Games

Gundam Versus Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 20:00

It’s hard not to get a kick out of watching giant robots slug it out, and that’s precisely what Gundam Versus is all about. It's a celebration of all things Gundam on the surface, with over a hundred playable mechs from the many Gundam anime series since 1979's Mobile Suit Gundam. It's a hybrid fighting game at heart that puts you in the pilot’s seat, tactically flying at enemies, dodging attacks, and slamming opponents through buildings. Undoubtedly it’s one for fans of the Gundam universe, but for those unfamiliar with the series and its origins, there’s still a whole lot of enjoyment to be had.

Gundam Versus plays more like a beat-em-up than a traditional fighting game, and depending on which game mode you choose, you’ll play as either a lone wolf or in a group with one or two CPU players--real players if you take it online--and team up to take down the enemy. In the single-player modes you’ll face pre-defined waves of enemies or a team of Gundam. Just beware: most dialogue is left untranslated. It won't prevent you from knowing what to do, but you can't easily follow what most characters have to say, save for your navigator.

Competitive multiplayer is more raw, focusing solely on Gundam-versus-Gundam bouts, which feel more dynamic and dramatic than merely facing off against AI. PvP is not just the most exciting way to play, but also the most gratifying. This is assuming you have a strong connection, as any server issues, which feel particularly prevalent in 3v3 modes, hurt the frame rate and render matches nigh unplayable.

How you go about dispatching the enemy is largely dependent on the mech you choose to pilot. Not that selecting a particular style of Mobile Suit aligns you to one playstyle; thankfully you are free to attack opponents how you see fit. You can lay down cannon fire from long-range then close in for a quick melee combo, or take advantage of your Suit’s maneuverability, waiting for the right moment to counter-attack. But whether you’re effective on the battlefield comes down to how well you learn each mech’s particular behaviors.

Despite the Gundams' impressive power, they are relatively simple to control. You can fly straight up into the air and change direction on a dime using power boosters; you just have to govern them appropriately to avoid overheating. Melee and ranged attacks typically require one button to activate, though you can often combine them for slightly more advanced attacks. However there are some subtle and not-so-subtle variations of this, which means there’s a heap of variety, but it can also feel inscrutable at times. Sometimes pulling back on the left stick and hitting your melee attack throws a block, using the Gundam’s giant shield for protection. But for others, this same move can unleash a devastating attack instead of providing the protection you’re seeking.

Hitting with ranged attacks is more about precise timing--and perhaps a bit of luck. There’s no free aim; everything offensive is governed by a locking system that cycles through enemies by tapping a button. Without a way to lead your target to make sure your shots are landing, often you can get a little lost when trying to cycle through to latch on to the one you want to take down. It could be a little smarter too, as it doesn’t take distance to the target into account when cycling. That split second can be the difference between nailing a sweet combo, or being on the receiving end of deadly flurry of blows that ends the round in a fireball. More annoying--and borderline unfair--is that enemies don’t take any damage from attacks while they’re staggered, but they can seemingly knock you about while you’re in the same position. Feeling like you’re at such a disadvantage under attack can lead to some incredibly frustrating defeats.

Having your mech shot down is something you get used to pretty fast, but it doesn’t mean the end of the battle. Respawns aren’t governed by a number of lives, but rather a Battlefield-style ticket-based system, where the number assigned to your Mobile Suit (as seen on the character select screen) represents the number of tickets respawning in that Mobile Suit will cost. Given the number of tickets you’re allotted changes on a per-battle basis, weighing up that cost versus the level of firepower they provide should factor into your choice. It’s all good and well to default to some of the more powerful suits, but they can be slower and more unwieldy, leaving you open to attack more often than you might be prepared for.

The arenas within which you unleash robot hell give the appearance of being much larger than they really are; the playable area in each is pared down to only a small portion of the map. While this is somewhat disappointing, each of the environments has its own aesthetic style, from a space colony split in half by an asteroid that’s still embedded in its side, to the more familiar surroundings of a large earth city or an open forest or mountain range.

Some of the less spectacular ground and surrounding building textures are highlighted by nice lighting, but the overall scope and size of each arena does enough to make up for the missing detail. And many of the buildings and objects within each arena are destructible, crumbling to chunky pieces as you and your opponents launch all manner of missiles, lasers and big robot fists at each other. It’s a nice touch but also gives the impression of kicking over a tower of foam blocks, lacking the kind of visual quality and wow factor that would bring it up to par with many of the mechs' attacks--some of which, by the way, look devastatingly powerful, with huge flashes of lasers, lights and explosions dominating the screen when they hit their target.

Gundam Versus is dedicated to the Gundam universe, and the treatment of the source material is easy to appreciate, even for someone unfamiliar with the series. That said, some loose mechanics, the paltry localization, and multiplayer's inability to deal with less-than-perfect network connections aren't easy to ignore. A smarter locking system, better demonstration of the differences between various Mobile Suits and the ability to attack downed enemies like they can to you would make for an improved experience, on the battlefield at least. But Gundam Versus nonetheless offers some light-hearted, robot smashing fun.

Categories: Games

Here's The Full Soundtrack In Spotify Playlist Form

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 17:38

The Need for Speed series is known for its quality licensed soundtracks, and today, EA is letting players get a full listen to the soundtrack for the next entry.

The soundtrack includes music from artists like the Gorillaz, Queens of the Stone Age, Run the Jewels, and a whole lot of other musicians that I must admit I have never heard of because apparently I am old man and this is how I found out.

For more on Need for Speed Payback, which is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on November 10, head here.

[Source: Need for Speed Payback]

Categories: Games

Visit Ultra Megalopolis In New Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 15:08

Jump down the wormhole in the newest trailer for Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon – coming to the 3DS on November 17.

Players can get a look at Ultra Megalopolis where legendary Necrozma has stolen the light, meet the Ultra Recon Squad, and take a look at new Pokémon like UB Adhesive and UB Burst.

For more on the game, check out its previous trailer, as well as these details.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Categories: Games

Middle-earth: Shadow Of War Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 14:14

One of the first people you meet in Middle-earth: Shadow of War is a woman with midnight black hair and a dress torn in intentionally strategic locations. You'll then learn that she's a version of Shelob, a giant deadly spider creature. The game explains her mysterious human form in time, and while fans of Lord of the Rings lore might have trouble embracing this unique interpretation of Tolkien storytelling, it shows that Shadow of War is a game that's willing to take risks with its source material. And, in a way, this example represents the full arc of the game: off-putting in the beginning, disappointing in the end, but seeing how they explain it all is an exciting ride.

Like its predecessor, Shadow of War is populated by powerful Orc Captains that have specific strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits defined by the game's Nemesis system. The number of fears, special abilities, and beneficial powers are much more robust than the first game, making it important to find a strategic approach to taking down some of the game's more powerful foes. The amount of information you get about each Orc once you've revealed its vulnerabilities can feel almost overwhelming, but you quickly adapt to the game's shorthand and what traits to look out for.

Your primary goal is to raise an army against the forces of Mordor by recruiting every Orcish leader you meet. These characters strike the perfect balance of humor and absurdity against the dull seriousness of the human cast, and you'll wish the quirkier denizens of Mordor could be constant companions instead of the brief vignettes that flash across the screen when you either kill or are killed by one. One especially colorful character I met was an Orc prophet who yelled at me about some serpent cult he was a part of; I ended up killing him, but it left a lot of questions in my mind about how Orc religions work.

Most of your time in Mordor is spent killing Orcs. Building off the first game, Shadow of War has a free-flowing combat system that lets you dominate creatures one-on-one but still stay in control when surrounded by a dozen or more adversaries. That momentum slows when too many things are happening on-screen at once, though. When an enemy captain is ready to be coerced over to your side an icon above his head turns green. Incoming attacks can be countered following a flashing prompt, and you have a slew of different abilities to take out legions of enemies. But the chaos of battle can make targeting opponents frustrating.

That's a shame because Shadow of War's most memorable moments revolve around its large-scale Siege battles, where you take over Orc-controlled fortresses using your own loyal followers. With an army of Orcs at your back, both pressing the offensive on a castle and protecting it are equally exciting, and the final entrance into the main hall of a fortress for the final fight feels as reverent and grand as walking into a towering cathedral in real life.

In the moment, these tense battles are the core of the Shadow of War experience, but the overarching narrative outside of the broad "tour Mordor, fight Sauron's forces," feels directionless. Part of that's because you don't spend enough time with any secondary characters (except for Gollum, whose brief appearance is somehow still too long). Characters you meet in the game have relatively short asides that range from the absolutely boring "save some Gondorians" to the furiously funny "learn how fight pits work with Bruz the Orc." It's hard to get invested in the stories of less interesting characters, and once you've completed a few of their quests, they disappear forever anyway. And, like most open-world games, after you've spent a couple hours running around collecting trinkets, it makes an NPC's entreaty about an imminent enemy invasion feel less immediately pressing.

Menus on menus

But, narrative problems aside, some of the setpieces are breathlessly fun. You ride a drake, team up with some ridiculous Orcs, fight an imposing, flame-winged Balrog, battle the Ringwraiths. It's a greatest-hits compilation of the most bad-ass moments from The Lord of the Rings. After a slow-building introductory act, the game gains momentum as it crashes toward what seems like a final standoff against the forces of evil. And this fight addresses criticism of the previous game; it's an epic multi-stage battle that does still have QTEs, but no more than the ones you find while playing through the game normally.

Bafflingly that battle isn't the end of the game. Shadow of War continues on, but with its momentum drained completely. What should be an exciting climax instead descends into a tedious slog for a cutscene that doesn't quite feel worth the time and effort.

In the game's actual final act, you cycle through the four fortresses you explored previously for a total of 20 more defending siege battles. If you haven't upgraded the Orcs you met early in the game--and up until this point, there was no reason to--you have to replace and upgrade your entire retinue of Orcs to match this more powerful invading force. The enemies you face level up with each encounter, so you're also forced into upgrading each castle over and over again, either by building up your current Orc army or finding new fighters and replacing the old. This Sisyphean quest has no corresponding significant characters to keep you company or explain why it's important to tackle the defense missions in the order you do. It's not even clear, exactly, why you want to do them at all.

More than once I felt like giving up on this quest thinking I'd stumbled onto some optional side content that was clearly only made for obsessed completionists. But enduring on, I found that finishing every stage unlocks the final cutscene and credits. It did not feel worth it.

It's an entire section that should have been cut or severely truncated, and playing through the repetitious levels felt like padding meant only to make the game last longer. But although the game's final act is the most egregious, there are several other systems that Shadow of War fails to justify.

Almost every item and Orc has some type of associated rarity (which scales from Common to Rare to Epic to Legendary), and with higher rarity comes more abilities. For Orcs, this means that they have additional, more powerful attributes that aren't available elsewhere. For weapons, it includes perks like "48% chance that a headshot lights enemies on fire." The buffs are useful, but the effects aren't so amazing that you'd keep a significantly underpowered weapon or Orc just for its benefits. It feels like a system tacked on purely to add another set of items to collect.

The menu systems for your Orcs and weapons is the part that feels most overburdened. It's grating that there's no way to sort or search through your own army if, say, you need an Orc with a cursed weapon and an immunity to beast attacks to take out an especially tricky opponent. But to find out what skills are active based on your current weapon loadout, you have to go to each item in your menu and read up on what you have equipped. There's no overview screen that lists out what effects you currently have active.

And buried within the weapon screens is yet another separate item menu, this one for gems. Gems are stat-boosters you find throughout the game that give each item yet another upgrade like increasing the chance that enemies killed with that weapon drop in-game currency or a 12.5% increase to the amount of experience you earn. They're helpful, but managing the upgrades for yet another set of items that are nested as a menu within your own equipment amounts to busywork.

Even with the Russian nesting doll of item menus, the most initially intimidating and complex of Shadow of War's systems is its skills menu. There are six primary skill tracks with points that have to be unlocked in order, and each skill has a separate unlockable set of 2-3 sub-skills (only one of which can be activated at any time). The ability grid is so dense and spread out that it's a chore to read through and decide what to put your points into every time you level up. And reallocating in the middle of battle (say if you want an area of effect attack to shoot out flames instead of poison), involves too much work and slows down battle too much to be practical.

As an example of how overwrought with options the skill system is, there's an upgrade that unlocks the ability to "collect items by walking over them." In normal play, you actually have to manually push a button to pick up every item you come across. It's an ability worth prioritizing when you're looking to spend skill points, but it's nonsensical that such a basic quality of life improvement isn't just the default way item collection works.

Fun with photo mode

Despite the bloated feel of its systems, you earn all of these skill points, weapons, and Orcs at such a frantic pace that the game doesn't feel dragged down in the same way as it does by the final act.

Going beyond skills and menus, one of Shadow of War's more controversial additions is its online storefront where you can pay real-world money to earn loot boxes that have guaranteed high-rarity Orcs and equipment. One early quest in the game gives you a small sum of the paid currency to purchase some loot boxes, but you can also buy them from the store using an earned in-game currency called Mirian.

Although the random loot drops only include Epic tier rewards instead of the paid currency's Legendaries, the difference in quality between the two, in practice, isn't substantially different. And after finishing the game, even with buying a dozen or so 1,200 Miran loot crates over the course of my adventure, I was still left with over 70,000 Mirian in reserve. Like so many of the other game's systems, the storefront feels less predatory and more like a cluelessly unnecessary addition.

And that addition sums up several of Shadow of War's additions--things like the storefront and the menus and loot system don't make the game terrible, it just would've been better without them. It tries to be larger than its predecessor, there are more abilities, more weapons, more Orcs, yet it leaves you wanting less. But at its core, it's a fun experience with brilliant moments that provide fascinating insight into some of the untold stories of Middle-earth. I just wish it had known when to stop.

Categories: Games

FIFA 18 Nintendo Switch Review

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 23:00

FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch is a tough game to categorize. When compared to the likes of FIFA's past PS Vita, 3DS, and other mobile versions, it's easily the best portable FIFA ever made. But compared to its current console cousin--FIFA 18 on PS4 / Xbox One--it's lacking features and much of the shine that makes that version so appealing.

On the pitch, it actually replicates the other editions' gameplay pretty well. Dribbling feels responsive, crosses are accurate, and overall match speed is faster than on PS4 / Xbox One, a change that better suits the Switch's immediate pick-up-and-play sensibilities. Commentary is also just as impressive, and animations look as smooth as they do on current-gen (though you're better off not looking at the cardboard cut-out crowds). Shots don't pop like they do on PS4 and Xbox One, and the omission of player instructions is a frustrating and bizarre one. But playing a match of FIFA 18 on Switch is an enjoyable experience.

The problems arise when you consider the game as a package. FIFA's Switch port is missing Pro Clubs and The Journey, meaning the only options to play offline are the bog standard Kick Off and aging Career Mode. I say "aging" because the Career Mode here is not the one included in FIFA 18 on PS4 and Xbox One--it's more like the Career Mode seen in FIFA 16. It does not include the latest additions of dynamic news clips or interactive transfer negotiations because--like The Journey--they are powered by the Frostbite engine, which FIFA 18 on Switch does not use. With such a faithful recreation seen on the pitch, it's disappointing that attention to detail is not reflected off it.

This means that, despite feeling good when you're in a match, FIFA 18 doesn't really offer much to do when you're not connected to the internet. The Journey in particular would've been a perfect fit for a portable FIFA--a match on the way to work, another on the way home--but its omission leaves the only proper mode, save for the aforementioned Career Mode, as Ultimate Team.

FUT is, again, replicated well--it looks and plays like the real deal, and contains much of the live content the other versions boast, like Team of the Week and SBCs. However, once again, the Switch edition is missing the mode's big new feature for this season, FUT Squad Battles. Ironically, Squad Battles are the feature that would have fit this version of Ultimate Team best--as a single-player portion, it would've been perfect to play a couple of matches while on the bus and have the game sync when I get home. Unfortunately, they're missing from this version, and you can't even access FUT's menus when you're not connected to EA's servers. Of course, you can play it when you get home, but you'll be playing a version of Ultimate Team missing many of the PS4 / Xbox One versions' innovations from the past couple of years.

One advantage the Switch version has over the home console edition is the ability to play with a friend while on the go. FIFA 18 supports single Joy-Con play, meaning I was able to play football on my Switch against my brother on the way to an actual football match this weekend. It works, but I always felt l was struggling against the controls--fewer buttons and only one stick means there's no way to use finesse shots, threaded through balls, knuckle shots, manual defending, skill moves, or driven passes. EA has come up with a clever workaround to allow you to knock the ball ahead--double tap the right trigger rather than using the absent right stick--but it's a shame similar solutions haven't been found for the other missing moves. It remains a convenient way to play a quick match against friends while on the go, but you'll be fighting to get both Joy-Cons back before long.

Unfortunately, the ability to play with friends is not reflected in FIFA 18's online offering on Switch. While you can play online--in FUT or in the standard Seasons mode or a single match--there is no way to matchmake with friends unless they happen to be in the same room as you and have their Switch on them. It's a glaring omission, and doesn't do justice to the community EA has cultivated so well on Xbox and PlayStation.

FIFA 18 on Switch delivers some enjoyable soccer when on the pitch, but without Pro Clubs and The Journey, and in restricting all access to FUT when you're not online, it shoots itself in the foot. Being able to play FIFA on the go or with a friend is gratifying, and if you're happy to just play through Career Mode for the next year, then this port will satisfy your needs and is the best mobile FIFA you can buy, but compared to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions, this port is inferior in every other way.

Categories: Games

Forza Motorsport 7 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 03:00

In Forza Motorsport 7, the familiarity of driving your favorite cars on beloved tracks goes hand in hand with the joys of discovery. It's about owning sporty cars priced just out of reach in real life, whether that's a Mazda RX-8 or an Infinity Q60. There's exhilaration in taking those sweet rides down roads you've visited countless times and still finding something new around familiar bends. And whether you're preoccupied with a pack of assertive Drivatars or fiercer real-life competitors, Forza 7--much like the other installments in developer Turn 10's mainline racing series--is decidedly abundant in different ways to compete.

The first thing you'll notice about Forza 7 is that it strips away the often amusing glorification and ostentatiousness of motorsport that decorated the series' last few games. Granted, I loved the dulcet voice over of Jeremy Clarkson when he dispensed with insight and trivia on cars and courses. Forza 7 relies less on wooing you with superficial spectacles and instead lets the cars and courses speak for themselves. This break from the ceremonious aspects of motorsport is a welcome one, especially when all you want to do is race.

The career mode alone--dubbed Forza Driver's Cup--encourages you to get down to business in a wide array of competitions spread across six championship series. Since you don't need to enter all the races to win the cup, you're offered the flexibility to compete with the types of cars you're most used to. That said, the opening races effectively remind you of Forza 7's vehicle variety, encouraging you to play outside your comfort zone. You can spend a dozen hours beelining for the cup, or more than double that if you want to get first in every race. There's no clear theme to distinguish one series over another, but it's easy to go along with Turn 10's seemingly arbitrary playlists of tournaments, given the wide variety of cars and courses lining your journey.

Even after you've raised the final trophy in the Forza Driver's Cup, the quest to build a respectable collection of cars goes on. As always, the draw of browsing the hundreds of cars in Forza is the tease of purchasing a new model like the 2017 Nissan GT-R or scratching that nostalgic itch with a Pacer X from the now-defunct American Motors Corporation. And while the recent withdrawal of Lexus and Toyota production models from racing games leaves a void in this robust roster, Turn 10 helps cushion the blow with a hearty selection of Porsches, a manufacturer that was missing from the launch version of Forza 6.

Competition takes many forms in Forza 7. The friends-as-AI Drivatars return as a pleasing alternative to age-old CPU racing behaviors like rubber banding. Online you'll find, more often than not, disorderly strangers who are as impolite as they are careless. Your best hope of winning is placing near the front of the starting grid. The alternative is, of course, participating in a private race, provided you can convince other friends and Forza players--ideally enough to fill a 24-car grid--to play fair and do their best at avoiding crashes. For the least chaotic approach to measuring and comparing greatness, Rivals presents a host of tough yet worthwhile asynchronous contests where you attempt to beat other players' lap times. Unfortunately, the traditional Forza outlets of aggression like zombie or tag are not available in the launch version of Forza 7. The same goes of Forzathon and Leagues modes, unique timed events that enhance the replay value of Forza Motorsport 6 and Forza Horizon 3.

Like many Forza Motorsports before it, Forza 7's greatest strength is its diversity of driving experiences, which says something for a series that relies mostly on circuit races, rather than adding point-to-point and off-road competition. The challenge of weaving a Mini Cooper through traffic at 45 miles per hour can be as thrilling as navigating your way through the various slopes and dips in Dubai Circuit of the Emirates. These moments are made all the more rewarding thanks to the 122 finely detailed and authentic track configurations spread across its 32 locations.

The last couple Forza Motorsports, along with Forza 7, are engrossing due to their true-to-life tracks and how surrounding environments are enhanced by changes in weather and time of day. Yet whereas Forza 6 had a premade rain condition for select tracks, Forza 7 has an impressive 16 variations of inclimate weather like thunderclouds and summer drizzle. Road Atlanta on an overcast day can exude the secluded quaintness of a course in the U.K. like the Top Gear Test Track. Suzuka--one of the oldest circuits in video games, dating back to Pole Position II--has never looked as good as when it's accentuated by the sun as it breaks through clouds during an early morning race. The ability to set multiple changing weather states in a single match further adds character to these riveting tours. The right combination of car and weather conditions can give you a newfound appreciation for a track you've raced on hundreds of times in other games.

What has always set Forza Motorsport apart from other racing sims is the depth of its newcomer-friendly accessibility options. Forza 7 continues this tradition with an array of adjustable assists and difficulty settings. Naturally, many of Forza 7's challenges arise when you've tweaked your settings just right so first place wins are hard fought. And with the return of mod cards--originally introduced in Forza Motorsport 6--you can self-impose other performance incentives for greater rewards. It's mildly gratifying to receive bonus currency for great passing or cornering even if the game didn't notice you shoved a couple cars when executing these supposedly graceful maneuvers.

Mods are unlocked as part of Forza 7's blind card system, known as Prize Crates. These packs evenly mix practical items like cars and mods with cosmetic goods such as badges and driver outfits. When you spend most of the game encased in a car's cockpit, these detailed jumpsuits and helmets might seem like throwaway gear, but when you see your decorated driver in a convertible or the pre-race menu, envy blooms. After opening a dozen packs, I felt like I broke even, feeling elation when spending little to win a rare car, as well as heartbreak for buying the most expensive crate and ending up with only common items. While cars are now organized by loot-inspired rarity--based on their price ranges--you can still buy cars no matter the rarity without relying on the uncertainty of chance with the Prize Crates. And it should be added that having access to the Ultimate Edition gave me a VIP mod that doubled my earned XP over five races. While this perk temporarily accelerated my progression, it did not impact the quality of my overall experience.

By the time I had logged a couple dozen hours in Forza 7, the confluence of environmental and driving realism unexpectedly inspired me to recreate real-life racing events like the famous 1996 Zanardi pass at Laguna Seca. These are the kinds of experiments that Forza 7 inspires, thanks in part to the game's variety and flexibility. Even with an imperfect roster and a selection of modes that doesn't compare to the comprehensiveness of Forza 6 at launch, Forza Motorsport 7 is still a feature-rich and competition-diverse bundle of racing events that keep you coming back for more. The ability to control the weather to create rich, painterly cloudy backdrops goes a long way in making up for the lack of zombie modes and the Toyota MR2.

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