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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...

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 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...

Do you love setpieces? You'll probably like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Jun 16 // Brett Makedonski
There were two levels shown during the presentation, both adept at communicating the new(ish) style that Advanced Warfare brings to the table, but also assuaged any fears (or dashed any hopes?) that this year's Call of Duty will be a departure from its bread and butter. The first of the two slices was nothing more than an extended gameplay video. Set up by a violent car chase along the San Francisco freeway gone awry, the majority of the level took place fighting across the Golden Gate bridge. This is where we got to see enemy soldiers jetpacking on top of semis, as the character we were watching mirrored those movements with his own boosts onto abandoned vehicles. I couldn't help but feel as if it seemed like a slower Titanfall. Although the shooting was a lot of what we've come to expect, the setting provided a wonderful playground for the action. Terrified civilians running away and cars littering the road made for a good start. But, it went into overdrive when a pack of drones were accidentally released from the enemies' truck and started cutting the cable to the bridge. As one might suspect, suspension cables are critical to suspending a suspension bridge. Who would've thought? With several of the cables no longer intact, the bridge started to slowly come down as vehicles and people alike careened off the edge and into the bay below. At one point, a policeman was about to escape harm's way until a bus plowed into him, followed by someone jetpacking to the protagonist like nothing ever happened. His demeanor eerily mirrored what players might feel; when you've become accustomed to this level of action over the course of a decade, what will it take to truly drop jaws again? The second level, which was actually played by a presenter (supposedly), took a more methodical approach to things. Set in and around a Biolab in a Bulgarian forest, stealth was paramount to infiltrating the facility. However, just because cloaking devices and quiet knife kills were in play doesn't mean that the setpieces slowed down. Almost immediately, a helicopter spotted the two principal characters and began a mad dash through a river to get to cover before it could snipe them. After leaping off a cliff and hustling into the forest, it was finally safe. Well, sort of. Making good use of the cloaking technology, the two slinked through the forest, knifing some unfortunate enemies in the throat, while opting to spare the lucky ones. After a bit, a tank rolled through blasting some sort of light that exposed cloaked individuals -- a subtle reminder that not all setpieces need to be grand. The inside of the facility held a lot of corridor-based shooting galleries that sometimes define the first-person shooter genre, but once outside, the commandeering of a tank made things interesting again. Rumbling along, nothing was spared from the path of destruction, as helicopters, vehicles, and individual troops fell in gratuitous numbers. Upon arriving at a getaway plane, the protagonists blew up the tank just for good measure. Given thirty minutes to watch Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, there are certainly mechanical changes being made to the way the game plays. However, its reliance on setpieces and scripted action makes sure that nothing strays too far from the Call of Duty formula. Maybe Advanced Warfare isn't really as advanced as everyone claims. But, maybe that sort of service to the fans keep millions of them loyal year after year. And, hey -- maybe that isn't a bad thing at all.
Call of Duty preview! photo
The action you expect
The last decade has brought us ten new Call of Duty games. With that steady drip of titles, the series' developers have figured out how to craft increasingly elaborate action scenarios. Despite being at it for a while, t...

Rollers of the Realm: A nice surprise

Jun 16 // Dale North
A female character doubles as a pinball (stay with me here) that can be launched into a play field or town to interact with enemies or NPCs by bouncing into them. You’ll guide our hero with flippers that have been placed in these locations. In the most basic example, hitting an NPC lets you speak with them in town. Hitting an enemy chips off at its hit points. If guards are blocking a gate, as was the case in the earliest level, you might have to hit them with shots to clear the way. Actually, in this case, I was able to summon my dog (also a pinball) and send him up as a distraction for the guards while I made a sharp shot towards an alternate access point into the next area. Just like in any good pinball game, there are opportunities to show off your paddle skills by launching multi ball play, or shooting through trap doors to access other locations. Expect bumpers, ramps, treasures, and bonus zones. Some of the paddles have life bars, which adds to the challenge. Completing a level requires a sharp shot to a goal zone once all objectives have been met. What’s interesting is that this character pinball is the first member of a party, and that each additional character has its own traits on the play field, just as different character types would in a traditional RPG. For example, a drunken knight hits harder and moves slower because he’s heavier, though that movement is erratic because he’s had a few too many before going into battle. I played a demo just to the point where I was able to add a third party member, a healer. This pinball also has a movement and abilities of its own to be used. As the game progresses and the levels become more challenging, use of two or more party members can be required to proceed. In one of the more interesting encounters I had to use the knight to force my way through barriers that the hero wasn’t strong enough to access. From there, the hero would take over, being more agile and fast. Rollers of the Realm is quite a bit more pinball than RPG, but the mix of elements makes feel like the biggest, most involved pinball table ever. As an RPG fan, i welcome the varied challenges. I’m not great at pinball, but after seeing what I did at E3 I’m sure I’ll be taking on the challenge anyway.   Rollers of the Realm is coming to PC, PS4, and PS Vita this holiday season.
RPG/pinball mashup succeeds
I tried my hardest to imagine what the combination of pinball and RPG would look and play like before meeting with Atlus at E3, but I kept coming to mental roadblocks so I decided to wait and be surprised when I got to see it...

Project DIVA photo
Quick hands-on preview
As Miku fans likely already know, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd is coming to North America this year, to both PS3 and Vita. It was through your support for the first title that this sequel's release is possible, Sega tell...

Okay, now I'm super excited for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Jun 11 // Steven Hansen
[embed]276462:54426:0[/embed] I hate horses. I take my dog to a dog beach. It's a human beach, but dogs are allowed, off leash. Once in a while, rich people take their horses onto the beach. This is dangerous for curious dogs, who could get kicked. Plus, the horses shit as much as 20 dogs. Do those assholes get off their horses and pick it up? No. Unfortunately, Phantom Pain is 200 times bigger than Ground Zeroes, and walking across barren desert would just not be that fun. Snake did not get off to pick up the poop. Instead, he rode up to an ill-guarded structure and did that cool hanging off the side of the horses lean to tranq a guard undetected, though I'm not sure how he got that close undetected, riding a horse. He held up the other at gunpoint, getting the drop on him, and interrogated him about the contents of the nearby shipping container: raw materials. Raw materials can be Fulton'd up in the air and sent back to Mother Base to add to your GMP, the in-game currency. You can also find some, like raw diamonds, in the environment. You may be rolling solo, but you're building an army, and that takes money. Money and troops. Zipping screaming, downed soldiers into the air and back to Mother Base is hilarious. You can also Fulton over vehicles or armaments (like an anti-aircraft weapon). You can even stun some grazing sheep and send them back home. The return of levity is delightful. There was a whole lot going on in the demo and I loved all of it (except I'm still torn on the already-known slow-mo effect when you're spotted). The dynamic weather, coupled with the day and night cycle, is a neat addition. Sudden sandstorms obscure your vision, but your enemies', too. Snake also has a Phantom Cigar, an e-cig with holographic smoke. Taking a drag speeds the passage of time, all in real time, so you can see the weather and time of day changing like a time lapse and wait until you think it's best to act. When Snake rolls up on an encampment, a lot of this big-picture openness comes into play. "A huge part of the fun is just looking at the map, 'how do I get in here? What time of the day would be better? What route should I take?' That has been missing in my games," Kojima said through a translator. From up on high, Snake is able to make enemies, mark multiple way points in the camp to plot his route of entry, and keep an eye on guard sleeping and walking patterns. A lot of stealth games have a disconnect between player ability and character ability. This all helps you feel like a trained saboteur while requiring  you to do some work to earn it. Mother Base helps, too, especially if you have been training recruits (and have the GMP to afford things). You can, for example, order intel on areas. You can also have ammo airdropped in. You can even airdrop a box and konk a guard on the head, knocking them out. At the end of the mission, when Snake was detected, he called in an airstrike from Mother Base and heroically drove away in a jeep, explosions behind. A little earlier, Snake went into his R&D department and had the ultimate of stealth technology dropped in: a cardboard box. And it's hilarious that it just lands, empty, and Snake just gets in the top. It's no ordinary cardboard box, though. First, you can now pop out of the top like a stripper in a cake and shoot enemies or what have you, so you don't have to equip and unequip. You can also still use the Fulton recovery system from inside. You can also propel yourself out the front of the box (I have no idea how the box manages more than two openings), which could be useful if you're in just the right position -- nearing a wall, for example -- to get out without the enemy seeing you. You can even get them suspicious of the moving the box, rocket sneak out, and use it as a decoy. Its these sort of little touches (also the kind voice that reminds you to vacate your airstrike zone) and unique design that make Metal Gear for me. Even something as simple as being able roll onto your back while crawling (and still inch backwards with your elbows) and shoot instead of having to turn all the way around speaks to a much improved fluidity that skilled players are going to be able to use to do impressive things. You can also pretend to be a trapdoor spider and sit in garbage bins until a guard walks by and quickly knock them out and hide the body. The other big reveal from today's demo is that Mother Base isn't a menu that you jettison force labor to. It's a physical place you can return to and run around in. And when you show up, everyone salutes you, because you're the boss. In keeping with the less linear design that lets you tackle missions openly, you'll have choices that dictate how your Mother Base develops over time, what platforms get built. The sheep Snake scooped up from the battlefield is there and seems to be enjoying itself. We saw Ocelot hanging around, too, and a security UAV buzzing about (you can build them with proper investments). My favorite thing is that you can train (shooting) and spar (CQC) with recruits to raise their skills. I've never been as good as I'd like at CQC, so being able to practice freely will be great. Mother Base isn't just a hub you hang out at during missions, though. During our neatly scripted demo, rain started falling a bit after Ocelot gave a wave, and the base was suddenly under attack. We didn't get to see all of the attack play out, but we were told that your actions during missions -- how many enemies you make -- will affect the rate of these sieges. Better keep recruiting. And can we talk about the artistic design of Snake's High Planes Drifter-red robot arm? It's so cool! And it takes over the old "knock" function used for hitting walls to get attention (and can be used anywhere) by spinning and clicking like an adorable cuckoo-clock. I've had some trouble getting too excited about anything in particular this E3. That changed after the Phantom Pain demonstration. The level of detail and nuance to the mechanics, on top of already great Metal Gear staples, is so exciting to see. The juxtaposed weird levity and war crime seriousness is in full effect and I just want to mess around with it for myself. 
Phantom Pain is so cool! photo
Cardboard boxes, customizable Mother Base, stealing sheep -- I am so down
The Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain E3 trailer was good, but I'm used to good trailers for Metal Gear. It didn't light a fire in my belly. Ground Zeroes didn't exactly do so either. The behind-closed-doors Phantom Pain g...

Halo players will be right at home with Destiny's PvP

Jun 10 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
[embed]276138:54316:0[/embed] [embed]276138:54317:0[/embed]
We gave the competitive multiplayer a spin
Along with our open world walkthrough, Max Scoville and I went ahead and checked out the competitive multiplayer in Destiny. We gave both maps a spin, and we also checked out each playable class for the videos. The biggest t...


I rode an elephant in Far Cry 4 and went on a complete rampage

Semi-auto grenade launchers anyone?
Jun 10
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
You all saw the gameplay footage of Far Cry 4, right? Well I got to play through the demo myself, specifically focused on taking over the outpost (now referred to as fortresses). We saw how to take it over from the sky at the press conference, but I decided to take things differently by riding a big elephant into battle.  It was glorious. 

Alien: Isolation is more than just you and a Xenomorph

Jun 10 // Brett Makedonski
Being dumped into this slice of Isolation with prior experience gave me a sense of comfort as if I already knew what to expect. Motion tracker out: check. Crouch-walk everywhere: check. In the opening minute, there was nothing on my radar, so I figured I wasn't in any real danger. Not yet, anyway. I broke my strategy and ran to where I thought the next objective was. Big mistake. The Alien came running out of nowhere to violently emphasize that it was in charge of this demo, not me. With my confidence sufficiently shattered, I took to it again, knowing I would no longer stray from my tried-and-true technique. Methodically moving from room to room and corridor to corridor, I was focused partially on moving toward my goal, and maybe moreso on creating distance between myself and the Xenomorph. When I got to the area of my objective, I accidentally triggered a giant explosion. Oops. "Well, if this doesn't kill me, that pesky Alien surely will," I thought as I sighed in defeat. Oddly enough, it never showed up. As the demo progressed, I soon encountered my first human. As I hid behind some crates with a flamethrower I picked up, she yelled at me to show myself. She wasn't some space marine barking orders. There was panic in her voice. She was as scared as I was. A trickle of empathy spilled into my mind. We were kindred spirits in that moment, only I was much more well-versed in knowing to keep my mouth shut. [embed]275906:54249:0[/embed] Sure enough, as if on cue, the Xenomorph appeared and did away with the aggressor. Learning and adapting just as any good survivalist would, I took a mental note. Let it do the dirty work. Playing cat and mouse is hard enough when you're the rodent; there's no need to wander into mousetraps. Moving forward, I made my way to a medical ward, and found a gun. This wasn't a smooth-shooting assault rifle, though. It was a pistol that felt incredibly unnatural in Ripley's hands. Bulky and unwieldy. Like something she'd never held before. Like something she didn't want to hold. Like something I didn't want to hold. As I crept along, I came across more humans. They were idly chatting with trepidation in their voices. I had no idea if they were friendly or hostile. With no way of knowing and not particularly inclined to find out, I slithered around them and toward the next waypoint. After all, why tempt fate? The next section locked me in a giant room that was aflame. "Great," I thought. "This is practically inviting the Alien to feast on me." After pushing buttons on opposite sides of the room, there was a center console to hack. Unbeknownst to me, the buttons also freed a synthetic from his holding pod, and he was on a mission to choke the life out of me. I was at a loss for ideas as I took laps around the room to stall. Any weapon would attract the Alien, that much I was sure of. I tried the flamethrower, but with my limited fuel, it wasn't enough to put the android down. Shit. At least the Xeno hadn't appeared. Time to try the pistol. A few rounds with that didn't seem to faze him. I found a Molatov cocktail hidden by a box that eventually did the trick. Thoroughly relieved that that little snafu was over, I couldn't come to terms with why the Alien hadn't shown up. It had dropped out of the ceiling mere minutes before to surprise me (which literally made me jump in my seat, by the way). It showed up after I jogged for ten seconds earlier. Yet, as a giant explosion goes off or I'm pinging bullets off an android, it can't be bothered? How is Isolation going to frame the experience so we know what are acceptable ways to deal with these situations? Or, is that dissonance going to run rampant, making everything a frustrating game of trial and error? After handling the synthetic, a checkpoint popped. Checkpoints are a big deal in Alien: Isolation; every single one is a miniature victory unto itself. However, I could also sense it would signify the last section of the demo. In the first build of the game, the final bit was by far the toughest. I expected no less this time 'round. That expectation proved to be correct. It began with two humans that detected my presence. Just like before, I let them shout at me, effectively devoting their life's purpose to becoming Alien fodder. This is my design. From here, one of two things would happen: either the Alien would branch off to patrol some rooms on my left, or it'd come down the hallway toward me. The times it'd approach my location, I just had to give up. There was nothing I could do. Those attempts were essentially "unwinnable." Yes, that's as disheartening as it sounds. However, when it broke off to the direction I needed it to go, that frustration melted away and was immediately replaced with perseverance. I gritted my teeth and vowed to get past that bastard. The atmosphere of Alien: Isolation is just too immersive to rip you out of the game for long. Cautiously advancing, I took to sticking to every object I could. Sure, the motion tracker was out, but the Xenomorph has a habit of changing position quicker than I can process what's happening. As I took refuge under a medical cart, the perfect scene played out. The Alien approached from behind as I silently wondered if this is where this run would conclude. Turning my field-of-view with it, I watched as it slinked past me mere inches from my hiding spot, its tail slithering perilously close as it grew ever more distant. That moment felt like a personal victory against the Alien. Like I was the champion of our persistent game of Hide and Seek. It was simply chill inducing. I held my breath just knowing that within fractions of a second, it'd whip around and rush toward me. When it didn't, I couldn't help but break out in a grin. At least a half hour after beginning, I finally completed the demo. My many failures left me feeling like I took a long time -- maybe too long. Looking around the room, I was actually one of the first to finish. It seemed that everyone else was having the same issues I was -- maybe I was just luckier. Ultimately, the crux for Alien: Isolation is going to be how the player learns as the game progresses. If the player can adapt to the Alien adapting, Isolation could turn into a cerebral chess match, a true thing of beauty. If the adaptive Alien just means that the game's going to reward the lucky and occasionally be unfair, well, that'll be tougher to stomach. Whatever the outcome may be, this demo did a lot to further my confidence in Alien: Isolation. Seeing first-hand that interactions with other humans don't devolve into shoot-em-up segments was entirely helpful. Experiencing the same terrified sensation that the first build evoked was essential. The atmosphere that the game cultivates is so on-point that it may detract from some of its issues. That is, as long as those issues aren't hulking monstrosities like Isolation's Xenomorph. 
Alien: Isolation preview photo
Everything else is mean too
At the reveal event for Alien: Isolation, we were shown a lengthy demo that got right to the heart of the conflict at-hand: Amanda Ripley trying to navigate a space station as a very aggressive Xenomorph hunted her. In our fi...

Hour of Destiny photo
Plus we go check out the social space known as The Tower
The folks at Bungie gave Destructoid full access to the Destiny Alpha just before E3. You may remember that I wasn't all that excited for the game the last time I saw it, but having full freedom to do whatever and being able...

Hands-on with the Destiny first-look alpha

Jun 10 // Chris Carter
Bungie (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [previewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: BungiePublisher: ActivisionRelease: September 9, 2014 Whatever you do, don't call it Borderlands. Well, you can actually in some regards, because it is a class-based FPS with RPG elements. The comparisons basically stop there though. Once you boot up Destiny, you'll get to fully customize a character with an editor that trumps pretty much every other shooter I've ever played. Any of the three classes (Titan, Hunter, and Warlock) can be male or female, as well as any of the three included races -- Human, Awoken (aliens), and Exo (robots). I chose an Exo Titan. Right off the bat one of the first things I noticed about Destiny was the weird user interface. Everything is controlled by a virtual mouse cursor that floats around the screen, which you'll direct by way of the left stick. It's odd, because there's no way to flip around the menus with the d-pad like any other game, and it can be jarring to slowly scroll across the screen to select something. On the flipside, the menus themselves are clean, and easy to read, which is more important. Upon the start of the alpha I was thrown into a story mission, which is just part of Destiny's three pronged method of gameplay -- story, sandbox exploration, and PVP. As a Guardian sent to Earth to save it from the mysterious Fallen, the first mission involves an indoor colony and a boss fight. Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame is your AI guide, calling out hints and tips as you slowly make your way into the depths of your target building. Honestly I'm just happy to hear his voice, but he could use a little more "oomph" in his lines. Hopefully his performance ramps up as you advance in the story. [embed]276045:54376:0[/embed] Slowly but surely I made my way through the darkened abandoned building, taking in the sights and admiring the great lightning engine on the PS4. It really reminds me of the flashlight sections in Doom III in a good way, and there was a fair bit of tension once the baddies started rushing out of the dark crevices of the room. Everything culminated in a boss fight, which was sufficiently satisfying, and consisted of plenty of adds to take out. Combat is built around the constant injection of action. You don't run out of grenades, you recharge them. You don't just get to jump -- you can extend your leap with a jetpack. Each character also has a super move (in this case, a ground pound), which can be used in a pinch, and recharges fairly quickly. The upgrade system is fairly robust, doling out new skill points at a quicker rate than most RPG shooters, allowing passives like bonus damage, better grenades, and upgraded jumps. You'll also unlock some new moves, like a shoulder charge and the like. While the visuals didn't really blow me away at this point in the game's development, they look great on the PS4, and the draw distance is vast enough to where you'll want to sit down and take in the sights every so often. It's very smooth, and as I mentioned previously, the lightning is smooth as well. It's not going to take the honors of the best looking current-gen game, but everything is insanely polished. It helps that you can summon your mount at will and just ride around, looking at everything. I also really liked the "ruined cape motif" that Destiny's art direction is going for. The enemies remind me of fighting the Covenant from Halo for the first time, and the elite type characters are formidable enough to earn my respect. With moves like teleports, special attacks, and even call-backs like Needler weaponry, it's a style that reminds me of Mass Effect mixed with Knights of the Old Republic -- with it's own unique spin. Destiny isn't just about doing linear story missions though, as some levels are billed as "open world" joints. I wouldn't necessarily think of them as on the scale of say, a GTA game, but they are fairly large sandboxes that allow you to just wander around willy nilly. It's not just aimless exploration either, since tiny optional beacons can be found that trigger mini-missions. Multiplayer-wise I really dig Bungie's take on the whole "online-only" system. Yes, it sucks that you'll need to connect to the internet to even play the game, and many of you out there will probably forgo the opportunity, which is fine. But the result is something that reminds me of the best parts of Journey -- players will randomly phase in and out of your game seamlessly, helping you out in a pinch and forming squads. I love that it just drops players in without the hassle of checking what level you are, looking for other games in a giant list, or worrying about connection issues. It's just seamless. Destiny has a hub world too, and it reminds me of Phantasy Star Online in a big way. There's a message center to grab mail from, equipment vendors to get gear from, and even bounties to acquire. There's even a PVP vendor that sells specific PVP gear with tokens that you can only earn by fighting other players. Wait, PVP? Yep, Bungie is incorporating what it does best -- full competitive multiplayer in the form of the Crucible. There will be multiple modes available in the full game, but I only got a chance to try out "Control" -- which is basically "Capture the Point" (A, B, C). This mode is 6v6, and operates like a traditional FPS, but with the same character you've used in all of your other missions. There's vehicles to use, and the level itself really reminded me of playing Halo for the first time, which is a great feeling. The audio has a real punch to it, and makes combat pretty entertaining as a whole -- especially with a pair of great headphones. At the present time it looks like you can play the Crucible as much as you want, but the actual currency you earn from it is capped at 100 tokens per week (a very MMO-like trait). Destiny is an ambitious game, and I had a lot of fun during my lengthy stay with the alpha -- I can't wait to see if it'll hold my attention when the final version drops. I will say though, the MMO influences are really working to its advantage, and I see lots of long nights storming dungeons for loot in my future.
Destiny hands-on photo
When Tyrion Lannister tells you to kill something, you kill it
After months of hype it's nice to be able to sit down and actually play a game for yourself. It's crazy to think that Bungie sent over members of the press to an event without even giving them a chance to play Destiny, but he...

Battlefield Hardline: First hands-on impressions

Jun 09 // Dale North
The idea started as a dream when DICE and Visceral studio heads met in Barcelona a couple of years ago. Big fans of each others' games, they started talking about games they'd like to make. A crazy idea snowballed into a full-on plan. But Visceral, the team behind the Dead Space games, knew third-person shooting better than first-person. So as a way of learning the ropes, Visceral did a Battlefield expansion pack, End Game.  After that, they started on the concept work for what would eventually be Hardline. In a pre-E3 reveal, Ian Milham, Creative Director on Hardline, explained that his team at Visceral had been working on a new IP following the last Dead Space. He put his presentation together for executives after working on it for a few months, but it got a mixed reaction. The execs brought up making a Battlefield game instead. Milham says he has been a franchise fan for a long time, but he did not want to do another military shooter. Milham talked about how modern military shooters were going science fiction lately. He wanted to do something different, fun, and relatable -- no grizzle-voiced heroes or private armies. His dream was to make something that played off backyard fantasies. Robbing banks, relatable places, real weapons -- no fancy equipment or high-end squad tactics.  We had a chance to spend some time with Battlefield: Hardlline's multiplayer a few weeks back. playing a couple of short matches in two newly revealed game modes. The game does have a full single-player component, but Visceral wanted to show multiplayer first to show the direction they're going with this project. Milham noted that they've done a lot of single-player games in the past, so we know they have that side covered. The cops in Hardline are pretty militarized, so armored cars and helicopters are the norm in battle. On the criminals side, these guys are pros, so they have a bunch of handy technologies and automated gear like grappling hooks and ziplines. Cops have ballistic shields, gas masks, flash bombs and more. For vehicles, my hands-on time felt like anything goes in Hardline. Cops have fast interceptors that can zip around town while a partner hangs out the passenger side window, shooting. Criminals have muscle cars as a parallel, but they also have their own armored transports. I was suddenly dropped into just about every vehicular situation you could imagine in one match that had both factions fighting over control points in a city. I went from being on the ground, to manning a turret on top of a transport, to shooting a machine gun from an open helicopter door, all in a scramble. I played in a large group multiplayer session to try out the Heist mode. This has the criminals trying to break into a defended area,  gathering loot, and then working to escape safely. They have to get to vaults, arm charges, and defend them until the charges explode. From there, they'll take their loot to a drop-off point. Meanwhile, the cops are working to intercept these transports and halt escapes. In this mode I had fun as a cop, running down criminals with cars, or picking them off after they've worked so hard to crack a vault. Another mode, called Blood Money, has cops and robbers fighting over stolen loot. A transport was stopped mid-route, and the cops have to try to secure the transport while the criminals try to steal from it. The criminals have to take the stolen money, bag by bag, to their vault and protect it. But the cops can raid this vault and steal it back. Nothing is safe, and the line, measured in money, is constantly shifting.  This mode was even more fun than Heist. The map, a large city with plenty of damaged buildings and roadways, has plenty of hiding places and alternative paths to sneak away in as a criminal. Despite the large number of cops running, I was able to steal loads of cash for my team by keeping low and taking underground passageways. Above ground, gun fights, helicopter patrols, and crazy setpiece events, like crashing buildings, kept the tension up.  From my short time with it, Hardline feels more relaxed and approachable than the multiplayer in past Battlefield games. There's quite a bit more character and personality as well, which had these matches feeling less competitive and more enjoyable.  Battlefield is a huge franchise, but Hardline feels like a departure from the big budget, super serious games of late. Hats off to Visceral and DICE for taking the opportunity to try something different. We hope to see more of Hardline in the coming weeks.
Battlefield hands-on photo
Details on how Hardline came to be
I was pretty excited to be able to be the first to tell you about Battlefield Hardline, the new team up cops-and-robbers title from Visceral (Dead Space) and DICE. But trailer leaks, detail leaks, and even gameplay video lea...


Yes! PC version of Hotline Miami 2 will have a level editor!

Share levels with others online
Jun 09
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number will have a level editor on the PC! Fans can create their own demented levels, decorate it however they want to. And yes, you'll be able to share these custom created levels with other players. ...

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