Exclusive First Look At Ultimate Rivals: The Court

Game Informer News Feed - 6 hours 50 min ago

Publisher: Bit Fry Game Studios Developer: Bit Fry Game Studios Platform: iOS

When Skylanders and Disney Infinity were flying off of store shelves, Bit Fry Game Studios almost made a toys-to-life sports title. I was shown a prototype of a Wayne Gretzky figure that would be used for the game by Ben Freidlin, Bit Fry's founder and CEO. The hope was to create a game that blended athletes from all major professional sports, whether it was hockey or baseball, to compete in all sports whether they knew how to in real life or not. As development of this title ramped up, the entire toys-to-life category collapsed, and Bit Fry wisely pivoted to adapt its vision to a standard video game format.

The result of that change was the wildly successful Apple Arcade game Ultimate Rivals: The Rink, an arcade-style hockey game that has assembled over 70 recognizable athletes. That entire roster (along with even more stars), are replacing their ice skates for sneakers in the forthcoming game Ultimate Rivals: The Court.

Drawing heavy inspiration from the NBA Jam games of old, The Court delivers fast-paced, dunk-heavy 3-v-3 basketball action that runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second. It launches this year on Apple Arcade, but will later be released on Steam, as well as unspecified consoles. Here's hoping it comes to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch!

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In creating The Court's dynamic action, Freidlin tells me that Bit Fry looked at fighting games just as much as action-sports. "The mechanics are learnable instantly, but the theory crafting is deep," he adds. When picking a roster, players shouldn't just be picking the athletes they know and love, and instead should be thinking about how their team of three sits against their opponents'. Athletes from different sports have different skill sets. Yes, Lebron James will be a well rounded superstar, but a quarterback like Drew Brees has better accuracy at hitting a full-court shot given his ability to throw the ball downfield. Animations, shots, and deke moves are also different for various athletes and their sports.

As you can see in the image above, the game has superhero-like qualities to it, allowing for hockey players to turn to ice and everyone to be able to soar higher than they should. As amazing feats are performed, a familiar voice from the past will amplify their excitement. Bit Fry has enlisted the voice-acting talents of Tim Kitzrow (of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz fame) to provide commentary. We doubt he'll scream "He's on fire," but we're sure he'll have some other zingers that will get stuck in our heads. If you check out the trailer below, you can hear him say the line that put him on the map.

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Along with the 70-plus athletes from The Rink, Bit Fry is expanding the roster to over 140 competitors, many are NBA stars from today and yesterday, but you'll also see famed names from other sports as well. Bit Fry doesn't want to announce every player just yet, but from the NBA side, players can look forward to suiting up as Stephen Curry, Giannis Antekounmpo, Luka Doncic, Paul George, and Damian Lillard. As for other sports, the addition's include the MLB's Bryce Harper, the WNBA's Candace Parker, the NHL's Patrice Bergeron, the NFL's Lamar Jackson, and USWNT's Christen Press.

The Court is designed with short game sessions in mind – both for online competitive play and against A.I. Along with the standard touch controls, it supports bluetooth-connected console controllers. Freidlin says plenty of depth awaits in a challenge mode called The Gauntlet, and players can also enter a training mode to figure out their perfect team chemistry and to master the moves. "The training mode is modeled after Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat," he says.

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In a world without NBA Jam games, I'm hoping Ultimate Rivals: The Court can pick up the torch and set fire to this genre again, especially since it will be expanding to other platforms later this year.

Categories: Games

Aliens: Fireteam May Be The Bug Hunt We’ve Wanted

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 03/02/2021 - 15:00

Publisher: Cold Iron Studios Developer: Cold Iron Studios Release: Summer 2021 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Alien fans got their moment in the sun with Alien: Isolation, Creative Assembly’s exquisite homage to Ridley Scott’s 1979 film. Folks who lean more toward the bombastic action that James Cameron’s 1986 sequel Aliens provided have had to be more patient. We haven’t gotten a truly great Aliens game (sorry, Colonial Marines), and while it’s absolutely too early to assess its quality, the newly revealed Aliens: Fireteam looks like a combat-booted stomp in the right direction.

Cold Iron Studios is using Aliens as a launching point, but the development team is determined to carve out its own path. One way it’s doing so is by setting Fireteam in the year 2202 – 23 years after the events of the Alien trilogy. In other words, don’t expect to see cameos from familiar characters or to revisit locations that we’ve explored time and time again. Instead, players will be experiencing an all-new storyline that spans four campaigns (each containing three missions). 

You play as a newly recruited member of the United States Colonial Marines. You create your own soldier and choose from one of five classes (gunner, demolisher, recon, technician, and doc), each with their own combat roles. For example, technicians can deploy portable turrets to lock down hallways or provide additional support fire; docs can provide their teammates with temporary buffs and healing; and so on. Players can further customize their characters with different cosmetics, weapon upgrades, unlocked perks, and more. It doesn’t appear to be a crazy deep amount of RPG-style tinkering, but it seems as though Cold Iron has been developing Fireteam with an eye toward replayability.

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The mission we see in a live demo is set on an abandoned orbital refinery named Katanga. The USS Endeavor, which is your hub between missions, has responded to the site after receiving a mysterious distress call. It doesn’t require a tremendous amount of imagination to guess what happens next.

Over the course of several brief firefights, I get to see the Aliens fantasy delivered in full force. Rather than trying to outsmart and outmaneuver a single xenomorph a la Alien, this is all about fending off unrelenting waves of the creatures. They scamper along walls and drop down right in front of us, hoping to overwhelm us with the sheer force of their numbers. Thanks to smart turret placement and decent coordination, they don’t stand a chance. Their black carapaces split under our gunfire, showering the vicinity with their corrosive innards. Thankfully, we’re at a healthy enough distance to not be consumed by the deadly goo.

It’s just a small slice of combat, but there’s enough to get a sense of the various rhythms at play. Before calling an elevator (and initiating a countdown-governed standoff), we have a few quiet moments to reload, regroup, and coordinate how best to survive what could end up being a last stand. I’ve always liked those little lulls between explosive action in Aliens, and it’s a nice breather in Fireteam.

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Cold Iron wants players to play through missions repeatedly. To encourage that, the team is giving players the option to play modifier cards before deploying, which can change the game in myriad ways. You might activate a noir modifier, which changes up the color palette. Or you could do something that significantly adds to the challenges, such as a card that only registers headshots when battling xenomorphs. Playing these cards can earn you bigger rewards, including cosmetics, when you’re finished. 

The studio was cagey about pricing and other details when first discussing Aliens: Fireteam, but studio head Craig Zinkievich later clarified that this was not going to be a live-service title. In addition, he emphasized the importance for the game to exist on its own, without charging players for a steady drip of lootboxes and other microtransactions. 

Cold Iron has definitely nailed the visual tone and other details, like the iconic pinging sound of the motion tracker to the staccato sounds of a Smartgun’s percussive shots. I’m excited to see more about the campaign itself, and to learn how my Marine fits into the larger narrative. It doesn’t appear that I’m going to have to wait long. The studio says the game will be coming to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC this summer.

Categories: Games

The Binding Of Isaac: Repentance Comes To PS5, PS4, And Switch Later This Year

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 03/01/2021 - 21:18

Publisher: Nicalis Developer: Edmund McMillen, Nicalis Release: March 31, 2021 (PC), 2021 (PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch) Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC

The Binding of Isaac is a roguelike classic for a reason, thanks to its gripping gameplay, fun powerups, and the infinite loop of "one more try." Now, about a decade after the original's release, creator Edmund McMillen and developer Nicalis are ready to close out the saga with The Binding of Isaac: Repentance. This new version of the roguelike classic adds a ton of upgrades to the base game to deliver an experience Nicalis has branded as "bigger than any sequel." 

Despite releasing a decade after the original version, Isaac is still a tearful toddler exploring the horrors of his basement. In this new, enhanced version, Isaac can travel to unexplored depths, encountering new places, enemies, and bosses. However, he'll also have new weapon combos and items to use in his quest for answers and survival, as The Binding of Isaac: Repentance adds more than 130 new items to bring the total tally to more than 700. 

The Binding of Isaac: Repentance also includes a full alternate path with new chapters, a new final boss, and a new ending, as well as true four-player cooperative play. Players can also expect to encounter more than 100 new enemies, 25 new bosses, seven new challenges, and more than 5,000 new room designs. 

In addition to confirming the release window of Q3 2021 and the platforms of PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and Switch, Nicalis also revealed a physical edition for PS5 and Switch, which includes a full-color manual and reversible cover inserts. If you don't want to wait that long, The Binding of Isaac: Repentance is already set to hit PC on March 31.

Check out the teaser trailer for the game below and let us know if you're ready to descend back into the depths of Isaac's basement this fall.

Click here to watch embedded media

[Source: Nicalis, Nicalis on Twitter]

Categories: Games

New Details Emerge On The World Of Halo Infinite

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 01:28

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Developer: 343 Industries Release: 2021 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: Xbox One, PC

343 Industries has taken to offering up regular monthly check-ups on the status of Halo Infinite as it steers toward its much anticipated launch later in 2021. After earlier looks into art, graphics, and the work of the live team, this month the team is shining a spotlight on the setting itself. The Zeta Halo is a massive explorable environment that seems to dramatically outstrip the scope of many previous games in the series, especially in terms of freedom and discoverability.

One of the big focuses for creating the game world for Halo Infinite is described as focusing on two central tenets – legacy and simplicity. “For 'Legacy' we really want players to feel like they are experiencing a game that they remember fondly (Halo: Combat Evolved), but with modernized graphics of course,” says Justin Dinges, the campaign art lead on the project. “As far as 'Simplicity' is concerned, we wanted to ensure that we steer away from overly noisy designs and details which is a key takeaway for the team coming off Halo 5.” That’s a welcome message for longtime fans of the series, as Halo has always found a way to balance a modern sci-fi aesthetic with natural beauty.

Taking cues from Bungie’s work on the original Halo: Combat Evolved, 343 Industries is looking to the environment closest to home near their studios in the Pacific Northwest to help inform the artistic look of the Zeta Halo. To nail the right balance, they’re exploring forests, fields, and natural biomes that sit on the surface of the Halo, juxtaposed against jutting hexagonal shapes from the original Forerunner technology, sitting just below the surface. “This is our way of mixing a beautiful real-life biome (the PNW) with something fantastic and sci-fi (the hexagonal structure) as the experience aims to be the best of both worlds,” says Dinges.

This month’s post also offers some fascinating insight into designing gameplay in the large open spaces that the Zeta Halo enables, with a particular focus on the new Grappleshot tool, which lets players zip to distant locations. “Equipment like the Grappleshot is a great example creating new and exciting possibilities,” says gameplay director Troy Mashburn. “Walls, cliffs, and small gaps don’t stop Chief any longer which gave us the opportunity to rethink how encounters are built. This caused some challenges early on because designers couldn’t just place the final objective at the far end of a base assuming players will have to fight their way through. With the Grappleshot, players can go wherever they want whenever they want. From a development standpoint, this was both terrifying and completely liberating at the same time.”

The resulting gameplay encourages players to find their own solutions to confronting a challenging encounter, like how to infiltrate and overtake a large enemy fortress, whether that be taking the frontal assault approach, or grappling up to a sniper nest and taking out a bunch of enemies from a high vantage point.

Future “Inside Infinite” installments in the coming months are set to discuss the overall approach to audio, and include discussions with the PC team, and we’ll surface those discussions as they happen. In the meantime, the discussion of the Zeta Halo setting includes a number of other insights directly from the team, including their opinions on cooperative play within the space, and the focal points for development over the remaining months of development.

Check out the full conversation at Halo Waypoint.  

Categories: Games

Final Fantasy VII Remake Gets New Yuffie-Based DLC

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 23:01

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Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Square Enix Release: April 10, 2020 Rating: Teen Platform: PlayStation 4

Final Fantasy VII Remake was one of the best RPGs of 2020, and Square Enix is building on that success by releasing a new DLC episode featuring Yuffie – one of the party members from the 1997 original who did not appear in last year’s game. And if you're excited to see what Yuffie can do, you won't have long to wait.

The new content is called Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, and as revealed during PlayStation's State of Play event, it releases this summer on June 10. That is also the same day that the PlayStation 5 version of Final Fantasy VII Remake is being released, which also leads to an interesting tidbit about Intergrade. According to the presentation, it appears as though this new content is only available on the new-gen console; amid the instructions for the free PS4-to-PS5 upgrade, text flashed on the screen that said, "New episode featuring Yuffie available for purchase after upgrading to the PlayStation 5 version." 

So, what's the big deal about Yuffie anyway? Why is this exciting? Well, if you haven't played the original Final Fantasy VII, all you need to know is that Yuffie is an energetic ninja warrior from Wutai, and she has an unstoppable desire to acquire materia – the colored orbs that give Cloud and his friends magical abilities.

For a clearer idea of what Yuffie's adventure entails, you can watch the full trailer above. It has all sorts of interesting info and nods, including Yuffie wearing a cute Moogle cape and staying just barely out of sight of recognizable heroes like Tifa and Barrett. 

The Intergrade episode also features a new companion named Sonon who fights alongside Yuffie. The trailer shows them fighting a huge mechanical beast, as Yuffie performs acrobatic leaps and stylish attacks with her blade. Though the familiar Sector 7 slums seem to the setting for at least part of the game, fans can count on brand-new  story beats, bosses, and areas to explore.

While Square Enix wasn't completely tipping its hand in terms of what to expect from Intergrade, we will undoubtedly learn more as its June 10 release approaches. What are your thoughts about this new expansion to Final Fantasy VII Remake? Are you excited to play it? Were you hoping Yuffie's big entrance would be in the next full game instead? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Categories: Games

Five Reasons To Be Excited About Returnal

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 23:00

Publisher: PlayStation Studios Developer: Housemarque Release: April 30, 2021 Platform: PlayStation 5

While a few cryptic early videos have teased the atmosphere and visual potential of Returnal, Housemarque’s new game has remained largely a mystery since its announcement. But after a recent hands-off demo I had the chance to check out, and its appearance at today's State of Play event, my anticipation for the project skyrocketed.

An action game like Returnal lives or dies by how tight the controller play feels, and of course, that’s one element that I can’t speak to with authority until I get hands-on. As such, I’m not ready yet to crown the game as my new shooter obsession until I play it in full on PlayStation 5 for the April 30 release. But independent of gameplay feel, Returnal has a lot in its favor as it nears release in a couple of months.

The Expertise of Housemarque

Housemarque has been around for a long time, and the team has the experience and talent to nail top-tier action. Not everyone knows the team’s games, because in recent game generations, they’ve focused primarily on downloadable arcade-style action games, including titles like Resogun, Nex Machina, and Alienation. Those were fast-paced games that didn’t immediately reveal their depth, but any player who dug in found a rich well of complexity and immense replayability, thanks to immaculate balancing, very tight action controls, and a steady ramp of challenge that allowed for constant improvement by players.

Returnal shifts perspectives to a third-person action shooter, but early gameplay exhibits many of the same focal points of replayability and smooth, fast moving action. And that bodes very well for the chance at some engaging combat scenarios.

Roguelike Structure

Returnal explores the conceit of an astronaut named Selene who crash lands on a weird alien planet called Atropos, filled with monstrous creatures. As she explores, her limited knowledge and weaponry inevitably lead to death. But after meeting her demise, she inevitably wakes back up on her crashing spaceship, destined to experience a madness-inducing time loop.

From a gameplay perspective, that means that Returnal follows the familiar structure of a roguelike, albeit with some twists. Selene can acquire new powers and avenues for exploration that permanently unlock, including a melee attack, a hook shot, and even changes to the geography of the world, like a bridge or door that opens up for subsequent runs. Meanwhile, other upgrades can be acquired on each run, but disappear afterward, like weapons and mods, max health, and attack power.

As such, there’s the promise that players can gradually unlock entirely new areas and biomes, as well as core powers, but also expect that each run brings a sense of discovery and newness.

Procedural Generation

Content that is randomly created for each run can be a blessing or a curse in roguelikes, but based on my time observing the game in action, the team has zeroed in on a number of systems that make the most of both hand-crafted, curated content, while simultaneously having it presented in creative ways on each runthrough.

Amid 10 weapon archetypes, like machine guns and shotguns, there is a tremendous variance that changes the baseline behaviors of armaments you find. In addition, weapons come with traits that further change things up, like piercing bullets, sniper rifle rounds, or explosive rounds – all of which can stack. On top of that, weapons also come with unique alt-fire options, like adding a lightning gun shot, or tentacle attacks that entangle foes. Add in randomized specs, and players can expect all kinds of weird and wonderful weapons. On top of weapons, players also encounter parasites, which graft onto Selene, and offer a random selection of both positive and negative effects, leading to a risk/reward choice for using them. For instance, you might bear one parasite that attracts revenge bullets from enemies you kill, but simultaneously creates explosions every time you pull off a critical reload.

Likewise, the level design is built to optimize for variability while not ignoring the need for thoughtful construction and progression. Individual rooms are hand-crafted, but their orientation with other rooms changes. And the contents of the rooms also changes, from the monsters that appear there, to the secret chambers or passages you can find, to the loot you can pick up. On a larger level, Returnal also features several unique biomes that you’ll gradually encounter– with entirely new color palettes, environmental effects, and geography to explore.

A Mysterious Story

While the shooting and action is certainly a big focus, Returnal also has some big narrative ambitions. Selene’s exploration of the Atropos planet is wrapped up in mystery and secrets, including the very nature of the time loop itself, and why it’s happening. At times, Selene encounters manifestations of her own dead self, sometimes arising from previous lives she has lived exploring the planet, but also sometimes encountering dead selves from future runs she hasn’t yet taken.

Players learn that a strange signal drew Selene to Atropos, labeled “White Shadow,” and she desperately searches for its origin and meaning.

But strangest of all, during Selene’s journey, she occasionally encounters what seems to be an Earth house hidden amid the alien growth – a place that clearly has some ties to her own past. When players approach the house, the view shifts to first-person, and Selene can wander the house, though there are doors she won’t initially open, seemingly because of some trauma connected to her time there.

The storyline is built to unfold gradually over the course of many runs and lives through the game, which has the potential to lend a linking nature between the many playthroughs that players may inevitably confront on the journey to answers.

Sweet PS5 Exclusive Action

While there are plenty of fascinating trappings that add intrigue and replayability to Returnal’s appeal, it will all be for naught if the shooting, speed, and overall action aren’t up to snuff. The full picture there won’t come into focus until I’ve had a chance to play it for myself, but the combat I saw in the hands-off demo looks very promising.  

In keeping with Housemarque’s arcade history, many of the battles draw heavily on the “bullet-hell” tradition of constant attacks pouring out across the screen, demanding the player dodge, run, and dash to safety, even while pumping out counterattacks. There’s a twitchy, fast-moving quality to the action that is sure to remind players of the team’s other work on titles like Resogun.

Beyond that, the quality of the action is especially high, thanks to the game’s exclusive appearance on PS5. One of a handful of games so far that have been exclusively built to cater to the PS5’s potential, the onscreen visuals (and especially particle and weapon effects) are a sight to behold. Housemarque told me that their team is also investing heavily in leveraging the PS5’s 3D audio tech to create increased atmospheric immersion; plan to play with a headset if you can. In addition, the team is also exploring ways to capitalize on the PS5’s awesome DualSense controller; for instance, the adaptive trigger feature will be used on the L2 aim button, letting you get a focused zoom by pulling the trigger halfway, but also letting you push past the resistance so that the weapon will switch into alt-fire.

We don’t have long to wait until we can all try out Returnal for ourselves. The game is targeting a full release on April 30, exclusively for PlayStation 5. In the meantime, if the idea of Housemarque’s great eye for action has you excited, the team’s earlier games, including Resogun, remain as fun now as on the day they released – go check them out!

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Categories: Games

Bravely Default 2 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 13:00

The Bravely series has always excelled at evoking the feeling of playing classic Final Fantasy-style RPGs, while sanding off some of the rough edges that may make those classic games less approachable to modern audiences. Bravely Default II, confusingly enough the third game in the franchise, maintains much of its predecessors' retro charm--but it actually removes some of the quality-of-life features that made the first two such breezy nostalgic throwbacks. Instead of simply reminding you of the satisfaction of playing a classic RPG, Bravely Default II demands that you relive the entire experience, faults and all.

For the uninitiated, Bravely Default gets its namesake from its innovative risk-reward combat system. Along with your typical health and magic meters, you have Brave Points (BP). And rather than a standard Defend command, you can choose to Default, which both defends and banks BP for later use. You can spend up to four actions using Brave command, but if you don't have enough BP banked you go into debt and skip future turns undefended.

This has always been key to Bravely Default's battle system, and it remains essentially untouched here. The approach is a little less novel the third time around, but it still creates a unique wrinkle of strategic RPG battle planning. Do you go into debt to unleash a flurry of attacks or do some emergency healing? Do you bank first and take the damage for a few turns? Bravely veterans will fall right back into the habit, but nothing about it feels too complex that it should give newcomers trouble. And newcomers will be able to jump in here because, like Final Fantasy, Bravely Default II's story is disconnected from any continuity. Four strangers come together as the selfless Heroes of Light to stave off certain doom--you know the drill.

Continue Reading at GameSpot
Categories: Games

30XX Early Access Review

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 02/24/2021 - 20:41

When you die in 30XX, thus bringing your run to a premature and perhaps permanent end, there's a good chance you will receive a message from the Bureau of Encouragement. In a roguelike platformer where death can feel like a crushing setback or at best wasted time, you would be forgiven for expecting to find comfort in such a message. A consoling pat on the back, some inspiring words, or at least a sliver of hope. You would be wrong. "Ooooh! So close…" says the Bureau of Encouragement. "Just kidding. That was terrible!"

I received a lot of messages from the Bureau of Encouragement because I died a lot in 30XX. But the Bureau was not the only regulatory agency to contact me in the aftermath of my demise. The Failure Board and the Department of Aggravation also got in touch to register their contempt at my performance. "Remember, you can stop whenever you have given up hope," they laughed.

Despite their derision, I pressed on. Much like the classic action platformers from which it draws heavy inspiration, 30XX is a game in which defeat is never an ending but rather an opportunity to start over and try again. A roguelike structure is a smart complement to this life-death cycle and positions 30XX--even in its Early Access state--as an accomplished title, worthy of comparison to its 8- and 16-bit forerunners.

Continue Reading at GameSpot
Categories: Games

Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection Review

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 15:00

Capcom's Ghost 'n Goblins franchise has a very specific reputation. Whether you played the Arcade or NES version of Ghosts 'n Goblins, Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the Genesis, or Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the SNES, working through these games felt like pushing a boulder up a mountain or pulling teeth. A little over 35 years later, Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection remixes and revives those games into a platformer that looks new but, perhaps unsurprisingly, embodies that same boulder-pushing, teeth-pulling gameplay. Its modern flourishes soften the blow a bit from time to time, but Resurrection is still defined by punishing, borderline cruel tactics that game designers have long-since outgrown.

Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection is a new game, but it functionally retells the Ghosts 'n Goblins story. The basic mechanical structure of the series remains intact, too: You run and jump from left to right, throwing javelins, knives, flaming potions, and other weapons at a seemingly endless onslaught of zombies, scythe-wielding skeletons, and winged demons. Famously, you begin the level clad in armor but lose some of it every time you take a hit until you're inevitably hopping around in heart-adorned boxers.

Resurrection derives large chunks--level themes, sequences, and bosses--from previous games, most notably Ghouls 'n Ghosts. Some of the series' distinctive bosses and sequences are reimagined in Resurrection's pencil-style art, which smartly breathes a lot more color and whimsy into a series that's always felt more cheeky than spooky. Not every reference to the old games is pulled literally from an older game; some, like the now-towering gray cyclops from Ghosts 'n Goblins, are more liberal reinterpretations. Even the enemies and sequences you can trace back to a specific point in a previous game are not identical to their predecessors, and it doesn't feel like replaying a portion of another game, but it's a potent dose of nostalgia.

Continue Reading at GameSpot
Categories: Games

Squading Up In Watch Dogs: Legion Online

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 02/22/2021 - 17:00

Publisher: Ubisoft Developer: Ubisoft Toronto Release: October 29, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia), November 10, 2020 (Xbox Series X/S), November 12, 2020 (PlayStation 5) Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC

Watch Dogs: Legion may have launched last October, but the fight to liberate London rages on in its upcoming online mode. Ubisoft plans to launch Watch Dogs: Legion Online on March 9 (delayed from February 23), and expands the game’s sandbox to allow players to work together to hack machines, fight Albion soldiers, or just goof around and cause wanton chaos. I spent a few hours roaming the mean streets of London with a squad to see what the mode has to offer.

So far, Watch Dogs: Legion Online looks to be solid fun, especially if you’re digging the main game and want to experience more of that with a few buddies. Some of the smaller missions are pretty straightforward, but the more complex missions, like Tactical Ops, showcase the teamwork and creative aspect. While I’d be surprised if it reaches the same heights as GTA V Online, it should offer a totally respectable playground for goofing around. 

Categories: Games

Find Mankrik's Wife In Hearthstone's Forged In The Barrens Expansion

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 02/19/2021 - 22:38

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment Developer: Blizzard Entertainment Release: March 11, 2014 Rating: Teen Platform: PC

Hearthstone's next expansion, Forged in the Barrens, is lined up to kick off the Year of the Gryphon for the digital collectible card game. As part of a themed block, the expansions this year follow a sort of World of Warcraft progression pattern as players will begin the journey in the low-level (but still very iconic!) Barrens zone and then take travel to other areas later in their journey as the year goes on. The Barrens is a zone known for two things – lively chat and Mankrik's wife. While thankfully the Barrens chat experience isn't coming to Hearthstone, Mankrik's wife is!

Alongside some signature Barrens fun like raptors and quillboars, the set includes some new features to shake Hearthstone up. Some cards include the new Frenzy mechanic, which triggers when the unit takes damage and survives. Some units really get psyched up from taking damage, so you can bet that little one damage effects to start revving your troops up are going to be part of new strategies.

Also, an important note both for the set and for the game, spells are being sorted into schools to interact with new cards. For instance, spells will now be classified as arcane, nature, etc, and this determines some important interactions. Hearthstone now contains cards that boost or trigger upon certain spell schools only, like a card that gives additional damage to nature spells specifically and not a blanket "plus spell damage."

One other significant new suite of cards has different effects based on how many mana crystals you have. So, an early game spell may just summon one imp for two mana, but if you have all 10 mana crystals unlocked it may give you an entire army. These "scaling" cards can let you hit your early game drops but also be incredibly useful if drawn late in the game, giving you some powerful flexibility.

Forged In The Barrens includes 135 new cards, including 10 legendary mercenaries that we'll be following as they progress through the aforementioned "WoW progression loop" where we start in the Barrens and move into more in the B dangerous fare later down the line.

Categories: Games

Blue Fire Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 02/19/2021 - 19:09

It's easy to identify many of Blue Fire's potential inspirations. Its platforming, combat, and overall structure harken back to the sprawling maps and challenges of Hollow Knight, its handful of dungeons could pass for shorter versions of those in most Legend of Zelda titles, and its progression mixes many elements synonymous with From Software's Souls series. But developer ROBI Studios struggles to bring all of these elements together in a cohesive fashion, and the addition of the studio's own ideas to the mix weighs down Blue Fire's otherwise exceptional platforming.

Blue Fire's most prominent focus is its platforming, which permeates every action you take across its 12-hour adventure. You start with just a jump and a dash, and Blue Fire immediately makes great use of these limited mechanics by giving you a satisfying amount of control over your movements. The length of each jump or dash is tied to the length of a respective button press, which means you can easily cancel either action in mid-air and have greater control over your aerial movements. This in and of itself isn't unique to Blue Fire, but the fine-tuned feel of movement makes leaping around each varied biome in its world a treat.

Blue Fire captured on PC

These basic movements are coupled with a growing repertoire of moves that you acquire as you progress, including movement speed boosts, wall-running, and double jumps. Blue Fire introduces these new mechanics gracefully; you have plenty of time to get to grips with one before being tasked to learn another. Eventually, stringing them all together feels like you're conducting an elegant ballet in mid-air, accurately timing and weighing each button press with care to make sure you're making pin-point jumps around areas designed to challenge these skills.

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Categories: Games

Little Nightmares 2 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 02/18/2021 - 21:04

About an hour into Little Nightmares II, I found a toy duck resting on a hardwood floor. It was the kind of carved, wooden plaything that kids drag around on a piece of twine, with wheels where the real waterfowl's webbed feet would be. A dim spotlight from somewhere above shone on its reflective wings. Behind it, there was an oaky barrier, formed from leaning one table against another--too tall for my character, a tiny child named Mono, to climb. When I approached, the floorboard the duck was sitting on sunk into the floor. I turned to run just as a metal light fixture swung down from the ceiling, smashing me into the barrier and killing me.

Once the checkpoint reset, I tried again, attempting to quickly run away from the floorboard before the pendulum fell. No dice. Again, it smashed me against the wall.

"I wonder if I can..." I thought, eyeing the nearby toy, ""

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Categories: Games

Knockout City Breakdown And Hands-On Impressions

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 02/17/2021 - 23:18

Publisher: Electronic Arts Developer: Velan Studios Release: May 21, 2021 Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

EA pulled back the curtain today on Knockout City during Wednesday's Nintendo Direct, and the new competitive multiplayer game centers on the noblest of all sports: dodgeball. The game moves the beloved childhood sport from black tops and school gyms to futuristic rooftops, construction sites, and bustling city streets. Even after watching the debut trailer you probably have a few questions: What the heck is this thing, why should I care, and how much is it going to cost me? I recently spent several hours playing the game and have returned with answers to all of those questions. 

If Knockout City piques your interest, Velan is holding a PC closed beta period from February 20-21. There will also be a full game trial on launch day, so curious players can try before they buy. Knockout City has potential and with a few more months of polish and player feedback, it could be offer an entertaining alternative to standard multiplayer offerings. If it can dodge the pitfalls of other failed multiplayer titles, it just might have a shot a success. 

Categories: Games

Hawkeye Gets Detailed In Latest Marvel's Avengers War Table

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 02/16/2021 - 19:34

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal Release: September 4, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia), March 18, 2021 (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S) Rating: Teen Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC

In December, Marvel's Avengers finally received its first post-launch hero in the form of Kate Bishop, the protégé of original Hawkeye Clint Barton. Her story, Operation: Taking AIM, centered around a conspiracy involving Nick Fury and time travel, which leads into the story of the next post-launch hero, Clint Barton. Today, developer Crystal Dynamics provided its first in-depth look into the arrowed Avenger, as well as a March release date for Hawkeye.

Hawkeye's story is called Operation: Future Imperfect and takes place in the not-too-distant possible future where all hope is lost and the world has been devastated. The Kree have come to Earth and laid waste to the planet.

According to the War Table presentation below, the Operation: Future Imperfect story is heavily inspired by the Old Man Hawkeye Marvel Comics run. That story centers around the world's supervillains organizing to wipe out all superheroes. In Marvel's Avengers' loose adaptation of this storyline, old man Hawkeye retired and sat the fight out, so he wasn't a part of the fight when the Kree attacked. Meanwhile, modern-day Hawkeye is involved in a storyline inspired by the Hawkeye comics My Life as a Weapon

In the apocalyptic future, a nuclear war has destroyed the planet and Hulk is driven insane by the tragic events as the additional radiation causes him to further transform into Maestro, a version of the green monster that combines Hulk's might with Banner's intelligence. Maestro takes out all remaining heroes and villains in the world to attempt to rebuild the planet in his image. With a throne surrounded by trophies like Iron Man's helmet and Captain America's shield, it doesn't look like things went so well for Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Once you pick up the bow as Hawkeye, you can expect an eclectic mix of abilities from Clint. While you may best know him as the expert archer in the Marvel universe, Crystal Dynamics took inspiration from Clint's time as Ronin to also give him high-level swordplay. Clint is able to sidestep attacks and parry with ease. His Deadeye ability lets him home in on a specific target to maximize damage, while his arsenal of 10 unique arrow types will let you approach fights how you want to. His Hunter's Arrow ultimate allows him to shoot an arrow (or multiple arrows when you upgrade) that flies from enemy to enemy across the battlefield. 

You can see the entire War Table presentation below.

Click here to watch embedded media

The release of Hawkeye and his story coincides with the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of Marvel's Avengers. You can read more about that news here, or get up to speed with the game by checking out the full list of playable heroes and our review.

[Source: Marvel's Avengers on YouTube]

Categories: Games

What Is Valheim And Why Is Everyone Playing It?

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 02/15/2021 - 18:05

Publisher: Coffee Stain Publishing Developer: Iron Gate AB Platform: PC

Over the weekend, Viking survival game Valheim crested to a concurrent player peak of over 360,000 players on Steam. While Steam and other game storefronts are inundated with survival titles to choose from, ranging from Minecraft (and its many assorted mods) to Ark to Terraria to Rust, the new early access title from Iron Gate AB is barging its way onto the scene. From a core list of features and mechanics, Valheim may not appear different at all from many other survival titles. So what separates Valheim from any of the other survival titles out there? Should you give it a try? Here are a few key takeaways that help explain Valheim’s rise through the ranks…

Two Distinctly Different Speeds

You can explore the world of Valheim by yourself or with 9 other friends, on dedicated servers or just by joining your friend’s world. While the single-player experience is fundamentally the same game, it plays much differently. Alone, the game is more of a Zen garden of sorts, allowing you to take each day at your own pace, enjoying every little piece of cooked grub and being the sole owner of every exploration, every triumph, and every discovery. Pacing as a solo player is much slower, and becomes a sort of survival meditation as you plan each day and overprepare for every step outside your door. After all, there’s no one to help you out should you get killed and need to perform a dreaded corpse run to get your gear.

Multiplayer is more traditional survival as players work together to craft multiple bases and take on the challenges of building, gearing, exploring and boss-slaying together. Some players shy away from this style of play, as not logging into the game for even a single day can have profound effects on what tier the server is at (We’ve all started Terraria worlds, left for a day, and come back to our friends zipping around in the sky with laser guns as we hold up our little baby wooden pickaxe…). But after around a week of diving into Valheim, the co-op multiplayer is the best way to play. Meeting up with your friends and bonding over a raft ride in a storm or just heading out to mine some copper together is a blast.

In fact, you can resummon big bosses and they have multiple spawn locations per world, so if you did want to play independently but still have a support group on a server, that's an option as well. If your crew is anything like mine, players will naturally fill the archetypal buckets of builder, explorer, fighter, and more, making for a fun time whenever you log in. If you choose to go the multiplayer route, I highly recommend forking out the cash for a dedicated server so you and your friends can come and go as you please instead of having to wait for a friend to set up the world every time you want to play. While I think the multiplayer is vastly superior and teamwork makes the dream work, the solo game is an enjoyable, albeit incredibly different, activity in which you’re sure to enjoy every discovery yourself.

Of additional note, the barebones PvP is entirely opt in and pretty much just for fun, making the multiplayer aspect of Valheim completely co-op. This (almost) eliminates the griefer vibe that can permeate some other survival games. Yes, theoretically someone could come into your game and smash your house down if you open your world up to the public, so try to play with people you know!

Simplicity Is Key

Valheim’s structure is immediately discernible and understandable even for players far removed from the survival genre. Essentially, each biome is a tier and ruled by a boss. Farm the zone for resources, make new gear and recipes, kill the boss, rinse and repeat with tools to tackle the next zone via the boss drops. The boss battles create server-gathering events for you and your friends, and if you’re playing with a particularly inquisitive or adventurous group there are creative ways to sequence break the natural order of progression. The key here really is that the game is understandable from the get go, with a helpful crow giving players tutorial steps. You don’t need to worry about making fifty other items to craft a single item or complex multifaceted crafting schools, it’s just get up and go and start making progress in your world.

Conquering the Meadow is a breeze, the Black Forest offers a significant bump up in exploration and challenges, and things get considerably more intense in the Swamp, Plains, and Mountains. And Valheim has optional secrets to discover as well that exist outside the biome hierarchy that can greatly enhance your options and progress, like the merchant and a certain sea creature I won’t spoil. There’s something to be said that you aren’t tasked with trying to cobble together thirty different types of resources just to get things going, wood and stone is enough. Survival titles are somewhat inherently intimidating by genre, and Valheim is surprisingly welcoming for a game where vikings battle werewolves in the snow.

Rewards Instead Of Punishment

Yes, Valheim has some fairly hardcore consequences for death in that you need to run back to your body to recover your gear and items, but you can prepare for it quite well. Outside of that though, Valheim rewards you for interacting with survival mechanics rather than punishing you for failing to do so. Eating food makes you much harder to kill, providing hit point regeneration, stamina, and other bonuses – but you won’t die from not eating. You’re incentivized to find shelter and warmth from the cold and wet conditions, but these things won’t kill or damage you either. From a gameplay standpoint, this makes dealing with the world a lot easier. You know that if you’re going to be doing any difficult task like forging ahead into a new biome or taking on a boss you’re going to want to be fully rested with hearty meals in your belly, but you are not constantly nagged to death by hunger, thirst, or weather meters. This design shift is highly significant for alleviating excess player frustration in a hostile world.

Punctuated, Powerful Discovery

Most survival games have meaningful discoveries, and Valheim puts an exclamation mark on them with sparse musical notes and well-utilized effects. Valheim’s world is surprisingly beautiful at times, with impressive lighting and weather adding accents to the action. Rainstorms. Lightning. Blizzard whiteouts. The first time comes at you while you climb up the frozen slopes of the Mountains, your first journey on the sea where you run into the great , and summoning your first boss are just a few examples of momentous moments that you’ll have, by yourself or with your Viking crew. While much of the fare in Valheim is in fact featured in other survival games too, Valheim nails the discovery aspect, filling players with equal parts trepidation and exhilaration as they wander into new areas for the first time. Finding some of the optional discoveries lends much to the standard Biome > Boss > Biome recipe that might otherwise render the journey rote, and hearing the horn the first time you set sail on the sea is something you simply can’t find anywhere else. 

Coming Back To Reality

Yes, there's also the COVID-19 factor that is shining the spotlight on gaming experiences both solitary and social, but it would be dismissive and wrong to attribute Valheim's success to that aspect alone. I’m happy that Valheim is seeing a ton of early access success, and I hope it means the team can eventually push out an amazing final product. The realities of the situation are that because it is early access and only about half the content is there worldwise, there’s going to be an inevitable fall-off as players hit the end of the current content offerings. Many will likely wait until the full version is available rather than tackling every patch on the roadmap. While this is perfectly normal and expected, expect plenty of cries from the peanut gallery that Valheim is a “Two-week game” or “Lol dead game!” as the playerbase trickles out after the initial surge.  Valheim is looking great as an approachable, intriguing, and flavorful world. You should probably take a look. 

Categories: Games

How To Spend Your Gold, Rubies, And Amber In Valheim

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 02/11/2021 - 17:45

Publisher: Coffee Stain Publishing Developer: Iron Gate AB Platform: PC

If you’ve been playing the Viking survival game Valheim, you’ve probably amassed a huge pile of precious gems and coins from your travels in the first few biomes, the Meadow and The Black Forest. Burial Chambers and Troll Hunts can line your pockets with valuable items during your first few days of gameplay, and later forays into the Sunken Crypts of the Swamp can yield huge piles of amber, amber pearls, and rubies while you collect scrap iron. Be sure to bring a torch or light source into these dungeons and caves, as you may otherwise miss these valuables as they are tiny, hard to see, and often tucked away in a corner out of sight. Of course, sometimes you’ll find a stack in a chest, but do check out the darker areas in primary rooms.

Turn in your treasure for extremely useful items at Haldor

It’s likely that your valuables and coins are sitting nested away inside a box at your homestead, waiting for the day you find someplace to spend them. With any luck, that day has come, as you head to locate the vendor in The Black Forest biome. Depending on your world seed, your vendor(s) may be incredibly easy to find, or you may want to pack a sack lunch for a long exploration across the world. Either way, you should plan on locating the vendor as soon as possible, don’t put it off as you begin exploring the Swamp and Plains biomes. Basically, you should try to have a vendor found at or around the time you take down the Elder, but don’t sweat it if you put together a location expedition a bit later. That said, the vendor provides access to some incredibly powerful items that will make your life much, much easier as you move into the more difficult areas of the game.

The vendor’s name is Haldor, and shows up on the map with a big bag symbol. There’s a fairly generous range for this map icon to show up, so keep an eye on your map while you are looking for Haldor, as the symbol will show up long before you can see his camp. Depending how close your civilization is to Haldor, one of your first projects should be to construct a portal nearby (assuming you have the surtling cores to spare). Then, it’s time to take a look at what this mystic merchant has to offer!

Haldor sells fishing rods and bait which can greatly diversify your cooking options and give you something to do on those long trips across the sea, but that’s just the beginning. The big ticket item on sale for 950 gold is the Megingjord. You want this. What does it do? In Norse mythology, the Megingjord is Thor’s magic belt of strength. In Valheim, it functions much in the same way, and wearing it will raise your weight cap from 300 to 450. That’s a ton more ore that you can haul back out of those dungeon delves, and it makes using higher-end metals to craft your gear more palatable. Iron is heavy!

Tired of carrying around a torch? Pick up the Dverger circlet and you’ll have a light source on your head wherever you go! And if you just want to sit around the homestead in style as you cultivate crops and honey, grab the Yule hat. It’s stylish.

It’s going to be tough to come up with the raw thousands of coins you and your team need to get a full complement of goods from Haldor, so that’s why you want to bring him your valuables. While you can’t sell standard goods to Haldor, anything tagged “valuable” in your inventory can be sold for coins.

Once you find Haldor and have a chance to trade in your treasures for useful items, your progress through Valheim gets some new options and extremely useful tools to help make the survival journey easier. Find the vendor as soon as you can!

Categories: Games

Destruction AllStars Review

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 02/10/2021 - 22:21

With its bright energy, colorful characters, and wacky-powered cars, Destruction AllStars takes many of the aesthetic and mechanical trends from the last five years of multiplayer-focused live games and applies them to the long-dormant car combat genre. Speeding around beautifully detailed and cartoonishly articulated demolition derby courses, looking for your chance to rev your engine and hit another player so hard their ride explodes. When your own car inevitably gets busted up beyond recognition, you can hop out of your car and climb into another: A novel idea, but one that keeps you out of the action. Despite its striking visuals and solid driving fundamentals, Destruction AllStars' demolition derby-style car smashing is inconsistent and unpredictable. Every multiplayer game has highs and lows, but Destruction AllStars' best bits are few and fleeting.

You have one job to do in Destruction AllStars: Get into a car and crash it into other players. At the start of each match, 16 players start out on foot and race to grab one of a handful of empty cars, which come in many recognizable shapes like slick sports cars, burly SUVs, and tough trucks. Unlike in most car games, though, you are not tied to your car forever. You can eject from a vehicle at any time to trade for a new model or because the car's health is low and you don't want to wipe out.

Whether you crash or get crashed into, at least you're going to look good doing it. Destruction AllStars' large arenas are incredibly well-detailed and drenched in bright, colorful lights are a visual feast. The characters, from Fuego the masked-metal head to Ratu, a teal-haired boxer in an orange jumpsuit, are all drawn in a familiar Overwatch-esque style but have very specific looks that pop and draw you to them all the same. Even the little flourishes, like how a character jumps into an empty white car which instantaneously takes on their color scheme, look cool every time.

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Categories: Games

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury Review

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 02/10/2021 - 14:00

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is a candy confection of fine-tuned platforming that marries some of the best elements of 2D and 3D Mario in two very different ways. The package is mostly a re-release of a Wii U game, but this version upgrades the original with a faster pace and online play, and then adds the experimental and gloriously strange Bowser's Fury on top of it.

The two experiences are bifurcated to the point where you need to quit out of one completely to start the other. This makes sense--the two share some superficial traits but are otherwise very different design philosophies and platforming approaches. Because of this very split design, though, it only makes sense to examine them as separate games.

Super Mario 3D World

It's easier to see Super Mario 3D World's place in Mario canon with the benefit of hindsight. It's a successor to Mario Galaxy, not in direct mechanics but in a broader design philosophy. The stages are relatively small, self-contained bouts of creative platforming, often with their own theme or mechanics at the forefront. Each stage is presented as a diorama slice and usually include a limited degree of Z-axis depth, but the core idea between them is the same: Get in, see a clever application of Mario mechanics, then get out before the concept overstays its welcome.

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Categories: Games

Persona 5 Strikers Review - The Hands That Thieve

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 02/09/2021 - 15:00

It's always nice to see your friends again, even if your time together doesn't always live up to the highest highs you've experienced in the past. Persona 5 Strikers is a lot like that--it comes with some special moments that foster a deeper appreciation for what Persona 5 is and what it represents. From the wild action-RPG combat to the summer road-trip premise, characters we know and love get to show off how much they've grown and prove they can still kick ass in style. Strikers does trip over a few clumsy tropes along the way, and sometimes tries a little too hard to recapture Persona 5's magic, but when it's all said and done, I'm glad this reunion happened to begin with.

It's the summer after the events of the original game, and the Phantom Thieves have a little free time. With Joker being back in town, why not enjoy the break? Before they can even make plans, they're caught in another round of beating down the metaphysical evils of the Metaverse and changing hearts. This time, the phenomenon is happening all across Japan. Although you follow similar patterns established in Persona 5--fighting through surreal dungeons and living life in the real world--the context is quite different both narratively and gameplay-wise.

What's Worth Fighting For

Your first few targets have been manipulating people's desires in order to feed their ambitions for fame and fortune, but there's a bigger mystery as to how and why there's strange behavior en masse. You begin to unveil that tragic pasts have led them down a dark path of exploiting the Metaverse. The broader message isn't to excuse behavior or to say that trauma will surely corrupt its victims--rather, that our circumstances and the people around us (or lack thereof) have significant influence over how we internalize and process pain, and eventually who we become.

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Categories: Games