Untitled Goose Game Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 09/20/2019 - 17:00

Untitled Goose Game--a game in which you play as a jerk goose who waddles through a small English town ruining everyone's day-- feels like a miniature version of Hitman, but with mischief instead of murder. Like those games, it's all about learning an environment inside-out and figuring out how to play various people and systems against each other to achieve your goals. You wander between four small, quaint locations and tick off objectives from your list by wreaking havoc on the people you encounter and generally being a nuisance. At first, you're annoying a man as he tends to his garden, turning on his sprinklers as he stands over them, stealing the keys to his gate, nicking his produce, and generally getting in his way. The game continues like this, as the goose's to-do list demands that it causes upset to most of the people it encounters. Working through the game means figuring out how each element interacts with everything else and how to corralling various people, who all react to the goose differently.

It's a comedy first and foremost. Figuring out how to complete each objective might be essential to your progress, but the real fun is in seeing how harried you can make everyone. When you need to make a man spit out his tea, steal his shoes, and ruin his garden, you might start to feel sorry for him, but you also won't want to stop terrorizing him. The goose can only run, grab onto things, honk, and flap its wings, but through some combination of these actions you can manipulate the folks you encounter and cause chaos. One character might run in fear if you honk at them; another might bend over if you drop something for them, giving you a chance to steal their hat; another might leave their post if you steal something of theirs and drop it far away, giving you the chance to go back while they're distracted and steal the object you were really after all along.

The humor of Untitled Goose Game is built into the mechanics and animations; seeing the goose waddle along, honking and flapping its wings, is inherently amusing and satisfying even before you start causing mischief because of how perfectly evocative it is of a real bird. The clean, colorful visual style is also a treat. But the reactive soundtrack is what really sells the goose's charms. The music, based on Claude Debussy's Préludes, springs into action dynamically based on the goose's actions, punctuating moments when it shocks someone and adding a buoyancy to any scene involving a chase. It gives the game a feeling of farce; at its best, it's reminiscent of a Buster Keaton film, especially since there's no dialogue.

The objectives you're asked to complete often require some lateral thinking. Getting into the headspace of the goose and figuring out how a few actions can spiral into something that's going to annoy one of your targets is very entertaining. Sometimes it's immediately clear what you need to do, and sometimes the solution is more abstract, but most objectives will name an object that you can find within the environment. In the second location, for instance, you're told to "get on TV"--the solution isn't immediately obvious, but finding the TV you need to interact with is not difficult. Untitled Goose Game lightly leads you towards its puzzle solutions without explicitly holding your hand through them, so figuring out a clever solution is rewarding.

You need to complete all but one objective in each location to advance, which is a nice concession, as it means you can progress to the next area even if one of the puzzles just isn't clicking for you. Sometimes it's just a matter of figuring out what needs to be done and then doing it, but you also need to practice some level of finesse: The goose can't get too close to anyone who's going to try to shoo it away, and you'll often need to be stealthy, sneaking under tables, causing distractions, and hiding behind bushes and in boxes like a long-necked, web-toed Solid Snake.

Each area also features a fetch quest objective, for which you need to gather several items and put them in one place while making sure that you're not caught. These objectives are the least fun, generally, because too much is left to the imagination; the first one asks you to "have a picnic" by dragging a variety of particular items to a picnic blanket, but once you've done so the objective is immediately complete, with no additional vignettes or animations to reward all that effort. Untitled Goose Game's best objectives reward you not only with a feeling of satisfaction, but with a fun, charming bit of interaction between the goose and the people it encounters, whether that means watching a man stumble around with a bucket on his head or watching someone else wearily resign themselves to their favorite hat being gone.

Untitled Goose Game is also extremely short. When I reached the end, I was surprised at how little time it had taken--I had only been playing for about two hours. Thankfully, after the credits roll you unlock a new list of objectives across the now fully unlocked map, but there isn't the same incentive to complete them when you know that you won't be rewarded with a new location to explore, or even, necessarily, new interactions. Most of them are twists on previous objectives or more complicated versions of things you've already done, often involving moving items between different locations.

I'm glad that those extra objectives are there, though, and I had a good time working through them. It's just a shame that there isn't a bit more, because Untitled Goose Game ends far before I felt like I'd had my fill or seen everything the game was going to throw at me. Being short isn't inherently bad, but Untitled Goose Game's playground could stand to be bigger. I wished that I could keep riding the high of unlocking new areas and messing with new people, and it still felt like there was plenty of room to escalate things.

For all the jerkiness I performed, my favorite moment in Untitled Goose Game was the one scene where the game leaned into the goose's charms. I wandered up behind two people having a chat at the pub and hit the button dedicated to honking. The two women turned to look at me, startled, but far less hostile than most of the characters I'd encountered. When I stood in a specific spot they mimed commands for me to perform, fulfilling one of my objectives while absolutely delighting the two women. Untitled Goose Game is a hilariously antagonistic experience most of the time, but I identified strongly with these characters and how lovable they found this horrible goose.

The important thing is that Untitled Goose Game is a hoot. It's a comedy game that focuses on making the act of playing it funny, rather than simply being a game that features jokes. Wishing that it was longer speaks to how much fun I had with it. There's nothing else quite like Untitled Goose Game; it's charming and cute despite being mean, and both very silly and very clever. It's also probably the best non-racing game ever to feature a dedicated "honk" button.

Categories: Games

FIFA 20 Review In Progress - Forza FIFA

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 09/20/2019 - 11:44

Ahhh, FIFA. Like the setting of the sun, the drawing in of the nights, the putting on of an old winter coat, there's both an inevitability and a level of comfort that comes with the release of a new FIFA game. The football season is properly back. The squads are correct again. A couple of new features to keep us occupied through the long, dark nights. All is right with the world.

FIFA 20 might not be the series at absolute peak form--so far, Volta doesn't seem like the revolution it perhaps could have been and Career Mode still feels underdeveloped--but modern FIFA is such a broad, deep, and complete offering that it remains a must-buy for football fans.

On the pitch, FIFA 20 is remarkably similar to last year. Sports games do change year-on-year--I just feel that rate of change is slowing as we reach the end of this console generation. So while there are some welcome improvements--more natural first touches and more satisfying ball physics--things feel very similar to FIFA 19 once you walk out of the tunnel.

Set pieces, have, however, received a bit of a makeover--specifically direct free kicks and penalties. In a throwback to the halcyon days of FIFA 2003, both now have you aim a reticle at the precise location you want to place the ball. Then, incorporating last year's genius timed finishing mechanic, you'll need to press shoot again at the right time, while also adding curve in the case of free kicks. Both take a little time to get used to, but they offer greater depth and satisfaction when you smack one into the top corner.

In another nostalgic move--and in an attempt to offer greater improvements off the pitch--FIFA 20 introduces a new mode, the FIFA Street-like Volta Football, bringing street soccer to the main series for the first time. You control a squad of street superstars aiming to become the world's best in a journey that takes you across various unique, exotic locales. These three-, four-, or five-a-side matches are shorter and more chaotic than a standard 11-a-side game, and they feel sufficiently different and entertaining to become a worthwhile staple in FIFA's roster of modes. Fancier tricks and flicks and simplified tactics make it a mode that feels a little more focused on, well, fun, than the more traditional game types--but don't expect the depth FIFA Street gave us all those years ago. There are no Gamebreaker shots here, and it's not as easy to utterly humiliate your opponent with outrageous nutmegs and rainbow flicks. Volta League, the mode's online portion, hasn't been populated enough to find a match so far, so we'll bring you more on that in the days ahead--but the ability to play against human opponents, recruit opposition players, and kit your created character out in new gear means this will almost certainly present more longevity than the mode it replaces, The Journey.

Volta's campaign mode, meanwhile, is a single-player, uh, journey in which you'll face off against AI teams. The world tour structure is compelling and those locations are well-realized, with unique personalities and play styles of their own. However the characters you share your travels with are so irritating, and the writing so aggressively How Do You Do, Fellow Kids, that it becomes a bit of a chore to play. Hopefully, more time with the mode will lead to these characters endearing themselves a little more. In a final, strange note, Volta requires an internet connection, even when playing the single-player mode, for reasons that remain unclear.

Career Mode is FIFA's other main single-player offering, and it comes with a raft of new features. Proper conversations between manager and players are finally possible, for example; players will come to you to complain to or thank you about their game-time, as they have for many years, but you now have the opportunity to reply, with the aim to keep their morale--and hence performance levels--high. The system is shallow, with the morale bar seemingly the only variable you can affect, and messages still repeat far too often, but it at least feels a little more interactive than the stagnant old email system.

Similarly, pre- and post-match press conferences have been overhauled, and they now appear more like those seen in The Journey in previous seasons. Again, the objective here is to maintain your team's morale, and again there isn't much more to it, but it is more visually and intellectually stimulating than a simple menu screen, as it was before. The final big new feature is dynamic player potential, which I haven’t gotten deep enough into a save to test just yet, but I’ll report back on its effects soon.

Disappointingly, despite all the changes, Career Mode still feels a little barebones so far, and it still contains a number of inaccuracies. The transfer window ends erroneously late for English clubs, for instance, while VAR and short goal kicks are yet to be introduced into FIFA at all. Transfer negotiations are unchanged, save for two new background locations in which to hammer out a deal, and scouting and youth teams are the same for yet another year in a row. Career Mode has taken some steps forward this year, but a revolution is needed.

Ultimate Team, meanwhile, continues its expansion and is now bigger and better than ever. The adoption of a Fortnite-esque battle pass model in FUT Seasons--not to be confused with FUT Seasons, the sub-mode--is somewhat confusing, but a masterstroke. It essentially manifests itself as an expansion of the existing daily and weekly challenges, with new tasks you can work towards over multiple weeks. Rewards include packs, players, new cosmetic options including tifos and balls, and more. It all adds another way to be rewarded and another objective to work toward--especially useful for those who struggle to compete in the weekend league (which, by the way, is unchanged and hence remains as moreish, and as grindy, as ever).

FUT's other new addition is Friendlies, which are a new way of playing casually within Ultimate Team. There are no great rewards for playing FUT Friendlies, but you do still earn coins, and, crucially, player injuries, contracts, fitness, and your playing record remain unaffected. The community has been crying out for a place to go when they can't face the pressure of Rivals or Squad Battles, and finally they have it. It also contains the same in-depth stat tracking and bizarre mode variants as was introduced in FIFA 19's Kick Off mode, along with new House Rules options. They're a weird, entertaining place to go to have fun with friends and they mean that, if it wasn't already, Ultimate Team really feels like its own game now. You might understandably disagree with its pay-to-win tendencies--yes, spending more money on packs means you're still more likely to get Lionel Messi than someone simply grinding for in-game currency--but FUT is as compelling and complete as game modes come, and I am horribly obsessed once again.

Completeness appears to be the ethos FIFA lives by, and despite the omission of Juventus (forza Piemonte Calcio), this year's game feels more complete than ever. The same goes for its aesthetics and licensing, which continue to offer the closest virtual approximation of real-world football--or, more accurately, Sky Sports' version of football--available.

Flawed and iterative, but comforting, complete, and compelling, FIFA 20 is as frustrating and as essential as ever. The Journey and FIFA Street will continue to be missed, but Volta offers a genuinely different option for those who want to dip in and out across FIFA's smorgasboard of game types, while Ultimate Team continues its route to world domination. It's just a shame Career Mode continues to stagnate--even if EA has finally remembered it exists.

Editor's note: With servers online but currently unpopulated before release, we'll bring our final verdict on FIFA 20 soon, once we've had more chance to test out Pro Clubs, Volta League, and Ultimate Team.

Categories: Games

Overland Review - Riding In Cars With Dogs

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 09/20/2019 - 01:00

Every victory in Overland, no matter how small, is won by the skin of your teeth. That's a feeling any good turn-based tactical strategy game gives you, of course. But Overland's pared-down options, compact maps, and fast-rising stakes mean that nearly every decision--the car you drive, the company you keep, where you move, what you carry--feels vital and could potentially have major ramifications. A mysterious and omnipresent race of creatures (I think) has ravaged the USA, and for the characters under your care, road-tripping from the East Coast to the West Coast seems to be the best course of action. The journey across Middle America is a beautiful but difficult one, filled with life-or-death obstacles right from the get-go, and Overland's roguelike structure means you will see dozens, if not hundreds, of ordinary people (and dogs, all of them good) perish in fraught situations. But the high risk makes its small victories, like finding a cool item or escaping an area unharmed, feel all the more rewarding, more motivating. Overland is filled with bite-sized doses of relief that feed you with the encouragement you need to continue helping these poor folk on the off chance that maybe this time, you might make it all the way.

The post-apocalyptic survivors of Overland don't possess the combat expertise of XCOM or Fire Emblem soldiers. The randomly-generated personality traits for characters are simple in nature, but make them feel more grounded and sympathetic than your typical strategy soldier, perhaps emboldening them as a good yeller, or informing you that someone “really misses their family.” Attacking and killing the unnerving and aggressive rock-like creatures that stalk you in each area you traverse is an option (if you happen to be carrying a makeshift weapon, at least), but clearing the playfield of hostiles isn't really the objective here. In fact, the noise that you make in attacking the creatures only attracts more, and in the game's densely packed maps, consisting of a 9x9 grid filled with buildings and solid obstacles, it will quickly create a scenario that is impossible to escape.

Overland is instead a game that centers around your roadtrip vehicle. The vehicle you drive is your lifeline, and as you move from area to area on your trip west, your main priority is to keep that four-wheeled machine fueled and in good shape. You start with a simple hatchback but will eventually stumble across different models, and your type of vehicle will inform your strategy--vans let you transport more survivors than your standard car should you encounter them and pickup trucks provide plenty of storage for items but sacrifice seating. SUVs are a late-game godsend that marry the best of both worlds. Escaping an area on foot is possible, but as you'd expect, it's impossible to make any cross-country progress--your characters will be funneled into an area with a beat-up car to try and salvage in order to move forward.

Keeping your engine running is the game's central challenge, and it's a demanding one. You need to scavenge new areas for fuel canisters, perhaps finding them in dumpsters or slowly siphoning gas from abandoned cars, and you might find some useful tools and items to assist you along the way. But where Overland creates its challenge, and in turn, its compelling high-risk decision making, is in the strict limitations it puts on what you're actually able to achieve. Restrictions characterise every aspect of the game: Your characters can only take two actions per turn and two hits before dying, and getting injured reduces your actions per turn to one; your vehicle can only take two hits before exploding, and its movement is limited to the two-lane road down the middle of the map, which will often be littered with junk; each character can only hold one item, meaning scavenging is an onerous task that potentially means giving up the ability for a character to defend themselves, and the compact maps mean you're always one square away from either narrowly slipping by or getting skewered by a creature. The lack of choice and options available to you in the overall moment-to-moment makes the ones that are there feel intimidatingly important--one misstep can cause serious havoc.

All of these factors help guarantee that every new run of Overland you play will be filled with memorable narratives born out of the natural flow of the game. One time, I was eking through a road blockage by having two characters clear debris as a third slowly snaked the car through a narrow passage, all while dozens of creatures bore down on us. A larger creature shoved debris between the clearing crew and the car, leaving me no choice but to escape on foot and leave the driver behind to a grizzly fate. In another situation, my crew of three stumbled across a brand-new, well-equipped pickup truck. But it could only seat two people, and after some consideration, I purposely drove away with my two favorites, abandoning the weakest member of the group. Later on in the run, that person would come back to try and get revenge. In one of my favorite scenarios, one of my human characters was cornered, unarmed, by a creature while scavenging. In a moment of desperation, I commanded her two other companions, both dogs, to race to the car, grab a wooden pallet from the trunk, and work to pass it to her relay-style so she could block the hit she was about to take. Overland is filled with these kinds of thrilling, dire scenarios where you need to improvise an immediate solution or resolve to just drop everything and get the hell out of there.

There is a caveat to a game with so many difficult decisions, however: The risk of getting yourself stuck in a bad situation with no obvious way out and a feeling of merely perpetuating your eventual demise. You'll likely have many forlorn campaigns in Overland, especially when starting out, where the difficulty and hopelessness can feel overwhelming. Perhaps you're constantly driving on fumes and finding it's too difficult to obtain fuel from any of the areas presented to you, or perhaps your survivors are all injured and movement-restricted, making it feel impossible to achieve anything meaningful. Overland does present you opportunities to crawl back from these hopeless brinks--believe me, it's possible. But it can sometimes feel like the procedurally generated aspects of the game are stacked against you--especially when you have a crew equipped with debuffs like "Bad Driver" and "Clumsy,"’ guzzling up gas at an increased rate and making a racket with every action they take.

But Overland's brutal, minimalist design is tough to stay away from. The bite-sized victories you narrowly eke out with each new area are incredibly moreish, and the game feels very well-suited to portable play on both Nintendo Switch and on iPhone through Apple Arcade. The game's clean, stylish art direction and somber, eerie soundtrack help to build the intriguing sense of mystery, too--whatever is happening in this post-apocalypse is likely much bigger than you or your survivors will ever have the chance to fully understand.

But all that matters is getting your survivors to the West Coast and making it through seven different biomes filled with an increasingly distressing variety of threats and hardships with whatever tools you can scrounge together. Overland perfectly captures a feeling of being helpless, of only just getting by, and of being afraid to venture too far away from your car into the pitch-black dark of night. Every movement you commit, every action you command, and every item or character you sacrifice for another will be an apprehensive decision. But taking each of those tough steps makes you even more grateful to hear the soft chime of your car's open-door alarm when you make it back, and the rev of the motor when you escape down the highway, relieved to leave another pack of abnormal creatures behind.

Categories: Games

John Wick Hex Lands A New Trailer And October 8 Release Date

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 09/19/2019 - 17:36

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Publisher: Lionsgate Developer: Good Shepherd Entertainment, Mike Bithell Games Release: October 8, 2019 Platform: PC, Mac

Bithell Games' John Wick Hex is just weeks away, releasing exclusively on the Epic Games store on October 8 for both PC and Mac. John Wick Hex is described by Bithell Games and Publisher Good Shepherd Entertainment as "fight-choreographed chess brought to life as an action-oriented timeline strategy game." You can get an idea of what that means from a gameplay perspective in the new trailer.

We'll have to wait for release to see how Troy Baker's Keanu Reeves impression is for Hex, but this trailer gives us a bit of story context, and also shows us some of the environment variety, not to mention a lot of action. Ian McShane reprises his role as Winston, as does Lance Reddick as Charon.

Every second counts in John Wick Hex, which tasks players to consume ammo, time reloads, and use every tool in their arsenal to track down Hex, a new foe who is gunning for Wick. For a deeper dive into this fascinating action game, check out Joe Juba's impressions.

Categories: Games

New Teriminator Game Announced, Coming Sooner Than You'd Think

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 09/19/2019 - 16:32

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Terminator characters are making cameo appearances in Gears 5, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, and Mortal Kombat 11, but come December 3, you will see them in their own environment in Terminator: Resistance, a new game developed by Teyon and published by Reef Entertainment. Terminator: Resistance is a single-player shooter set 30 years after Judgment Day. You assume the identity of Resistance Pacific Division recruit private Jacob Rivers, and are tasked to combat Skynet in the streets of Los Angeles.

Rivers can either mow down the robot foes with guns a blaze or use stealth techniques to knock them offline, both in critical path missions and side quests. Depending on how you do, you'll change your the outcome of the world, which is shown through multiple endings.

This isn't Teyon and Reef's first trek through licensed game waters. The studio also put out Rambo: The Video Game, which netted a 4 out of 10 review from Game Informer.

Categories: Games

The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Switch Review - Living The Dream

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 09/19/2019 - 13:00

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a trip back to a simpler time, when handheld game systems had monochromatic screens and two buttons were all you needed to go on a grand adventure. The new Switch remake marks the second revival of the Game Boy classic, and it brings the quirky Koholint Island back to life in style. Without taking any wind out of the original game's sails, the revisions drastically enhance the look and feel of the environments and characters, all the while map layouts and puzzle designs remain incredibly faithful to the source material. Nintendo has implemented a few other new features and some new collectibles that will keep veteran players on the hunt, but the renewed presentation is easily the star of the show.

Having been transformed from little pixelated people to shiny, cartoony toys come to life, everyone in Link's Awakening brings newfound energy. It's equally true for monsters and bad guys as well. Game Boy games have retro appeal, but the remake casts aside ancient aesthetics for something entirely different that works on its own terms. That which existed only in our imagination before comes through in new animations, accompanied with lively sound effects and music that make you feel like a kid again. It's the sort of look that grows even more attractive over time, and you might, like I did, start to imagine what other Nintendo properties would benefit from a similar visual upgrade.

It can, also, be the one thing about the game that irks, as the frame rate takes a noticeable hit when most scenes load into memory. The problem seems to be tied to the game's pronounced depth-of-field effect, which employs an exaggerated blurring effect to enhance the miniature-toy feel of the presentation. Don't get me wrong, this is more of a minor annoyance than anything--which should tell you a lot about the quality of everything else.

Link's Awakening will no doubt feel old-fashioned, which is fair considering the original version is over a quarter century old at this stage. It feels wrong to make any comparisons between it and Breath of the Wild, but in the case that 2017's game of the year was your first foray in Link's boots, kiss the open-ended quests and sprawling Hyrule goodbye. Link's Awakening is a tightly designed adventure on a small but dense map. Eight puzzle-filled dungeons comprise the bulk of your journey, but you're also required to meet and greet the inhabitants of the quirky island. Link washes ashore after a calamitous boating accident to find himself stranded in paradise--or it would be, if not for the Nightmares residing in the aforementioned vaults.

This setup suggests that Koholint is but a trite land compared to the embattled and sacred Kingdom of Hyrule--an inconvenient pitstop for old Link, if you will. Yet, Link's Awakening never feels like it's trying to butt up against the series' more epic entries. It works, instead, as a fanciful side story, and it ultimately stands out for its playful attitude and moments of bittersweet melancholy.

By and large, the flow of the game is managed in a clear fashion. A sage-like owl helps guide Link from one primary task to the next. With each dungeon comes a musical instrument, and with them all, says the wise owl, Link can secure his way off the island. It always appears at just the right time, when one task ends and the other is about to begin, but you're also afforded advice from a shy man named Ulrira. Chat with him at any of the numerous phone-booth trees scattered around the island; just don't bother him in person--he will sheepishly ask that you stick to the phone, anyway. For the remake, you also have the new option of revisiting past conversations via the map menu, and the ability to mark locations on the map using a small selection of different icons.

This may prove useful for several reasons, most notably while you're hunting for collectible items like seashells and pieces of heart. There are more of each in the Switch remake than in the original Game Boy game, and though you may have a clear sense of where some are, many will remain inaccessible until you discover new gear that extends Link's capabilities.

With the Switch's expanded button count, Link's Awakening is a lot easier to play now because you have access to more items at once without jumping in and out of your inventory. In the past, you could only have two items in hand at any given moment. On Switch, Link's sword, shield, dash, and Power Bracelet strength are always ready to use, and two configurable slots for other items let you juggle even more in any given moment. This greatly diminishes the annoyance of constant menu-flipping and can make certain boss encounters feel easier than ever. For players that want a challenge in battle, a Hero mode exists, where enemies don't drop health replenishments and Link takes twice as much damage as usual.

Largely, however, the more manageable enemy encounters aren't to the game's detriment. Link's Awakening is primarily focused on testing you with its circuitous dungeons and an overarching item-trading quest line that requires you to take a closer look at the people who call Koholint home. Their identities and stories aren't all that deep, but your interactions and exchanges help shape the identity of the locale and brighten up your time spent outside of dark and dreary dungeons. Some of the multi-floor dungeons can take the better part of an hour to figure out, with fluctuating obstacles and subtle environmental cues ensuring that the final stages will either test your memory of the original game or your present observation and deduction skills. There are times when you suspect that you've explored every option yet can't find the path forward. As is par for the course, you probably need to take a closer look at your tools and surroundings. Even if it won't test your fighting spirit, Link's Awakening's most challenging puzzles will test your intellect in surprising ways.

Like many of the best Zelda games, Link's Awakening gives you a sense of purpose, motivates you with discovery and growth, and delights you with its charming personality. These qualities, unfortunately, don't carry over to the remake's other big addition: the dungeon maker mode. Here, with the help of the series' favorite gravedigger, Dampe, Link can create virtual dungeons derived from rooms seen throughout his adventure. Amiibo can also factor in, either as portable storage for sharing your dungeons with other players--no, you can't upload them online--or as a means of unlocking special additions for your custom dungeons. The Link's Awakening Amiibo, for example, will introduce Shadow Link as a mini boss. Defeating him, or simply playing dungeons, will net you extra consumables, like bombs and arrows, and a bounty of rupees. These are good options to have, and there's some delight that comes with laying out your own dungeon, but because you are limited to premade room tiles and disposable rewards, the dungeon maker mode is easy to dismiss. It's a curiosity at best, and definitely not the Zelda Maker you might be waiting for.

Though the remake has a couple of blemishes, it's still an easy game to recommend. People speak of Link's Awakening as the secret best Zelda game. That's a tough call to make, but it's definitely one of the best. If you haven't touched a classic Zelda game in a while, Link's Awakening will almost instantly transport you back to the '90s. It's simple, in many ways, but the orchestrated journey still conveys a sense of adventure, and this new version is without question the best way to experience it. And more than anything else, it will put a smile on your face. Remakes are a dime a dozen nowadays and often easy to overlook. Don't make that mistake with Link's Awakening.

Categories: Games

Blasphemous Review - Punished Souls

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 23:31

The gruesome opening of Blasphemous bluntly sets the stage for the type of game you're in for. After awakening amongst a sea of deceased worshipers, the silent protagonist, known only as The Penitent One, slowly makes his way through a long-abandoned citadel. Blocking his exit, however, is a so-called warden who wields a golden chandelier as a club. After dodging its attacks and striking when its most vulnerable, The Penitent One removes his helmet near the slain beast, fills it with the blood of the defeated foe, and immediately pours it over his head.

It's undoubtedly an over-the-top intro, yet its feats pale in comparison to the other horrors that await. Blasphemous is an exceedingly bleak adventure with strong religious undertones throughout. What's driving you as The Penitent One is your goal to find the source of the mysterious Miracle, a supernatural force that has created tangible manifestations of people's guilt throughout the land. The structure for Blasphemous' peculiar narrative and hack-and-slash gameplay pays hearty tribute to the Souls series and metroidvania subgenre. Though this reverence for established formulas can come off as derivative, the concepts are suited perfectly to the macabre atmosphere.

Despite its grim nature, however, there is an alluring quality to the dark setting. It can often be oppressive with how unrelenting it all is, yet I still felt intrigued by it all. Some of the most fascinating and exciting moments come from unraveling more locations and minor storylines that fold back onto themselves, reconnecting forgotten areas and characters in unexpected ways. Blasphemous has an array of stoic NPCs with unique motivations and stakes--whether you're trying to ease the suffering of afflicted peasants or assisting a pilgrim struggling to complete his ill-fated pilgrimage, there's an emotional investment in figuring out how this nightmarish reality came to be. This investment is bolstered by the game's stunning visuals, which convey a sense of dread that feels increasingly palpable as new areas are introduced.

Blasphemous' impeccably detailed sprite artwork gives a greater presence to the grotesque monsters and locales that you'll come to know well throughout the journey. Nearly every area of the game features a climactic battle, which has you face off against some lavishly designed boss that offers a fun and challenging change of pace from the long hallways filled with monsters and spike-filled pitfalls. Most of these boss battles are a real standout in Blasphemous, which pit you against extravagant and grotesque monsters--like the giant baby who will rip The Penitent One limb from limb if you get too close to it. Many of these clashes are where the heavy religious imagery reaches its peak, making for some particularly gruesome fights that pull upon larger themes of repentance and sacrifice.

There's an impressive level of world-building in the game, and several essential items and artifacts throughout also feature unique bits of lore that flesh out the land's history. A few of the characters also have minor quests that can span an entire playthrough, some of which are entirely missable given how loose the game's sense of direction is. From the opening, and all the way to the climax, Blasphemous leans heavily on that familiar loop of exploration, discovery, and the ensuing trials by traversal and combat.

It's simple enough to get into the rhythm of trading steel with foes and leaping across perilous jumps, though you'll most certainly suffer from an inevitable death at some point--often in gruesome fashion. There are a generous amount of spawn points, and without the loss of currency upon death, death isn't as taxing as it seems. However, repeated deaths will accrue guilt, weakening your mana bar and currency gain. If you don't shake off the guilt by returning to your death-point or spending the funds to purge at guilt statues, your character will become significantly disadvantaged. This system is lenient enough that you don't feel too discouraged about death, yet it still inspires anxiety in life or death situations, such as a leap of faith across a bottomless pit.

Blasphemous' impeccably detailed sprite artwork gives a greater presence to the grotesque monsters and locales that you'll come to know well throughout the journey.

While these mechanics surrounding death are undeniably influenced by From Software's Souls games, Blasphemous isn't just a 2D Dark Souls experience. It shares more blood with classic action games like Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden, putting less of a focus on RPG mechanics and more on the in-the-moment action and platforming. The core combat and traversal systems are lean and very reflex-driven, and you'll spend most of your time honing your limited, yet still refined skills. One of the more satisfying moments can come from successfully parrying strikes with your sword, opening up a gory execution attack on your opponent. To give you more of an edge, you can boost your attributes with collectible relics and other upgrades, allowing you to stand against the tougher challenges with greater ease.

As you rack up new abilities, access to new areas opens up, revealing pathways from previous locations that can give you a renewed sense of appreciation for the world itself. However, while these new skills and tools present some change, the core gameplay of running, jumping, and slashing from the opening hour to the closing act remains mostly the same. Without any significant advancements to your skillset, later sections of the game come across as incredibly repetitive and, at worst, dull.

This feeling is magnified by how tedious exploration can be after getting settled with the lay of the land. While fast-travel points are present, they're few and far between, meaning you have to hoof it through long stretches of treacherous dungeons you've come to know inside and out. During these backtracking sessions, you continue to fight the same enemies with the same abilities. Moreover, you can easily fall prey to a stray projectile from an out-of-sight enemy, sending you careening down onto spike traps. This can be especially frustrating when handling particular tasks that require you to avoid death in order to complete them.

The lack of change in the overall flow is noticeable, especially when approaching the mid-to-late portion of the game. As the plot escalates, showing off increasingly spellbinding visuals, your tactics and the general flow see little change. This is disappointing for a game that prides itself on a core loop that's about revealing hidden details around you and overcoming more challenging foes. Still, I can't deny that Blasphemous presents an evocative setting that becomes far grimmer as it progresses.

Though it can be frustrating that its core gameplay never evolves past the often one-note rhythm of hacking and jumping across different levels, keeping it from reaching greater heights, I still came away impressed with how much Blasphemous stuck close to its haunting, dark storyline. To that end, playing through this send-up to metroidvania games was a satisfying trial to overcome in its own right.

Categories: Games

How Crossplay Works

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 09/17/2019 - 17:30

Publisher: Activision Developer: Infinity Ward Release: October 25, 2019 Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

A hot topic in the conversation surrounding Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to this point has been how Infinity Ward will handle crossplay. The team has said the highly anticipated shooter will feature full crossplay between platforms, but further details have been scarce. Today, we learned a lot more about how the feature works.

First and foremost, anybody playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare needs to have a Call of Duty account. You can go here to create one using your PSN, Xbox Live, Steam, Activision, or account. Once you get you get your hands on the game, you choose to opt in or opt out of crossplay. Choosing to enable crossplay means players can play with others on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Once you have your Call of Duty account and you enable crossplay, you can create cross-platform friends lists and parties comprised of players from PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

One of the largest questions fans have had about this feature is how Infinity Ward will balance keyboard-and-mouse players with controller players. PlayStation 4 players can decide to use a keyboard and mouse. PS4, Xbox One, and PC players can all play with each other as long as they all use controllers, or all use keyboard and mouse. However, you can also join lobbies where there are no control-scheme filters, meaning you can play with players across all platforms with controllers and keyboard and mouse.

Infinity Ward has also announced that it intends to demonstrate its commitment to this crossplay initiative by delivering most post-launch content (maps, modes, Spec Ops missions, etc.) simultaneously across all three platforms. Despite this, the franchise maintains its partnership with PlayStation, with the studio stating that PS4 players will have "an exciting Day 1 advantage." The team did not provide details about what that means, but says information will arrive soon.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare launches on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 25. For more on the upcoming shooter, check out our coverage hub by clicking the banner below.

Categories: Games

Children of Morta Review

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 09/17/2019 - 03:43

Children of Morta is a game about family. Mechanically, it's a satisfying dungeon crawler where you grind through bad guys, level up your characters, and unlock better abilities so that you can face off against a series of increasingly difficult bosses. But really, at its heart, it's a compelling game about what it means to be a part of a family, and how being surrounded by loved ones can make you a better, stronger person.

The Bergson family, six of whom you're able to play as, is made up of warriors, mages, and inventors all tasked with holding back the Corruption--which has, at the game's opening, started to spread across their homeland. Their house sits atop a shrine, and to battle against the evil forces of the demonic Ou they need to travel through portals and conquer dungeons, in order to awaken three spirits that can guard against the Corruption.

It's a cliched fantasy setup, but Children of Morta makes the most of its tropes by making sure that you're invested in the Bergsons and their plight. Between runs of the dungeons, you're treated to cutscenes and vignettes of the family interacting with one another, and you get to know the beats of their lives and what they get up to when they're not enduring dungeons. You start with two playable characters, family patriarch John and his eldest daughter Linda, but the other four are introduced within the game's opening half. Seeing them train and grow in cutscenes, and getting a sense of their place within the family, means that you're already attached to the characters before you get your hands on them.

Gameplay in Children of Morta involves battling your way through hordes of enemies to reach each dungeon's boss, exploring thoroughly and nabbing as many temporary boosts as you can along the way. Each character has three main abilities they'll unlock as they level up: a standard attack that can be used continuously, a special attack with a cooldown, and a more defensive ability (although some of these can still do damage). The combat isn’t necessarily super deep, but it’s a lot of fun thanks to some extremely satisfying animation and the strategic possibilities that become available as you level up. Dungeons consist of multiple levels and are generated anew each time you enter, so finding the entrance to the next level will always require some exploration. Occasionally I’d find myself frustrated when the path to the exit ended up being very elaborate, but this also kept the game feeling fresh when some dungeons took a long time to clear.

There's an imbalance between the number of melee and ranged characters--four melee to two ranged--which is a shame, because playing the ranged characters changes the rhythm of the game significantly by encouraging a slower, more thoughtful playstyle, and only having two of them feels like a missed opportunity. I found that Linda (who uses a bow and arrow) was the character I most often managed to beat bosses with, since so many bosses are primed to punish you for getting too close, and I would have loved to have another option beyond her and Lucy, the family’s youngest daughter.

Each character plays differently, and you'll no doubt have your favorites. Lucy can shoot a continuous wave of fireballs while standing still, and can be upgraded to withstand three hits without damage; Kevin, the youngest son, can dramatically increase his speed and strength by building up "rage" with continuous knife attacks, but he needs to get very up-close to do so before using his power of invisibility to get out of danger. Some characters are less interesting; for the life of me I can't figure out how to make Joey, who swings a huge hammer, effective. But it's still fun trying out a character you haven't played for a few runs and getting into the groove with each of their distinct rhythms.

You need to switch characters regularly, too, as any member of the family who is used too many times in a row begins to suffer from corruption fatigue, which lowers their overall health until they're given time to recover. Each member of the family can also unlock new abilities that benefit every other family member as they level up (like higher rates of critical attack or even assists in certain situations), and later abilities in their skill trees can be very useful--I initially dismissed John for being too slow but found his shield and wide swing arc extremely useful later in the game, and was ultimately glad that the game encouraged me to use every character and discover their strengths (in five cases out of six, at least).

The plot's focus on the family, paired with the tremendous art and beautiful animation, makes it easy to love the Bergsons. Lucy is so full of energy that she'll jump in the middle of her run animation (which doesn't interrupt your pathfinding at all but adds personality to her sprite), while eldest son Mark's Naruto-style run is a perfect complement to his martial arts fighting style. Charming touches like this are everywhere, and they give the characters more personality. You feel those unique traits come through in combat, too; there are few things more satisfying than seeing Kevin shimmer with rage and rip through a huge mob of enemies.

And as with any family gathering, Children of Morta will encourage and then test your patience. It's a grind-heavy game; it was very rare for me to beat a dungeon on my first shot, as most required that I level up and learn the boss' attack patterns, which requires storming through the dungeon to get to them a few times. You can get away with running right past most enemy mobs, but to stand a chance against the boss at the end, you want to be armed with powerful buffs, and growing stronger requires farming experience and gold to unlock new abilities and improve your stats.

However, it takes a long time for the grind to start wearing you down. The combat is meaty and intense, and the allure of growing stronger is so compelling that dealing with huge crowds and collecting all the gold they spill can hold your attention for hours. There's a sharp increase in difficulty right at the end, but I could always identify what had gone right--which fights I'd avoided, which charms I'd made use of, how I'd thought about my character's relative strengths and weaknesses to the boss--and adjust my strategies accordingly to continue to do well. The grind helped make me a better player, instead of simply acting as a level gate.

There are special buffs that are only active for that session, and you have a much better chance of beating the boss if you go in after thoroughly exploring the dungeon and powering up. There are many different kinds of buff you can unlock, some temporary, some permanent; I found that I did far better against bosses when I went in with a lot of them active. You can find the various items and objects that make you more powerful throughout each dungeon, or buy them from shopkeepers that pop up, and I found myself getting excited whenever I found a good combination. Going up against a boss that has beaten you several times, now armed with a combination that you think will give you an advantage, is a great feeling.

Your dungeon runs are also broken up by numerous subquests that can appear throughout each dungeon, which expand on the game's lore, introduce new NPCs, and result in significant upgrades or rewards. A few even have major narrative impact--there are a series of quests early on that end with the Bergsons adopting and raising an adorable puppy, for instance. But if one dungeon is really giving you grief, eventually it can feel like the game's ready for you to move on before you're ready yourself--you'll stop getting cutscenes and character vignettes after missions, and you'll find that you've run out of subquests to complete. But then, the feeling of eventually taking down a boss that was troubling you is extremely satisfying, especially knowing that you're going to get more lovely character moments as you try to beat the next one.

You also have the option of playing the whole game in co-op, and the game balance differs depending on whether you're alone or not. However, I found myself preferring to stick to solo play--it's annoying for a friend to talk over cutscenes and the difficulty scaling makes co-op more complicated.

Children of Morta's fantastic art style and enjoyable storytelling take what would have been an otherwise fun roguelike dungeon-crawler and elevate it a great deal. Taking down enemies and eventually triumphing over bosses is enjoyable, but what kept bringing me back was the connection I felt to the Bergsons, and my sincere desire to help them push back against the Corruption. After all, it's a lot easier dealing with dungeons full of monsters when you have a family to come home to.

Categories: Games

The Surge 2 As Seen Through A Violent Music Video

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:17

Click here to watch embedded media

Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Developer: Deck 13 Release: September 24, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Developer Deck 13 Interactive promises plenty of violence and a brutal challenge in The Surge 2, which launches on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC next Tuesday (September 24). You've seen plenty of Surge 2 videos that show heads flying, and you'll see that aspect of the game again in this short video, but this time it's a little different.

The violence is set to a cover of the song 'The End of the World,' which was originally penned by Skeeter Davis in 1963. The cover is done by Sharon Van Etten in what Deck 13 is calling the "Symphony of Violence" trailer.

Categories: Games

Hideo Kojima Answers Our Questions About Death Stranding

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:00

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Developer: Kojima Productions Release: November 8, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4

The last week has been a busy one for Hideo Kojima. Even with Death Stranding in the final stretch approaching release, the legendary creator took the stage at Tokyo Game Show for two separate live presentations showing off his unique and difficult-to-explain project. While we learned a lot from watching those demonstrations, they also raised many questions about how Death Stranding works and what it tries to convey. What is the goal behind the asynchronous multiplayer? What do "likes" do? How has the game changed since its inception? To get the answers to these questions and more, we visited the Kojima Productions studio in Tokyo for an interview with Hideo Kojima himself. 

Of all the new features that you revealed at the first TGS live show, what was the one you were most excited to finally talk about?

Playing the game is a lonely feeling, because you play alone usually, even though you’re online. A lot of people play on the couch, and perhaps they feel like, “Oh, I’m lonely, and I’m maybe strange, playing all alone.” And you’re doing it over and over. You’re traveling with BB, and maybe you feel lonely. Norman [Reedus] actually got this point as well – you’re struggling all alone. But at a certain point, you realize, “There is someone really similar to me who felt this loneliness,” because you see it when you’re indirectly connecting. Like in a movie theater – there are maybe 200 or 300 people watching a movie together.

But today’s games, you’re playing by yourself in your room alone usually. Then suddenly, you open to a world like “Oh, I’m not the only one.” And I’m really happy a lot of people understood that, and I think that was the most successful part. Of course, you can’t see other people’s faces, but you can see the tracks and traces, so you can feel or think about the other people.

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And players get some additional feedback from “likes” they receive. But what can they actually do with those likes?

I had a big argument with the staff, actually. In a game, you get more money, or you get more fame, or you get more kudos, right? That’s what game systems now days are about – you want something in return if you do something. At the beginning, the Asian staff said, “Hey, Hideo, no one will ever understand this. Maybe the Japanese might.” I said, “That’s why I want people to do it in the game.” So all these staff members said to me, “We have to give them kudos or points or whatever,” but that would be like a normal game – any other game. So I said, “Giving ‘likes’ is giving unconditional love.”

But, of course you can see how many likes you get, so that’s maybe a little reward. If you just use [something another player placed], one like will be sent automatically. But also you can send more, like a tip. I don’t want to say I’m brilliant for thinking of this idea, because it’s really a mix of the Japanese way; we don’t have tips, but you know you get really good service in Japan. Whereas in America, there’s a tip system where waiters try their best because they want to be tipped. So it’s a cross lateral in the game.

What I really wanted to do – I didn’t want to give “thumbs down.” I didn’t want to give any negative in this game; it was a positive intent where I started this idea. In current SMS and internet, there’s likes and thumbs down. To me, [thumbs down] is like the stick – it’s an attack. But that’s why it’s a positive intent in the game; if [your objects] have few likes, they might disappear, and the ones with lots of thumbs up will remain, but it isn’t negative.

So the idea isn’t to give players an incentive to “like,” so much as unite everyone to make the world of Death Stranding as supportive as it can be?

Yes, because the world setting is the dark and lowest world you can think of. Your solitude, you’re alone – the storyline itself is a worst-case scenario. So why don’t I put in a system where it’s really more positive than negative?

We’ve seen many cryptic trailers for Death Stranding over the years. In the final game, where does it fall on the spectrum between ambiguous storytelling – something like Twin Peaks­ – and more straightforward delivery?

I haven’t lied at all – I just create the story as-is. In the trailers, maybe I just put out the scenes in between. But if you play from the start to the end, you will understand because it’s all connected. All the side plots are kind of recovered, all the small stories and things like that. But I am a great fan of David Lynch as well, so, yeah.

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Sam has a lot to manage – his health, his equipment, etc. A lot of people turn to games to escape these kinds of responsibilities. How do you approach taking mundane maintenance tasks and putting them into a game so they don’t feel like work?

Previously, in design, you had to create the rule because you couldn’t do the realism, right? In our everyday lives, there are so many mechanisms we have to work through, as you say, and we have to take the balance of what we do, how we maintain ourselves, and how we live. So I wanted to free the game design concept that we had to live by because we didn’t have the technology to do so in the past. We always created a rule, like the life bar is like this, and one hit takes away this much health. I wanted to add the real essence in Death Stranding.

For instance, in any game, you could carry as many items as you want – even in Metal Gear, it was unlimited. Of course, you can’t do it in real life, right? You have to select one bottle when you climb a mountain. That’s why I put it in; a lot of games have aborted that kind of rule. This time, if you’re in the river, you can drift away – and that’s in real life as well. So that’s the gimmick and mechanism I kind of recreated, where other games – and even my games before – had to deform in a way.

But the other thing about it is that you can go anywhere in the world. It’s open-world. In the past, even if games are “open-world,” there are limitations where you can’t go further. Like, they created valleys where you can’t go. But in this game, you can go anywhere. You set routes, and you want to know what goes on beyond. In this game, I think you will not understand if I just say this, but once you start playing the game, just walking in that world is really fun. What I realized is, when I monitor playtests – even the staff's – they don’t get it at first. But when they really start playing, just walking is really fun in the space.

And now everyone will say, “Oh, it’s a walking simulator!” 

It’s the same as when I first brought out a stealth game. If 100 people play it and 100 people say it’s fun, it means the genre or the game already exists. But this is a new genre – same as stealth the first time, there will be people who don’t get it. It will take time for the real evaluations to come in.

Let’s say a player has finished the game and is watching the end credits. In your best-case scenario, what do you want the player to be thinking about at that point?

Well, I should really not say and leave it to the users. But the theme of the game is connection; you will understand the meaning of it. Like in dramas, or games, or online – everything comes together, and you see the end credits. But I just want people to finish the game.

Not a good example, but if you climb Mt. Fuji to see the rising of the sun – in Japan a lot of people do that – it’s really tough to climb to the top. On the way, some people might abort. But once you’re on the top, and you can see the mountain, people just cry. Same with our game; people who don’t make it to the end won’t be really moved. Of course, I left that up to the players.

Click here to watch embedded media

How does the concept of the chiral network differ from our modern-day communication?

It’s a “letter theory.” It wasn’t real-time before, in the past. For instance, a husband writes a letter from the battlefield a long time ago: “I don’t know when I’m going to die.” And he sends it, and it takes a couple months before it arrives, and the wife receives it and reads it. There’s a time when she thinks, “He might be dead.” The wife has to imagine what he was thinking at the time he was writing – and this was the communication then. Right now, it’s more real-time.

This is about caring for people. It’s not direct; I wanted to do that with the internet we have today. If someone puts a cup there in Death Stranding, you might think to yourself, “Did that person deliberately put it there? Did he just have to throw away the load? But you think about it. It’s like the letter theory. In this direct communication era, I wanted to create an indirect communication using the technology of today so you feel for others more. Like you used to, back then – the 20th Century, 19th Century style – when people had to think about others in communication. But nowadays people forget about it because we’re so direct. I can Face Time you any time. So, right now, if I see your cup, I can phone you and say, ‘Hey, what’s this cup for?” But in Death Stranding, you can’t. You have to think about it.

Now, when you place a cup after that experience, you have to think about, “What would people think if I put it here?” So I believe that this way, people’s feeling towards each other will deepen in Death Stranding because of how it’s connected.

And within the context of the world, when you go to a prepper, for example, and plug them into the chiral network, are you just plugging them in to a better internet connection?

There’s actually three steps to that chiral network. For Bridges’ sake, you’re connecting from east to west and they want you to join the UCA – the United Cities of America. When you connect, you can use UCA services, but at the same time, they’re retrieving your information 24 hours a day. It’s like 1984. Some people may not like that, and say “I’m not going to connect to UCA, because we’re going to repeat the same thing that we did.” Like Trump, or the EU, these things. It’s a metaphor. However, if you get really close, they start to say, “Okay, I’ll connect.”

A lot of preppers just sign a contract to be connected to Bridges. The network is there, but there’s no communication or other actions – that’s why they can’t use the chiral printers and things like that. If they say they will join the UCA, then you can use the chiral network, the chiral printers, things like that. In the game, the mission is to really reconnect America again – but I haven’t said whether that is correct or not.

Click here to watch embedded media

In the “Briefing” trailer, a lot of the language about people being divided sounds familiar to what we hear in America today. Is that intentional?

It’s about America, but I made that map deliberately not correctly America. Maybe it looks like Japan from that angle. I want people to not think “America,” but “where you are.” Because it depends on who is seeing it. And of course, it’s in the future, and everyone’s connected by internet, but everyone is fragmented. That’s kind of a metaphor as well. So Sam is not hip-hip-hooray for connecting America; his motivation is to save Amelie, and a whole fleet of sensitive people will share the same attitude. They have to, because they are on a mission. They always don’t want to. Sam actually moans a lot on this journey, saying “Why am I doing this?” And it’s actually the same position the players can be in. “Why am I doing this? It’s so rough, so lonely, and so solitary!” When you play, and connect, there’s drama, there’s preppers, there’s storyline; you start to feel like connection might really feel good. But I’m not saying it’s positive or negative to connect. It’s really up to the players to see how they feel while playing the game.

The game is so close to being complete. Now that you can see the near-final product, what is the biggest difference you notice from how you first envisioned Death Stranding?

The concept hasn’t changed at all from the start. On the vision side, yes, I imagined I could do more – like, PlayStation 6 for the visuals. But it’s not all about graphics. A lot of people were against my first concept, and I’m really happy that the staff made it together with me. All the staff really liked playing the game and I really feel happy. And I just feel it’s the user’s turn now.

A new concept is really difficult to explain at the start. The stealth game, no one really got it when I first presented it. Your first enemies are always your staff, or the people working with you. “You carry things, you connect, and you only give thumbs-up – what’s fun about that?” was the first reaction. If I had listened, it would just be a normal game. But a lot of staff, they believed me. They said, “Okay, we’ll try it out.” A lot of staff members, whether quickly or late, they start to get it. I can’t really blame the staff, because I can’t show inside of my brain. No one understood at all when I first explained. “Are you insane?” But they participated. Norman, Mads [Mikkelsen], same. When I asked them to join, and I explained to them, they had no idea what I was going to do.

Have you explained Death Stranding to anyone and had it click immediately, instead of taking a while to understand?

Yes, there were some people. Especially creators were quite quick to click. Like [director] George Miller, who is kind of my mentor – my god. In 2017, I went to Australia. I only had a trailer, and I also explained verbally to him. George Miller said, “In all aspects, you are correct. Mathematically, psychologically, physically, philosophically.” He kind of started to draw a diagram, he has this theory, so he said, “What you’re trying to do is correct.” I should have recorded that! I should have sent it to the staff! That was really a happy moment.

Maybe not people in the game industry, but musicians, directors, and creators. So, that’s why I tend to kind of overlap with musicians and film directors more than the game industry people – because they kind of tend to synthesize with me in that way and click faster.


Death Stranding releases on November 8 for PS4.

Categories: Games

Greedfall Review

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 03:37

There's religious fanaticism, and then there's Inquisitor Aloysius from Greedfall, a man so excessively villainous his whole schtick borders on farcical. A member of Thélème, one of the game's six factions, he appears when you first step into the town square of the city San-Matheus. What draws your eye is the sight of a hulking woodland beast howling in pain while tied to a stake in an enormous burning pyre, as a captured native islander looks on helplessly. When asked why the creature and his people are subjected to such cruelty, the Inquisitor bellows an odious response about cleansing the corrupt souls of his tribe. Then in one swift movement, he yanks the islander's head, stabs the poor soul with a knife, and yells obscenities about heresies into the sky.

That uncomfortable scene is emblematic of the plot in Greedfall; its tales of colonialism and political subterfuge are tackled with such little nuance that it verges on parody. The islanders wear face paint, have heavy accents, and venerate the woodland beasts as deities, while the cardinals, bishops, and alchemists refer to them as savages that need enlightenment or salvation. Greedfall relies heavily on these kinds of blunt narrative tropes for its setting, much in the same way it does on a very familiar open-world RPG structure. And while it's very easy to lose yourself in its competent, if comfortable, formula, it means that Greedfall ultimately feels unremarkable at best.

You play as the charming diplomat De Sardet from the Congregation of Merchants, who's in charge of brokering peace between two warring factions: the Thélème, a theocratic nation that preach their gospel heavily and want to convert as many natives as possible, even if it's by force, and the Bridge Alliance, home to a nation of alchemists who wield their vast and incomparable knowledge of science for political ends.

Both factions want to colonize a mystical island called Teer Fradee, which is brimming with fantastical flora and fauna. They, as well as the clans of indigenous people who are resisting their incursions, seek your help for their own ends. But that's not all; you also have something you want from the island: the cure for the Malicor, a mysterious plague devastating your home. In short, everyone wants a piece of this enchanted isle, and your task is to navigate through this political minefield for the best outcome--whatever you think that is.

Greedfall attempts to tweak certain aspects of its otherwise conventional colonialist plot (the islanders aren't depicted as crazed natives or hungry cannibals, and the factions are somewhat multicultural), but beyond a vague sense of awareness about its oppressive legacy, Greedfall's heavy-handed themes never make way for anything more nuanced or interesting. Sure, it highlights the exploitative behaviors of the Thélème and Bridge Alliance factions, but their actions are so moustache-twirling malicious that they become mere caricatures of evildoers.

Even your companions and other characters are cookie-cutter emblems of their group: Siora is the native princess who wishes to seek peace for her clan; Petrus is the religious Thélème advisor with tons of political savvy; and Kurt is the loyal, headstrong mercenary whose stoic demeanour can barely disguise his world-weariness. Most damning of all is your character, De Sardet, who, as the big hero, embodies the "white man's burden" allegory that also plagues other colonial-themed narratives; it's all on you to liberate the natives or unite the factions against them.

Greedfall's saving grace is that its role-playing systems are adequate, and the game's greatest strength is how well it sticks to what is tried-and-tested. It features mechanical design that's common in the genre--exploring, looting, questing, etc--but it's also savvy enough to incorporate the best versions of these elements--most notably it feels like it draws inspiration from CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3, a title I couldn't stop making mental comparisons to.

At the beginning, you're given the choice of playing as one of three character archetypes: the melee-focused warrior, the stealthy gunslinger, or the spell-wielding tactician. But you're also given the flexibility to break out of these standard classes through an array of skill trees. As you progress through the game, you can freely invest hard-earned points, which opens up a variety of methods you can approach combat with and even how you resolve quests--be it bludgeoning your way through conflict with a two-handed axe or wearing a horde of rampaging beasts down with poison traps.

And, as has become common in open-world RPGs, Greedfall also comes with a crafting system. Materials are in abundance--enemies, from human foes to wild animals, drop them frequently, while crates and jugs across most cities are bursting with goodies you can loot. One constraint, however, is that you can only craft upgrades to armor and weapons you own, rather than cobble brand-new equipment altogether. This streamlines crafting, and it also encourages you to still seek out better equipment. Meanwhile, combat is more than just a frenzied blur of swords and gunplay too; you can make tactical pauses to examine your enemies closely, change your target, consider your combat options, or silently contemplate how stunning your swashbuckling buccaneer looks in the heat of action.

Greedfall suffers from some bugs, primitive systems, and even glaring spelling errors, however. Some dialogue is clearly skewed towards a male De Sardet; in my playthrough as a female De Sardet, several characters still referred to me as "he." The stealth mechanism is also unintentionally hilarious. When on a stealth mission, enemies tend to treat companions as invisible; they will not notice two big, oafish men blundering about in front of them, but will jump out of their skins when they notice De Sardet peeking out from behind a nearby crate. Romancing your companions is also another thing you can do in the game, but the moves you need to make to get into their hearts (and under the sheets) is so perfunctory, it’s almost unmemorable. You engage in a three-part companion quest with the lover of your choice, where you'll find conversations that give you the chance to maximize your romance meter. But the game makes it obvious when you've said something wrong (characters will retort back unhappily, accompanied by a numerical drop in your reputation), so it's an easy process to save scum, and the ultimate reward is a not-very-saucy bedroom cutscene.

In spite of the game's blundering narrative issues, it's still easy to get hooked into the rhythm of exploring, crafting, brawling, investigating, and interacting with the host of characters and beasts, while getting lost among the beautiful lush greenery of Teer Fradee. Running into more challenging enemies or engaging in boss fights are a particular treat, since it's an opportunity to pit your hard-earned combat abilities against formidable foes. And tucked within the story, as hackneyed as it is, are occasional glimpses of genuine humanity, such as De Sardet's close relationship with their cousin Constantin, who's also the new governor of Teer Fradee.

But ultimately, because Greedfall is so cavalier about its colonialist themes, and because it plays it safe by sticking so closely to the template of open-world RPGs, it doesn't really feel revelatory in any way. Instead, it's content to be just another digital playground--just another world filled with magic, riches, secrets, and monsters for players to shoot and loot at will. I did have fun when I got lost in its familiar RPG loop, but its lack of nuance or innovation prevents it from being truly remarkable.

Categories: Games

Bandai Namco Shares More On The Characters And World

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 09/15/2019 - 08:00

Developer: Bandai Namco Release: 2020 Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Outside of a few basic beats, Bandai Namco has been keeping details about Tales of Arise under wraps. This TGS marks the first time we've had new information, thanks to a new trailer and stage show. 

We learned more about how the two main characters, Alphen and Shionne, will be connected. The pair come from two very different worlds. You see the story through the eyes of Alphen who is from Dahna. He crosses paths with Shionne, who is from Rena, which Bandai Namco referred to as "a land of the righteous and divine." Shionne's land of Rena has ruled over Alphen's Dahna for the past 300 years, and it hasn't been pretty. Rena, with its advanced technology, has depleted Dahna of its natural resources, keeping them subservient and miserable. 

It still hasn't been divulged exactly why, but Shionne, who has thorns growing all over body that hurt anyone who touches her, is being chased by her Renan cohorts when she meets Alphen. Her encounter with Alphen leads him to take the torch flame sword and work to free the people of Dahna. Apparently, she has "secret motivations" for turning on her people and helping Alphen and the people Dahna gain their freedom. The game begins with both Alphen and Shionne looking to change their fate and create a new future. 

Her touch causes pain. He can’t feel pain. Alphen and Shionne’s intertwined fates will change the world.
Watch the new trailer of Tales of Arise, just revealed at Tokyo Game Show! #TOArise

— Tales of... (@TalesofU) September 15, 2019

In this universe, "astral energy" exists in both living beings and inanimate objects, and when used for magic is referred to as "astral artes." Only Renans know how to use these artes, their eyes glow blue when using it. While Shionne has to power to cast healing artes, Alphen wields the "torch flame sword," which is a manifestation of astral energy. Here's where Alphen and Shionne become reliant on each other, when Alphen uses the flame sword, the fire damages him, meaning he needs someone like Shionne around to heal him. Although Alphen doesn't feel physical pain, which is why he can use the sword, he still suffers adverse effects from using it. It's said that the relationship between these two "changes the fate of the planets."

The new trailer shows plenty of Alphen and Shionne's dynamic in action, but also comes with a tease: another character. All we can see is their shadow walking toward the two and collapsing, as both Alphen and Shionne run to help. While we knew there would be other party members, as we were told at E3 to expect a cast the size of past entries in the series, this is our first glimpse at another party member, so hopefully, we learn more in the future.

Lastly, the new art style was discussed, longtime “Tales of” team artist, Minoru Iwamaoto, who was previously a character designer, is now the art director. It's said that the team put a lot of thought into utilizing the Unreal 4 Engine, but still having the game capture the essence of the Tales series. The watercolor art style will remain intact, but Bandai Namco said it's making the enemies look more realistic and more menacing this time around. The goal is ultimately to strike a balance between the anime-style and photorealistic artwork. 

Tales of Arise is set to come out sometime next year on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. 

Categories: Games

Gust Is Making A Game Based On The Popular Anime, Here’s What You Need To Know

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 09/15/2019 - 06:00

Publisher: Koei Tecmo Developer: Gust Release: 2020 Platform: PlayStation 4, Switch, PC

Fairy Tail, a long-running manga and anime, is receiving the video game treatment. Koei Tecmo and Gust made the announcement ahead of Tokyo Game Show and held a stage show there today to showcase more about the game based on creator Hiro Mashima’s work. The game is being created under Mashima’s supervision to make sure our journey to the continent of Fiore is as close to the true experience as possible. For those not in the know, Fairy Tail places you in a world of mages and wizards. It follows the exploits of a mage guild, taking jobs to earn their keep and learning more about the world’s mysteries. We were on hand at Tokyo Game Show to learn more about the RPG, which is taking plenty of cues from Gust’s flagship franchise, Atelier. 

You control main character and Dragon Slayer Natsu, but over 10 characters will be playable. In addition to Natsu, the following have been confirmed: Wendy, Lucy, Grey, and Erza. The game doesn’t cover the entirety of the anime but will feature several arcs from it. The story focuses on the point where the characters are rebuilding the guild, which ties directly into the gameplay. You accept missions and requests, slowly raising your guild’s renown to new heights via a lettered ranking system. As you earn money from missions, you can also use it to upgrade your guild’s exterior, such as adding a magic shop or a better quest board. Characters will join your guild through the story, but a few you will need to bond with before they will join your party. You can also recruit supporting characters (not for battle) to join your guild, although they won’t be playable they will help around the guild. 

Click here to watch embedded media

The town of Magnolia has been recreated in 3D and it looks gorgeous. I had the game demoed for me and everything was crisp and clear, and the cutscenes were in line with the anime. Magnolia may be your base of operations, but it’s not your only destination. You also travel around on the world map, gaining access to new areas as you advance in the story and complete quests. Areas look very similar to the layout of the Atelier games, filled with enemies, items, and materials. Gust confirmed there would be a crafting system in the game, but it wouldn’t be anything overly complicated. You use the materials you find to create magical crystals, which you equip and strengthen your characters.   

Battles are turn-based, with a focus on managing your MP wisely alongside chaining attacks and performing combination specials. Since Fairy Tail is all about magic, Gust is tying that into your strategy, as elemental weaknesses are a big part of the game. Associate head of Gust Keisuke Kikuchi said to expect all the signature magic and some of the “legendary, flashy” magic. 

Gust feels like a natural fit for Fairy Tail, and I was surprised at how well some of the systems they’ve been perfecting in the Atelier series complement Fairy Tail’s world. Time will tell how it shakes out, but it’s interesting to see Gust approaching a big property with such fanfare. 

Fairy Tail is set to come out sometime in 2020 for PS4, Switch, and PC.

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Categories: Games

Going Turn-Based, And Other New Highlights

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 15:45

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Square Enix Release: March 3, 2020 Platform: PlayStation 4

Square Enix already released a new trailer for Final Fantasy VII Remake, but that isn't all the information the company had for fans at Tokyo Game Show. During a live stage presentation at the PlayStation booth, Final Fantasy VII Remake producer Yoshinori Kitase showcased a variety of additional features and moments that we haven't seen yet.

You can see the whole presentation in the footage below. However, since it was all in Japanese, the official Final Fantasy VII Remake Twitter account followed up with a series of helpful explanations to shine a spotlight on the most interesting parts. 

Click here to watch embedded media

The most surprising announcement came in the form of the "classic" battle option. Final Fantasy VII Remake reinvents the original battle system and focuses on action, but players who want an experience closer to the original can turn on the classic option. This creates a more traditional turn-based feeling in combat.

The next sequence shows off the ridiculous (and hilarious) squat minigame in action, which then transitions to Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith in battle against Aps – a boss in the Midgar sewers. Tifa is unsurprisingly adept at up-close melee combat, while Aerith seems most effective at range. However, the most tantalizing part of this encounter is the mysterious summon gauge that fills.

Of course, that doesn't remain a mystery for long. When the summon gauge is full, characters can use the summon they have equipped. Unlike the original Final Fantasy VII, these creatures don't just show up for long, one-off attacks; they remain on the battlefield as active participants. In the demo, Cloud summons Ifrit, who goes toe-to-toe with Aps independently, though players can still issue specific commands to summons (just like they can with other party members). Once the summon gauge hit zero again, Ifrit left the battlefield, but not before executing its signature Hellfire attack. 

As a longtime fan of the original, all of these new bits seem like smart moves. I'm happy to see how the team is experimenting and deviating from the original pattern; game design has evolved a lot in the 20-plus years since Final Fantasy VII first released, and it appears that Square Enix knows how to mix classic and modern elements. I'm excited to see how they all come together at release.

Final Fantasy VII Remake launches on March 3 for PlayStation 4. For more on the game, watch the footage we recently recorded at TGS.

Categories: Games

How Private Rooms Work

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:22

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Developer: Kojima Productions Release: November 8, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4

Earlier this week, Hideo Kojima gave Tokyo Game Show attendees a 50-minute deep dive into Death Stranding that taught us a lot about the mechanics and flow of the gameplay. Today, the creator once again took the stage at TGS to demo the game, but it wasn’t to show off any action. Instead, Kojima explained a new feature called private rooms.

Because Sam’s mission is to travel from east to west across the country, he doesn’t have a centralized base he returns to regularly. Instead, players can construct safehouses in the world, which provide a place for Sam to recover – but they are capable of more than just restoring your health. These structures contain private rooms that incorporate a variety of unique methods of customization and interaction.

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In private rooms, you don’t control Sam directly. Instead, you adjust the camera angle, and different things happen depending on your focus. Keeping the camera trained on Sam’s upper body might cause him to strike a few poses, but he may shuffle his feet instead if you zero in on his boots. This is also an opportunity for some amusing break-the-fourth-wall moments; if you repeatedly try to zoom in on Sam’s crotch, he eventually gets up to punch the camera. But even if you don’t cross that line, Sam still acknowledges your presence in private rooms. He gives sly winks and points at things unprompted, building an interesting kind of rapport between the character and the player.

You also have the ability to interact with some objects in the room by looking at them. For example, focusing on the shower area gives you an option to clean off, and a shelf behind Sam contains collectible action figures you can examine. Sam’s BB – the baby he carries with him in a pod – is also in the room, and he can walk over and tap on the glass. However, when this happened during the demo, a disturbing scene occurred with the BB headbutting its way out of the pod. Thankfully, other ways to use the private rooms are less nightmare-like.

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These spaces have many customization options. You can change room itself (like the color of the walls), but you can also alter Sam’s appearance and equipment. Put on a hat and sunglasses, then choose their colors. Fiddle with your backpack and allocate space for different pieces of equipment. And when you’re all done, you can go back to the open world and decide what music and holograms greet players as they approach your safehouse.

Like most things you build in Death Stranding, safehouses (and the private rooms they contain) will populate the world for everyone. That means other players may see the private room you design, or you may run into safehouses other people have constructed and customized. While the private rooms may be a small part of Sam’s overall journey, this unconventional demo has us eager to spend time in these spaces and take a good look around.

Categories: Games

AI: The Somnium Files Review - Eye Love You

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 09/13/2019 - 23:50

AI: The Somnium Files is an adventure game that combines two classic storytelling genres: the murder mystery and the buddy-cop movie. On top of that, the "buddy" for AI's lead character, detective Kaname Date, isn't human. Or animal, for that matter. Rather, it's a snarky, quirky, super-powered feminine artificial intelligence in the shape of an eyeball--named Aiba--that lives in his left eye socket and has a direct connection to his brain. Oh, and she also helps Date by transforming into a humanoid avatar form to explore the dream worlds of various characters you meet throughout the game. Talk about an odd couple, huh?

It's an intriguing concept for sure. Thankfully, the near-future sci-fi detective story that AI: the Somnium Files tells lives up to the promise of its unique premise, delivering a great dialogue-driven adventure that sucks you in and doesn’t let up until all of its twisted mysteries have been unraveled.

Date is a detective for a secret, experimental Tokyo police division called ABIS. When the body of his best friend's ex-wife is found displayed in an abandoned amusement park, Date soon finds himself swept up in a complex investigation to find the culprit before they strike again. Along the way, he crosses paths with a bubbly up-and-coming internet personality, her diehard fanboy (and his beleaguered mother), a Yakuza group, a corrupt politician, and the victim's young daughter, amongst many other odd, interesting, and sinister personalities. And that's not even mentioning the oddest personality of them all: Aiba, his quick-witted and sharp-tongued AI partner and confidant in exploring the case.

Having a smart-alecky AI constantly feeding commentary into your brain might sound nightmarish, but Aiba comes with some special skills to aid Date with his investigations: X-ray vision, heat sensing, zooming to check up on faraway places, and even the ability to help Date in quick-time event-style combat. But Aiba's biggest role is to help Date get information from the various characters by acting as his avatar in their dream worlds. When interrogation gets tough, ABIS staff hooks a subject up to a Psync machine, which allows Date and Aiba to explore their subjects' subconscious "somnium" dream world to uncover clues and deeply hidden (and sometimes forgotten) secrets. The excursion is under a strict time limit--otherwise their consciousnesses become forever intertwined.

Gameplay in the exploration and investigation sections of AI: The Somnium Files follows a fairly typical point-and-click adventure game style: You look at objects in the environments for clues and talk to characters by making comments and asking questions. The way AI handles these sections makes you less likely to get stuck than in other adventure games, however. You're only given the option to move to a new area once you've done everything necessary to advance the story in one particular location, which ensures you won’t need to backtrack or worry that you're missing anything important. If you can’t move to the map, you know there’s still more to do.

While exploring the various environments will yield a fair amount of clues, it's the interactions Date has with the various characters (and Aiba’s reactions to those interactions) that really move AI's twisting mystery along. Each character you interact with is unique and memorable in their own way. There's Iris, the cheery aspiring internet idol whose mischievous personality causes Date much consternation; Ota, a devoted fan of Iris with numerous nerdy pursuits; So, a slimy politician with his fair share of secrets; Boss and Pewter, two eccentric personalities that work with Date at ABIS; and Mizuki, Date's friend's daughter with a sour attitude and strength beyond her years. There are many more interesting faces you’ll meet, too, each with an important role to play in the story and a strong personality to match. The excellent character designs by Yusuke Kozaki (Fire Emblem Awakening, No More Heroes) also give each NPC a striking visual element to match their distinct characterizations.

At certain points in the story, you encounter other modes of gameplay, like interrogation scenes where you present evidence to a character and action scenes involving quick-time event-style button presses to help Date fend off threats. However, the most important parts of the game take place when Date uses the Psync machine to explore another character's somnium worlds. Using Aiba as an avatar, you interact directly with elements within these characters' surreal, illogical, and often very disturbing dream worlds, with every action she performs costing precious time. If Date and Aiba can’t solve the puzzles in the somnium within the time limit, they’ll be forced out, and you will have to start the somnium exploration over from the beginning.

Solving the puzzles to progress in the somniums involves performing certain actions in a certain order on certain objects--and since these are bizarre, often illogical dreamscapes, sometimes the solution isn’t obvious or runs contrary to common sense. You can earn and use items called TIMIEs to help conserve time, but if time grows short, your best option might be to restart. This involves repeating much of the same actions and dialogue to get back to where you were, but skipping all the previous, time-wasting actions you tried before. If you don’t want to do the whole event over, you can go back to checkpoints within a somnium to try and save time by only performing necessary actions. However, you can only do this up to three times before you are forced to restart. Making this even worse is that sometimes you’re saddled with time-penalty TIMIEs from certain actions, meaning that your next action will cost significantly more time than usual and possibly even lead to unwinnable situations. As a result, the six-minute time limit winds up being a source of stress, discouraging you from exploring and appreciating the well-crafted dreamscape environments as much as you’d like and sometimes standing as a roadblock to further progressing the story.

Besides revealing important story beats, the somnium sequences serve another important purpose: Depending on your actions within the somnium, the overall story will branch down one of many different potential paths, with different events taking place on each story branch. Only by seeing all of the various story possibilities, good and bad, will the whole truth behind AI's saga be revealed. Fortunately, you’re able to jump around to various points in the game’s saga (and replay somnium sequences) whenever you want, so you can put one story branch aside and pick up another anytime you feel like--though there will be roadblocks in some spots if certain plot points have yet to be revealed. As the various branches of the story give tantalizing tidbits of information and reveal more about each of the main characters, you feel like you’re piecing together an elaborate puzzle, which makes it all the more satisfying when big revelations happen.

Despite the occasional frustration in exploring its dream landscapes, the whole of AI: the Somnium Files winds up being a fun, thrilling, and engaging experience. The story is filled with intriguing twists and shocking surprises, and the characters and their individual arcs inspire you to care about what happens to them. The somnium dream worlds add a layer of psychological horror to the ongoing mystery, and Date and Aiba’s constant back-and-forth interactions provide levity to make every investigation all the more amusing. AI's unconventional detective story is one you won’t soon forget.

Categories: Games

More Of What Fans Want

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 09/13/2019 - 14:27

Publisher: Koei Tecmo Developer: Team Ninja

The first Nioh made a big impression on gamers with its cool samurai backdrop and unrelenting difficulty. Nioh 2 isn’t changing up the formula; it stays true to the insurmountable challenge, but it is also leaning more into the yokai (Japanese spirit) elements for more memorable moves to defeat the larger-than-life bosses. While at Tokyo Game Show, I went hands-on with the game and attended a presentation to learn more about it. It quickly became my favorite game of the show.  

Producer Fumihiko Yasuda confirmed that Nioh 2 is a prequel taking place slightly before the origInal. Set in the late 1500s, you play as your own customized character who is part yokai. “The big historical storyline is going to be that [Toyotomi] Hideyoshi, one of the greatest Japanese warlords, was actually two people – that includes you and Toukichiro, and you two will be Hideyoshi together and that sort of ties into the core of the story,” Yasuda explains. Toukichiro is another main character in the game, and Yasuda said he was based on a historical figure, connecting the dots Hideyoshi at one point went by a similar name. 

Outside of navigating being one half of the man known as Japan’s “second great unifier,” you also are much more than just a samurai fighting evil this time around; you will become a demon by darkness, thanks to your yokai ties. This means you can shift into a yokai form and have special attacks. In fact, any yokai you defeat will drop a soul core, giving you the ability to equip one of their big moves. Yasuda said the goal with the first game was to make a Sengoku death game, this time around the team wanted to make a Sengoku and yokai death game. 

Also new to Nioh 2 is a place called the Dark Realm, which is where yokai dwell. At certain points, yokai will drag you down here as the Dark Realm enhances their powers. This brings out some of the tougher enemies but defeating them often rewards you with quality items. In fact, some chests can’t even be opened unless you take them down first.

Click here to watch embedded media

While there’s no easy mode, there are a few ways to get help. Just like the original, Nioh 2 has co-op, but this time it’s expanding its real-time multiplayer to up to three players. You can also look to “Benevolent Graves.” Once activated, these allow A.I. versions of human players to appear in your game for assistance. If you set one of these graves down, you can also have an A.I. version of your character help out another random player. 

While this all sounds promising, I get it out firsthand in my hands-on demo. Nioh 2 follows the same philosophy as its predecessor: survey the area and defeat enemies to get better gear so you stand a better chance at whatever big bad is awaiting you at the end. Gear and weapons still show up cosmetically on your character, giving you a new look for every occasion.

After searching around in my demo, I find the dual hatchets, a new weapon in the game, and they quickly become my go-to, as they feel weightless and fast, but can also do a good amount of damage. Plus, some of the combos are just plain cool to see in action. You can also find a new yokai, similar to Kodama, that offers support. In this case, if you find the adorable cat-like creature in a level, it will follow you around and regens your meter to activate yokai moves. 

As the demo progresses, I slowly get back in my Nioh groove, defeating harder and harder enemies. Stances are still important, depending on how you want to play: high for offense, mid for defense, and low for dodging, and it still comes down to studying attack patterns and making sure you don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position. Players of the first game know there’s no worse feeling than running out of stamina and sitting there unable to move, seeing the incoming hit and knowing there’s nothing you can do. And sometimes you can do a lot right and still fail, as I see first hand in my first big boss battle against a vicious horse-faced baddie with a big cleaver. His wide swings take up so much space that missing a dodge and getting swept up in a nasty combo is the easiest way to a game-over screen, which happens three more times before the timed demo expires.

And yet, it’s the most fun I’ve had at the show. The adrenaline rush of slowly figuring out how to take down a massive boss that at first just entirely wipes the floor with you is undeniable. Each death gets you a little closer to victory, as you learn the patterns, make better decisions, and ultimately land one of those counters or combos that stun an enemy. Nioh 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but throwing in some cool yokai moves to use against these menacing foes makes the victories all the sweeter.  

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Categories: Games

See The New Opening Movie

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 09/13/2019 - 14:13

Click here to watch embedded media

Publisher: Atlus Developer: Atlus Release: 2020 Platform: PlayStation 4

Persona 5 Royal is an expanded re-release of the original version from 2017, and one element  (among many) getting a stylish reinvention is the opening title sequence. The all-new animation is accompanied by a catchy song, and you can experience it all in the video above.

The release of the footage coincides with Tokyo Game Show, where Atlus has Persona 5 Royal (or rather "Persona 5 The Royal" in Japan) on the show floor available to play. We got some hands-on time with the demo, which consists of a brief challenge battle – a new feature available in the Velvet Room. With multiple waves of tough foes with different weaknesses, this encounter seems tailored to show off the importance of the revamped Baton Pass mechanic, which gives you increasing benefits as you pass turns from one party member to another. 

While the combat still works great, this particular demo doesn't shed much light on the questions fans are most curious about, like how the story is impacted by the new content. But once the game releases next month in Japan, we should know more. 

Persona 5 Royal is slated for a spring 2020 release in North America. For more footage featuring this stylish RPG, you watch the recent overview, or dig into a bunch of trailers featuring the characters.

Categories: Games

NHL 20 Review - Light The Lamp

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 09/13/2019 - 14:00

With its new commentary team and updated presentation package, NHL 20 represents the franchise's biggest shakeup in years--and they're mostly positive changes. Combined with excellent controls, fluid gameplay, numerous fun and engaging different modes to play, a fine attention to detail and appreciation for hockey culture, NHL 20 is a step forward that is generally excellent.

Big Changes

The biggest change for NHL 20 is its broadcast package. It is almost completely different this year, and the changes--which span commentary, UI, and graphics--are mostly positive but not always for the better. Commentators Mike "Doc" Emerick and Eddie Olczyk are out, while nearly the entirety of the NBC Sports Network license package, including live-action sequences, are gone, too. It's a jarring change, as Emerick and Olczyk have been the voice of EA's NHL games since NHL 15.

The new commentators are Canadian sports radio personality James Cybulski and former player and current rinkside analyst Ray Ferarro. They do a mostly adept job at calling plays with style, flair, and personality, and their back-and-forth banter succeeds at capturing the essence of hockey culture with hockey IQ and knack. Some commentary lines are repeated too often, however, and Cybulski in particular sounds at times like he is hamming it up and acting like every game is Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Outside of the new commentary team, NHL 20's updated broadcast presentation includes more colorful and dynamic graphics that display important information in more eye-catching ways. In addition to brighter colors and sharper fonts, NHL 20 introduces more dramatic, slow-motion highlights of goal scores, as well as Overwatch-style "Play of the Period" and "Play of the Game" highlights. These moments do a good job at breaking down key plays, and, with their unique angles and close-ups, provide nice moments to sit back and revel in your achievements.

Part of this updated broadcast package is a new location for the score clock, which is the only major misstep. It's now at the bottom of the screen compared to the top-left in last year's game--and it cannot be moved in the Settings. The new score clock location opens up more space on the screen for action, but I found it positively difficult to quickly and easily see the important information like time left in the game, penalty minutes, and other datapoints while simultaneously keeping my eyes on the action. It's a baffling choice, especially considering many of NHL 20's various other modes keep the score clock where it was. This inconsistency worsens the experience, as you have to train your eyes in multiple ways depending on which mode you're playing.

Authentic Hockey

NHL 20 succeeds the most with excellent, tight controls that give you the freedom to execute basically any hockey move you can think of. There are also changes to animations and skating mechanics that make the game appear more lifelike. Building off what was already the franchise's best foot forward with NHL 19, this year's entry feels faster and more fluid with better animations that more realistically depict important transitional moments like catching a pass and getting intro stride at a quicker pace. Overall, the on-ice gameplay feels faster and more true to the real NHL experience.

There are new shot animations as well, which are contextual in nature and better represent what a shot might look like from a particular part of the ice and depending on angles, power, speed, specific player attributes, and more. In NHL 19, your player would oftentimes still complete the shot animation even if the puck never got to them, which looked very strange, but that rarely happens this year. NHL 20 also introduces "Signature Shots" for a number of the league's best players; one of these is P.K. Subban's booming slapshot and Alex Ovechkin's electric one-timer. It's a treat to see player-specific animations in NHL 20, and it's yet another part of the way NHL 20 faithfully represents the real NHL experience. Additionally, goalie AI appears to be smarter this year, with netminders giving up fewer soft rebounds and making generally smarter decisions during important scenarios.

NHL 20's in-game attention to detail and careful consideration of the sport is astounding. Players look and react as you'd expect them to on a TV broadcast, down to the way players subtly peek back toward their teammates during a face-off to the sharp crackle of skates gliding over outdoor pond ice. On the outdoor rinks, the crimson red glow of sunset over the pond is something to behold. On the ice, the physics system is so realistically presented that I found myself wincing after big open-ice hits.

Unfortunately, NHL 20 doesn't do much in the area of improving player models. In fact, the character models for players, referees, and the crowd appear largely unchanged from last year. When the replay camera zooms in on fans on the glass, you might be wondering what kind of time vacuum the NHL series exists in for people to never age or look at all different from year to year.

Dirty Dangles

The NHL series is known for its tight, precise controls, and this level of excellence continues with NHL 20. No matter what control setup you're using, the controls allow for a complete command of your player with astounding simplicity and a lot of depth at the same time. Puck possession and clever play-making are paramount in NHL 20, and the controls never fail to provide you with many different options to keep the puck, get around defenders, make the extra pass, and light the lamp. You have the freedom to play with as much creativity as you want. The game also features a slick and smart on-ice trainer that reacts to how you're playing and provides dynamic feedback that, for the most part, helps you improve your game.

There is such a level of fine precision with the controls that you can determine the specific angle of a poke-check or toe-drag the puck at just the right time to open space up to make a shot on goal. In essence, the controller's analog sticks feel like an extension of your on-ice stick. The excellent baseline controls stand out even more once you move on to trying out more more advanced techniques. It takes time and practice to learn the dirtiest dangles the game has to offer, but it's deeply rewarding to perform spins and dekes that together combine to give you ample opportunities to play with style and pizzazz.

In addition to the standard hockey simulation, NHL 20 has an abundance of arcade-style modes. The pond hockey mode, Ones--which sees three players on a small, outdoor rink competing against each other--introduces four new locations, including a rink set on a secluded farm and another inspired by the Rideau Canal in Canada. These new locations, in addition to weather effects like snow coming down during games, make Ones an even more authentic and holistically representative depiction of the outdoor hockey experience.

Ones is lots of fun with its stripped-down, back-to-basics recreation of outdoor hockey with fast-paced play and lots of goals. Outside of the new locations, the biggest change for Ones is the introduction of offline play for couch co-op, and this is a very welcome addition after last year's game left it out in a head-scratching move.

The Threes mode, meanwhile, remains NHL's flashiest and wackiest mode with completely unhinged commentary, mascots lacing it up, lots of goals, and big hits. It's the mode I found myself coming back to the most due in part to its quick games relative to the standard simulation mode and constant progression rewards in every game played.

The social hub, World of Chel, returns with NHL 20 with some noteworthy updates. The biggest introduction is the "Eliminator" mode, which is NHL's spin on battle royale. You can go it alone in Ones or team up with two others in Threes to try to survive four consecutive rounds in a bracket to win the tournament. It's a thrilling, incredibly challenging, high-stakes challenge that, like the battle royale games it's inspired by, encourage you to keep coming back and improve your skills.

There is a robust character-creator and you earn XP for everything you do across all of World of Chel's modes. It's rewarding to invest in your character and know that, whatever mode in World of Chel you're playing, you're working towards growing your character with meaningful advancements like new player traits, in addition to nice extras like cosmetic gear. New for World of Chel with NHL 20 are weekly challenges that track your performance and reward you with cosmetics around a particular theme. For example, the launch-week theme is NHL 94, so you can earn all kinds of themed cosmetics like jerseys and other gear. I anticipate coming back regularly.

Elsewhere in NHL 20, the career-minded Be A Pro remains a satisfying and rewarding ride to take as you start your character from the ground floor and build them into a superstar, though there are no noteworthy updates to speak of this year. Franchise, meanwhile, features a new system that gives you multiple team coaches who have influence on the direction of your team today and in the future. The system, which also includes a light conversation mechanic where you can gauge the morale and interest of your coaches, adds a further level of strategy to the already robust Franchise mode that helps you feel like you're really the GM of a pro team. Franchise also introduces a trade-finder system that makes it less laborious to find and make trades.

Ultimate Team returns as well, and its noteworthy addition is the introduction of Squad Battles. These function the same way they do in Madden and FIFA where you go up against HUT squads created by other players or, after launch, sports stars and celebrities. Hockey Ultimate Team is all about grinding to collect new cards, and it remains a fun experience to build a fantasy team comprised of legends and current stars alike, and compete against others.

NHL 20 successfully captures the ice hockey experience from the ponds to big games under the bright lights, with a fine attention to detail and simple yet deep controls that are best-in-class. Once you get over the shock of Eddie and Doc being out of the game, the new commentary team do an adept job of providing informative and playful banter, while the game's multitude of varied modes each have their own distinct feel and appeal that go a long way to make NHL 20 an excellent representation of hockey culture across the board.

Categories: Games