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Rock Band 4 is doing a new fun thing you wouldn't expect

Jun 15 // Brett Makedonski
Between those dueling stages was an innocuous, decidedly less interesting room. But, what it lacked in flair, it made up for in substance. Some posted up nearby talking Filipino politics, but those who ventured inside found the biggest change to Rock Band in years. Guitar solos aren't what they used to be. Trepidation was abound. Shredding in Rock Band is such a staple. Now it's different. Accuracy has been replaced with creativity. I couldn't help but think that's a musician's move right there. I also couldn't help but be a little dejected that there's less skill involved with the instrument that I spent the most time trying to perfect. Down the hall, Pearl Jam's "Alive" started playing, and Eric Pope couldn't hide his disdain. I thought about firing it up to figure out how these new solos worked. I refrained and chose "Cult of Personality." In everyone else's hands, this is a plastic guitar; in my hands, it's a pipebomb. Things didn't pan out quite as I wanted. Rather than rhythmically dissecting the song until the solo hit, I was met with five minutes of solo. That's a dev mode thing -- perks of the preview event. I guess that's adequate time to figure out the ins and outs of the new format. I was mostly right, but not entirely. [embed]293727:59016:0[/embed] A small group had formed after a few minutes. Someone made a comment about the five buttons on a Rock Band guitar. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. A Harmonix representative sprung into action to correct the misstatement and pitch the Freestyle Solos -- a system that reminded everyone there are ten buttons on these axes. Intricate notes have been left by the wayside for colorful patterns. Blue means to play in first position (normal notes); orange indicates you need to slide up the neck and play on those five forgotten-about buttons. An algorithm decides exactly what gets played, whether it be sustains, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, or just wildly tapping without any strumming. One of the patterns mandates you just play anything. Make noise, anything works. While it sounds somewhat insane, it mostly works. The solos come together in a way that's satisfying -- as if you were actually playing the solo. However, substituting that for nailing a classic solo isn't a trade-off that I necessarily appreciated. It just feels like maybe it's a bit too easy now. That's not the only concern. Harmonix has made a point of framing Rock Band 4 as a party game that anyone can pick up and play. But, I saw many of my peers struggling to integrate the solos into the gameplay they already knew. When I asked the devs how long they expected it'd take for casual players to grasp Freestyle Solos, they thought it'd go pretty quick. I estimate it'll take slightly longer than very casual players want to commit. In that event, the mode can be turned off, which seems like a less than optimal solution. For those who have the patience to learn it but aren't dedicated enough to excel at the old solos, Freestyle may be a fine compromise. Wailing on those solos makes you feel really good even when you're performing a relatively simple task. It makes for a nice little illusion for anyone who doesn't want to look past it. 
Rock Band preview photo
'Play Freestyle!'
Everywhere I looked, my peers seemed to be having fun. Mere minutes before, everyone couldn't stop talking about how cold that Santa Monica rooftop was. It was the opposite of fun. Now, that had melted away, a distant memory ...

Borderlands players will probably dig Battleborn

Jun 12 // Jordan Devore
Sure, the copious amounts of loot are gone. And this isn't a wasteland -- it's the last star in the universe. But damn, Battleborn really will feel and sound familiar to Borderlands players despite having an extended cast of 25 playable characters. The roster has the diversity of a typical MOBA lineup, and the rate at which you're leveling up and acquiring new abilities matches that genre. First, Gearbox and 2K had us watch a group of people play a level to, uh, show us how it's done. Then we played that same level. Then we played it again. Then we played it a third time. The intention was to highlight the variation in characters, I guess -- and there's plenty -- but the format also reminded me how grating funny dialogue often becomes on repeated playthroughs. Our short slice of the campaign was set on a snowy area with suitably solemn music. It was mostly linear, with wider areas interspersed for larger engagements. I first chose a gentlemanly robot sniper who could call in an owl. He was great at safely taking down our primary foe -- alien monsters called the Varelsi -- from afar while my four co-op partners soaked up damage. After that, I picked a vampire-looking samurai with twin blades. He was ferocious, but I kept managing to lose my shields and then my health and then I needed to be revived. Sorry about that! I'm squishy! Even if I didn't quite get a handle on how to play him well, I still enjoyed the first-person slicing. On my third playthrough, I went with a witch who shot dark energy out of her four arms and could open portals from which hellish things would leak out. I liked her. Leveling up occurs regularly. Again, think Dota 2 or League of Legends. Instead of separate skill trees like in Borderlands, you're presented with a single either-or decision, one for each of your ten levels. You're able to choose between things like increased shields or higher weapon damage, and boost certain abilities over others. If you're like me, you'll wish you could just have every upgrade. As for mission objectives, the preview build was a lot of pushing forward, wiping out every enemy. Eventually, we had to protect a spider mech guy as he trundled along to his final destination where an inevitable boss battle took place. Along the way, we picked up shards from chests and fallen foes that could be spent on upgrading the mech's offensive or defensive capabilities as well as turrets during the final fight. Doing so seemed unnecessary, but I'm sure we were playing on one of the friendlier difficulty settings and that it can get real tough if you want a challenge. While I didn't get to see much of Battleborn, I'm more into it than I thought I would be as someone who isn't particularly crazy about Borderlands. I think it's the gunplay, which feels tighter here. There's also more care-free room for experimentation in terms of character selection and how you want to build them out. I'm unsure about the PvP, but I'll probably want to round up four friends to run through the story mode when this releases on PC, PS4, and Xbox One this year.
Battleborn preview photo
Hands-on impressions of the story mode
[Disclosure: Years ago, Aaron Linde used to write for Destructoid. He now works on Battleborn at Gearbox Software. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into this preview.] To sum up Battleborn ...

E3 2015 Preview: Pink eye and treadmills, VR is here

Jun 11 // Jed Whitaker
Tell me which of the following has you pumped for the future, as you surely are: ANTVR KIT - The All-IN-ONE Universal Virtual Reality Kit (ANTVR KIT), was independently researched and developed by ANTVR, launched on kickstarter, and raised over $260,000 -- exceeding its goal. The ANTVR headset features a 100 degree field of view, tracks head movements 360 degrees, provides vivid 3D images, and produces a non-distorted immersive virtual reality effect. It is compatible with PC/PS/XBOX and other platforms, as well as existing 3D/2D games and movies. TAW - TAW is a foldaway VR headset for smart phone which can bring you into the virtual world anytime while working with a smart phone of 4.5-6 inches. ANTVR Camera - ANTVR Camera is a 3D sports camera featuring 3D shooting with a 180 degree viewing angle and first-class image. It can be used with a VR headset. Guided Meditation VR - Experience an endless virtual vacation with Guided Meditation VR by Cubicle Ninjas. This virtual reality application provides powerful relaxation in exotic locations across the globe. Find your happy place as our "Relaxation Artificial Intelligence"walks through proven meditation and mindfulness techniques. Virtualizer - The Virtualizer is an advanced omnidirectional treadmill that allows users to walk, run, strafe, jump and crouch in virtual reality. Based on its third generation design, the Virtualizer is the first to offer 360 degree tangle-free rotation and a vertical free-motion ring for full freedom of movement in VR. Manus Data Glove - A data-glove for the common man. The Manus is an affordable data glove that tracks hand movement through various sensors integrated in to the glove. This data is then sent to our software -- which allows the user to play any game. With our open-source software you can program the Manus for other uses such a controlling drones, mobile games and more of your favourite devices. All of the above are real products that will be at E3 next week. Add these to Valve's Vive, Sony's Morpheus, and the Oculus Rift, and I assume you become The Lawnmower Man. Personally I'm looking forward to the Power Glove made for man ass. But for real, as cynical I've been about all this I'm very excited for E3, for the potential of VR, and to making as many informative (read: silly) videos I can from the show floor next week!
Yay eye cooties photo
The future is awesome?
As E3 approaches we here at Dtoid have been getting our inboxes filled with emails wanting us to check out new games and products, a large portion of which are virtual reality based and not just of the headset variety. O...

Adr1ft is going to give someone a panic attack

Jun 10 // Jordan Devore
Late last year, Brett covered Adr1ft and detailed its unlikely inspiration. What I saw and played at a pre-E3 event was much of the same content, only more polished. There was no puzzle solving in this initial chunk of game, only death. I strayed to investigate a distant lifeless body and the trip proved too lengthy. I suffocated. Horrible way to go, but my last sight, the earth, was majestic. Given how little of the game I experienced, I'm unsure what shape Adr1ft will ultimately take. Movement feels right, though, that I can assure you. Plenty of freedom, but not so much control that it's overwhelming. You have to be mindful of your surroundings. The sound design -- the stuff that actually makes gasping for air so damned horrifying -- is similarly great. Enthralling. I'd say I'm looking forward to playing the finished game but, well, I'm dreading it. Even without a virtual-reality headset, it's that nerve-wracking. Space doesn't need Xenomorphs to be scary.
Adr1ft photo
Stave off suffocation in space
I'm anxious about playing Adr1ft again. Every moment I spent with this lonely, immersive, surprisingly vivid game about an astronaut stranded on a damaged space station with an equally damaged suit was full of tension. Will m...

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

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

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

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

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

Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition brings the gang back together

May 18 // Alessandro Fillari
Now this isn't the first time that the original DMC series has received the Special Edition treatment. A year following the release of 2005's Devil May Cry 3, Capcom released an enhanced version that made a number additions and tweaks -- most notably the inclusion of a playable Vergil with his own moves and levels to play through. Now with the release Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition coming, nearly eight years after the original, the creative minds at Capcom sought to rekindle the same enthusiasm found in Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition for this supped up re-release. And much like the recent Definitive Edition for DmC, they looked their well-received PC release as the base."There was content in the PC version of the original DMC4 that was not possible for consoles at the time due to hardware limitations. We have always wanted to provide these features to more DMC fans, most notably Legendary Dark Knight Mode," said DMC producer Takashi Fujii. "We wanted to provide a good action game that really gives the player a lot to sink their teeth into. With the features I’ve mentioned previously, and the addition of three new playable characters we’ve designed, I think fans will be very happy with all the content we’re offering in DMC4 Special Edition. With the hardware capabilities introduced in the new console generation, it proved this was the right time to revisit DMC4 and provide all of these features that we had been thinking about."Back when Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition was revealed last year, we all got a nice tease showing that Vergil was going to be making a return. But who would've thought that DMC's leading ladies, Trish and Lady, were going to get in on the action as well? While the ladies were already present in the core DMC4 story, Vergil's campaign in the Special Edition features his own unique story taking place many years before the events of DMC3 and 4. In addition to these new characters are several tweaks and upgrades made to the core game. Such as higher texture and graphical quality, auto-saves, rebalanced orb and proud soul economy, official trophy support across all platforms (take that early generation seven architecture!), and also some tweaks to puzzles -- such as the infamous dice game. It's a pretty meaty package. You might as well call it "Super Devil May Cry 4." The larger cast was a way for Capcom to offer variety in a convincing and fun way that stayed true to its combat heritage."Everyone plays Devil May Cry games a bit differently, and so with Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition in particular, it was important to us to give players more ways to enjoy the gameplay experience," explained the producer. "It was important that these characters each had distinctive combat styles, so fighting a boss you may have fought as Nero, for example, will feel very different from doing so with Lady or Vergil." In the two hours I spent with the game last month, it was quite clear that a lot of work went into the new characters. Though of course they're still going through the same areas and fighting the same bosses from the original game, that didn't really bother me all that much after getting settled with the new characters. Any fan will tell you that the combat is the crux of the series, and the new characters offered a lot depth and complexity that are totally unique to them -- which really set themselves apart from both Dante and Nero. And yes, for those who've gotten really comfortable with Dante and Nero over the last seven and half years, you'll be please to know that they're largely untouched (aside from general gameplay tweaks). "No changes have been made to Nero or Dante," said the producer rather bluntly and with the utmost clarity. So please, use high-level tricks such as guard flying and intertia to your heart's content. And with the sharing functionality on PS4 and Xbox One, showing off your high-flying antics and finger acrobatics will be much easier than before.For those who read my long preview last month, you could tell that I was quite smitten with this title. Devil May Cry is easily my favorite Capcom IP, and seeing it return this year with two really cool titles was a total joy for me. Checking out the new characters in DMC4SE was a complete blast, and I can't wait to dive back in from the beginning. I'm telling you guys, Trish and Lady are not to be messed with. Vergil's got some serious moves, and his concentration mechanic is a total game-changer, but these ladies are total bad-asses. I cannot wait to see some high-level exhibitionist videos later once people get them in their hands.With the release next month just after E3, you'll have the opportunity to get some quality time with the gang again. We all remember that tease at the end of DMC4 with Dante, Lady, and Trish teaming up to battle more demons, so it's definitely exciting to see that it's finally coming to fruition. So don't let this slip past you. If you've been screaming for a chance to return to these wonderfully goofy characters in this over the top world, you finally got it.And by the way, be sure to check out Capcom's weekly twitch livestream on Wednesdays for sessions with DMC4: Special Edition  by Capcom staff.
Devil May Cry photo
Capcom Producer talks revitalizing DMC4
In case you missed it, Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is now a thing. Following up on their release of the excellent DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition (seriously, it's great), Capcom are readying their second hit o...

What we know about Call of Duty: Black Ops III

Apr 26 // Robert Summa
Single player is no longer for singles As Call of Duty continues to march into the modern era of gaming, Black Ops III will introduce the option of online co-op in its single player campaign. The main campaign will now support up to four players working together. Jason Blundell, campaign director and senior executive producer, said it will redefine how Call of Duty is played. Set in the near-future, Black Ops III is all about bio augmentation and robotics. Something that will not only affect your single-player experience, but also multiplayer (but we'll get more into that later). Giving players the choice between male and female characters, the campaign will put you in the role of an enhanced cybernetic Black Ops soldier.  The intensity and theme of the game were on full display as Treyarch showed us one of the levels of the campaign, called Cairo. At first, it seemed like one of your standard Call of Duty experiences. But as the level progressed, the world awoke and the retooled battlefield was on full display. [embed]290987:58342:0[/embed] With the main fighting occurring in an open space, the ambition of Black Ops III was immediately apparent. There was an amazing scope to the level and the action within it. The world felt very alive and tangible with action happening in just about every space within the player's view. Planes flying overhead, bullets whizzing by, robots. It was hectic. New devastating weapons, such as a spike launcher, were unveiled. Rolling balls of spikes looking to impale unsuspecting victims littered the battlefield. The reliance and added value of your co-op partners certainly played a part in a level where a new emergent AI was able to make intelligent decisions based on what your team was doing. According to Treyarch, the AI was a focus during development. The team added a new animation set and claim that the goal-oriented AI can now communicate and organize itself -- which is key with the variety of options that the campaign now offers with the availability of co-op. Blundell stressed some key points Treyarch is trying to drive home with Black Ops III's campaign. Buzzwords such as cinematic intensity, epic action, a gritty narrative, and replayability are what the single-player experience is trying to be. Customization is key Allowing players to express themselves in a unique way has been a staple of the franchise for a number of years now. Treyarch is looking to build upon this by allowing players not only more set-up options, but a player experience system within the single-player that will allow extensive upgrades not only to your character and his or her abilities, but also to the weapons themselves. Cyber Cores and Cyber Rigs are cybernetic modifications that will allow added layers of player customization. Cyber Cores will let players do things from remote hacking to controlling drones to chaining melee strikes, while Cyber Rigs are passive upgrades that allow advanced movement and defensive capabilities. With the addition of the Safe House, customization and socialization options will be available. This is the area players will go between levels. The Safe House will have your own customizable bunk and provide access to a wiki with information related to the game. There will be collectibles and opportunities to purchase tokens, which can be used in your upgrades. PC will not be ignored Treyarch studio head and president Mark Lamia said a greater emphasis was placed on the PC version of Black Ops III. While not getting into a great amount of detail (such as anything server-related), Lamia said Treyarch worked closely with hardware companies to bring a high-end experience for those who have upper-tier machines and have adopted 4K.  While catering to the high-end crowd, Lamia also said the team put a great deal of effort into optimization. The current recommended specs are as follows (but they are subject to change): Operating System: Windows 7 64-Bit / Windows 8 64-Bit / Windows 8.1 64-Bit Processor: Intel® Core™ i3-530 @ 2.93 GHz / AMD Phenom™ II X4 810 @ 2.60 GHz Memory: 6 GB RAM Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 470 @ 1GB / ATI® Radeon™ HD 6970 @ 1GB DirectX: Version 11 Network: Broadband Internet connection Sound Card: DirectX Compatible But what about Zombies? Treyarch remained silent on what exactly Black Ops III will offer for its fan-favorite zombie mode. What we were told, however, is that it will have its own player progression system, distinct storyline, more depth and will include all kinds of "mind-fuckery," as Lamia put it. As with the main game and multiplayer, the social aspects of Black Ops III are set to play a key role in zombies as well. Who cares about single player, tell me about multiplayer Even with the inclusion of online four-player co-op, there still will be a faction of Call of Duty fans who only care about one thing: multiplayer. I got my hands on multiplayer, which is covered in-depth in a separate article, but I want to tell you what you should expect. As mentioned, Black Ops III has its focus on risk versus reward. Nowhere is this more apparent than with multiplayer and the complete reworking of not only gun-play, but movement as well. To do this, the team changed some of the rules. For instance, players will now be able to shoot while doing all movements in the game -- this includes everything from jumping to wall running (yes, wall running) to climbing over ledges and, for the first time, swimming. While still remaining true to three-lane map design philosophy with no buildings above two stories, the team has also added new movement abilities such as thrust jumping and power sliding, and as mentioned, wall running and swimming. Oh, and did I mention you can sprint for as long as you want? Treyarch said it wants to allow players to have full combat control with no pause in the action.  While players won't be limited with their sprint, there will be limitations to the power slide and wall run. They aren't significant limitations, but they are present. These changes are immediately noticeable with the varied results that thrust jump, wall running, and the power slide provide. There is a fluidity now to the action. While it seems overwhelming at first glance, the general simplicity and ease of use associated with Call of Duty is still in place. Dan Bunting, game director, said the philosophy is guns up, not down. They want omni-directional movement options in what he says will, "feel like a BLOPS II evolution." In all, it's about endless momentum and making the gameplay faster and more engaging. This is my rifle Through the Gunsmith menu, players will be presented with what is being billed as a whole new level of weapon customization. Here, players will be able to name their weapons, preview attachments on actual in-game models and of course, access a paint job option that will allow for near-limitless personalization. You will be able to equip up to five attachments and an optic. The emblem creator is back in a new way, this time called Paintshop. Not only will the images that players create be more visible on their weapon of choice, but they will now have access to 64 layers for three paintable sides. There are also material options such as carbon fiber and the ability to design gun camo. Looking for someone special Another significant shift within Black Ops III's multiplayer is the usage of what are being called Specialists. There will be nine total, but we were only shown four.  Each Specialist is essentially an archetype the player will choose from and develop over time. They have their own unique abilities and power weapons to choose from -- and of course their own look, personality and voice. The goal, Treyarch said, is to give every player the opportunity to become powerful within the game.  If you were one of those people who have come to despise Call of Duty because of excessive and overpowered killstreaks or scorestreaks, Treyarch is attempting to balance the playing field with the inclusion of Specialists and their unique weapons and abilities. While the best players will still have advantages, the goal is to now let everyone get involved, not just the top tier. The first Specialist we were shown goes by the name Ruin (real name Donnie Walsh). This is a rusher/bruiser character that uses Gravity Spikes as his power weapon. He's pretty much the Titan from Destiny. Once the Gravity Spikes are used, an area-of-effect blast deals damage and eliminates all enemies within the vicinity. It's devastating, but must be timed and used smartly for best results. Players will have to choose between Specialists' unique power weapon or ability. Ruin's ability, Overdrive, provides a burst of speed, making for a character that will thrive in Capture the Flag. The second specialist presented was Seraph (real name Zhen Zhen). She sports a hand cannon called the Annihilator that deals a single shot capable of taking out multiple enemies if lined up perfectly. Her ability, Combat Focus, will trigger a bonus multiplier to your score that will go toward your scorestreak for a short period of time. The third specialist, and probably my favorite so far, is Outrider (real name Alessandra Castillo). She comes with the Sparrow, a compound bow that will explode enemies after sticking to them. But this isn't why I liked her. I always suck with bows in games, so the real draw of Outrider for me was her ability, Vision Pulse. The ability will ping the surrounding area and tag the location of all enemies within range. With it, you will essentially be able to see enemies through walls for a short amount of time. Perfect for campers, such as myself. The fourth, Reaper (real name Experimental War Robot), is a combat robot with an arm that can transform into a minigun, called the Scythe. While it does take time to spin up, the results of it in action can be devastating. Reaper's ability is called Glitch. With it, Reaper can relocate about three seconds into the past to a previous position. The Specialist power weapons and abilities are only available after a certain time or score threshold has been met. Charging over time, the refill rate is directly affected by your participation within the game. However, even if you sit and do nothing, you still will have at least one opportunity to use either option.  As with everything else in Black Ops III, the power weapon and ability are a choice. You can't have both. Depending on your play style, you will quickly find which is more effective for you. Just like your load outs, all of these options will be available pre-match. To wrap it all up The goal for Treyarch is to make the "deepest and richest Call of Duty ever," Lamia said.  He said the intention is to make it easier for players to find each other, not just in multiplayer, but single player and zombies as well. While he wasn't willing to go into specifics, he said he wants players to be aware of what others are playing and allow them to do whatever they want to do at any time. Lamia asserted that the social aspect of Black Ops III is what will distinguish it from others. Near the end of the presentation, Lamia revealed a couple of special opportunities for players to get their hands on the game and see for themselves how it plays. At this year's E3, Lamia said fans will have the chance to actually play multiplayer. But even if you aren't able to attend E3, those who pre-order the game will have access to the game's beta. Black Ops III will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Overall, the promise for Black Ops III is there. This is a series that has extremely high expectations. It's obviously too early to say whether or not Black Ops III will come close to meeting those, but the foundation is there. The blueprint and makings of a great and varied experience that breaks the mold is evident.  For now, all we can do is wait. 
Black Ops III photo
Multiplayer campaign and more
Whatever you think you know about the Call of Duty franchise is about to change. As a series that is often criticized for offering more of the same, Black Ops developer Treyarch has made every attempt to alter that mindset wi...

Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is ridiculous and over the top in all the right ways

Apr 20 // Alessandro Fillari
Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition (PC, PlayStation 4 [previewed], Xbox One)Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease date: Summer 2015 Set some time after the events of the original Devil May Cry, the devil-hunting half-demon Dante investigates the mysterious Order of the Sword, a religious sect that worships his demon father, Sparda, as a god. After an infestation of demons swarms the island of Fortuna, causing mass panic and bloodshed, the Order sends a young holy knight named Nero, who may have some demon lineage of his own, to find the source -- whom they believe is Dante. But along the way, Nero discovers that things are not what they appear, and that the Order of the Sword may have sinister motives in mind for him and the son of Sparda. Taking cues from Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition, the developers chose to include more supplementary features for DMC4:SE, while retaining the core structure of the original game. Using the excellent PC version of DMC4 as a base, the Special Edition now features Turbo Mode (20% increase to game-speed), Legendary Dark Knight mode (Hard mode with larger crowds of enemies), higher texture and visual fidelity, and tighter performance and framerate for both PC and console releases. But of course, the SE also brings additions that are brand new to DMC4, such as playable Vergil, Trish, and for the first time ever, Lady -- along with new cutscenes, new costumes for every character, some slight gameplay tweaks, new art to unlock, and some other surprises neat to find. However, it should be stressed that the core structure of DMC4 is almost exactly the same, and anyone expecting new bosses, monsters, and areas to travel to will likely be disappointed. It's still DMC4 through and through. I know many DMC enthusiasts were worried about what balancing tweaks were made to the game, particularly with Dante and Nero. With exception to general tweaks such as quicker Speed boost, faster Orb and Proud Soul acquisition, and some other minor tweaks and adjustments, the core gameplay for the original duo is largely untouched. So anyone who's mastered the intricacies of Guard Flying, Interia, and the incredibly tricky DRI (Distorted Real Impact) should rest easy knowing that they're intact and ready to take advantage of. Truth be told, though, I was a bit surprised by how much of the game was kept as is, even after eight years worth of feedback and cool PC mods that have surfaced. I'm bummed out that the new modes from DmC: Definitive Edition, such as Must Style, Hardcore, and Gods Must Die weren't included either. It seems like a missed opportunity, and DMC4:SE could have really taken advantage of them in a cool way.  With that said, I was impressed with the new content that awaits players in the Special Edition, and the folks at Capcom have put in the work to make it just as rad as ever. The focus of my session was checking out how all of the playable characters stacked up in DMC4:SE, and I was quite pleased to see how much diversity was offered here. Rest assured, these aren't some cheap additions to the game. The new characters feature their own unique playstyle and strategies that set them apart from the rest, which is a welcome change of pace for those who've clocked hundreds of hours into Bloody Palace. Moreover, they all have their own unique movesets to unlock, which is just as expansive as the original characters. I played with all five characters fully maxed out, so I got a pretty unique opportunity to see what they were like at their best. As you no doubt saw from the many teases we've seen over the last few months, Vergil is back, and this time he's more motivated than ever. Set many years before the events of DMC4, we find a young Vergil investigating the Order of the Sword. Not long after his arrival, demons invade the island and Vergil must put them in their place while uncovering the truth behind the mysterious group. Though his progression follows the Dante/Nero campaign beat for beat (sans original cutscenes), they feature all new opening and ending scenes to bookend his experiences. And we may even find some answers regarding his connection to series newcomer Nero. Many fans adored DMC3's incarnation of Vergil, and DMC4:SE continues his stoic and composed sense of combat, while upping his versatility to new heights. Wielding his standard Yamato -- along with the Beowulf gauntlets and Force Edge/Yamato combo from DMC3 -- Vergil dispenses his calm and uncompromising style of action that sets him apart from the others. Though fans will likely have reservations about Vergil possessing these weapons at this point in the timeline (before DMC3), the developers hope that the ambiguity of the plot and his expanded moveset will give them a pass in the eyes of fans. And after playing with Vergil, I'm certainly cool with the liberties they've taken.  Essentially the antithesis to Dante's bombastic and machismo combat style, Vergil feels more composed and cunning than his brother, which in essence lies the true genius of his style. This is reflected in the brand new Concentration meter, which rewards calm and precise combat. As you connect with strikes and dodge attacks, you build Vergil's Concentration level, which boosts his attack power and speed. Once you build it up to the max level, Vergil becomes a serious force in combat, and even unlocks special moves to use in his Devil Trigger phase -- such as the Judgement Cut End, an ultimate attack that slashes all foes at the cost of your DT gauge. I was supremely impressed with how much the developers had expanded Vergil's gameplay. The new Concentration meter makes combat feel more rewarding and satisfying, and keeping my meter full made fights more tense, as getting hit or missing an attack would decrease the meter. Thankfully, Vergil is still a beast even at the lowest concentration. In addition to incorporating DmC Vergil's sword teleportation move, which allows Vergil to teleport to enemies hit with his sword illusion skills, his weapon combos have also been fleshed out more. With Yamato using new ground and aerial combos, including aerial variants of Judgement Cut and also Vergil's take on Nero's Roulette, Force Edge also employs new combos paying homage to DMC3's Agni and Rudra moveset. Not to mention, his DT phase enhances his abilities and combos, giving him faster charge time and reduced cooldown, along with replacing his side-roll with the Table Hopper evade. I know I won't be alone in saying this, but I would've been plenty satisfied with just having Vergil as a new character. But of course, Capcom decided to take things a step further by including two more characters to the roster with Lady and Trish. Though Vergil has the campaign all to himself, Lady and Trish will share a campaign mode similar to Nero and Dante's story. With two new cutscenes, their story focuses on their exploits in the background as Nero and Dante are getting into trouble throughout the island. Lady's portion takes her through Nero's missions, using her grappling hook for traversal, while Trish cleans up in Dante's later levels. This is the first time Lady has been playable in the DMC series, and as the sole human character in the roster, the developers had to rethink how combat would work for her. Focusing more on her firearms, and employing a keep-away style, Lady is at her best while at a distance. With her only melee weapon being the massive and lumbering rocket launcher Kalina Ann, which feels fairly limited compared to other melee weapons, it's quite clear that players will have to adjust how they engage their foes with Lady. Thankfully, her arsenal of firearms and gadgets, including the Kalina Ann's grappling hook which pulls in enemies, offers more than enough stopping power to take down whatever comes her way. While it's easy to assume that her combat mechanics are a carbon copy of Dante's gunslinger style, there's definitely a lot of nuance to be found in the human devil hunter's fighting style. Using pistols, a shotgun, and the Kalina Ann as her primary weapons, Lady's focus on range gives her an edge that the other characters do not. Taking some inspiration from Nero's exceed gauge, Lady is able to charge her weapons up to three levels, which boosts her attack power significantly. When charged, the bullet icon on the HUD will show how much juice is left in the charge, giving players an idea of how much time they have for their attacks. Not only is Lady able to charge her weapons much faster than the other characters, her weapons react differently with a full charge. For instance, a max-level charge for the Kalina Ann sends out a super-charged rocket that pierces through multiple foes. And yes, she does have a double jump and also a neat spin on the Devil Trigger phase. Her take on double jump has her rocket launcher firing off a shot, propelling her upward and damaging foes underneath (which has damage jump cancelling potential), and her spin on the Devil Trigger is essentially a volley of grenades that clears out all nearby enemies. I adored the character in DMC3, and finally getting the chance to play as her was such a blast. Granted, it was an adjustment. I had to resist the urge to use melee attacks with Lady -- it was quite clear they weren't her strong suit -- which in itself was a bit of an oddity for DMC. While every character thrives on getting up close and personal, Lady is the polar opposite. Many of her moves even focus on getting her in and out of the action when the need arises. For instance, her take on the shotgun's gunstinger move has her charge in gun first for a deadly close-range blast, then follows up with another shot that her launches back out of the fray. Another example is her R1+ Back + Jump move, which replaces the typical backflip and causes Lady to jump backwards while tossing a number of grenades to the foes in front of her. Ultimately, I found Lady to be a very technical character, and she's arguably the most unique choice in the roster. I'm usually a player that uses firearms somewhat sparingly, but playing as Lady offered some inventive ways to use them. Which I certainly appreciate. Finally, the last new character to grace the Special Edition is long-time femme fatale Trish. She was last playable in Devil May Cry 2, and thankfully the developers sought to flesh her out. Using her fists, the sword Sparda (the Force Edge's transformed state), the pistols Ebony and Ivory, the super weapon Pandora, and her demonic lighting powers, Trish is essentially DMC4: Special Edition's wildcard character. On the surface, she seems to be there just for eye-candy -- but in truth, Trish is one of the deadliest characters in the roster. With her focus being primarily on crowd control and group combat, many of her moves attack multiple foes at once, due in part to her range and lightning imbued attacks. To be totally honest, I initially I felt that Trish seemed overpowered, given that she has pretty easy access to such powerful weapons. Moreover, she's an incredibly flashy character, which has her pulling off a number of elaborate combos with ease. While developing DMC4:SE, the creatives wanted to have a character that allowed newcomers to get in easily, which meant removing the weapon-switch options and keeping her arsenal present at all times. Now before you grab your pitchforks over the thought of accessibility tied to DMC, do know that selecting Trish does not mean you picked the "you win" character. As I got more comfortable with her, I found a lot of nuance that required knowledge of enemy placement, range, and sheer timing on my part. Her moveset is very robust, and features larger depth in crowd control and focused attacks than the others. Her primary weapons are her fists, called Bare Knuckle, and it's the most robust unarmed moveset the series has ever had. Bare Knuckle takes advantage of her lighting powers, and gives each of her attacks a serious boost. Along with Sparda, which is set to the Style button (Circle on PS4), Trish uses the legendary sword as is with strikes and launchers, but she can also treat it like a boomerang to keep enemies locked in place with Round Trip, or to scoop up a group of foes towards her from a distance. Her ultimate move, however, is truly a sight to behold. As one of the longest combos in the game, Trish uses almost all of Sparda's moves in an intensive flurry, finishing off with her calmly using the legendary weapon as a golf club against the unfortunate foe. Simply put, she's a badass and an utter joy to watch cut loose. Fans of her Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 appearance will be pleased to know they've incorporated her moveset into DMC4:SE. One of her Bare Knuckle moves called Inazuma is an aerial kick that leaves streaks of energy in the environment, which can trap enemies in their place. Add in Sparda's round-trip ability, along with Trish's glorious take on Chun-Li's Spinning Bird Kick, and you've got potential to dish out some gnarly damage. During a quick trip into Legendary Dark Knight mode, I went to Mission 17's street area, which is notorious for featuring the largest number of enemies in the game. While other members of the roster may take some time to clear out the mobs, Trish was in her element and laid waste to the masses in a way that would make the characters from Dynasty Warriors sit down and watch her at work. Seriously, using Sparda's round-trip, along with Inazuma and Pandora's beam cannon (which uses some DT meter) against the mobs was like witnessing Satan's weed wacker at work. It was brutal, incredibly satisfying, and it was clear they didn't send enough enemies to fight. I remember playing as Trish in DMC2, and I was really disappointed that she was a reskin of Dante. Thankfully, DMC4:SE does the character justice. With the entire roster in mind, I felt that they all complement each other, and bring levels of panache that feels special, especially if you're willing to invest the time to learn and grow with them. But what truly impressed me the most was that each character brings something unique to the table. None of them felt half-baked or intended as a diversion from the other more established members. I was quite blown away by how much we're getting here. I spent about two hours tooling around with all the characters, and while Nero and Dante feel just as sharp and versatile as ever, I anticipate the newcomers will get all the attention come release, and with good reason. Although I was initially worried that the new characters would compound the tedium of the recycled environments, I was pleased to find that the new playstyles help to offer a refreshing take on the old encounters. That will certainly take the sting out of backtracking. Hopefully, anyway. But I still have to express my disappoint in that no new modes were added. However, this is one of the great aspects of the remaster trend. Much like its companion title DmC: Definitive Edition, it's allowing games from the previous gen that may have missed the mark to reach a greater potential and be the game fans want it to be. It's been such a long time since Capcom came out with a follow-up to the original DMC series, and Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition shows that it hasn't lost its touch one bit. It's looking to be an incredibly enticing package that revels in gloriously stupid action, and ain't that the best kind? As the Street Fighter of the action genre, this franchise has a large legacy to uphold. And if you were among those who weren't too keen on DmC Devil May Cry and yearned for a return to the classic series, you've now got your shot to do so. So take it. And don't forget to turn on Turbo Mode in the options menu. 
Devil May Cry photo
The time has come, and so have I
The Devil May Cry franchise has experienced some strange happenings in recent years. After the release of Ninja Theory's reboot and many debates among fans about what direction it should go next, the future of the franchise f...

Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China gives the series a fresh perspective

Mar 31 // Alessandro Fillari
Assassin's Creed Chronicles (PC, PS4, Xbox One [previewed])Developer: Climax StudiosPublisher: Ubisoft Release date: April 21, 2015 (Episode One) / Fall 2015 (Episodes Two and Three) "It's a very exciting and very challenging project to work on," said lead game designer Xavier Penin. "[Ubisoft] had a pretty [sizable] pitch for the project and wanted them to be short, episodic, and each of the stories would have their own specific artstyles that fit the character and time period. We knew we had to focus our efforts on making something that didn't just feel like a smaller Assassin's Creed." For the first episode, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, players take on the role of female assassin Shao Jun, who fans might recognize from the animated film Assassin's Creed Embers. Picking up some time after the events of Embers in 1526, Shao Jun returns to China after her training with Ezio Auditore and seeks revenge against Emporer Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty after the massacre of the Chinese Assassin Brotherhood. During her exploits, she'll acquire new abilities and contacts that will help in her quest, and revitalize the Assassin presence in 16th-century China. China has been a top requested location from fans, along with a playable Shao Jun, and seeing it come to pass is exciting. In the three levels I played, set in The Forbidden City and Fujian Province, we got to experience a starkly different setting and visual palette not seen from the series. Moreover, the brief taste of the India and Russia episodes we saw also feature their own art styles and aesthetic. Granted, the nature of this downloadable title allows them to try different settings, but I was blown away by the potential AC has in such lush environments. This enthusiasm was also shared by the folks behind the title. [embed]289710:57987:0[/embed] "When we were going to do this game with [Shao Jun], I was really excited about it and wanted to get all the information about background and her story, but it was actually pretty thin," said Penin. "So eventually we decided to come up with new ideas and settings, beyond Embers, and we came up with a story that AC fans will enjoy." Understandably, the switch from 3D to 2.5D has brought some changes to the action-stealth gameplay. For the most part, players will still traverse the environment with free-running maneuvers while avoiding detection, and only using combat as a last resort. Players will run and leap across obstacles in the environment and move between the foreground and background during traversal. I was impressed with the depth shown in the environments, and I was quite surprised that areas shown off were largely interactive. In one section during a prison escape, I had to find my gear before making an exit, which meant having to search for a guard's keys. After traveling through a hallway, I entered a large cavern housing dozens of prison cells. Off in the distance in the background, there were several guards making their rounds near a number of prisoners. From the foreground, I jumped onto a fallen pillar, which allowed me seamlessly run across to the background of the environment, which had its own unique layout and design. It was neat to be able to see how much depth the levels have, and the later levels show off much more intuitive and clever design. The stealth gameplay has had a bit of change, however, and the assassins now have to rely more on shadows and darkness to slip past their foes. Instead of the line-of-sight design from past titles, Chronicles utilizes a vision cone system. Similar to Mark of the Ninja's gameplay, all enemies can see and hear only a certain distance ahead of them, which gives you the means to figure out the best way around them. While it's still very much AC, the new design feels different. The lead designer elaborated a little further with how they went about re-designing AC stealth for 2.5D. "We had a lot of work to find the right recipe because this is the type of gameplay that require precise signs of feedback," said Penin. "We experimented a lot with the detection system, which focuses on cones of vision that work really well because it shows accurately in the 2D perspective. While some people initially thought [the visual representation of enemy line of sight] got in the way of the art style, ultimately the function allowed for us to design the stealth for players to be more interesting." Though you can easily avoid all conflicts by sticking in the shadows or hiding inside doorways or off the sides of ledges, there are a whole assortment of gadgets that Shao Jun has at her disposal, such as the rope dart which can sling enemies and help her traverse to new heights. The action and pace of the stealth from past games is present, though there seems to be much more thought put into it. Some sections felt like actual puzzles more than action-stealth gameplay, and I mean that as a good thing. The narrowing of the perspective put a lot more depth into this facet of gameplay, and it was refreshing to have a more refined approach to it. I'm also quite impressed with the visual aesthetic of Chronicles. The developers have stated that each episode will have a unique look to it, and China's style is stunning in its representation of perpetual autumn and uses of inkblot-style visuals and palettes. The colors are vibrant and lush, and the shadows and darkness show a certain roughness, as if it's a place that only the Assassins, history's wet-workers, can venture to. These still-images do not do this title justice -- it's quite gorgeous in action. While I was enjoying myself throughout the China setting, a part of me wished this was a fully 3D title rather than a downloadable side story. Nothing against this game, as it's really solid and makes some clever choices in regards to approach to stealth in a limited perspective, however I feel that such rich settings would be better used for full-fledged 3D Assassin's Creed titles. In any case, Assassin's Creed Chronicles is looking to be a nice surprise for the franchise. Though we can undoubtedly expect to see another main entry in the series this year, Chronicles will serve to be a nice change of pace for those looking for a different take on the series. For those who bit on the Unity season pass, you'll get the first episode on day one. The bite-sized nature of these titles will make them easy to get into, but they're sure to surprise players with how much depth is present.
2.5D Assassin's Creed photo
Stabbin' necks through history in 2.5D
It's not often we see a major player in the big leagues of yearly releases reinvent itself in a more modest and distinct way. With Assassin's Creed titles expected every year, it's been a bit of a challenge for Ubisoft to kee...

Mekazoo has a cheeky rhyme for tricky gameplay

Mar 26 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]289556:57920:0[/embed] But, where experienced platformers will find the most challenge is within the way that each animal uses its unique ability. The frog, who starts the game off, has a stretched-out tongue that can latch onto far away floating objects. The wallaby, who comes along later, has a bounce that’s particularly strong. However, the rub lies within the fact that these special abilities are designed to activate upon releasing a face button – not simply pressing it. It’s enough to initially throw you off your rhythm, that is, until you eventually fall into the groove that Mekazoo lays down. Mekazoo always takes control over which two particular animals are used at any given time. There’s no freedom of choice there. That’s because, with so many different abilities across the many creatures, granting that option would weaken level design. By creating the levels around the specific animals, Good Mood Creators gets to challenge the player in whatever way it sees fit. If there was any doubt, my 30-minute demo erased any concerns that Mekazoo wouldn’t offer a challenge. Each level is packed with collectible currency, secret pick-ups, alternate paths, and hazards at every turn – and this is a game that revels in its twists and turns. Deaths came at a constant clip, but they were less frequent once I got a feel for the mechanics. That’s where that learning curve comes in; and once overcoming it, that’s where the immensely satisfying part takes over. Eventually, I wandered  across a “race the lava” section. Slavin informed me that this is where most people gave up. I could see why. It was a stiff test for having so little time to learn Mekazoo. Still, I was determined to best it. Maybe 15 minutes (and several deaths) later, I cleared it like it was no big thing. That’s how those sections tend to go – relentless challenge until you pass it with flying colors. Really, "flying colors" describes all facets of Mekazoo. At times, everything will seem an aesthetically-pleasing blur; other times, you'll try, try, try until that aforesaid suddenly easy success comes along. But, the latter is less frustrating than you'd think, simply because Mekazoo's world is an amazing place to be immersed in.
Mekazoo preview photo
Flying colors
“When in doubt, switch them out.” Sage-like advice, really. That’s what Mekazoo’s creative director Jarrett Slavin had to tell me to do when I showed obvious struggles playing his demo. I’m no st...

RIVE was my favorite twin-stick shooter at PAX East

Mar 17 // Rob Morrow
Once safely out of the asteroid belt and into the facility, RIVE began to look a lot more familiar. My spider-like vehicle scuttled across floors, tracking baddies with its 360-degree auto-cannon and laying waste to the swarms of fast-moving enemies that attempted to impede my progress. RIVE mixes up the intensely satisfying shooting elements with a healthy dose of action platforming as you make your way deeper into the facility. Jumping is controlled with the left trigger, which at first felt awkward but, according to Ginkel, was a necessary concession to accommodate the game's right stick-controlled aiming mechanics. After a few successful hops and double-jumps, the ground-based movement began to feel natural to me again, allowing me to track enemies mid-air and deliver a hail of bullets in full 360 degrees, creating a colorful light show of explosions intermixed with charred bits of enemy debris. As I blasted my way deeper into the facility I began to pick up consumable items. Only three were available in the preview build; two offensive and one pickup that would replenish health. EMP projectiles that could freeze enemies in place with an electromagnetic pulse and homing missiles were the two offensive types on offer. Out of the two, I would always go with the missiles -- stunning your enemies is nice, but turning them into scrap is nicer. Hacks also played a big role in the game, adding some interesting tactical opportunities if used inventively. You start off picking up one that will allow you to override security systems, unlocking doors that bar your path. The next one you find allows you to hack Lifebots, floating drones that will top off the health of whomever is in control of them at the time. One really handy use I found for the Lifebot was in one of the two boss battles in the preview. By taking control of it, I could stay below the boss pouring out the damage while my floating medic topped me off with health, mitigating any damage that I took in the process. Lastly, you'll discover a hack that will allow you to take control of the pesky Kamikaze bots encountered throughout the levels. Once in control of them, a zero-g field radiates out, creating a sphere you can hop into and use for a lift to reach previously inaccessible sections in the level. Wrapping up the demonstration, I joked with Ginkel about how radically different RIVE is from Two Tribes' previous games. He nodded in agreement and grinned proudly as we watched PAX attendees blast their way through the beautiful shooter displayed on the large monitor before us. It truly is a gorgeous title, but it's got the chops to back up the good looks in spades. If RIVE's any indication of the future direction of the development studio, I think we're all in for a treat. While the puzzle platformer Toki Tori 2 is a solid title in its own regard, I'm really happy that the studio went in this new action-oriented direction. RIVE just does so many things right you'd think its creators had been designing shooters all along. RIVE is tentatively scheduled for a Q1 2015 release on PC, PS4, Wii U, and Xbox One
RIVE preview photo
Family-friendly puzzle platformer this game is not
When I learned that Netherlands-based Two Tribes Studios (Toki Tori & Toki Tori 2) was bringing its snazzy metal-wrecking, robot-hacking, twin-stick shooter RIVE to PAX East this year, I jumped at the...

Gigantic made me gigantic in the pants

Mar 16 // Jed Whitaker
Gigantic centers around two teams of five players battling to kill the opposing teams guardians. Guardians are gigantic monsters that will advance to attack the enemy guardian once powered up, temporarily stunning it to allow your team to attack. Powering up guardians is achieved by capturing locations on the map or by scoring kills. Each guardian has three sections of health and whichever team can take down the opposing team's guardian first is crowned the victor. Unlike other MOBA-style games, Gigantic doesn't have waves of enemies to kill and grind, nor does it have a store to buy items. All skill management is built into a tree-like leveling system. Need more damage? Then upgrade an ability that allows 20% more damage. You can earn XP from kills, assists and helping to capture points -- basically anything that helps the team. The short amount of hands-on I had with the game had me playing as Voden, a character that looks like a combination of a fox and a gazelle. Voden bounds around the map with ease as he not only has the default sprint and dodge that all characters have, but can also a super jump off the healing pools he can drop. Bow and arrows are Voden's main weapon. He also has a decoy he can drop that attacks, a pool of acid that damages enemies and allows him to shoot poison arrows, and giant roots that hold enemies in place for a brief period so teammates can deal damage. Bouncing around the map and poking enemies for damage was a ton of fun, and had me smiling the whole match even though we lost. I seriously can't wait to play the game again. I've been obsessively checking my email hoping for a closed alpha invite (which you can sign up for here). Gigantic is free to play and expected to launch later this year exclusively on Windows 10 and Xbox One. It will feature optional crossplay between platforms as Microsoft is publishing the game. For now I'm going back to refreshing my email, hoping developer Motiga hears my prayers.
Gigantic Preview photo
It has been far over four hours; I need a doctor and an alpha invite
At PAX East this year I walked past many of the larger booths and gave them little attention, as I am typically more interested in indie games. I got invited to a press-only demo for Gigantic -- a game I only knew of by ...

SMITE's Xbox One alpha is off to a great start

Mar 12 // Chris Carter
While many of you out there probably dislike the lack of ingenuity when it comes to SMITE's roster, I must admit I still love the gimmick of tapping into existing spiritual and celestial beings. SMITE has playable characters representing Norse, Greek, Roman, Hindu, Chinese, Mayan, and Egyptian mythology, and odds are you'll recognize at least a few faces in the crowd. I'm addicted to scrolling through the little bios for each character, like binge-reading a series of Wikipedia entries. Hi-Rez has done a great job making them their own aesthetically. For those who aren't familiar with SMITE, gameplay comes in three varieties currently with the Xbox One alpha -- Arena (5v5 all-out combat), Siege (4v4 with two lanes, the most traditional MOBA experience), and Joust (3v3 with just one lane). Assault and Conquest from the PC version are currently not enabled, but the three aforementioned Xbox modes have a "first win of the day" bonus that grants you extra currency. It's a smart move, as it encourages you to boot up the game, relax, play a few matches, then retire for the evening after getting your bonuses. Heroes of the Storm and many other MOBAs have similar practices, but it feels especially at home on a console for me. The alpha currently does not allow you to connect your existing PC account (although it is promised for the future) or purchase "Gems" (the premium currency), but it has a decent selection of free characters at the moment, as well as the ability to earn "Favor," which allows you to "buy" characters by playing the game. I expect Gems will be sold by way of Xbox Live, and so far, the interface isn't confusing -- all of the cost info is right up front. Currently the going rate is roughly 400 Gems for $8, and each character in the alpha costs 200. The good news is that you can earn about half of the roster by buying each character with Favor, with the earn rate working out to a little less than a week of casual play. It's a little on the high side, but I've seen worse. Plus, the free rotation has been generous so far. [embed]285826:56801:0[/embed] Surprisingly, it controls great on the Xbox One. Everything is extremely easy to pick up, including movement, aiming, and getting to know all four of your character's abilities, which are mapped to the face buttons. Line targeting and even area-of-effect (AOE) powers are easy to aim using both sticks, and I had very little problem getting my powers where they needed to go. Since basic attacks are all done manually, a controller lends itself well to the action-oriented scheme, and using some character's dodge abilities felt more natural. Having the rumble feature go off when a queue is finished pre-match is a nice touch. Currently, the user interface needs a little work. It's a bit dated, and can stand to look a lot sleeker with its console debut. There are also a few minor issues with the current build, like the lack of indication that you're holding down the left trigger to "prep" your currently equipped items. Often times I'd need to use an item like a speed boost in a sticky situation, and it wouldn't go off because I apparently wasn't holding the trigger correctly. So far the visuals are very smooth, even for an alpha, but this is a testing phase after all so everything didn't go off without a hitch. My first match was rocky and unplayable, constantly lagging and counting back the game clock -- I tried to leave, but I couldn't jump into a new game until it was completely finished, which took a fair bit of time. I must say though that nearly all of my matches were very smooth, with little lag involved at all. This bodes well for Hi-Rez considering that it's still early in the console version's life cycle. If Xbox One owners are willing to take the plunge on SMITE, Hi-Rez stands to make quite a bit of money from daily players. The studio is going to have to stay on its game this year however, as there is plenty of competition as more and more developers are jumping into the space. While SMITE still isn't quite at the top of my MOBA list, I think I'm going to make an effort to play more when it arrives on the Xbox One later this year.
SMITE on Xbox One photo
Hi-Rez's MOBA has transitioned well to consoles
There aren't a whole lot of fully featured MOBA games on consoles. While a handful of them exist, some faring better than others, there's going to be a bigger push this year with games like SMITE and Gigantic headin...

3D Realms: Bombshell is the only one who could kick Duke Nukem's ass

Mar 10 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]288478:57688:0[/embed] So, much like Bombshell herself, 3D Realms rebuilt the game. A lot of the grit and edge was suppressed. Her steely, crude mechanical arm was traded in for one that looked technologically useful. Her exposed midriff was exchanged for a functional suit of armor. And, what was once a half-shaved head is now a full head of hair. Most importantly, Bombshell looks like a significantly better game than we were led to believe almost a full year ago. Even if it may not seem like much variation for most studios, Interceptor and 3D Realms are spreading their wings with Bombshell. This isn't a first-person shooter. It's an action RPG with an isometric view. Again, it's an attempt to differentiate from Duke. 3D Realms acknowledged that when you specialize in a single genre, you become too comfortable. When you move outside of that comfort zone, you're able to look at everything from a different point of view. Actually, "different point of view" also extends to long-time 3D Realms fans, as it perfectly describes what they'll find most jarring about Bombshell. This has an isometric view, a top-down camera that gives a clear look at everything in the near vicinity. There's also a jump mechanic to go alongside some light platforming that may or may not prove frustrating. The role-playing aspect may be 3D Realms' greatest trick. Bombshell features two different currencies that are used for upgrading passive stats and weapons. This forces the player to figure out what they want their strengths to be, and to adjust gameplay accordingly. When you think about it, that's so wonderfully not 3D Realms. But, where 3D Realms doesn't stray too far from its tried-and-true roots is that Bombshell asks the player to kill everything in sight. It doesn't matter how it's done -- simple shooting, blowing things straight to hell, or even detaching Knuckles (her mechanical arm) to serve as a temporary turret. Just know that there will be foes, and they will ultimately die. Those enemies come in the form of three different races of aliens. In an unlikely twist, they're all working together. Predictably, 3D Realms wasn't too eager to talk about the story. What it was willing to say is that there's something valuable on Earth that the aliens want. Also, they've captured the President of the United States. Where Bombshell comes in is a "just one last job" sort of plot device. Her backstory is that she was the leader of the Global Defense Force, and her career came to an end during something called "The Washington Incident" -- a mission gone wrong in which she lost her arm and her crew. With the President abducted, they rebuilt her stronger than ever. Okay, admittedly, this story eschews all semblance of nuance or subtlety thus far. The dialogue's equally gruff, with Bombshell usually spouting off exactly what you'd expect Generic '90s Action Hero to say. Of course, 3D Realms promises that there's lots of plot to discover along the way. Hopefully it serves as a way to introduce Bombshell as a deep and interesting character -- not just a less crude, female Duke. Maybe the biggest uncertainty -- and there are a fair number -- is just how seriously 3D Realms takes itself with Bombshell. Is a lot of this tongue-in-cheek? Is it completely straight-faced and lacking self-awareness? Will it somehow shape up to be less ridiculous (and that's in no way a slight against the game) than during my 30-minute demo? The tone is a giant question mark, but then again, maybe it doesn't really matter. '90s clichés will come off as entertaining and badass, regardless of Interceptor's and 3D Realms' true intentions. Whatever the answer may be, we won't have to wait too long to find out. Bombshell has its sights set on on a summer release for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It remains to see whether it's enjoyably explosive or a dud. But, rest assured that it's definitely not the Bombshell you knew a year ago.
Bombshell preview photo
She's got the arsenal to do it
3D Realms is keenly aware of what players know it for. Sure, there are plenty of titles in the publisher's history that should stand out, but for all intents and purposes, the company might as well re-name itself The Duke Nuk...

Hands-on with Cuphead: Equal parts charming and challenging

Mar 09 // Steven Hansen
[embed]288823:57676:0[/embed] While the old-school difficulty (three hits and you're dead) is just reflective of developers' design inspirations, it does feel fitting that something this labor intensive to make won't be easily beaten. In fact, piratical ship helm Captain Silver remained unbeaten as long as I stayed at the event, despite a (joking) $2,000 reward. I was able to dispatch the first boss after running across the overworld to a vegetable patch. A grumpy potato pops out of the ground and begins spitting balls at you, every third one or so a pink ball that Cuphead can straw slap (pressing jump while in the air) to charge a super meter. The hit box and timing window for straw slapping pink bits is tight and after the first boss, the bits get real small, so straw slapping instead of straight dodging is risk reward. Again, three hits and you're out. After shooting up the potato enough -- it is adorable that Cuphead's gun is just cute little pew pew beams out of a a pointed finger and raised thumb -- a creepy carrot emerged in the center of the stage. It had red eyes circle in opposite directions and would rub deeply at its temples while bringing homing missiles down. I missed a super to its face, but was able to beat it. [embed]288823:57678:0[/embed] From there I skipped some of other fights I'd seen others play and went straight for the white whale (of the demo) Captain Silver. Silver stands atop his boat on the right side of the screen, occasionally shooting you with pink pellets. The best way to blast him it to get right on under him, but a pesky barrel that drops from the sky screws things up for you. Silver has a couple other cronies he'll whistle to call, too. From the front (right), a series of four tiny sharks with dog collars will plop on deck and slide left, chomping all the way. You can jump over them or crouch and shoot them, but you may also be dealing with Silver gunning for you and that barrel drop at the same time. Like any good classic boss fight, managing screen space is key. Same goes for the big great white Silver calls. It crashes in from the back (left), filling up much of the dock and forcing you forward, which can be extra troublesome late stage when the ship's mouth opens up and starts spitting cannonballs at you. There's also a squid who comes up with a wry smile shaking ink from an old-school ink pot, muddying the screen, which I found hilarious. Cuphead's two-player co-op wasn't playable in the demo and there wasn't much of the overworld, sidequesting, or platforming bits to mess with, but these boss fights are on point, it feels good, and it's charming as hell.
Cuphead hands-on photo
The holy grail
Cuphead has existed in a state of unreality to me since its E3 reveal. Despite seeing footage of the game, it remained in my mind a concept. One that I was in love with, mind. 1930s style animation. A character whose head is ...

Final Fantasy XV looks great and feels even better

Mar 07 // Kyle MacGregor
After getting acquainted with Prince Noctis and his entourage, Episode Duscae gives players the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the action-oriented battle system. The combat is fast and fluid, vaunting stylish special techniques and a warp ability that allows Noctis to teleport across the battlefield and strike opponents when they least expect it. The basic controls involve holding down or hammering at the attack button, and discerning when to back off and elude oncoming attacks. There are dodge and parry moves to do this, but my personal favorite (though least effective) is an awkward scrambling animation where our hero is on his hands and knees trying to get out of the way of an enemy assault. Noctis is equipped with a handful of different weapons, all of which have specific abilities and are useful in varying circumstances. Anticipating which technique is appropriate for the situation at hand will be key to mastering the combat system, as is monitoring the MP gauge, given just about everything the player does on the battlefield requires its use. Since players only have direct control over Noctis, the rest of the squad acts as support, and they're certainly no slouches. The other guys always followed my lead, rushing to join me in the fray and retreating when I ran for the hills, while also pointing out nearby objectives. One of their most important qualities is reviving fallen teammates. Upon depleting the life bar, characters will stagger around helplessly until they succumb to their wounds. Luckily, a helping hand from one of your pals should keep the game over screens to a minimum. Clashing with the local fauna or imperial patrols feels incredibly satisfying, especially so after dusk, when larger and more dangerous bands of frightening creatures materialize out of the pitch black night. These encounters are avoidable, though, as camping plays an important role, giving the party a safe haven to wait out the dangers of the witching hours, recuperate, and gear up for whatever hardships await on the long and winding road ahead. I look forward to coming across those obstacles and going toe to toe with the behemoth, a voracious beast causing trouble for the Duscaen residents. After following a rather bloody trail of breadcrumbs, I managed to track the monstrosity back to its lair in a lengthy stealth (!) sequence before a Square Enix representative pried the controller from my hands.  I'm not sure what happens next, but I'm certainly eager to find out. You can too, starting March 17.
Final Fantasy XV preview photo
Our first trip to Duscae
Even though the clock was ticking, it was difficult not to stop and smell the roses. I had a behemoth to hunt, but couldn't help myself. A gorgeous landscape teeming with majestic wildlife distracted me from my objective. I w...

Soul Axiom is a cross between Journey and Tron

Mar 06 // Mike Cosimano
[embed]288643:57628:0[/embed] Soul AxiomDeveloper: Wales InteractivePublisher: Wales InteractiveRelease date: Q3/Q4 2015  Soul Axiom takes place inside Elysia, a social network-type system that allows users to upload their memories and experiences, creating a sort of virtual self. You play as one such agent, sans memories. It was hard to glean any sort of plot from a hands-off demo without sound, but there seems to be something quite sinister happening inside Elysia. Over the course of my demo, I spotted a shadowy figure dragging away a coffin, and a shark attacked the player character towards the end of my time with the game. Unlike Master Reboot, which had a psychological horror bent, Soul Axiom will be more like a thriller. The game will still have a few scares, but Soul Axiom is not designed for spooks. It seemed too ethereal for that, for one thing. The game’s story will be delivered environmentally, similar to the excellent Gone Home. As you learn about the character you’re playing as, you’ll also learn about other people who have used Elysia. According to Wales Interactive co-founder David ‘Dai’ Banner, the team wants to communicate the story without resorting to infodumps. "We’ve got a story to tell, and we want to tell it," Banner said. In order to better understand the story they’ve written, Wales Interactive looks to focus groups. But they aren’t trying to appeal to a wider audience, as is so often the case when a developer uses focus groups. Banner was very adamant that the team wasn’t looking to make a "realistic" game. Soul Axiom is the game they wanted to make, even with the changes that come from playtesting. "We don’t want [Soul Axiom] to be so polished that it loses all personality," Banner said. Instead, the team is asking their focus groups what they thought was happening in the story, tweaking things based on the responses. This mindset is the primary reason behind Soul Axiom’s Early Access release. Unlike most Early Access games, this isn’t an unfinished beta. You aren’t paying for the privilege of bug testing. Banner is okay with tweaking the puzzles, if that means players will reach the end of their story. "We want everybody to see the whole game," he said. The game’s puzzles revolve around powers the player gains access to, like a 'phase' ability that lets players bring objects in and out of existence. Although most of the puzzles I saw were fairly simple (the first level is a linear tutorial), there were a few clear examples of Portal-esque environmental puzzles. It’s hard to not see shades of The Talos Principle in the game’s Egyptian level, so if either of those games are your bag, this might be also your bag! Please come pick up your bag. Soul Axiom was being shown off at the Xbox lounge, but it will be released simultaneously on Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U once the Steam version has been fully playtested. The team is aiming for a six month release window, with their worst case scenario a Q4 2015 release.  
Soul Axiom Preview photo
This Ain't Axiom Nexus
Everything you could say about Soul Axiom feels reductive. It looks like Journey mixed with Tron, except when it looks like Tron mixed with Tron. It’s a puzzler that evokes The Ta...

Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide goes all in with hectic co-op action

Mar 03 // Alessandro Fillari
Set during The End Times, Warhammer's take on the apocalypse, the world has been plunged into chaos as war breaks out, forcing the many factions and groups to take up arms and fight back. Set within the city of Ubersreik, five heroes must defend the massive metropolis from the hordes of Skaven, a race of quasi-rat creatures, that wish to sack one of the remaining bastions of the world. As a co-op action brawler, players will be able to select a class of hero and take them through several stages throughout Ubersreik. Each with their own weapons and abilities, the characters feel unique from one another. Some classes can jump into the fray, while others might be better off at a distance. The four classes that have been announced so far -- the Witch-Hunter, Imperial Soldier, Wood Elf, and Pyromage -- have an individualized backstory and arc, which unfolds as you move across the city. During my session, I got to play as the Soldier and Wood Elf, and each had their own banter and point of view regarding the End Times. [embed]288516:57596:0[/embed] In case you haven't quite picked up on it, Vermintide channels a lot of Left 4 Dead, which is actually a really good thing. Gameplay-wise, players will travel from one end of the level to other while using melee and ranged abilities to fight off waves of foes and complete objectives -- and on a narrative level, the story happens in real time. While on one hand it feels a bit more subdued and smaller in scale than what Warhammer tends to dabble in, the focus on these characters in such a smaller setting creates a greater connection to them, which was also one of Left 4 Dead's greatest strengths. I'm looking forward to exploring the city with these characters, some of whom don't seem to get along that well. As you travel though the city, you'll come across many different variations of Skaven that seek to eliminate those remaining in Ubersreik.  Often times you will come across the common types, which can be killed with a single blow but can easily overwhelm; there are tougher variants, such as the gatling rat and heavy-armor Skaven, and rats wielding poison bombs that aim to separate your group. What's impressive about these encounters is that the A.I. will randomly spawn enemies and special hordes. During my two rounds of play, the types of encounters were different, and we even got ambushed much earlier than expected. This dynamic aspect of Vermintide is very interesting, and will definitely keep repeated play exciting. As you clear levels, you'll be able to acquire loot for your characters, such as new weapons and trinkets. Each class has their own type of drops, which encourages experimentation. If you're especially adventurous, replaying stages on higher difficulties will lead to much greater rewards -- though be warned that the encounters are much more perilous and the foes are far more cunning. It's refreshing to experience a Warhammer game with a deep focus on action. While the strategy and online games were fun, I always kinda wanted a game set in the universe that allowed you to get up close and personal. Though there's definitely still much work to be done here -- what I played was in pre-alpha -- there is certainly lot for Games Workshop fans to look forward to in Vermintide.
GDC 2015 photo
Warhammer: Apocalypse Edition
I've long been an admirer of the Warhammer franchise. While a lot of people seem to put more of their attention towards the 40K universe, the high-fantasy setting of the former is so rich and features such...

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

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

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

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

Battlefield Hardline goes all in with final beta release

Feb 02 // Alessandro Fillari
Battlefield Hardline (PC [previewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Visceral GamesPublisher: EARelease date: March 17, 2015MSRP: $59.99 "It's challenging in the sense that with making videogames you kinda open yourselves up to a lot of feedback," said Executive Producer Steve Papoutsis while recalling the reaction from fans after the release of the previous beta. "Some of it warranted, others just hypothisizing about what you're doing, but our approach was from day one was to give the players the game and let them try it -- and with their help, build a better game." Coming off of their official reveal back at E3 2014, the developers at Visceral Games unveiled the release of a playable beta for all to play. While a lot of people were excited to see a different and pretty unique take on Battlefield, there were definitely concerns with seeing another title so soon after its predecessor. And with the reaction to their beta being a bit mixed to say the least, the information and affirmations they acquired from fans proved to be highly beneficial for them. The following month, they decided to delay launch for several months to fine-tune the game, and get it to where it needed to be. In light of what happened to the launch of Battlefield 4 back in 2013, which a lot of people still remember and hold a grudge for, it's certainly respectable, if bold, for the massive giant that is EA to hold off on releasing its next tent-pole title. But Papoutsis cites current leadership at the publisher and the developer's desire to go beyond what was expected as a major source for their decision to hold off on releasing. [embed]286881:57095:0[/embed] "When we announced at E3, we did something pretty different and we were pretty adamant about showing and letting people play it," said the executive producer. "Instead of just announcing it, we wanted to put it in people's hands, because we knew there were just a ton of Battlefield players and there were would be a lot of questions and skepticism. [....] And honestly, I kinda look at the feedback with a lens of these are passionate people about what the team is doing -- and that's really special to have people out there who are really invested in what the team is doing." "We got a ton of great feedback  [from the first beta], and we got so much feedback that when we sat down as a team and look at it all, we quickly realized that we wouldn't be able to action upon it at all with our original ship date (back in October)," said Papoutsis. "And when we realized that, we had a great conversation with Andrew Wilson (CEO of EA), and part of his vision for EA right now is to really put our players first. So once he understood that we as a team didn't have time to action on that feedback, he and the company were very supportive in giving us more time." A number of these changes are both sweeping and subtle. For instance, movement is much faster, vehicles are a bit more vunerable, weapons have more weight to them and damage output has been tweaked, class and perk abilities have been tweaked for balancing, and entire gameplay modes (such as Heist) have been given revisions to find an even stronger element of fun. And now on the eve of their final beta release, Visceral Game certainly feels confident that its title has gotten 'there'. 'There' being the place that all Battlefield players want the game to be. During our time with the new beta, we got the opportunity to play through several 32 player matches set across three modes, Hotwire, Heist, and Conquest.  In the four hours I had with Hardline, I found Heist and the tried and true Conquest modes to be my favorite. Like past BF games, Conquest pits players against each other on large maps as they battle for control of territories. This mode feels great with 32 players (and even better with 64), and the new style and personality that Hardline goes for really shines. Set on the Dustbowl map, which is a large desert community that occasionally gets hit with sandstorms, police were raiding the criminal's meth operation and had to secure the territory. There's a stronger narrative context to missions, which is something I really dug. With the Heist mode, you can finally recreate the same thrill of Heat's bank heist scene. Set on the Bank Job map, the crooks obviously have to plan out their attack and raid a bank, while making it to drop off points and securing them for helicopter pickup. Of course, the cops have to make sure they don't succeed. Heist was a real blast to play. I got a serious rush from blasting open the vault doors, while covering my exits from the police. And the other side is an entirely different experience. With police having the outside of the bank to mostly themselves, they can organize and keep an eye on the drop off points to take out wandering crooks. It definitely felt like the most complex mode in the beta, and it'll be interesting to see how heists turn out for different players. Unfortunately, I didn't find myself enjoying Hotwire too much. In this mode, you have to secure vehicles, which serve as mobile capture points that give teams respawn tickets. In theory it seemed cool, and I was excited to get into chases, but in my experiences I often found myself making laps around the map in the stolen vehicle without anyone on the enemy team coming after me. The dynamic seemed to focus around the hot spots and choke points on the map, and if you stay away from the action, then they'll likely ignore you for closer targets (and there are plenty of cars to go for). Don't get me wrong, there were definitely fun moments and I certainly had a rush t-boning an enemy controlled vehicle and having my teammates pump it full of lead, but the 'down time' during Hotwire felt really weird and a bit awkward. One aspect of Hardline that feels especially unique is that there is a stronger difference between the two factions. Stylistically, cops are far more by the book and stoic in the line of duty. While the criminals use harsh language and exude more attitude while on the job. Moreover, the type of weaponry and gear they use differs from the other side. The cops use high-tech weaponry and military-esque gear, while the criminals use makeshift gadgets and black market gear to get the job done. Of course, one side isn't at any particular advantage over the other, the differences here show of a greater level of personality not found in previous Battlefield that featured generic soldiers. "The idea of cops and robbers is something that a lot of people play, so we had a goal when developing this game was to make it feel very different.," said the executive producer. "A traditional military game takes place in military engagements, and they often put players at very far distances from each other, and there's no communications between opposing sides. But a lot of the interesting cop movies and TV crime dramas, a lot of what makes them interesting is the dynamic between the two factions [Police/Criminals]. It creates interesting dialog, sometimes humorous, sometimes really tense, but that shows an inherent difference between the settings." Customization is a staple of Battlefield, and Hardline definitely keeps with the tradition of allowing players to model and define their own character loadout. One of the criticisms from the previous beta was that factions could use weapons from opposing sides, as in a police officer could bring an AK or molotov cocktails to a fight. Which doesn't make too much sense considering the type of firepower they have. To remedy this, the developers introduced the Weapon License feature. As you rank up and gain proficiency with gear, you'll be able to unlock the right to use weapons from opposing sides and other rare guns for your character. You want your criminal to be decked out in SWAT weaponry? You can do it, but you gotta earn it. Another returning feature from previous games is the Commander mode. Now called Hacker mode, players can take position as an overseer within the battles, helping their team with boosting scores, hacking control points, spying on the enemy from security cameras, and even hindering the opposition with jamming skills. Playing Hacker wasn't really my thing, nor was it in the previous games, but anyone who's comfortable with Commander will feel right at home here, as the challenge of balancing skills and keeping an eye on your team is still there. Just make sure you know what you're doing. There's nothing worse than having a newbie on overwatch. With the beta period lasting only six days, this week is your last chance at giving Hardline a shot before its release in March. The folks at Visceral Games have certainly put in the work, and with the amount pressure on them now, especially considering it's coming after the ill-fated BF4, they certainly feel the need to deliver. I had a blast with the beta, and I definitely would've put in more hours if I could. Hardline feels much faster, and far more tighter than previous titles, while still retaining the scope and 'epicness' that the series is known for. And no, this doesn't feel like a mod or re-skin. Perhaps its first beta did, but now it certainly feels like a title that can stand on its own. While I wished I would've liked Hotwire more, since its one of the original features that's coming with Battlefield Hardline, the remaining modes certainly live up to the series' pedigree. Playing Hardline's conquest mode with 64 players was an incredible rush, and experiencing the map specific changes was incredibly fun. If you were one of the many who just couldn't get down with the original beta, then this new and improved take might just win you over. The changes were like night and day compared to the original, and it's very reassuring to see the game in pretty polished state. And that's a lot more than could be said about Battlefield 4's launch state.
BF Hardline preview photo
Here comes the fuzz
It's not too often we see a major publisher humbled. With the announcement of Battlefield Hardline last year, EA and Visceral Games were ready to release another entry in the epic and grandiose Battlefield series. But soon af...

Knight Squad was the most fun I had at PAX South

Jan 28 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]286807:57063:0[/embed] Like any party game worth its salt, Knight Squad forces you into a good-natured competitive flurry for a few minutes at a time. And, when any given round is over, everyone will want to immediately start a new one. It's easy to pick up and difficult to put down. Boasting eight-player action, Knight Squad either pits everyone against one another separates them into four person teams. There are eight game modes -- a few vaguely innovative, most classics everyone knows and loves. The likes of team and free-for-all capture the flag are present, and were maybe the biggest hits all weekend. For my money, working as a team to push a giant soccer ball while fighting off the other side was the most enjoyable. Honestly though, it didn't really matter which mode was played, as all players were fully into every round. Littering the battlefield are power-ups that constantly regenerate. Some are a bit more passive like boots to increase speed, or a sword to give a tiny bit more reach. Others were brazenly in-your-face like a kamikaze bomb and a lightning rod that shot streaks across the screen. Whatever your method, Knight Squads brisk-paced action ensures you won't remain dedicated to it for too long. Deaths come at a quick clip, and that power-up you really liked suddenly isn't yours anymore. No worries, some other combination will manifest itself this time -- oops, you're dead again. Oh well, right back into the fray. Despite being surrounded by seven other players, I flexed my Knight Squad prowess immediately. You see, I had a bit of an unfair advantage. I played it at PAX Prime during an impromptu play session at an indie showcase. When I got an email from the developers asking to book a PAX South appointment, I didn't have to wonder what kind of coverage I'd get out of it. I just wanted to play again. That's why, of all the bookings at PAX South, Knight Squad was the only one I insisted Kyle accompany me on. For the life of him, he couldn't understand why. Admittedly, it doesn't look like much at first. Once we had one round under our belts, we didn't want to leave. It's the kind of game that just grabs you and never lets go until the party's over. We stayed and kept playing, damn the ever-increasing mess of people behind us. It's unknown if that magic will transfer over to an online crowd. It's unlikely that many will be able to accommodate eight players in their living room, so online is where most will see Knight Squad in full force. While the game's Early Access right now, the first online version should go live sometime this week. The final retail build is scheduled to release sometime around late March on PC and Xbox One. For ID@Xbox parity clause reasons, Chainsawesome will start thinking about other platforms (likely PS4 and Wii U) at a later date. Whenever it comes to your platform of choice, there's a good time awaiting you. It's a dose of Bomberman, a dash of Gauntlet, and a whole heaping of trash-talking your friends. That is, until you inevitably get shanked in retribution. Alas, that's the circle of life in Knight Squad.
Knight Squad preview photo
And it wasn't even close
If you were to take booths' popularity at PAX South and plot them on a heat map, most of the obvious candidates would stick out. Twitch would be red hot, as it constantly had a flurry of people swarming to watch their favorit...

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

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

My first four hours with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Jan 26 // Alessandro Fillari
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC [previewed], PlayStation 4, Xbox One)Developer: CD Projekt RedPublisher: CD Projekt / WB GamesRelease Date: May 19, 2015MSRP: $59.99 It's clear from the recent delay, and the numerous CD Projekt Red members present at the event, that they wanted the game to be at its best. Even though it's largely finished, the studio plans to spend the next few months finding and fixing bugs and tweaking the experience. "It's all very exciting," said senior environment artist Jonas Mattsson while reflecting on the development of Wild Hunt. "We're confident in our game, but you know, it's your baby, and we're very curious to see how people will react to it." Set some time after the events of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, we find Geralt of Rivia in dire straights. With the Northern Kingdoms in conflict and a marauding demonic force known as the Wild Hunt leaving destruction in its wake, the world has seen better days. With fellow Witcher and mentor Vesemir by his side, Geralt searches for his long-lost ally Yennefer, who might know the location of Cyri, a young Witcher who may be able to stop the conflict and save the world. Much like its predecessors, The Witcher 3 features a rich, dense plot that is backed by a considerable amount of lore. Referred to as somewhat of a realistic take on medieval fantasy by its developers, the key aspect of its approach to storytelling, which is loved by so many, is the focus on verisimilitude. Throughout his journeys, Geralt will encounter characters from different cultures and walks of life, all the while plotting his next move and earning some coin along the way. Similar to Game of Thrones, there is a clever balance of stoicism and macabre humor, as the people living in such troubling times have to keep a straight face and endure. Geralt embodies the anti-hero archetype, and his devil-may-care personality makes for an interesting foil for his world. "It's been a challenge, but we like a good challenge," Mattsson said of the open-world design. "We wanted to make sure that when we did an open-world game, it would be done our way. Not a generic open world, but a crafted open world with side quests and main quests would blend in seamlessly with natural exploration. It's not in the sense of 'side-quest number five is starting' and 'you got this amount of EXP points,' but it's more like this organic experience. For us, we achieved something quite unique." Without giving too much away, the prologue of Wild Hunt does well to get players up to speed with the gameplay and plot. During an opening tutorial set in Kaer Morhen, you're given a quick refresher on the controls, and reintroduced to returning characters. After about twenty minutes of exposition, you're thrust into the open world on the trail of Yennnefer. This will be appreciated by many, as the previous titles' tutorials were often criticized for being too drawn out. Straight away, the most impressive -- and most obvious -- aspect of Wild Hunt was its sharp, gorgeous visuals. Playing on a fully decked-out PC running the game on maximum settings, I got to see the title at its best. As impressive as the series' visuals are, Wild Hunt is several leagues ahead of what was released back in 2011. Not only was the terrain lush, and the world felt lived-in and active, but the voice work and motion-capture details were also astounding. The characters conveyed an earnest understanding of the situation, while at the same time showing humanity and emotion for the moment. It's some of the best work I've seen in a game in a long time. Being able to explore such a rich world freely and without limits was exciting, and the talent behind this adventure has made good on plans to allow players to do so at their own pace. Though the exact design of an open-world game seems to vary from developer to developer, The Witcher 3 felt bit more focused in quest design, while also offering a massive playground to explore. Instead of large hub areas that connect to each other through load screens, you'll be able to seamlessly travel from one major territory to the next. Though Skyrim is often seen as the standard for open-world gameplay, Wild Hunt feels unique in its approach and visual look, and blends a lot of different environments together. With wildlife to hunt, plants and other roots to collect for your alchemy (which allows you to craft potions and tonics), and many other dangerous foes and creatures populating the swamps, forests, dungeons, and many other locales, the world of Wild Hunt is one that keeps things interesting for players. With fast-travel available -- which can only be done when standing near sign posts -- and along with Geralt's trusty stead Roach, you'll be able to freely explore the bounds of the world with ease. Of course, with the world in chaos, Geralt must always keep himself several steps ahead of foes. Advancing upon the free-form combat from The Witcher 2, Wild Hunt refines the system to make it feel more dynamic and fluid. With his knowledge, combat prowess, and cunning as his greatest weapons, Geralt's arsenal of abilities can be freely used on the fly. For instance, your stamina bar, which controls sprinting outside of combat, allows for Geralt to use magic, such as blasts of fire and telekinetic energy, along with hypnosis and trap magic. He also makes use of bombs and other gadgets to take down foes at a distance. The crossbow in particular is useful for flying foes, and can even be used when fighting creatures underwater. There's a lot of respect and trust given to the players, and the developers were keen on letting them go at their own pace. In the starting territory of White Orchard, Geralt found word that the local garrison commander knew the location of Yennefer, but would only reveal it if Geralt and Vesemir could eliminate a large griffon terrorizing the country side. Of course, this is for the main story. If you choose to stray from the path and mingle with the locals, like I did, you'll discover side-quests and other oddities that could use your attention. As you perform quests and slay monsters, you'll acquire crowns and experience points. Crowns purchase supplies and other tools for Geralt, which he'll need for his adventures. With every level gained, you acquire skill points which can be spent on buffs for the Witcher. Unlike past games, you can allocate points and set skills without the need for Meditation, which is still used to restore health and move the passage of time. With every skill and buff acquired, you can place them in slots that make them become active on Geralt. Though you'll acquire more slots as you level, you cannot have every skill or buff active at once, so you have to build him out to your preferences. Beyond this customization, there's an increased number of weapons and armor types to find. Though previous games largely had you use a small pool of equipment that could be upgraded over time, Wild Hunt takes things further. With well over 100 unique types of gear ranging from swords, crossbows, and pieces of armor, you'll find Geralt quick to change his look. Moreover, there are varying types of gear, such as rare and legendary types that are found from exploration, questing, and advancing the main story. Though you are totally free to venture off to areas unknown, you might find that even Geralt will be unprepared for what he faces. "We have a unique version of the open world in our game," said Mattsson. "We don't want to restrict players to certain areas for the long term, but with that said there are many areas that can be completely deadly, because monsters do not scale. They will not level up with you. If you wander off to the wrong neighborhood, then you're going to get yourself killed. It's open world, completely, but you really have to be careful." There were many distractions and other events to uncover during my session. For instance, you can visit the notice board for side jobs to earn some extra coin, or you can visit the tavern to mingle with the commoners, some of whom will challenge Geralt to a game of Gwent. In this new mini-game, similar to Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering, players will use a deck of cards to battle the other player in a game of wits and strategy. It's a pretty addictive game, and the developers even plan on releasing a real-life version of Gwent for collector's edition purchasers. While exploring a small village, I came across a man in need of protection for his young daughter. Knowing she had a curse placed upon her by a wraith, he asks you to venture to an abandoned village nearby and exorcise the vengeful spirit. Once at the village, Geralt uses his skills for deduction and tracking to discover the source of the disturbance. I was expecting a simple track-and-kill-the-monster quest, but I ended taking part in a Sherlock-esque investigation with some exploration of the underground caverns underneath the village. It culminated in a battle with a Noonwraith, a spectral demon that summoned multiple phantoms for assistance. This totally caught me by surprise. Not only was this an entirely optional quest, but it was still very early during my session. "There are several points of interest scattered throughout the game," said Mattsson. "Whether they be a tower in the distance, some ruins, or even a house in the woods, there these areas throughout the game you'll see as you're questing or just exploring. If you explore the points of interest, you can be swept up in a unique side-quest. Of course, this is something we don't force upon you, if you're not interested then you can continue on your way. We have a fifty-hour main story, and another fifty hours of side-quests, in addition to time spent exploring the landscape, it's just crazy how much content is there." When I turned in the quest, I was given the choice of taking a reward from the man or allowing him to keep it for his family. Though Witchers are required to take payment of some sort for their services, there are several points where you have to a make a moral choice. Sometimes there will be consequences for taking or refusing a reward, and many decisions will come back to haunt you. After the end of the side-quest, I went back to the main story and followed the trail of the griffon. In order to prepare for his battle with the beast, Geralt had to acquire intel from local hunters to find its nest, in addition gathering some bait. Once those tasks were finished, I was ready to take it down. In the meeting spot with Vesemir, we readied our trap to force the griffon to the ground. It was one of the tougher battles during this stage of the story, and I had to utilize my parrying and dodge skills to withstand his massive strikes. Eventually he reacquired use of his wings and flew off. I jumped on my horse and gave chase, using my special sight (which can be used to find clues and collectibles) to keep track of his bloody trail. Keep in mind this was all within the open world, and I rode past several monsters while trying to keep up with the griffon. Soon after, I tracked the beast down and dealt a final blow, severing its head and delivering it for my reward. It was a tense moment, and very satisfying, particularly taken as part of the open world and not in an instanced location that would soon be forgotten. "Bigger doesn't always mean better. For us, bigger meant we had to be more ambitious about [designing the open world]," said the CD Projekt Red artist. "For us, The Wild Hunt made it a natural step for us to scale the world to suit the needs of narrative. If we tried to make it smaller [than its predecessors], then it wouldn't make sense. If we make it too big, it would be too empty. We wanted to give it the space it deserves, and we didn't want to compromise our vision." At this point, the developers let me move ahead several hours in the plot. We then found Geralt on the Skellige Isles to the west, where he is caught up in a murder-mystery plot following the most bizarre assassination attempt I've ever seen in a game. Suffice it to say, you'll never look at bears the same way again. The Skellige Isles were a totally different area compared to White Orchard.  In similar style and geography to the Scottish Highlands, Geralt's adventures took him to an entirely new region with its own culture and rich history. I barely even scratched the surface of White Orchard, and I was already trying to acclimate myself to this locale. And I mean that in the best way. This area felt altogether different from the previous territory, and though I knew I had some unfinished business in White Orchard, the pull of the Skellige Isles was too strong. Though exploring the world of The Witcher 3 was gripping, there were several issues I had with the experience. In my several hours with the title, I could see why the developers wanted to hang on to it further fine tuning. The folks at CD Projekt Red were adamant that we report any issue to them, and this press event also doubled as a QA testing period for those who were largely unattached to the game. I found myself caught in a lot odd bugs, some of which were humorous, like a man floating beside a horse, but others were nasty. Some folk at the event experienced game crashes, and I sometimes got stuck on terrain and had to revert to earlier saves to get out. Moreover, the new swimming gameplay, which was a great addition to the adventure, felt sloppy in execution as the controls were not so accurate and a bit touchy. With that said, I came away largely impressed. From what I played thus far, which was a small portion of a hundred-hour game, Geralt of Rivia has transitioned into the open world beautifully. It truly felt like I was on an adventure in a world that not only had variety, but a sense of a danger and possibility. While I was bummed that I couldn't see what the gameplay for Ciri would be like, I can understand that they'd like to keep that as a surprise. The recently announced PC specs might scare some people off, but with simultaneous releases on multiple platforms, there's plenty of opportunity to experience it in the coming months. And did I mention how massive this game world was? Just one territory seems larger than most games in the open-world genre, and the seamless design here is nothing short of extraordinary. With its release set for May, CD Projekt Red seems to playing it safe here in its last few months, which is smart. As ambitious and massive this game is, it's also the one title you don't want to see these developers screw up. If they manage to fix the major bugs, and hopefully tighten up the controls, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt could go down as one of the boldest and most satisfying titles the genre has seen in a very long time. [Disclosure Notice: The Witcher 3 was demonstrated at an event hosted by CD Projekt Red in San Francisco. The event took place at The Alchemist Bar & Lounge, where they offered us a nice spread of Italian cheeses and meat, along with a swag bag filled with The Witcher 3 apparel. It was a fun event, and was a nice opportunity to mingle with the developers of the game and other members of the press.] 
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt photo
Not all who wander are lost
It's an exciting time to be into role-playing games. With the release of heavy hitters such as Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dark Souls II, Divinity: Original Sin, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Wasteland 2 in recent years, the ...

DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition goes above and beyond

Jan 22 // Alessandro Fillari
DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition (PlayStation 4 [previewed], Xbox One)Developer: Ninja TheoryPublisher: CapcomRelease date: March 10, 2015MSRP: $39.99 In this remaster of the Devil May Cry reboot, players take on the role of Dante, a young rebel who learns that the world around him is not what it seems. With demonic and angelic powers at his disposal, along with a serious talent for combat, he'll have to team up with his long-lost brother Vergil to battle hoards of demons that have invaded the real world. Along the way, he'll come to terms with his family's past, and face the demon king behind it all. Though these remasters, revisits, and enhanced releases seem all the rage nowadays (Capcom just released one this week), Definitive Edition has been making the most of the opportunity. Besides offering the complete DmC experience (all DLC packs included), uprezzed graphics and sharper visuals, and new costumes for both characters, Ninja Theory also jumped at the chance to put its action-brawler through a heavy round of retuning. We're talking Street Fighter-level rebalancing, here. The studio even flew out DmC combo video masters to its offices to offer some feedback on the new build of the game. In many ways, this is the Director's Cut. As much of a fan I was of Ninja Theory's take on Devil May Cry, I can't deny that it certainly had issues. Not only was the difficulty knocked down several pegs, which wasn't in keeping with series tradition, but many of the combat design choices, like the elemental-specific foes, added more annoyances than challenge. But Definitive Edition aims to remedy many of those problems. No more instant SSS ranks from mashing the same moves, no more easy parries, and no more infinite flights in Angel form to be had here. You wanted DmC to play by DMC's rules? You got it. But let's get this out of the way: anyone expecting a complete reworking of DmC and its gameplay system to fit exactly how the previous games felt will be disappointed. Despite what many of the more cynical fans assumed, this is not DmC: Apology Edition (Haha, so clever). DmC: Definitive Edition is still very much Ninja Theory's Devil May Cry. Capcom producer Rey Jimenez spoke with me at length about the reception DmC had, and how this remaster might even make the harshest cynics look at the game in a new light. "I think a lot of the negative reaction from the game came from the early announcement, which there were definitely problems with," Jimenez said while reflecting on the infamous debut at TGS 2010. "The end product was something that definitely appealed to a wider base -- but we really wanted to do this particular game [again] because it would really benefit from the jump [to current-gen]. There was some performance lacking that really affected the previous systems," he explained."This was something that could be revisited." According to Jimenez, "The guys at Ninja Theory always had confidence in their work, and [...] the reaction we've seen so far has been encouraging. [The developers] are very proud of the work they've done, and Capcom has been behind this product since day one." On new tech, DmC runs at a brisk 60 frames per second. Understandably, the original release on Xbox 360 and PS3 ran sluggishly, especially when put side by side with the superior PC port, which Ninja Theory used as the base for Definitive Edition. Moreover, the developers wanted to take advantage of the PS4 and Xbox One's social functions to allow players to share combo videos and other exhibitionist gameplay more easily. Jimenez called working on the port "a fairly quick process," but noted there were challenges. For starters: "Getting it to 64-bit, and adjusting the framerate and physics changes. Since Unreal 3 isn't officially supported yet on PS4 and Xbox One, we had to do a bit of modifications to the engine to make run on the new systems. On the new consoles right now with social integration as a default, anyone can make a great combo video, and since you don't need to capture footage, I think that will be phenomenal for players." In the hour I spent with the game, I was completely taken with it. DmC: DE felt sharp and on point. Though some changes are fairly subtle, such as the complete removal of Vergil's fedora (which Ninja Theory hated, by the way), many others will be instantly noticeable, particularly during combat. I constantly felt as if I was rediscovering aspects of the game I was already comfortable with, which was an awesome feeling. While the folks at Capcom were not keen on sharing the complete changelog just yet (it's apparently over six pages long), they were glad to talk about the success they had with the PC release. Did I mention how great the PC version of DmC was? Capcom and Ninja Theory thought so too. More importantly, they loved all the cool mods players created, such as Turbo Mode (increasing game speed by twenty percent) and a number of unofficial patches and tweaks like the removal of weapon-specific enemies. A number of these mods were so well received by the developers they decided to implement them for this remaster. The work put into the Definitive Edition was equal parts developer iteration and incorporation of fan feedback. Among these are the inclusion of the much-demanded lock-on targeting (complete with hold or toggle options) and a remappable button layout. For the latter, you can swap around most every action and ability. Want to recreate the layout for classic DMC? Go right ahead, and what better way to put the lock-on to use? Though initially it felt a bit jarring as the free-camera setup had to readjust itself, I quickly got my bearings. I still found myself going without it for the most part, but the addition of the lock-on became useful during encounters with elite enemies. By far the most impressive feature added to Definitive Edition is the Hardcore Mode. Intended for combat enthusiasts who clamor for classic DMC, the new gameplay system addresses a number of criticisms from the original while also incorporating modifications to the current system. Firstly, Hardcore Mode is not a standalone difficulty mode akin to Dante Must Die or the brand new Gods Must Die modes, but an optional gameplay modifier activated before mission start. If you weren't a fan of the original's design choices for combat and wish for things to be a bit more akin to the original games (such as no enemy launch on devil trigger), this mode is for you. "All of the changes and tweaks we've made, we've done them into two categories," said Jimenez. "A bunch of tweaks that are for the default game make it a better title -- and all the other changes that make it more like the classic DMC series are all placed into Hardcore Mode. We did this to allow people who loved old DmC to continue on with the same mechanics, but also have a title that has the best of old and new DMC. We definitely didn't want to have people adhere to new changes if they enjoyed the original game itself." In addition to Hardcore Mode, another challenging option is Must Style Mode. With this modifier active, players need to reach S rank and above to damage enemies. Initially, I found this to be a simple affair given the number of enemies to take on. But then things changed once I was alone with a chainsaw-wielding Ravager. Each hit takes you back several ranks, and you have to work your way back up to S level while switching up moves to keep style growth healthy. This encounter took me several minutes, and it was a real wake-up call that I had to step up my game. These modifiers add a whole new layer of depth. Without Hardcore Mode active, DmC reverts to its original combat balancing (save for a few additions and tweaks). Enabling it felt like stepping into a new game, and coupled with turbo mode, combat was bombastic and intense. DmC's Hardcore Mode brings out the best in Ninja Theory's game, and its level of refinement and polish shows great potential for combat exhibitionism. Not content with just rebalancing the combat engine, the studio also added a brand new Bloody Palace mode for Vergil. Just like the original mode for Dante, you'll have to fight through a gauntlet of enemies and bosses while dealing with varying conditions and obstacles. Interestingly, Vergil's take on BP mode only features 60 levels as opposed to the standard 100 for Dante. While this may sound disappointing, several levels have multiple phases that require you to warp to different areas and fight extra waves of enemies. While the number of stages are shorter, there is definitely a lot of variety to be found here. And yes, you can now turn the timer off in Bloody Palace. It's definitely reassuring to see the game in such solid shape, though I'm a little perplexed about the lack of a PC release being announced so far. Its absence is strange given how much of an influence the PC port of the original DmC was for Definitive Edition. While this recent trend for bringing ports to new tech has gotten somewhat of a bad rap, it certainly has its advantages. Not only does it allow newcomers to get their hands on a spruced-up version of the game on their new consoles, it also allows games to have a second chance at being something truly exceptional. As much fun I had with DmC on PS3 and PC, there were a number issues I wished were ironed out by the developers. And now with the release of Definitive Edition, it's finally coming to pass. It's an exciting time to be a Devil May Cry fan. Despite what you may feel about DmC, its developer, or what Capcom's true focus should be for the franchise, it's hard to deny that a considerable amount of attention and care went into this remaster. If you were one of the many who couldn't come around to giving the original a shot, then Definitive Edition will be your best opportunity to do so. Say what you will, but it's easily the most content-rich Devil May Cry game released in a very long time. And that's nothing to turn your nose up at. 
DmC Definitive Edition photo
Reach out and touch faith
It's been just over two years since the release of one of last gen's most polarizing titles. Back in 2010, Capcom made a bold and wildly unexpected decision to hand one of its most-loved franchises to a Western developer, and...

Evolve is about more than just monster hunting

Dec 03 // Kyle MacGregor
Ashton, along with his partner in crime, creative director Phil Robb, provided us with the rundown on Hunt anyway. Evolve follows a team of four hunters who endeavor to take down a colossal alien monster. Though, as we soon learned, that's not always the primary objective. Turtle Rock revealed three new game types: Nest, Rescue, and Defend. Nest was by far my favorite of the bunch, as hunters attempt to eliminate a handful of monster eggs before they can hatch unto the world and terrorize its colonists. Of course, the alpha monster will have some say in the matter, doing its damnedest to save the young. Part of that effort may involve hatching one of the eggs prematurely, allowing the alpha to double team the humans alongside a stunted Goliath. It's a delicate balance of risk and reward, enlisting the help of an infant demon, simultaneously increasing your firepower whilst also bringing the enemy one step closer to their goal. The mode also lends itself to new tactical possibilities for the hunters. Typically, it's in your best interest to stick together, as a single human is no match for the monster. But the monster also can't be in several places at once, and the hunters always have the option of splitting up and taking out multiple eggs in concert. I have one word of advice for players keen on employing this strategy, though. Make sure to keep an eye on your surroundings. It really sucks getting gobbled up by a carnivorous plant and have no one around to help. Rescue mode turns the tables on the human team, giving them something to protect. After a group of colonists is attacked and flees into the wilderness, it's up to the hunters to locate, revive and lead the survivors to rescue shuttles. Meanwhile, the hulking monster is trying finish the job. This can lead to some pretty tense moments, trying to target these civilians while four well-armed soldiers harass you from afar, as well as flashes of frustration. Nothing is quite so disheartening as coming up short because one of these goons gets hung up on a piece of scenery. The final mission type we saw, Defend, is something of a retrenched horde mode. There's a massive spaceship looming overhead. It's loaded with civilians, refueling, and preparing to escape. There's one problem, though. Small waves of Goliath minions led by a stage three alpha are headed its way, aiming to take out the generators and make the whole thing explode. It's a spectacle and makes for an intense showdown.  While each of these modes can be played individually, Turtle Rock showed us the game's full array of content via Evacuation, essentially Evolve's take on a campaign. Five players at a time huddled into small, sauna-like rooms, each stuffed to the gills with high-end PC equipment to get our hands on the game. Though there is a narrative woven throughout Evacuation, it's sparse. Taking place on the overrun planet of Shear, colonists have five days to fend off the monsters and get out of dodge. Each day is a mission, the outcome of which impacts the next. Say the monster sabotages a dam, for example. The following stage will be flooded with water full of man-eating eels. Robb told me about another scenario where the hunters win and release "a shit ton of birds" into the atmosphere, making it hard for the monster to maneuver without tipping off folks to its location. It always culminates in a Defend mission, but the journey to that point has the potential to be different. Apparently there are over 800,000 possible combinations of mission types, maps, and environmental effects. Pair that with an expansive roster of twelve characters, each of which with their own unique skills and abilities, and it feels like I've barely scratched the surface -- even after spending several hours with the game. It was difficult to walk away from Turtle Rock Studios and Evolve without positive impressions. The game certainly seems to have a lot of potential, and I can safely say I'm looking forward to its February 10, 2015 release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Should you wish to get a taste of Evacuation mode before then, be sure to check out the open beta, which is coming exclusively to Xbox One in January. 
Evolve preview photo
You can scramble eggs, too!
"Hopefully, nobody has any questions about Hunt," Turtle Rock co-founder Chris Ashton said, his eyes darting around a cloistered room flush with press. "We've been talking about that forever!" Over the past several months, th...

Halo 5: Guardians has left me oddly cold and worried

Nov 10 // Abel Girmay
Halo 5: GuardiansDeveloper: 343 IndustriesPublisher: Microsoft Game StudiosRelease: November 2015  From the moment I sat down with Halo 5: Guardians, it was clear that the game has a big focus on player movement. If you thought Halo 4's universal sprint was blasphemous (again, you're wrong), enter a Halo game with ledge climbs, running melee's, air stomps, and slides. All of these new abilities are made possible by your thrust pack. Take the running melee for instance. When doing a normal sprint, your thruster will kick in after a few seconds, sending your spartan into a terminal velocity where your melee becomes a running charge that kills in one hit from the back, and your crouch turns into a slide. The ground pounds are similar to the air stomps in Crysis. To initiate a ground pound, you simply jump, aim by holding down the melee button, and a cursor will appear on any surface below, allowing you to smash down with speed. I do wonder how effective a technique the ground pound will be though, as the entire time you're aiming midair, you hover with the thruster pack, making yourself a painfully obvious target.  In exchange for the extra maneuvers, your shields take a hit, never recharging until you come out of your thrust-fueled abilities. It's quite the trade off, and after more than an hour of play, one that I still hadn't quite gotten the hang of. It feels as if 343 was trying to create some sort trade off between mobility and safety, perhaps even trying to find a middle ground between fans that enjoy sprint and those that long of Halo 3's slower pace. In any case, it led to many instances where I would feel like I was being punished for trying to escape a double team. One of the odder additions has to be the clamber system. Essentially a ledge grab and climb, clambering allows you to vault up platforms that are just out of reach of your standard jump. Playing Slayer on the map Truth, a remake of Midship, I must have killed and been killed three times trying to jump to the platform ring where the energy sword rests, as it was oddly just out of standard jump range. Finally, we had all wised up to the fact that the clamber was necessary to make it to the top. A relatively small, inoffensive change to be sure, but more and more I started to feel its implementation was forced. The issue I had with it is that most platforms that seem within jumping range are always just out of reach. Playing on a brand new map, Empire, I found many situations where I would expect to be able to make a jump, only to fall just short without the clamber mechanic. It created this weird chicken or the egg feeling where I'm not sure if clamber is the solution to a problem, or maps were intentionally designed to justify the mechanics existence. My time playing on Truth seemed to suggest the latter, as having this new ability on a well known map never opened up any new or interesting routes, or ways to interact with the map. For those of you who keep up with NeoGAF and its various leaks, you make have heard that Halo 5 has aim down sights (ADS). Well, yes, it does, and yes, ADS doesn't feel good in Halo. While there is no movement penalty, aiming down does narrow your field of view, as it does in all other games. The problem here is that aiming down is a feature that works best, and only in games where weapons by design are inaccurate from the hip, and guns are meant to kill almost as soon as you can land your cursor over an enemy. Halo games do neither of these things. Losing your field of vision with no significant accuracy gain is redundant, and at worst, I felt the narrow view caused me to lose my beat on an enemy. Frustrating in a game where it takes five head shots on average to score a kill.  So that covers the new mechanics, but what about the modes? Apart from Slayer, the only other mode available was the all new Breakout. In Breakout, you and your team of four take on an opposing team, racing to win five rounds. Each player has one life per round, is without shields (not unlike in SWAT), and starts off with an SMG. Their are only two Battle Rifles and two Assault rifles between eight players. It's quite a tense mode, and like Grifball or Zombies, can make for good bouts of quick fun. After I had finished my 90 minutes with Halo 5: Guardians it was clear that 343 wants this game to be more energetic, faster, and physically dynamic. I fear, however, that in their quest the good people of 343 Industries have changed so much that what's left can not be properly identified as a Halo game. That, in summation, is my problem with Halo 5: Guardians. The sinking pit-of-my-stomach feeling that I left with as I thought to myself, "This is not a Halo game." On a more hopeful note, the upcoming December/January beta the is earliest that a beta has launched in franchise history, and 343 made it very clear they want fans to help them make meaningful changes. So if you have an Xbox One and a copy of Halo: The Master Chief Collection (which you should because that game is amazing), participate, be vocal, and keep your fingers crossed for the next year. I know that's what I'll be doing
Halo 5: Guardians photo
Not my granpappy's Halo
I am not opposed to change. While certain circles of Halo fans find it popular to hate Halo 4, I've always appreciated what 343 Industries did with that game. Sprint was a logical next step to character movement, while loadou...

Here's how Halo: Combat Evolved's PC multiplayer looks on Xbox One

Nov 08 // Bill Zoeker
As a little bonus, here's a dumb joke video I made with some of the other footage I captured. [embed]283620:56263:0[/embed]  
 photo
I swear to God, if anyone is confused by that headline...
At a recent Xbox event, I got to play a bunch of multiplayer stuff in Halo: The Master Chief Collection. I was caught off guard when we were suddenly dropped into the online multiplayer for Halo: Combat Evolved's PC version,...


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