Games

What We Think We Figured Out From The Death Stranding E3 Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 04:25

Death Stranding made a big, if mysterious, impression when it was shown in 2016, and the game's new trailer at Sony's press conference has shed a little more light (we think) on the game.

Meet Sam Porter Bridges

He's a delivery man (Porter. Get it?). On foot. Shlepping containers (even what looks like a dead/suspended body) across great distances and stunning landscapes, Bridges endures great hardships as he scales mountains, is almost drown, and has to peel off one of his toe nails – the usual occupational hazards.

Surely this is part of your moment-to-moment gameplay. If we know Kojima, we can expect this otherwise mundane-sounding loop to surely contain some resource management gameplay or clever survival elements. At times he has an anti-gravity sled that lightens the load. We sure hope you earn this early on.

At one point it looks like he has a larger vehicle carrying cargo which ends up sliding over a cliff. That sucks.

Invisible Enemies Are Never Any Fun

Sam can sense when powerful invisible, levitating netherworld black shadows are near. Shadows that are brought on by the rain. He knows when they're near, but they don't seem to be able to always see him, triggering stealth gameplay. There are also invisible beings that produce animal-like footprints (and which can be avoided by keeping silent), but it's unclear if these are the same as the levitating shadows.

Bridges' delivery suit has a mounted projection peripheral that makes the shadow beings somewhat visible (he also brandishes a rifle at a different point in the trailer). Get caught and it produces a voidout, which Sam can come back from, but to the detriment of the world as a whole.

That Baby Sure is Creepy, But Useful

Coming back from a voidout is where the game's signature fetus perhaps comes into play.

Plugging in his fetus suspended in fluid (like a Kojima-brand Baby Bjorn), Sam tries to get by the shadow beings levitating in the rain. His mounted projection peripheral makes the shadows visible, but maybe it's the fetus that actually saves him. Despite Sam's resurrection, I bet there's a cost to getting sucked into the void, like losing resources or whatever you're delivering. Maybe this accounts for Sam appearing half-naked from time to time.

Time And Again

The past and the future are not disparate concepts in the game, whether that's Sam looking wistfully at a photo from long ago or the fact that he can come back from the dead after a voidout. Sam's sometimes companion (who seems to appear out of thin air!) played by actress Léa Seydoux eats maggots called crypto-bites (we think), which she says "keep the timefall away." The timefall "fast-forwards" whatever it touches. The rain associated with the shadow beings and voidout is also related to timefall. Do you lose a measure of time during a voidout?

The end of the trailer shows actress Lindsay Wagner, who looks younger than in the photo that Sam pines over earlier in the trailer. Is she a figment of Sam's imagination, an integral part of the timefall concept, proof that time is entirely fluid in the game, or all of the above?

Death Stranding's E3 2018 was vintage Kojima – posing intriguing questions, and was more substance than just form. The game is definitely coming along from its mysterious beginnings, and is proving to be more than just a free-form dream.

Categories: Games

Moonlighter Review: Open For Business

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 21:00

Dulcet tones and somber notes played in time represent the curious duality of Moonlight. It is, at once, a heroic adventure and the name of the subdued storefront that you alone run. Centered in the heart of a once-bustling town, all the greats, the audacious plunderers of dungeons that were sealed long ago, have died out. The markets and the merchants of your hamlet have all but vanished alongside them. Always looking to the horizon, you see what could be--in both yourself and the town--and set out to claim your glory and bring riches back from the depths of dangerous dungeons.

On first pass, that's a tall ask, and one that doesn't necessarily fit together the way you might think. This isn't quite the same as saving a town the way you might in a classical Zelda game --though references to those nascent adventures abound. Instead, your eye is on unearthing the depths of five dungeons that lie just north of town. Each is like a world unto itself, and getting into and out of these spaces is often a feat--made that much more treacherous by the monsters that inhabit them. Still, the depths hold untold riches, artifacts, and supplies that were once essential for trade.

The balance that Moonlighter strikes then, is tasking you with battling beasts and carefully collecting trophies and supplies based on the needs of the people in your town. Instead of gathering loot and hauling it back to a shopkeep as one does in just about every similar adventure, you're on both ends of the equation and the way that your two pursuits play into one another essentially is the game.

You'll need to mindful of supply and demand and as well as good tips and gear for adventuring. Dodging monsters to jab their weak spot, before hopping away and nabbing their leavings is a regular cycle. But that, in itself, hides a lot of the nuance on offer. Prying the core of a mechanized stone golem and bringing it back to town will fetch a tidy price--but only a few times. People don't know how to use them, per se, nor do they really need that particular item. It's neat (and rare), but that's all, really.

Add to it the fact that few have seen such trinkets since heroes swarmed through these dungeons, and that immediately complicates the equation. You don't know what the value of it really is, because you're the shopkeep. It's worth what others will pay. So it falls to you to make educated guesses, learn from your customers reactions and hope that your initial prices aren't so low that you're getting ripped off or so high that customers balk and walk off.

Those same assessments follow with every item you plunder, meaning that you're always working the numbers, figuring out what you can carry up, and how it's going to affect your bottom line. This also keeps you from always gathering up the most valuable items. If you only grab the best loot, you'll quickly flood the market and bottom out your sales, and the same goes in reverse for the most basic stuff. Wood and vines can be valuable (though rarely). And all that calculus compounds when you begin examining the supplies you'll need for your own gear. Potions and new equipment don’t make themselves. Indeed, when you start, none of those types of facilities are even available in town.

This ties a lot of the game's progression directly into your choices, and gives you a powerful through line and a sense of thematic goals that tie into your physical journey. That feeling is fantastic, and grows every time you think back to the sparse hamlet you began with, and track just how far your adventure and the arc of the town itself join and progress together.

Saccharine melodies that playfully evoke the 16-bit era help sell the narrative as well. Few openers are as immediately alluring as Moonlighter’s theme. Melancholic notes blends with the sweet sounds of your hamlet, filling you with a sense of loss--for what your town once was. Because of the aesthetics, many of those feelings also get blended with kernels of nostalgia, particularly for those fond of the Super Nintendo era.

Bright colors, and a sharp aesthetic are backed with crisp animations that not only sell the world, but help it breathe. Fireflies drift about town, settling near trees, illuminating the wooden giants. Down in the dungeons, spiders and moths flitter to and fro, while your battles with golems and monsters play out.

Now at this point you may have noticed that there not much has been said about the combat. And sadly, that's because it's the weaker half of this outing. There are five distinct dungeons, each with their own environments, foes, and array of tricks and traps to throw your way. But across them all, you use the same core movement--and it consists of two types of moves and a dodge. If you've got finesse, you can string some actions together, though. You can attack with one weapon, dodge, quickly switch, and then resume the onslaught. Or switch between a sword and shield for defense (where the secondary "move" would be a block), and a more offensive weapon. But that's generally the sum total of your combat choices. Combat, then, is thin and there's only so much that can be done with massively varied environments and a limited pool of combat techniques.

None of this to say that battles in Moonlighter are bad. Far from it. What it manages with those limited sets is quite impressive, and there will be plenty of moments when you dodge over bottomless pits that line a snaking path to approach an enemy from a novel angle. But they aren't common enough or varied enough to really get the full potential of what's here.

In some ways, the same could be said of the keeping the shop running at peak efficiency, but there's enough interplay with managing your limited baggage space and just enough anchored in supply-and-demand systems that it comes together nicely. It's a shame, then that Moonlighter's also a bit on the short end, as some of these ideas would do well with simply more--but then the combat would like thin out even more. Still, what's here is refreshing, and the balance struck between crawling through dungeons and working with the economics of the town are a good combo while it lasts.

Categories: Games

Grand Operations Is A Promising Evolution Of Battlefield Multiplayer

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 20:06

Many Battlefield veterans groaned when DICE announced the new battle royale mode coming to the next entry in the series. Whatever you feel about trend-chasing inarguably the most popular multiplayer mode on the planet right now, it doesn't appear to be coming at the cost of the core Battlefield multiplayer modes that stress teamwork and communication. We got a chance to go hands-on with a slightly modified version of the new Grand Operations mode at EA Play, and came away with a better understanding of how DICE plans to evolve these long-form matches. 

If you read our preview from our Battlefield V first look, you already know that Grand Operations is the next evolution of the Operations mode introduced in Battlefield 1. This time, DICE plans to incorporate various modes into the sequential rounds of the long-form matches as well as switch out maps. For instance, the attackers may parachute behind enemy lines to take out artillery in the first round, then transition into a classic control point experience for the second round, move to a new map in the third round, and possibly face a resource-starved last stand for the final round where once your squad is wiped you can no longer respawn. That's the way the first Grand Operations map plays out during the battle of Narvik in Norway. To get us more quickly through the mode, the version at EA Play took place on an accelerated clock, with only two truncated rounds. It also didn't include the new squad-points system where the squad leader can spend acquire supply drops, smokescreens, or even V1 rockets to deploy if they save up enough.  

Like Operations before it, Grand Operations comes with a slight story wrapping that gives you the context for the war and outlines what's at stake. For this battle, the Allied forces hope to airdrop in and recapture a vital port that gives the Germans access to a critical supply route. I played rounds on both sides of the war to get a better understanding of all the new tools DICE gives soldiers in Battlefield V.

Dropping in as an Allied paratrooper is nerve-wracking when the artillery is firing in your direction. You can wait to time your drop further behind enemy lines, but this comes at the cost of potentially going down with the cargo plane if the Axis soldiers take aim and fire. If you drop early you won't face the same dire circumstance, but the Axis is in much better position to repel your advances. You must parachute into the map unless you can spawn on a squadmate on the ground. When you die, you can no longer skip the timer to avoid a potential revive. Now you have to wait it out, during which you have a 360-degree view of the area around your soldier. 

If you aren't revived, the game immediately transitions to an over-the-shoulder view of a teammate, which you can cycle between. If you prefer you can go back to the deploy screen to see if there are any unused vehicles, but this is no longer the default view unless your squad is wiped. I wish they had an indicator of whether there was an unused vehicle from the over-the-shoulder cam, but at the same time, I appreciate getting the lay of the land from this new perspective before spawning in. This should hopefully keep patient players from immediately dying upon spawning in. I also noticed the system seems to be tuned more conservatively so you can't immediately spawn on a teammate who is in combat. If implemented properly, it could cut down on the number of times you are firing on a lone soldier one second, and outnumbered by incoming squad spawns the next.

Once you land, you need a soldier to gather the charges necessary for detonating the artillery; you can't just walk up to them and destroy them without grabbing the explosives like you would an M-COM station in Rush mode. We managed to take out a couple installations before the map suddenly transitioned to another day in the battle. Here, the game tallied the number of objectives met and also takes into account how many soldiers were left standing that day. These numbers are then applied to your ticket count for the subsequent round. The next round played like a traditional operations mode, where we had to capture forward points to push the enemies back.

 

When I switched to the defensive side, I familiarized myself with the new fortification system available to all classes. Each soldier has a hammer they can equip to fortify their position. Once the tool is out, you can see outlines of potential building options around you. One area may allow you to throw down some sandbags, while another may create a thicker wall to give forward defenders better cover. Engineers can also build stationary weapon emplacements. This system is much more restrained than I expected; don't expect to build dramatic defensive positions like Fortnite or to create a sea of tank obstacles and sandbags.

The defenders can take up anti-air weapons, but the best options for repelling the early Allied advance are the giant artillery cannons. By running up to these giant installations and interacting with it, you can fire these devastating shells at the approaching aircraft and take out the paratroopers before they even drop. The massive cannons take a while to reload, which gives you time to run over to another nearby artillery emplacement if it's unattended. I racked up several kills using this method. 

The fortification system and more modest amount of starting ammo both change the rhythm of play. When you clear out one set of advancing soldiers and have a minute, it's smart to reinforce your position or run back to an ammo supply point to stock up. You have enough clips to take out a few soldiers, but I found myself running out of ammo way more than in previous Battlefield games. Requesting that a squad member drop ammo bags wherever you set up is a smart call. The same goes for medic packs considering you no longer regeneration full health by staying out of the crossfire.

It's tough to get a full assessment of general gameplay during such brief hands-on sessions, but I did like a few changes. The new movement system produces more realistic animations, the destructibility looks more realistic,  and the recalibrated guns feel much more predictable once you figure out their characteristics.

The brief time I had playing Battlefield V was fun; this is still one of my most anticipated shooters of the year. But many questions linger about just how much content will be in the game at launch. DICE isn't talking numbers, but senior producer Andreas Morell told me the maps are going to release sequentially adhering to the World War II timeline over the course of Battlefield V's life. This means we won't be potentially storming the beaches of Iwo Jima or revisiting Wake Island (which seems like a no-brainer) any time soon without booting up the backward compatible version of Battlefield 1943. Does this mean we're getting a much smaller selection of maps off the bat? Time will tell.

The Battlefield V Play First trial begins October 11 on Xbox One and PC. Players who buy the deluxe edition can join the fray on October 16, and the standard edition launches on October 19 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

Coming Back With Promise

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 17:00

The first Valkyria Chronicles was a cult hit, tantalizing strategy/RPG fans with its beautiful, watercolor-like graphics and hard-fought battles. Since then, the series has meandered along with PSP sequels and the misguided spin-off, Valkyria Revolution. Valkyria Chronicles 4 looks to be a return to form, mirroring the first game, but widening the scope and enhancing combat options. I recently went hands-on with the game, and am happy to report I got so absorbed I didn’t want to stop playing.

In Valkyria Chronicles 4, you play as Claude Wallace, who chronicles in a journal the history of the second Europan War. Claude is a determined lieutenant of Squad E, but isn’t calm or collected. Claude’s hands shake before the first battle, talking about how his squad couldn’t see what the war would cost them. “This is still a tale of war, sacrifice, and conflicted loyalties,” says associate producer Andrew Davis. “As Federation forces press onward in their last-ditch attempt to take the Imperial capital, the members of Squad E will face questions that challenge their view of the world. What is an acceptable cost of victory? Is the enemy of your enemy your friend?”

The story is set concurrently with the same struggle for control over Europa as Valkyria Chronicles 1 and 3. “The game doesn't depend on any knowledge of the previous titles, but there are a few references to events of Valkyria Chronicles 1 that will serve as little ‘Aha!’ moments for longtime fans and tie the timelines together,” Davis says. For die-hard fans looking for connections to previous games, David says the optional DLC stories take care of that. He gives the examples of one focusing on fan-favorite Valkyria Selvaria, while another that features a joint operation with the Gallian militia, where Valkyria Chronicles 1's Squad 7 show off their tank skills. 

My demo played very similarly to the original game; you use action points to move your individual units for superior positioning. This may mean hiding along an enemy’s path, where they’ll likely venture on their turn, ready to ambush them. You can take down opponents quickly by targeting their weak points, such as using your sniper to land a headshot or attacking the engine ports of a tank. New to this entry is an armored personnel carrier, which units can climb aboard for safekeeping while traversing the battlefield.

A new sequence called “Last Stand,” triggers as a soldier is close to death, giving you the chance to choose one final action, such as activating a counterattack or giving a squadmate a stat boost and the commander an extra command point. “The unit will still collapse afterwards and require evacuation, but Last Stands are a dramatic way to ensure their sacrifice wasn't in vain,” Davis says.

The Grenadier is the only new class in the game, but according to Davis it’s one of the most significant combat additions. I noticed this quickly in my demo, as the class carries a heavy mortar and launches explosives. You must line up your attacks accordingly, lobbing them in an arc; they can take out groups of enemies with one hit, even those hiding behind walls. “While [Grenadiers] are relatively mobile, it takes them some time to transition from ‘ready to move’ stance and ‘ready to fire’ stance, due to the complicated mortar setup process,” Davis explains. This leaves the units defenseless for a bit, so it’s better to keep them in the back with your supports.

The power of "Orders" from Valkyria Chronicles 1 is back. This allows squad commanders to dish out directives that temporarily buff or protect the squad. However, new to Valkyria Chronicles 4 is your own naval vessel to use "Ship Orders." These provide powerful abilities like revealing an enemy's location and bombardment by the ship's artillery. 

During your battles, you also meet a large cast of squad members with distinct personalities, allowing you to form relationships that affect their performance. Returning are “Potentials,” traits that provide buffs and debuffs, giving each character their own unique charm. For example, Tank Freak gives one character a defensive boost when he’s near a tank, while another nature-loving character receives a lowered defense on roads due to his “Child of Nature” trait. Returning from the PSP iterations are Squad Stories, snippets of story that flesh out characters, culminating in optional side missions designed around these allies. Completing these missions bolster their Potentials, even turning negative traits into bonuses or providing co-op attacks.

Playing Valkyria Chronicles 4 only made me more excited for its release. It feels like the journey I’ve been pining for since the original; it stays true to what made the series unique, while also providing new elements to enhance the strategy experience.

 
Categories: Games

Now For Something Completely Different

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 05:32

Since the original series ended in 2015, fans of Life is Strange have been clamoring for a sequel. Their desires were somewhat answered with a prequel called Before The Storm that focused on troublemaker Chloe Price and her relationship with Rachel Amber. However, Dontnod is ramping up for a proper sequel and you’ll get a taste of what they have in mind even sooner than you probably except.

On June 26, the Dontnod and Square Enix will release a standalone “Life is Strange universe” game called The Awesome Adventures Of Captain Spirit. “Life is Strange is more than just Chloe and Max or any other character,” creative director Jean-Maxime Moris told me during a demo of the game, revealing that Captain Spirit doesn’t function as a prologue or necessarily even a traditional bridge between Life is Strange and Life is Strange 2. However, choices that you make in Captain Spirit do have some kind of effect on the events of Life is Strange 2.

So if Chloe and Max aren’t part of the picture, just who is the star of Captain Spirit? The game opens by zooming through a snowy neighborhood that looked like a far cry from Arcadia Bay and through the window of a 10 year old boy named Chris playing with starships. Clever camera work makes it appear that Chris is actually using some kind of telekinetic powers to move the ship when he’s actually using both his hands, a gotcha tease that lets you know that Captain Spirit has Life Is Strange’s DNA in it, but it’s not restrained by the legacy of the first series.

After that short introduction, you spend the rest of the game exploring the house, talking with your drunk father as he watches a football game and then performing a list of heroic deeds that Chris needs to complete, like flipping on the water heater. Yes, this list is mostly chores, but Chris’ imagination is a powerful one and so is his sense of drama. With each task, the game bends space and time, often transporting our 10-year-old to different universes in his mind. The water heater I mentioned earlier? It transforms into a giant smog monster that Chris has to defeat by turning into his alter ego, Captain Spirit.

Interactions in the game follow the mold from the original game, with you passing by objects and having various actions you can do with them, like picking up a plastic toy or turning on the television. However, a number of options have an option where you can press your trigger button and have Chris perform a super heroic deed, which often culminates an amusing scene. For example, there’s a scene where Chris turns off the television by aiming his hand at it, implying telekinetic powers, while dramatic music blares. A second after the screen switches off, the camera pans right to reveal Chris holding the controller in his hand behind his back.

The Amazing Adventures of Captain Spirit is very good about presenting an entertaining portrait of a child delving into his imagination to escape harsh reality. As Chris wanders around the house and yard, completing chores and assembling his heroic costume, there’s a sense of tragedy that bleeds into the sidelines of the game, one that’s kept at bay by the power of Chris’ mind.

Dontnod says there’s over two hours of content in The Awesome Adventures Of Captain Spirit. From what I saw in my demo, I believe them. Nearly every item in the environment, from refrigerator magnets to toys, had some level of interaction, and a few callbacks to the original Life Is Strange (including a letter from Blackwell Academy) will no doubt keep fans investigating for a while.

The standalone game releases for free on June 26 for PS4, Xbox One, PC.

Categories: Games

Riding The Wind

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 05:14

Just Cause once again puts in the shoes of covert operative Rico Rodriguez with higher stakes and deadlier tools than ever before in its fourth entry. This time he’s taking on The Black Hand, a deadly mercenary group in South America. Rico’s arsenal of tools has been greatly expanded, with the famous grapple from Just Cause 3 being revised to include mutators that let the player adjust the strength of the connection between two objects so that you can use literal dumpsters to smash enemies or even attach boosters to objects so they go careening in wild directions to function as battering rams or launched explosives.

We recently had the chance to watch a demo of the game behind closed doors to see what the fourth game has up its sleeve. The answer? A lot of destruction.


A new element to the series is unpredictable, deadly weather that poses a serious threat to you, as well as your enemies. Tornadoes rage across the land in Just Cause 4, tearing everything they come across to shreds and throwing bridges, vehicles, and people all over the place. I watched as one jet fighter was sucked into the tornado and thrown into a mountainside. This wasn’t a cutscene but instead a moment born from the game's systems.


“We were thinking about how to make the wind suit feel more physical,” says Game Director Francesco Antolini of the extreme weather system’s genesis, “so we built a prototype and the wind was nice but not really over the top. So the next question was ‘How do we make wind over the top?’ We make it fast. We make it a tornado.”


Avalanche and Square Enix weren’t ready to talk story, but they did showcase the antagonist of the game, Gabriella, who leads The Black Hand. They also briefly showed an army element of the game, where the forces that Rico builds up through Just Cause 4 will often be found engaging The Black Hand naturally in the world in battle.


During our preview, Avalanche talked about how this entry was going to try to flesh out Rico as a character because feedback from the Just Cause community has often been about his character development. “There’s been an evolution of that character. Where Rico began as an avatar for players to flood with their action fantasies, it’s clear as we move towards 2018 that people want to get to know the character they’re playing as,” says narrative designer Omar Shakir. The big challenge, Shakir says, is uniting all the disciplines of the game, making sure that the combat is challenging in a way that reinforces and reflects the personal challenges that Rico himself faces.


Just Cause 4 will be out December 4 for PS4, Xbox One, PC. For more on Just Cause, be sure to check out our review of the third game here.

 
Categories: Games

20 New Fallout 76 Details From Bethesda's E3 Press Conference

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 04:16

After weeks of rumors and teases, Bethesda pulled back the curtain on Fallout 76, offering up a lengthy look at the game during its E3 2018 press conference.

Bethesda teased its Fallout 76 reveal earlier today during Microsoft’s press conference, announcing that it is a prequel to the previous Fallout games and is set in West Virginia in a world four times the size of Fallout 4. Todd Howard continued the string of new details tonight during its own press conference. Here are the big takeaways:

  • Players will play as the first vault members to emerge after the bombs dropped.
  • Vault 76 was built to celebrate the tricentenary, the 300th anniversary of the United States, and is even more patriotic than Vault-Tec’s other vaults.
  • The survivors in Vault 76 have been waiting 25 years for Reclamation Day, the day the vault opens. The demo suggests the vault had a major party the night before Reclamation Day, and that the player woke up after everyone else had already left.
  • Fallout 76 features all-new rendering, lighting, and landscape tools, which sport 16 times the detail of previous games.
  • The engine offers so much detail that you can see distant weather systems in areas across the map.
  • The Overseer of Vault 76 sends players on a quest through six regions in the world, each with distinct styles and rewards.
  • Players will run into a host of different enemies not seen in previous Fallout games. The demo was filled with all kinds of weird creatures, including an enormous sloth and a crablike creature with a giant hornet’s nest on its back, and a huge bat called a Scorchbeast.
  • Howard says Bethesda has always wanted to tell the story of the first people who left the vault. The difference is this time each of the characters is a real person. Fallout 76 is an entirely online game.
  • That said, Howard assures the audience that you can “of course play [Fallout 76] solo.” Howard says single-player games have always been hugely important to Bethesda, and they aren’t going to change that.
  • Howard says Bethesda got the idea for Fallout 76’s multiplayer four years ago.
  • Howard referred to Fallout 76 as “softcore survival” compared to previous survival modes in other Bethesda games, and that death won’t result in the loss of progress.
  • Contrary to other online games, you’ll never see any game servers while playing Fallout 76.
  • Fallout 76 will have smaller player counts. “You’ll be in the world with dozens, not hundreds of players,” Howard says. “It’s the apocalypse, not an amusement park, okay?”
  • Howard says you can play with your friends whenever you want, and all of your progression will travel with you.
  • Howard says that by creating a world with very few rules, players will have more impact over the world than ever before. “You’ll decide the heroes and you’ll decide the villains.”
  • Building is back in Fallout 76, but you can now build wherever you want. The demo showed custom camps complete with automated turrets, a variety of shelters and living space, and outhouses.
  • Fallout 76 has multiple nuclear missile sites on the map. Groups of players can take down NPC characters guarding the areas to get snippets of the launch codes. Once they complete the code together, they can input them into the mainframe and then launch the missile to nuke an area of their choice on the map. Players can then go into the blast site and collect rewards – if they can survive the nuclear fallout.
  • Fallout 76 runs 100% on dedicated servers.
  • Bethesda is holding a B.E.T.A. for Fallout 76, which in Vault-Tec acronyms stands for Break-it Early Test Application. Howard also poked fun at Bethesda’s history of buggy games.
  • Howard closed out the presentation with a surprise release date announcement: Fallout 76 is coming out November 14 of this year.  

You can watch the official E4 trailer for Fallout 76 below, and be sure to come back to gameinformer.com later in the week for our impressions from the showfloor.

 

Categories: Games

Finding The Right Scheme

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 06/09/2018 - 19:45

Putting together a good NFL roster – to say nothing of one that can win a Super Bowl – is very hard. Head Coaches and GMs have to have a philosophy in place and know which players, whether that’s big-name veterans or late-round draft picks, can fill their expected roles. Madden 19’s franchise mode is trying to replicate the way NFL teams put together their rosters and how it affects the players in a new scheme/player archetypes and progression system for Connected Franchise Mode.

Each team has an offensive and defensive scheme (which can be changed), and players fit into these schemes via player archetypes. Like previous years, as you play you earn XP for your on-the-field actions. These get you skill points, which can be applied to the specific player archetypes that apply to that player, like being a Strong Arm QB. Doing this raises the OVR in that archetype a full point and raises random ratings assigned to that archetype.

Players get XP bonuses for playing in the schemes that are appropriate to their player archetype, but playing in the wrong scheme does not make your player worse – it just doesn’t make them progress as fast.

So as you assemble your team for the season and envision what it’s going to look like years down the road, you can maximize the talents of role players that fit into your scheme, sign free agents that have appropriate skills and not just the highest OVR, and have a better idea of who to scout and target for the draft. You can also reverse engineer your team like changing your scheme and the players on your team to build around a QB that unexpectedly fell to you in the draft, for example.

Gamers might have some interesting choices to make. Do you start a good vet around who doesn't fit the scheme, or do you give his spot to the rookie who does? The former may have better stats, but the latter will benefit from being a scheme fit and progress faster.

Here's how it works, as well as details on some other changes for Franchise mode.

SCHEMES

  • EA created eight offensive schemes and six defensive ones:
    • Offense: Spread, West Coast Zone Run, West Coast Power Run, Vertical Zone Run, Vertical Power Run, Multiple Power Run, Multiple Zone Run, Run and Shoot
    • Defense: Base 4-3, Multiple 4-3, Base 3-4, Multiple 3-4, Tampa 2, 46
  • If you want to change your team's playbook, you can see what schemes go with that playbook.
  • Visual indicators allow you to see a player's scheme fit, including while you're scouting for the draft.
The game surfaces how well a player or players fit into your schemes.

ARCHETYPES

  • Player Archetypes fit within the schemes, and there are up to four archetypes for each positional group. The QB archetypes, for example, are: Scrambler, Strong Arm, West Coast, and Field General. If you are running a vertical scheme, the archetype you'd be looking for is Strong Arm.
  • Each of the archetypes has its own internal formula that determines the attribute mix within that archetype.
  • Players whose archetype fits the team's scheme get XP bonuses, so they will gain new skill points faster, but there are no penalties for those who don't, and archetypes do not change a player's existing ratings.
  • Great overall players like Antonio Brown excel in multiple archetypes.
  • You can apply skill points into any archetype, so if a player doesn't fit the scheme off the bat, you can level the appropriate archetype to eventually make them fit the scheme. 
Many players fit into multiple archetypes.

PLAYER PROGRESSION

  • Players' archetypes fitting into their team's scheme doesn't modify players' ratings from game to game. Scheme fit players progress faster than those who doesn't.
  • When you apply a skill point to an archetype, you get a random bump in the archetype's appropriate ratings. This is based on weighted randomization and can change the next time you apply a skill point or do it with a different player. You cannot see what the outcome will be before you apply your skill point.
  • Why is it random, and why can't players grow the attributes the way they want? Senior designer John White says that players in online leagues would save up all their points and then dump them into an attribute like speed all at once. This, however, wouldn't change the player's OVR rating, creating an imbalance that threw off the game's free agent or resigning logic. "We would never rate a guy like people were able to build these guys," he said.
  • Traditional player traits like Clutch are not buyable, but are an innate part of the player from the start.
  • The Development Trait is changed; there is no more Slow development. It's Normal, Quick, Star, and Superstar. Superstar encompasses only 30-40 players in the league. This trait can evolve.
  • Weekly gameplanning and Focus Training stay the same.
  • Player regression has been overhauled and sounds like the progression system in reverse in that players won't automatically lose their speed, for example. It's also based on weighted randomization.

CUSTOM DRAFT CLASSES, NEW RATINGS, DRAFT DAY & MORE

  • Players can choose to use a custom draft class on week three of their franchise. This can be imported, created, or loaded.
  • If you create one, you'll start with one of the pre-made ones from EA Tiburon that are normally in the game, and then can edit as little or as much as you like.
  • You can create your own hidden draft gems and stash them in the lower rounds. "If you can imagine it,  you can draft it," says producer Ben Haumiller.
  • Madden 19 introduces new ratings for some positions – QB (Throw Under Pressure, Break Sack, and Break Tackle), WR (Short, Medium & Deep Route Running), and OL (Run Block Power/Finesse, Pass Block Power/Finesse, and Lead Block)
  • If you're a coach or owner in Franchise mode you'll see them in their office, complete with idle animations. If you're a player they'll be in the locker room.
  • Draft day has been reworked to feature a new draft location, complete with a stage with a crowd and a cityscape in the background. When you draft a player, you'll see that model come out on stage and even strike a pose.
  • You can take five or six snapshots from within games which will then be threaded through the mode's other menus, the news, and loading screen.
  • The team depth chart, like in Ultimate Team, contains special positions: Slot receiver, slot corner, rush defensive end, rush defensive tackle, power back, and sub linebacker.
  • You can choose your team captains, and you'll see the appropriate patches with their stars. Some teams don't have captain patches or only have them in the playoffs.
There are now specific depth chart spots for specialized positions like the slot receiver or corner.
Categories: Games

The Entire Fighting EX Layer Cast Comes To Battle

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 20:07

Fighting EX Layer, the newest fighting game by Japanese developer Arika, is coming out later this month. The new title combines Arika's original characters from previous games including Fighting Layer and Street Fighter EX.

You can check out the game's launch trailer up at the top.

Fighting EX Layer is purchasable in two flavors: a more expensive version with the entire roster and a "lite" version with fewer characters for a lower price. The game releases on PlayStation 4 on June 28.

Categories: Games

Latest Trailer Shows Off Locales And Beautiful Art

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 18:44

Indivisible, the crowdfunded turn-based RPG from the developers of Skull Girls, has a new trailer just ahead of E3 showing off the game's multiple environments.

Main character Ajna runs, jumps (and walljumps), and fights through a number of cool locales like Ashwat Forest, the cold and isolated Mount Sumeru, the dangerous Fortress Vimana, and more. The trailer shows off the gorgeous art and interesting battle system, as well.

Indivisible was originally scheduled for this year but was delayed to the first half of 2019. A new backer beta is also out today, but for everyone else, you should hopefully be able to get your hands on Indivisible next year on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Categories: Games

Sushi Striker: The Way Of Sushido Review - Cartoon Cuisine Combat

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 17:00

Like many of Nintendo's most memorable video games, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido takes a seemingly mundane fixture of life and extrapolates it into a novel gameplay idea. In this case, co-developer Indieszero (Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, NES Remix) has built an action-puzzle game around conveyor-belt sushi, which serves as a vehicle for its match-three-style duels. And thanks to a knowingly zany presentation and regular stream of new mechanics, Sushi Striker is a fun and consuming puzzler unlike anything else currently on Switch, despite a few niggling issues.

Battling foes by throwing plates of sushi is an inherently silly premise, and Sushi Striker fully embraces the concept by wrapping it up in an even more ridiculous story. The game begins in the aftermath of the Sushi Struggles, a bitter war that took the parents of protagonist Musashi (who can be either a boy or girl) and resulted in the Empire gaining complete control over the world's sushi supply. As it happens, Musashi displays a preternatural gift for Sushi Striking--the ability to conjure plates of sushi and throw them in battle--and soon joins the Sushi Liberation Front, a Republic force fighting for the noble cause of sharing sushi with everyone. The tale only gets more absurd from there, but it remains delightfully charming throughout thanks to the hilarious writing and amusing anime cutscenes.

Musashi's journey encompasses more than 150 puzzle battles, which offer a novel and deceptively simple twist on match-three gameplay. The object of these is to link together plates of the same color as they whiz by on the conveyor belts in front of you, then throw those plates at your opponent to dish out damage. You have seven seconds to match plates; the more you're able to link up at once, the taller your stack will be, which in turn will inflict more damage when thrown. You can also chain together combos by throwing stacks of the same color consecutively, further racking up your score and increasing the amount of damage you deal.

As a result, battles are simultaneously frantic and strategic, as your success--particularly in the later stages of the game--hinges on effectively creating large stacks of plates before they disappear and chaining them into combos. The game also regularly introduces additional gameplay wrinkles as you progress through the story, which add further layers of complexity to battles and help keep the encounters fresh and exciting.

Chief among these are the Sushi Sprites--Pokemon-like magical creatures that can be called upon to unleash special skills. These abilities can be activated once you've eaten a sufficient amount of sushi, and they provide a temporary power that can help turn the tide of battle. One, for instance, imbues your plates with electricity, causing them to deal more damage; another turns all the plates on your lanes into the same color, allowing you to chain together a huge stack. There are more than 30 Sushi Sprites to collect in total, and experimenting with different combinations and devising the best way to leverage their abilities is one of the most satisfying aspects of the game.

On top of that, many battles introduce special capsule items, such as stopwatches or bombs. These randomly appear among the sushi and can be used against your opponent, provided you're able to link up the requisite number of plates before the item disappears. You can also outfit Musashi with different gears that alter the speed of your conveyor belts, as well as select a favorite variety of sushi; eat enough of it during a battle and it'll confer another passive ability, from an attack buff to health replenishment.

There's a lot to digest in Sushi Striker, but the game does a good job of parceling out new elements and gameplay ideas over the course of its single-player campaign, keeping it surprising and engaging for the majority of its duration. That said, the campaign does begin running out of steam toward the end. Later stages start to recycle earlier gimmicks without building on them (besides by imposing harsher restrictions), which results in some frustrating encounters. In particular, a stretch of late-game stages reintroduce wasabi plates. These temporarily stun you when eaten, slowing down the pace of the game considerably as you (often unsuccessfully) try to avoid grabbing them.

Likewise, while Sushi Striker generally plays well on Switch, it was clearly designed with the 3DS in mind, and the controls didn't translate quite as well to the hybrid console. You can play the game with either a controller or the console's touchscreen, but the latter is much better suited for the fast-paced gameplay. Using a control stick to toggle between different plates of sushi is imprecise and often frustrating, as you'll struggle to select the right plate as they roll by. Linking plates with the touchscreen, by contrast, feels more intuitive, although the game would still have benefited from the precision of a stylus.

Both the Switch and 3DS versions support local and online multiplayer, although curiously, these options need to be unlocked as you progress through the story, and there is no cross-play between platforms. In either case, you can take on rivals in two game types: Tasty Battles, the standard mode that only features sushi, and Chaos Battles, which throws capsule items into the mix as well. Additionally, the Switch version allows you to play locally on a single console. Multiplayer battles don't have the same element of surprise as the single-player encounters, but they're still fun and strategic, as you can test your best Sushi Sprite combinations out against other human players.

Despite its imperfect transition to Switch, Sushi Striker is one of the more enjoyable puzzle games in the console's library. With a substantial campaign that's propped up by clever mechanics and a charmingly ludicrous story, the game offers a wealth of single- and multiplayer content to dive into. The controls suffer a bit in the move to Switch, and the campaign is stretched out for too long, but the fast-paced puzzle-matching gameplay offers a surprising amount of depth and is a real treat.

Categories: Games

See Wonder Boy's Spiritual Successor In New Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 16:18

FDG Entertainment and Game Atelier are releasing a new game in the style of an old cult classic. Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is being developed with help from Ryuichi Nishizawa, creator of the Wonder Boy in Monster World series. And now you can see the game in action in this all-new trailer.

The core gameplay of a morphing hero remains intact, though it looks leagues better than its 8-bit predecessors. As you can see in the trailer, it offers around 15 hours of platform-hopping and exploration. Look for it on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch this summer.

If you haven't played any of the Wonder Boy games before, you're in luck. Last year, DotEmu and Lizardcube remade Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap, and it's available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Switch.

 
Categories: Games

West Of Loathing Review: The Wild Bunch

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 01:00

West of Loathing is not as simple as its art style might lead you to believe. Its black and white color palette, stick-figure characters, and crude hand-drawn art might appear to be devoid of personality. But in practice, its visual simplicity acts as a malleable canvas for its imagination to run away with reckless abandon. West of Loathing is an involved Western adventure game/RPG hybrid that embraces absolute absurdity with mechanical flexibility and comedic personality, making role-playing in its monochromatic old West thoroughly entertaining.

The backbone of the game is its jokes and ingrained humor. Every little thing in West of Loathing serves as either a punchline or the lead-up to one. It exists in the writing naturally--the main narrative involves a bizarre cataclysmic event involving demon cows and rodeo clowns. The flavor text is filled with irony and wordplay, and conversations with characters play out like short sketches. The sheer amount of jokes draws you into Loathing's crudely drawn and ludicrous world, but what's more impressive is that they rarely fall flat, and if they do, there's often another to draw your attention away immediately.

But West of Loathing's consistent sense of humor runs deeper, woven throughout your interactions and the game's menus and UI. Attempting to search spittoons for items will engage you in long lectures from the narrator as they attempt to stop you from doing so by describing, in great detail, how disgusting what you're trying to stick your hand into is. Choosing to playfully boast that "Sneaky" is your middle name will discreetly change your middle name on your character screen to just that. Searching a shelf and finding a book entitled "The Art of Silly Walking" will unlock a new character perk, which adds a new toggle in the game's system menu to visibly change the way your character moves in-game to everything from cartwheels to swimming. These are just a few very early examples of the game's sense of humor, but West of Loathing's commitment and follow-through on its jokes will surprise and delight you throughout its entire duration.

You begin the game by selecting from one of three different classes--farcical takes on familiar RPG character tropes. The Cow Puncher is a warrior-style class, the Bean Slinger uses legumes as a source of magic, and the Snake Oiler is the rogue equivalent. But although each class comes with their own set of unique skills, and a convenient option for auto-leveling will build out a nicely rounded character for you of that archetype, West of Loathing also allows you the flexibility of manually assigning experience points to build whatever kind of character you want. That means there's nothing stopping you from having a physically adept Bean Slinger who can also pick locks, or a Cow Puncher with a high moxie stat and the cunning required to outfox his opponents.

West of Loathing's combat consists of a simple turn-based system situated on a 3x6 grid. There are some small nuances to consider regarding positioning and using cover when facing opponents with ranged attacks, and a number of consumable items can be used in battle to cause various effects. But aside from the novelty of seeing the amusing enemy and ability designs in battle, combat is a straightforward affair.

What's more interesting about West of Loathing's mechanics is that it is as much of an adventure game as it is an RPG, and one of the by-products of this is that there are multiple solutions to any given problem--and there is nearly always a completely viable alternative to engaging in battle. Having the right item in your inventory (some of which have multiple uses both in and out of combat), enough points in a particular statistic, or certain abilities unlocked means that you can complete quests or resolve random encounters without violence and still get enough experience points to spend on character progression. If you don't have the goods to pass these skill checks when you first encounter an obstacle, West of Loathing allows you to come back later with the right stuff if you so desire; it doesn't force you into any combat situations without warning, and it's a very welcome, player-friendly decision.

There are a few minor issues--inventory management on Switch becomes cumbersome as you collect an increasing amount of things, fights with a lot of enemies can obscure some pertinent information, and the stakes sometimes feel a little too low to be completely motivating. But West of Loathing's focus on maintaining a flexible, open-ended nature and lighthearted, humorous feel keeps you engaged in what feels like an imaginative pen-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons campaign, led by a game master whose only goal is to make sure you're laughing and having a fun time. West of Loathing's visuals are monochromatic, but there's enjoyable comedy painted between every line, a pitch-perfect Spaghetti Western soundtrack, and a full spectrum of role-playing possibilities to choose from that make it a consistently enjoyable madcap cowboy jaunt.

Categories: Games

Avalanche Studios Announces New Co-op Shooter

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 18:04

Avalanche Studios brought us Just Cause and Mad Max, and now it's ready for its next big thing. Today, the studio announced a new project called Generation Zero, an open-world shooter set in an alternate history of 1980's Sweden. You take on the role of a local fighting against an invasion of machines in the rural Swedish countryside.  Players can play solo or have three friends join in for seamless four-player co-op. 

Enemies in the world will be persistent and the damage you inflict will stay on them, whether you remove limbs or armor. If an enemy returns an hour or weeks later, those battle scars will still be visible. 

Players can share loot, revive teammates and use guerrilla tactics to fight back and eventually unravel the mystery behind the machine invasion. The huge world is rendered with the Apex engine, and will have a full day/night cycle, dynamic weather, simulated ballistics, complex A.I., and a 1980's soundtrack.

 

Categories: Games

Insomniac's Next VR Game Makes You A Robot On A Mysterious Planet

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 16:00

After teasing it recently, Insomniac fully revealed its new VR game, Stormland this morning. In the game, you are a robot on a strange planet. In the trailer, you are hard at work on a new planet, but are shot and left for dead by The Tempest. You wake up years (decades? Centuries?) later in order to repair yourself, figure out what happened to you, and take some revenge.

Insomniac is promising new ways to navigate in VR and says it is coming in 2019 exclusively for Oculus Rift.

 
Categories: Games

Onrush Review: Push It To The Limit

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 01:00

Calling Onrush a racing game is a tad reductive and maybe even a little disingenuous. Sure, there are two- and four-wheeled vehicles careening around a track with reckless abandon. But with no finishing lines in sight, achieving victory in Onrush is about much more than simply seeing who can reach a chequered flag first. This bold idea for an arcade racing game comes from a new studio formed out of the remnants of Evolution Studios. It's a curious transmogrification of various genres and styles, taking elements from the high-octane takedowns of Burnout, the multi-vehicle chaos of Evolution's MotorStorm, and the class-based competitive action of a hero shooter like Overwatch. These influences might be unmistakable, but developer Codemasters has crafted a wholly original and innovative racing game that's quite unlike anything you've ever played before.

Describing how this off-kilter mixture functions is best achieved by explaining Onrush's Overdrive mode, which dilutes the anomalous experience down to its purest form. Here, two teams of six go head-to-head in up to eight diverse vehicle classes, with victory achieved by chaining together boost multipliers in order to rack up points. Earning boost is done by hitting jumps, wrecking opponents and weak fodder vehicles, performing bike tricks, and other actions that are tied to specific vehicle classes. Once you've depleted enough boost you can unleash the cathartic Rush Ultimate, which propels you forward at lightning speed and provides a bonus ability that is, once again, tied to your vehicle class. Overdrive is relatively simple and doesn't have the same depth as some of Onrush's other modes, but as an introduction to this brazen new style of game, it's a clear signal of intent: this is not a traditional racer by any stretch of the imagination.

Click image to view in gallery

Part of Onrush's ingenuity comes from its rubber banding, which sounds absurd until you see it in motion. Both teams are congregated together with the AI fodder vehicles in a pack known as The Stampede. Fall too far behind and you'll be teleported straight back into the maelstrom of crunching metal for a sustained period of high adrenaline driving. Not only does this keep everyone in the thick of the action at all times, but it tears down the divide between newcomers and veterans alike. You don't have to be amazing at racing games, or even have previous experience in the genre to feel like you're contributing to each match because you're always in amongst the histrionics. And this attention to inclusion is reflected in Onrush's other game modes, vehicle classes, and its driving model, too.

The bar to entry is quite low with the kind of straightforward driving mechanics you would expect from a thrills-and-spills arcade racer like this, so it's relatively easy to get to grips with the basic framework. But the skill ceiling is high enough for those looking to improve their play and delve into the intricacies of how to successfully line up pulverising takedowns and maneuver out of harm's way. There's a discernible sense of weight to each vehicle, too, that translates into a tangible heft that dismisses any thoughts of floaty handling. You're also afforded a degree of aerial control that allows you to exert downforce and crush any opponents unfortunate enough to find themselves beneath your tyres, representing the most satisfying of all of Onrush's myriad takedowns. Despite this subtle depth, however, Onrush's primary challenge still derives from your vehicle choice, and how you manipulate it to cater to the current game mode and your team's makeup.

During Overdrive, for example, you might want to play more of a support role, using Dynamo's special ability to drop boost pick-ups for your team to collect, and utilising its Rush Ultimate to supply any nearby teammates with a dollop of sustained boost that will extend their multipliers. Or perhaps you're in a game of Countdown, the mode that most closely resembles a traditional racing game, as both teams battle it out to drive through checkpoints to add incremental time to an ever-depleting clock. The speed and agility of the Blade motorcycle might come in handy here, especially with the whole Stampede moving in the same direction, as Blade's Rush Ultimate leaves a destructive trail of fire behind its two-wheeled fury. On top of this there are other classes that grant you improved magnetism on in-air attacks, ones that drain your opponent's boost, and others that deploy shields for teammates. The latter comes in particularly useful during Lockdown, which is essentially King of the Hill on wheels, as both teams fight for space in order to capture a moving zone.

You don't have to be amazing at racing games, or even have previous experience in the genre to feel like you're contributing to each match because you're always in amongst the histrionics

There's a robust single player mode that does an excellent job of teaching you the ins-and-outs of each vehicle class and game mode, with challenges that encourage you to focus on particular areas--whether it's using the hulking 4x4 Enforcer to blind opponents, or taking down vehicles in the Lockdown zone, and so on. It's a good primer for what's to come, as Onrush really comes alive once you hop online and start tearing it up with other players.

If you have like-minded friends, there are tactical opportunities to work together to wreck opposition vehicles with coordinated attacks, and use your class abilities in tandem to get the most out of each one. If you're only playing alone, however, the experience isn't impaired in any way. With every driver in close vicinity and a plethora of useful visual cues, it's relatively easy to aid your teammates despite having no direct communication. The only negative arises in Lockdown, where a recurring glitch captures the zone when nobody's in it. Wrecks can also be a bit finicky at times; on some occasions you'll total your car after scraping a wall, while at other times a head-on crash will have no effect.

There are also loot boxes, although they’re not the heinous kind likely to incite an angry furore. By completing matches you’ll earn XP that goes towards an overall level. Each successive level unlocks a loot box containing three random items of varying rarity. These can be things like new bodies and paint jobs for your vehicles, tombstone emojis that are left behind after you wreck, and different clothes for the largely inconsequential avatars. You can also buy any of these items using in-game money that's also earned simply by completing events. There are no microtransactions in sight, this is just a way to gradually dole out cosmetic items that give your whole style a sense of ownership.

Click image to view in gallery

Visually, Onrush is a beautiful showcase for electrifying particle effects, dynamic lighting, and increment weather, with each of its 12 tracks catching the eye due to their diversity and multi-faceted aesthetics. The sun-kissed Whitewater Canyon, for instance, uses a vibrant, almost otherworldly, colour palette to illuminates its red rocks, while Glory Dam propels you through a winding forest before spitting you out into a dam that's adorned in vivid street art, and Big Dune Beach offers a glimpse of the Northern Lights in its night sky. Each crash and exertion of boost is also complemented by a curated concoction of popular, licensed music, usually remixed to be more up-tempo and chaotic, in case trading paint wasn't hectic enough.

When it comes to crumpling metal and high speed thrills, not all of Onrush's game modes are on equal footing in terms of consistent excitement. Yet its foundations are so strong, and so unique, that it's easy to lose hours upon hours barreling around these disparate tracks. The question of longevity will, of course, depend on post-release support, with new classes, game modes, and tracks potentially on the horizon. Considering you need 12 players to fill a full room, it would be a shame if Onrush doesn't find the kind of audience that will give it the lifespan it deserves. Part of this will depend on how Codemasters iterates on the game from here on out, but they've shown a proficiency in knowing how arcade racing games click, and Onrush is such a bold, refreshing twist on the genre that there should be little hesitation in putting your faith in them to succeed.

Categories: Games

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle Review - The Tag Team Dream

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 18:00

2D anime fighters like the BlazBlue series are often intimidating for their elaborate movesets and demand for precise execution. However, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle breaks from tradition by simplifying its gameplay systems, and bringing in characters from three other franchises to join the fight. By no means does the simplification make Cross Tag shallow--the dynamic tag system and the clever ways you can mix mechanics are where Cross Tag shines. Factor in the charm of these distinct worlds and you'll have plenty of reasons to consider this fast, flashy, and endearing fighter.

Across four mainline games, BlazBlue developed a complex fighting system, while Persona 4 Arena and Arena Ultimax distilled the formula and captured the charisma of the eponymous RPG. Under Night In-Birth (from developer French-Bread in collaboration with Arc System Works) had its own twist on a deep, yet accessible fighting game. The RWBY animated series makes its fighting game debut, and the cast's talents and flair make the transition incredibly well. Cross Tag Battle unifies all four series as a five-button fighter with two main attack buttons, a universal overhead attack that can also function as an EX attack, a tag button, and the partner skill. While it may seem a bit too straightforward, even the most historically complex characters on the roster remain true to form where it counts. By distilling classic fighting mechanics, the focus is shifted from performing elaborate directional inputs to creating openings for sweet high-damage combos through easy-to-execute attacks.

You'll recognize familiar moves with similar properties from respective games, but the conditions for execution have changed. Basic attacks, smart combos, and even Supers (called Distortion Skills) are easy to pull off, though the number of techniques mapped to the limited controls can cause some inadvertent activations of very different moves--particularly throws and Distortion Skills. Auto-forward dash on most characters may also be jarring to fighting game veterans. But it doesn't take much effort to adjust to this game's quirks and pace.

Partner skills will take time to grasp; every character has unique back, forward, and standing assist attacks where they fly in from off screen to lend a hand. Cross combos take the tag system one step further by letting your duo pile on damage simultaneously; pulling these off will make short work of opponents if you can expertly control your tandem. These are key to maximizing the effectiveness of combos, creating openings, or pulling yourself out of a rut. With this in mind, you're encouraged to either experiment using different duos or form your own collaborative attacks with the pair you love most. It's chaotic and tough to nail down in live matches, and it's where the depth of combat comes from.

Most of your advanced moves require you to expend meters that charge during the course of combat and it's critical that you keep an eye on them at all times. Meter management requires you to think about using up the skill gauge for distortion skills, laying down EX moves, or saving up for back-to-back supers with your tag partner. Cross combos and tag counters to get out of combos use up the two-bar cross gauge. And when you're down a fighter, the Resonance Blaze (the comeback mechanic) kicks you into overdrive for 15 seconds by regenerating health, adding chip damage, automatically filling the skill gauge, and strengthening Distortion Skills--be sure to use that time wisely.

All the pieces of a fast, smooth, and endlessly fun fighting game exist within Cross Tag, but it truly shines by channelling and fusing the personality and charisma of each franchise.

Cross Tag Battle has a lot to absorb, and it'll take time to get comfortable with the fighting system and unravel all its intricacies. Thankfully, the onboarding process is top-notch. Tactics Mode walks you through the basic terminology, mechanics, and their use-cases, and each character has a tailor-made tutorial that gives you the opportunity to perfect specific combos. On top of that, there's a slew of missions in Tactics Mode that pit you in difficult challenges to build awareness of the more specific situations you'll encounter in matches.

All the pieces of a fast, smooth, and endlessly fun fighting game exist within Cross Tag, but it truly shines by channelling and fusing the personality and charisma of each franchise. Whether it's the stylish super moves, battle cries, or fluid animations, this large cast is bursting with charm. While many of the assets have been repurposed from previous games, this is the first time we see members of RWBY in 2D with anime-inspired models. Under Night's cast also gets redrawn portraits to better fit the BlazBlue aesthetic. Despite their differences, the combination of worlds works so well that each fanbase will find something to love about seeing their favorite characters in unexpected scenarios.

Mixing up teams brings about collaborations I've always wanted to see. Sure, Hyde, Ragna, and Narukami may play like the standard sword-wielding boys from their respective worlds, but having either of them work together makes for a badass team. As a die-hard Persona fan, having the Investigation Team reunited at Yasogami High for a hectic brawl while bumping the Arena mix for Reach Out To The Truth warms my heart. Especially smaller moments, like the unique chatter and interactions between two characters before fights commence, makes this feel like more than a rehash of multiple assets or collection of characters thrown together all willy nilly. When I'm hopping from Under Night's Riverside stage in one fight to BlazBlue's Cathedral the next, using my favorite duo of Chie and Ruby while listening to Hyde's battle theme, Cross Tag Battle evokes and amplifies the fondness I have for this roster.

The crossing of worlds primarily plays out in the Episode Mode, where the four factions of fighters are forced to fight in a fake realm by a mysterious, omnipresent AI that creates arbitrary rules. By obtaining color-coded keystones, and eventually uniting to fight this AI, they'll be able to return home. The overarching plot sounds ridiculous, and it's borderline nonsensical. Each of the four campaigns play out as a visual novel with static character portraits and fully voiced dialogue; actual fights are embedded within each chapter to keep you an active participant. It's all quite trite, sometimes eye-rolling.

Cross Tag Battle has a lot to absorb, and it'll take time to get comfortable with the fighting system and unravel all its intricacies. Thankfully, the onboarding process is top-notch.

Some character appearances feel shoehorned for the sake of making an appearance, but despite its absurdity, moments of cross-franchise fan service stick the landing. Ruby's obsession with fancy weapons permeates her encounters with the likes Ragna and Hyde. References to Chie's obsession with steak, and Yukiko's inability to make curry call back to the moments I first met them in Persona 4; even Noel gets caught up in the mix as she's completely oblivious to how bad it'll taste. And as each episode concludes, I was rewarded with heartfelt scenes that reminded me of why I'm invested in these characters.

Story mode highlights something odd, though. DLC characters take part in the story as opponents despite not being available in the playable base roster. Their movesets, character models, theme songs, and voice lines are in the game, but they're gated as add-on content. Half of RWBY's cast is offered for free, but to see several Persona, BlazBlue, and Under Night folks so obviously withheld feels unfair.

Taking the fight online is where you'll spend most of your time after getting your feet wet in single-player. Cross Tag online component consists of multiple lobbies for different skill levels where players walk around as chibi versions of their favorite character. Customizing your player card with character portraits and familiar catchphrases is another avenue to express your love. It's cute and lighthearted, magnified by the adorable batch of emotes that often take the edge off exhilarating fights. And thankfully, jumping into matches works seamlessly. After hundreds of rounds online, both in the casual lobby and ranked matchmaking, we can say that netcode is solid and that latency is a non-issue with a decent connection.

Players that want a more competitive environment should be happy to know that we had little trouble finding a fair fight in ranked matchmaking. In both victory and defeat, memorable moments abound. Although it can be frustrating, I'm always taking note of how high-level players get the better of me. I'll also never forget making a comeback from being down a teammate, activating resonance blaze and perfectly timing both Chie's power charge and God Hand super while my opponent was in mid-tag to take them both out in one hit.

Whether playing through the story mode alone or against hardened opponents online, Cross Tag Battle is an absolute joy with a surplus of possibilities within its wide roster and versatile fighting system. Even with all the ridiculousness of the overarching plot, I reveled in the charm of my favorite characters and embraced the many moments of fan service. It's a masterful unification of styles and mechanics from four different universes that compels you to dig deeper and dedicate the time to getting the most out of the beloved members of this cast.

Categories: Games

Golem Review: Hidden In Plain Sight

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 17:00

Golem often feels at odds with itself. This gorgeous puzzle-filled adventure successfully wraps you in a mystical world, where bright hues and cheerful melodies set the mood. But beneath this inviting exterior lie disjointed challenges that no amount of whimsy can sugarcoat. Even with smart mechanics that are introduced at a sensible pace, Golem's rhythm is regularly disturbed by jarring difficulty spikes and obtuse solutions.

A vague narrative tells of a lost civilization that once upon a time used magical stone creatures to build and maintain its structures. These beings, or golems, are practically extinct, save for one you're tasked to rebuild throughout ten puzzle-filled stages. Starting as a lifeless ball, the golem feels like a nuisance at first, which only serves to make its eventual evolution that much more gratifying.

As your golem is slowly pieced back together, new mechanics are introduced to allow for more complex puzzles. When it gains the ability to walk on its own, for example, you will have to accurately predict its movement while manipulating the environment to clear pathways at the right moments. Later, it evolves into a dog-like creature that you can command to move to specific locations, and will eventually grow strong enough to carry you across treacherous tracts of land that are otherwise impassable.

Golem's ten stages act as large puzzle rooms, each with the objective of going from one end to the other. This traversal is restricted by your golem's growing moveset, which puts the onus on you to chart an appropriate course. This can be as simple as moving a rock pillar to close a gap, or as complex as activating a series of switches to resuscitate an old, aging turbine that in turn spins up other nearby mechanisms. Regardless of the conceit, the goal remains the same but with shifting responsibilities. Your golem will sometimes, for example, need to be precisely placed to apply pressure to a switch, giving you access to a new area via a now moving railcar. In turn you might need to ensure that your ally has a clear path to the next hurdle. If you've gone one step too far without a clear solution in sight, backtracking and starting from scratch may be your only option.

Herein lies one of Golem's most frustrating aspects. Puzzles ought to require intricate solutions that make you second guess your instincts, and the best of them give you that "aha" moment, when you recognize that the blueprint to success was evident from the start--you just hadn't yet learned how to see a certain number of steps ahead. Golem instead obscures your view of many puzzle elements, forcing you to succeed through trial and error as opposed to relying on foresight and analysis. Golem also regularly fails to make some unique interactive objects standout from the background, which forces you to tediously move your mouse around the screen to determine what is or isn't useful. Basic switches and levers, on the other hand, are clearly marked; an inconsistency that makes it hard to trust that the game is always playing fair.

Moving about a stage isn't a fast or free-flowing affair, but instead a point-and-click style dictation. This systematic process and your character's slow movement speed is mercifully compensated for with the inclusion of a fast-forward button, which you’ll use frequently. And just like the indiscernible key items throughout each stage, walkable pathways are often indistinguishable from off-limits areas. The inconsistency of Golem's visual language leads to tiring efforts of just clicking on possible destinations in the hopes of finding one that's actually accessible.

Golem confuses size with ingenious puzzle design, which just dilutes the euphoria it aims to generate on completion. Yet it still conjures infrequent moments of bliss that re-establish a sense of wonder. Golem’s vast, mysterious world is ultimately inviting to poke and prod around in, even if its stringent mechanics don’t allow for looking further beyond the stage at hand. There’s an underlying drive to discover what this world is about, what secrets its lost inhabitants might have held, that prevent temptations to just leave it entirely. Golem’s puzzles might feel shallow, but its saving grace is the captivating setting it desperately latches them onto.

It's the fizzle at the end of the fuse that encompasses a disappointing journey into an otherwise visually captivating world. Golem attempts but fails to find harmony in bringing a vague tale together with any sort of emotional resonance. That might have been easier to forgive if the journey itself was exceptional. Instead Golem's inconsistent puzzles and jarring difficulty spikes will infuriate you more than they infatuate.

Categories: Games

Lumines Creator Puts A Trippy Twist On A Classic

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 16:31

Sony has announced a new game from Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the creator of Lumines and Rez, which puts a psychedelic spin on an old favorite. Tetris Effect features more than 30 stages, featuring unique visuals and sound effects that change as players progress through the game.

The game is named after the Tetris Effect, an actual phenomenon where subjects who were exposed to Tetris could visualize lingering Tetronimos long after stepping away from the game. Take a look at the clip below to see Tetris Effect (the game) in action, and imagine what kinds of lingering effects this one could have on players.

Tetris Effect is coming to PlayStation 4 this fall, with enhanced versions available on PS4 Pro and PlayStation VR.

 

Categories: Games

How To Retrain Your Dragon

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 18:00

Part of Activision’s business mimics archaeology – digging through decades of gaming history left behind by other development studios with the hope of reshaping their work for a new generation to enjoy. Last year we watched Activision subsidiary Vicarious Visions dig up Crash Bandicoot’s first adventures, which date back over 20 years to the original PlayStation.

In creating the Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy, Vicarious was tasked with what may sound like a fool’s errand: preserve the nostalgia so fans would feel like they were revisiting their favorite games, but also make it look state-of-the-art so the next generation of gamers thought it was new and exciting. To accomplish this feat, not one line of code from the original games was used. Vicarious rebuilt those titles from the ground up, replicating the design right down to the exact placement of specific items. Crash’s movement speed was also unaltered. The one significant alteration was enhancing the visuals. Vicarious made it look as beautiful as any big-budget PlayStation 4 game out there.

Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy was a critical and commercial success, leading many to believe Activision would explore Spyro the Dragon’s history next. Activision made this decision well before the launch of N. Sane Trilogy, enlisting developer Toys for Bob to resurrect Insomniac Games’ original three Spyro games for the PlayStation. Fans now get to experience Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon through the Spyro Reignited Trilogy. Toys for Bob is no stranger to Spyro – this beloved dragon was a key player in this studio’s wildly successful Skylanders games.

Spyro's fire breath won't just torch enemies, it can melt ice and burn grass

Toys for Bob’s mission to retain the nostalgia of a series but enhance it visually proved to be a little more challenging than Vicarious Visions’, as the visual fidelity of the original Spyro games didn’t hold up as well as Crash’s. The narrow play space of the Crash titles allowed for more detail to be included in the environments, whereas Spyro’s worlds were more open and less defined. Toys for Bob’s artists did their best to try to get into the mind of Insomniac’s artists to figure out their grand vision. Some of the stages teased the idea of ancient civilizations and magical places but ended up consisting of just two huts and a streak of magical light in the distance. Without adding any other geometry that would change the play space, Toys for Bob’s design team expanded on this vision as much as possible. The environment still consists of just two huts, but they look entirely different, and are now intricately detailed to convey the sense of society and magic. It looks like a new game, but fans will find it oddly familiar.

Josh Nadelberg, art director at Toys for Bob, says there’s a tricky balance to this process. “We tried to evoke the memory you had,” he says. “Memories are always seen through rosy glasses. I had this experience showing my kids the original The Legend of Zelda. I told them, ‘You’re going to love this game. It’s so cool!’ They looked at it and didn’t see what I saw. It totally wasn’t what I remember.”

We’re trying to stay true to the original intent, but 20 years have passed, and when you go back and see what those games look like, you have a nostalgic idea in your mind, but it isn’t what you expect. – Josh Nadelberg

Toys for Bob showed me two stages from Spyro the Dragon, both set in the introductory Artisans Homeworld. Even in the original games, this realm delivered a strong European and Tuscan vibe, but I now find myself focusing more on the foliage than the architecture in the distance. The stage of note is called Toasty. Spyro is in ankle-high grass that flows with the wind and turns to cinders when his fire breath scorches it. Even the grass completely changes the look of the game. In the original title, Spyro just stood on a flat green slab. I notice a series of sparkling gems sitting along a brick wall are slightly hidden in the grass, and are also in shade – another new element as the games didn’t have any form of lighting and instead relied on vertex coloring to simulate it.

Toys for Bob rebuilt all of the games from scratch in Unreal Engine 4, and developed tools to extract as much data from Insomniac’s games as possible. “It wasn’t the actual source assets, however,” says Peter Kavic, senior producer at Toys for Bob. “The tool allowed us to map out the precious placement of objects in the world, and lines things traveled on. We have all of that accurately captured and recreated here.” Insomniac was able to rely on the exact level meshes, and used them for paint overs for the artists. They also used the original collision meshes to deliver what is essentially the exact same experience, but with a fresh coat of paint.

“The original game is basically running under a bunch of layers,” Kavic explains.

All of the enemies have new animations, but exhibit the same behaviors as before

The enemies that prowl these stunningly detailed environments offer the same behaviors and basic designs as before, but are now filled with life. We come across a scruffy white dog, but don’t engage it. We instead sit back to see what it will do. The dog sniffs around, yawns, and curls up to take a nap. As we approach, he opens one eye to see if he heard something. We freeze in our tracks, and he falls back asleep. His ears perk up with our next step and he leaps to action, barking incessantly. A blast of fire breath burns his hair off, revealing a hilariously skinny pup underneath.

The wizard, who is with the dog, starts an assault but again isn’t a match for fire. His physical being goes up in smoke, and his hat sinks comically onto his cloak. Spyro looks exactly the same, but the lighting in the environment often makes him look different in color. He is still gold and purple, but his shiny scales are pulling in the shades of pink from the artisan sky.

The gate the wizard was protecting leads to a hallway filled with paintings of dragons and vistas. This is a nice touch that showcases the skills of the dragons that once roamed these lands. As the plot details, Spyro is the only dragon left in this world, a result of a magical spell cast by Gnasty Gnorc that trapped all of the elder dragons in crystal shards. Spyro must free all of them, and take down Gnorc’s forces in the process.

The worlds all feature new details inspired by Insomniac's original vision

The one big change fans of the PlayStation games will see is every elder dragon has been redesigned. We had a chance to see one, which Spyro frees after exiting the art gallery. Toys for Bob wants each dragon to hammer home the theme of the world they inhabit. This particular one holds a paint tray, wears a stylish cap, and sports a tiny moustache. None of the dragons are just palette swaps.

As Spyro converses with the beast, we notice his voice has changed. In this first game he was originally voiced by Carlos Alazraqui, but then was replaced by Tom Kenny (best known as SpongeBob SquarePants) for the next two games. Kenny now voices Spyro in all three titles.

Composer Stewart Copeland’s original scores are being used, but the music is now dynamic, shifting in tone when Spyro moves from exploration to combat. It’s a small change that goes a long way in heightening the moment of facing off against Toasty the scarecrow, who now has a mischievous grin, fluid animations, and can eventually be burned down to reveal he’s a sheep standing on stilts.

The second stage we see is Stone Hill, another space that showcases just how big of a difference a detailed field of grass can make in redefining the look of the game. In this area we get a good glimpse at how Spyro’s companion Sparx feeds. A sheep turns into a butterfly that is chased and consumed by the colored firefly. Sparx looks a little different, thanks to him having arms and legs, which he uses to express himself more.

From my brief look at Spyro Reignited Trilogy, I was impressed by the visual changes to the environment, but wonder how fans will take to the newly designed dragons, which are a great departure from the original games’ vision. Regardless of this one hesitation, this remake looks like it’s going to be good fun, and a great way to explore the series that put Insomniac Games on the map.

Categories: Games

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