Games

WWE 2K18

Gamespot News Feed - 6 hours 11 min ago

Spectacle and showmanship are as vital to professional wrestling as its storylines and in-ring action. Fans will fondly remember a Superstar's distinctive mannerisms, or the pageantry of a glorious entrance, just as much as a five-star match. WWE 2K18 takes this aspect to heart with a substantial leap in visual fidelity--further complementing developers Yuke's and Visual Concepts' adherence to wrestling authenticity. However, the game's cosmetic advancements fail to cover up stagnant gameplay mired in technical issues.

WWE's superlative lighting, character models, and motion captured animations bring each star of the squared circle to life with startling accuracy. And while there are some disparities between the poor saps at the bottom of the card and those at the very top, the gap isn't as significant as it has been in previous years, with entrances remaining a dazzling highlight. Small details, like stretch marks and surgery scars, also contribute to WWE 2K18's graphical showcase. Muscles are defined and flex when a Superstar heaves an opponent over their shoulders, veins bulge under the strain of submissions, and even Finn Balor's demon paint gradually peels off over the course of a match. As a visual representation of the product we see on TV each week, it's definitely impressive, and this devotion to realism extends to the gameplay, too. This is nothing new, of course, and if you haven't enjoyed the series' methodical pacing and restrictive over-reliance on counters in the past, WWE 2K18 is unlikely to change your mind. This is essentially the same game as it was last year, with a few incremental additions edging the needle closer to the authenticity the series strives for.

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Hot tags have been modified to be a more natural, momentum-injecting part of tag team matches, and a new carry system gives you more options on offence, allowing you to forcefully haul your opponent around the arena and execute a variety of context-sensitive actions with ease. This is particularly enjoyable if you're playing as a giant like Braun Strowman, since you can hoist smaller opponents over your head and launch them directly out of the ring--which is certainly impactful in Battle Royales and the Royal Rumble. Speaking of which, eight-person matches are also new this year, adding an element of chaos to any over-the-top-rope shenanigans. The only downside is that so many Superstars duking it out at the same time has a negative impact on the game's frame rate, with the slowdown enough to disrupt your timing on counters.

This isn't WWE 2K18's only technical issue either. While the AI is passable at best and dim-witted at worst, there are also myriad glitches spread throughout its various match types and game modes. From Superstars getting trapped inside inanimate objects and being teleported around the arena; referees not counting pins in eight-person tag matches; the Royal Rumble completely breaking due to Superstars failing to appear when their number is called; or the way the Elimination Chamber acts as a proverbial cooking pot for a concoction of ludicrous glitches, WWE 2K18 is a messy experience. Sure, a number of these mishaps are funny, but there are others that actively ruin the experience on a larger scale, whether it's the game crashing every single time there's a promo in Universe mode, or the way MyCareer struggles to keep track of your allies and rivals, even forcing you to wrestle yourself in championship title matches. This series has always suffered from its fair share of glitches, but they're especially egregious and plentiful this year.

Meanwhile, MyCareer still tasks you with creating a character and climbing the ranks of the WWE, however, there's still no option to create anything but a male wrestler, which is disheartening. Some light RPG elements do at least attempt to spruce up the action in-between matches, and you're now free to explore the backstage areas, chatting to your fellow Superstars and picking up side quests that will further your alignment as either a face or heel, unlocking specific perks for each. The aforementioned glitches create problems here, however, as you might be asked to cut a promo on Enzo Amore, only to call out Cesaro instead, and then be told backstage that Dean Ambrose knew your plan. It's a mess, and a struggle to keep track of. These backstage segments are overly lethargic due to the regularity and length of their loading times, which mean you'll often spend more time watching the game than playing it.

This series has always suffered from its fair share of glitches, but they're especially egregious and plentiful this year.

Beyond these issues, the writing in MyCareer remains its biggest problem. Even if you excuse the juvenile insults and complete lack of voice acting, there's nothing here that carries any weight or interest. The writing lacks character and individuality, so it doesn't matter who you speak to backstage. Bray Wyatt might be an occultist hillbilly with an anomalous promo style, but he'll still speak with the same verbiage as Seth Rollins, who will in turn sound just like John Cena. And this carries over into the promos, too. These work much the same as they did last year, tasking you with picking from a number of dialogue options, and then trying to maintain a cohesive tone throughout to achieve a high score. The dialogue options aren't quite as vague as they were before, so it's easier to craft a coherent promo, but the terrible writing and silent pantomiming rob these moments of any impact. Last year, the promo system felt like a flawed first draft with room to grow, but there's been very little progression one year later.

MyCareer's online counterpart, Road to Glory, fares much better than its single-player brethren. By following the real-life WWE calendar, it allows you to take your created character online to compete against others in daily match types in order to earn enough stars to qualify for pay-per-view events. This adds some purpose and impetus to online brawls, and the netcode this year is surprisingly good, with smooth matches and no noticeable input delay, even when you bump it up to a fatal-fourway.

It's fun seeing everybody else's created Superstars, but customisation in MyCareer is disappointingly limited by the inclusion of loot boxes. There are no microtransactions in WWE 2K18, so 2K isn't trying to urge you to part with more cash. But, honestly, that just makes this approach all the more baffling. The vast majority of customisation options, from hairstyles and T-shirts, to wrestling tights and even the vast repertoire of moves, are locked behind these loot boxes. You earn virtual currency throughout the game, and Road to Glory also has weekly loot boxes to unlock, but you're still at the whim of a randomised draw. If you want a specific beard or a finishing move, you're just going to have to hope luck falls on your side.

Fortunately, the creation suite outside of MyCareer is as exhaustive as ever, with everything unlocked from the get-go. You can tinker with every single facet of a Superstar's design and create new title belts, custom matches, and arenas, and download other users' creations to, say, fill out the NXT roster with the likes of Adam Cole, Drew Galloway, and Kairi Sane.

WWE 2K18's in-ring combat is fundamentally flawed, and will be as divisive as it often is. Yet there's no denying the inherent joy derived from performing your favorite Superstar's signature moves. Whether it's cracking your opponent over the head with AJ Styles' Phenomenal Forearm, or pounding the life out of Asuka's latest victim, there are moments of pure pro wrestling enjoyment to be found here. It's just compounded by too many frustrating issues, disruptive glitches, and a dearth of engaging single-player modes. This series has remained stagnant for far too long, and WWE 2K18 doesn't change things.

Categories: Games

Hands-On With Star Wars Battlefront II's Single-Player Campaign

Game Informer News Feed - 7 hours 33 min ago

Few series have lineages as storied as Star Wars, which can be a burden for every new project that attempts to pull from its universe. For decades, Star Wars games have tried to retell the stories from the movies or diversify and explore the outside periphery of the galaxy far, far away. The story campaign of Star Wars Battlefront II charts a middle ground between the two, teetering on the edge of the movies we know and love without being directly involved.

The last Battlefront game that released in 2015 alongside The Force Awakens was a multiplayer-only affair that focused on back-and-forth battles across Star Wars history. However, one of the major complaints from fans was the lack of a single-player campaign, prompting EA to bring a high-budget campaign for the sequel.

Developed by EA Motive, the studio headed by former Assassin’s Creed producer Jade Raymond, the campaign puts the player in the shoes of Iden Versio. As a lifelong servant of the Empire, she has dedicated to the cause of wiping out the Rebel Alliance as commander of the Inferno Team. When the game starts, Iden is captured by the enemy and has to remotely control her backpack droid to free her. From there, she’s one blaster rifle and a hundred Rebels away from escaping the ship.

The prologue mission introduces you to all the basic game mechanics. Iden can use her droid to zap enemies into unconsciousness, which is good for stealth approaches. This skill requires a cooldown that can be lessened by killing enemies or making headshots, so Iden can’t avoid fighting for long.

After she makes her escape from the rebel frigate, Iden meets with her team to discuss the Empire’s counter-offensive on Endor. The then game leaps into the future to the forest moon just before the climactic moment where the Millennium Falcon blows up the Death Star as Iden and the rest of the Inferno Team try to fight their way back to their command post. Interestingly, some of the firefights here can be skipped, if you are feeling too moral to shoot some celebrating Rebels from the grassy knoll.

While the larger space of Endor does not quite have a Halo-like quality of tackling encounters any way you see fit, there is a lot less linearity to the level design than in the cramped hallways of the prologue chapter. You can sneak around the enemy, attack from behind, or lead a group of pursuers into a small enough space where you can take them all out with a grenade.

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Iden commandeers a TIE Fighter and heads into space, looking for her Admiral and father to reconvene. She finds his ship being bombarded by Y-Wings, forcing her into a space battle. The full space battles lack the strategic element of 1994’s TIE Fighter, but they are as fast and frantic as you would hope. Chasing an X-Wing through the remains of exploded Death Star as you both weave through debris is exciting and leaves you gasping at every near miss.

The chapter ends with Iden receiving posthumous orders from the Emperor, who left one final mission for his subordinates and was maybe better at predicting the future than people gave him credit for. The goals of the mission aren’t clear, but the objectives are, and Iden is more than willing to rebuild the empire that she believes is a force of good in the world.

The third chapter starts with a slightly more involved space battle, allowing Iden to dock into enemy ships, shoot up their bay, and then proceed to their main computers on foot.

Battlefront II’s story campaign is likely the best Star Wars has ever looked in video game form. During some moments I squinted and was unable to tell the difference between the game’s cutscenes and the movies themselves. Space battles are visual treats, and I occasionally found myself being so distracted by what I saw that I crashed into the broad side of a Star Destroyer.

I ultimately walked away from Battlefront II wanting to play more of the campaign, but also hoping that the rest of it becomes more interesting. I worry that Iden’s story will follow too many familiar tropes of confusion, redemption, and eventually rebellion, which would be disappointing if it does not subvert expectations. The gaming landscape has had Titanfall II and Doom’s campaigns since the last Battlefront released, so Battlefront II's campaign has big shoes to fill if it wants to impress when it releases on November 17.

Categories: Games

Fire Emblem Warriors Review

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 10/18/2017 - 14:00

Fire Emblem Warriors brings heroes from the revered Fire Emblem strategy series and drops them onto the chaotic battlefields developer Omega Force's Warriors games are known for. These knights, paladins, and mages are a natural fit for medieval clashes against swarms of hapless enemies, but their influence on the Warriors formula is otherwise fleeting. However fun it can be in short spurts, Fire Emblem Warriors feels like plenty of other Warriors games before it: a simple joy plagued by repetitive and shallow encounters.

Like more recent Fire Emblem games, you're introduced to a new pair of protagonists--Lianna and Rowan. Sibling heirs to the Aytolis Kingdom, their land comes under threat with the appearance of an evil dragon and thousands of otherworldly fiends who've slipped through a rift in space and time. In a similar fashion, characters from various Fire Emblem timelines (The Blazing Blade, Shadow Dragon, Awakening, Fates, and Echoes) come to Lianna and Rowan's rescue. It's a thin narrative that leads to plenty of awkward exchanges and cliche events. And though this may be par for the course for the Warriors series, Fire Emblem games are typically heralded for their captivating stories and deep characters, so it's hard not to be a little disappointed to see very little of that transition over to this experimental outing.

If you’re at all familiar with the Warriors games, then you already know what to expect as Fire Emblem Warriors follows the formula very closely: Playing as one of the many available heroes, you venture onto the battlefield and slay hundreds, if not thousands, of enemies during a single mission through hard-hitting yet simple-to-execute combo attacks.

Attacks and combos are input via a two-button system for light and heavy attacks, and you have access to a flashy special ability once your damage meter is full. The weapon triangle system pulled from Fire Emblem dictates how effective one character is against another depending on their default weapon, but weighing the advantages of individual face-offs slows the rapid and enjoyable pace of combat. Likewise, the pair up system, where you do your best to create a bond between two characters, doesn't make this game significantly different from other Warriors spin-offs.

Apart from feeling somewhat shallow, Fire Emblem Warriors plays smoothly, and it’s enjoyable to watch favorites like Chrom, Marth, and Lyndis break free from their turn-based ways to slay massive swarms of low-level enemies in real time. Sadly, not every beloved Fire Emblem character made the cut, with notable protagonists like Alm, Eliwood, Ike, and Roy missing in action.

Given the potential impact Fire Emblem's demanding nature could have had on the Warriors series' straightforward hack-and-slash engagements, the diminished classic mode is another source of disappointment.

In keeping with Fire Emblem tradition, you have the option between “casual” and “classic” game modes, though the rules work differently, eschewing classic permadeath for something a little less punishing. During a casual playthrough, fallen allies are easily revived at certain checkpoints; however, they can also be revived on the classic difficulty provided you have enough gold and other relevant items. In other words, no character is ever truly dead. It's also rare that you ever need to worry in the first place, as you’re free to switch between any one of the up to four characters you can take on a mission, allowing you to quickly control and heal allies that may be on the verge of death. Given the potential impact Fire Emblem's demanding nature could have had on the Warriors series' straightforward hack-and-slash engagements, the diminished classic mode is another source of disappointment.

The same can be said for your AI partners, who are nearly incapable of autonomy, even when given a direct purpose such as attacking or defending a chosen person or location. They rarely take the most efficient route following your order, and often end up simply standing in place once they reach their destination. With such unreliable partners, you're ultimately left to do everything yourself as missions unfold.

And because Fire Emblem Warriors is a Warriors game, there are hundreds of enemies on-screen at once. The frame rate takes a notable hit from time to time, almost chugging as the game attempts to render both the enemies you've defeated and their replacements spawning into battle. The same issue occurs when characters are introduced during missions in short, voiced cutscenes, causing the game to throttle down to stop-motion like speeds. These performance issues don’t hinder your ability to succeed, but they are obtrusive enough to be annoying.

Fire Emblem Warriors doesn’t radically change the formula of the two-decade-old Warriors franchise, nor is it concerned with attempting to do so. At best, it's a decent vehicle for Fire Emblem's characters, a chance to flex their muscles in a new venue without the limitations of turn-based combat holding their abilities back. There are signs of potential left unrealized, and the thought of what a Warriors game with truly dramatic character relationships and permadeath could have been lingers. For now that remains out of reach as Fire Emblem Warriors is yet another collaboration where Omega Force's tendencies dominate the finished product.

Categories: Games

Join The Resistance In The Launch Trailer For Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 10/17/2017 - 16:29

The launch trailer for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is out, presenting the option "German...or else!" We'll take the latter, thank you very much, and so will many others.

The trailer's Nazi killing looks like a fun proposition, and be sure to stick around until the end when Hitler himself presents himself as an attractive target.

The game comes out on October 27 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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Categories: Games

Trailer Promises 'This Isn't The Alola You Thought You Knew'

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 10/17/2017 - 16:23

The latest trailer for Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon outlines a looming battle between darkness and light.

Along with its good versus evil allegory, the trailer also reveals new Pokémon you can ride (was that Solgaleo?), what appears to be a Star Fox-style flying sequence (was that Lunala?), as well as a promise that, "This isn't the Alola you thought you knew."

Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon are coming to 3DS on November 17.

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For more on Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon head here. To read a recent opinion piece about what Andrew Reiner wants from the future of Pokémon, head here.

Categories: Games

South Park: The Fractured But Whole Review

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 10/16/2017 - 12:00

In South Park: The Fractured But Whole, the fantasy theme of its predecessor gives way to the equally popular subject of superheroes, parodying the current state of comic book-to-film oversaturation we see today. This shift is complemented by the change in the combat system, which proves cerebrally satisfying despite the juvenile sight of your main character using flatulence to overpower and outsmart everyone from ninjas to a red wine-enraged Randy Marsh. And when you add town exploration that awards practical character benefits, the resulting game is a delightfully fart-tinged journey that delivers satisfying gameplay and surprising absurdity in equal measure.

Like many South Park episodes, The Fractured But Whole's story kicks off with Eric Cartman cooking up a self-serving scheme: the search for a missing cat so he can use the reward money to fund a movie franchise for his troupe of superheroes. Yet, this is South Park after all, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that what develops goes way beyond a simple feline rescue. We're talking about police corruption with Lovecraftian twists and having to stomach debased attacks by pedophile bosses. As you once again play as the New Kid, you promptly join Cartman's team, Coon and Friends, engaging in a host of bizarre stories that play fast and loose with crude humor and sensitive topics alike.

This is South Park through and through, where outrageous and unpredictable plot developments contrast against the day-to-day goings on of seemingly normal suburbanites. There's also the typical smattering of references to recent real-life events, from the Black Lives Matter movement to Morgan Freeman running a taqueria. But the game follows the franchise blueprint of lampooning pop culture and society without in-depth commentary, typified by the non-combat difficulty slider where being black is supposedly the hardest setting, and being white is the easiest. It's an opportunity to present something meaningful left half-realized as a flyby gag.

Seemingly more care was put into the game's more benign comedic touches, starting with game title itself. 'The Fractured But Whole' isn't a mere excuse to hide 'butthole' in a game title; it's also a clever take on Captain America: Civil War, relevant since the game's story involves two rival superhero teams. The Fractured But Whole is a consistent chucklefest where genuine laugh out loud moments are spread thin, which is forgivable for a playthrough that can last over 20 hours. Thanks to fast travel, completing missions comes at a steady pace, which means you're only minutes away from a new scene that would warrant a chortle at the very least. That could be Mr. Mackey's disturbing inquisitiveness about your sexual preferences or the City Wok staff moonlighting as ninjas. And even in the more private settings of a stranger's bathroom, the minigame of dropping a deuce offers its own flavor of hilarity.

Your arduous rescue mission is filled with hostile encounters against everyone from sixth graders to the elderly. As a welcome change to the precision demands of the Stick of Truth's RPG-inspired mechanics, Fractured But Whole employs tactics-style combat, prioritizing strategy-driven thoughtfulness over adept reflexes. While those new to tactical RPGs won't have to worry about the intricacies of terrain effects or improving chemistry between squadmates, you're nonetheless rewarded for thinking a couple turns ahead. Moreover, the modestly sized combat grids give the initial false impression that only rudimentary battle planning is needed for success. In actuality, these sometimes cramped spaces force you to think carefully on how to efficiently navigate your characters around the field, ideally to capitalize on their powers.

It's a superbly balanced combat system that values smart thinking while also offering the flexibility of personal preference when choosing your character's class and abilities. Whether you like supporting and buffing friends or want to be the most powerful tank possible, you can complement your strengths with the many superfriends you amass over time. While it's a stimulating challenge trying to make a great team, it's even harder to come up with a bad one. For every hero that has a potent attack that can knock back enemies, there's a buddy who can heal and buff. Another advantage is the accessibility of craftable health-restoring mexican food. This can turn the bulk of encounters into easy victories, though The Fractured But Whole offers its share of optional encounters above your fighting weight--as measured by your squad's Might level--not to mention a number of challenging boss fights.

Growing your team's Might is inextricably tied to every bit of forward progress you make, whether that's wrapping up a story goal or completing the myriad side quests assigned by familiar townsfolk. From building a follower count on social media via the Coonstagram app or collecting gay romantic manga for Mister Tucker, experience earned through those missions accumulate to increase your levels and unlock slots for Might-boosting artifacts.

As you head to any map-marked objective, the various unexplored homes and businesses along the way are well-peppered with practical crafting items and side-mission collectables. Thanks to a number of quality-of-life conveniences, exploring seldom feels like a chore. Accessible drawers are well-marked with yellow handles, backpacks you've sifted through remain open, and when you've completed various collection missions, you're rewarded by the quest giver immediately, saving you the trip to physically hand the goods. These benefits far outweigh The Fractured But Whole's slight annoyances such as not knowing what attacks in battle result in friendly fire and the tiny font of your app updates.

Aside from exploration and battles, South Park is loaded with environmental puzzles that--while hardly brain teasing--can elicit more than a giggle depending on how a hurdle is overcome. The most challenging obstacles are surmounted by your legendary farting abilities and select friends you can call in for an immediate assist. By combining your flatulence with the flight ability of Human Kite (aka Kyle's superhero persona), you can reach higher, previously inaccessible areas. Toilet humor transcends to depravity when you fire Butters' rodent out of your butt, launching it to reach and sabotage open electrical panels. While The Stick of Truth had its share of gassy gags, this sequel doubles down on farting as an essential multipurpose game mechanic, powerful enough to bend space and time at your whim. Not only does it prove useful in solving puzzles, it's also invaluable in preventing enemies from using their turn in battle.

Much like The Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole can be appreciated as a standalone adventure, accessible to those who've fallen off the TV series over a decade ago. Fans who have kept up will appreciate the handful of recent call backs to the show plus at least one timely spoof that creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone previous said they would not tackle. And if there's one aspect of the show that hasn't changed in its 20-plus years, it is the endearing qualities of the kids' reality-breaking imaginations. This is best exemplified in the classic pronouncement that the floor is lava, which is represented by initially impassible red building blocks strewn throughout the town.

Fractured But Whole succeeds as an interactive South Park mini-series, while effectively emulating the show's current style of adult-targeted entertainment and satirization of political correctness. In other words, it's consistently amusing and provocative without the edginess the series used to be known for. Both the game's combat and explorative strengths effectively bridge the many comical plot developments, which range from mildly amusing to downright hilarious. It's an accomplishment that this game will wholly entertain devoted fans while delivering a heap of jokes that won't fly over the heads of casual viewers.

Categories: Games

Comical Live Action Trailer Invites You To Reassemble Your Squad

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 10/15/2017 - 18:54

Activision released three new trailers today for the upcoming Call of Duty: WWII. Instead of teasing in-game footage or revealing a cinematic trailer, the video is a lighthearted live action trailer that invites players to reassemble their group of friends to prepare for the game's release.

Three teasers were revealed for different regions: US, France, and UK. Each are slightly different with varying actors, but all have a similar amusing tone and message. You can view them all below:

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For more on Call of Duty: WWII, you can take a look at our cover story hub that includes exclusive videos, interviews, and more. Call of Duty: WWII releases on November 3 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

Shuhei Yoshida And Other Executives Reflect On The Series 20 Years Later

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 10/13/2017 - 19:40

Sony and Polyphony Digital are celebrating Gran Turismo’s 20th birthday a few months early in preparation for the launch of Gran Turismo Sport next week.

A video released today features executives from Polyphony and Sony explaining a bit of the history of the series and what it’s been like to work on the games. President of Sony Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida also explains how Polyphony CEO Kazunori Yamauchi’s always optimistic attitude encouraged the team during the development of the original Gran Turismo.

There are a lot of interesting quotes about the series’ development and how it’s changed over the years, including tidbits about the scale of Gran Turismo Sport and the effort that has gone into developing it. Be sure to check out the video below.

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Categories: Games

The Evil Within 2 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 10/13/2017 - 03:24

Innovating within the bounds of horror's familiar tropes and rules is a difficult task, but one that The Evil Within 2 handles with grace. Developer Tango Gameworks cleverly introduces old-school horror design within the confines of a semi-open world that ultimately makes for a refreshing trip into a world of nightmares.

Picking up several years after the first game, we find the former detective Sebastian Castellanos in dire straits, still wracked with guilt over the loss of his family and haunted by his last visit into a nightmare version of reality. When a shadowy organization gives him the chance to set things right with his past and rescue his daughter from the dangerous and unstable world of Union, he willingly re-enters the haunting realm despite his residual trauma.

Right from the beginning, there's a sense of deja vu as Sebastian wanders the eerie and unreal locations in Union. Despite being one of the few survivors from the first game, he oddly finds himself falling for the same tricks and set-ups that the world and its inhabitants lay out for him. While this could be chalked up to a simple retread, much of these instances make a point of illustrating some key differences from this game and the last.

There's generally more of an adventurous feel compared to the original's isolated levels. With more side characters to interact with--opening up moments of dialogue that flesh out the story--and optional events scattered around the world, there's a level of freedom and variety in The Evil Within 2 that was largely absent from the first game. However, there are a few notable sections where backtracking is required, which slows the pacing and sense of progression to a crawl.

Despite this, exploration is consistently enjoyable, rewarding treks to the places tucked away, where you can find details about Union's history and meet other characters looking to survive the nightmare. With so many little details that add a lot to atmosphere, there's a clear respect for The Evil Within's world. The many nods to original game feel more impactful for it, giving a renewed appreciation for Sebastian's previous adventure.

Compared to its predecessor's singular levels in unique chapters, The Evil Within 2 possesses a more organic and interconnected set of places to explore--focusing on several large maps with multiple points of interest. While there's still plenty of mind-bending and perspective-skewing set pieces, such as a tentacle creature with a large camera for an eye, the explorable spaces are the real standout. In many ways, it's like traversing through a demented amusement park filled with hideous creations, forcing yourself to face past horrors. Adventuring to places not marked on the map often yields valuable resources, and also leads to some surprising encounters with obsessive ghosts and multiple unnerving, fourth-wall breaking events.

It takes more than just going for the head to take out some of the tougher enemies.

Over time, environments descend into chaos when Union inevitably grows unstable, turning a small town into a horrifying and unnerving shell of its former self. Streets vertically upend, and fire and blood exude from places they shouldn't. The visual design of The Evil Within 2 successfully juxtaposes vastly different settings and aesthetics, and presents them in a bizarre package that illustrates the erratic and unpredictable nature of the world.

While Sebastian felt more like a mere sketch of a hardened and weary protagonist in his first outing, he feels better realized and more grounded in this sequel, giving a certain gravitas to his struggle. Showing bewilderment and confusion throughout the first game, he's more confident and determined this time, even throwing in some fitting one-liners that poke fun at some of the dangers in the last game. The supporting cast of villains also feel more active in the ongoing events, and have a greater sense of place this time around--particularly with the eccentric serial killer artist who photographs his victims upon their deaths.

The Evil Within 2 successfully juxtaposes vastly different settings and aesthetics, and presents them in a bizarre package that illustrates the erratic and unpredictable nature of the world.

While there's occasional moments of cheese and humor throughout--such as the inclusion of a goofy shooting range and collectible toys related to other Bethesda games--the levity never feels out of place, which is an accomplishment considering the game's pervasive macabre atmosphere.

Putting a greater emphasis on the survival aspect of survival horror, The Evil Within 2 demands resource management and bravery in its relatively spacious world. While common enemies are fewer in number compared to the original game, they're far more threatening alone and can easily manhandle Sebastian. There's a thoughtful approach to engagement and progression this time around, which means you'll have to think twice about whether or not to engage a group of enemies. With that said, you have a sizable arsenal of weapons and gear--including the return of the Crossbow with six different ammo types--to take on the enemies as you see fit.

Some encounters will pull out all the stops to prevent Sebastian from making progress.

Throughout his journey, Sebastian carries a communication device, allowing him to keep track of main objectives, along with points of interest and intel on the fates of side characters in the area. How you go about dealing with these characters and exploring is up to you. Similarly, whether you avoid conflict with enemies or take out as many as possible along the way is down to your preferred playstyle. The Evil Within 2 accommodates those that prefer action as much as those that like to be stealthy. Combat is robust, thanks to improved weapon handling and character upgrading that allows you to focus on the specific areas of Sebastian's skillset to enhance stealth, combat, and athleticism.

Sebastian can return to the safe haven of his mind to upgrade weapons and skills, and review case files and intel on various characters. With the Green Gel collected from fallen enemies--and the new Red Gel that unlocks upper tier upgrades--the core upgrading system has been greatly improved. Going beyond simply increasing damage of melee strikes and stamina length, new special perks can be unlocked such as the ever-useful Bottle Break skill that uses bottles as self-defense items when grabbed by enemies. Along with the expanded weapon upgrade system, using only weapon parts, the systems of progression feel far more nuanced and open.

Sebastian will have to scavenge for supplies and other materials to make up for the lack of ammo boxes and health items. While this may seem like it can make things easy, efficient crafting can only be done at dedicated workbenches, whereas crafting in the field via the radial inventory menu should be done a last resort as it costs twice as many materials. This crafting element adds a bit of a survivalist feel to The Evil Within 2, where you're scrounging around corners to find materials, all while avoiding packs of enemies looking to pummel you.

Though the game is challenging even on its standard difficulty level, it's not unfair, and there are options for multiple playstyles. The standard Survival difficulty mode is manageable, and you won't find yourself hitting a way due to lack of resources. However, the Nightmare mode raises the stakes, featuring slightly altered combat encounters, harder enemies, and fewer resources to find. If you're up for a challenge of a different kind, the unlockable Classic mode will disable auto-saves, upgrades, and limit you to a finite amount of saves. In addition to extra unlockables for completing the tougher difficulties, the experiences they offer is more in keeping with the true survival horror experience, where resources are hard to come by, and the enemies are deadlier than before.

There's a clear respect for the horror genre in The Evil Within 2, with a number of references to classic films and games. The game channels that style and tone into combat that feels brutal and raw, stealth that has an air of suspense, and unsettling confrontations with dangerous, otherworldly creatures. The Evil Within 2 doubles down on the core of what makes survival horror games great: the focus on disempowerment and obstacles, and the ensuing satisfaction that comes with surviving a harrowing assault.

Though there's some occasional technical hiccups that result in some particularly frustrating moments and weird pacing issues, this horror sequel elevates the tense and impactful survival horror experience in ways that feel fresh and exciting. What this cerebral horror game does isn't totally new, but it rarely feels routine, and offers plenty of surprises. Coming in at a lengthy and surprisingly packed 15-hour campaign, the sequel does an admirable job of ratcheting up the tension and scares when it needs to, while also giving you the freedom to explore and proceed how you want. It's a tough thing to balance, but The Evil Within 2 does it remarkably well, and in a way that leaves a strong and lasting impression after its touching conclusion.

Categories: Games

The Flame in the Flood Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 23:00

Survival games challenge you to gain control of treacherous worlds. You typically start with very little, and need to scavenge for supplies and resources in order to craft the tools needed to help you avoid death. Success usually means having enough power to establish yourself in a higher place on the food chain, or hunkering down and building a fortified space strong enough to keep the rest of the food chain out. The Flame in the Flood doesn’t allow you to achieve either of those goals and is a consistently gripping experience as a result.

Set in a rural post-societal America, The Flame in the Flood is a procedurally-generated survival game that focuses on constant movement and improvisation. The entirety of the game’s world consists of a large, overflowing river that has engulfed the countryside, destroyed man-made infrastructure, and isolated parts of the geography, turning them into islands.

The Flame in the Flood’s audiovisual presentation is integral to establishing its strong sense of place. The art direction invokes the aesthetic of a gothic storybook. The atmospheric sound design is ever-present. The rush of the flowing river is refreshing, and the heaviness of the thunderstorms is frightening. The musical score is an excellent array of Americana, ranging from mournful blues harmonica, cheerful acoustic guitar fingerpicking, wistful mandolins, and rough alt-country vocals. Together, they give The Flame in the Flood an aura of both despair and quiet beauty.

Your protagonists are a seemingly immortal dog and a survivor whose main concerns are keeping her hunger, thirst, body temperature, exhaustion, and any major injuries under control. Because the survivor can die from neglecting any of these concerns, players must keep them at bay by either scavenging or by crafting a variety of items using resources obtained from the land. But because of the game’s narrative conceit, you’re only able to scavenge on small islands with severely limited offerings. Finding the right components to create items you need often means exploring multiple islands as you traverse the river on your makeshift raft.

Your raft can be upgraded at marinas, provided you have the right components.

There are two major constraints that make this task both interesting and difficult. The protagonist can initially carry only a dozen items in her backpack, and you’ll only be able to dock at one or two islands in a cluster of many before the current pulls you further downriver. This design is frustrating at first--the impulse to grab every item and explore every area will cause you to waste far too much time and energy rearranging your backpack and paddling against the current. But once you embrace the idea of “going with the flow” so to speak, The Flame in the Flood becomes an engaging exercise of short-term prioritization and impulsive decision-making.

Though it will take a number of failures to understand the ecosystem, learning which items are universally useful and avoiding long-term hoarding are the key to staying alive. For example, keeping uncommon fire-starting materials in order to have a method of staying warm, dry, and being able to build a safe place to sleep is more vital than hoarding food--food eventually spoils, and edible flora is common enough in certain ecosystems to snack on as you come across it. Working out your priorities and having the courage to leave valuable things behind is a stimulating challenge. The Flame in the Flood keeps you on your back foot at all times. This feels like true survival.

Unfortunately, the user interface can prove to be a source of frustration. Essential tasks, like sorting your inventory and getting a broad idea of your current crafting options feel unnecessarily taxing because of the number of steps required. All pertinent information is kept within multiple subcategories accessed from a single screen. Inventory management and crafting existing in separate subcategories, and the recipes for different kinds of craftable items are separated into subcategories under that. Finding out what components are missing for a particular tool can be tedious because of the need to flip between menus and scroll through multiple entries to reach the information. Even after hours of play, I was still wrestling with the menu system, especially when using a controller. In fact, I began switching to mouse and keyboard exclusively for menus to make navigation a little easier.

Sure. I'm cold, wet, starving, exhausted, and lacerated all over. But man, what a view.

But switching to mouse and keyboard is not something I want to do because movement, especially piloting your raft, is far more precise and satisfying with a controller. Travelling to new locations via raft requires deft avoidance of rock formations, remnants of human infrastructure and floating debris. Lightly flowing waters regularly turn into violent rapids, which are as treacherous as they are fun to navigate--impacts are devastating on both your raft’s integrity and your own vitals. Using the last of your stamina bar to push your raft just shy of a large, jagged outcrop is consistently thrilling, and when things quiet down, gently steering your raft through the remains of drowned towns at sunset while a haunting lap-steel melody plays is a sublime experience.

The Flame in the Flood encourages you to put long-term goals aside and live in the moment, to make choices and overcome short-term problems with risky but satisfying spontaneity. Despite the awkward menu system, it’s an absorbing game that lets you experience a journey in the present, and fully appreciate the sights, sounds, and joys of floating down the river in its alluring world.

Update: The Flame In The Flood’s arrival on Nintendo Switch as a “Complete Edition” comes with the mechanical refinements and feature upgrades that have been added since the game’s initial release. These include quality-of-life tweaks to crafting, an insightful developer’s commentary, and more importantly, an alternate dog companion to choose from. While the visual fidelity noticeably lower on the Switch and there are some minor hiccups in performance that aren’t present on other platforms, The Flame In The Flood still remains a unique and absorbing survival game. We have updated the score to reflect our experience with the Switch version. - Edmond Tran, Fri. October 13, 2017, 9:00 AM AEST

Categories: Games

Cosmo The Spacedog Sets Up The Story In New Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 16:21

Even though it's typically obscured beneath a haze of slapstick and rubber-duck jokes, TT Games' Lego titles do actually contain narrative strings that tie the experiences together. Really! If you don't believe us, a new trailer for Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 will certainly dismantle your skepticism. It highlights the main conflict between a massive roster of heroes and their time-travelling foe, Kang the Conqueror. Also, it's narrated by Cosmo The Spacedog, who is a good boy.

You may recognize the voice of Kang the Conqueror, too. Actor Peter Serafinowicz, who plays TheTick on Amazon's The Tick voices the villain.

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Warner Interactive revealed a slew of characters at New York Comic Con, too. They include: Grandmaster (Thor: Ragnarok), Valkyrie (Thor: Ragnarok), Arizona Annie, Blade, Captain Avalon, Charlie-27, Chipmunk Hunk, Dormammu, Ghost Rider & Hell Cycle, Hellcow, Hobgoblin, Hulk 2099, Koi Boi, Lady Spider, Luke Cage, Misty Knight, Morbius, Phantom Rider, Red Wolf, Living Totem, Squirrel Girl, Super Adaptoid, and Ursa Major.

Players can expand the roster further by purchasing either the $14.99 season pass or the game's deluxe edition, which will add 60 additional characters and six levels. The levels are based on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Cloak & Dagger, and The Runaways

Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on November 14.

Categories: Games

Need For Speed Payback's Sweet Revenge Story Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 15:22

When The House – a syndicate controlling Need For Speed Payback's Fortune Valley – goes after Tyler, he assembles a crew and hits back.

Take to the streets, win races and earn respect, and go on set-piece missions to take down the organization.

For more on the game, check out Jeff's hands-on impressions from Gamescom.

Need for Speed Payback is out November 10 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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Categories: Games

Pokémon Ultra Sun & Moon Z-Moves Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 15:07

A new trailer for Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon has come out, showcasing the Z-Moves of Dusk Mane Necrozma and Dawn Wings Necrozma, as well as a powered-up Rotom Dex.

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon are out for the 3DS on November 17. For another look at the game, take a visit to Ultra Megalopolis.

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Categories: Games

Launch Trailer Reveals Horrifying Sights

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 16:01

Tango Gameworks' upcoming sequel to The Evil Within launches in a couple of days, and a new trailer highlights some of the game's horrific creatures and setpieces.

Take a look at the clip below to see a host of monstrous enemies, weird hallucinatory imagery, and a fair bit of gore. Don't worry – it's all in Sebastien Castellanos' head. Or is it?

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For more on The Evil Within 2, check out our earlier preview, which features 40 minutes of the game's second chapter.

Categories: Games

Watch 40 Minutes Of The Evil Within 2's Second Chapter

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 22:11

The Evil Within 2 launches this Friday on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. We still don't know exactly how this sequel begins, but you can take a look at Sebastian Castellanos' first steps in a new version of STEM, the device that links minds together and brings horrors to life. This 40-minute clip does contain small story spoilers, but more so serves the purpose of showing how the new free-form exploration works in the city of Union.

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Categories: Games

Watch A New Level From The Nintendo World Championship

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 22:30

The Nintendo World Championships were yesterday and hosted a number of Nintendo-themed gaming challenges for some of the world's best players to take on. The entire event (embedded below) is worth watching, but the final challenge is the most interesting, since it features a brand-new level from Super Mario Odyssey.

The challenges (which you can watch starting at the 4:34:54 mark in the video) had the final two competitors for the event, John Numbers and Thomas G, fighting for a five-second head start in the final challenge, which featured a boss fight from Odyssey. The new levels featured several 2D-platforming segments, some tricky flicking using Cappy, and an ice level featuring deadly rings and rotating platforms.

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Categories: Games

The Sequel Is Coming To The West

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 19:27

Bandai Namco has announced God Eater 3, a new title in the action-RPG series. The game's brief first trailer (below) features the same tactical weapon-switching that's become a staple of the series, as well as the big ol' bosses (named Aragami). The plot involves the main character breaking free from comically thick handcuffs in order to continue their mission of killing giant baddies with their transforming weapons, called God Arcs. The official press release also hints at a growing conflict within the God Eaters themselves.

Bandai Namco has not announced platforms for the game. However, judging by the look of the game and the Vita continuing to trail off worldwide, this could be the new game in the series (besides God Eater: Resurrection, a remake of God Eater Burst which made its way to the PS4) to land on modern consoles, which could help the series find a new audience.

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Categories: Games

Overview Trailer Shows Off Delightfully Wacky World

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 10/07/2017 - 18:01

As we inch towards Super Mario Odyssey's release later this month, Nintendo is trickling out new details surrounding the highly anticipated platformer. The newest trailer gives fans an overview of Mario's capture ability, along with new game modes including Assist Mode and co-op.

The trailer gives a lot of raipid-fire information about Mario's powers, such as how Cappy can help him reach higher places and the numerous beings he can capture. With the Odyssey, a giant hat-shaped flying ship, Mario can traverse the world to reach its many kingdoms. We also see more of the photo mode in action, where you can pause gameplay to take a snapshot, as well as a quick overview of several minigames that are scattered around the world.

Co-op is shown briefly in the video, where you can pass a joy-con to a friend to play together. In this mode, one player controls Mario while the other takes control of Cappy. We also learn about Assist Mode, which gives players some guidance through the campaign, such as arrows pointing you in the right direction and second chances if you fall to your death.

To see all of this in action, check out the video below.

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For more on Super Mario Odyssey, read our hands-on impressions and watch this video to see how wacky this platformer can get. Super Mario Odyssey releases on October 27 for Nintendo Switch.

Categories: Games

Stardew Valley Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 22:17

On the surface, Stardew Valley is a game about farming, but there are more adventures awaiting curious players beyond cultivating a rich and bountiful garden. From mining and fishing to making friends and falling in love, Stardew Valley's Pelican Town is stuffed with rewarding opportunities. As modern day woes give way to pressing matters on the farm and within your newfound community, Stardew Valley's meditative activities often lead to personal reflection in the real world. It’s a game that tugs at your curiousity as often as it does your heart.

Your journey begins in the field, cleaning up a neglected and rundown farm. Plotting and planning your garden requires care and attention to detail. What fruits and vegetables do you grow? How much room does each plant need? How do you protect your crops from nature's troublemakers? You learn through practice, and while the basics are easy to grasp, you quickly need to figure out the best way to outfit your budding farm with new tools and equipment.

Upgrades help speed up essential tasks like tilling the earth and watering your plants, but advanced equipment becomes a necessity when the time comes to break down large rocks and stumps that stick out in your garden. The crafting menu also entices you with optional time-saving tools; automated sprinklers that water the crops every morning, artisan equipment to make preserves or beer out of your harvest, and refineries, such as a furnace for turning ore into metal bars. If you want something, you can make it, you just have to scour your environment for the necessary components.

As your farm improves, you gain the ability to raise livestock. Animals are expensive to buy and maintain, and the barn they live in isn’t cheap either. You start small, with a barn just big enough for a few chickens and ducks. But if you run an efficient and bountiful garden, you can eventually afford to upgrade to a bigger barn and keep hearty livestock like pigs, cows and sheep.

You have to feed your stock every day, which can get expensive, but they will eventually begin to produce eggs, milk and other rewards for all your hard work. Beyond their monetary value, animals are simply endearing to be around. Give them a name and work a little petting time into your routine; before you know it, your commodities have become your friends. Like your crops, the goodies livestock produce give you a sense of accomplishment, but their companionship is a different yet equally valuable reward.

The goodies livestock produce give you a sense of accomplishment, but their companionship is a different yet equally valuable reward.

When your farm is healthy and your equipment set, Stardew Valley opens up and your routine expands: after you water your plants, feed your animals and tidy up in the morning, you get to head out in search of adventure and friendship. There’s a mine north of Pelican Town with a seemingly endless bounty of buried treasure, but also danger. Combat is simple--a plain swipe of a sword will brush back most common monsters--but the dangers you face grow as you delve deeper into the mine, pushing your basic tactics to the limit.

There’s a risk/reward relationship to seeking out valuable treasure, as it becomes increasingly more difficult to defend yourself from procedurally generated creatures the deeper you go. You hit checkpoints--in the form of elevator stops--every few floors, which both encourages you to keep going and to return in the future in search of grander rewards as checkpoints allow you to skip past the mine's early levels. The precious gems you find can be sold for profit, donated to a museum that will conduct and share research, or simply hoarded in a chest to be fawned over down the road.

When you grow weary of toiling underground, you can also spend time fishing on lakes, streams and coastal beaches. Fishing in Stardew Valley is straightforward--you use one button to reel in a fish and let go when the line is tense--but it gives you a chance to soak in your surroundings and experience the joys of catching a wide array of fish unique to specific seasons and locations. It’s a calming experience at sunset after a long day that gives you a chance to reflect on your progress and daydream about adventures to come.

Stardew Valley constantly encourages you to explore, be it mining, foraging for fruit in the woods, or collecting seashells, and your curiosity is amply rewarded. Every hidden area you find, every train track you follow, leads to new sights and discoveries that add detail and color to the world around you. Yet as fulfilling as farming and exploring are, visiting Pelican Town's community center pulls you ever deeper into your new life. Like your farm at the beginning of the game, the community center needs a little attention at first: you’re sent out on fetch quests to gather the necessary materials to fuel its reconstruction.

Outside of the community center, the rest of Pelican Town's inhabitants also need your help. In working together to achieve small goals, you grow to understand your neighbors' personalities and identify what makes them tick. Some are pursuing their hopes and dreams, while others fight day to day to overcome personal obstacles; others are quirky creatures of habit that round out the community's overall identity.

Relationships are gauged by a heart meter, and getting to a certain number of hearts results in a cutscene that offer a closer look into your new friends' lives. Offering gifts and completing tasks from a board in the center of town are easy ways to increase your connections, and slowly but surely you’re allowed in the inner circle of people’s otherwise private lives. You may befriend a father named Kent who’s dealing trauma after years at war. He’s working on his temper and trying to bond with his child after being away from home. The child, whom you meet in hiding in his parent's basement, is quiet and introverted. But when you put the time in to get to know him, he reveals that he actually doesn't mind being alone, even though he believes that he's at odds with his parents. These personal moments are touching, and encourage you to spend more time getting to know the people around you.

And if you decide to enter Pelican Town's dating scene, don't be surprised if you end up with butterflies in your stomach. Giving your crush the right gift and seeing the joy on their face makes you genuinely happy, but you have to put yourself out there first. Sure, working with townsfolk in general is a good way to understand the ins and outs of potential suitors, but no amount of preparation diminishes the impact of anxiously delivering a heartfelt gesture. Because you've invested so much time and energy into forging relationships, you get nervous when you expose your feelings, regardless of the fact that you're courting a pixelated crush. Through strong writing and characterization, Stardew Valley stirs up surprising feelings: when your date shares his umbrella in the rain, you know he's the one.

Through strong writing and characterization, Stardew Valley stirs up surprising feelings

Romance often buds during community events that take place each season. In spring you’ll attend a dance and try to get someone to be your partner. At the summer luau you’ll have to bring something delicious from your harvest for the community potluck. At each of these events you’ll have time to get to know the people within the community and see them in a different light than usual. Although it’s lovely to see them outside of their usual activities, it’s a shame year after year the comments and actions of the villagers remain the same. Still, you can learn from previous years, adding better food to the potluck and finally earning the affection of your favorite dance partner.

Mastering farming and earning the affection of your special someone in Stardew Valley are fulfilling journeys filled with surprising and rewarding challenges. But when you have those accomplishments under your belt, it's hard to know where you go from there. Divorce is an option, but if you put a lot of yourself into finding a spouse, dumping them merely to extend your game doesn't seem like an attractive path. Besides, with your money-making farm, cash isn't a concern either.

Ultimately, Stardew Valley's eventful world is so inviting that you may opt to simply start from scratch and forge a new life. For anyone who played Stardew Valley earlier this year when it launched on PC, the new console ports capture the same magic that made the game special all those months ago, and allows you to play from the comfort of your couch. Controls on console are essentially identical to what you get from the PC version's controller support. Console versions also get the fully updated version of Stardew Valley, which includes the aforementioned divorce option, new farm maps that focus on different skills, and a handful of new mechanics that add appreciable wrinkles to life on the farm and about town.

The sheer number of things to accomplish in Stardew Valley can keep you interested beyond the original three in-game years you need to reach the end of your story--you may just want to start over rather than continue on. You’ll work quite hard to gather enough money for your first horse, so that you can quickly move to the mines to get a mineral to complete a bundle at the community center. It’s all centered around whatever it is you want to accomplish that day. And that’s truly what makes Stardew Valley such a lovely experience, it encourages you to go out and be the best you can be, in whichever task that brings you the most joy. Stardew Valley motivates naturally, with blissful optimism.

Editor's note: After further testing, GameSpot has updated the score to reflect the Nintendo Switch version of Stardew Valley. - Oct. 6, 2017, 2:17 PM PT

Categories: Games

Fear What Happens Next

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 20:34

This article original appeared in Game Informer issue 294.

Famed game creator Shinji Mikami, known as the “father of survival horror” for his work on the Resident Evil series, is not returning to the director’s chair for The Evil Within 2. After successfully launching this new horror series, he stepped back to let his young team at Tango Gameworks take the reins. While Mikami remains a key player in overseeing the progress of this sequel, he handed the bloody directorial baton to John Johanas, who served as a visual effects designer on The Evil Within, but also got his feet wet as the director of the game’s two DLC add-ons, The Assignment and The Consequence.

The shakeup in direction doesn’t mean a new start for the series. Unlike the first few Resident Evil games, which introduced new protagonists and threats, The Evil Within 2 once again inflicts pain and suffering upon Sebastian Castellanos, a detective for the Krimson City Police Department who lost his family, sobriety, and everything but his sanity.

At the beginning of The Evil Within, Castellanos was dispatched to investigate multiple homicides at Krimson City’s Beacon Mental Hospital, but soon found himself the pawn in a sinister game created by a mysterious organization called Mobius, as well as a sick individual named Ruben Victoriano (known more commonly as Ruvik).

After losing his sister in a barn fire, Ruvik created a device called STEM that unites multiple users’ minds into one, allowing them to physically live within one central user’s memories. Ruvik created this machine with the hope of seeing his sister again. He was sloppy in his experimentation, and the technology soon became the desire of Mobius. They killed Ruvik and stole his creation, but soon realized that they needed his brain to operate it. They reanimated his brain to use it as the central operating system of STEM, which was activated again when Castellanos entered the hospital.

Castellanos was trapped in a world of horror where he experienced Ruvik’s torment and anger firsthand. After a hellish journey, he ended Ruvik’s psychological threat by detaching his brain from STEM, but it may not have stopped him completely. The game’s conclusion is left ambiguous, perhaps implying Ruvik returned to the real world and is now controlling the body of a patient named Leslie Winters.

Three years have passed since the incident at Beacon Mental Hospital, and Castellanos has been searching for answers that may link Mobius to the death of his family. As The Evil Within 2 begins, he receives a message from his former partner Juli Kidman, who was secretly working for Mobius the entire time.

“Sebastian, for three years since Beacon happened, you’ve been searching for answers,” she said in a recording. “You didn’t find what you were looking for because they didn’t want you to. Mobius knows you’ve been following us. They’ve been watching you for a long time. You trained and trusted me, and in return I betrayed you. Long before we met, you lost your daughter Lily. She’s still alive. This is your chance to save her; to get back what you lost. Lily needs you. You’re going to need to go back into STEM. Again.”

As reluctant as Castellanos is to return to a world that nearly killed him a hundred times over, he learns that the central brain being used for this new iteration of STEM is his daughter’s. He must enter her mind to locate her, and hopefully save her. He also hopes to destroy Mobius in the process.


An Old Threat Reborn
Our demo begins in the game’s second chapter, called “Something Not Quite Right.” We don’t know what events precede this playthrough, but the dialogue leads us to believe Sebastian just entered STEM again.

Kidman is back as a guiding voice, but an untrusted one now that Castellanos knows her true intentions. She tells him that he should begin by looking for the members of Mobius’ lost Search Party Team, who disappeared in a town called Union. She suggests they may have a lead on Lily. The town, which is created by Lily, is supposed to be quaint and peaceful, showing how STEM should -really -work.

We meet Castellanos in a deteriorating elevator, but he already looks like he’s been through hell. His right hand is bandaged, he looks disheveled, and although he’s wearing a tactical shoulder holster, he appears to have already lost his weapons.

When the elevator doors open, the environment around him is shrouded in darkness. A lone florescent light illuminates a small section of a regal black and white checkered floor. A fenced in area can faintly be seen to the left. Castellanos approaches the light, and ducks down to squeeze through a hole in the fence that appears to have been munched on by something large. Again, we see nothing but an unnerving black. Castellanos activates his flashlight, which provides a little comfort, but not nearly enough. A quick scan of the area reveals nothing of importance – more fencing to the left, torn white drapes to the right, and the makings of machinery and equipment for a factory. Looking dead ahead, Castellanos sees dozens of corpses wearing white robes dangling from ropes. They all appear to have been hanged, but the blood on their bodies shows something sinister happened to them before this.

The only way forward is through the corpses. Castellanos moves slowly, but accidentally runs into a couple of them. They remain dead, swaying gently from his touch. The sea of bodies gives way to a metal wall with a red eye painted on it. He can’t interact with it, but a loud swooshing sound rings out, and he spins to see a camera on a tripod across the room. He examines it, and again hears a swoosh. The dangling bodies have moved, and now are lined in straight rows, revealing a clear path to a metal door. Castellanos cautiously inches forward, and opens it. A well-dressed man stands directly behind the door holding a camera. Before Castellanos can do anything, the camera flashes brightly, and then we see nothing but darkness.

Awakening on the floor of a new room, Castellanos sees a wall-sized mirror holding the photograph that was just taken of him. Frustration begins to sink in. He angrily grabs the photo, and then sees something out of the corner of his eye – a woman dressed in red reflected in the mirror. A quick spin reveals nothing, just more white drapes covering age-old items. Castellanos turns back toward the mirror, which now holds the sinister smile of a demon that looks like Laura, the spider-like demon that stalked him throughout the first game.

The mirror shatters loudly, and this new version of Laura now caled “Guardian” stands in his world. As a manifestation of Lily’s mind, she’s different now, standing somewhat normally on two legs, but is at least 12-feet tall. Her hair is still a hypnotic mess of black, but it’s no longer her defining feature; her right arm is replaced by a gigantic, spinning saw blade. A deeper look at Guardian’s body reveals her flesh is sewn together with black wire, and every once in a while you can see smaller arms reaching out from her limbs. She’s a monstrosity, and once again incredibly violent.

Castellanos spins and runs, turning every which way, but the room is relatively small, offering no escape route. Guardian laughs hysterically, but has trouble keeping tabs on her prey’s location. This allots Castellanos time to sprint past her into the opening where the mirror once sat. Guardian’s wild laughter keeps up with Castellanos’ descent into a lengthy hallway, his stamina draining with each step.

Castellanos looks back to see where Guardian is, only to see her burst through a wall. The pursuit continues, and panic is clearly setting in on our unlucky protagonist. He keeps looking behind him, but should keep his gaze directly ahead to a glowing white door that has silently opened to reveal the man with the camera again. He’s done taking photos, and now wields a sizable hunting knife. The man throws the blade forward and it slides easily into Castellanos’ shoulder, sending him to the ground. The man turns around and vanishes in a puff of smoke. Guardian’s pursuit intensifies. She lunges forward and grabs Castellanos off of the floor with what appears to be three separate hands that make up her left arm. As he’s being strangled to death, Castellanos pulls the knife from his arm and jams it into his attacker. She drops him and screams in pain, creating a window for escape. After entering the doorway of light, Castellanos falls to the ground, and the door behind vanishes in a flash. He’s now in a quaint, abandoned house.

This is how our hero obtains his first weapon: the hunting knife. This dramatic moment also signals a shift away from unrelenting action to Castellanos becoming the hunter through slower-paced exploration.


Fighting Back

Electricity still pumps through the home, and many of the rooms have working lights that show it’s been lived in recently. The windows are broken and trash bags are everywhere, but everything else is pristine, such as the nicely arranged vases on the mantel and modern furniture. The home holds healing items, the first of 40 hidden documents, and a handgun. Castellanos almost misses the firearm when leaving the house through the front door, but grabs it from an end table with one foot out of the household.

Standing outside on the front porch, his surroundings are darkened woods with a tall tree canopy blocking out most of the moonlight, but not the light rain. A concrete path begs him to venture into the woodlands, and he wastes no time finding out where it leads. He assures himself, “Don’t worry. It’s just a small, quiet town,” but takes it back seconds later, “Yeah… Too quiet.”

A good way down the path, he sees a woman sprint into another home. He calls for her, but she doesn’t break stride. He tries to knock on the door, but it slides open when his hand touches it. Again, darkness, but this time with a voice saying “Skin and bones… Eat. Gotta eat…” We then see plastic bags filled with unrecognizable meat, and a woman at a table feeding a boy. He looks near dead, but his gargles say otherwise. She slaps him when he struggles to swallow whatever she spooned him. “Don’t cry. I’m doing what’s best for you,” she says, as she slams his head against the table.

It’s a disturbing moment, and for the sake of spoilers I won’t detail what happens next, but Castellanos learns humans are more than they seem. Their heads are made up of white tentacles that squirm wildly, but almost appear to be made of milk or glue.

So far in this demo, one of the big things jumping out is Castellanos’ animations. He may vocalize his thoughts to a thing he is seeing, but you’ll sometimes seem little animations that go along with his state of thought. When he approaches the boy at the kitchen table, he puts his left hand up to his face to cover his nose, and then his right as he draws in closer. If the player didn’t approach the table, this little sequence wouldn’t be seen. A thorough inspection of the house reveals the crafting component gunpowder.

Castellanos once again enters the wooded area. The rain has ceased and nightfall appears to be setting in. A short run down the stone path leads to a road with abandoned cars obscured in light fog. The sounds of gunshots and yelling ring out. Castellanos tracks the sounds to what appears to be the heart of the city, with several small two-to three-story buildings and a church.

Just when it seems the coast is clear, several rotting zombies sprint across the road in hot pursuit of a Union security detail. Although the detail is decked out in flak jackets and equipped with heavy artillery, there are too many zombies to deal with. A few panicked shots hit their marks, but the zombie hunger wins out. One Union member enters a house and slams the door.

Castellanos uses stealth to navigate the swarm, sliding along the side of cars and emerging at the right times to silently take down lone zombies with a knife through the top of their skulls. Enemies have three stages of alertness: a sound wave indicating they hear you, a partially open eye for thinking they saw something, and an open eye for full awareness. Although timing is everything, and Castellanos won’t want to remain exposed for too long, he wants to recover the Green Gel enemies drop, which can be used later to upgrade his abilities.

Most of the zombies are feeding on their new meals, and Castellanos has no problem making short work of them. A close look at one of their corpses again reveals the milky substance on specific body parts. After entering the same home that the Union person fled to, Castellanos moves a bookcase in front of the door to block it, just like Leon could in Resident Evil 4.

The frightened Union worker has barricaded himself in the basement. He reveals himself as Liam O’Neal, and appears wary of a non-Union member talking to him. Castellanos says he’s here to “restore the Core,” which likely means he’s trying to remove his daughter from it.

The game then indicates that the player has located O’Neal’s Safe House, a location that can be revisited. The first Evil Within game was linear in design, but the sequel now features areas you can return to. Union is somewhat of an open space that can be freely explored. O’Neal won’t venture out of the house with Castellanos, but does have information on the Core, and tells him Castellanos’ “communicator” can be tuned to detect its activity. The goal now is to track the girl’s voice to its origin.

Before leaving the safe house, Castellanos drinks a cup of coffee, which restores him to full health. He must brew another pot if he wants to use it again, but this action will take some time to complete. He also grabs ammo, weapon parts, and more gun powder, which he combines at the workbench to craft more handgun bullets. He also uses this station to upgrade his handgun’s ammo capacity. The other upgrade options are firepower, fire rate, and reload time. All options feed from the same weapon parts pool, and each field can be upgraded numerous times, leading to the weapon gaining levels. Castellanos can also craft items in the field, but at the expense of more resources.


Resonances

The hallway in the safe house produces a familiar sight: a specter of a nurse walking into a mirror. Castellanos shouldn’t be confused by this vision, as they were one of the few beacons of safety in Ruvik’s mind, but he immediately questions it. “What the…who was that?”

He peers into the mirror and is teleported to what appears to be a police station. At the end of a hallway sits a wheelchair under a spotlight. When Castellanos approaches it, static appears on screen and he’s teleported to another reality, one that cannot be made out for a split second, before returning to the chair. Reality shifts to a darker place again, and we see the chair consume 
Castellanos, fastening his arms and placing a device over his head.

The nurse approaches him, and he finally recognizes her as Tatiana. From this chair, the player can once again exchange Green Gel for upgrades in health, combat, athleticism, stealth, and recovery.

These fields should allow players to sculpt skills to their preferred play style. Upgrading stealth can lead to small bonuses like increased movement speed, and bigger perks down the skill tree like the ability to perform a stealth kill from around a corner. The combat tree increases damage of melee attacks, and can decrease the kickback of a shotgun. Athleticism can be upgraded to enable an auto-avoid for specific attacks, and recovery has a perk that makes Castellanos automatically use a medical syringe when taking a fatal blow.

The police station is a haven for Castellanos. Here, he finds the first of a new collectible, one of 11 photographic slides that can be viewed through a projector on his desk. This particular slide shows us a moment from Castellanos’ family life. He comments on it.

After returning to Union via another mirror, Castellanos ventures to the city square to track down a girl’s voice using his communicator. By holding it in front of him, he can scan for resonance, indicated by a frequency fuzz that intensifies when he points the communicator in the right direction. Once a strong signal is found, he can lock onto it.

Heading onto the street again triggers an event. Part of the world sudden collapses, creating what appears to be a bottomless canyon. Another part of it jets upward to create a mountain-like structure with a portion of the city still perched precariously atop it. The search for the girl requires just as much stealth as before, but now with the added effort of bringing up the communicator to keep going in the right direction. At one point, Castellanos picks up chatter from a fallen Mobius operative and uses the frequency to find his location, leading to the bounty five handgun bullets.

The world is open for him to freely explore, should he chose to do so. He can also track “unknown resonance” to perhaps find other people in need. In this playthrough, he scavenges the exterior of homes for a bit, but continues following the girl’s voice.

His journey leads to a beautiful white home, where he finds a journal on the kitchen table. When he touches it, the room temperature drops, and a chair shakes violently. Lights flicker as he retreats to the living room. Before he can get there, a ghost-like apparition of a woman appears behind him. She hums a melody, as she slowly floats forward.

I’ll again refrain from spoiling what happens next. This sequence shows just how terrifying The Evil Within 2 can be for encounter design, pacing, and keeping players off kilter. The gameplay hasn’t changed much since the original entry, but this second stage shows the player has more freedom in exploration.

It’ll be interesting to see just how far Tango takes this element when The Evil Within 2 launches on October 13 (Friday the 13th). Our first taste of this dark adventure was filled with jump scares, gore, and monsters galore, but the big hook is once again Castellanos’ journey for answers, which is far more personal this time with his daughter being dangled in front of him.

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