Warner Releases Thor: Ragnarok-Inspired Trailer Before The Movie Hits

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 11/01/2017 - 15:39

The latest entry in the Marvel cinematic universe, Thor: Ragnarok, is coming to theaters on Friday, November 3. Warner Interactive and TT Games are using the timing to remind everyone about Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, with the release of a new trailer that features Thor, Hulk, and a bunch of other familiar faces.

In addition to recreating the big beats from the movie's arena trailer, you can see a bunch of other locations from the game – including Asgard – as well as Grandmaster, Thor Jane Foster, Throg, Beta Ray Bill, Red Hulk, Greenskyn Smashtroll, and Maestro.

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

Categories: Games

The Newest Racer From Ghost Games Boasts A Full Open World Single-Player Campaign

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 11/01/2017 - 13:00

The essence of Need for Speed has been something that Marcus Nilsson, executive producer of Need for Speed Payback, has been considering even now a few weeks before the game’s release.

“I think a lot of the DNA just comes down to cars, driving it at 200 miles per hour in the city, you’re drifting through corners, cops are on you, your friends are with you,” Nilsson paused, considering where he was taking the list. “DNA is not the right term for it, I think, but that’s the core of Need for Speed.”

The core he describes does provide an accurate summation for Need for Speed Payback, the first game in the series to heavily feature a single-player campaign since 2011’s Need for Speed: The Run. Within minutes of starting, you’re playing as Tyler, the city’s best street racer, fleeing from the cops at the highest possible speed and doing your best to put them against the wall.

Tyler and his crew have decided that they’re going to rip off a gambler, known as The Gambler, who has bet a large sum of money on Tyler’s street racing prowess, supplying him one of the world’s fastest cars for Tyler to bring home a win. Tyler absconds with the car, only to be betrayed by his middle-man. After getting caught, Tyler ends up making a deal with the Gambler in service of getting revenge and must reassemble his crew a year later for payback.

While Need for Speed Payback is an open world game, the preamble before you get there is fairly long. You live Tyler’s life while he works for the Gambler, bringing him cars, driving home, and starting the long process of taking on the organization that betrayed him. It takes a few hours to get to what resembles the Nevada deserts and begin the open world gameplay, the path to which is littered with qualifying races and a story that takes too long to get started.

When you finally get to the open world, the gameplay loop officially begins. As multiple characters, Tyler and different members of his crew, you tackle questlines that almost always involve meeting with the bosses of certain street racing styles and beating them at their own game. When you win a race against a boss or any of their toadies, you get a piece of equipment for your car with a level of strength represented by cards.

“We like to call it a CarPG,” Nilsson states, clearly proud of the name. “Customization is at the heart of this game. To take on the bosses and the story, you need to win races, you need more customization parts, and you need to make your car work for you.”

The cards all feed into a larger number, or level, for your car. When you take on a race or other kind of mission, your current car level is shown next to what the mission wants. You can proceed to try, anyway, but you can find yourself getting smoked fairly easily. While I was able to get by on skill alone by simply completing the questlines and leveling up that way, the developers have explained that you will need to actively engage in the customization and cards later on or you will stand no chance.

This is where my enjoyment of Need for Speed Payback kind of breaks down on the side of the road. By just participating in the story races and going back and doing a few with the different characters again, my number was not close to what the bosses of the questlines demanded. It took a few tries and more than a few shortcuts to do it, but I am not eager to see how future bosses will behave when my numbers do not quite measure up.

Theoretically, had I just gone through to older races and redid them enough, my number would have gone up enough to not only race evenly, but beat the bosses handily. That is, at very least, tedious. That level of tedium also got me curious whether these cards are just buyable.

“Well, there are Premium Shipments,” explained Nilsson. “They don’t give you better cards than you would get from racing, but you get more cards. It’s a time saver. People who do not have the time can buy those.”

I did not end up finishing the second chapter after leaving the desert, but I kept running into the same problem during my time playing there. My number was not matching up to what the game wanted by simply equipping whatever I won through the story, which is also a random drop at the end of missions, and I found the idea of going back to it to be unattractive.

The game design seems structured to make the player want to pay for Premium Shipments in hopes of just avoiding having to redo races. It is not egregious, as you can simply grind around the problem by redoing races, which is really the primary mechanism of the game. The problem is I was not having fun doing so, and the use of tedium to encourage people to spend money is not endearing me to the game.

Aside from that aspect, my time with Need for Speed could be fun, and the Fast & Furious-style heist mission at the end of the first chapter where the crew stole a car from the back of a truck was notably entertaining. It is just a problem that these event missions are given as rewards for getting through the rest of the chapter rather than making up the core of the game. Hopefully my fears are proven wrong when the full game releases on November 10 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Categories: Games

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm - Episode 2 - Brave New World Review

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 20:39

As a prequel story, Life Is Strange: Before the Storm is surprisingly relaxed about filling in gaps of time. Instead, it focuses on the ways one small decision can set off a devastating ripple effect. Even something seemingly benign, like Rachel Amber bringing Chloe along to play hooky, kickstarts the chain of events we know inevitably shatters lives and families. And within the first few scenes of Episode 2, Chloe finds herself without a school or a home to varying degrees depending on your decisions.

Episode 1 took away Chloe's emotional support only to replace it with Rachel, a shaky companion if there ever was one. Chloe doesn't really have a whole lot else, and Rachel seems to be the only dependable person she can look to--despite her emotional unavailability. We see the beginnings of what Chloe will become as a direct result of her relationship with her, and even at the episode's most joyous and cathartic--and there's a lot more of those moments in Episode 2 than one might expect given the series' history--there's still something about Rachel that screams danger.

Overall, however, there's less of Episode 1's teenage angst and more of Chloe's gradual slide into the Arcadia Bay's dark side. This comes courtesy of Frank, a shady drug dealer who gives Chloe a chance to work off her weed debt by snatching a wad of cash from Blackwell's resident jock, Drew. It seems mildly contrived and unlikely that Chloe would be able to slip back on campus so easily after the game makes such a big deal out of her being tossed out. Regardless, Chloe's walk on the shady side provides a rather harsh chance for you to define her as a person, particularly since all of her choices lead to some ugly results--at the expense of a character who, as we find out, deserves it the least.

Chloe's time seeing Rachel perform in The Tempest provides a nice contrast to the darkness. It's not only a chance to screw over one of Life Is Strange's more despicable characters, but a performance and an aftermath that comprise two of the sweetest moments the series has ever put forth. It's that sweetness that carries you to the climax, a long overdue confrontation with Rachel's deeply conservative parents, and a twist that only time will prove to be a stroke of genius or a soap opera element that Life Is Strange has deftly avoided since its inception.

Despite, or possibly because of, all the plot crammed into such a small space of time, it's probably the least ambitious episode of either this series or the original. The Talkback system from Episode 1 is used sparingly here, and depending on how you want to direct certain choices, it's possible to go the entire second half of the episode without needing to use it. The puzzle elements only apply to Chloe sneaking her way into Blackwell, and none of the scenarios really require more than basic common sense to figure out. One of them can even resolve itself, since Chloe texts someone for help after you've failed it enough.

Hell Is Empty is probably the most blatantly episodic entry between Life Is Strange and Before The Storm, showcasing comparatively few moments outside the opening scenes where the choices seem life-changing or urgent. Yet Deck Nine has effectively made a story with a predictable conclusion feel engaging, and even hopeful against all odds. Right now, it feels like a blessing that they've let Chloe and Rachel Amber have their simple moment in time; right now, nothing can go wrong, the world is full of possibilities. The storm can wait.

Categories: Games

The Fully Remade Team ICO Game Is As Bleak And Beautiful As Ever

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 16:00

When a Shadow of the Colossus remake showed up at Sony’s E3 event earlier this year, it made a huge but very brief splash. Since then, details have been sparse. The venerated title has been lauded since its release in 2005, but the idea of a remake is simultaneously exciting and worrying for fans who are cautious that a 2017 release can capture what was great about the original.

As a PlayStation 2 game, Shadow of the Colossus stretched that hardware as far as it could go. The massive bosses and vast, open environments forced the framerate into near-unplayable states at times. The filmic look was a visual treat, but could end up really chugging in a way that stressed the extent to which the game was coded to the metal. A lot of these issues were fixed in an HD remaster on the PlayStation 3 made by Bluepoint, the same developers working on this version, but was not the full remake fans were hoping for.

The Shadow of the Colossus remake for PlayStation 4 looks incredible, and can hold its own as a modern-looking title against others made from the ground up for the console. Every texture is new, every effect freshly crafted, the world of Shadow of the Colossus has never looked better. The new graphics even retain a level of dirt and grime that helped make said world feel bleak and lonely.

One major change is the density of small touches Bluepoint has added to the world. Moss grows between bricks with flowers popping up here and there. The path to the 13th Colossus has a small forest blocking your way, which is a pocket of lushness not seen anywhere else or in the original title. These small things start to make the world feel a little different and a little less dead when taken in aggregate. Whether or not that is a good thing depends on how the player interpreted director Fumito Ueda's vision the first time through.

That sense of vertigo when a Colossus takes up your entire screen and, unconcerned with you, flies past your view remains perfectly intact, however.

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The noticeable heft and weight to Wander, the game’s protagonist, is mostly retained in the remake. He moves slightly easier and jumps with a bit less heaviness than he originally did. It is almost imperceptible, but can definitely be seen when looking for it. Aggro is as stubborn as ever, sometimes coming to dead stops at small rocks in the road. While a new control method has been confirmed, it was not available in the demo.

While the game looks much better, it makes some of the original game’s more forgivable issues on the PlayStation 2 seem weird now. When Aggro has collision issues and vibrates out of control, it looks significantly more jarring than it did on seven-year-old technology. When your view gets blocked by a colossus’ fin covering the entire screen, it feels more frustrating than it did when camera solutions were still being tested and debated.

Some fans might have issues with the small changes the game makes, but the far larger changes make it hard to argue that any other version of Shadow of the Colossus should be someone’s first time through the game. Those intense moments of running alongside a Colossus as sweeping music plays lives on in the remake as powerful as they have ever been, which is what I remember and love about the original.

Shadow of the Colossus on PlayStation 4 is scheduled to release on February 6.

Categories: Games

A Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Battle Primer

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 14:27

If you're wondering how combat in a three v. three Final Fantasy team battle title works, Square Enix's new trailer for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT gives you the rundown.

The trailer shows off gameplay as well as explains the different kinds of attacks, classes (including which ones have the edge in the rock-paper-scissors battle), EX Skills, team-enhancing summons, and more.

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

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Categories: Games

Sucker Punch Gives Players More Freedom In Its Japanese Open World

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 10/30/2017 - 19:02

Who doesn’t want to play as a samurai? That’s Sucker Punch's philosophy, based on a behind the scenes video for its new stealth action game Ghost of Tsushima, which debuted at Sony’s Paris Games Week presentation.

When Sucker Punch decided to move away from Infamous three-and-a-half-years-ago, the team knew it had to have a strong idea that would capture players’ imaginations. According to creative director Nate Fox, the fantasy of playing as a samurai in feudal Japan was too exciting to pass up. "We came upon this game idea, which is awesomely simple," Fox said. "Who doesn't want to go to feudal Japan? Who doesn't want to be a samurai with a katana on their hip?"

The behind the scenes video doesn’t show off any new gameplay, but it does provide a better sense of Sucker Punch’s approach to the game’s open world and the history the creative team is pulling from.

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Sucker Punch wants to give players more freedom and choice in this open world version of feudal Japan. Taking on the role of a samurai in a 1274 version of Japan, set during the Mongol invasion of Tsushima, an island between Japan’s mainland and the Korean Peninsula. In the game, players will be able to explore Tsushima and all its villages and landscapes.

According to creative director Jason Connell, the team is really focusing on exploration and a sense of discovery. “I think player choice in the game will mean something very different than other games we’ve made in the past,” says Connell. “We really want you to have that choice of, ‘Hey, that cool bamboo forest over there, I really want to check it out. I want to head in that direction and I want to see what it is.’”

We still don't know when players will be able to slice their way through Tsushima, but stay tuned for more information. And in the meantime, watch our video feature on the history of Sucker Punch and the Infamous series.

[Source: PlayStation Youtube]

Categories: Games

Megaton Rainfall Review

Gamespot News Feed - Sun, 10/29/2017 - 19:00

You can play as Superman in a bunch of games. But despite the lack of a DC Comics license, or a set of red and blue tights, Megaton Rainfall offers one of the most engaging Superman experiences to date. The exhilaration of flight, the feeling of power, and, perhaps most importantly, the sense of personal responsibility for the planet, has never been captured quite like this before.

Megaton Rainfall is at its core an arcade-style shooter, but its priorities are far different than your average button-mashing, auto-scrolling game. You play as a superpowered being called the Offspring, brought to life by a mysterious cube for the sole purpose of stopping an alien invasion from destroying Earth. You start in space, and when the cube gives you control, you’re given a marker, showing where the aliens will make landfall. They may set their sights on only one city, but if they see they’re no match for you, they tend to flee halfway across the country to find a new target. Every mission involves shooting off to another city, waiting for the extraterrestrial threat, busting up their weapons of mass destruction, and taking the harvested energy back to the cube, who’ll convert it into new cosmic powers.

Megaton Rainfall looks rough around the edges, but where it lacks in eye candy, it makes up for in sheer scale. Earth is represented through a wide range of environments and bodies of water separating the aliens' primary targets. Despite underwhelming textures, moving to and fro can feel like you’re flying around the world, especially in VR, where the sheer sense of speed becomes a delirious distraction.

What makes every encounter truly thrilling is the game's unique life bar. It isn't measuring your own vitality, but instead the health of the city you're protecting. Every loss of life and bit of damage results in a storm of rubble and shrapnel, accompanied by the harrowing screams of the populace. Alien crafts can cause extreme damage, but so can you if one of your attacks misses its mark and hits a crowded street or city hall instead. One of the more tense elements later in the game comes when a particular alien craft starts dropping little green nuclear bombs that need to be tossed into the ocean or flown into the upper atmosphere, lest they detonate within a city. You never forget for a second just how many people stand to lose their lives if you fail, and the feeling of relief when you succeed, is an experience even some of the best superhero games haven’t quite been able to deliver.

As you can guess, you can't just fly around tossing energy blasts and heat rays willy-nilly. Each of the enemy spacecraft have their own glaring weaknesses to exploit, but getting into just the right position to toss energy or fire a heat ray is a careful process, one the game isn't always quite precise enough to handle. Some enemies move with fairly predictable patterns, but some have a habit of moving with such unpredictable behavior that hitting them without using one of your limited special powers is more a matter of luck than skill. Combine that with the fact that flight is sometimes a bit too responsive, making it easy to overshoot your target. More frantic fights can also get extraordinarily dizzying, a problem that's exacerbated when playing in VR. There's a rather impressive amount of options to tweak the VR experience, but even with most of the safety features turned on, hectic stages still feel disorienting. A lock-on function would've made all the difference in the world here.

Your arsenal is also mildly underpowered for much of what you'll be facing. The primary weapon is an energy blast that does decent damage but is also slow moving. The other powers you earn over the course of the game--the ability to stop time, a focused heat ray, telekinesis, a super dash, and the ability to drill underground--all have their uses, but cooldown times for each one often run longer than it takes for you to get into another situation that needs it. None of the challenges are impossible, but all of them require just a bit more work than they logically should.

Still, when Megaton Rainfall succeeds, even the relative problems fade into the background. Watching aliens crumble into a million pieces, stare in horror as a city gets eclipsed in a nuclear blast, watching a mothership collapse under fire, drilling into the Earth to stop a bomb from going off--all of these are the stuff of childhood dreams. To play Megaton Rainfall is to inhabit a flying superhero like nothing else in VR.

Categories: Games

The Mummy Demastered Review

Gamespot News Feed - Sun, 10/29/2017 - 16:00

Developer WayForward has channeled its knack for crafting eye-catching retro games to make The Mummy Demastered, a licensed game based on the recent (and disappointing) Tom Cruise movie. It's an unusual fit, but don't let that dissuade you. Unlike most games based on movies, The Mummy almost completely abandons its source material to try something different, and mostly succeeds.

The Mummy is, at heart, a mixture of Ghosts n' Goblins and Metroid. It looks and plays as if it would be perfectly at home on the Super Nintendo, and everything about it will feel instantly familiar to anyone who's played their fair share of 16-bit side-scrolling action games. There's one giant map where new sections are opened by either finding new abilities and items or defeating bosses. Monsters immediately respawn as soon as you enter a new room or area and secret treasures encourage exploration.

Supply boxes are scattered throughout the world containing everything from an assortment of new weapons to health upgrades. Weapons include machine guns, a flame thrower, shotgun, rocket launcher, and more, including several types of grenades, ranging from standard explosive to fiery napalm. The Mummy also features destructible statues containing secret scrolls to grant you extra speed, higher jumps, and other necessary skills to reach new areas. It's a tried-and-true method of progression that keeps you searching every passage, and there's enough variety in the locations and room designs to keep the familiar gameplay from feeling stale.

The most notable aspect--for better or worse--is the way The Mummy treats death, which takes inspiration from WayForward's DS action game, Aliens: Infestation. When you die in The Mummy, your character turns into a zombie and you take control of a new agent. In order to retrieve all the goodies you've collected, you have to successfully kill the ghost of your former self. This is a great idea that fits in at first but becomes incredibly tedious during tough boss battles. Since you respawn in a save room prior to a boss battle, dying leads to an annoying series of events requiring you to kill the last agent, then go and kill a bunch of lesser monsters to regain health, before trying again to take down the boss. There's no option to simply revert to your last save file.

It's also a very tough game in general, ghost agents notwithstanding. Enemies constantly come at you from multiple angles, there are environmental hazards like toxic waste, and difficult bosses relentlessly test your shooting and dodging skills. All of these moments feel great in action, but the limited eight-way directional aiming is an occasional annoyance. Since you frequently have to shoot things at angles above and below you, the lack of finesse here requires constant position adjustments. It would have helped the combat flow to take advantage of modern analog controls and allow for a full range of motion when aiming.

Quibbles aside, The Mummy delivers a creative and action-packed adventure. Full of running, jumping, and gunning through tombs, forests, sewers, subway tunnels, and beyond, the game brims with challenging old-school charm. It's sure to bring back a flood of nostalgia, while still managing to be a solid game on its own. Still, a few more modern touches to make it slightly more playable wouldn't have hurt. As it is though, this is a fun and tough monster-filled trek that surpasses the license it's attached to.

Categories: Games

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 10/27/2017 - 04:30

Above all else, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus takes a very hard stance on the righteousness of killing Nazis. It never falters, not once asking whether violent resistance is the wrong way to fight back against oppression--and the game is stronger for it. The series' tongue-in-cheek attitude provides a respite from both the horrors of the Reich and the frustration of throwing yourself against its all-powerful war machine. And despite some heavy-handed moments that feel like missteps in its message, satisfying Nazi-killing action bolsters its completely bonkers storyline in a way that only Wolfenstein can achieve.

The New Colossus picks up right after the events of The New Order, and unsurprisingly, our hero Blazkowicz is in bad shape. Following the explosion during the fight with Deathshead, BJ's insides are falling out, and the crew of the Kreisau Circle does their best to put him back together again. General Engel tracks them down five months later, and as her troops storm the resistance's stolen U-boat (the Evas Hammer and your base of operations), Blazkowicz wakes up to shoot more Nazis.

This first mission sets the tone for the rest of The New Colossus. Bound to a wheelchair, his organs failing, Blazkowicz feels oddly vulnerable. You shoot with one hand and slowly wheel yourself through the Evas Hammer's corridors with the other. The odds seem impossible. But overcoming them is gratifying in a way that simply killing all the Nazis can't match. Even after the Da'at Yichud armor from The New Order gives Blazkowicz his mobility back, his labored breathing reveals a man who is running out of fuel--and time.

On top of that, the game is just generally difficult. You'll probably die often. Defeating a giant fire-breathing robot dog doesn't seem feasible at first, but it is with the right combination of weapons, strafing, taking cover, and scrounging for health and ammo while on the run. Part of that struggle is finding a combat style that works for you and sticking with it, whether it's a guns-blazing or more tactical approach. Some particularly punishing fights or an disadvantageous autosave can be frustrating, but most levels end just before that frustration can turn to anger.

Most missions are broken up into rooms with one or two commanders who are capable of calling for reinforcements. You can choose to just shoot your way through waves of enemies, or you can try to take out the commanders quietly before addressing the rest of the room. Things escalate quickly when heavy enemies show up, since it's difficult to take them out quietly. Enemy variety and multiple paths through any given area mean you'll be rewarded with a thrilling fight regardless of how you decide to tackle it.

You'll also be rewarded with more power. Successfully executing a certain number of stealth takedowns, for example, unlocks a perk that increases your movement speed while crouched. And using upgrade parts you can occasionally find lying around to, say, put a silencer on your pistol will further improve your stealth ability. But you're afforded the flexibility to decide mid-mission that stealth is not going to work and change tactics. As a result, every encounter is incredibly tense, since you never know when you're going to need to take it slow or book it to safety as bullets fly by.

The far-future technology of the Nazi regime is both exhilarating to partake in and a grotesque display of their ruthless subjugation of all corners of the world. High-powered laser weapons are exciting to use, but the armored machine-men who drop them are a reminder of human experimentation during and after the war. Anything is possible in Wolfenstein, and that's a direct result of immense human suffering.

Most environments in The New Colossus showcase the brutal, industrial truth of the Reich, like the twisted remains of a post-nuke New York City. But there are also appearances to be kept up, and the Roswell level in particular provides the rest of the picture. You arrive in Roswell during a parade, and the sunny, idyllic streets are peppered with Nazi officers and Klansmen in their full regalia. Well-dressed citizens speak in German as they celebrate--or pretend to celebrate--the Nazi takeover, propaganda books and posters in view. It's unnerving and threatening to see the way the occupied, but not destroyed, cities operate under Nazi rule, as well as to see and overhear people willfully ignoring the atrocities around them.

Aside from being a much-needed break from fighting, the story cutscenes are beautifully directed and take advantage of the game's fantastic cast of characters. The Roswell parade section, for example, ends with an Inglorious Basterds-esque interaction with a commandant that is at once funny and upsetting, a careful balance that The New Colossus strikes throughout. Some gameplay-to-cutscene-to-gameplay transitions are a little jarring, but it's easy to get swept back up in the combat or the story right away.

The story cutscenes are beautifully directed and take advantage of the game's fantastic cast of characters.

Proper cutscenes as well as idle chitchat on the Evas Hammer reveal intimate details about even minor characters. Each person on the U-boat has their own story of oppression and marginalization, from the Black Panthers to General Engel's anti-Nazi daughter, Sigrun. But they're also just people; some are depressed, some are angry, some are horny, and nearly all of them will have their own conversations on the U-boat that you can listen in on whenever you want. You can watch as everyone shuns Sigrun at lunch (perhaps rightfully so) and listen as New York resistance fighters discuss the nuclear tragedy. Even when the story goes completely off the rails--in an absolutely jaw-dropping way--there's still room to explore their individual dynamics. It's a small thing, but it keeps you invested in the crew and their cause.

There are times when The New Colossus overreaches for poignancy, and as a result it states its themes too overtly instead of letting them stand alone. Shows of American patriotism, like a particular monologue about liberty and freedom, feel misguided after flashbacks that show the rampant racism in the America of BJ's childhood. The idea that America had problems before the Nazis showed up is there, and it's powerful, but it's obscured by seemingly conflicting ideas.

And while arguments over the purpose of the war and inspirational speeches about fighting against impossible odds show the breadth and depth of the resistance movement, for the most part these are things you can discern just from playing normally. Of course you should keep fighting against the Nazis, even when it seems pointless; after all, overcoming their unstoppable might mission after mission is satisfying enough on its own to keep you going.

The New Colossus never lets you forget who and why you're fighting. Nazi brutality is on full display, from the blown-out, irradiated remains of Manhattan to each of the resistance members, who all carry mental scars if not physical ones. You're never given a chance between cutscenes, missions, and even downtime on the U-boat to lose sight of the Reich's cruelty. Wolfenstein's tense gameplay elevates this further by giving you the power to truly resist--and come out of each battle ready for another fight.

Categories: Games

Super Mario Odyssey Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 14:00

Super Mario Odyssey displays a clear understanding of what makes Mario tick, and is neck and neck for top billing among its esteemed predecessors. It surprises you with not just inventive mechanics, of which there are many, but with expertly tuned level design and moments of charismatic wit. It is comfortable in absurdity and wields this attitude to cut through the limitations of its otherwise straightforward structure and keep you smiling all along the way.

Above all else, Odyssey is refined. It generously doles out new worlds to explore, effortlessly cycling from one charming enemy and unique gameplay idea to the next. Its collection of open-world Kingdoms is varied and broad, and sometimes clearly inspired by Super Mario 64. Though it isn't necessarily a groundbreaking game like its ancestor, which redefined expectations for 3D games at large, Odyssey outpaces it at every turn. Its environments are bigger and some of the most interesting ever seen in a Mario game--just wait until you lay eyes on Bowser's elaborate fortress. All the extra space is invaluable, as the dense layouts of challenges and rewards justifies every building and landmass you encounter.

Your mission to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser--which actually takes a surprising turn for a change--is ultimately the hunt for Power Moons. These are Odyssey's version of the series' star collectables, which are rewarded for feats big and small alike. Acquiring a moon can call upon your platforming skills, but it can also entail quirky activities like answering trivia questions from a charmingly simple-minded Sphinx, or exploring your surroundings for buried treasure with a doting pup (who will also play fetch if you know the trick). From boss battles to tossing your hat onto a peculiar piece of architecture, you can readily stumble into new moons--even 40 hours in--so long as you make sure to constantly shift your perspective on the world and engage with new possibilities as they come into view.

You're guided through all of this by Cappy, Mario's new sidekick: a living hat that can possess the minds of other creatures and put you in the driver's seat. Cappy is content resting atop Mario's head, but when you spot another character without a hat, friend or foe, you can simply throw him on their head to take over their body and put their unique skills to use. The selection of 52 capturable...things...spans the likes of lowly Goomba grunts and flying Bullet Bills to unexpected hits like a Christmas tree or a giant slab of neon meat. Shout out to the Easter Island-inspired statues that wear pink shades to reveal hidden platforms.

The opportunities introduced by possessing others isn't just an easy source of laughs, but also works hand in hand with Odyssey's ever-present challenges. Highlights include a caterpillar's ability to stretch around bends like an accordion and the stout Pokio bird's beak, which can be stuck into walls and used to fling you to hard-to-reach places. There's usually always something in sight that you can possess and some way to exploit its traits. There are also plenty of exceptional set-piece possessions to look forward to, like a T-Rex or the tank you control in New Donk City. These emphasize just how impressive Cappy's ability is in the context of a Mario game, and how Odyssey doesn't want you to just work for your moons, but enjoy the process from the get-go.

The opportunities introduced by possessing others isn't just an easy source of laughs, but also works hand in hand with Odyssey's ever-present challenges.

Cappy's usefulness extends beyond his mind-control capability: he can be thrown like a boomerang to retrieve coins or used as a trampoline to extend the range of your jumps. Some of his abilities can be triggered via motion controls or button presses, but the few that require you to flick your controller one way or the other are unwieldy when playing specifically in handheld mode. It's a blemish, albeit a small one, as no critical objectives require complex manipulation of Cappy's trajectory.

It's also possible for a second player to join in and control Cappy as a full-fledged independent character capable of collecting coins, defeating small enemies, and remotely possessing targets while Mario does his thing. Given that two players have to share a single camera, this isn't necessarily a great way to overcome difficult objectives, but it can be a great source of amusement.

By and large Cappy's tricks are easy to use yet difficult to master in conjunction with Mario's various flips, bounds, and hops. When used in harmony, Mario's innate athleticism and Cappy's support allow for intricate and efficient traversal. Combined with the game's typically unusual tasks, and all the capturable enemies and objects, Odyssey very quickly becomes a game that's easy to admire.

One of the most interesting facets of Odyssey is its seamless incorporation of 8-bit Super Mario Bros. gameplay. And because these sections are 2D, it stands to reason--in a game filled with loopy logic--that these occur on the surface of locations like lake bottoms and on the side of skyscrapers. Despite the stark difference in presentation, retro challenges fit smartly not only into the spaces you're exploring, but within the general flow of gameplay. It's also the basis for one of the game's most elaborate and heartwarming scenes, especially if you're a fan of Mario.

Once you've "finished" the main quest--recovering about 20% of the game's 800-plus moons--the push towards new outfits is a bonus given the amount of undiscovered opportunities that await.

Though you no longer wear different outfits to change Mario's behavior (unless you count bodies you possess as outfits), you can dress up for fun by mixing and matching a large selection of hats and suits from Mario's past. You can find costumes inspired by games like Mario Paint, NES Open Tournament Golf, and Yoshi's Cookie. There are also an array of real-world styles like a bomber jacket and scuba gear, again, just for the fun of seeing Mario cosplay. There are only a handful of chances to use a costume to your advantage, usually to gain access to a locked room for an easy moon grab, but that doesn't diminish their valuable contribution to keeping the long-haul feeling fresh, if only in superficial terms.

Each Kingdom offers access to two stores where you can pick up new threads. One takes special coins found in limited supply in each kingdom (another deviously hidden collectable to seek out) and another that takes generic coins found throughout the game. The general store unlocks costumes for purchase based on the number of moons you've collected, though many of them can also be unlocked immediately if you possess the right Amiibo. Once you've "finished" the main quest--recovering about 20% of the game's 800-plus moons--the push towards new outfits is a bonus given the amount of undiscovered opportunities that await, but one that can keep you steeped in powerful nostalgia.

As the end-game sets lofty moon-collection goals, it's interesting to see the general store begin to sell unlimited amounts of moons at 100 coins a pop--at least buying moons doesn't remove them from the world, leaving every challenge intact. This can help expedite the process of collecting hundreds of new moons, or to get that one or two more you need to unlock a new costume, but relying upon it isn't efficient or recommended. At best, it's helpful in a pinch, but it also runs the risk of undermining Odyssey's top-class level design. It's ultimately difficult to grow bored in the first place, however, as a significant number of new moons and hidden levels open up in each kingdom after the credits roll, ensuring that you aren't staring at the same old locations with the same old set of eyes.

Once you reach Odyssey's more significant moon demands, you're rewarded with access to small but meaningful new areas that pack some of the biggest challenges in the game. In short bursts, Odyssey can be challenging throughout, but it's generally forgiving in all cases. In the final stages, you are up against gauntlets that demand consistent precision; die, and you go back to the beginning. Though these chapters aren't as significant as the rest of the game, it's a welcome way to cap off Mario's quest--though there's a fair chance you still have hundreds moons left to find elsewhere.

Odyssey is sustained beyond its major milestones not only through colorful worlds and hidden challenges, but through the sheer joy of controlling Mario, who's never felt more responsive or dynamic in action. Even with everything new that's been introduced, Nintendo's forward-thinking platformer retains the series' classic handcrafted appeal, which is even more impressive when you realize how densely packed each kingdom is. Mario's latest outing is big, bold, and bursting with new ideas, and like Breath of the Wild, is another instance of Nintendo going above and beyond to redefine our expectations. It's a shining example of refined creativity, and another crown jewel for Switch that is without equal.

Categories: Games

Assassin's Creed Origins Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 12:00

When you need to see the bigger picture, sometimes it's best to return to your roots. Assassin's Creed Origins takes this thinking to heart and steps into the seamless and dynamic open world of ancient Egypt. Although this move shows glimmers of a brighter future for the series, it also becomes clear that its core gameplay and presentation have some difficulties keeping up with the newfound pace and scale.

Blurring the lines between prequel and sequel, Assassin's Creed Origins takes us back to the beginning of the Assassin Brotherhood, while also laying the groundwork for a new present-day storyline. Set during the time of the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt, you take on the role of Bayek, a Medjay ranger who embarks on a quest for revenge against a mysterious order that pre-dates the Templars. Crossing paths with historical figures such as Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, Bayek travels through the dense and varied lands of Northern Africa. He'll sneak, loot, and stab key figures in the social and political worlds of Egypt, leading to several unforeseen consequences for the future of the Kingdom, right up to present day events.

While references to significant characters and events from other games are present, they take a backseat to the parallel narratives of Origins, particularly to that of Bayek and his companions as they lay the foundations of their creed in Egypt. Bayek himself is a major influence in the world, thoughtful of others and his surroundings. Despite facing tragedy, he isn't shy about breaking the tension with a joke or sharing a tender moment with loved ones. While he's steadfast in his resolve to take revenge against those who wronged him, he's always willing to help those in need.

Origins makes good on the potential of its setting, showing off a clash of ideologies and cultures during Ptolemaic Egypt, and giving it life in a number of surprising ways. In its 30 hour main story, you'll travel across Egypt and meet different allies and enemies with their own agendas. While some locations share a few too many similarities in style and general landscape--and others are frustratingly sparse with content and activity--Egypt overall is vibrant and lush, giving a strong sense of life within it.

From the flocks of birds that rise in unison while running through marshlands, to the crocodiles that pluck sailors off their boats as they float across rivers--Assassin's Creed Origins displays vivid details of a world in action, and houses several unique AI systems that play off each other. In one instance, you could find yourself raiding a camp, and which suddenly come under attack by groups of angry hippos from the nearby lake. Egypt is impressively dense in the more populated cities and towns, convincingly realized through a clear attention to detail, and is one of the series' finest achievements.

Playing through Bayek's journey is surprisingly educational, making each event and landmark--even the gladiator arenas and chariot race tracks--an opportunity to learn more about the setting and period. From general chatter of crowds in Alexandria, to the various notes and logs found from points of interests and bandit camps, you'll come to learn quite a lot about the past ages of Egypt, what led to the "present" state of its Ptolemaic rule, and the cause of the social strife throughout. Showing instances of culture clash between Greco-Roman and Egyptian influences, the core narrative and side-stories are engaging and feel meaningful, tackling issues of racism, colonialism, and the systemic misogyny of the times.

This is especially relevant to Bayek, who is himself an outsider in many of the locations he travels to, and as a result witnesses some of the abuse firsthand. Origins deftly handles its overall tone despite this by balancing moments of heartbreak and earnestness--such as quests dealing with greedy landowners poisoning lower-class citizens--with moments of levity, like when Bayek helps out local children in cities by performing parkour tricks.

Unfortunately, several technical hiccups and bugs crop up--which disrupt the flow of the experience. During our playthrough of the Xbox One X and PS4 versions, instances of texture pop-in, noticeable framerate dips during cutscenes and gameplay, and odd graphical issues while exploring and interacting with other characters detracted from impactful moments and events. These issues unfortunately persist throughout, slightly dragging down the otherwise incredible setting.

Moving steadily away from the somewhat identical formula of past Assassin's Creed games--where you gradually move out to different hub areas and tackle largely isolated missions--Origins gives you a greater level of freedom and agency in a more seamless world, where you can take part in activities at your leisure. With each region possessing several points of interest, veering off the path to find sights unseen can yield valuable loot, history about the world, and other secrets that tie into something greater.

When on his downtime, the Medjay ranger can take part in arena combat and chariot races to win gold and other prizes.

Alongside introducing a new open setting, Origins overhauls one of the series' other major gameplay pillars: combat. Trading steel with enemies now feels more active and involved thanks to its dynamic strikes and real-time blocking and parrying. While certain traces of the series' group-oriented action remain, combat focuses more on smaller skirmishes where you pick your moments and strike at the right time. Moreover, ranged combat has also been improved, adding greater maneuverability and accuracy, including a useful slow-mo aim while leaping through the air. Though this new approach to combat initially feels like an improvement all around--making battles more engaging and involved--some of these changes give rise to problems that can make them a drag.

While combat is solid when fighting a limited number of foes, things quickly turn south when more enemies are added into the mix, as the mechanics are designed for more intimate engagements. This becomes especially problematic with a lock-on camera that follows the action far too closely, turning battles that could be tactical and fierce into disorienting and clumsy encounters. In some cases, it felt better fighting without lock-on enabled to better keep track of what's going on.

This clumsiness is even present in the stealth system, which is more awkward than in past games. Somehow, slower and deliberate movement can feel unreliable due to controls that are less accurate and unresponsive. In some instances while sneaking and climbing, Bayek can hitch onto ledges and other objects when he gets close enough, frequently resulting in accidental exposure to enemies. Sneaking is undermined by these inconsistencies, whether it comes from enemies seeing through objects, or instances where AI partners routinely walk into danger. Stealth is often more of a hassle than it's worth, making it one of Origins' weakest aspects.

Assassin's Creed Origins attempts to blend the established stealth-action elements with the mechanics of an action-RPG, but these two halves don't always coalesce. By including stat-building and a loot grind, it creates needless level-gating for areas of the map. This results in time spent grinding to acquire vital skills and resources--and in the broader sense can feel like artificial padding. This, in turn, conflicts with the fantasy of being a skillful assassin who uses his resources and wits to maneuver through enemy hideouts. It can be quite jarring spending the time sneaking up to elite enemies, and then finding out your hidden blade won't work for an assassination due to it being underpowered.

While Assassin's Creed Origins reaches great heights in this new setting, it routinely runs into issues that bog down the overall experience. Technical issues make for an inconsistent experience and its new gameplay pillars wobble under the weight of its systems. But despite this, the world of Origins remains fresh and exciting to explore, which is a testament to the remarkable setting and compelling story. Assassin's Creed has undergone many changes in its long and storied history, and Origins feels like the first step in the start of a new journey. It has its fair share of problems, but the vision for its future is one worth pursuing.

Categories: Games

Arktika.1 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 10/25/2017 - 00:00

Usually known for impressive, but short-lived experiences, VR games at their best can be intensely immersive. So when I heard the developers of the superb Metro series were making a VR shooter, I was hopeful that 4A Games' stellar reputation for crafting powerful and foreboding worlds would translate well to VR. Arktika.1 doesn't break the mold, but 4A Games' creative strengths are on full display.

Arktika embodies the Metro series' grim futuristic feel despite not being a Metro game, taking place in the frozen wastelands of Russia where environmental disasters have reshaped both the land and its inhabitants. Some unfortunate humans have mutated into nightmarish monsters, desperate raiders roam the land fighting for survival at all costs, and you’ve been brought in as a hired gun to protect a remote military outpost from these looming threats.

Arktika isn’t a first-person shooter in the sense of Metro or Doom so much as it is a throwback to classic coin-op light gun games like Time Crisis or House of the Dead. Over the course of about five to eight hours, you’ll lean, duck, and dual-wield a variety of firearms while regularly teleporting short distances to advantageous positions and out of harm's way. Arktika is not a sedate game, and requires enough room to move from side to side, duck behind cover and pop out to line up your next kill.

There isn't much enemy variety, but they are different enough from each other to require a solid mix of strategies during any given scenario. Normal soldiers can be shot up fairly easily, while snipers rely on distance and cover, and heavies must be shot in the head to take down.

Arktika's weapons consist of different types of pistols, from a classic revolver to sci-fi energy guns. Different guns require unique reload gestures, which is confusing at first and sometimes unresponsive, but it feels like a fun throwback to the reloading mechanics of Time Crisis and other similar games. You even holster your guns by placing them on your shoulders. Using Oculus Touch controllers as your weapons and moving your actual body to hide behind cover, engagements are intense, making a successful pistol juggling act feel consistently rewarding.

While the main focus is definitely on gunplay, there are other VR-specific touches as well. Using the Touch controllers, you’ll reach out and virtually grab and pull switches, push buttons, interact with screens, and even solve puzzles. Puzzles include tasks like searching for door codes, accessing terminals, changing fuses, and even redirecting the flow of power to systems by plugging in cables. Most of these elements are really just an excuse to provide a brief respite from shooting sequences and certainly aren’t overly challenging, but succeed in breaking up the gameplay enough so Arktika doesn’t entirely feel like mindless blasting.

The shooting galleries are detailed and full of animated elements that can be used to your advantage with proper timing, like the unsteady motions of trunk lids on old sports cars that can be used for cover. Since the enemy is also smart about using cover, it’s vital to keep moving from point to point to get the best possible angle. Some of the cover is also destructible (like glass walls or crowded shelving), but 4A has designed their sets with a frenetic, active sensibility. The game goes out of its way to force you to make creative shots, leaning out from cover to aim between sweet spots of crowded landscapes. The end result is exciting and even tense action that ensures you'll stay on the move.

The action is enhanced thanks to the excellent graphics, which offer a terrific sense of depth and scale. Arktika uses the Unreal engine to create one of the most visually impressive action games on Oculus Rift, where even the mission selection room looks cluttered and palpable, and the outside environments, like the abandoned parking lot, show off the apocalyptic nature of the world without needing any exposition.

While Arktika relies heavily on familiar mechanics, it definitely uses the unique powers of VR to create a shooter with a tense atmosphere and exciting gunplay. The mix of excellent graphics and surprisingly intense battles makes this one of the more enjoyable action games available on Rift.

Categories: Games

Steven Universe Is Getting A New Villain With Hessonite

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:00

Steven Universe: Save the Light, the upcoming RPG sequel based on the show, is adding a new villain to the canon.

Hessonite was created in collaboration with the show's creator, Rebecca Sugar, who is also heavily involved in the game. Their backstory and motivations are still a mystery – you will have to play the game to learn about those – but you can learn a little bit about her by checking out the game's launch trailer below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Here's a clip of Hessonite as they appear in the game.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

And if you want even more Hesssonite, here's the isolated audio performance of their introductory line, and you can also find some screens and art of Hessonite in the gallery below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Steven Universe: Save the Light is coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on October 31.

Categories: Games

Golf Story Review

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 10/21/2017 - 20:00

Golf Story is zany, unexpectedly funny, and mechanically sound. Those descriptors aren't overly exciting on their own, but then again, the same could be said of what constitutes contemporary RPGs; you fetch things, hit other things, and generally do the bidding of others while your heroism goes ignored. Golf Story is essentially an RPG based on mundane, real-world concerns dialed up to the nth degree, and it's that relatability that makes it much more charming than it sounds on paper.

It's a not-so-sneaky homage to titles like Mario Golf considering its central conceit: absolutely everything can be solved with a combination of golf clubs, golf balls, and dogged persistence. That's where the player-character enters--a man who's lost half his life to a soul-sucking wife and the general indifference of others--and the fun begins. This is your typical redemption story, but instead of saving the world, you're trying to simply restore order to your otherwise bleak existence in memory of your father. It's a small-scale situation, but the the stakes feel enormous.

There's no way this could go wrong, right?

It's immediately clear that while golf is (quite literally) the name of the game, it's not the be-all and end-all of this affair. Just like any RPG, you'll encounter towns of people who need your help, which usually gets old pretty fast. However, Sidebar Games has managed to keep the pall of boredom away by injecting some local humour into the proceedings. For those lucky enough to be putting their feet up in Australia or New Zealand as they read this, good on ya. The jokes, sly nudges, and the meat pies that are prevalent throughout Golf Story are definitely charming signifiers that people Down Under will be familiar with. While you don't necessarily need to have watched Kangaroo Jack to get a laugh out of "mate" being used as an insult, those comedic touches will mean that little bit more to those already familiar with the vernacular.

Every quest-giver is, in some timeline or other, a verifiable idiot. It feels just like helping out the usual flood of gormless peasants, but there's a lot more to it than bringing hungry villagers some cheese. Ever wanted to be a single mother's hero by hitting her son in the face with a golf ball? You're in luck. Ever wanted to command an entire legion of turtles who exist solely to help you get a hole-in-one? What about raising an army of the dead to defeat a grand wizard? Golf Story takes the traditional plausibility rulebook and throws it entirely out the window, and it's better for doing so. Golf is unlikely to be considered a high-adrenaline sport by the general public, but throwing in quests that are equal parts mid-life crisis and downright diabolical certainly gets you more mileage out of your drive.

Speaking of driving, there's a lot of it. Most golf games make you play through courses of increasing difficulty as part of your journey to being the very best, and this is no exception. You'll spend a lot of time on the golf course, doing some combination of driving, chipping, putting, and internally screaming. It'd be a lie to say that there weren't some holes that had the potential to try the very limits of human patience, but luckily, those were generally spaced out well enough to not be a deterrent. Swings work on a three-click system: pick your club, pick your power, and pick your precision level. It's a no brainer as to what the best way to play is: toggle your precision indicator until it shows the distance pay-off that you're looking for, and make sure that you hit it.

There are other factors to consider too like wind speed, slope, and roaming wildlife who will take any opportunity to get their grubby little hands on your balls. Hitting an elusive albatross (three shots under par, not the giant bird) is really only possible if you manage all the above factors successfully, but you won't be punished for muddling your way through the nine-hole courses and enjoying the scenery if that's your cup of tea. Putting seems to be an exercise in futility, since it's difficult to decipher the slope of the green, but nothing's stopping you from swapping clubs and chipping your ball straight into the hole once it's on there, so go hard or go home. If you feel like the story isn't to your liking, then Quick Play mode allows you to subject yourself to round after round of golf on your favourite course, cutting out the middleman. You can change the default conditions of various courses to make things more challenging, and the best part of it is, you can do all of this with a mate for some local friendly competition.

However, there's a lot of other things to do in Golf Story, and once you master the basics of hitting a ball, you'll be free to focus on the other things that make it so charming. The game has an arsenal of gaming and pop culture references that it relies on, and recognising each is rewarding in its own way. Without giving too much away, the fact that you're tasked with solving a supernatural murder mystery in one breath and launched into a Pacman-esque gathering quest the next would keep most on their toes. It's a credit that the pacing doesn't suffer from the inclusion of these in-jokes, often taking the form of mini-games, and if you ever get sick of playing golf, you always have these side quests and bad puns to fall back on.

There are some glitches and bugs that make their presence known every now and again, but encountering something of the game-breaking variety is rare. You may find yourself interacting with new areas and being stuck in a background music loop as the player character becomes unresponsive, or more interestingly, you could find yourself in the dark space between one room and the next, unable to leave until you path through the same doorway multiple times. However, Golf Story's little issues don't make it a write-off.

It can take a little while for the narrative to ramp up in Golf Story and for you to feel like you've really cultivated the skills of a champion, but based on the sheer scope of what the game delivers, there's likely something for everyone to enjoy whether their shtick is mini-golfing or terrorising delinquents with frisbees. It has successfully captured the trappings of yesteryear's RPGs, and the witticisms and idiosyncrasies of the characters you encounter are a great palate cleanser between rounds. Switch has had a swathe of indies hit its eShop recently, but if you're looking for something that'll give you satisfaction in terms of an interesting story and a rewarding mechanic, then Golf Story is certainly par for the course.

Categories: Games

New Screens Show Off Captain Ginyu, Nappa, And Story Details

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 10/21/2017 - 14:00

Bandai Namco offered up a huge collection of Dragon Ball FighterZ screens this morning showing off new characters, online modes, story details, and more.

We've divided up the collection images into different sections of the story so follow the links for Captain Ginyu screens, Nappa screens, and story screens. First up, is Cpatain Ginyu.

Here is Captain Ginyu on his own.

And here he is with the Ginyu Force, who can assist him in battle.

That must be the Recoome boom.

Ginyu is also apparently able to body-swap with his opponents.

Captain Ginyu | Nappa | Story | Additional Screens

For more from our month of Dragon Ball coverage, including new details for FighterZ, click the banner below.

Categories: Games

The Promising Multiplayer Is Held Back By An Uninspiring Setting

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 10/20/2017 - 21:10

Game of Thrones is getting in on the mobile craze with Conquest, the newest in the ever-growing lineup of Game of War-style games. 

If you haven’t played Game of War, the concept is simple: Start a castle (a ‘house,’ in Conquest), build and upgrade military and resource plots (ad infinitum), build military units, create or join an allegiance, and pillage those weaker than your allegiance until they flee or join your side. While this sounds exciting on paper, in both Game of War and Conquest this is all done through an often boring system of clicking and waiting. Upgrading buildings takes a few minutes in the beginning of the game, but upgrades soon take hours to complete. If you want to attack your neighbor, you click attack on their keep, select which units you want to attack with, then wait. Then, if you damaged their wall and kept most of your soldiers, you can attack again. Repeat until their wall is destroyed and pillage their resources.

Allegiances help make pillaging quicker, thankfully. Working as a team, an allegiance of players can destroy a wall quicker than a lone player. To start an allegiance, you must find someone willing to be your Bannerman. Each allegiance owner can have up to five Bannermen, with each of them having five as well, all the way down to fourth-tier Bannermen, who cannot have any of their own. This allegiance system is a good way of keeping straight who is in charge and passing orders down a chain of command. Unfortunately, it also requires asking strangers to bend the knee if they want to team up with you. This can be fun if you’re powerful enough to be a threat, or it can be frustrating if you’re being harassed by an allegiance wanting you to kneel.

Allegiances fight over Seats of Power such as Winterfell and Casterly Rock. These seats of varying power (King’s Landing is the hardest to take but gives the most benefits) are mostly inactive in the preview build of the game, but allegiances can take active ones, for glory and the tangible benefits they bequeath members of the allegiance, such as increased march speed or resource collection.

The setting and characters you’re surrounded by in a game can make or break the experience. Unfortunately, Conquest’s setting fails to put my mind in the Game of Thrones universe. It feels more classically medieval than Game of Thrones-inspired. My castle only features one building distinctly from Game of Thrones, the Maester's tower, which can be used to research upgrades. The upgrades in the Maester’s Tower, which fall under one of four categories (military, city defense, logistics, and economy), go back to having no relation to the universe, however helpful they are gameplay-wise.

Conquest does feature some of the series’ most popular characters, but they don’t feel like those characters. They mostly pop up in a microtransaction advertisement or to teach a new mechanic, but with no voice acting and written dialogue that breaks the fourth wall more than it tries to stay in-universe, there’s very little connection between the characters in Conquest and the characters on HBO or in the books.

From renting extra workers or Maesters to work on more buildings and research, to buying packs of boosts and currency, microtransactions are hard to avoid in Conquest. What’s most tempting to buy are speedups, which allow you to finish construction, research, or train troops faster. Instead of waiting an hour for a farm to upgrade, a speedup can upgrade it immediately so you can get started working on something else. These speedups are given away for free occasionally, but those who spend money will be able to progress through the ranks much faster than those who try the free-to-play route.

Game of Thrones fans should temper their expectations before diving in, as the game released yesterday, October 19. The setting and characters offer nods to the broader fiction, but what I experienced in the preview version of the game is mostly rooted in a familiar and established mobile game structure. Fighting over Westeros’ Seats of Power with an organized allegiance might fulfil some people’s fantasies, but the fear of microtransactions deciding the fate of those Seats is real. If the game ever manages to capture that Game of Thrones feel however, it has a chance to suck a lot of people in.

Categories: Games

Elex Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 10/20/2017 - 16:00

As a big, open-world RPG, Elex shows great ambition. The world of Magalan is a fractured yet beautiful place, having spent the last 150 years recovering from the devastating impact of a comet. It’s not your typical post-apocalyptic world, showing the signs of rejuvenation that makes exploring its heavily scarred, mountainous surface an enticing and occasionally captivating proposition. But despite this, a disjointed story, unresponsive controls, and frustrating combat mechanics consistently suck the life out of Elex, making its 30-hour campaign too arduous to recommend.

You play as Jax, a widely feared former Commander within the Alb faction, the game’s main antagonists. Albs are known for their addiction to Elex, an element that has permeated through the planet since the impact of the comet, which makes them both immensely strong and emotionally void; the perfect soldiers. Driven by their dedication to their leader, The Hybrid, and his directive to gain control of all the Elex in the world, they begin an aggressive reclamation of the planet, waging war on the other factions and building giant Converters to rip the Elex from the ground.

The Alb Directive demands the punishment of death for failing a mission, and when Jax is deemed to have failed, he is put down, albeit unsuccessfully, by another Alb commander who leaves him for dead. Having woken up some time later--a fact that is poorly communicated through the course of the intro--with his armor stolen and the residual Elex gone from his body, Jax begins his search for a new place in the world. The Alb’s savagery is a gripping premise of its own accord, but it never really lives up to the potential of its setup.

Where Jax goes from here is entirely up to you, though you are given a little direction by way of Duras, a Berserker warrior who leads you to Goliet, the main Berserker settlement. Peaceful settlements dot Magalan, as do raider camps, mutants and other assorted creatures who have been transformed into ghastly beasts by the Elex that has ravaged the land.

You can learn unique abilities from each faction, like casting magic or suggestive mind control through dialogue, once you’ve proven your worth. The Berserkers retreat to nature, transmuting Elex into Mana for magic and using it to revitalise the scorched planet, while the religiously bound and technologically advanced Clerics utilise Elex-powered technology built upon remnants of the old-world. The lawless Outlaws live off the scrap of the desert, while all three factions live under the threat of the Albs' aggression. Appeasing their needs is no easy feat, though, largely due to the balance of difficulty in the game’s opening chapters.

Starting on the 2nd hardest of the four difficulty levels, it didn’t take me long to wind it back to normal, and then to easy. But regardless of difficulty level I felt hopelessly underpowered, even against enemies that appear early on, so much so that the only way I felt I could make significant progress was to run from as many encounters as I could. However, avoiding combat doesn’t help in the missions where you’re forced to fight.

Feeling under levelled in an RPG isn’t the problem here, rather it's that there's no real way around it. Any time I would find a newer, stronger weapon, I’d try to equip it only to be denied by my lack of certain skills. There are five main attributes you can pour your skill points into, and most weapons require you be at a minimum level with at least two of those attributes.

Upgrading weapons feels equally trivial, as doing so also affects their stat requirements and can put them well beyond your character’s capabilities, rendering it a pointless pursuit. This becomes less of a problem in the late game, but it wasn’t until around 20 hours into Elex that I felt marginally comfortable jumping into a standard, open-world encounter.

Even then, there are still some real issues with the game’s controls and combat that present themselves early; something Elex never truly recovers from. Melee combat feels cumbersome, with Jax’s quickest attack requiring a hefty wind up before the swing. The auto-targeting function doesn’t differentiate between friend or foe, and when combined with poor hit detection and slow animations, it causes all manner of problems when fighting next to groups of friendlies. Ranged combat is a little better, but similarly suffers from some problems with hit detection.

Most frustrating is when you successfully hit an enemy with either a melee or ranged attack and it does no damage whatsoever, at least until you’ve hit it three or four times. Initially I thought this had something to do with my stamina meter being drained, but that just stops you from attacking in the first place. I never did work out the precise reason why this happens, but it’s stunningly frustrating as it makes nearly every engagement feel horribly unbalanced, overshadowing Elex's better qualities.

While character models and faces leave something to be desired, much of the environmental art is incredible. Separated into distinct regions, Magalan is gorgeous. From the green, flora draped lands of Edan and the canyon laced deserts of Tavar, to the volcanic region of Ignadon, the layout of its heavily cracked and damaged surface feels superbly hand-crafted. The details can lead to occasional frame rate drops, especially with lots of characters onscreen, but it’s hard to deny Elex’s wonderful art design. The addition of a jetpack to help you traverse mountainous regions, despite feeling a little clumsy, is also a nice touch.

Some of the inter-factional rivalries are interesting on the surface, with politics between clan leaders and in-fighting providing a bit of fun through dialogue and faction missions, but the overarching narrative rarely proves to go anywhere significant. Some of these missions touch on thought-provoking themes, like the idea that, despite being of the same faction, one person’s morality doesn’t always equate to another’s. Despite the interaction of different factions being a running theme through many of the game’s quests, Elex doesn’t have much more to say on the topic.

The main story quests aren’t quite as interesting, and are riddled with bugs in their presentation. Jax’s back story is slowly pieced together through memories presented as cutscenes during moments of exposition, though the transitions between these are jarring at best, with some cutscenes occasionally not playing at all. Numerous times did I come out of a cutscene only to find the world tearing itself apart and my character falling through the floor, either crashing the game or requiring a full restart and forcing me to replay the same section over again in the hopes that it wouldn’t fall apart.

Elex's world is no doubt enticing, but the good moments are heavily dispersed among some rough technical problems and odd designs that only serve to frustrate. The game offers an incredibly designed world and the basis of a compelling RPG that disappointingly fails to live up to its potential in almost every way. For a game that relies heavily on its combat for progression, it feels overwhelmingly geared against you, and with the added technical issues and lack of a compelling story to tell, Elex takes the wind out of its own sails at nearly every turn.

Categories: Games

WWE 2K18

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/19/2017 - 16:22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Games

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

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/19/2017 - 15:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Games

Fire Emblem Warriors Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Games