-on time, but didn't ultimately hinder my session. I was impressed with how far along the game was already, and there's going to be loads of time for polish between now and the release date. Visually, the game was looking nice too. The cartoon-y/cel-shaded look was pleasant, especially when the different bending elements were in use by the player or enemies. Speaking of which, while the big boss is new, most of the enemy foot soldiers were recycled from the past two seasons of the show. My playthrough saw me encountering chi blockers, Mecha Tanks, and some of the Triads too. A nice touch though at least is that chi blockers can knock out whatever last ability you were using for a small duration of time. The voice actors from the show reprise their role here for the game, and a large chunk of the game's music is taken from the show too. On top of the core action elements, there's also a Naga-running section where you have to navigate levels much in the same way as something like in Temple Run. Plus there's Pro-Bending sections where Korra, Mako, and Bolin will be fighting others in Pro-Bending! So, you're probably asking at this point how this crazy collaboration came to be. Platinum, a Japanese studio, working on a license game of a American TV series that takes heavy influences from Japanese anime. And it's being published by Activision, no less. Well, on Activision's end, the specific office in charge was presented with a list of developers to work with. It was a "no brainer" when they saw that Platinum was an option, as Robert Conkey, producer on the Activision side told Destructoid. "These guys are one of the best third-person action developers in the world." As for Platinum's perspective, producer Atsushi Kurooka broke down exactly what made the Japanese studio interested in working on this project (as translated through Robert Conkey): "One of the first impressions with Korra was that [we] were blown away by how awesome the show was. The main reason [we] were interested in the brand was one, [we] were really impressed with how involved the story was and how detailed it was. It was just really fascinating to [us]. Just the fact that it's so detailed and the fact that each of the bending styles is based on actual different types of Kung-Fu. The way that it's actually animated is just really impressive. "There's more to it than that too. There's the love story that they have, and there's Bolin as the comic relief and the comedy in it is just awesome. [We] felt that it was an incredibly well put together and balanced show and [we] hadn't seen something like that before ... [We] felt like [we] could relate. In a lot of [our] older games, it was often that they had a serious side to it but it also had a tongue-in-cheek aspect. We considered it a challenge that we never really had to do it very strictly before, stick to a brand and actually realize that brand while still keeping to [our] way of making games." I think the one only downside to The Legend of Korra game is that it's going to be four hours long for an average playthrough. Of course you can do replays and go for 100% completion, but as a giant fan of the cartoon series, I wish there was going to be more. Otherwise, like I said before, think of this as a self-contained episode. It's not going to outstay its welcome, and it's a solid deal when you also factor in that this will be $14.99 when it comes out. Oh, and there's a 3DS The Legend of Korra game in the works. I only found out because it was offhandedly mentioned in the press release I got so I guess Activision doesn't have much faith in it? Anyway the 3DS game is being developed by Webfoot Technologies as a retail release where it follows the same story as the console version, but it's a turn-based strategy RPG where you maneuver Korra and her allies around on the battlefield.
Legend of Korra photo
First hands-on preview
Yup, you read that headline correctly. Platinum Games, the maker of such fine titles as Mad World, Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising, The Wonderful 101, and more, is creating a game based on The Legend of Korra series. It's being ...

Dying Light is less about zombies and more about movement

Jun 23 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]276979:54555:0[/embed] Dying Light, rather than being about zombies, is about movement. It doesn't take long to figure this out. Every facet of the game is designed around traversal. The zombies that litter the landscape are less active enemies, and more active obstacles to discourage any disingenuity when getting around. Spanning the open-world map looks as if it'll be an enjoyable exercise, with moments of frustration peppered in due to the drawbacks of the methods at-hand. Best described as a Mirror's Edge-esque free-running system, isolated incidents of climbing buildings, mantelling over ledges, and jumping over a gap can be thrilling -- like a well-executed combo in a fighting game. However, first-person platforming is a fickle mistress, and the inherent irritations spring up often enough to be noticeable. Exactly what you can climb and how far you can jump are issues that take continuous trial-and-error to solve, especially given that you can feel the character's weight in a sense that you just know he's not capable of everything, even if sometimes it seems like he's totally capable of anything. Being a game about movement, it's a no-brainer that these free-running mechanics will be employed constantly. Guided at all-times by a waypoint on a mini-map, players are best served sticking to roofs and avoiding the ground when searching for the next objective. Techland rewards that style, as almost every climb and jump earns experience points toward agility, hopefully ensuring that the player will eventually feel less clumsy and more confident in their actions. Although taking the roads isn't advisable, it's definitely feasible -- at least for half the game. During the daytime, zombies are generally weak and slow enough that combat isn't completely ill-advised. However, combat can seem like a chore, as the melee system has that clunky, unwieldy feel about it that just isn't pleasurable to use. Even if there are some neat improvised weapons on display (less a novelty, and more a staple of zombie games by now), avoiding interaction altogether is the more enjoyable route. Keep in mind, that's all when the sun is up. At nighttime, discard any ideas of engaging the zombies because it'll most likely just lead to imminent death. That's when the Volatiles -- the worst of the worst in Dying Light come out --  and the need for discreet and deliberate movement is higher than ever. The mini-map graciously provides a coned effect to represent each Volatile's field of view, and its value is indescribable. In the event that it's impossible to stay hidden from these, the next best course of action is to take advantage of the game's traversal system in any given direction -- just make sure it's quick. As Dying Light progresses, it's remarkable to see the transformation of the mechanics, presumably all that acquired experience paying dividends. Warped from an early-game setting to somewhere significantly later, the difference in my character's abilities were almost like day and night (to draw an apt analogy from Dying Light). All of a sudden, getting around just seemed easier. The uncertainties that plague the whole first-person platforming situation still existed, but everything that worked worked better. Climbing was faster and more fluid. Jumping had some much-appreciated extra distance to it. There was even a handy grappling hook of sorts that yanked me to whatever was targeted; it almost felt like cheating in a way. It was at this point that a Techland developer requested for me to climb down to fight a few zombies. He wanted to show off some of those gadget weapons, like ones that added electric or fire damage to the melee attacks. I briefly obliged, but was still unenamored. I couldn't wait to get to back to the roofs and just move about the buildings. It's fitting that Dying Light is about movement, because it's by far what it does the best. At times, it's unclear how substantial your objective is, just that you're moving toward something. Maybe the objective is only to survive. That'd make sense. For all the zombie material that focuses on attacking the undead, it's an unwise approach. Much smarter would be running, jumping, and climbing to get as far away from them as possible. Dying Light ensures you'll do plenty of that.
Dying Light preview photo
Go somewhere, anywhere
What can be done freshen up the zombie genre at this point? Videogames, television shows, movies, comics -- virtually every pop culture medium's been infested by the craze, long ago hitting a saturation (and then oversaturati...

I couldn't believe the size of Dragon Age: Inquisition's world

Jun 18 // Brett Makedonski
Dragon Age: Inquisition centers around the on-going war between the mages and templars. The presenter emphatically stated several times throughout the demo that this was our goal. That might be what's on BioWare's mind, but honestly, it seems like the more important objective in Inquisition is simply keeping the world from tearing itself apart. All across the land are breaches that need to be repaired, which is the protagonist's duty as the Inquisitor leading the Inquisition. There's plenty of room for customization here as four races and nine specializations (as well as choice of gender) are offered. If Inquisition's going to ask the player to make decisions to affect the outcome of the game, it's a good thing that the option to play several different ways is represented. Not that the Inquisitor would attempt this on his/her own, however. Inquisition has many playable characters that are leaders in their own right, effectively making the player a leader of leaders. These characters react based on choices made throughout the game. For instance, in the demo, we sent one to Redcliffe Castle where she was captured and tortured. We eventually freed her, but the presenter remarked that it'll have a long-term effect on our relationship moving forward. It's probably for the best that relationships be tended to as carefully as possible, because you'll anyone and everyone on your side in the thick of battle. The combat system has been sort of reworked for Inquisition to compromise between Origins' and Dragon Age 2's. Now, the player is able to pause time entirely to take an overhead tactical approach, or get into the fray themselves while switching characters on-the-fly. This was displayed flawlessly in a battle against a ferocious Fereldan Frostback dragon. With different reticules aiming for specific parts of the dragon, the team chipped away. This is where Focus was shown off -- a shared resource that slows down time for everyone but our party. After inflicting some major damage, the dragon was wounded enough that we could move in and deliver the coup de grâce. By the time the 30-minute presentation was up, I realized that we had barely even scratched the surface of what Dragon Age: Inquisition will have to offer. With a massive play space that changes based on in-game decisions and actions, dynamic RPG offerings, and an entire story to tell, Inquisition needs several hours to express what it's all about -- not just a thirty minutes. That being said, a half hour was sufficient time to impress; I can't imagine more time wouldn't just build on that.
Dragon Age preview photo
The rest of the game looked damn fine, too
Fantasy games have some of my favorite settings in all of videogames. Forests, mountains, chasms, rivers -- they all have a serenity and majesty about them that wonderfully adds to the sense of scale. It shouldn't surprise me...


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