Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 06/21/2018 - 19:23

The Switch version of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, the puzzle/adventure game starring the galaxy-spanning explorer and his colleague Toadette, has a demo on the Switch eShop in all regions now.

You can go ahead and download the demo now and explore how the game plays on the Switch. Captain Toad made his introduction in Mario Galaxy as the leader of a brave though perpetually lost exploration force, then as a minigame in Super Mario 3D World. That minigame was spun off and fleshed out into Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, which ended up featuring full levels from 3D World for Captain Toad to strut through.

According to a Nintendo World Report preview, however, the Switch version is losing those 3D World levels. It was revealed in its first Nintendo Direct that the game would be getting New Donk City-themed stages added to the Switch and 3DS versions, but it appears those are coming at the cost of the 3D World content. It sounds like the other stages are based on Odyssey's kingdoms, but are still replacing 3D World's levels with smaller puzzles.

You can find our review of the Wii U version of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker right here.

Categories: Games

Jurassic World Evolution Review: Life Finds A Way

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 06/21/2018 - 17:00

Whether you're reminded of vicious raptors hunting terrified children, placid Brachiosaurus strolling verdant hills, or a scientist reaching elbow-deep into a mound of Triceratops dung, the words "Jurassic Park" can evoke some pretty powerful memories. Jurassic World Evolution reinforces these associations with its take on dino-park management, and all the good and bad that comes with such a brazen endeavor. It can be a bit clumsy at times, but Evolution ultimately finds a comfortable middle ground between establishing deep mechanics and maintaining accessibility for the average dino enthusiast.

Your venture kicks off with a warning from Dr. Ian Malcolm--voiced by Jeff Goldblum himself--who ruminates about the inevitability of disaster before dropping you straight onto the first of the game's five main islands. To successfully run your new park, you need to maintain a variety of dinosaur species and build facilities to protect and entertain paying customers. Do well enough and you unlock additional islands for your expanding park, each with a new curveball to keep you on your toes, be it aggressive weather systems, unique financial constraints, or limited construction options.

After learning the basics of construction and dinosaur creation, you're introduced to the three divisions that make up your park's staff: science, entertainment, and security. Each division will offer contracts that, when completed, give you cash and raise your reputation with that division. This unlocks further items and buildings for research, as well as that division's story mission. While contracts are a good source of money in the early game, they come with an odd complication: completing contracts for one division lowers your reputation with the other two. This creates a nonsensical balancing act that, whilst not difficult to overcome in the long run, feels arbitrary in context.

Building a good dinosaur park isn't as simple as putting down some fences, incubating dino eggs, and sitting back to watch them majestically take their first steps into the world. You'll need to manage everything from dig sites and DNA extraction to general park maintenance via your rangers--who will fill feeders, fix fences, and keep everything in working order. In an awesome twist, you can manually control the rangers' Jeeps or helicopters from a close third-person perspective, leading to some surprisingly beautiful and memorable moments as you mingle with the great beasts inhabiting your park.

If you've played any kind of park management sim before, you'll feel right at home with how everything works thanks to streamlined controls and an elegant UI. Console players can similarly rejoice as controller configurations are surprisingly intuitive, making navigating everything a breeze.

With the exception of cash, all your research and item progression is shared across each of the islands, and you can freely move between them at will once they're unlocked. If you've got something you want to research but you're struggling with funds in your current park, switch back to your previous one and spend their money on it instead. Although it would be a time saver to simply let you funnel cash from one park to another, going back to old parks never feels you're like taking a step backwards. Research progression is skewed so that you'll unlock the next park before you've unlocked all the research items in your current one, so you'll always feel like you're achieving something worthwhile, even if that means re-visiting old areas.

Interestingly, unlike most other park management sims, you can't speed up the flow of time while waiting for tasks to complete, but it's not as detrimental as it sounds. It's rare that there isn't something in the park needing attention, and more often than not you'll be thankful for the time.

Each of the dinosaurs in your menagerie have particular needs--some are placid, solitary creatures who are super chill, while others are quick to go on high alert. Put a herbivore in a pen full of meat-eaters and it will (understandably) panic. Put two aggressive meat-eaters next to each other and they'll probably fight to the death, unless you can get your rangers in there to tranquilize and then separate them both before any real harm is done. Learning the differences between each species is an important part of keeping your park operating smoothly. But even when things are going well, calamity never feels that far away.

From rampaging dinosaurs and tropical cyclones to internal sabotage, there's always something ready to trash your hard work. While dealing with these hazards can be exciting in your early hours, the fifth time your Ankylosauruses make a break for it because they don't like being around other dinosaurs can get tiresome. Attacks on park goers can initially be costly; later on, when you've got money to burn, a few lawsuits digging into your bottom line doesn't matter much. But while the lack of surprises and stakes after 20 or so hours is a bummer, it's never enough to take away from the joy of watching your creations live out their lives in structures you've meticulously designed and maintained.

Evolution captures the essence of Jurassic Park while being a good park management sim in its own right.

When your coffers fill up, you can really cut loose with how you build up your parks across each island. A maxed-out park is a sight to behold as thousands of guests wander the attractions. Hotels let you increase your parks' capacity to house more people, while shops and arcades will keep them entertained for when they aren't gathering in one of the many viewing platforms that line the fences keeping your dinosaurs in. When it's all working, it's like watching the components of a well-oiled machine tick over. Though it's similarly fun, albeit sadistic, to watch a full park of guests scramble for the emergency shelter when you trigger the alarms.

If there's one word that could easily describe Jurassic World Evolution, it's "faithful." Taking control of a ranger behind the wheel of a Jeep in the rain and sidling up to a pack of socializing Stegosaurus is as epic as it sounds and is a definite highlight, as is releasing a newly recovered species into your park. Despite the campaign stumbling over itself and losing focus towards the end, Evolution captures the essence of Jurassic Park while being a good park management sim in its own right.

Categories: Games

Total War Makes A Compelling Return To History With Three Kingdoms

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 06/21/2018 - 14:48

After two fantasy-based jaunts into the Warhammer universe, The Creative Assembly has once again turned its eye to history with the latest Total War game. Previous games have let players wage war and live out their realpolitik fantasies in historical periods like medieval Europe, feudal Japan, and the Roman empire. With Three Kingdoms, Total War is taking on a new era, The Han dynasty, as well as a few new gameplay twists.

Now let's be clear: You should not expect a radically different Total War game with Three Kingdoms, which is probably a good thing. The series has remained one of the strategy genre's most popular titles for a reason, with massive battles featuring detailed environments and troops as far as the eye can see, as well as extensive diplomacy and warfare options on a metalevel. Three Kingdoms looks to expand on all those things.

While Creative Assembly wouldn't dish out details on what new diplomatic options players would be getting, they told me it would be an expanded suite compared to previous games, and that those who loved finding a reason to justify their high-end PCs would find plenty of eye candy here. The developer also told me that those with moderate-powered PCs would have enough graphical options to make the game run well.

The biggest gameplay twist that players can expect is when it comes to the MOBA-like hero of generals (all based on historical figures like Lu Bu and Cao Cao) that carries over from Warhammer. Generals have buffs and powers that can turn the tide of battle, but the new wrinkle is that generals can also build relationships with one in another in a social-link mechanic that's reminiscent of both Fire Emblem and even a little bit of Persona.

During battle, your generals' relationships will change as they fight alongside one another. Sometimes they'll become friends and give each other buffs. Other times, their personalities might grind, having negative effects on your army and maybe even culminating in one of those generals leaving your army to join your opponent's army.  This extends to more than just battles, too. Force a general to surrender enough times without executing him, for example, and he may be so impressed by your honor that he joins your army. This system has a lot of potential for adding an engaging level of unpredictability in the campaign, and we can't wait to see more of it in action.

Total War: Three Kingdoms is out next year on PC. You can read our review of the previous game, Warhammer II, here.

 
Categories: Games

Six Changes That Make NHL 19 The Most Promising Hockey Game Of The Generation

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 06/21/2018 - 01:55

After starting the console generation in the hole with a handicapped debut, EA’s NHL series has slowly skated back toward relevancy by rebuilding popular modes like EASHL and introducing new ways to play like NHL Threes. But despite incremental changes, the game has never felt truly next gen. Based on our early impressions with NHL 19’s new skating and physics systems, that time could finally be coming. 

In addition to getting hands-on time with the title, we sat down with longtime producer Sean Ramjagsingh and new creative director William Ho, who most recently worked on the Need for Speed franchise, to talk about the big changes coming to NHL 19 both on and off the ice. Here are the standout changes. 

A Revolutionary New Skating System
For years, we’ve been asking for dramatically improved player handling to give us more fidelity in moving in small spaces, more agility when making turns so it doesn’t feel like you are steering the Titanic, and better puck pickups. EA Canada thinks it can go three for three on these requests thanks to the integration of the Real Player Motion animation technology and significant changes to how players skate. 

Grabbing the controller, it only took a matter of seconds to understand just how dramatically the skating system has improved. Players burst out of their stops, showing the acceleration of world-class athletes. Their edgework, crossovers, and carving looks more in line with NHL players, and it’s much easier to turn, cut, and make hard stops.  Turns are more responsive and natural feeling. "Before it was difficult to just take a step or two over, now you can actually do that," Ho says. That fidelity of movement is going to be necessary, because when elite stick handlers get used to the new skating, they could be even harder to stop. 

You should also notice a wider variety of skating animations from player to player. For the first time in the series, EA motion-capped small, mid-sized, and large players to give them unique movements. 

The wide new variety of animations makes it easier for the players to reach for the puck, kick the puck to their stick, or glove the puck, which hopefully alleviates the myriad frustrations around puck pickups. “We've really dramatically improved in this department," Ho says.

More Realistic Player Collisions
The new skating animation system couples with a new physics engine to add a lot more variety to the types of hits you see across the ice. 

“The new physics engine gives us the ability to tune every single limb on the character, and because you see them in new positions they were never in before, we're seeing tons of new checks,” Ramjagsingh says.
We saw several of these hits in action in our brief time with the game. Some examples include a larger player driving through his target, open ice hits that stop the puck carrier flat, and awkward collisions that take out a players’ arms and legs on the same side. Ramjagsingh says they’ve even seen players helicopter spin when hit right. 

The incidental contact when players are fighting for the puck also looks more realistic based on the brief time we’ve had with the game thus far. 

With physicality returning to a more prominent place in the game, the team is still refining defensive tools like poke checks to make sure they aren’t too overpowered. As the game is currently tuned, if a puck carrier is protecting the puck properly, there is a very low chance of getting poke checked and a higher chance of drawing a penalty.

Introducing The World Of Chel
The EASHL is the NHL franchise’s stickiest mode, so when exploring new ways of capturing the essence of the sport, EA wanted to expand the way players compete against one another. Enter The World of Chel.

This new social hub includes EASHL, Threes pick-up games, plus two new modes. The first is NHL Pro-Am, which allows players who want to play online to hone their skills against A.I. before jumping into real competitions. This mode offers 40 3v3 challenges against the best hockey players past and present. The second is Ones, a new skill-based competition that pits your talents against others in a three-for-all where the player who scores the most goals against an A.I. goalie in a certain amount of time wins.

As you win these 1v1v1 competitions, you earn points that can eventually move you up the competitive tiers. Conversely, if you’re on a losing streak you face the real threat of being relegated back down the ladder. You start playing in a parking lot rink, and can earn your way up to the cove rink, dock rink, and eventually a resort-style rink with massive stands, a festival atmosphere, and live music. These outdoor environments are partially inspired by events like the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships (and feature a unique announcer), but EA took some liberties with the locations. For instance, one is modeled after Lake Louise in Banff National Park, which has the beautiful Canadian Rockies as a backdrop. 

Ones hosts a daily tournament, so whoever ends up in first place gets a special reward in the form of cosmetics. Another player who sees you wearing a Ones reward will know you're a past champion. These matches are quick, so while this mode won’t be a destination experience for me, I could see myself killing time in these games while waiting for my EASHL team to form up. 

Greater Player Customization
No matter which World of Chel mode you play, your created player earns XP and rewards in the form of hockey bags. 

When first creating your player, you can choose your height and weight, which has parameters based on the 12 available player classes that break down according to classic hockey archetypes (sniper, playmaker, grinder, etc). From there, you can pick from dozens of traits to activate in a primary and secondary slot, as well as specializations. The primary trait is more heavily weighted, and the secondary gets about half the weight. The game gives feedback when you are activating a trait via new HUD icons that light up in the lower left-hand corner, so you can understand if the trait fits with your play style. A large number of traits are unlocked right from the start, and the game awards the rest quickly as you level up.

Specializations are more context-based, like getting more energy late in a period or giving your team energy boosts if you get a late goal. 

Since you won’t always be playing the same class in EASHL, NHL 19 allows you to save multiple loadouts so you can develop different roles like stay-at-home defensemen, hitting sniper, etc.

"Ultimately, we want people to have their favorite loadout so that when they're playing with their buddies, they are min-maxing,” Ho says. “They are strategizing as a group in how they are going to go in as a team with everyone playing their role on the team with their different loadouts."

Every time you level up, you earn a hockey bag that includes a random cosmetic item. Given that EA wants to expand into the wider hockey culture, this means you will receive apparel well beyond team jerseys. Yes, there is a lot team-brandedded apparel (for current teams – don’t expect a lot of Whalers and North Stars gear), but you can also earn parkas, hoodies, hats, track pants, cargo pants, breezers, unique skates, and fun sticks like an NHL ’94 themed twig. In all, EA says it has more than 900 customization items in the game, with more to come post-release. 

Given this is EA we’re talking about, you’re probably wondering if these hockey bags are microtransaction focused. "They're not monetized, I'll say that right away,” Ho says. So why is it randomized instead of letting players pick what they want? “We wanted to create a lot of divergence so everyone is getting different rewards so they'll equip different pieces of apparel.  We'll get instant variety on the ice."

You can’t trade items with other players, but at least you won't have to contend duplicates. 

Doubling Down On Legends
We’ve had NHL legends appear in various modes like Hockey Ultimate Team before. But thanks to an agreement with the NHL Alumni Association, EA Canada is bringing enough legends to NHL 19 to fill out several all-time teams. More than 200 legends are featured in this year’s title, including The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky. These legends aren’t all from recent eras, either. The game has Hall of Famers extending back to the days of black and white television, including stars from teams relegated to the dustbin of history like the Hartford Whalers and Minnesota North Stars. 

A New Scouting System
We plan to go into greater detail on this at a later date, but what we can tell you right now is EA has designed its franchise mode scouting system to give players more control on how they scout, which results in more useful information on prospects. The CPU teams also have access to this new system, and should be much more active in draft day trades to make sure they get their most coveted prospects. 

In addition to handling amateur scouts, you will also be managing a team of pro scouts, who will need to be deployed so you understand how other team’s prospects are progressing and whether or not aging players are regressing. These changes should add more interesting management options for players who like to tinker with roster creation. 

NHL 19 is scheduled to release on September 14 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Categories: Games

Watch Leon Stalk The Halls Of The Raccoon City Police Department In New Resident Evil 2 Footage

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 19:35

Resident Evil 2 was revealed during Sony's E3 conference and playable on the show floor. While we got hands on time with the demo, the realities of playing a creeping horror game like Resident Evil 2 around people in a bright room on a convention floor means it's hard to sit back and take the entire game in.

Thankfully, Capcom has released five minutes from the demo containing nothing but the game audio as Leon finds his way in and through the Raccoon City Police Department. You can check out the five minute video below.

Resident Evil 2 releases on January 25 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:48

Pokémon Quest was announced a few weeks ago at The Pokémon Company's unveiling of Pokémon Let's Go: Pikachu & Eevee and came out just after the unveiling. At the time, the game was announced for both Switch and mobile platforms, but only Switch has been released so far. That might not be the case for too much longer, according to IGN.

The Japanese Pokémon Twitter account tweeted today that pre-registration for the mobile version begins soon. The Switch version has also been downloaded 2.5 million times so far. IGN discovered an app store listing that says the iOS version of the game, and presumably the Android version as well, will release on June 28.

You can find our review of Pokémon Quest right here, which takes a thorough look at the Switch version of the game.

[Source: IGN]

Categories: Games

Mario Tennis Aces Review In Progress: Aim High

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 13:00

When the credits rolled on Mario Tennis Aces' Adventure Mode, I vowed to never again laugh at a tennis player having an ugly meltdown on the court. I had felt the volcanic surge of adrenaline that comes when a rally has gone too long. I knew the sense of high alert while trying to suss out which corner of the court an opponent is going to attack next. I have spliced and invented new curse words to mutter when a ball goes out of bounds. Off-beat stages and creative use of characters from the Marioverse ensure that you'll never lose sight of simply having fun, but don't let the adorable exterior trick you; Aces takes its unorthodox tennis very seriously.

Mario Tennis' renewed vigor is driven by a suite of new mechanics that force you to make pivotal risk-reward decisions. Special shots are now tied to a meter that fills a little with every shot fired back at your opponent, more so if you're able to charge your swing ahead of time. Once the Energy Meter is at least a third full, a ball landing on your side of the court will be forecast by a glowing star. Initiating a special swing while standing on a star activates a first-person view that lets you aim a powerful Zone Shot.

When the Energy Meter is completely full, you can unleash your character's Special Shot. While Specials don't unleash the cavalcade of effects they did in Wii U's Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, they do fire a lightning-fast ball that requires exacting maneuvers to return without incurring any harm to your racket--destroy your collection of rackets during a match, and you lose.

Holding the R button slows down time at the cost of meter, allowing you to stroll over and hit hard-to-reach shots or gain a slight advantage when returning racket-breaking shots. Alternatively, a Trick Shot can be activated by tilting the right stick, which causes you to leap across the court at the last second . You can get away with basic shots during simple face-offs, but in advanced matches the exchange of powered-up strikes feels like a breathless symphony that requires you to be at the top of your game and on top of your options.

Even veterans of the series have a little bit of a learning curve to overcome, but Aces' Adventure Mode does a good job of both entertaining you and teaching you how and when to use your new tools. The story itself is ridiculous, but ridiculous in that very specific, quirky way Nintendo has been getting away with for decades. During the Mushroom Kingdom's annual tennis tournament, an evil tennis racket--yes, really--named Lucien takes possession of Luigi and flies off to find five Power Stones that will help him take over the world.

Instead of settling for a revolving door of opponents along the way, you're challenged to utilize Ace's new mechanics in a range of unusual scenarios. An average stage might simply challenge you to keep a rally going for a certain length of time, but bosses and puzzle stages require a greater level of ingenuity. You have to figure out how to disable protective barriers, earning enough energy to perform a Zone Shot, and aim at the right part of the court to inflict damage. Bosses also initiate hurdling challenges mid-match that reward precise use of your leaping Trick Shot. Adventure Mode mixes up your objectives from one stage to the next to ensure you're never simply going through the motions to progress.

Mario Tennis Aces does what this series has done best, and improves what it's rarely gotten right prior.

Aces is more difficult and devious than you might expect, especially in the latter half of Adventure Mode. Though not required, grinding through matches can improve your chances on the court. Win or lose, you earn experience points for every match played, allowing you to improve Mario's speed, power, and agility over time. But no matter how much XP you earn, the only way to make it to the end of Aces' campaign is to master its unique tennis mechanics. Those who persevere will find themselves better equipped and prepared to face anything the other modes have to offer than ever before.

Outside of Adventure Mode, you'll find a rather plain assortment of activities: a bracket-based tournament mode, exhibition matches against the computer or another friend, online modes, and the ability to play doubles matches, which can turn into downright anarchy before you know it. Online matches will be the true test of Aces' depth, but pre-launch servers being what they are, we still need to spend time playing once the game releases to form a solid opinion of its netcode and the competitive scene.

Perhaps the one major and surprising misstep is Swing Mode, where players can swing Joy-Cons like proper tennis rackets, similar to Wii Sports Tennis. At first it seems odd that this control scheme is isolated to a specific mode, but within a minute or two, it's obvious why: playing with Joy-Cons feels too imprecise, and even just executing a simple backhand was a twitchy comedy of errors. It's too bad that the motion controls seem to fall apart so easily, but considering that, it's probably best the option is siloed away.

It's not like Aces needs a gimmick like motion controls to win you over, anyway. The Tetris Effect is in full swing here; days after the credits rolled, I still crave the satisfying thwack from a Power Shot, mentally replay matches and imagine how I might do things differently given a bit more focus and know-how. Mario Tennis Aces does what this series has done best, and improves what it's rarely gotten right prior. Fingers crossed that the online support stands up to the rest of the game after launch.

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Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:48

Sega has announced that the anticipated sequel to the Valkyria Chronicles series will be arriving on a multitude of platforms on September 25.

The title is the first new Valkyria game to hit western shores since Valkyria Chronicles II on PSP in 2010. The third game in the series never arrived in America and Sega had more or less shut down the series until Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, a HD update of the original PlayStation 3 game, beat expectations on PC and PlayStation 4. 

We recently got hands-on with Valkyria Chronicles 4 and our impressions of the game were fairly glowing. Check out our latest preview here.

Categories: Games

Unravel 2 Review: Partners In Twine

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 17:00

With its warm, rustic setting, and an instantly endearing protagonist, the first Unravel had the outward appearance of a happily nostalgic adventure. That initial fuzzy feeling, however, gave way to a series of frustrating puzzles and a story that took some unexpectedly dark turns. In the game's final hours, the poor little hero Yarny was left all alone in a hostile world. What a relief it is to see him in a better place in Unravel Two, the sequel that's notably comforting thanks to the introduction of a second yarnling. Once they meet, Yarny and his new friend immediately hit it off and set out on a new adventure.

Similar to the original game, Unravel Two has ethereal slice-of-life scenes that play out in the background of each stage. This time, the literal background story involves two youths making the drastic decision to run away from their hyper-religious families. Yarny and his new partner make their own journey through the small town they live in, inadvertently helping the kids along the way with each new platforming challenge they surmount. Despite trips to more urban settings, the design philosophy and earthy aesthetic that made the first game such a visual treat haven't been abandoned. Aside from some mild industrial chaos--traipsing around construction sites, messing with the ventilation systems in a factory, and the like--much of what you experience is delightfully serene.

Once again, we witness the world from Yarny's tiny perspective. You run through misty city streets at night under haloed streetlights. You push toy trucks around backyards on sunny days before riding off into the blue yonder on the back of a swan. You jump across rooftops at midnight, a skeleton city of antennas and vents where only the pigeons are awake. One of the most beautiful areas of the game has Yarny making his way along a stream of rushing water in a creek, letting the tide build up the momentum you need to get a full head of speed up for a jump. There's still such a sense of awe to how tangible and real Yarny's world is, but it never feels like a place where Yarny is in peril. Though it takes place in more challenging environments, it's a world where what little danger there is feels magical, and Yarny has never been able to move through it in as invigorating a way as he can with a partner in Unravel Two.

The swing mechanic--where Yarny can latch yarn onto a grapple point and either rappel up and down or swing to launch himself onto a higher point--has returned, but with a newfound kineticism. Many stages push you to swing across multiple wide chasms and tight gaps in quick succession, and soaring and flipping through these trials is always a thrill.

There will come times when you have to stop and figure out a way past complicated obstacles, and this is where Unravel Two's co-op nature shines. Obviously, the ideal way to manage two characters is to have a friend sitting next to you on the couch, controlling Yarny's new ally while you plot solutions. But even a single player can make use of both characters, switching back and forth between the two onscreen with the push of a button. When playing solo, the character you leave behind will continue to hold onto whatever they were holding, meaning you can always place your partner wherever you need them. You can even carry your partner through danger by absorbing them into your own yarn body--mildly disturbing but helpful nonetheless.

With its charming yarnlings and a newfound style of platforming, Unravel Two remains welcoming even at its most foreboding.

With the two Yarnys tethered together, most puzzles are resolved by forming makeshift pulleys that allow you to create opportunities the environment wouldn't normally afford a single Yarny. Puzzles are typically open-ended and can be solved in a handful of ways. The only real barrier, besides pure logic, can be the game's control scheme. The same button used to jump is used to extend the tether between the two Yarnys, and it's fairly easy to accidentally send your partner plummeting to their doom. Unravel Two is undoubtedly a more welcoming and accessible game than its predecessor, but there are still demanding trials for those who want them, especially with around two dozen extra-challenging stages that are available.

With its charming yarnlings and a newfound style of platforming, Unravel Two remains welcoming even at its most foreboding. Sure, a forest fire breaks out in one of the latter stages, but even then, the race to keep ahead of the blaze is fun and frantic instead of stressful. In almost every moment you're given ample time and space to breathe and take in the stunning photorealistic world from the viewpoint of the tiniest creatures. It's a game with boisterous birds, chases through meadows, and most importantly a cheerful partnership with a companion who's always got your back. With only six chapters that run roughly 30 minutes apiece, Unravel Two doesn't last long, but it's a game where the time you have is meaningful, memorable, and downright pleasant from beginning to end.

Categories: Games

Breaking Down The Improvements Coming To NBA Live 19

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 20:55

After nearly a decade of struggling to field a competitive basketball game, last year EA Sports finally put some proper pieces into place that signal a better future for the NBA Live franchise. NBA Live 19 looks to continue the upward trajectory with some needed changes to the on-court action and some interesting additions to The One mode. Here's everything we learned from playing a couple games and chatting with creative director Connor Dougan. 

GAMEPLAY
  • NBA Live 19 introduces the Real Player Motion technology recently seen in EA Sports titles like FIFA 18 and UFC 3, which EA Tiburon believes has resulted in more realistic player animations. "When you compared us to 2K in the past it just wouldn't feel as smooth; we had this kind of stiffness," Dougan says. "With Real Player Motion and changing our player skeleton and models, we feel we have a nice jump in animation quality."
  • Some of the new animations I saw in gameplay included new contested dunks, players fighting through screens during pick and rolls, and way more physicality off the ball.
  • The new animation system comes hand-in-hand with reworked dribbling. Expect to see many more signature animations like LeBron James puffing out his chest and James Harden coming up the court with more relaxed body language and his standard crossovers. You can also pull off basic moves by flicking the left analog stick; you no longer always need to use the right analog stick, but if you do expect to find more moves for star players than before.
  • EA also did a lot of "live environment" work to make the players better interact with the world around them. Expect to see players crashing into the stanchion, diving into the crowd, taunting one another, and even exchanging pleasantries with the opposing team's bench along the sidelines. 
  • Overhauled triple-threat controls integrate new jab steps and a new pump fake system. 
  • Building off last year's one-on-one gameplay, EA is bringing the cat and mouse game to off-ball interactions as well, which should hopefully make playing in space more engaging. You use the left trigger to engage in off-ball defense, which tries to slow down your mark. The offensive player has counters like V-cuts and L-cuts to break off your defending. 
  • The reworked shooting system now includes varied jump heights and release points for different players, which should make it feel more authentic. 
  • Last year's CPU A.I. had problems feeding star players. EA says this year's dynamic gameplay A.I. does a better job of recognizing when a star is heading up and will continue to feed a hot hand. Stars will strong personalities will start to talk trash when firing on all cylinders. 
  • You can now switch to take control of an off-ball player in versus by holding the RB and flicking the analog stick toward the player you want to control. 
  • You can triple-tap the steal button to perform a hard foul when you need to stop the clock.
  • The transition game also gets a jump in CPU A.I. Expect to see players on the break cut to the hoop stronger and the trailing wing players space out for open threes.
  • If you own a player by continually scoring on them or breaking their ankle, you can affect their mentality. When a player is adversely affected, their ratings take a hit. 
  • To mix up replays, NBA Live 19 introduces cell phone cutaway highlights, where the perspective shifts to a person in the crowd capturing the play of note.
  THE ONE
  • Last year, you played as a former blue-chip college prospect trying to overcome a horrific injury. This year you start earlier in the journey as a hot high school prospect. Rather than go to college, you try to build your rep on the street courts. 
  • Eventually if you earn enough prestige, you get invited to a pre-draft camp where you can prove your mettle by playing in a few prospect games. 
  • During your rise to stardom, influencers and broadcasters will show off your highlights. 
  • The dialogue system returns from last year, but it leans more heavily toward meaningful choices this time. 
  • Expect to see more hairstyles, tattoos, and clothing options this year. 
  • Cosmetics are no longer locked behind loot crates. You can buy what you want when you want. 
  • The progression system is similar to last year, but adds a new wrinkle with the icon abilities. These abilities give you branching choices that let you to have more say over what type of specialist you are. Say you choose shot blocking as your icon ability. Eventually, you may be presented with a choice. For instance, do you want a higher percentage of success for each shot block, or extend the radius where your shot block is effective?
  • EA has added several new traits to the progression as well. 
  • EA realizes there were too many ball hogs in online team play last year, so it reworked the grading system to give players more points for teamplay and less for being selfish. If you take a bad shot, you will get hit with a -10. Doing it again knocks you another 20 points, and it continues to scale the punishment so people have way less incentive to try to shoot out of slumps. 
SQUAD
  • Last year in The One's  Street mode you went to different venues to play with random collections of players. This year you can custom build your squad by earning players as you rack up Ws. As you beat different teams, you can add star players to your lineup that can be swapped out as you see fit. 
  • The players you start with are largely scrubs and low-level NBA benchwarmers, but you can eventually earn stars and even NBA legends. 
  • Your streetball endeavors take you to new courts around the world, including France, Brazil, and the Phillippines. Expect a few new North American courts as well. 
  • Many of the live events in NBA Live 19 will be centered on earning new squad players who are only available for a limited time. 

We still have a lot to learn about how EA Tiburon plans to improve the Ultimate Team and Franchise Mode experieince of NBA Live 19. Stay tuned in the coming months as we dive deeper into the title. 

The free NBA Live 19 demo releases on August 24 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The First Trial starts on September 3 on Xbox One, and final release drops for both consoles on September 7. 

Categories: Games

Blowing Bubbles And Bashing Heads In Ninjala

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 03:02

The E3 Nintendo Direct presentation largely focused on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but it scattered in a few surprises along the way. One such surprise was Ninjala, a new family-friendly ninja game where characters compete in battles involving bubble gum and inflatable weapons. I went hands on with the colorful title and spoke with GungHo CEO Kazuki Morishita about the new title.

Ninjala gives Splatoon vibes from the very first glance. The colorful, young characters with stylish clothes and bright hair look as though they could be a part of the same universe as Nintendo’s inklings. However, despite the team’s affection for Splatoon, they wanted to make a brawler instead of a shooter.

Before you can jump into 8-player action and beat up your opponents, you must inflate your weapon. You do this by blowing a massive bubble using bubblegum and funneling that air into the weapon. Depending on which gum you choose, you get a different weapon. Weapons range from baseball bats and clubs to yo-yos. The bigger the bubble you blow, the bigger the weapon is.

Large weapons are slow, but powerful, while short weapons can be made quickly and swung fast. In addition, you can use the bubble as a projectile to stick enemies to the ground temporarily or hold it in your mouth to run up walls. If you get the drop on an enemy and charge up your swing, you can unleash a massive hit and score an Ippon – a one-hit K.O. If you don’t want to challenge other players, you can earn points by defeating drones. However, you don’t earn nearly as many points for destroying these harmless robots.

Battles are frantic and fun. Whether you’re running up a wall to avoid a massive bubble heading your way or whacking an opponent over the head with an inflatable club, Ninjala overflows with goofy action and absurd moments.

GungHo recently released the ultraviolent collaboration with Grasshopper Manufacture, Let It Die. Now, the studio is going in a different direction. Rather than focusing on the hyperviolence, blood, and gore of Let It Die, Ninjala is a cute game about young ninjas fighting each other with unimposing weapons.

“When I made Let it Die, I had a different environment, and what I felt at the time was different than when I was making this,” Morishita says. “When I was making Puzzle & Dragons, I was making a kind of peaceful puzzle game, but then I got under a lot of stress and that’s where Let It Die came from. [Laughs] Then, after that, I came back with Ninjala. So I feel good right now. [Laughs].”

Currently, GungHo is working on maps loosely based on real cities and regions around the world. I played in the New York map, but so far, the team can confirm Japan, Europe, and Egypt as regions players will visit. GungHo is also planning additional support through post-release updates, but Morishita won’t elaborate on the team’s plans.

In addition to team battle and free-for-all multiplayer modes, Ninjala features a single-player mode. Though no details are available for this mode currently, if it’s anything like the single-player modes in Splatoon, I’m looking forward to it.

Oozing with personality and attitude, Ninjala is a fun, accessible multiplayer brawler that seems like a perfect fit for Switch’s audience. NInjala launches in 2019 exclusively on Switch.

Categories: Games

Team Sonic Racing Delivers Kart Racing With A Squad-Based Twist

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 17:37

Developer Sumo Digital landed a hit with its 2012 kart-racing game Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Now, the developer is partnering with Sonic Team, stripping away the non-Sonic characters, and adding a new layer of team-based strategy for Team Sonic Racing.

In this new kart-racing title from Sega, the developers are focusing entirely on the Sonic universe, which means no Aiai or Ryo Hazuki this time around (sorry, fellow Shenmue fans). Instead, players get a roster of 15 Sonic characters. In the build I played, I could choose between Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, Shadow, Rouge, and E-123 Omega. Each character fits into one of three classes: speed, technique, or power. Once you choose a character, you're placed in a team of three based on the character's alliances; Sonic was always placed with Tails and Knuckles, while Rouge raced alongside Shadow and Omega.

When the race begins, it plays out much like a standard kart racer. Characters drift around corners, acquire consumable items, and avoid zany obstacles in the push to be first. In addition to the tried-and-true formula, players can help their teammates; you can gift items, request items, and slingshot around teammates by following their path. The game will also include a solo mode that removes the team-based mechanics, but outside of an occasional pure kart-racing foray, I don't foresee myself playing that mode much.

At the end of the race, it assigns points for your team based on where each member finished. This means you must help your team in order to actually win. In one of my races, my team finished third, fourth, and fifth, but because we were the most consistent team, we came in first in the race. In another race, I finished first, but my teammates were in the middle of the pack, so we came in second overall. I like that twist of having to keep an eye on your standing in the race, as well as your teammates.

 

When the game ships, it will feature stages that are both brand new to the Sonic universe, as well as familiar levels. While the developers wouldn't spill any additional details, Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka tells me that some stages will feature recognizable songs from Sonic's past, and that Jun Senoue is composing the game. In addition, Senoue's fan-favorite band, Crush 40, performs the main theme.

Team Sonic Racing may not have the fancy transformations or characters outside of the Sonic universe, but it makes up for it with thoughtful team-based mechanics that add new twists to the formula. Sonic Team Racing is set to launch this winter on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

Categories: Games

Metro Exodus Is Content Complete, Giving 4A Games Eight Months To Polish

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 19:38

The Metro Exodus E3 2018 demo was based on the same content we saw back in February for the March cover story, giving the world its first chance to see the boundary-pushing graphics, unforgiving gameplay, and ambitious transition from the linear focused Metro underground to the harsh, more open Russian countryside that convinced us to put the game on the cover of Game Informer. Running at 4K on the Xbox One X console, the game's beauty won over many. But the demo wasn't without its share of gameplay hiccups.

The shooting felt good, and all of the game's systems were online, but we noticed a few rough spots as well. Collision issues made moving across the countryside more burdensome than it should be, framerate drops disrupted the gameplay, and the rowboat Artyom uses to explore the Volga River region outside Moscow was tough to steer. When we brought these issues up to executive producer Jon Bloch, he said the team is keenly aware of the current build's shortcomings and the team has more than enough time to hone the experience. 

"We've never shown Metro on a console this early before, and we felt like it was appropriate for showing off this content on Xbox One X in 4K – it's already there," Bloch says. "Yes, we have some polish to go, and yes, there's still some performance stuff to nail, but it's already in good shape, so trust us when we say this extra time really is focused on polish. We're not still making the game at this point, we're smoothing it out."

Since the game is content complete and feature complete, the 4A Games to-do list in the lead-up to Metro Exodus' February launch includes raising all the levels up to the quality bar the team has set, smoothing out environmental collision both on foot and in vehicles, plugging narrative gaps they noticed once they strung the levels together, and fine-tuning performance.

Given 4A Game's strong track record, we're inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that the game will be running smoothly by deadline. Metro Exodus is scheduled to launch alongside a surprisingly strong lineup (Anthem, Days Gone) on February 22 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. 

Categories: Games

Lego DC Super-Villains Shows A Renewed Focus For TT Games

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 19:20

TT Games has been steadily releasing Lego titles for more than a decade now, bringing notable franchises like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Marvel and DC comics to life in charming, family friendly games. While the frequency of releases has been reliable, its quality has occasionally slipped. If you were frustrated with the state of Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 at launch, you’re not alone, either. TT Games has been examining how to revitalize its games moving forward, starting with the upcoming Lego DC Super-Villains. I played the E3 demo and chatted with Arthur Parsons, head of design at TT Games, about what the studio is doing to make the best possible game – for both returning players and newcomers. 

There’s a lot to unpack with this game, so I’ll focus on the big things first. Lego DC Super-Villains is the first time that players will get to play through a campaign centered around the best part of most stories: the bad guys. “Everyone loves playing as Vader or Voldemort, or whoever the bad guys are,” Parsons says.” And because of the wealth of source material here, TT Games had a lot to work with. “DC’s villains, I think they out of every IP we’ve ever touched, they’ve got the best roster of villains. By a long way.”

Players have been able to play as the baddies in free play in the DC games, with one exception. “In Lego Batman 1 we had villain levels, but you had to complete the whole hero bit first,” Parsons says. “They were actually the most fun bit of Lego Batman 1, but we’ve not been there since. When it came time to do another DC game, villains was the obvious choice. It effectively feels like a new IP.”

While you’ll interact with bad guys like Lex Luther, Joker, and Harley Quinn, there’s also another major player in town: you. “For the first time ever, the customizer is important to the game,” Parsons says. “Normally it’s an afterthought; it’s just something for free play. This time around, the first thing you do is create your own villain who joins with the Legion of Doom. But the villain that you create is actually important in the story, and you can upgrade them along the way, so they have the ability to absorb energy, so you get new powers and new abilities, and it’s a character who weaves in and out of the story all the way right through the end.”
If you don’t care all that much about your character, you can pick from a variety of presets or have the game come up with a random selection. Lego veterans know the depth that players have with their created characters, and it’s fully on display here. You have a wide array of options at your disposal, from decals, body parts, and weapons, right down to your villain’s backstory. Your character has an absorption ability, so he or she can acquire new powers throughout the campaign. When it’s over, it’s possible to end up with an overpowered jack-of-all-trades style villain, who can deftly handle gold and silver blocks, laser-cutting puzzles, and anything else that gets in the way – similar to how the unlockable Stan Lee character acts in the Lego Marvel titles.

The demo is a silly escape from Stryker’s Island, where Lex Luther and Mercy help my created character out of the prison. As we move from one brick-bashing location to the next, I also get to play as Solomon Grundy, Cheetah, Joker, and Harley. There isn’t anything particularly mind-blowing about any of it, but it does highlight some of the refinements that TT Games has made – refinements that are a long time coming. For example, when you encounter a situation that requires a specific character’s ability, control will automatically leap to that villain.

 

“We’ve put a lot of attention on accessibility with this game,” Parsons explains. “We don’t want kids to get roadblocked, we don’t want anyone getting frustrated not knowing what to do.” In one area, I climb to the top of an area with wall jumps. Once I get to the top, Cheetah jumps away from the opening to prevent her from accidentally falling back down. “I know that’s not much of a touch, but all those little things, people just get through the content nice and easy and they don’t get roadblocked,” Parsons says. 

Parsons says that his team went back to the studio’s earlier games as an exercise, and played through them again. It ended up providing them with some great internal feedback, including the realization that it’s quite easy to get stuck on the first levels of their games. “We can’t allow that to happen. I know when I play games, and you get to a point where you get frustrated or there are roadblocks, you put the controller down, and sometimes you won’t come back. That’s just unacceptable. We create all this content, and we spend a lot of time creating it, and we want everyone to be able to get through it.”

Technical issues have been a problem for the Lego games, too, and those have been given special attention. Sometimes, the solution comes from avoiding problem areas altogether. I build a drivable gadget with Joker, and after I place the final brick, the character automatically moves a little bit away from the creation. “You know far too well that some games in the past once you build something, sometimes you get embedded in it or wedged into things,” Parsons says, “Little things like that help stop these little niggly bugs and irritants that are going to come through.”

One such irritant is the platforming. It’s never felt great in the games, and characters have a tendency to fall during lengthy jumping sections. Parsons says it’s being addressed with DC Super-Villains. “People won’t notice, but there will be slight magnetism, so if you’re doing a jump and you kind of drift, we’ll sort of auto drift you back, but you won’t notice it. In terms of refinements from say, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 to this one, there will be several thousand, but people won’t necessarily notice them because they’re all little tiny bits here, there, and everywhere. It’s that constant evolution. We do try to get better and better at what we do.” 

Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 ended up being a bit of a wake-up call for TT Games. As I mentioned in my review, it was loaded with technical issues that made it difficult to play. “Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 in my mind is a great game, but there were a few bugs and glitches when it came out,” Parsons says. “They’re all fixed in a patch now, but the problem is they shouldn’t be there in the first place.” He says his team is working to do everything they can to make sure this game ships bug-free. “ The way we’ve had to do that is actually lengthen our debug phase. It’s more than double for this than if we were doing a normal dev cycle. The results of this should be that when people get it in their hands it’s slick and it’s clean.”

We won’t know until the game’s October 16 release date if they’re successful, but what I played was rock solid. I appreciate the little quality-of-life touches , such as automatically switching characters during some sections in single player. After years of playing the games, I’ve gotten used to some of the peculiarities. But as Parsons says, his audience is constantly changing. “As kids graduate up and start playing Fortnite, there’s a whole new package of kids that come and are going to play it. Despite all the Lego games we’ve made, this could be someone’s very first Lego game.”

Hopefully, the little touches and improvements will make life much easier and more fun for those new players. Me, I’m just eager to hang with Joker and his friends.

Categories: Games

Crytek Outlines New Weapons, Monsters, And Map Coming To Hunt: Showdown

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 18:25

Hunt: Showdown was one of the most promising titles of last year's E3, and in the year since our first look at the reworked competitive survival horror shooter from Crytek, the studio has slowly been refining the technology driving the game in Steam Early Access. The logistical work has paid off, and the game has mostly very positive user reviews since the last big patch (bringing the total user review rating up to the mostly positive category).

Now that the developer feels more comfortable with the game's performance, the team is starting to further expand the content for the game. We sat down with Crytek at E3 to hear about its plans.

New Weaponry

Hunters can look forward to wielding several new weapons in the near future. In the early moments of each round, most hunters equip their melee weapons to move silently and avoid detection. Crytek plans to expand the melee options to include a throwable tomahawk ax and throwing knives, both of which are retrievable. 

Two new types of grenades are also being introduced. The Hive Bomb unleashes a torrent of wasps on enemies in the vicinity, and the Sticky Bomb sticks to its target before detonating. 

Crytek also plans to add two new crossbows. The vintage version is a classic two-handed weapon, and can be modified with explosive arrows that pack a serious punch. The hand crossbow is a faster loading one-handed model. 

New Enemy

The water is typically one of the safest places in the Hunt map, which seems counterintuitive given this is the land of gators. Rather than add scaly reptiles to the mix, Crytek is introducing the Water Devil. This worm-like monster will have you watching for unexpected ripples in the water. Once it starts heading your way, you better get moving or expect to be overwhelmed by the swarm of tentacles.

New Time Of Day

The night and day versions of maps give the map a very different feel, but soon you may be subjected to a third option – fog. A popular fan request, adding fog to the map diminishes the sightlines significantly, forcing you to move more cautiously unless you want to accidentally run into a pack of enemies or, even worse, and a more careful party of hunters than your own.

New Map

Crytek wouldn't tell us much about the new map, except to say that it's still set in the Louisiana bayou. 

Other changes coming in the next several months include death screens that show you who shot you, spectator mode for after you die but want to watch the rest of the map, and player looting that allows you to take ammo and consumables.

To learn more about Crytek's list of planned changes for Hunt: Showdown, you can check out the full roadmap on its website.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 18:12

Gamers have had a glut of interesting cooperative shooters to play in the last few years, with standouts like Destiny, Ghost Recon Wildlands, and The Division keeping squads together through various universes. But one curious absence in the current cooperative landscape is a survival-horror experience that riffs on the tension and teamplay sensibilities of the cult favorite Left 4 Dead franchise. A small team of former Payday developers at 10 Chambers Collective hopes to tap into that neglected theme with GTFO. 

This universe isn't another me-too zombie game sending waves of brain-eaters at your squad. Instead, players assume the role of prisoners sent into the depths of a mysterious underground complex against their will to retrieve curious items of interest for their warden. Finding the objects is easy enough; making it out alive is the tricky part, as the halls are roamed by deadly monstrosities that look like grotesque evolutions of The Last of Us' clickers.

Before dropping into the darkened halls for a hands-on session I had a chance to check out the arsenal available to players. Each prisoner can carry two guns, a melee weapon, and a special tool like a motion sensor, area scanner that can tag enemies behind walls, sentry turret,  and a glue gun that can be used to slow the advancing horde of creatures. Picking the right combination of tools can be key to making it back alive.

When we drop into the complex, its halls are eerily quiet. A squad member scans each door before we open it expecting to find a pack of enemies waiting for us, but four doors in we haven't seen a thing. The tension hanging heavily in the air continues to build with each empty chamber, but eventually the scanner lights up with activity. We move carefully so not to disturb the enemies, and they stand quietly, waiting to spring into action at the command of the scout. These creatures extend visible tendrils into the atmosphere hoping to pick up movement. Once they sense someone is there they let out a shrill cry to spring the other enemies into action. Moving around these tendrils can be dangerous, but we arm our melee weapons and successfully take this small forward group out stealthily to avoid a bigger firefight.

 

Moving further into the complex, we come across a command console near a locked door. These computers look like they are running DOS, and players can even type commands into the prompt. Since we need the key to the door, we query its location into the console and it gives us a new objective marker to pursue. 10 Chambers doesn't want to hold players' hands in these circumstances, and instead wants the teams to problem-solve solutions. Players also have to work together to figure out how to open locked supply crates.

Going further into the complex, things finally get hairy. Once alerted, the enemies come fast and furiously, forcing players to stay in constant communication and never stray too far from one other. Friendly fire compounds the issue, as a few wayward bullets can do the creature's job for them. These frantic battles create great circumstances for heroic moments, like the last person standing trying frantically to survive the wave so they can revive their fallen comrades. Failing to do so would kick you back to the start of the mission, though longer challenges will feature some checkpoints with the caveat that they only save during the duration of that play session. If you shut down for the day, you'll have to start from scratch next time. 

Unlike Payday, which sent unrelenting waves at you the moment you get noticed, GTFO is a much more rhythmic experience, shifting from quiet moments of stealth and resource gathering to the more deadly enemy onslaughts. Giving players a breather is a welcome evolution, as supplies can be scarce and making sure everyone has at least a few clips and access to a med kit is crucial before engaging the next encounter.

Once we find the keycard, the real firefight begins. We head back to the Apex door that has the object of interest behind its walls, and insert the key. This starts a bioscan, where all four players must stand in a highlighted circle to get the door to unlock. Apex doors make you go through multiple bioscans before opening, during which waves of enemies continue to rush toward your position.

Preparing for these battles is crucial; we make sure to cover the floor in front of us with glue to slow their approach and position the sentry so it covers two hallways. Our original plan was sound, but in moving from the second to the third bioscan we forget to move the sentry to a forward position. When the horrors descend on our position, the sentry picks up the movement and starts firing. This proves to be a problem considering we are standing in between the monsters and the turret. Friendly fire – 1, squad – 0. Thus ends our run in the underground; another team of prisoners will have to complete the job. 

GTFO pulls no punches. The missions can be unapologetically hard, demanding constant communication between squad mates if you want to make it to the extraction point. The missions are tiered so players must complete three jobs before they get to one that provides a loot drop. 10 Chamber Collective founder Ulf Andersson says they want to slow the reward drip so each time you get an item it feels more meaningful. Some missions could take upwards of six hours to complete, but the studio also plans to offer more breezy "lunch" missions as well. 

The gameplay felt tight, and the studio is aiming for 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. Given those parameters, you may be surprised to learn it's running on the Unity engine, a popular mobile platform that is making strides into the PC and console platforms. 

10 Chambers Collective hopes to have a beta out on PC by the end of the year, but won't release it until they feel it's ready. I only experienced a brief slice of gameplay, but the emphasis on teamwork and suffocating tension make this one worth watching. 

Categories: Games

Why Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Isn't A Souls Game

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 16:59

Sekiro is a major departure from what has been seen in From Software's Souls series, and mastermind Hidetaka Miyazaki's next game is not just Bloodborne or Dark Souls set in feudal Japan. There are a number of reasons why this is the case, and you can expect to find something different compared to previous titles using the Souls formula. Lets take a look at 10 things we noticed about Sekiro that separate it from the other Souls games and how these changes could help Shadows Die Twice entice new players and old fans alike. 

The info was assembled from a variety of interviews and hands-off demos from around the industry during E3, including Polygon, Digital Trends, Gamesradar, and PCgamer.

1. A Jump Button:
None of the games in the Souls series feature a jump button, and the only way a player can go airborne is to sprint and leap together. It is unwieldy, imprecise, and frustrating, and the world is not designed with verticality in mind outside of ladders and elevators. The rare "platforming sections" in the Souls games are the weakest parts of the series. Sekiro has a dedicated jump, which is used to traverse the world, dodge enemy attacks, and explore the more varied level design.

2. A Grapple:
Sekiro features a grapple mechanic that is used to pull yourself quickly and closer to enemies for attacks, and to have more freedom to explore the world. The grapple, mixed with the ability to jump, makes the act of traversing feudal Japan in Sekiro different from anything you experience in a Souls game.

3. Stealth Mechanics:
The closest you get to stealth in a Souls game is slowly trudging up behind an enemy and getting a backstab in. Sekiro has dedicated stealth mechanics, such as crouching in tall grass, silent kills from hidden areas or rooftops, and sidling up against walls for cover. Players can slowly take out weaker enemies one-by-one before engaging larger, tougher enemies in combat. 

4. No Stats Or Classes:
In Sekiro you are a set character, and have no stats to manipulate or classes to pick from. The game is designed around being a Shinobi in feudal Japan, and From Software has designed the world and weapons to fit that character. With stealth, traversal and swordplay all major parts of the game, focusing on being a ninja is the only option in Sekiro. From Software has stated there may be some replacement for stats but it won't be anything like what has been previously seen in their Souls games. 

5. No Other Weapons, Only The 'Shinobi Prosthetic':
While Players have access to a number of options and gadgets, the only main weapon at this time is the katana mixed with your prosthetic limb. The focus is on perfecting your skill with the sword and utilizing gadgets to buff your blade or change up your playstyle. The limb offers a number of options, such as a limited block ability, an axe that can break enemy defenses, or firecrackers to stun your opponents. The gadgets can be mixed with your weapon, like using the firecrackers to light the katana on fire. The prosthetic arm used to activate them looks like the closest analogue to trick weapons in Bloodborne.

6. No Armor:
A new departure will be that no extra armor can be found, in line with the theme of being a ninja and cutting out the RPG elements.  From Software has already stated that Sekiro is not a role-playing game and insinuated that the only form of upgrading will be involved with the gadgets. The major reason to explore is to find new options for your prosthetic. 

7. Emphasis On Story:
While Sekiro won't be the next Mass Effect, it has a greater focus on story compared to the Souls games, starting with the fact that you play as a fixed character. Players don't customize their identity or choose a class. You only play as a Shinobi, Sekiro, or "The One-Armed Wolf." Characters have more of a focus, and their relationships evolve over the course of the game. Despite this, Sekiro will probably have telltale elements From Software's world-building and cryptic storytelling. Miyazaki told Polygon in an interview “It’s not going to be a thickly story-driven affair, but we think it’ll be a nice change of pace from what you’ve seen so far.”

8. Resurrection
The title of the game Shadows Die Twice is not just a cool subtitle; it is intrinsic to a major change from previous games by From Software. You can use death to your advantage and choose when to resurrect your character. An enemy can kill you but you have the ability to wait for them to let their guard down, come back to life, and take advantage with a surprise attack. The ability has consequences and is limited, but changes the death-mechanic that has been the staple of the Souls series.

9. Posture 
The major stat in Sekiro is posture, and much like stamina you have a meter representing it. Your enemies also share that same weakness, and parrying their attacks lowers it, allowing you to take advantage with a powerful and brutal attack. Depending on the opponent, whether it be a larger enemy or a boss, it can either instantly kill them or do a significant amount of damage. You have to focus on dodging attacks with your jump, timing your blocks to cause a parry, and striking when you have the advantage. These acts lower your enemies posture and open them up for a devastating attack. If you focus too much on blocking, or receive damage, it lowers your posture, and the enemy can finish you off as well. A kanji appears that represents what sort of attack is incoming, giving you a chance to know whether it can be blocked, parried, or must be avoided altogether. It doesn't make it any easier though, as you still have to learn attack animations to know where and when to dodge, or to parry their attack when possible. 

10. No More Bonfires Or Lanterns
So far, Sekiro does not have a traditional lantern or bonfire system like the Souls games. Removing the need for souls or blood echoes as a currency allows From Software to change the way they look at checkpoints and death in their game, such as with the new resurrection system. Whether the game has a more typical checkpoint system or its own version of bonfires is unknown. It will be interesting to see how From Software plays with the idea of progress in a game that does not have as concrete indicators of it as the Souls games.

Something New
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is looking to be something wholly new by From Software, and that is incredibly exciting. The game is shaping up to be From's vision of a character action game as opposed to a feudal Japanese action/RPG. That focus should allow fans of the Souls to experience something new, and also interest newcomers to the typically impenetrable series.

 

Categories: Games

The Golf Club 2019 Adds More Than Just The PGA Tour

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 22:53

HB Studios' The Golf Club franchise took its career mode forward in a big way when it signed the PGA Tour license. The tour – including preambles Q School and the Web.com Tour – culminates in the FedExCup Playoffs, but there's more to the career mode than just a sponsorship.

Six real-life courses are licensed (Summerlin, Scottsdale, Sawgrass, Southwind, Deere Run, and Boston), with more planned for after launch, but the tour's 32-course schedule also includes user-created courses. User-created courses are the foundation of the series, and it's cool that some talented creators are going to see their courses as part of the game's career mode in events big and small. HB Studios even talked to them in order to get information the developer could use to inform the commentary during the course flyovers at the beginning of an event.

Unfortunately, the courses themselves are set for a single PGA Tour season even though stats are kept for up to five seasons (you can play beyond that) and the golfers on the leaderboard will fare differently from year to year.

While you're playing on the tour you'll form rivalries with individual golfers. Points are accumulated for each event based on more than five categories. Whomever is the first to 20 points wins the rivalry. You can add some extra emotion to these rivalries and the tour in general by renaming the 300 golfers on the circuit.

HB Studios says it would like to add license real pros, but that is only a future possibility. The developer isn't planning to put out The Golf Club 2020, for example, on a yearly cue, so we'll have to wait and see how the franchise implements real pros if it happens.

The Golf Club 2019 is also adding a golfer level. This goes to 100, and each step up the ladder gives players cosmetic items (there is no boosting of golfer stats) and in-game currency used to bolster your golf society and/or use in multiplayer skins matches.

Leveling, along with season-long sponsorship goals, tie into the game's expanded customization options – which now included branded apparel from Under Armor, Tattoo Golf, Royal & Awesome, and Vice Golf. Each sponsor has three levels, and you can switch between them mid-stream for a slight tradeoff.

While golf societies won't change a whole lot for the game this year (the clubhouses you can purchase have been freshened up), multiplayer is bolstered by options like quick matchmaking with strangers over a curated course selection, as well as private matchmaking among friends where you'll have control over course conditions.

I played a couple rounds of the game, and didn't have too much trouble with getting the timing right on the backswing and for the speed of my followthrough, but I'll have to play more to get a better feel of the consistency of delicate finesse shots. Will I have the skills to hack in on the tour? I'm excited to find out.

Categories: Games

Gameplay Is Still King For Pro Evolution Soccer 2019

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 17:08

Pro Evolution Soccer’s gameplay has captivated in past years, and after my hands-on with the game at E3 2018 I’m happy to say that realistic but eminently fun gameplay is still the series’ bedrock in PES 2019.

The main thing that strikes me about PES 2019’s gameplay is the ball itself. I’ve always liked the way PES’ ball has felt when shooting and for deliciously weighted through balls, and this year you can definitely see players reacting to it differently from last year. It may take an extra second for a player to bring down that chest-high lofted pass on the touchline or take an extra touch in order to get the ball under control. You can also see it in some passes, as a lofted pass with curve on it forces the recipient to adjust.

PES 2018 made a point to slow the game down, and ironically, the free movement of the ball makes the action tick along briskly even though PES brand manager Andre Bronzoni told me that nothing had been done to the game’s actual speed per se. PES 2019 features snow in appropriate stadiums, and although it does not accumulate, Bronzoni says it and rain will affect the ball.

Elsewhere on the gameplay front during my hands-on time I perceived that players got headers off quicker (requiring less of a windup) and fouls occurred when expected (for both teams) without it being a parade of yellow cards. This was a point of contention last year, and Bronzoni says that some leagues should be more strict about fouls (like in Brazil) than others (such as in Scotland).

Visable fatigue is new element of the game, and I certainly saw players with their hands on their knees while waiting for a throw-in, for example. The onscreen quick sub system (similar to FIFAs) can be used to adddress fatigue, but I don’t think players’ actual fatigue levels (viable in the pause menu) were different from last year. Despite this, pushing fatigued players will lead to injuries, and it will drain players’ overall stamina reserves game-to-game in the Master League mode.

The Master League is an area that PES 2019 needs to succesfully address, and one of the central components is the transfer system. Konami says it’s being overhauled (click for some more basic details on the game), but I did not get a lot of information on this front. I am, however, disappointed to hear that outside clubs don’t influence players' transfer prices during negotiations even though they’re listed as being interested the same player you are. Club prestige is a concept, however, that comes into play when it comes to whether players sign with your club or not. Smaller clubs will be out of luck for the big names until they are more established. This has been the case in past Pro Evos, so I’m unclear how PES 2019 is distinct.

MyClub is also getting a makeover, with the most notable being that Konami is releasing special versions of players through the year. It's also ditching the black ball system where scouts and agents based on certain player characteristics are stacked to increase the chances that you’ll pull the player you like.

MyClub in 2019 lets you see who you’re going to sign, although agents are still used to find specific players. Bronzoni wouldn’t say if the packs you’ll buy consist of players, agents, or a mix, but overall he says that the odds of gamers getting the players they want shouldn’t be vastly different.

The developer is still figuring out how it’s going to handle auctions – which had a useful two-stage bidding system – given the big changes to the mode, but the dual stars/GP currencies are the same. Moreover, users can still train players.

Nothing is written in stone just yet for PES 2019 – there are still a lot of details I'd like to know for the Master League and MyClub modes. We’ll have to wait and see how those shake out, but once again gains have been made on the gameplay front that certainly show that the game is putting its best foot forward.

Categories: Games

How Naughty Dog Is Enhancing The Last of Us: Part II’s Combat

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 06:05

The Last of Us: Part II opened Sony’s press conference with a bang. Not only did we meet a new character named Dina who’s obviously important in Ellie’s life, but we also saw a slice of the combat. As with any follow-up title, the next game always looks to improve on its predecessor, and true to Naughty Dog, it’s set on taking things to the next level. During E3 2018, I got the opportunity to sit with co-directors Kurt Margenau and Anthony Newman to discuss how combat has evolved and what we can expect from it the highly anticipated sequel. 

Proving More Stealth Options

According to Newman, when the Naughty Dog team sat down to think about the game, it explored what worked well and what would be appropriate for this game and expand on what was done previously. “The Last of Us has always been about the natural world and reclaiming society and civilization, so a natural evolution of Last of Us 1 was to increase the vegetation in the world,” he explained. “That obviously plays into the stealth game that’s super important, so that pushed us to create this analog stealth system where based on your stance, whether you’re crouched, standing, or prone in the thickness of the vegetation you’re in, enemies have an easier or harder time seeing you. There’s this sliding the scale of how susceptible you are. It’s more appropriate to the tension of the world of The Last of Us.” That means gone are the isolated patches, and instead, the environments offer lush, full forests that provide plenty of opportunities for Ellie to strategize.

Melee Has Been Revamped

In the demo, we saw Ellie dodging left and right as enemies attacked her. Naughty Dog added a dedicated dodge button this time around. “This allows us to do a lot more with melee,” Margenau said. “You can fight multiple enemies at once and [there are] all these cool contextual moves she does like planting off the surface and attacking with various finishers. We also have all the melee weapons, like she’s able to take a hammer off someone and use that.”

“That’s actually a new detail; if you don’t have a melee weapon beyond your switchblade and you’re finishing off someone who does have one, you can smoothly transition and grab that weapon from them,” Newman added.

Historically, melee has been animation-based, but more collision-based elements are being added to it. For instance, if a brute keeps swinging his hammer, he can hit stuff in the environment if he misses the player. “It’s kind of a small detail but it makes the system much more connected to the environment,” Newman explained. This has also enhanced the returning melee weapons, such as the machete and switchblade. Newman spoke to the movesets being more nuanced and complex than they were in the first game.

Taking Care Of Arrow Wounds

In the trailer, we saw Ellie face off against bow-and-arrow enemies. At one point, she gets an arrow stuck in her. This was not scripted for the demo; it’s something else you must consider as you battle menacing foes. When an arrow pierces you, it stays in you until you find a safe place to remove it. “While it’s in you, you don’t have access to listen mode and your aim is all out of whack,” Margenau said. “It’s the first status effect that we’ve introduced in the game,” Newman added.

Making Crafting Matter

Margenau confirmed there will be new craftable ammo for the bow and arrow, such as the explosive arrow we saw in the demo. “When we think about crafting such a core part of that experience in the Last of Us is the choice you make and what you give up when you craft it,” Margenau said. The team is always looking for what makes the experience unique as opposed to giving you a laundry list of items you can craft. It’s important there’s always something at stake. “It is a delicate balance of what options you give the player and what we showed is just a slice of what we’re planning,” Margenau teased. 

A Different Fighter With More Enemies To Master

This entry is upping the ante with the weapons enemies use against you, such as bow-and-arrow users alongside different classes of the infected. Margenau spoke to one big adversary, who has a heavy melee attack and can throw Ellie through things and over things. He’s certainly no pushover; he can also block and parry your attacks. This doesn’t mean Ellie is defenseless against him, though. “This is obviously a harsh world and anybody who is going to survive in this world must become a very competent fighter,” Newman said. “Ellie has had five years to pick up some new tricks along the way.”

However, the team also had to think of how she would be a different fighter than Joel and what would make sense for her character. “She’s not as big or as bulky as Joel,” Newman explained. “She’s not going to be able to just overpower enemies with her raw strength.” 

To compensate for this difference and to keep combat interesting, Naughty Dog added a dodge for the melee to increase complexity. A new addition is also a jump button to make environments more vertical. “This makes escaping more dynamic and frenetic,” Newman said about the addition. “Escaping is always an option,” Margenau added. “The squeezing through and hiding under things … you don’t always have to kill everyone.” 

No Easy Way Out

While I discussed combat with Margenau and Newman one thing that kept coming up was the importance of tension, which they aren’t letting simmer in the slightest. “We’re trying to provide a lot more options for the player,” Newman said. “Overall, the level of threat that you’ll be facing means that you’re not going to be able to take things head on. Whether you want to do stealth or go loud with your combat, you’re never going to be able to do it without putting a lot of careful thought into what you’re doing.” The co-directors assured us they’ve expanded both the stealth and action playstyles. Naughty Dog wants players to have options and different ways to tackle every situation. “We’re not trying to make it more of an action game than The Last of Us,” Margenau assured. “It’s still a survival action game.”

To learn more about The Last of Us: Part II, check out our recent preview that delves deeper into the narrative. 

Categories: Games

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