Games

First Hands-On With Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 04/12/2019 - 20:30

Vader Immortal is a three-part VR series for Oculus that is penned by David S. Goyer, a famed writer of movies and games like The Dark Knight trilogy and Call of Duty: Black Ops, directed by Ben Snow, who worked in film visual FX for 30 years on such films as Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and Iron Man, and features narrative design from Mohen Leo, who recently received Academy Award and BAFTA nominations for as visual effects supervisor for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

The name of the game delivers the thought that you'll play as Darth Vader, but you are actually a guest against your will in his fortress on the lava planet, Mustafar. You play an unnamed smuggler who just happens to be operating near the wrong planet in a ship called the Windfall. This smuggler doesn't have a voice, gender, or age, as developer ILMxLAB wants you to embody that role, but your droid co-pilot, ZOE3, will have plenty to say, and is voiced by Maya Rudolph. ZOE3 is said to have plenty of spunk.

Vader Immortal is playable at this year's Star Wars Celebration on an Oculus Quest. The demo is short, but effective, providing story sequences and an intense lightsaber training battle. The demo delivers a satisfying look into what this VR experience will offer, and even brings you face-to-face with Darth Vader, or should I say face-to-chest, given his enormous and intimidating size. 

Click here to watch embedded media

Rather than force choking you to death or harming you in any way, Vader instead hands you a Jedi Holocron. You need to reach out and grab it, and then use your other hand to interact with it. The gold-adorned cube comes to life with blue energy surging within it. This pleases Vader. When he leaves the room, the demo moves from your lovely interrogation room, complete with a chair with shackles, to an expansive training room with large bay windows giving you a scenic view of rolling rivers of lava. In front of you is a pedestal holding a lightsaber.

Nothing happens until you reach out and grab it. Then the room comes to life with metal cylinders rising from the ground, each containing a droid with a lightsaber or a Marksman-H combat remote, the floating ball Luke Skywalker trained with on the Millennium Falcon in A New Hope. With a press of a button, your saber comes to life, surprisingly with a blue blade – you'd think Vader would only keep red ones around. I ask Goyer why the saber isn't appropriately evil toned, and he said, "There are narrative reasons for it, but I better not go into it now or I could get in some trouble. Some answers to questions like this will be answered in the first episode, others will be doled out later on in the experience."

Sound design in this training area is key, as you must listen for the Marksman-H to know when it's going to fire lasers at you. If you time your lightsaber swings correctly, you can knock the lasers back into the droid, knocking it out of the fray. The other droids will approach you quickly, and you are tasked to block their saber attacks to open up a window where you can hack away at their metal bodies. This section of the demo delivered three waves of combat.

That's all ILMxLAB really needed to show to sell the concept of this Star Wars experience. "We found people liked the lightsaber experience so much that there's an extended mode where you can train as much as you want, Leo says. "In that area you'll earn different colors of lightsabers."

The entire first episode is contained on Mustafar, mostly in Vader's monolith, which you'll get to explore a good chunk of it, more than you've seen before, including some of his personal spaces. "This story will go into why Vader may have built his castle here," Goyer adds. "You get in to explore a little more of a what is going on inside of his head, and you definitely get to learn more about Mustafar and what is going on on that planet – why it's been special for the last thousand years."

While the demo warped me between two rooms where I was tethered to a small circle, in the final game you will be able to move around freely using the analog sticks or teleporting. You'll also get to interact with various objects you find in the environment – probably of the Sith variety.

"I was super excited to be involved with a project with Vader," Goyer says. "VR is really good about giving you a sense of presence, and and taking you to another place and making you feel like you are really there. The possibility of doing that in the Star Wars universe, and to do it with Vader sort of as your guide and to add to his lore, that was too good to pass up."

The first episode of Vader Immortal is set to release this spring for Oculus Quest and Rift.

Categories: Games

Get Ready For The Zombie Hordes Next Week With New Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 04/12/2019 - 17:48

Click here to watch embedded media

Publisher: Mad Dog, Focus Home Interactive Developer: Saber Interactive Release: April 16, 2019 Rating: Mature Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

World War Z's launch is just around the corner, and what better way to get ready for it than to get a glimpse of all the zombies you'll be mowing down in this third-person shooter?

The game is based on the 2013 film of the same name that starred Brad Pitt. As a four-player cooperative experience, you'll try to "outlive the dead" by traveling to places across the world, such as New York, Jerusalem, Moscow, and Japan. You can watch the trailer above to see just how explosive things will get, as you pick from six unique classes all with their own perks and play styles. 

World War Z hits on April 16 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. You can learn more about the game at its official website.

Categories: Games

Six Things To Know About Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 04/12/2019 - 14:00

Publisher: Panache Digital Games Developer: Panache Digital Games Release: TBA Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PC

Five years ago, Patrice Désilets started up Panache, his own studio in the heart of Montreal. As the original creative director of Assassin's Creed, the gaming world has been excited about what he'd cook up next. Originally, Désilets hoped to work on 1666: Amsterdam, a game he had conceived at THQ and was later acquired by Ubisoft, but after a long legal battle to regain his legal rights to the project (which he finally did), the title is yet to reach the development phase.

Now, Panache is wrapping up the studio's first release, Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey which is releasing later this year. Taking place in a prehistoric age before man, Ancestors tasks you with trying to survive as an ape and witnessing evolution happen right before your eyes.

Désilets says the idea was designed around the team's capacity. At first, it felt like a simpler approach than Assassin's Creed II's Italian Renaissance, but Ancestors has matured since that initial concept and morphed into something larger and more ambitious.

We recently traveled to Montreal to try the action/adventure survival game ourselves. Here are six things you should know about it.

Survival Is Up To You, But It Isn’t Easy

Because Ancestors is a survival game, you have to keep tabs on your health. You need to eat, drink, and sleep adequately otherwise you'll die. You can die or get hurt in a multitude of ways. If you fall from high up, you risk breaking some bones. If you're attacked by a predator, you could bleed out. Even trying a new type of food for the first time, like stealing an egg from a bird's nest, can leave your character sick. Luckily, later in the game you can switch between characters, and the skills and knowledge your ape learns is available for your whole clan.

Climbing Is Reminiscent Of Assassin's Creed

It's unsurprising Désilets' new game has some mechanics reminiscent of Assassin's Creed. This is particularly apparent with climbing in Ancestors. Although the controls still need tweaking and were a little clumsy during my time with the demo, it was nonetheless liberating to grab onto branches and swing across the jungle or climb atop high cliffs to reach new areas.

Exploration Is Vast, Taking You All Over Africa

Ancestors begins in an African jungle, but as you progress, new environments open up to you. One of these places is the savannah, a gorgeous and sprawling area with new wildlife like elephants. Once you unlock an area, you can start a new game from that location by selecting it on the main menu before launching your campaign.

Exploration is a big part of Ancestors, but delving into unknown lands can be dangerous. You can find ways to build tools to protect yourself, like makeshift weapons to use on poisonous snakes, boars, crocodiles, and more. However, fear may keep you from exploring to your heart's content. When a predator is after you or when you enter a dangerous area, you activate what's called a "Fear Zone." The visuals turn hazy and you become at risk for hysteria unless you can make your way to the "light," which is a literal glowing ball of light, in time.

Watch Generations Evolve And Make New Settlements 

Ancestors begins 10 million years ago and progresses all the way to 2 million years ago. At that point, you play as an ape that looks more like us, but you never actually play as a human.

"The final species you play as has not much hair, walks on two feet, and starts to resemble more of a human," Désilets says.

You watch the group of apes you form (your clans) through the years grow and expand. You do this by inviting outsider apes to join or by having couples already in your clan procreate. 

The skills you learn, which are discovered as you explore and unlocked on a skill tree menu while sleeping, transcend different generations. Désilets says this can be done by "locking the abilities forever" on the skill tree screen. 

 

Play Three Different Game Modes 

Depending on how you want to play, Ancestors provides three game modes: First Time Experience, Survivor, and Custom.

“When people play the actual game, Survival and Custom will be locked at first. The more you play, the more you will unlock," Désilets says. "Survival Mode will drop you somewhere in the map and [task you with] surviving alone. And with Custom, you can go back to someplace you already visited and start the game from there with the number of clan members that you want.”

 

As for First Time Experience, that's the standard mode that begins with tutorial objectives to get you started.

 

It's Rough Around The Edges 

Ancestors is a fascinating and ambitious idea, but the gameplay so far isn't holding up in the ways I hoped. The controls don't feel intuitive, such as a clumsy way to slow down from a run without accidentally jumping midway. Climbing was fun but difficult, and I often missed the branches I was aiming for. The world itself feels a bit barren, but as Désilets says this is a game about "epiphanies," and it's possible I just didn't come across the different combinations and tool-making methods during my demo.

But, having spent a couple hours with the game, it felt as though there were too few tutorials and not enough guidance offered to the player that would lead them towards compelling content. I often felt lost rather than intrigued.

Nevertheless, with its strong concept, I'm curious to see how Ancestors shapes up when it releases on digital stores, for $39.99, later this year.

Stay tuned for more coverage next week, where we'll show off some gameplay from our hands-on session with the game.

Categories: Games

The Next Jump Force DLC Character Is All Might

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 04/12/2019 - 02:40

Jump Force's DLC is still coming fast and furious. We got the announcement of Seto Kaiba, Yugi Moto's rival and overall jerk, just a few weeks ago. Now Bandai Namco has revealed the second DLC character, My Hero Academia's All Might, the world's number one superhero.

"It's fine now. Why? Because I am here!" All Might will soon join JUMP FORCE!

Get ready to Unite to Fight with him to defend Earth. Order the Character Pass today: https://t.co/tpmTsX45av pic.twitter.com/pnNN9ysRZ8

— Bandai Namco US (@BandaiNamcoUS) April 11, 2019

A few months ago, a Jump Force season pass leak was supposedly datamined and released onto the internet. The leak included announced characters like Seto Kaiba and All Might, but also had names like Grimmjow, Trafalagar Law, Madara Uchiha, and more. It seems more and more likely that the leaked list is turning out to be true.

Jump Force is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

Nintendo Labo: Toy-Con 04 VR Kit Review - Cardboard Magic

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 04/12/2019 - 02:32

With all the high-end hardware requirements typical of VR gaming, you'd think of the Nintendo Switch as the least likely candidate to adopt it. But one of the many things Nintendo is unequivocally good at is making the most of its tech and working within its limitations. The new Labo VR Kit is yet another example. While it doesn't always overcome its inherent shortcomings, Nintendo's latest cardboard-based do-it-yourself package cleverly transforms the Switch into a light, inventive virtual reality gaming experience with the tools to go beyond the initial library.

First things first: You have to build. Thankfully, assembly is part of the fun. Like the previous Labo packages, the software contains detailed and digestible step-by-step instructions, which are animated to show you how to put everything together without a hitch--the encouraging communication also helps take the edge off the laborious, time-consuming aspect of it all. Construction is almost fool-proof since each cardboard sheet has precisely cut lines and slots for everything to be folded and snapped into place. There's no denying the satisfaction of seeing little bits of cardboard gradually come together as an intricate device solidly held together by rubber bands, exact creases, and plastic grommets.

So, how does the Switch become a VR headset? You first build the mount that contains the slot you slip the Switch into, which also holds the packaged goggles. The mount keeps everything in place nicely and the adhesive pads keep the Switch safe. Once you set the Labo software to VR mode, the screen transforms to a stereoscopic view for the lenses. Since there is no headstrap, you'll need to hold the Switch up to your face throughout your time in VR mode. It's worth noting that the Switch's 720p screen resolution is well below that of any other VR platform, resulting in a distinct lack of visual clarity--luckily, this limitation doesn't detract from the types of experiences Labo VR delivers.

With the headset ready to go, you can physically look up, down, left, and right by moving your head. But because the Switch isn't able to do positional tracking, forward or backward movements aren't recognized and could be nausea-inducing. Tracking relies entirely on the Switch's built-in gyroscope and accelerometer, which results in a relatively smooth viewing experience. Looking in and around in VR works pretty well, and in combination with the Joy-Cons' own gyroscope and accelerometer (and the right Joy-Con's IR sensor), the cardboard devices become functional pieces of hardware.

By and large, the creative process is what drives the Labo VR Kit to become more than its packaged contents--but to see that, you should experience its roster of games, minigames, and proof-of-concept sandboxes. Once you've assembled a new cardboard toy (called Toy-Cons), Labo then walks you through a specific game made for it. The Toy-Con Camera transports you to the middle of an ocean where you can snap photos of marine life, or look upward to float to the surface and see a bigger world. Twisting the Toy-Con Camera lens works just like zooming in with an actual camera lens because of the Joy-Con placed inside recognizes those small movements. Despite the Toy-Con Elephant being the toughest one to work with, the Marble Run game it's tied to is a series of smart physics-based puzzles for you manipulate platforms, gravity, and trampolines to get a marble through a goal.

The novel applications don't end there, either. The Toy-Con Bird delivers flight movements for its open-area collectathon and racing game because the Joy-Con, which is placed on the "bird"'s beak rocks back and forth when you flap the cardboard wings. A personal favorite is the Toy-Con Blaster; it's a pump gun for with tactile feedback that matches the launching of explosive balls for its on-rails shooter game. There's impressive cleverness in how Nintendo makes use of the motion-tracking capabilities and cardboard components, and how they translate to sensible control schemes. These aren't intended to be long-form experiences; rather, they're bite-sized showcases of VR functionality for each of the cardboard devices you assemble.

The Labo VR Kit is much more than just VR gaming for the Switch; it's educational, accessible, and imaginative, with a robust suite of programming tools. And that's what makes it wholly unique from anything else on the VR market.

On paper, it may seem like a hassle to constantly hold the Switch headset to your face without a strap to hold it in place, but it's not as bad as it sounds--each Labo VR device is designed with this in mind. Take the Toy-Con Blaster, for example; your view in its rail shooter game is essentially a persistent aim-down-sights, and the ergonomics of the Blaster itself make it a comfortable experience. With the Elephant, you get a handle beneath the cardboard face to hold it up as you extend the trunk to move your in-game hands. And of course, the physical act of holding up the Toy-Con Camera to your face coincides with the real-world action.

The content in VR Plaza distills it down even further by isolating certain aspects of each toy's potential in 60+ minigames/sandboxes. They essentially act as the building blocks for the inventive Toy-Con Garage and this is where the Labo VR Kit lets your imagination run wild--it's literally the toolset used to program the minigames contained in the VR Plaza section. It's a part of previous kits as well, but this version adds tools to create VR experiences. Toy-Con Garage is extremely complex and much more than a level creator you may find in other games. It's possible to teach yourself and eventually get to a point where you can wrap your head around the logic and programming for something and see it come to fruition, but it'll take significant time and effort if you don't have prior experience with programming. What's neat is that you can edit every sandbox/minigame in VR Plaza using the Garage tools and basically use them as the foundation to create your own thing. By virtue of seeing the programming guts of each game, you can then start to unravel how they're built. Things like Make An FPS Game and Make An Action Game in VR Plaza are specifically designed to let you use them as templates. And editing doesn't have to be solely done in VR thanks to the ability to select a 2D editing mode.

Like the other kits, the Labo VR Kit does so many great things outside of its more standard game experiences, and it's really about what you do with the technology.

In addition to the games and programming tools, Discovery Mode works as a laudable educational tool. Discovery offers a series of cheeky dialogue scenarios between a few Labo-based characters that effectively walk you through the Switch's technology, asking you questions along the way to make sure you're keeping up. Think of it as a crash course in physical science and electronics that explains everything from how the right Joy-Con's IR sensor works to showing you why gyroscope drift happens. Not only does Discover further contextualize what the hardware is doing, but makes knowledge of complex tech accessible to a wider audience.

However, there are a few cases in which the Joy-Con tracking can be frustrating due to gyroscope drift. It's fairly easy to constantly recalibrate the Joy-Con position in a free-hand experience like shooting hoops, hitting a ball with a paddle, or moving blocks in a 3D space. But it becomes an issue in something like the Doodle application or the Marble Run stage creator, where you have to use the Elephant to craft a 3D sculpture or build a course, respectively. Your plane will always drift off-center. You can recenter yourself by accessing the pause menu, but it's frustrating to frequently wrestle with the motion-tracking in these cases. As a result, it's difficult to keep your work consistent and gets in the way of certain parts of the creative process with VR mode.

The Labo VR Kit is much more than just VR gaming for the Switch; it's educational, accessible, and imaginative, with a robust suite of programming tools. And that's what makes it wholly unique from anything else on the VR market. Despite all its limitations and seemingly makeshift appearance, each contraption is an example of a creative vision in action, most of which works exceptionally well in bite-sized portions. In a broad sense, Labo VR is a smart, clever use of existing tech and expertly designed cardboard devices. The biggest factor in the lasting appeal of Labo VR (and the Labo lineup in general) lies in the Toy-Con Garage, because there's no denying the barebones aspect of the packaged gaming content, which is more of a collection of proofs-of-concept for VR's potential. Like the other kits, the Labo VR Kit does so many great things outside of its more standard game experiences, and it's really about what you do with the technology.

Categories: Games

Weedcraft Inc Review - I Got 5 On It

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 04/11/2019 - 16:20

Marijuana. The Devil’s Lettuce. Sweet Mary-Jane. All words for the same thing rolled up and smoked as a jazz cigarette. In Weedcraft Inc, you're not a smoker, but an entrepreneur tasked with making sure your floral-smelling empire expands beyond its rinky-dink beginnings.

Weedcraft is a management sim, and a fairly complex one at that. While it seems a bit sparse in scope at first, you'll be experimenting with temperature, humidity, and mineralized soil before you know it. At the same time, you have to make sure your electricity output isn't suspicious to the keen-nosed authorities hellbent on sending your delinquent bottom to a cold jail cell. Unless you're willing to bribe them, of course.

Click image to view in full screen

When you boot up Weedcraft, you're treated to a soundtrack composed of percussive hip-hop beats and instrumental vocals. Next thing you know, you're Johnny, failed MBA student who has turned to drug dealing. In order to make ends meet, you need to sell astronomical amounts of weed. At the start you're only selling a couple of grams at a time, but you'll be shifting top-quality greenery for tens of thousands of dollars a pop before you know it.

Weedcraft's management sim systems are designed quite well. As your business expands, you start to spend less time growing weed and more time managing employees, all of whom have three stats: growing, selling, and interpersonal skills. These workers can grow weed for you, sell it on the streets, or run a front business designed to make your operation inconspicuous. As you progress through the game and go national, they can run weed from cities where it's legal to cities where it isn't--for a small fee, of course. At the same time, they can slip up and get arrested, at which point you’ll need to decide what to tell the cops. Maybe you’ll play dumb and let them take the hit for you; maybe you’ll lie on their behalf, saving their skin and earning their gratitude (until they ask for a raise two days later). Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll go down with them, your empire of dirt collapsing inwards on top of you. Although this sounds interesting in theory, there’s not much to it in execution. You assign your employees jobs by dragging their portraits into a little box and then just leave them be. Every couple of minutes they'll ask for a raise, even if you're going under, and every other day they’ll mention that they were threatened by a rival gang member, which decreases their motivation to work for you. Because they only come to you to discuss money or threats, there’s no real sense of building a relationship with them. The management sim mechanics in Weedcraft are clean and intuitive, but not in any special or new way.

You've got your own list of perks, too, which are separated into two strands: decent and shady. These can provide you with bonuses when you're bargaining with employees over wages or assist you in convincing a cop that there's no smell coming out your chimney. You unlock these very gradually throughout the game, but their effects are usually significant enough to make even slow progression worthwhile, as the benefits they provide can have an astronomical impact on day-to-day dealing. You can headhunt the best growers in town, or get better at convincing rivals that you're genuinely trying to help them before you bring them down.

A lot of Weedcraft's core play comes down to property management. You need to pay leases, rent, utilities, wages, and materials on a monthly basis. As you progress through the game, employees notice the rate at which your empire is expanding and ask for raises. Properties in new cities are fancier than the ones in the small town you started out in, and people are used to more experimental strains of weed that cost a lot more money to cultivate. The prospective employees you'll come across are usually a little more skilled too, and they know it. While you may have gotten away with paying an ex-con $250 a month for holding the fort in your front business in Michigan, hiring someone to sell weed outside a church in Colorado can amount to as much as $750 a month, and that's before they start making demands.

After a while in Weedcraft, you'll stop selling outside diners and flea markets and start to take larger orders, reflecting the way empires are built on weed on the silver screen. These will come from people who are coordinating events, celebrities, and politicians who don't want to be seen at a dispensary or in a shady alley. Naturally, these gigs pay a lot more than the minor deals you were doing when you started out. They're also harder to work up to though, and clients are a lot pickier. If you want to avoid bankruptcy and prison, you'll have to be crafty in your attempts to balance the legal and the illegal, and the minor and the major. In theory, larger orders should work swimmingly. In execution though, they're a bit deceptive, offering more bang for your buck in the short term, but also drastically undercutting the prices of your day-to-day sales. I got several consecutive game overs from neglecting my clients at the burger joint to grow 800g of top-quality Grandaddy's Purple. Because you're micromanaging employees instead of growing your own weed at this point in the game, getting high-quality pot mostly boils down to good RNG. And if you consider buying a basement to set up your own personal operation, you'll miss out on employee prompts, rival threats, and police warnings. It's just not really worth it, and that's an issue. If these people want to buy your best strains in bulk, they should offer something more enticing than market value to make it worth your while.

Weedcraft also has another game mode in which you start off as a 50-year-old man who has just been released from prison. Formerly a junior brand manager, you'll end up meeting with your old friend Matty after deciding that legal weed is a business you're well-equipped to take on. In this mode you'll start off with a decent amount of capital, including a hefty amount of weed to sell straight away. However, this is much more advanced and will involve you sycophantically dismembering the competition. This mode is a lot more difficult, and the assets you're gifted at the start are deceptive. Here you'll probably need to take out a loan just to get by, which you'll need to repay within 30 months at 8% interest. This might seem like a long time, but weed takes a long time to grow, so naturally there's a fast-forward setting that powers through months in minutes. Bankruptcy is never too far away so long as there are competitors desperately seeking to undercut you for an inch of your territory. This mode is a lot more engaging than the other one because it makes use of the game's full systematic ensemble. Here you spend more time combining strains in a laboratory to create the next big thing than you do on the streets, which gives you an insight into where the easier mode will end up about 10 hours in.

Visually, Weedcraft finds style in simplicity. As with most management sims, the overall area you're operating within is viewed from a top-down perspective. Cars drive along the roads wrapped around shady neighborhoods, rundown burger joints, and sky-kissing hotels, all of which serve as hubs for operations you wouldn't want your parents to know about. In your growing rooms you actually get to watch your budding trees bloom, which is very satisfying with fast-forward enabled. These rooms are the most dynamic places in Weedcraft because the progress is meaningful. Most of the time, zooming cars just boil down to background noise designed to convey the passage of time. They become furniture almost immediately, before being interrupted by fleeting conversations with police officers and rival dealers. When these dialogue encounters occur, characters appear on either side of the screen, still portraits with clear, if not caricatured, personalities.

None of the personalities in Weedcraft are remotely nuanced. You've got maniacal metalheads, somnolent stoners, and highfalutin hipsters, all of whom are paired with their own preferential strains of weed

Caricature is an important word here. The thing is, none of the personalities in Weedcraft are remotely nuanced. You've got maniacal metalheads, somnolent stoners, and highfalutin hipsters, all of whom are paired with their own preferential strains of weed. People known as "vagrants" prefer whatever's cheapest, whereas a hipster is more than happy to pay above market price if the quality is there. Sometimes, these people will utter a short line after you sell them a bag. Most of these are generic, something along the lines of, "I'll take the usual, Super Lemon Haze." And in the case of talking to other dealers, every time you're met with a prompt to ask them about a certain point of interest, the exchange will literally consist of, "Let me ask you about…" and "Well, what can I say about that!" Here, the ellipses are used to make this generic conversation applicable to every dialogue encounter with potentially major characters in the game. Because of this, none of them ever become particularly intriguing, which is not to say that they even were in the first place. From Los Muertos in Michigan to the health-loving businessman living in an "eco-house" in weed-permitting Colorado, every character you meet is a character you've probably seen in a movie 100 times before.

While it's relatively harmless to write tropey characters like the ones above, some of Weedcraft's clientele is horribly designed. Alongside the kinds of people you'd expect to find in a game like this, you'll find people who suffer from cancer, PTSD, and epilepsy, all of whom are accompanied by very unflattering portraits. The cancer patient is doubled over, ghostly pale with bags beneath their eyes, and attached to a drip. The PTSD patient is wide-eyed and open-mouthed with both hands on their head, wearing an expression torn between fear and confusion. People who smoke medicinally in Weedcraft will only buy from registered dispensaries, so you’ll need to get a license to sell before they’ll do business with you, but their representation in the game is extremely distasteful. It may be true that people suffering from illnesses are sometimes prescribed marijuana to help them deal with pain, but to present them in such an appalling way in a game is nothing short of shameful.

Click image in full screen

This really did sour the game's initial tongue-in-cheek charm. The beginning of Weedcraft starts to get towards something interesting, presenting itself as an experience capable of playing with the cultural and socioeconomic impacts the devil's lettuce has had on society since it assimilated into the mainstream. Blending such a polarizing substance with the management sim genre seems ingenious, especially because of how significant property is. In one of the first lines of the game, your younger brother explicitly mentions issues with gentrification, but the problem is that the idea is almost immediately dismissed thereafter. With weed being legal in some US states, but not in others, Weedcraft could be a remarkable way of studying the impacts of the drug in legal and illegal settings alongside each other. You learn about creating artificial climates to support optimal growth, checking soil quality to determine strain strength, and combining seemingly immiscible substances in order to invent something new. At the same time, you're faced with the case of buying the proper licenses to adhere to legislation and establish a legitimate business. It's obviously not as in-depth as I imagine the real-life process is, but the fact that it attempts to replicate it even in a minor way gives us a little insight into how these intangible things work. It places you, an ordinary person, in a highly unusual string of circumstances, and allows you to waltz your way through the sale of the most controversial plant on the planet. But it does it in a way that lacks nuance, commentary, and maturity. From terminally-ill patients to hackneyed depictions of dealers, it relies more on stoner symbolism than genuine critique.

Weedcraft is a well-designed management sim with stylish art and catchy music. Generally, it does its job well. Managing things is hectic and engaging, and you can't afford to take your eye off the ball for too long, lest someone take advantage of your ignorance and kick you out of the market and into prison. However, its characters are stale, its dialogue is boring, and its depiction of ill people is really disgusting. These aren't minor flaws by any means and they drastically affect play. I felt particularly uncomfortable when I saw the picture of the cancer patient because of how grossly caricatured it was. For these reasons, Weedcraft really shot itself in the foot. For a game that could have engaged in a globally-significant discourse, all Weedcraft really amounted to in terms of cultural and socioeconomic discussion was a jaded look at stoners and the people who sell them drugs in the back alleys of dodgy neighborhoods. In doing so, it fails to say anything meaningful about the human cost of weed and relinquishes the opportunity to grapple with weed's impact on the zeitgeist. It's the kind of game Ashton Kutcher would laugh at in Dude Where's My Car, which means it's not the kind of game that has anything of merit to say in 2019.

Categories: Games

A Buffalo Takes On A Rocket Launcher In New Rage 2 Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 04/11/2019 - 15:47
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Developer: Avalanche Studios Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Rage 2 is only a month away and Bethesda doesn't want you to forget, as the publisher continues its wacky, hyperviolent marketing campaign with another trailer. This one has a lot of blood, guns, and oodles of comedic narration ala Deadpool.

You can watch the whole thing here.

Click here to watch embedded media

For more on Rage 2, check out our rapid-fire interview about the game here.

Categories: Games

Zanki Zero: Last Beginning Review - Attack Of The Clones

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 04/10/2019 - 19:34

You certainly can't say that Zanki Zero: Last Beginning is not unique. How many other games out there are first-person, real-time, tile-based roguelike horror dungeon crawls featuring in-depth survival mechanics, ensemble character drama, and a post-apocalyptic sci-fi story about clones and the last remnants of humanity? I definitely can't think of any. But unique doesn't always equal good, and in the case of Zanki Zero, its interesting, genre-melding concepts wind up a bit hobbled by some not-so-great execution.

Zanki Zero begins as a rogue's gallery of eight characters find themselves on a strange tropical island with only a few rundown facilities. They all have no idea why they're here, how they got there, or what connection they all have. But things soon take a turn for the even weirder: TVs across the island start playing a bizarre educational cartoon at set intervals, explaining that the eight are the last remnants of humanity and must work together to survive and build a new future for the human race. Oh, and they're all actually clones, experience rapid aging, and die after 13 days of life--assuming nothing else kills them first. But it's okay, because one of the few functioning things on the island is an Extend machine that can clone them after they die, effectively meaning they can live and die forever.

And die they will, because survival in this dilapidated paradise is no picnic. When you begin the game, you barely have any functional facilities to do things like cook and sleep, and you need to collect material in order to build them. Not only that, but you need to effectively micromanage the health of every character. On top of a typical health meter, they also have a stamina meter (which drains from merely existing and goes down faster when doing strenuous activities or carrying lots of items), a stress meter, and even a bladder meter. Letting one element get out of control can have cascading effects; if a character can't hold it anymore and wets themselves, they become embarrassed and stressed, which makes fighting enemies tougher, which leads to more rapid stamina loss for them and their teammates, which leads to health loss, which leads to death. Scavenging and using food and relief items and facilities like toilets helps, but carrying too much leaves a character overburdened and unable to move, and as time passes, characters age, and the amount they can carry changes.

If that all sounds like a lot to take in, that's because it really is. The heavy survival elements of Zanki Zero get dumped on you quite early in the game, and with little in the way of resources and experience, managing everything can get extremely rough. And that's all before you factor in exploration and combat. The game offers multiple difficulty levels (that can be changed mid-game to your liking) to help offset this, but it's still pretty rough waters in the early game as you try to come to grips with how much you need to micromanage. While there are some tutorials, they are inadequate, amounting to info-dumps that are tough to take in when you're already struggling with juggling everything else. Once you finally have all of the island's facilities built and can stock a small safety net of resources, the constant micromanagement becomes far less daunting and even quite enjoyable as you watch your ragtag bunch grow from helpless castaways to capable survivors.

All those important survival elements aren't even the core focus of the game, either--it's also a first-person, real-time dungeon crawler. At the behest of the mysterious TV characters, the cast explores urban ruins that drift to the shores of the island to find new parts for their Extend machine and finally remove the fatal rapid-aging flaw from their cloned selves. Each of the ruins is tied to one or more of the cast members' lives, and you'll see glimpses of traumatic events from their pasts in each one that reveals more about who they are and, perhaps, why they are here. The unfolding story and revelations throughout the varied environments push you to move forward and discover the secrets of the characters' hellish situation. You won't get more story without a struggle, however; the ruins are laden with hazards like mutated animals and trap switches. If the challenge of basic survival and rapid old age doesn't kill you, the threats in the ruins certainly will.

But character death can have its advantages. Sure, you have to drag them back to the Extend machine and spend your limited stash of “points” earned from dungeon exploration to revive them in a child body. But when you revive them, you can also give them a bonus called "Shigabane:": based on their life experiences and how they died, they get advantages in their new clone form. For example, dying at middle age from being gored by a giant boar while poisoned will result in the revived clone taking reduced damage from boars, getting poison resistance, and adding an extra day to their lifespan at middle age. It's a great system that doesn't remove all of the sting from death but still leaves you feeling like you're making progress through your efforts.

Unfortunately, Zanki Zero's combat is easily the worst element of the game. It attempts to marry turn-based, tile-hopping roguelike combat with real-time elements like charge attacks, group combos, and attack cooldowns, but it winds up constantly feeling sluggish and unresponsive. Worse, there's not much in the way of strategy in most of the fights; you usually want to maneuver behind or to the side of an enemy while charging attacks, whacking them when opportunity strikes, then scurry away to avoid retaliation, charge again, and repeat. (Or, if you have a ranged weapon, you plink away with that.) An additional element where you use an aiming reticle to target specific body parts of an enemy just makes things messier, as you have to spend valuable time fidgeting with awkward aiming controls. It's the same reticle you use to examine things in the environment, so if your reticle isn't in the right place (say, you just examined something else not long ago), your attacks can simply miss entirely. It's a shame that combat's such a weird-feeling mess, because it drags down the fun of exploring these urban ruins, finding interesting items and bits left behind, and learning about the characters and the world.

Uniqueness is one of Zanki Zero's biggest selling points, but its myriad ambitions and ideas aren't enough to obscure the elements that don't work as well. While the novelty of the game, its interesting story, and engaging exploration do a lot to carry it, it falters in some crucial spots that drag down the whole.

Categories: Games

Dead Or Alive 6 Gets Online Lobbies This Week

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 04/09/2019 - 19:00
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Developer: Team Ninja Release: March 1, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

When Dead or Alive 6 released at the beginning of March, it did so without online lobbies, a feature that Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo promised would come within the following weeks. This meant that players could play ranked matches against strangers, but playing with friends wasn't possible except through random chance. That changes this week, as online lobbies finally come to the game.

Lobby Match update(1.03b) has been confirmed for April 11th for all platforms. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
*Time will differ according to platform and region.#DOA6 #PS4 #Xone #Steam

— DOATEC(DOA6)OFFICIAL (@DOATEC_OFFICIAL) April 9, 2019

It is a little surprising how long this patch has taken, especially considering Dead or Alive 6 was delayed for a few weeks into March in the first place. I've been waiting for the game to let me play with friends for a while now and was pretty disappointed they couldn't make March with it.

Dead or Alive 6 is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. You can find our review of the game right here.

Categories: Games

One Bullet

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 04/09/2019 - 00:50
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Developer: SIE Bend Studio Release: April 26, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4

Days Gone is only weeks away at this point, which means advertisements for it have already begun for Sony's biggest new IP from one of their internal studios. Days Gone tells the story of biker Deacon St. John and his life in the post-apocalypse struggling to survive.

The commercial for the game is an all-CG moment in time in the game of Deacon having one bullet left, which is sometimes all you need, and sometimes woefully too little. Check it out below.

Click here to watch embedded media

Days Gone releases on PlayStation 4 on April 26.

Categories: Games

Dangerous Driving Review - Burnt Out

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 04/08/2019 - 14:00

It's impossible to play or talk about Dangerous Driving without comparing it to Criterion's seminal Burnout 3: Takedown. This is by design, of course, as developer Three Fields Entertainment--a small indie studio comprised of former Criterion alum--set out to create a spiritual successor to the dormant racer; latching onto the groundbreaking Burnout 3 as a clear and popular focal point. Everything about Dangerous Driving's design, right down to small details like font selection and the phrasing used in its loading screens, is distinctly Burnout 3. It foregoes the advances made in its sequels--like traffic checking and the introduction of an open-world--to hone in on what made Takedown so special.

My first hour or so with Dangerous Driving was fraught with bewilderment, however. There's a single song that plays on the main menu, but other than this there's a complete absence of music throughout the entire game. Licensed tracks are a crucial component to the Burnout formula, and after playing a few events in near-complete silence, their monumental importance can't be overstated. Obviously, this is true of most games, but particularly one where high-speed exhilaration is on the menu. After initially thinking this was either a bug or that music would eventually find its way into the game via a day one patch, I hopped into the audio settings and discovered the reason for its omission: Spotify integration.

This is a smart idea for an indie studio that might not have the budget to splash out on licensed music, and after finding something suitably upbeat and aggressive myself, the experience of tearing around the track and wrecking other cars was improved tenfold. Yet asking people to own a premium service just to get music in their game is a fairly excessive compromise. It's an understandable trade-off for gaining access to popular music in a budget-priced game, but beyond the monetary requirement, it also has an effect on gameplay. Three Fields can't manipulate Spotify music in any way, so songs will just play through from start to finish without the incorporation of any interactive elements. This means that the music doesn't change its tone when you boost, or slow down and warp during takedowns, and that robs these moments of some of their potential impact.

When you're out on the road, the handling of each car will feel instantly familiar to anyone who's ever played Burnout before. While most contemporary racing games are wary of fully embracing an arcadey style without featuring some kind of simulation element, Dangerous Driving is a full-blooded, balls-to-the-wall arcade racer. You'll hold down the accelerator ad infinitum until your finger aches, careen around corners by either scraping across the steel guard rails or tapping the brake button to effortlessly drift around, and weave between oncoming traffic at over 200-miles-per-hour as the nitrous oxide flames spewing out of each exhaust pipe propel your car forward.

Unfortunately, the physics can be fairly wonky at times, often bringing your vehicle to a complete stop because you brushed against a wall; while other times it will shoot you straight up into the air, or force your car into a complete 90-degree turn. This can be incredibly frustrating during the latter stages of an event when one mishap is enough to send you tumbling to the back of the pack. Collision detection is also inconsistent; numerous times a head-on crash resulted in my car clipping through the floor and appearing unscathed on the other side. The face-distorting sense of speed, though, is genuinely electric, and the PS4 Pro version maintains a stable 60 frames-per-second with one notable exception: It has a tendency to hitch rather egregiously when you're driving through tunnels.

The crux of Dangerous Driving's racing is centered around the need to drive recklessly and constantly put yourself in harm's way. By hurtling towards incoming traffic, performing near misses, nailing drifts, tailgating, and taking down your opponents, you earn variable degrees of boost that will help fire your chosen vehicle towards the finish line. There isn't a discernible difference in how each car handles, other than the fact that some go faster than others, but their pinpoint responsiveness coupled with the high framerate ensures that you're fully capable of serpentining in and out of danger if your reactions are quick enough. Again, this is quintessential Burnout, with the destruction of your fellow drivers doubling your boost meter and incentivizing the most perilous behavior possible. These takedowns are reminiscent of those that debuted in Burnout 3, although the slow-motion crashes in Dangerous Driving are surprisingly underwhelming. They're not bad, but they're also not impactful enough--which the aforementioned issues with music contribute to--lacking in any real dynamism or metal-crunching detail.

There are exceptions to this rule, but vehicle collisions actually look a lot more violent when they occur near you in real time, with broken cars hurtling across the road in a furious cascade of fire and sparks. A wrecked car doesn't signal the end of its lifespan either. While Dangerous Driving unabashedly riffs on Burnout, it has its own ideas, too, like persistent wrecks. Now, if you're driving on a track with multiple laps, any takedowns that happen will leave the battered husk of that car out on the road as a smoke-billowing obstacle. This is rather ingenious, as subsequent laps gradually evolve the track until it's veritable minefields of dead vehicles.

The slow-motion crashes are not impactful enough--which the aforementioned issues with music contribute to--lacking in any real dynamism or metal-crunching detail

The problem with this--and it's not a problem with the mechanic itself, but rather one with the game's overall structure--is that these multi-lap events, and the most stimulating moments within them, are too few and far between. Dangerous Driving excels when you're in the middle of the pack, trading paint with other cars, and fighting tooth and nail to move up the field. It's here where it's at its most exciting, and really latches onto what made Burnout 3 so brilliant in the first place. But reaching first place is relatively easy--I was taken down by the AI twice in all my time playing--and once you're there the rubber banding isn't aggressive enough to ever compete with your driving unless you crash. Rivals drivers will hover just behind you, waiting to capitalize on any mistakes, but there are far too many instances where you can take a leisurely drive in first place, resulting in a feeling that you're missing out on all the action.

It doesn't help that the track design is bland. Visually there's a lot of variety with a cohesive theme of North American National Parks that encompasses sunswept canyons, beachside cliffs, snowy mountain ranges, and so on, but the tracks themselves are made up of the same kinds of long, winding corners that it almost feels like they were copied and pasted from one track and into another. They rarely deviate from this standard blueprint, and there's nothing that sets the tracks apart from one another either. This compounds the issues with difficulty and AI during race events, and also results in a dearth of engaging racing in other game modes. There are face-offs against a single opponent, the takedown-centric Road Rage, time trials, a survival event that tasks you with reaching checkpoints to stave off an ever-depleting timer, and even a nod to Criterion's work on Need for Speed in the shape of police pursuits. Again, there's a decent amount of variety here, with familiar modes returning from Burnout (including one that was previously its namesake, re-titled to Heatwave here), but the lack of interesting courses and a scarcity of racing events depletes much of the excitement.

Online multiplayer is being added in a future update, and playing against other people might allay some of these problems. But the more I played the more I began to realize Dangerous Driving lacks that magic spark the Burnout games had in abundance. That kinetic energy, palpable sense of danger, and the heart-racing thrill that something could and would go wrong at any moment. The AI was aggressive--competitive--and the satisfaction of taking them down was born of more than just getting to watch their car crumple against the nearest brick wall. The tracks were inventive, too, more interesting in their environments, and full of diverging paths and risky shortcuts.

Dangerous Driving nails the basic feeling of driving a car in Burnout, but the lack of small details quickly begin to add up and peel away at everything that doesn't feel quite right. The most damning criticism I can level at it is that it's often dull and lifeless. There are too many events that fail to capitalize on its strengths, and those that do can only reach those heights in fleeting moments. I was concerned that maybe I'd feel the same way about Burnout; that one of the greatest racing series ever made just doesn't fit in 2019. So I went back and played Burnout 3 again and it quickly alleviated all of those fears with a rapid combustion of thrilling vehicular mayhem. The potential was there for Dangerous Driving to latch onto that magic, and there are brief moments when it feels like you're playing a brand new Burnout. But the truth is, I'd rather play a 16-year-old game than pick up its spiritual successor again, and that's a disheartening outcome.

Categories: Games

Unto The Breach

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 20:30
Publisher: Ubisoft Developer: Ubisoft Massive Release: March 15, 2019 Rating: Not rated Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

We recently detailed what fans of The Division 2 can expect in the upcoming Invasion Battle for D.C. update and beyond, giving players who have reached the endgame content some new stuff to do in their war against the Black Tusk and their fight to take over the country. You can check out the short preview of the new update from Massive below.

Click here to watch embedded media

Come tomorrow, players can attack the Tidal Basin stronghold, advance to World Tier 5 (which ups the gear score threshold to 500), check out a new competitive multiplayer map, and hunt for three new gear sets and two new exotic weapons. The first eight-player raid, Operation Dark Hours, launches on April 25 alongside The Divison 2's first classified assignments. Shortly following the raid, Ubisoft will introduce a fourth specialization, which appears to be a minigun.

Ubisoft and Massive are being careful to communicate to players that there is more content for The Division 2 on a regular basis and with substantial content. After one of the main complaints leveled at the first game was the lack of endgame content, Ubisoft seemingly wants to ensure that player retention is high for The Division 2.

The Battle for D.C. update launches on April 5 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

Dystopian Comedy Tabletop RPG Paranoia Gets A New Game And Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 02:00
Publisher: Bigben Interactive Developer: black shamrock, Cyanide Studio Release: 2019 Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Remember classic sci-fi tabletop roleplaying game Paranoia? The first edition hit in 1984, which predates me by just a bit, but a lot of my D&D-loving friends spoke highly of Paranoia. It is the perfect game to get swiped up in the 1980s tabletop nostalgia from things like Cyberpunk and it seems we're getting exactly that in the form of a new game titled Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory.

The game was actually announced a while back, but we got our first real teaser and sense of content today. Check out the trailer below.

Click here to watch embedded media

The game is published by BigBen Interactive, which is likely best known for the upcoming Lovecraftian horror game The Sinking City. It is being made by Cyanide Studios, probably best known for goblin-lead stealth game Styx: Shards of Darkness. 

Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2019.

Categories: Games

New Borderlands 3 Trailer Comes Out Guns Blazing

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 15:34

Click here to watch embedded media

Publisher: Take-Two Interactive Developer: Gearbox Software Release: September 13, 2019

Gearbox and publisher Take-Two released another Borderlands 3 trailer (click the header above) to go along with the official reveal last week. Among the requisite guns and loot are the names of our new vault hunters as well as some of the enemies you'll encounter as  you explore the game's new worlds.

Moze (with destructible mech at her side), beast master FL4K, spectral-fisted siren Amara, and gadget-focused Zane face off against the Calypso Twins, who've built up a formidable cult around themselves.

For more on Borderlands 3, check out some of the details we pulled from the first trailer as well as sit in on this discussion on what we expect from the title.

Click here to find out more about the game's deluxe editions.

Categories: Games

Borderlands 3 Lands On September 13

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 13:59

Publisher: Take-Two Interactive Developer: Gearbox Software Release: September 13, 2019

Borderlands 3 is a nesting doll of terribly kept secrets and its release date is no exception. Despite being leaked by an accidental tweet from Gearbox the other day and then hastily deleted, the release date has now been officially confirmed by Gearbox and Take-Two. You can cruise around Pandora, and more, on September 13 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via the Epic Games Store.

It has been seven years since the last mainline Borderlands game, which means you should have plenty of money saved up for Borderlands 3, and Gearbox wants some of it. In addition to just the regular game price, there will also be other versions for you to invest your money into, which range from "I'm interested in Borderlands" to "Borderlands is my life."

Click image thumbnails to view larger version

 

                                                                                                            

In the Deluxe edition, you can get new head and body skins, as well as a boatload of new skins for your weapons, XP and loot drop boosters, and the Toy Box weapon set included for $79.99. The Super Deluxe Edition comes with all that, plus the Borderlands 3 season pass for four DLC campaigns, and weapon skins for the legendary Butt Stallion for $99.99. This one will go up in price a few days after the game comes out, though.

But the real money-vacuum is the Diamond Loot Chest Collector's Edition, which will run you about $250. It is an actual loot chest, but probably not made of diamonds, and houses 10 collectible figures, a cloth map, vault keychains, and more. This one is exclusive to GameStop.

As previously suggested, Borderlands 3 on PC will be exclusive to the Epic Games Store, but Gearbox has clarified it will only be exclusive until April 2020. If you're willing to wait, it should hit other services a year after release. Obviously the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions are not affected by this.

We also got our first look at Borderlands 3's boxart, which is not a Psycho shooting themselves in the head with fingerguns, but is a weirdly zen and peaceful Psycho. 

[Disclaimer: GameStop is the parent company of Game Informer]

Categories: Games

Tropico 6 Review - Narcissistic Indulgence

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 21:01

Tropico 6 is not a fair game. It positions you as not only the head of a small island nation, but also on a political stage with far greater powers than yours. Be those forces colonial, imperialist, or capitalist, your job is to keep your nation stable against both the tides of external forces and the demands of the citizens in your charge. That's a heavy premise that gets diluted a bit with tongue-in-cheek humor, but the parallels between your fictional country and many real-world iterations throughout history are extensive. Those frictions, in many ways, are what makes Tropico an interesting and vivacious playground for those who want some nation-building with their city simulators.

Your path through Tropico is a relatively simple one, given context and complexity by new systems that progressively stack on top of one another. In much the same way that our real-world economies are heavily influenced by trade, treaties, and demand, so too will your fledgling nation-state.

At the outset, you'll have little more than a few shacks, shops, farms, and a lump sum to kickstart your nascent economy with infrastructure and business investment. Economic growth and innovation don't simply happen, though. There are a few necessary components you'll have to stitch together before you have even a rudimentary economy. Agriculture, roads, and teamsters are the absolute basics--grow the food and move it to the people. Creating and moving goods largely works the same regardless of what it is, but the complexity comes from layering the skeleton of metal or oil transport on top of the systems that keep people fed and healthy. Ports and supply depots, roads and laborers can only handle so much.

On their own, these mechanisms would work well enough. The basics of the genre have been honed for almost three decades now, and little has changed in the sense that most city builders use stocks and flows--moving some resource to its consumer in progressive stages. Tropico is distinct, though, in many respects beyond even its central premise because of its detail-oriented approach. It contrasts with its contemporaries by following not only each individual, but for simulating even small changes in living conditions.

Because this nation is dictatorial from the outset, you're also given control over just about everything. How well are the teamsters paid? The houses furnished? Are you letting your people live in shacks? This moves down another level, too, because as time goes on, the populace evolves quite organically. Different factions come together on their own. Most of the time, they'll support political moves that match their own self-interest, but not always. Propaganda, trade, international political movements, and even disasters will have marked effects on the social fabric, too.

Such detail isn't for its own sake; how you play is critically dependent on the political forces at work. Corruption is useful, as it can be a cheap, quick way to consolidate power. But that risks exacerbating the underlying social issues. Still, because there's an element of roleplaying--you create your own avatar, decorate your palace, and even have a private bank account to squirrel away cash--the mechanics are built out to support a variety of choices.

You can, hypothetically, push people to their limit and bail on the country, but it's a lot more satisfying to tackle the challenge of managing dynamic international political relations--avoid invasion, keep your people healthy and happy and lead the world in research. That's not the only viable path, but the rewards are largely self-evident and act as a scalable difficulty curve that you are encouraged to approach. Many paths are intrinsically rewarding for those that like to see the productivity of their people or their nation climb, but transitioning into a vibrant, prismatic tourist hotspot can bear aesthetic marvels all its own. The island can feel a bit like caretaking dozens of Tamagotchi, and the satisfaction just as palpable.

While still couched in stylized humor endemic to the series, Tropico 6 is a bit less flippant with its political parallels. The vestiges of colonialism have always been present, but they weren't treated too seriously in past entries. An emissary for some far-flung king would occasionally demand something ridiculous to suit his whims, and the joke was always that he was detached from reality and had no idea how people--especially his colonial subjects--earnestly lived. Those threads are still here, but the colonialism hasn't been defanged quite as much. Instead, the Crown's messengers are direct, stating that their exploitation is unfair and pretty cruel. But what are you going to do, fight off a superpower? At the same time, the revolutionaries, once treated as simply different brand of silly, are more grounded--offering a sympathetic lens to the fictionalized rendition of groups that often have little voice of their own.

Beyond the increased fidelity of simulation, Tropico 6's biggest change is the increased map complexity. You now essentially have access to whole archipelagos to settle. These are not only fascinating to explore in their own right often holding archaeological ruins or rare minerals, but offer brilliant mechanical challenges. Building out a whole new parallel infrastructure is no easy feat, and requires foresight, planning, and investment--but again, is rewarding to execute. Integration of the new systems, or even crafting self-sufficient settlements are challenges, made rewarding by the nuanced logistical challenges. While the underlying simulation is indeed, predictable, the island does evolve a bit on its own: economies and politics shift with time, providing a constant, low-level nudge to your work.

Even without that new addition--citizens are born, live, and eventually die and your islands' culture changes accordingly. How you have and continue to balance policy and labor, exports and research will leave indelible marks on the psyche of the populace. The complexity of those petri dish layers can max out the user interface at times, particularly if you have a rather large or dense city and doubly so if you're new to the series. As the city expands, and as public opinion and needs shift, tracking down influential individuals or logistical breaking points requires flipping through a dozen or so different pages of stats and maps.

Even so, you have more than enough tools to control just about everything that happens in Tropico. Failure and success, then, can feel quite a bit like a referendum not just on your policies, but on your rendition of El Presidente. The notion of dictatorship as a role that you play for yucks is still there, if that's a hat you want to wear--though it's harder to indulge your own selfish impulses when you can see how your actions are condemning Lydia the lumberjack to a lifetime of poverty.

Categories: Games

MLB The Show 19 Review - Play Ball!

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 18:03

MLB The Show 19 begins with an ode to spring: the opening cutscene waxes lyrical about the world blooming into color with bright blue skies and beaming sun rays amid the chirping of birds, before moving onto the hope, optimism, and excitement that accompanies a new season of Major League Baseball. America's favorite pastime is synonymous with the transition from winter's gloomy doldrums to the warmer weather of spring, and Sony San Diego's long-running baseball series has become a complementary part of that equation. This is due in no small part to the high level of quality The Show has maintained throughout its lifespan, and MLB 19 is no different, implementing smart new tweaks and significant refinements to its on-field action, while introducing entertaining new modes to its authentic flavor of baseball excellence.

Fielding has received the most substantial improvements out on the diamond, with the Defensive Runs Saved metric coming to the forefront. Now any player wearing a leather-clad glove is more responsive than before, hustling to field weakly hit balls, recovering quickly from botched catches, and utilizing a plethora of new animations to give you added control over the defensive side of the game. There's also a clear distinction between each fielder's individual stats, so if you've got a Gold Glove player like Matt Chapman manning the hot corner, you'll notice how adept he is at reaching balls lesser fielders will have trouble getting to. An outfielder's reaction to the ball jumping off the bat varies depending on their attributes, too, while a new interface makes it easier or harder to read balls that careen off the outfield wall depending on the defending player's skill set. There's an intuitive fielding ability indicator under the feet of each player to give you a quick reference point for how likely they are to pull off a spectacular play versus an embarrassing one, and that means substituting that beefy power hitter you've lodged into left field is now a tactical switch worth considering in the later innings. Each of these changes contributes to a greater sense of control over how your team prevents runs, removing a lot of the frustration that plagued previous games when fielders were often too lackadaisical.

At the plate, batting feels slightly more forgiving this year. There's now a greater distinction between the types of contact you can make with the ball, and a larger variety of hits makes batting more enjoyable. Not to mention pitchers are now actually concerned with self-preservation, so you won't encounter quite as many stolen hits because the pitcher's face was in the way. These changes coalesce to make a strong aspect of the game even stronger, and few feelings can match the elation that arises when you square up a ball and hear the crack of the bat as it flies into a gap in center field.

In terms of modes, the most notable new addition is March to October, which essentially acts as a truncated and more streamlined version of the time-consuming Franchise Mode. In the past, Sony San Diego has made strides in contriving various ways to make Franchise less of a time sink. Being able to expedite a 162-game baseball season by alternating between playing full games or using quick manage and player lock was a welcome change, but it's still a lengthy endeavor that most will still want to simulate through at times. However, there's always an inherent degree of detachment that comes from simming your way through blocks of the season. March to October alleviates this issue by making your performances impact your team's form, even if you're only playing for two or three innings at a time.

At the outset, March to October asks you to pick a team, categorizing all 30 MLB teams based on their expectations as either favorites, contenders, underdogs, or longshots. It doesn't matter whether you pick a team like the Yankees or the Orioles, your ultimate goal is to reach the postseason and win the World Series. The majority of the season is automatically simulated, but during critical moments you'll be dropped into games in a variety of situations to try and earn a positive outcome. These can range from taking over a game in the eighth inning of a blowout with the simple aim of maintaining a shutout, joining in the sixth to break open a tied game, or stepping into the batter's box with two outs in the ninth and a man on second when your team is down by a single run. Your performance in these situations earns you either positive or negative momentum, and this affects your team's results during those simulated games. Obviously, there's a little more leeway here if you're using one of the powerhouse teams as opposed to a relative minnow, but momentum ensures your performance has a palpable effect on how well your team does even when you're not directly involved. Maintain positive momentum and you'll see your team go on a winning run, while the opposite is true if you fail to meet your objectives. You'll also occasionally have the opportunity to use player lock in certain games, with that player earning a season-long bonus if you, say, drive in three runs or crush a game-winning homer.

Completing a full season takes roughly 10 to 15 hours, and winning the World Series at the conclusion of March to October nets you rewards for MLB 19's card-collecting mode, Diamond Dynasty. This won't be a mouth-watering incentive for everyone, and March to October still consumes enough time that there's little replay value involved. Nevertheless, it's an engaging new mode that consistently puts you in situations tailor-made for some thrilling topsy-turvy baseball. It may lack depth due to an absence of roster moves, with a single deadline day trade the only chance to augment your team, but for those who don't have time to commit to Franchise Mode, it's a fantastic alternative.

Moments is another new addition that also drops you into crucial situations, with the key difference here being their historical significance. Playing as the likes of Babe Ruth, Nolan Ryan, Willie Mays, and other icons of the sport, Moments lets you relive the classic plays, at-bats, pitching performances, and playoff series of these legendary players' Hall of Fame careers--complete with authentic stadiums and a black and white filter. It's not a perfect recreation of baseball's past, with plenty of default players on top of contemporary commentary and graphic overlays. There's also little fanfare when you pull off a historic feat, with not even so much as a single line of dialogue. Yet despite these missteps, it's still exciting to call your homerun with The Bambino, mash your way to a .400 average with Tony Gywnn, or win the Chicago Cubs' first World Series in 108 years. Moments also provides another avenue to earn rewards for Diamond Dynasty, beyond giving you the opportunity to play as historic players before unlocking their playing cards.

This is a common through line in MLB 19: Almost everything you do contributes to Diamond Dynasty in some way. This makes it relatively easy to assemble a competitive team without having to spend a dime of real-world money, and there are still multiple ways to engage with Diamond Dynasty in both single and multiplayer capacities, depending on your preference, from playing against others online to conquering maps in Conquest Mode, drafting a team in Battle Royale to ascend a ladder, and completing various challenges. The variety of options mixed with the frequent stream of rewards makes Diamond Dynasty one of the most enjoyable card-collecting modes in the genre.

Elsewhere, Road to the Show introduces a few more RPG elements this year to give dialogue options some much-needed impact. During the creation of your player, you have to choose between reworked archetypes, with each one acting as a physical blueprint for the type of player you want to be. There isn't a level cap anymore, so you can feasibly increase each of your player's stats to 99 overall, but your chosen archetype governs how easy or difficult it is to improve specific attributes. For instance, pick a Small Ball hitter and you'll find it easier to train your speed, fielding, and stealing, while it will be much harder to improve power and plate discipline, with contact and arm strength falling somewhere in the middle. Enhancing these stats still relates to your on-field performance, with a base hit correlating to an increase in contact, and so on. There are new minigames based around weightlifting and other exercise drills, too, allowing you to progress certain attributes if you want to put in the extra work off the field.

During the character creation process you're also asked to choose between four personality types: lightning rod, captain, heart and soul, and maverick. Each dialogue option in Road to the Show relates to one of these personalities, so picking the captain option to give a teammate some encouragement when he's in the midst of a slump will upgrade your captain attributes, which in turn allows you to unlock various perks within a modest skill tree. Reach tier two in heart and soul, for example, and you can activate a perk that improves your hitting ability when in 2-0, 2-1, 3-0, and 3-1 counts, ensuring your dialogue choices manifest in meaningful bonuses when at the plate. Forming a relationship with teammates or an antagonistic rivalry with another team's players will make these perks more powerful as well. Occasionally you'll also be asked to pick between three challenges during particular moments in games, whether it's simply getting on base or striking out the next batter. Each challenge has a boost to stats related to it, with harder challenges providing a more substantial boost if you're successful. This is only a small touch, but it gives you an extra opportunity to improve your player by balancing the risk and reward of picking a harder challenge over a simpler one. There's no doubt smashing a home run over the left field wall is more exhilarating than usual when a 175% boost is active.

As for Franchise Mode, there's not really a lot to say. Contracts now more closely mirror their real-life counterparts, both in terms of years and money, and you can finally re-sign players before they reach the end of their current deal. This adds authenticity to the business side of Franchise Mode, but otherwise it's the same as it has been for a few years now. There's still no team relocation, stadium building, or online Franchise Mode, which is disappointing considering these are staples in other sports games. On the plus side, at least you can now use two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani as a designated hitter on days he's not pitching without having to waste a substitution.

Despite the lack of innovation in Franchise Mode, MLB 19: The Show excels when it comes to the sheer variety of single-player content on offer, while significant improvements to fielding round out the on-field package, making this one of the best baseball games ever. That's not a particularly bold statement considering the series' consistent quality throughout the years, but MLB 19 continues that upward trajectory with its most robust offering yet, guaranteeing another year's worth of excellent baseball.

Categories: Games

Project Wight Reemerges As Darkborn

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 14:00

Publisher: TBA Developer: The Outsiders Release: TBA Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Back in 2016, The Outsiders gave us our first glimpse of Project Wight, an action-fantasy game where the tables are flipped and players assume the role of a Grendel-like creature being hunted by humans. After a few years of relative silence outside the announcement of a publisher relationship that has since fizzled, the studio is ready to share the game's real title: Darkborn.

In Darkborn, you play a fearsome beast capable of wanton brutality, but you're not necessarily the predator. From the outset, The Outsiders wanted to reverse the power fantasy and make you the marginalized hunted rather than the hunter. "We always center our experience in our own perspectives," says creative director David Goldfarb. "I thought it would be interesting to look at it from the position of a monster who is, in this case, innocent and not the typical threat. What would happen if you were the one being persecuted and the people were the ones who were ruining your habitat and murdering your family? What would that mean and what's that journey like? That to me is really interesting."

Darkborn puts you in the role of one of these creatures being senselessly slaughtered by The Pale Enemy. This band of Viking-like marauders hunt down the Darkborn, torture them, and perform blood rituals with their corpses. Over the course of the game, you play multiple generations of these Darkborn as you learn the motivations for their bloodshed and exact revenge on those who have harmed your kin.

Click here to watch embedded media

As you can see from the 16 minutes of game footage above, Darkborn drips with atmosphere, tension, and the blood of bludgeoned enemies. The art aesthetic and sound design give the game an ominous vibe, not unlike moody titles like Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.

Over the course of the demo, we see the Darkborn evolve from a young whelp that needs to act stealthily and limit encounters to a fearsome gaunt capable of taking on multiple enemies at once. The game gives you control of Darkborn in three different stages of life – the young whelp, the warrior-like gaunt, and the towering ylder. Over the course of your journey, The Outsiders use various reasons to force transformations. Sometimes you get bigger by drinking the blood of your enemies; other times you may return to the whelp form after your Darkborn meets its untimely demise.

The Darkborn may not deserve persecution, but judging by their bloodthirsty battle skills, you can see why the humans fear them. In the few fights we see in this demo, the Darkborn exact revenge on The Pale by eye-gouging, severing limbs, grisly decapitations, and even a ripping a still-beating heart from the ribcage of one unfortunate grunt. Many of these gruesome attacks are earned via Darkborn's "death gift" system.

No matter which age your Darkborn may be, you can earn new death gifts by interacting with the dying kin you encounter in the world. In this demo, we see a few of them in action. Deep Sight operates like an investigative mode that highlights your path forward and any enemies in the vicinity. Stealth Bite gives the whelp a powerful stealth takedown. Thorn Throw gives the Darkborn a ranged attack, and the Whip Attack is an effective tool for stunning enemies before going in for the kill.

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The final fight in the demo features a one-on-one battle between a named enemy that may give you flashbacks to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor's Nemesis system. Before the Darkborn squares off with Alsvartr the Ravenous, a stat screen appears that briefly breaks down the enemy's abilities. "Ours is authored as opposed to being procedural," Goldfarb says. "It's a much shorter game, so it's not as systemic as Mordor's system was, but they have a set of variable attributes." These named enemies will sometimes reappear as the narrative unfolds, but for the most part, these screens are there to give you some strategic suggestions before engaging in the fight.

Darkborn's approach of putting you in control of a mythic monster gives the game a unique sensibility that sets it apart from the sea of power fantasies flooding the market right now. Right now the game has no set release date, though we hope that changes in the near future.

Categories: Games

I Am Iron Man

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 12:59

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Developer: Camouflaj Release: 2019 Platform: PlayStation VR

For at least ten years, since Iron Man introduced the Marvel Cinematic Universe, people have idly wondered how cool it would be to put on the Iron Man suit. Everyone has some kind of superhero daydream, such as flying like Superman or swinging through the city as Spider-Man, but the idea being Iron Man always felt potentially glorious in its own different way. Now, armed with a VR helmet and motion controls, we can finally start getting there.

Announced at PlayStation’s State of Play video, Sony clearly wanted to put their best foot forward and begin with one of the biggest licenses in the world in the form of Iron Man as a PlayStation VR title. Considering this is another Sony-exclusive Marvel title hot off the heels of Insomniac’s Spider-Man, it is likely people expect a game with that same level of polish and meticulously crafted world-building as last year’s webslinging open-world title. After spending some time playing Marvel’s Iron Man VR, it doesn’t look like it will be that. But that’s okay, because the game Iron Man VR does seem to be is still pretty cool.

It’s hard to explain how the game functions without explaining the controls, which are somewhat key to completing the Iron Man virtual cosplay. In your hand are two Move controllers and their positioning around your body is key. Keeping them slightly above your waist with your wrists facing down lets you hover, while pushing them back behind you rockets your robot suit forward like you’re skiing downhill and trying to pick up speed. Raising your hands up and letting the move controller fall to the side so that your palm is facing forward activates your repulsor beams. There are some smaller things around the periphery of these core movements, but these are the foundations for how you move around the world.

The first stage in the game is a tutorial level where you, as the eponymous Iron Man, are running a training session outside the California home seen in the comics and movies that bear the same name. I was pretty surprised by the amount of freedom you get in exploration when flying around. The entire beachhead is available to the player, though I didn’t try to venture too far away from the designated area. When flying, the full 360 degrees around you is your playground, so you will often have to turn around physically to get to wherever you need to go.

It was at the end of this mission that the developer running my demo lifted up a headphone earpad and told me not to take a step forward because I had wrapped the length of the PlayStation VR cord around my legs.

The second mission was touched upon in Sony’s State of Play reveal trailer, where Tony Stark’s plane explodes thanks to what appears to be Ghost having hijacked the controls and the billionaire is sucked out the side of the aircraft. While the abridged reveal trailer seemed to imply this mission would be on-rails, it is anything but, giving you the full freedom to fly around very on-fire plane and defend it from incoming drones. While battling the drones, I found myself falling because I wasn’t maintaining my verticality, as well increasing my distance to the plane because I wasn’t actively chasing after it. There wasn’t a whole lot else in the sky, but this freedom to disconnect myself from the mission objective at its peril was unexpected.

Camouflaj mentioned to me that further missions would have things like side objectives and exploration and it is easy to see the foundation for it even early on.

As Tony fixes the various parts of the plane by cooling the engines or pulling out the landing gear, eventually the private jet is declared forfeit, and Stark has to rescue Pepper Potts from the emergency exit. It’s strange to describe simply chasing a plane down as thrilling, but it was undeniably fun to push the controllers behind me and dodge debris to try and get there in time. It felt like being Iron Man, which I would imagine is a stated goal somewhere in this game’s design document.

The demo ended there, but I was actually surprised how much I ended up enjoying it. It won’t be to Iron Man games what Spider-Man is to open-world superhero games, but it does seem more polished and interesting than I expected from a licensed VR game. In that sense, Iron Man VR does indeed have all the potential to be the best Iron Man game, though it remains to be seen if the rest of the game manages to do more than step over that bar.

Categories: Games

Samurai Shodown Unveils Darli, The Series' First New Character In A Long Time

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 02:50
Publisher: SNK Developer: SNK Release: Summer 2019 Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

During the PAX East panel for SNK over the weekend, the fighting game developer revealed their first major new character for Samurai Shodown. Named Darli Dagger, she makes for not only the first new character for the game, but the first new character in years for the series.

Dagger makes up the first of a trio of new characters for Samurai Shodown, which has already made waves by being greenlit for Evo later this year despite not being released yet. Despite her last name, she wields a giant sawblade, and appears to be influenced by Polynesian pirates around the 18th century. 

Unfortunately, there's no gameplay footage of Dagger yet, but we should see some before too long. You can, however, see footage of us playing a recent build on a New Gameplay Today from last month. Samurai Shodown releases on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this summer, with a Switch version coming later this year.

Categories: Games

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