Games

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 12/22/2017 - 17:00

You know what's a great idea? Stuffing 100 players into a plane to parachute down onto a desolate island to scavenge for weapons, armor, and supplies in hopes of surviving a bloody deathmatch. And to keep things interesting as numbers dwindle, throw in the impending doom of an electric field that forces players into an ever-shrinking warzone. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds turns this foreboding gameplay concept into an exhilarating multiplayer shooter. With several randomized variables that challenge you to adapt, no two matches are the same, and it's what keeps you coming back for more. It's not the first of its kind, and despite glaring flaws, PUBG emerges as the most accessible, mechanically refined battle royale game to date.

PUBG stands above its forebears by streamlining systems and mechanics to let you focus on gearing up, devising tactics on the fly, and executing them to the best of your ability. Gone are granular gameplay elements like crafting, bleeding, and the arduous navigation from games of this lineage. Jumping into a match is less daunting and faster paced than something like H1Z1: King of the Kill or earlier Arma II mods that Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Greene himself helped create.

Whether solo or with a squad of other players, the early phase of a match is filled with tense anticipation. Dropping out of an aircraft with just the clothes on your back, you're expected to loot for weapons, ammo, armor, and health packs. These critical items litter the city centers, towns, and abandoned structures across the game's two different maps. You have to account for the plane's flight path and determine if you want to pick a fight as soon as possible; if so, it's a race to find the first gun or immediately throw hands in a hilariously janky boxing match. On the flip side, parachuting to a more distant town results in a less stressful hunt for items; either way, you won't always get the gear you want. In squads, sharing an abundance of ammo and health packs or helping scout for a vehicle highlights the tactical advantage of team play in the opening minutes.

It's absolutely necessary to juggle all of these factors in the early phase of a match, and by the same token, this can prove to be exhausting and repetitive. Despite having relatively smooth inventory management, it's demoralizing to spend a majority of a match gearing up only to lose in the first firefight or die unceremoniously by distant gunfire coming from an undetermined direction. The harsh reality is part and parcel of the give-and-take you have to accept in PUBG for the more rewarding moments to surface.

After working through the hectic opening of a match, you then have to face the dread of engaging others while also keeping an eye on the slow yet ominous "blue circle of death" that forces players into an increasingly smaller zone. It gives you time to scavenge regardless of the area you land in, but the random nature of where the circle converges within a huge map ensures that no one strategy can be employed repeatedly. Whereas capture zones and specific choke points dictate the action in many shooters, PUBG leverages simple variables to stave off monotony.

You never know where the final firefight will take place, or which position will be most advantageous when things heat up, until the blue zone comes into view. One match could have the last 10 players fighting on the open shores and in between rock formations, and the next one could turn into a stalemate between squads holed up in buildings. Miramar, the newer desert map, showcases the evolution of PUBG with its more varied terrain, newfound verticality, and quirky touches to city interiors (like a luchador wrestling ring and a casino floor). Regardless of the map, the same rules and tactics apply, and it's up to you to adapt to the given environment.

Positioning, scouting, and knowing when to engage are vital to success; these are tenets that feed into the emergent tactics formed in the matter of seconds that separate life and death, especially when playing in groups. Imagine a skirmish against another squad across a crowded city. Spotting enemy movement presents an opening for a kill that'll turn the tide, but taking action puts you in potential danger. So do you pursue the enemy and brace for bullets raining down on you, or fire from afar and give your position away? If you take enough damage and get knocked down, teammates can revive you before you bleed out, but they'd be defenseless as the revive countdown ticks. PUBG is a series of calculated risks in the form of a shooter, and the unpredictability of where or when these moments happen keeps the game fresh.

As you inch toward becoming the last combatant standing, the tension ramps up exponentially. The risk-reward nature of PUBG is compounded by the fact that matches become more of an investment as they go on. But because of how much you have to work to achieve victory, winning is intrinsically rewarding, even without a tangible prize at the end. Whatever your style, there's a way to survive if you play smart. That's not to say the only triumph comes from winning, though. Survival itself is an achievement, every kill feels earned, and recognizing mistakes in a heated battle is a lesson learned.

PUBG retains some of the military-sim roots of its predecessors and is ultimately better for it; it's another layer of forethought required during confrontations. You'll find that guns aren't easy to wield, as recoil is a major factor that negates the effectiveness of full-auto firing modes outside of close-quarters encounters. Bullet drop makes sniping much more challenging than lining up crosshairs while health packs take time to be applied, which makes you think twice about healing under pressure. PUBG's learning process involves going through a lot of trial and error, but this is key in reaching the most satisfying parts of the game.

As of now, there aren't any in-game tutorials to lay out the basics or jumpstart newcomers. Even after several hours, you may still not realize that you can hold the ctrl key and right-click items in the inventory to drop a specific quantity for squadmates, for example. Although it's one of the more accessible games of this type, there's a lot to learn and nothing to show you the ropes if you're on your own.

While PUBG focuses on executing the core mechanics that make battle royale-like games great, it lacks technical refinement. At launch, PUBG is noticeably improved from its early access days, but frame rates can still fluctuate inexplicably. Even a high-end PC can have trouble maintaining a consistent framerate with relatively modest graphics settings, evidence of PUBG's ongoing optimization struggles.

Likewise, the familiar fear of seemingly random crashes and connection difficulties remains, and it's sometimes almost as unnerving as an opposing squad converging on your location. (If it's any consolation, you can pick up where you left off if you relaunch the game before your character dies.) You may also experience character models clipping through the environment and getting stuck inside objects. If and when these problems strike, an otherwise good match can be ruined in an instant.

PUBG's technical shortcomings can undermine its broader achievements on rare occasions, but they don't override your desire to continue playing. Each phase of a match presents a different type of tension that is equal parts thrilling and terrifying, driven by the insatiable desire to be the last person (or squad) standing. Whether you play solo or in a group, successfully executing adaptive tactics to win intense, high-stakes firefights makes for an incredibly rewarding experience. Every player has unique stories of their most memorable matches, and even after hundreds of hours, PUBG continues to inspire rousing tales of victory and defeat.

Categories: Games

Latest Trailer Highlights SSGSS Goku

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 12/22/2017 - 15:50

SSGSS Goku, A.K.A. Super Saiyan Blue Goku, is not a newly revealed character, but the latest trailer for the game highlights him and shows off some of his more powerful moves.

You can check out the trailer below which shows Goku achieving the new confusingly names god form, and use moves like his one-inch punch. Dragon Ball FighterZ is coming to Xbox One, PlayStation4, and PC on January 26 and pre-ordering the game nets you some in-game bonuses.

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To see our entire month of Dragon Ball FighterZ coverage, from when the game was on our cover, click the banner below.

Categories: Games

Hello Neighbor Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 12/21/2017 - 18:00

Imagine you're a small child in a quiet suburb, playing in the street on an idyllic afternoon. Suddenly, there's a terrible shrieking from your neighbor's house across the road. You run over and peek in the neighbor's window just in time to see him barricading the basement door. What is he hiding down there? A prisoner? A nightmarish genetic abomination? Hello Neighbor has answers to that question, but not only is getting to those answers an enormously frustrating experience, but the answers themselves aren't worth the effort.

Hello Neighbor is based around a stellar idea: In the game's first act, you are that aforementioned child, who has taken it upon himself to sneak into his neighbor's house any way he can and get into the basement. The neighbor--a gruff gentleman with an all-time great mustache--doesn't take kindly to intrusions, though, and each time the child gets caught trying to sneak in, the neighbor sets new traps, locks doors, and patrols that area more often. Conceptually, it's a promising twist on the usual neck-snapping military shenanigans of the average stealth game. The aesthetics are also a bit unusual, with a sort of warped 1950s retro design to everything that truly stands out. Unfortunately, that's where the coolness ends.

In practice, even with the game spending significant time in Early Access, it feels unfinished at launch. While it's commendable that there's so much leeway in how you can approach the neighbor's house, Hello Neighbor tips the balance from player freedom to player neglect. The controls are bizarrely unintuitive, with an unusual and confusing button layout that can't be remapped. But the further you progress in the house, the more convoluted the neighbor's security system turns out to be.

Hello Neighbor hearkens back to the dark ages of point-and-click adventure games in terms of nonsensical solutions to simple problems. A complex magnet device, which you use to activate switches from afar in a couple of puzzles, is lying around in a place obvious enough to stumble on it by accident. Meanwhile, for some reason, something as useful as a simple wrench is lying in the neighbor's fridge, where you would never think to look. All the while, the game itself offers zero insight into what a given item can or cannot be used for, with many items' functions flying in the face of basic reason.

The game's complete disregard for logic or consistency shows itself when the neighbor is factored in as well. Left to his own devices, he just wanders his home aimlessly, with no discernible pattern. However, no matter how softly you sneak around, no matter how carefully you evade, the neighbor's ability to hear, see, and find you seems to be wholly unaffected by anything you do. In one of my earliest playthroughs, I had managed to sneak up behind the guy, trying to see if I could pick his pockets, and he never moved. Later, I was two rooms away from him, having snuck into an open window, and somehow, he went on high alert and found me. That level of unpredictability works when it's a xenomorph in Alien Isolation, but not when it's a guy dressed like Ned Flanders. The sole blessing here is that getting caught, despite being an experience entirely without tension since all the guy does is get up in your face, immediately drops you back at your house, typically with any items you've picked up along the way still in your inventory.

Eventually, with saint-like patience and persistence, you can grab the key to get to the basement. The game gets surreal from here, but with little payoff. Hello Neighbor limps into a second act, involving you as a full-grown adult moving back into your childhood home, while hinting at surprising revelations. Even then, that idea is executed in such a threadbare, half-baked, interpretive way that it doesn't land with any sort of impact. Act 2 and the wholly offbeat finale are at least easier to navigate than the rest of the game, but even that just ends up exposing just how little there is to grapple with after the fact.

Hello Neighbor is a game you persevere in due to sheer luck rather than any sort of actual skill, foresight, or cleverness. There's no catharsis, insight, or revelations waiting at the end of the ordeal, just a sort of uneasy malaise over what the images and environments near the end are meant to represent. As such, a simple, appealing concept is rendered inert. There's a wonderful game to be mined out of what Hello Neighbor wants to be, but there's nothing to be gained from experiencing what it currently is.

Categories: Games

Rock Duo Vamps Rocks Out About Game About Vamps

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 02:54

A new Code Vein trailer released today might give you tonal whiplash as Japanese Rock Duo Vamps is revealed to be doing the game's theme song. The trailer sets their song to cutscenes and gameplay footage that leaves you rocking out and confused.

The english voice-acted trailer shows off in-game cutscenes, animated cutscenes done by animation studio ufotable, and the Souls-like gameplay that has been the best comparison point for the game so far. 

You can check out the trailer below. Code Vein is releasing on Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4 in 2018.

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Categories: Games

Gorogoa Review

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 00:00

Few games take the concept of altering reality to as artistic a level as Gorogoa. This labor of love made chiefly by one developer is a gorgeous and intriguing puzzle game that works because of its stunning art and intelligent puzzle design. Far from a traditional game, Gorogoa is a slow and methodical trip into the surreal.

Gorogoa is a compact game with a minimalist design that works exceptionally well. The entire story of two young men researching the lore of gods and monsters in their world is told through the striking visuals and musical score. The focus of the game as a whole is on the puzzle mechanics, which are more than up to the task of making this two-to-three-hour excursion worth taking.

A simplified version of classic point and click adventure games, you tap on interactive elements within Gorogoa's artwork to trigger a mini-event. There are four panels on the main screen, each of which can hold a square-shaped picture. You can slide any picture into any of the panels and many of the puzzles require manipulating the pictures so they connect with each other.

Tapping on specific areas in a picture will usually zoom in on that element, and often if the element is a window or door, it will zoom right into a new location. Using beautifully detailed pictures, Gorogoa creates puzzles that work by altering the perception of the game’s own reality. Sometimes, for instance, a lamp in one picture is dark and you’ll have to find a lightsource within one of the other pictures.

To do this, you’ll have to find something glowing within another image, zoom in on the light source and then the lamp, and then move the circular hole of the lamp over the lightsource. This combines the two images to create something new. It also alters the remaining image(s) and usually leads to completely new paintings to explore.

Using simple touch controls, Gorogoa unveils surprisingly layered puzzles that can be confounding but that never feel illogical. It can be a challenge to figure out how all the images you’re provided at any given time interact with one another, but once you do, it all makes sense. Nothing feels random or contrived, which was a significant issue in classic adventure games.

This sense of order to the game’s world also leads to a palpable sense of accomplishment when you sort everything out. The first few puzzles ease you into the mechanics of Gorogoa, then the game throws you into an incredibly complex maze of clockwork-like machinations that require manipulating multiple panels in quick succession. The idea of moving a falling object from one aspect of a picture down into others in order to cause something to break is genius and extremely satisfying when you get it right.

The art is stunning, the atmosphere fascinating, and the puzzles are incredibly devious and clever. Gorogoa might not be a long game, but it is easily one of the most engaging puzzle games in recent memory.

Categories: Games

Latest Trailer Invites You To Join The Resistance

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/17/2017 - 23:20

Far Cry 5 is trading its exotic locales of the past for something closer to home, but that doesn't mean things get any less crazy. In the newest trailer, we're treated to some chaotic action while given an overview of how The Resistance works.

In Far Cry 5, an extremist cult has taken over Hope County, Montana. Here, you join forces with The Resistance, who are fighting back with all the firepower they've got. Each time you free a region that was once under the control of the cult, your resistance meter increases.

We also get to see what it's like to have beasts on your side, like mountain lions and bears, who you can have attack foes at your command. Watch the trailer for yourself below.

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For more on Far Cry 5, read about how Ubisoft is building what they describe as a believable cult and watch new gameplay here.

Categories: Games

Watch 13 Minutes Gameplay And Get A Peek At Multiplayer

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/17/2017 - 20:05

A new PlayStation Underground video shows off some gameplay of the upcoming remake of Secret of Mana. With a fresh coat of paint and a fully-voiced cast, this remake reimagines the 1993 classic for modern audiences.

In the video, we get to see a playthrough of a dungeon, along with a boss fight at the end. We also get a glimpse of the local multiplayer, a new feature that allows you to complete quests with up to two other friends. We also see characters wearing DLC costumes, such as a Moogle costume.

Watch the thirteen minute video below.

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For more about the remake, read our hands-on impressions. Secret of Mana Remake releases for PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and PC on February 15.  The title will also be getting a limited physical release for PS4 in the United States, Canada, and Latin America.

Categories: Games

Trailer Centers Around Trusty Feline Companions

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/17/2017 - 17:02

Rather than focusing on ferocious beasts, this trailer for Monster Hunter: World is instead centered around Palicos. These furry feline companions make a return, and this time they can be fully customized.

In the trailer below, we see that we can modify the color of their fur and choose their tiny clothes. Even small details like eye size, patterns, ear shapes, and voice can be adjusted to your liking. Palicos are trusty companions during your journeys, and can help you out if you're stuck in a difficult battle. Outside of aiding you in your journeys, they can also cook you up delicious meals. For example, in the trailer we see a Palico who happens to be an expert chef. 

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Monster Hunter: World releases January 26 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It's also releasing for PC, but a release date has not yet been confirmed. If you want to get your hands on the game sooner, a second beta on PS4 is coming as of December 22.

To learn more about the game, check out our December cover story coverage by clicking the banner below.

Categories: Games

Watch Gameplay Of Beerus, Hit, And Goku Black

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 18:00

The latest Dragon Ball FighterZ trailer pays homage to the series' classic moments, while also introducing us to some new characters.

The trailer premiered at this weekend's Jump Festa event, and shows off how some of the most important fights from Dragon Ball Z look rendered in Arc System's take on the Unreal Engine 4. The trailer also has the first snippets of gameplay of Beerus, Hit, and Goku Black, all three of whom were revealed a few days ago. The trailer also uses music from the original Japanese series, so anyone in the states who watched the sub instead of the dub should get a little does of nostalgia.

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Categories: Games

The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild - The Champions' Ballad Review

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 16:00

Slipping back into Breath of the Wild is typically a painless process; spirited moments are never far away, and tranquil scenery makes the time between finding treasure and hard-fought battles consistently captivating. With so many things vying for your attention, it's fair to say that the game doesn't need to be expanded. But as the Master Trials DLC showed us earlier this year, there are still pieces of this lost chapter in Hyrule's history to uncover.

For the game's final act, The Champions' Ballad, Link's ancient allies (Revali, Daruk, Mipha, and Urbosa) get their chance to retake the spotlight. The result is less impactful to the overall story that we're already familiar with, but the accompanying quests and new gear do a lot of heavy lifting, delivering over a dozen new stages to test your problem-solving skills in ever more interesting ways. They alone make a return trip to Hyrule worth getting excited about.

A big part of this new journey involves walking in the champions' footsteps, re-enacting feats they performed prior to the fall of Hyrule, to unlock long-forgotten memories--but you must first prove yourself worthy of the opportunity. Upon returning to the Resurrection Chamber, the cave where Link awoke from his 100-year slumber, you're given a weapon known as the One-Hit Obliterator. As the name implies, this short-range weapon allows you to kill an enemy in a single blow; but with your health consequently whittled down to a quarter heart, you're also more vulnerable than ever.

Similar to how you may have felt when tackling Eventide Island or the Trials of the Sword, the threat of an easy death when wielding the Obliterator is stressful, and it takes time to acclimate to being such a fragile warrior. You may have shrugged off an occasional bee sting before, but it's little incidents like these that teach you to think twice about every move during this phase of The Champions' Ballad. Sadly, it's a great setup that ends too soon. After clearing out four small enemy camps and the shrines that emerge from their defeat, the weapon returns to the resurrection chamber having "fulfilled its duty." Even after completing everything the DLC has to offer, the weapon remains unusable, which feels like a missed opportunity.

With this stage of the new journey complete, you're sent to the four corners of Hyrule on a glorified scavenger hunt. The accordion-playing Kass regales you with songs that hint at your objectives without completely spelling out the steps involved. Adding to the mystery are the visual hints that reference a specific part of Hyrule, but these pictures are limited, forcing you to pore over the map in search of your destinations.

In a very pleasing way, the goals set for you take great advantage of Breath of the Wild's numerous mechanics. You will take on a snowboarding challenge that tasks you to pass through rings in a limited amount of time, hunt Hyrule's elusive dragons, and re-engage the banana-loving Yiga clan, among other missions that test the breadth of your capabilities. And for each task you complete, a new shrine surfaces from underground.

The Champions' shrines force you to engage in mindfulness and critical thought. They typically involve a lot of moving pieces, veering away from combat in favor of puzzle-solving. So far removed from a life of shrine-hunting in the main game, returning to these creatively built challenges takes you back to a time when Breath of the Wild was this new and mysterious thing, an experience filled with surprises.

Upon completing the three shrines in a given set, you're able to tap into the memories of the relevant champion. You don't get the opportunity to directly control Hyrule's famous defenders, but as Link, you re-enact their battles against Ganon's four blights--the same four bosses you fight at the end of each of the game's Divine Beast dungeons. The difference this time around is that you are limited to a small selection of gear based on what each champion would have carried into battle. Oddly, you retain access to the powers bestowed to you by the champions' spirits in the past, which give you incredible advantages and somewhat negate what would otherwise be difficult battles. You can always turn off these powers if you choose, but given the context of exploring someone else's memories, it would have made more sense had they been disabled by default.

Your immediate reward for beating each blight is the ability to recharge Champion abilities in less time, and new cutscenes for each champion; each one shows a recollection of when they were recruited to join Zelda's anti-Ganon squad 100 years in the past. These vignettes are more playful than serious, which is a little disappointing considering the gravity of the calamity they're up against.

Thankfully, there's a bigger and better reward waiting for you once you've resolved every champion's quests: a new Divine Beast dungeon, complete with a totally surprising boss fight. In a similar fashion to other Divine Beasts, the final station requires you to manipulate the entire structure, rotating major components this way and that, as you work to resolve the four puzzles locking away the final area. It's another reminder of how clever, if non-traditional, Breath of the Wild's dungeons are. While shrines ask you to solve puzzles comprised of compact devices and easily conceivable constraints, the scope of the final Divine Beast (like the ones before it) is delightfully difficult to wrap your head around both for how big it is and how intricate its solutions are.

The parting gift for your efforts is one of the unlikeliest additions to The Legend of Zelda: an ancient motorcycle. Loosely modeled to resemble a unicorn, Link's new bike fits thematically if not logically into Breath of the Wild's mythical tapestry. On one hand, having a bike at the ready overshadows your stable of horses. On the other, tearing through Hyrule on a motorcycle is as ridiculously playful as it sounds. It even makes for a fun snowboard replacement on snowy hills, which helps escalate the sense of speed as you rocket down mountains and look for ramps to catch a bit of air. The only real disappointment: you can't summon the motorcycle in the desert nor travel there if you're already on the go. Attempt the latter, and an invisible wall prevents you from proceeding, exactly the same as if you tried to enter on horseback.

Who knows if Nintendo will continue to surprise us with fanciful new additions to Breath of the Wild down the road, but considering that The Champions' Ballad is likely the final world on this chapter in The Legend of Zelda, it's a bittersweet goodbye. There are so many wonderful quests and beautiful, tiny moments that make revisiting Hyrule's past feel like reliving your own memories, when Breath of the Wild was truly new and surprising. Nintendo certainly could have extended some of the aspects within The Champions' Ballad, such as giving you access to the Obliterator at anytime, and letting you ride your new motorcycle over sandy dunes, but these are minor blemishes on an otherwise great trip down memory lane.

Categories: Games

Rare Details Trading Companies And Player Progression System

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 17:45

The world of Sea of Thieves has players sailing the high seas and collecting booty, but the game is about connecting with friends, and Rare makes that clear in its newest developer video.

In a recent design video, Design Director Mike Chapman says the company isn’t looking to wall players off from each other with disruptive power progression mechanics, “We wanted to build a game where the value of sharing a rich and diverse world with other players is much more meaningful than ever increasing stats."

To do this, Rare doesn’t have any barriers preventing players of different levels from playing together. Players can purchase voyages, or quests, and then all crewmembers vote on which of their voyages they want to tackle together. Majority wins in Sea of Thieves’ voting system, so no random drawing from player choices here. This system allows players who have advanced in the game to go on voyages even with the newest of players.

Voyages are sold by a number of trading companies found in outposts throughout the world, and will award gold, titles, ranks, and cosmetic items to those skillful enough to complete them. These rewards, which are split evenly across a crew, are a part of Sea of Thieves' progression system. Players can unlock customization options and show off to friends by completing voyages, but the company isn't ready to go into much detail about other ways to unlock rewards, such as microtransactions.

"We’re currently focusing on talking about our progression systems, the trading companies and the goal of becoming a Pirate Legend," says executive producer Joe Neate. "We will talk about our business model early in the new year."

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The trading companies each have different focuses, such as the Gold Hoarders’ desire for treasure. This trading company has a stash of keys, and will pay players to help them find the chests that belong to them, or may send them to solve riddles that require knowledge of the world’s islands.

The Merchant Alliance Trading Company desires to control trade in the sea, and will pay pirates to transport items ranging from wild animals to explosive barrels. There are a number of challenges facing pirates as they try to ferry these resources, such as lightning, leaky ships, time limits, and other pirates who may want to steal the cargo.

The last trading company Rare talks about is The Order of Souls, whose members can capture magic from the skulls of fallen pirates, and are happy to reward those who bring the skulls to them. This trading company’s voyages are more combat oriented, pitting players against skeleton crews (literal skeletons, not ships with few enemies), or sending them to attack one of the world’s many forts.

Players can rank up in each of these trading companies by purchasing and completing voyages offered by them. The more of the trading company’s voyages you complete, the more difficult and rewarding the offered voyages become. Eventually, players will achieve the status of Pirate Legend and have access to new voyages and rewards.

Rare is really focusing on player cooperation with Sea of Thieves, so it’s nice to know I’ll never be blocked from playing with my friends, no matter how far ahead (or behind) I get in the game. You can look forward to sailing the high seas with your friends on Xbox One and PC March 20, but in the meantime check out how Rare went about starting work on Sea of Thieves, and how feedback and data from the alpha tests changed the course of the game.

Categories: Games

Rumu Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 01:08

The moral and ethical dilemmas of engaging with ever-evolving technology isn't a new thing for video games. But in combining these weighty themes with a heartfelt story about family, loss, and love, Rumu brings a fresh and heart-wrenching perspective to some well-trodden thematic ground.

You play as Rumu, a tiny vacuum-cleaning robot who is as adorable as it is curious. Its one and only duty is to clean the futuristic house of its owners, David and Cecily. Said owners are nowhere to be found but the all-seeing sentient house AI, Sabrina, promises that they will be home soon. In the meantime, the only thing left to do is to clean and explore. Aided by Sabrina, as well as an eclectic mix of semi-intelligent home appliances and a house cat named Ada, everything starts off innocently enough. As you partake in chores, cleaning up some spilled tea here and some dropped toast there, Rumu slowly begins to grow self-aware. What starts off as a cute, whimsical adventure involving cleaning up spills soon gives way to a thought-provoking sci-fi tale.

Rumu is an isometric point-and-click puzzle game on the surface, but its strength doesn't lie in mechanics or aesthetics. Its puzzles are unchallenging and unexciting, and the discoveries that come from exploration play out in a linear fashion. The game instead anchors itself on Rumu and Sabrina's relationship and the underlying mystery of what happened to David and Cecily. Though the game is short--a full playthrough will last 2-3 hours--Rumu and Sabrina's complex dynamic and the central mystery is borne out in an engrossing manner from start to finish.

Rumu communicates with binary dialogue choices, while Sabrina is a fully coherent character. The little vacuum robot almost always "speaks" in variations of "I love you," and subtext is imbued into every line. Telling Sabrina "I love David, Cecily, and Sabrina" instead of "I love Sabrina, David, and Cecily" provokes contrasting reactions, and Sabrina possesses a sinister streak when provoked. She's surprisingly flawed for an AI character and prone to emotional vulnerability. Allegra Clark's excellent voice-acting gives extra weight to an already well-written character; little details like subtle breaks between words and slight pitch changes during heated conversations give the character a surprising degree of emotion and sympathy, and it's these finely-crafted moments that inject intriguing nuance into Rumu and Sabrina's relationship.

As pieces of the puzzle start falling into place, conversations with Sabrina take on a markedly more antagonistic tone. The I love yous become less frequent and more direct lines of questioning become the norm. The result is a fascinating look into emotional manipulation, familial relationships, and ultimately, loneliness. It's risky to focus an entire game around a single relationship since everything hinges on the strength of the characters, especially when both aren't even human. But both Rumu and Sabrina are well-written and surprisingly relatable during certain climactic moments. The experience is heightened by Rumu's beautifully poignant soundtrack, which perfectly evokes the game's futuristic setting and familial themes.

Events happen at a breakneck pace, and it doesn't take long for the story's conclusion to sneak up on you, but when you finally uncover the central mystery behind David and Cecily's absence, the emotional payoff feels well-earned thanks to strong character work and an impactful ending. It may be short and unchallenging, but Rumu's strong antagonist and its ultimately heart-wrenching journey make it one worth taking.

Categories: Games

Blending A Comic Book Look With Tactical Gameplay

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 22:15

We've seen a resurgence of isometric RPGs in the last few years, such as Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity and Larian Studios' Divinity: Original Sin series. Sword Legacy: Omen is the newest to join this trend, which blends a unique art style with tactical, turn-based gameplay. 

Sword Legacy: Omen is an RPG set in Broken Britannia, a realm that the developers describe as "candlepunk," where futuristic technology and medieval aesthetics meet. In the story, this is mostly represented through how alchemy and science are used to make technologically advanced machinery. The plot is also a reimagining of the King Arthur mythos, where a group of misfits embark on a journey to find the long lost sword Excalibur. You play as Uther, the leader of your party, who is accompanied by seven companions. However, you can only bring four at at a time with you. 

Gameplay feels similar to the likes of XCOM and The Banner Saga, where you only have so many moves. Strategy is entwined with how you plan out these maneuvers. When it's your turn, the ground lights up into squares, showing you possible paths for different characters. Certain moves can benefit the whole party, such as the protagonist's melee attack giving all allies a willpower point, which can be used to gain more AP. Other moves, such as moving too quickly toward foes instead of letting them come to you, can put you in harm's way.

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Members of your party have mostly archetypal skills, such as a thief being able to pick locks so you can loot treasure and a mage with basic magical powers. The mage, named Merlin, can shoot fireballs toward barrels which creates explosions that hurt everyone in proximity. This is just one example of how you can use the environment to your advantage, adding a layer of fun. Your party members have over 70 skills to unlock, which includes powers like creating a decoy or teleporting.

In Sword Legacy: Omen, your party members don't respawn after battle. If they collapse, they only return once you've completed the map, which can make for challenging encounters. This proved difficult when I had a downed party member during a tough fight. Much of Sword Legacy: Omen's gameplay doesn't feel that distinct or different, instead feeling similar to most other isometric RPGs I've played. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but hopefully its story and world can help it stand out.

During the demo I played, it was difficult to get a good sense of the story, since it included some placeholder dialogue and voice acting. Some of these were still written or voiced in Portuguese, since the development team is from Brazil. With isometric RPGs in particular, I've always enjoyed seeing how my choices play out or how deep mechanics can go when it comes to managing your party's skillsets. This felt like a missing component in Sword Legacy: Omen, where I didn't find story and gameplay affected one another in a compelling way.

Probably the most unique quality of Sword Legacy: Omen is its art style, which blends vibrant, colorful environments with a cartoonish aesthetic. Characters have a glossy, painted look to them, as if they came out of a graphic novel. When they speak, dialogue appears in comic book speech bubbles. These visuals really drew me in, making the world seem enticing and fun to explore. Originally, the game had a more Disney-like aesthetic, but the team opted for a darker and more gothic tone as development went on. 

Sword Legacy: Omen has some interesting themes, but as it stands, the gameplay lacks innovation and with placeholder dialogue here and there, it's hard to tell how strong a story it tells. With its candlepunk world and an original take on the classic King Arthur mythos, there's still promise that Sword Legacy: Omen can impress as the team continues to tinker. We'll see when it releases in early 2018 for PC.

Categories: Games

The Single-Player Campaign Focuses On Survival Over Stealth

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 18:22

The Metal Gear series has always been about great story-based, single-player experiences, which is why Konami's decision to make Metal Gear into a co-op survival experience with Metal gear Survive was concerning. Today Konami released a trailer with an extensive look at Metal Gear Survive's single-player campaign and, unsurprisingly, it's all about survival.

Yuji Korekado, a producer on Metal Gear Survive, opens the video by explaining that Metal Gear Survive, a spin-off from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, will take place in an alternate timeline from the mainline Metal Gear games. The survival spinoff starts where Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes ended, with the destruction of Mother Base by the villainous XOF organization. Just as the base is destroyed, a wormhole opens up and sucks in debris and soldiers alike into an alternate world. As a Mother Base soldier, players narrowly escape this fate, but several months later they are tasked with entering the wormhole and establishing a forward operating base by a mysterious organization.

After this wacky setup, the campaign quickly sets up Metal Gear Survive's resource harvesting and base-building mechanics. True to its name, Metal Gear Survive features a lot of elements taken from the survival genre. You'll have to hunt animals, cook food, gather resources, and build defenses like electric fences and turrets in order to survive against wanderers, the crystal-headed definitely-not-zombies that occupy this alternate world. 

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There are main missions and side missions in the single player campaign, however Korekado focuses much more on the Base Camp, Metal Gear Survive's version of Mother Base. The Base Camp will be your home and throughout both the multiplayer and single player you'll be able to add defenses, farm crops, and create resource development facilities in order to increase its strength. Much like in the Phantom Pain, you'll also be able to recruit people and assign them to different teams within your base to increase its capabilities.

The trailer also notes that single player will be inextricably linked with multiplayer in several ways. Ammo is scarce, which means there is an increased focus on melee weapons and bows. Many of these weapons, including a flaming baseball bat, can be crafted using recipes, which can only be accessed through the co-op multiplayer portion of the game. The hardest enemies and missions can only be tackled in multiplayer. Any resources gathered in multiplayer can be used to build your personal Base Camp.

Metal Gear Survive might have the Phantom Pain's combat and visuals, but it's clearly a different beast. We still have yet to see how the survival elements and multiplayer-focused design will pan out, but we'll see if Metal Gear Survive is a worthwhile game in its own right when it launches on February 20.

If you're curious or excited to get your hands on Metal Gear Survive, you can try the beta when it launches in January.

Categories: Games

A Feel-Good Friendship Simulator

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 15:00

In an increasingly darker world, games like Wattam emit a powerful light to brighten your day.

At PlayStation Experience, we got a chance to play the newest build of Keita Takahashi's quirky and unique project. Takahashi, who previously created the Katamari Damacy series on the PlayStation 2, introduced Wattam to the world at the very first PlayStation Experience in 2014. At the time, the game was being co-developed by Sony Santa Monica and published by Sony itself. After Sony dropped the game, Takahashi and Funomena studio took the project to Annapurna and redesigned the game in the process.

The new Wattam still focuses on Takahashi's vision of toys making friends by solving puzzles. The game starts with the cubic mustachioed Mayor sitting at the edge of the universe and lamenting his isolation when the universe sees fit to give life to a tiny rock. The mayor makes friends with the rock by holding its hand. To add to the fun, the mayor lifts up his hat and reveals a harmless bomb that blasts everyone into the sky for a chorus of laughing fits.

After the little rock is happy, the bigger rock also comes to life and wants to play, followed by a flowers, followed by an acorn that plants itself in the ground to birth a tree, which creates fruits, which are then eaten and become poop. When enough of the characters are poop, the toilet world latches on to the Mayor's cube and the Toilet friends join in.

The toilets scoop up enough of the poop running around and clean them to a golden shine that further friends come who have their own puzzle to solve to draw in new friends. This is the gameplay loop of Wattam, ultimately culminating in a puzzle that requires all the new friends to wrap up the level. 

It is pure joy in such a strange package, an entirely separate but natural follow up to Katamari Damacy. When Takahashi originally retired from video games, he said he was going to design playgrounds for children, which is exactly what Wattam feels like. The controls are slightly awkward and the interactions limited to what the game designs, but Wattam 

Wattam is scheduled for 2018 on PlayStation 4.

Categories: Games

A New Character Appears

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 21:30

Overkill, the team behind the cooperative heist shoot 'em up Payday, announced back in 2014 that it would be working on a Walking Dead game. We haven't heard much about it since then, but today we got a first glimpse at one of the characters we'll be playing as in this four player co-op shooter courtesy of a new trailer. 

The trailer focuses on Aidan, a man living in Washington D.C. and dealing with his daily responsibilities about as well as most of do. The trailer then cuts to Aidan walking around a post-apocalyptic D.C. strewn with "dead" bodies and taking on a group of zombies with a club. He seems to enjoys this a lot more than his life before the zombie apocalypse.

Overkill's The Walking Dead will feature a mix of first person shooter and survival gameplay, as players work together to fight zombies and humans. The trailer confirms the game's D.C. setting and a fall 2018 release date.

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For more on Overkill's The Walking Dead, check out our previous coverage.

Categories: Games

New Trailer Reveals Release Date

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 18:30

Conan Exiles has been available for early access on Xbox One and PC for awhile now, but the title finally has a full release date.

Conan the Barbarian and the open world survival game he’s in will fully release May 8 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game has fared well in early access so far, having released new content throughout the year.

The release date was accompanied by a new trailer for the game.

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For more on Conan Exiles, check out our previous coverage here.

Categories: Games

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT's 28 Characters & 7 Summons At Launch

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 15:46

Square Enix has released the launch day fighter roster for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT on the PS4 via a trailer, which also showcases seven summons.

The title's season pass includes a further six characters as well as post-launch content. The developers say they hope to include more than 50 characters for the Japanese arcade version, but whether these will ever come to the console version is unknown.

For more on the game, check out its opening cinematic and this trailer on its gameplay systems.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT comes out for the PS4 on January 30.

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[Source: Square Enix] 

Categories: Games

Iffy Dialogue Makes For An Uneven Experience

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 01:19

Detroit: Become Human seems to invite concern with every stage showing over the past few years, stemming from an overall fear writer and director David Cage does not possess the chops for the subject matter he likes to tackle in his games. With Detroit, Cage is pursuing the worn foundation of Androids, commonly used in fiction as a springboard for metaphors about race, identity, paranoia, and secondhand citizenship. It is, if nothing else, an opportunity for Cage and Quantic Dream to prove their vocal critics wrong.

We played the Detroid: Become Human demo at PlayStation Experience 2017. The demo contained two scenarios, the first being the hostage situation that was first shown on stage to demonstrate the branching paths the game's narrative could take and again shown at Sony's PlayStation Experience presentation. In this scene, Android hostage negotiator Conner is tasked with defusing a hostage situation wherein an out-of-control Android has kidnapped a little girl and is holding her hostage after murdering her father. Connor is brought in and the player is given the choice of how to proceed.

The first task you are given once you take control is to meet with the captain currently managing the crisis. While you can go straight to the commanding officer, Conner can also examine various pieces of the environment to analyze clues and get a better picture of the assailant and increase his chances of negotiating, which is represented by a literal percentage counter that tabulates chance of success. Only some of the items in the room can be examined before you speak to the captain; everything else just produces a red barrier that the Android cannot cross due to programming telling him to speak to the captain first. It is unclear why the hallway is okay but the little girl's room is not.

When you do speak to the captain, he is curt, expressing his disdain for Androids in general, and his overwhelming need to get the girl safely out above all else, even if that means working with an Android as a negotiator. If you ask him questions like what the other Android's name is or what caused this behavior, he will simply tell you to go do your job. Another officer remarks how important it is to get the girl out, which makes it puzzling they would not aid Conner by answering simple questions that would literally increase the percentage chance of success.

Conner is then left, pardon the pun, to his own devices, and can either march out the door to confront the hostage-taker or continue exploring in now available areas to investigate clues. Despite the captain telling you that every second counts, you are free to basically do whatever while an invisible timer ticks down. Analyze clues, grab a gun you very much are not supposed to have, just stand around if you want, the choice is yours. Investigating the little girl's room reveals the bad Android's relationship with the family and his name that the captain clearly could have just told you.

After that time (which is not visible to the player) runs out, the captain barks that Conner must get out there. At the time, I was looking at an important clue which did not get added to my file despite my looking directly at it. I had not fully completed the crime scene reconstruction to show where the father's tablet fell, even though I could see it on the ground, and Conner remarking on the tablet being important. Still, you get moved to the veranda where the actual negotiation takes place.

It is a fairly tense scene, where Conner talks the other Android, Daniel, down with prompts of empathy and the clues he found searching the apartment while slowly walking forward toward him. The chance of success goes up and down depending on your answers, eventually reaching 100% chance of success and convincing Daniel to let go of the girl. 

Either way, the police shoot him, and none of that really matters.

The other part of the demo is the scene shown at Paris Games Week with the Android Kara, a service robot that is cooking and cleaning for a drunkard louse who is unhappy with his life. Despite possessing an intense hatred for Androids himself, he requires Kara's help in keeping his home (which, for whatever reason, looks identical to Ethan Mars' house in Heavy Rain) running, as he does not possess the inclination or mental faculties while drunk to do it.

Kara's first task is to serve dinner, which she does by bringing two plates of spaghetti to the dining room table. A secondary objective to turn on the lights appears on Kara's HUD, which took some searching to figure out which of the room's multiple light switches was the one the game wanted me to touch. The father eventually scolds me for not turning on the lights yet while Kara stands directly in front of it, leaving me to wonder what he thinks I was doing while walking toward the lights.

For virtually no reason, the father flies off the handle and flips the table, sending the little girl upstairs. He orders Kara not to move while he works himself up with no other prompting until he decides to go beat his daughter. The entire thought process lasts about ten seconds and then Kara is given the opportunity to subvert her programming and break through the barrier keeping her there.

I ran upstairs, took the father's gun from his bedroom, and then pointed the weapon at him. The hostage demo I had played before established that Androids are very much not allowed to possess guns for any reason whatsoever, but Kara had just overcome her programming, so it made sense for her to take it. She pointed the gun at the father and threatened him to stop beating the little girl, at which point he mocks her for Androids not being able to kill humans due to their programming and then knocks the gun out of her hands.

What followed is a fight scene that is a genuine mess of quick time events. A smattering of prompts appeared, one after the other, designed to allow Kara to duck and weave the father's attacks. Despite being the same motions for Kara herself to perform, sometimes the prompts were analog stick movements, sometimes they were buttons, and sometimes they were gestures with the Dualshock 4. They all looked identical, making discerning between analog stick movement and gesture movement shockingly difficult in the heat of the moment. 

After failing the quick-time events, the father is disposed of, and Kara and the little girl escaped on a bus. Without context, it is difficult to say whether that scene's cartoonish escalation was warranted or a symptom of a larger problem, but it left me raising more eyebrows than being curious at what's next.

The graphics of Detroit: Become Human are incredible and the music in the demo truly soars, but my fears about its writing have yet to be assuaged. Even without considering the scale of the story the game is trying to tell, individual scenes and dialogue are marred by poor execution, which could become a problem if those are the aspects the narrative needs to hang its hat on.

Detroit: Become Human is scheduled for release in 2018 exclusively on the PlayStation 4.

Categories: Games

An Out-Of-Nowhere Character Action Surprise

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 21:41

You would be forgiven for not knowing about Lost Soul Aside before this preview. When I saw the extremely long lines in front of the two-TV demo station at PlayStation Experience, I was similarly confused, and turned my head to try and figure out what I was looking at. We posted about some gameplay footage last night, but we finally got hands on time with the game.

Made by a single developer in mainland Asia by the name of Yang Bing, Lost Soul Aside looks and plays way better than it has any right to. A first look at the game belies its development resources, with graphics that rival a lot of large publisher-backed games on the PlayStation 4. There are obvious shortcuts, like the demo being contained to a small, geometrically simple cave, but the graphics and art invoke Final Fantasy XV more than anyone could expect of an indie title.

The virtues of Lost Soul Aside are not necessarily centered around its graphics, however, as much as they are how the game feels to play. It is a character action game through and through, with immediate controls that simultaneously feel smooth as butter and urgently reactive to you. Dodging is set to a button combination of Square and X, which I initially thought was one button too many at first, but it allowed me to dodge between quick frames of hammering the attack button on a monster's face.

The demo allowed use of three different weapons, a broadsword, a double-ended spear, and one-handed sword. All three were interchangeable using the shoulder buttons and could be mixed and matched during combos. The broadsword, a blunted blade that glowed a gnarly purple, was the strongest of the three but slow to the point of inviting enemy attacks. By contrast, the spear is lightning fast, punishing button mashers by locking them into combos that might not stun enemies. It does, however, have the fantastic quirk of blocking enemy projectiles while backdashing by spinning rapidly. The regular short sword is a mix between the two and I found it to be my preferred weapon.

The demo was not extensive, though given the small staff on the game, that is not unexpected. It is a playground to test combos against enemies that can and will kill you given the chance. There is no level structure or any progression beyond defeating waves of monsters until the boss appears.

The boss of the demo is a behemoth-like monster that might feel safer at home in Dark Souls than anything else. This analogy even extends to his moveset, which is made up of large swipes and wind-ups that give you ample time to dodge as long as you're paying attention. When the boss' HP, which is invisible, is drained halfway, the quadruped stands up on his hind legs and engages you with his own sword moves. I didn't last beyond this form, but its influences are clear.

Dodging is governed by a bar that depletes one visual notch with every dodge. It refills incredibly quickly so long as you aren't attacking, but that can be a difficult thing to balance in the heat of the moment. The dodging feels good, but the window is not so wide that you can simply assume dodging will save you from an attack. It has to be timed and timed well.

While it is unlikely it will ever live up to this comparison, Lost Soul Aside felt to me like a strange combination of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Bloodborne. A lot of how well it can meet those lofty standards is still left unanswered, but Lost Soul Aside is absolutely one of the most surprising games at the show, and I can only hope it fulfills its promise.

The producer at China Hero Project has told us they are not yet sure if the game will be coming to the west but they are hoping to muster enough enthusiasm to bring it.

Categories: Games

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