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Updated: 1 hour 27 min ago

Sonic Colors: Ultimate Preview – Another Run At Glory

3 hours 36 min ago

Publisher: Sega Developer: Blind Squirrel Games Release: September 7, 2021 Rating: Everyone Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

When it launched in 2010, Sonic Colors was considered one of the best Sonic the Hedgehog games in years. By providing fun, well-designed levels, tighter controls than any 3D Sonic game to that point, and new powers from alien creatures called Wisps, Sonic Colors delivered a solid experience and laid the groundwork for future 3D Sonic titles. However, thanks to its Wii exclusivity, the game has been stranded on the obsolete platform and many players have missed out on the experience. That changes next month, however, as Sega, Sonic Team, and developer Blind Squirrel Games are bringing a remastered version of the title to modern platforms through Sonic Colors: Ultimate.

With this release, Sega hopes those who missed out on the game the first time around will obtain more context for where the series went in subsequent games. For example, the Wisps have appeared in multiplatform follow ups, including Sonic Generations, Sonic Forces, and Team Sonic Racing. Sonic Colors essentially serves as not only an introduction to these creatures, but an origin story for how they came into Sonic's world. Not only that, but because Sonic Colors influenced the direction of Sonic games going forward, Sega thought it was a great title to remaster for modern systems. 

As with most remasters, Sonic Colors: Ultimate adds a nice, new coat of paint to the aged graphics. Because the transition was from the Nintendo Wii, which outputs in 480p, the leap forward is substantial. This new version not only improves the lighting and adds additional polygons, but Ultimate also supports 4K resolution and 60 frames-per-second performance. "Back in 2010, this was on screens that were less pixels than your smartphone, so making that step up [...] was a huge undertaking," Sega associate producer Calvin Vu says. "We definitely want to make sure this game looks good, up to the standards of today."

I had a chance to play Sonic Colors: Ultimate for just over 30 minutes, and while the demo was virtual, meaning the visual quality and controls weren't quite as sharp as they would be locally, I still came away impressed, particularly by how the game does look compared to the original 2010 version. The graphics, environments, and character models don't look nearly as good as those you would find in a recent game like Sonic Forces, but for a 2010 Wii title, Sonic Colors: Ultimate looks stellar in motion.

Additionally, the development team remixed the audio, including the soundtrack. The sound effects now sound crisper, and the music features new versions of songs you already know if you played the original. Many of these visual or audio upgrades were possible on the far-less-powerful Wii, but thanks to the modern platforms, Sega was able to add them into this remaster. 

Another thing that wasn't possible on the Wii thanks to technical limitations is character customization. Now, players can unlock new cosmetics for Sonic, including things like new shoes, gloves, boosts, and auras for Sonic. For example, you can now surround Sonic in flames with an ice boost, while he sports cheetah-print gloves and different color shoes – it may not be the prettiest or most iconic look Sonic has ever sported, but it's the look you choose for him. These customizations are earned through Park Tokens, which you find playing the game.

A large part of Sega and Blind Squirrel's efforts have been centered on making Colors more approachable for new players. To help accomplish this, Ultimate adds in a new Tails Save mechanic, where if Sonic falls, rather than losing a life, if the player has a Tails token, Sonic's two-tailed friend will pull him back up on the ledge. During my hands-on demo, I appreciated this mechanic, as pits come up quick in Sonic games, and it's never fun to lose progress in a level just because you were taking advantage of the game's main selling point: speed.

The Tails Save mechanic is just one example of the quality-of-life improvements Blind Squirrel and Sega have implemented in this title. From improving the wall-jump controls to allowing for players to completely remap their controllers, Ultimate is hoping to present the clear best version of the game. "There's been tweaks and adjustments here and there just to make it more and more accessible," Sega producer Aaron Roseman says. "That way it's less punishing, less grueling for them and more exciting to play. At the end of the game, our goal was to maintain the fun of the original title while introducing these new features."

From a gameplay perspective, players can expect a new Wisp: the Jade Ghost. This new power was first introduced in 2019's Team Sonic Racing, and now retroactively joins the story of Sonic Colors through Ultimate. This new Wisp grants Sonic the ability to pass through obstacles, giving him access to areas that were previously inaccessible. Players can also look forward to a new Rival Rush mode, where you race head-to-head against Metal Sonic to earn rewards. 

Sonic Colors: Ultimate launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on September 7. To see the game in action, check out our episode of New Gameplay Today.

Categories: Games

Sonic Colors: Ultimate – New Gameplay Today (4K)

3 hours 36 min ago

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Publisher: Sega Developer: Blind Squirrel Games Release: September 7, 2021 Rating: Everyone Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

The Blue Blur seems to be relishing the spotlight these days. From a successful debut on the silver screen to a popular return to the world of 2D platforming, Sega's iconic mascot has been thriving over the last few years, and 2021 seems to be continuing that trend.

While the Japanese publisher has promised some exciting entries in the series over the next few years, gamers don't have long to wait to revisit a fan-favorite in Sonic Colors: Ultimate. The remaster is set to bring an exciting Sonic adventure from the confines of the Wii to a contemporary age of consoles when Colors: Ultimate launches on September 7 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. By why wait that long to revisit the game?

On this fresh episode of New Gameplay Today, one of Sonic's biggest fans, the one and only Brian Shea, is here with Alex Stadnik to discuss all the game's updates and his time actually getting to play the remaster. We're taking a look at the Tropical Resort level, the game's customization options, and so much more! On top of that, all of today's hot new gameplay will be shown in glowing 4k.

Want more Sonic? Be sure to watch our earlier episode of New Gameplay Today, where we give you an exclusive look at one of the game's updated levels. Brian Shea is the gift that keeps on giving and also wrote up a wonderful preview of his time with Sonic Colors: Ultimate that shouldn't be missed if you're excited to dive back into the game.

 If you're a fan of getting an early look at some of 2021's biggest titles (and who isn't really?) head on over to our YouTube page where we're giving you a glimpse of Psychonauts 2, Aliens: Fireteam Elite, and Halo Infinite.

Categories: Games

Exclusive New Shin Megami Tensei V Screenshots Show Off The Characters And Demons

14 hours 36 min ago

Publisher: Sega Developer: Atlus Release: November 12, 2021 Platform: Switch

In the lead up to Shin Megami Tensei V's launch in November, we've been rolling out exclusive previews on the highly anticipated RPG from Atlus. In past articles, we've taken a look at the protagonist and the characters, but now we're shining a light on the other side of the fence: the demons.

As we've covered previously, Shin Megami Tensei V casts you in the role of a normal, everyday third-year student in a high school in Tokyo, Japan. However, after an incident at one of the city's train stations causes him to get trapped in a tunnel collapse, he finds himself in a desert full of demons. As the protagonist fears for his life, a mysterious man named Aogami offers his assistance, and the two fuse to become a condemned being known as a Nahobino. Now, with the power to fight and even negotiate with these demons, the protagonist ventures out alongside his friends to try and stop a demonic invasion of Tokyo.

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In Shin Megami Tensei V, players will encounter a wide range of more than 200 demons. The stable of creatures includes a collection of classics, as well as several new characters from character designer Masayuki Doi. You can see some new art and screenshots of some of the demons from SMT V in the gallery above.

In addition, Atlus sent us over some new screenshots of the characters you interact with in Shin Megami Tensei V. Whether you're talking the cheerful Ichiro Dazai or the responsible and upright Yuzuru Atsuta, you can see more of the cast of characters in the gallery below.

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Shin Megami Tensei V launches on Nintendo Switch on November 12. Stay tuned for more exclusive details about the hotly anticipated Atlus RPG later this month. 

Categories: Games

Halo Infinite Multiplayer Technical Preview – New Gameplay Today

Fri, 07/30/2021 - 19:33

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Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Developer: 343 Industries Release: 2021 Rating: Teen Platform: Xbox One, PC

Halo Infinite has been in the crosshairs of the gaming community since it was announced at E3 2018. Originally set to release last November alongside the launch of the Xbox Series X and S, growing concerns about the game following an extended look at the campaign caused 343 Industries and Microsoft to reconsider when Infinite was ready for prime time.

Now, almost exactly a year since gameplay was first shown, we’re finally getting hands-on time with Halo Infinite in a technical multiplayer beta. Join Alex Stadnik, Liana Ruppert, and John Carson as they share their first impressions of the game and give a look at Halo Infinite multiplayer in action. How does it look? What’s new and different compared to previous entries? Does it live up to the grandiose reputation of Microsoft’s first-person juggernaut? We cover those questions and more in this episode of New Gameplay Today.

This technical flight for Halo Infinite is currently limited to folks who signed up for, and were chosen through, the Halo Waypoint website. Multiplayer is one of two modes found within this test, alongside the Academy, a series of gun-specific challenges which lets the player loose at a firing range to rack up high scores. Currently, the multiplayer matches are 4v4 Slayer matches on the new map called Live Fire. It’s a condensed battleground that keeps the action fast and consistent, while retaining many paths for getting around the map. Matches during this test consist of matchmade human teams warring against AI driven bots. While we’d prefer to go head-to-head against real people and really put these Spartans through their paces, that experience will have to wait for another time.

Halo Infinite is set to release on an undisclosed date later this year for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC. How do you think Infinite is shaping up? Which weapons are you looking to know more about in this technical flight?

Categories: Games

Apex Legends Season 10: Seer’s Abilities Explained

Thu, 07/29/2021 - 17:39

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Publisher: Electronic Arts Developer: Respawn Entertainment Release: February 4, 2019 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC), March 9, 2021 (Switch) Rating: Teen Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

We’ve been talking about Apex Legends Season 10 and its new character, Seer, since earlier this month. We’ve seen a bevy of trailers that delve into his backstory as a cursed child as well as gameplay footage that shows some of his mystical powers in action. But what can Seer actually do; what is his passive, tactical, and ultimate? Respawn’s latest character-focused trailer finally gave us the answers to these questions. Here is Seer’s kit explained:

Heartseeker (Passive)

Seer is joining a small selection of recon legends that include Bloodhound, Pathfinder, Crypto, and Valkyrie. What separates the newest character from his contemporaries is how effective he emerges as a tracker. While aiming, Seer can actively see and hear the heartbeats of his enemies within a 75m radius. Like Bloodhound’s scan, opponents can be seen through walls and other structures. So be sure to watch your corners as you traverse compounds; Seer could be waiting around the corner with a pre-aimed Mastiff shotgun.

Focus of Attention (Tactical)

Tactical abilities have never been known to outright kill adversaries, but their moment-to-moment implementation in heady firefights can easily create win conditions when used at opportune times. Seer’s Focus of Attention is particularly devastating. It might not damage health pools, but it can override actions like healing yourself and reviving downed teammates which, arguably, is just as terrifying. Drones emerge from the heart-shaped jewel lodged in Seer’s chest and blasts all other teams in the vicinity, revealing and interrupting them.  

Exhibit (Ultimate)

We’ve seen this in action countless times, but now we know exactly what Seer’s ultimate, Exhibit, does. A large holographic bubble is cast - it seems as if this might have the potential to completely blanket an entire point of interest - and all players that move “heavily” through it (e.g., sprinting) are immediately highlighted for Seer and his team. Can you imagine what kind of chaos could be catalyzed in final circles with Exhibit activated? Only time will tell how Seer fits into the current meta and if his presence might become a common occurrence in public as well as ranked matches. 

Now that we have names and direct explanations for Seer’s kit, what do you think about Apex Legends’ 18th character? 

Categories: Games

Everything We Know About Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Thu, 07/29/2021 - 17:13

Publisher: The Pokémon Company Developer: Ilca, Game Freak Release: November 19, 2021 Platform: Switch

We’re deep into the 25th anniversary of Pokémon and have an entirely new adventure from Game Freak on the horizon with Pokémon Legends: Arceus coming in January of next year. But before that even releases, The Pokémon Company is releasing remakes to the popular DS games Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.

While we’ve played these games in the past, what should we expect from the remakes for Nintendo Switch? Here’s what we know about the Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl so far:

Which studio is developing these remakes?

Game Freak is known to work on multiple games at the same time, but in this case, it’s only handing the development of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. In Game Freak’s stead, ILCA is taking the reins in developing these remakes. Never heard of them before? ILCA is best know to Pokémon fans as the creators of Pokémon Home, the current storage and self-trading solution for all of the Pokémon games available on Switch and 3DS. The studio has also worked on Nier: Automata and Replicant, Code Vein, and Dragon Quest XI.

Where do these games take place?

Diamond and Pearl introduced the region of Sinnoh, a landmass based on the Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido. Along a trainer’s journey, they will travel all over the island to collect Gym badges in order to take on the challenge of the Pokémon League and face the Elite Four, a highly skilled group of Pokémon trainers. A defining feature of the region is Mt. Coronet, a mountain range which bisects the island from south to north. Your story begins in Twinleaf Town, where you and a rival receive your first Pokémon. From there, you’ll end up in places like the mining city Oreburgh, the series’ original wintery area surrounding Snowpoint City, Sinnoh’s largest town Jubilife City, and the historic Eterna City.

Which starter Pokémon can I choose from and what should I expect in the Pokédex?

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl features Piplup, Chimchar, and Turtwig as choices for starter Pokémon, the same three as the original Diamond and Pearl releases. Trailers and screenshots have shown a handful of Pokémon to battle against and catch, all of which already exist within Sinnoh’s original Pokédex and National Dex. Monsters shown so far include fan favorites Lucario and Garchomp, along with regional newcomers Kricketune, Shinx, and Starly. Of course, the Dialga and Palkia, the legendary dragons of time and space, are in the game as well.

Sinnoh’s original Pokédex included 151 Pokémon, with the post-game National Dex adding even more, including new evolutions of Pokémon from Red and Blue. With eight generations to pull from, there’s no telling how many Pokémon we might see in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.

Why were Diamond and Pearl chosen to be remade?

Up to this point, all previous generations of Pokémon have been remade on Nintendo’s handheld consoles. Fire Red and Leaf Green reimagined the original games on Game Boy Advance, Heart Gold and Soul Silver made a big impact on DS, and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire hit 3DS in 2014. Diamond and Pearl have been next in line for a while, and now 7 years after the previous remakes, will finally be in the spotlight again.

Where does Platinum fit in?

We don’t know yet. Pokémon Platinum was the third game of the fourth generation and an upgraded version of Diamond and Pearl. It brought along an expanded Pokedex, new story elements, and a new legendary dragon, Giratina, which is featured on the box art. Given the footage shown at the time of the games’ announcement, only Pokémon from Diamond and Pearl have been revealed.

How different are these remakes from the originals?

Content-wise, that answer is up in the air. Don’t expect the remakes to stray too far off the path of Diamond and Pearl. According to the games’ eShop listing, “the original story and the scale of the Sinnoh region’s towns and routes have been faithfully reproduced.” Visually, both games are getting a graphical facelift. Walking around the routes and towns in Sinnoh aren’t going to look like Pokémon Sword and Shield, instead sticking with the top-down camera that Diamond and Pearl were presented in. Originally, these games were build using 2D sprites and had environments using some 3D assets. In the remakes, however, ILCA opted to keep a similar art style of the classic games and translated everything to polygonal models. Characters in the field are small and have a chibi look, but when in battle, trainers and Pokémon are full-sized, detailed models complete with contemporary attack animations.

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When will these remakes be available?

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl will launch on Switch November 19 for $59.99 each. Preorders are available at retailers as well as the Nintendo eShop right now.

Categories: Games

Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster – New Gameplay Today

Wed, 07/28/2021 - 23:20

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Publisher: Square Enix Release: July 29, 2021 Platform: PC, iOS, Android

Few game series have the longevity of Square Enix’s crown jewel Final Fantasy. For 24 years, it has grown and changed with each entry, starting with an ambitious open world adventure on NES. Now, going into its sixteenth numbered title and countless side stories, it’s time to look back at where it all began.

Announced at E3 this year, the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series gives players a chance to experience the first six Final Fantasy games with updated pixel art that keep the look and feel of playing the original versions of these classics, but with some modern sensibilities. Not only are the visuals updated with new character sprites and world map overhauls, but the soundtracks have been enhanced with beautiful remastered tunes.

As of today, we’re able to get our hands on the first three of these Pixel Remasters: Final Fantasy I, II, and III. Join our tour guide Dan Tack as he gives Alex Stadnik, and John Carson a look at these reworked relics. Our adventure begins in the first Final Fantasy where we witness some of the updated artwork, ogle at the water, and talk about how this maiden voyage differs from the games it precedes. We also take a quick look into Final Fantasy III which showcases updated battle animations and transitions, as well as the CRT filter which players can apply for a more authentic NES-era experience.

Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters for Final Fantasy I, II, and III are available now for PC, iOS, and Android with IV, V, and VI coming later. These aren’t the only remakes Square Enix has been releasing in the past year. Check out our New Gameplay Today on Final Fantasy VII Remake here, and read our review of Final Fantasy VII Remake Intermission, the expansion released alongside an upgraded version for PlayStation 5.

Categories: Games

Exclusive: Meet Darkest Dungeon II's New Character The Runaway

Tue, 07/27/2021 - 19:52

Publisher: Red Hook Studios Developer: Red Hook Studios Platform: PC

The world is at its end. Wild accelerationist cults set fire to the cities. Pastoral baronies become insatiable hungering mouths upon mouths. Only your ragtag band of guilt-ridden adventurers can kindle a glimmer of hope to stop the ancient, encroaching evil. With a host of new terrors to overcome, a massive shift to a run-based roguelike structure, and a bold new character, the cosmic aberrations of Darkest Dungeon are poised to serve up fresh challenges and horrors with this scintillating sequel from Red Hook Studios.

[Editor's Note: This article also appears in Game Informer Issue 338]

Darkest Dungeon 2 isn’t content to live in the shadow of the hamlet from the first game. Instead of continuing with the town-building aspects and dungeon crawling of the original game, Darkest Dungeon 2 puts players on a doomed caravan ride into cursed biomes crawling with unbridled decadence. With the stakes as high as the world coming to an end, environments that were hanging on by a thread have spiraled into madness, embracing the worst elements of themselves that were always hidden away. As you ride through the world with a hand-picked crew of adventurers, death and despair are always lurking right around the corner. The same great turn-based combat and stylish gothic look of the first game return, but with constant decisions to make around every corner of each run.

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That said, don’t fear too much – you acquire hope (an in-game currency) from all of your runs, which you can use to unlock various components to show up in subsequent runs, new characters, skills for your caravan, and even permanent boosts. So even as all is lost – and it will be, frequently – you venture toward the final destination with some degree of progress. A successful run currently looks like it will take around four hours, so it’s important to reiterate that players unlock all kinds of special things at the account level based on each journey.

Instead of maneuvering from tile to tile on a dungeon map, the player instead navigates through a map filled with various encounters, destinations, and boss battles. If you’re concerned that the roguelike nature of the game means there isn’t a cohesive narrative or a canonical ending, fear not, there is an actual ending in the final version of the game. While much of the cast returns for the adventurers, some skills have been changed, edited, or removed to facilitate the new game environment. In addition, characters have more skills to pick from, allowing players to create more diverse and interesting teams.

While the choice to stop at a hospital to heal rather than opt-in to a deadly boss fight may seem obvious, there are other foibles at work here to keep you stressed as you fight for safety and sanity. As in the first game, the concept of the torch remains an essential element. Unlike the first game, the light is critical to continuing the journey, and if it goes out, you’re going to die quickly. To keep things lit, you must continue to battle enemies and reduce their numbers from the land. But making time to stop at other checkpoints where you can trade with the hoarder, discover ­valuable curios at an academic study, or just help random survivors huddled around a wagon is also important.

“The dark here is not sustainable,” says Red Hook co-founder and creative director Chris Bourassa. “And I don’t mean that in a fun way. Narratively and from a gameplay standpoint, it’s not sustainable. If you run your torch to the ground, just because of what the torch means, this time, it’s not just a literal measure of how much light there is. Allegorically, it’s the hope for the future that you’re sort of carrying on your back. And so if it goes out, it’s kind of game over. You get one last shot. We give you a really tough encounter; the cult catches up to you and jumps you, and if you can fight them back, we give you a little bit more gas to try to get ahead and hopefully restore it somehow. But it doesn’t fill the same role as it did.”

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If all you do on the journey is try to seek out non-combat nodes on the map, you’ll end up underpowered and crushed by the weight of darkness. However, try to take on too much or some dangerous high-reward boss nodes, and you may find your adventure ending abruptly. Finding a balance and knowing when to step outside your comfort zone for some advanced risk-taking is what it’s all about.

It’s important to note that the big zone bosses are optional here (with the exception of the final boss) so if you find yourself completely decimated wandering through an area, it’s possible to opt-out of the traditional “area boss” and just push on to the next zone. Of course, this will leave you missing out on the associated treasures, so the next area will be a tougher endeavor.

“It’s really a power curve thing,” says co-founder and design director Tyler ­Sigman. “So, game design-wise, it’s been an interesting challenge. If you avoid every fight, you can avoid the bosses and just try to stay safe, [but] you won’t be powerful enough to kill the [final] boss. As you fight, you earn hero upgrade points which are spent to upgrade skills. That’s really vital. Basically, if you haven’t upgraded any skills, by the time you get to the end boss, you’re just not going to be up for it. And so essentially, we try to give you some control over your own power curve, of how many challenges you want.”

When you finish each area, you choose between two different areas for the next leg of the journey. Since the game is biome-based, with each area having special inhabitants, you can create a game plan early on – but don’t expect anything to be easy. For instance, the inhabitants of the city are quite resilient to fire damage, so it’s probably a bad idea to include the Runaway in your crew if you plan to head into the city. However, each area contains modifiers that are different every run, so you must be ready for anything.

Even if you plan to head to the farmlands, maybe the modifier on your 10th run will have something horrible there, so you’re tempted to select the other biome instead, even if it is a less than ideal pick for your team composition. Random and incredibly dangerous occurrences that players may remember from the first game, like the Shambler and the Collector, return in some form.

Permadeath is back. If someone reaches the death state, they’re gone for good. Since you can’t easily head back to the hamlet to replenish your team like you could in the first game, you, instead, have to rely on picking up one new character at an inn. This character may not be tailored to your group at all, but sometimes you have to work with what you have available. This pickup is a one-and-done deal as well, so it’s all you get. If someone dies again, you have to struggle along with whatever you have.

“You can’t have engagement and emotional attachment without tension and fear of loss. So, if we coddle you and make sure that nothing bad will ever happen to you, you’re not going to feel that same level of excitement,” Bourassa explains. “Like when your guy survives a death’s door roll or something because you’re not worried. You know, if he dies, he dies. We’re always trying to thread that or walk that line, where what you have invested in could be taken away because that’s really the only way you can play poker, right? You have to be afraid of losing your money. That’s why people play, because the excitement is high when you win, and it’s terrifying when you’re kind of on the ropes. To recreate that experience, we have to make sure that the player knows that we are willing to take their chips.”

To further engagement with your party members, Red Hook also promises greater insight into the characters you take along for each run, with narrative elements that delve into their backstories and relationships along the way.

And the changes don’t stop there. Another aspect that has changed significantly is healing. Players can no longer leave one enemy alive and heal up to full – something that had rife potential for abuse in the original title. Instead, players must heal up outside of combat, which also facilitates group compositions that probably wouldn’t be optimal in the original. Don’t want to bring a healer along? No problem, live the dream and make that quad-DPS stack.

While early access will allow Red Hook ­Studios to tune things, the current plan isn’t to have different difficulty settings like the first game. Instead, in typical roguelike fashion, special modifiers and alterations called mutators let players to ratchet up the challenge if they’re looking to whet their appetite for adversity. There’s also a good possibility that other roguelike staples, like daily run seeds where you can compare your performance against your friends and the greater playerbase, are also on deck for implementation.

Our next journey into madness probably won’t be fully completed for a bit, with early access for Darkest Dungeon 2 slated to arrive this year. After Darkest Dungeon’s PC launch, it eventually made its way to console, which we’re hoping happens here as well, but nothing has been confirmed. Here’s hoping it reaches as many gamers as possible because this is one time that we can’t wait for the impending end of the world.

The Runaway

Darkest Dungeon 2 will hit early access with one new character, the Runaway. Like other characters in our merry band of misfits, the Runaway comes from a checkered past. While we don’t know the specifics of her sins yet, the Runaway’s kit embraces fire, so we can almost certainly assume she did something awful with the element of embers. Fire is a new damage-over-time component in Darkest Dungeon 2, joining its friends bleed and blight (poison).

Eventually, the new character’s look was just right. “Visually I thought it’d be neat to have this sort of younger woman with a giant backpack and hunched over; we pulled a little bit from Newt from Aliens, obviously more grown-up,” says Red Hook co-founder and creative director Chris Bourassa. “One of my directions to our animator was to channel a sort of a ‘bat girl’ kind of vibe. So, she’s got this cape, and some of the animations are really fluid where it flares out behind her, and she can retreat to stealth and hide.”

It took time for the team to iterate on their ideas for the Runaway, but they liked how well she fit into the fiction.  “We just felt creatively she fit the world. She was kind of an extension of the game fiction as a whole, and what better character to debut as a new class than someone who’s intrinsically connected to the meta-­narrative of the game itself? We could have done a wandering badass with two handguns or something, but it felt a little rote. So mechanically, we added a new DoT [damage-over-time]; we have fire and burn damage in Darkest Dungeon, too. And we needed an evangelist for that mechanic the same way the plague doctor kind of works for poison or blight.”

“We went through a couple of ideas. I think it’s easy, it’s safe to add a badass, give it a cool weapon and a cool faceplate or something, and you’re off to the races,” Bourassa says. “But we kind of asked ourselves, ‘What type of character would inhabit this world that’s crumbling down and falling apart?’ And it made sense that some kind of a furtive, scurrying, outwardly disadvantaged ... a little bit like an agile Antiquarian in a sense, but highly proficient in combat. Thematically, it felt like someone who’s picking through the rubble of the old world.”

The Runaway is a survivor, a scavenger, and a scrapper. Exemplified by those aspects, she fits easily into lineups in multiple positions. However, she may be best at getting into the action hot and heavy and then using stealth to head back into the lineup to a safer area, perhaps moving a friend closer to the fray. The Runaway excels at disrupting foes, applying flames, and adjusting the flow and positioning of battle. Check out the entire Runaway skill lineup (right), and you can start planning on how to place her into your favorite Darkest Dungeon teams.

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The Runaway likely won’t be the only new face in Darkest Dungeon 2, either. “We’re bringing one new character for early access launch, but it’s not like we have decided only to make one new one, period,” says Red Hook co-founder and design director Tyler Sigman. “Hopefully, if the game finds an audience as Darkest Dungeon did, then you know, DLC, etc.”

Check out all of the Runaway's skills right here:
  • Searing Strike – A simple attack that also lights enemies on fire
  • Ransack – Want to get the enemy close? Hook them closer to the hot zone with this skill
  • Firefly – A thrown incendiary attack that adds fire
  • Dragonfly – Escape to safety (backline) and incinerate nearby foes
  • Smokescreen – Blind enemies and leave them vulnerable
  • Cauterize – Heal someone’s wounds with heat
  • Run and Hide – Retreat and heal your own wounds
  • Controlled Burn – Set a fire in an enemy ­position that will continually burn anyone in it
  • Backdraft – Use damage-over-time fire stacks  to deliver a powerful blast to the target behind them
  • Firestarter – Not enough fire going on in your team? Use this to add fire to one of your ally’s attacks
  • Hearthlight – Discover hidden foes and restore sight to your own debuffed crew
The Plague Eaters

Every biome in Darkest Dungeon 2 is associated with a faction. In the once-­pastoral farmlands, the Plague Eaters hold dominion over all, consuming everything with their endless mouths. Tiny baronies and humble farms give in to their base instincts, with this faction dealing with the world's impending doom with unchecked gluttony.

“That’s really the top line for all the factions. So, I think as the world falls apart, I think more people would give in to their base instincts than not. And so every faction really represents a group of people who give in to the worst parts of themselves,” says Red Hook co-founder and creative director Chris Bourassa. “And so what you’re doing is, as the world’s crumbling and you’re making your way across to try to prevent it from vanishing or completely coming undone, you’re facing these people who have sort of just willingly abdicated their humanity almost in favor of this kind of base desires.”

Their endless eating facilitates their ever-growing bulk and gives them access to powerful regenerative abilities. The many faces of the Plague Eaters are resistant to blight, so bleed and burn are the preferred methods of damage when taking the caravan through the farmlands.

The Plague Eaters are more than happy to eat each other as they fall in combat, so managing the corpses and denying them of their sustenance can make your ­encounters much more manageable. If you let them feed unchecked, expect grueling, lengthy encounters that wear your team down to the ground. Let’s meet some of the cast of gruesome foes that you’ll meet down on the farm.

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                                                                                                             The Lord

Once proud leaders of man and beast, now just beast. These heavy support units can become a big problem if you let them bolster their own lines or enfeeble your own. With tongue lashing and baneful breath, Lords can whittle your troops down to nothing. As with many farm inhabitants, it’s best to keep an eye on corpses during the fight and deny the Lord’s insatiable hunger whenever possible. If a Lord gets to eat, not only can he regenerate his hit points over time, making the fight last even longer, but he also unlocks an incredibly dangerous stun attack, the bilious cannon. Pro tip: Don’t get hit by the bilious cannon.

The Lady

While the Lord isn’t afraid to get physical after dishing out some support skills, the Lady prefers to do her damage from the backline. The Lady excels at blighting at range with Be Our Guest, using Mother’s Embrace to mess with the player’s positioning, or attacking the front characters directly with Mulch. Like many farmland inhabitants, it’s best not to let the Lady feed. If she does, prepare for your sanity to take a massive hit as she unleashes a bilious wail. Are you seeing a theme here yet?

Dinner Cart

Yep, it’s just a big cart of dinner. This thing will chuck rot at our heroes and make them more vulnerable to other attacks, taunt them, blind them, and otherwise be a massive pain to deal with. In addition to its unsavory standard annoyances, the dinner cart can create fresh corpses for everyone to feast on, making it quite dangerous. The dinner cart can consume corpses too, which allow it to unleash massive amounts of blight and stress damage to your backline. Like other targets that prefer to hide in the back and cause trouble, taking the dinner cart out with ranged attacks before it can deliver its foodstuffs is the best plan of action.

The Maid

The maid helps tend to the livestock. That’s right; the Plague Eaters sometimes like to take meals into combat with them. Goats. Cows. Whatever is available. The maid is a rather uninteresting unit when there’s no livestock on the battlefield, but when there is, she can buff livestock up, turning them into suitable meatshields. The strategy here is not to let her hide behind livestock or other fetid fiends, hook her to the front and take her out quickly.

The Butcher

Like the maid, the butcher excels in the presence of livestock. The butcher can tear into lines with bleed damage and execute a massive party-wide heal when livestock is around. As you can imagine, preventing this huge heal from going off is the top priority, so that means taking out the butcher or the livestock as fast as you can before working your way to other targets.

Categories: Games

Tribes of Midgard: Early Game Impressions

Mon, 07/26/2021 - 19:23

Publisher: Gearbox Publishing Developer: Norsfell Release: July 27, 2021 Rating: Teen Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC

Tribes of Midgard gets a release tomorrow. The multifaceted title makes you an Einherjar, a warrior carried to Valhalla after death, sent to Midgard to protect the Seed of Yggdrasil. Tribes of Midgard borrows from the action, role-playing, and survival genres while offering a campaign-style Saga mode and an endless Survival mode. Having played about five hours split across both modes, I have some initial observations for those interested in this Norse-inspired title. Take a seat by the fire, it’s time for a saga.

Peaceful bird chirps rise above a light-hearted orchestral score. The sounds spill out over a sunny woodland realm, and everything seems peaceful. But it’s not. Behind the game’s idyllic visuals, the clock is ticking; you have nothing, and time is running out.

One of Tribes of Midgard’s most compelling aspects in these early stages is the ever-present tension between what I hope to do and the time I have to do it. Danger always looms on the horizon – like nocturnal Helthing raids and recurring Jötunn assaults – and I only have a brief day to decide how to prepare for the attack. Many of my early attempts to defend Yggdrasil came to an abrupt, and cataclysmic, end because I chose poorly. Rather than frustrate, failing provoked me to jump back into a session to try different strategies.

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Getting a Game Over is part of the experience with Tribes of Midgard, and while I find its gameplay loop interesting for now, I wonder if recollecting the same materials to fight the same threats could begin to wear thin later on. With all the foraging, crafting, upgrading, building, exploring, and every other thing that needs doing, it’s easy to see that Tribes of Midgard is, at its heart, a multiplayer game. I’m not saying you can’t go it alone – there is a solo play option – but the game is appreciably less rewarding for lone warriors.

Tribes of Midgard is not the only Viking-inspired cooperative survival game on the block and some of its mechanics, like the crafting cycle, feel strikingly familiar to Valheim's. However, Tribes of Midgard succeeds in forging its own identity with the vibrancy of its world and the urgency of its gameplay. Thus far, Tribes of Midgard seems like a fun way to spend an afternoon with friends and hopefully, its repetition doesn’t become tedious. To get a better sense of the action, you can check out Game Informer’s earlier hands-on preview, here. Tribes of Midgard releases on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC on July 27.

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Categories: Games

Take Your First Look At Jurassic World Evolution 2 In Action

Fri, 07/23/2021 - 17:12

Click here to watch embedded media

Publisher: Frontier Developments Developer: Frontier Developments Release: 2021 Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Frontier Developments today released the first developer diary for Jurassic World Evolution 2, the upcoming sequel that places more emphasis on story and dinosaur realism. Players are still tasked to build the theme park of their dreams in various locations, but that isn't the only way they'll be interacting with dinosaurs this time around. The story dictates the goals and sets up a variety of scenarios across the United States.

I saw 30 minutes of Jurassic World Evolution 2 in action a month ago, and also talked to the development team about what players can expect from this sequel, but this diary offers the first glimpse of the new dinosaur aggression systems. You'll see raptors chase prey as a pack, and triceratops battle for dominance within a habitat – perhaps showing us who the alpha will be.

The video walks through many of the new features and changes within this sequel, and also provides beautiful glimpses of the dinosaurs and customizable structures they'll be near. Frontier gives a brief look at the enhanced flying habitat, and mentions water creatures will be in the game for the first time, but doesn't give us a look at what these watery areas will look like. If the Mosasaur is in included in park spaces (which has been teased), the habitat will have to be huge. If it is, I hope you feed it sharks, just like we saw in the Jurassic World movie.

The biggest piece of information we all want still remains a mystery: the release date. Frontier is still saying just "2021." The good news to this is the messaging is still this year. Until we learn more, take a good look at the detail included in the dinosaurs in this video. They looked great in the first game, but look so much more lively this time around. It'll be interesting to see just how many behaviors they have, especially when predators around around.

Categories: Games

Pokémon Unite Impressions: Nintendo’s MOBA Is Better Than You Think

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 22:23

Publisher: The Pokémon Company Developer: Tencent Games Release: July 21, 2021 (Switch), 2021 (iOS, Android) Rating: Everyone Platform: Switch, iOS, Android

I know. You read the headline and came here to lambast me for my mediocre taste in video games. I get it, you're skeptical. Even a few of my coworkers gave me weird looks when I told them I was eagerly awaiting Pokémon Unite, Nintendo's new free-to-play MOBA that was released yesterday on the Nintendo Switch. The truth is, I can't put this damn game down. It's a genuinely fun MOBA with a pocket monster twist, and it's probably better than you think. 

What's a MOBA, some of you might ask? Well, us cool kids call them multiplayer online battle arenas (not really), and they provide a distinct blend of PvP and PvE gameplay. In short, each player on a team picks a unique champion to control and then levels them throughout the match, starting from level one. Players gain experience points by eliminating AI minions, destroying enemy objectives, killing other players; and then they spend those points to unlock abilities and stat boosts until they have access to their character's entire toolset at max level. All of this happens on a large map that is divided into multiple paths, often referred to as lanes, that each team vies for control of. Similar to team-focused games like Overwatch, team composition is really important for synergy and competitive advantage in MOBAs.

So why should you give Pokémon Unite a chance? Well, it's a great starting place for players who have always been curious about the genre but have been put off by its traditionally difficult learning curve. In Unite, Nintendo takes the genre's aforementioned format, simplifies it, and injects a heavy dose of Pokémon into the formula.

Battles in Pokémon Unite feature two teams of five Pokémon each. After picking their characters and items, players start the match on opposite ends of the map, to the east and west respectively. Then the team splits up. Typically, two teammates go to the top path, two fight it out on the bottom path, and one brave player ventures into the center of the map to defeat all sorts of wild Pokémon. Each team has two goal zones they must defend on each path while also defeating wild Pokémon to obtain Aeos Energy. Aeos is a resource that players gather and then slam dunk into the enemy’s goal zones. After depositing enough energy, the enemy’s goal zone is overloaded and destroyed, allowing your team to more easily push forward to the next part of the path. After 10 minutes, the team with the most deposited points wins the match. There are also smaller objectives in the form of wild Pokémon, like the legendary Zapdos, that pop up throughout the match and can be defeated for buffs and other competitive advantages.

The roster features over 20 playable Pokémon, ranging from fan favorites like Charizard and Gengar to more obscure picks like Cramorant and Crustle. Each character is grouped into one of five battle classes: All-Rounder, Attacker, Defender, Speedster, and Supporter. While there aren't any elemental weaknesses like in the series' normal installments, each character has unique stats, ability trees, and Unite Moves that make them distinct from one another.

Charizard, for instance, starts at level one as Charmander, then evolves into Charmeleon at level five, and then finally reaches its final form at level nine. The first two abilities you unlock are Flame Burst and Fire Spin, and then throughout the match, you can swap those out for Flamethrower, Fire Punch, Fire Blast, or Flare Blitz before finally unlocking Charizard's ultimate Unite Move, Seismic Slam. I love experimenting with different pathing options and ability load outs from match to match. In some games, I'll focus on making Charizard more of a ranged caster by picking up Flamethrower and Fire Blast, while in other matches I'll play a bruiser role by choosing Fire Punch and Flare Blitz. Each ability shines in different situations, so it's important to pay attention to which opponents you're fighting to properly customize your Pokémon and counter them. 

Despite my overall enthusiasm for Pokémon Unite, it certainly isn't perfect. The game's microtransaction systems allow you to purchase all sorts of fashionable cosmetics for your trainer, stylish Pokémon skins called Holowear, a Battle Pass, and more. This is all standard fare for free-to-play games, especially MOBAs, but unfortunately, The Pokémon Company and Tencent's TiMi studios have dropped the ball by allowing players to purchase stat-boosting Item Enhancers. Before you close your browser and swear off the game entirely, it's not as serious as it sounds.

First of all, every player can obtain these Item Enhancers by simply playing the game and unlocking the free battle pass tiers associated with them. Second, in-game items have a level cap of 30, so there are a limited amount of Item Enhancers you can pour into any one item. So is Pokemon Unite pay-to-win? Well, technically, sort of, I guess. But not really. The problem is that there's a small number of Item Enhancers tied to premium battle pass tiers, so technically you could level up more items than someone who didn't purchase the battle pass. Honestly, this mistake feels more like an oversight than a malicious act, and the competitive advantage is negligible so far. I've won 19 of the 25 matches I’ve played, and in most cases, I was our team’s MVP ­– all without purchasing any stat boosts. If folks on my team or the enemy teams have been trying to pay to win, it hasn’t been working. Despite this, I think the developers should remedy this issue by making all battle pass tiers associated with Item Enhancers free for all players.

Since Pokémon Unite was released early yesterday morning, is has consumed my thoughts. I spent a large portion of my day and evening saying, "Just one more match," and I'm sure you know how that story ends. Whether playing solo or with friends, I've had an absolute blast trying out new Pokémon and working alongside teammates to form powerful combat synergies. If you're at all curious about MOBAs or are even just a big fan of Pikachu, Pokémon Unite is worth checking out.

Categories: Games

EA Sports PGA Tour Announces LPGA Plans

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 14:30

Publisher: Electronic Arts Developer: EA Tiburon

EA Sports has announced a truer representation of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) in the upcoming EA Sports PGA Tour game. The next phase of the years-long partnership is said to go beyond simply character selection and instead includes in-depth female representation across all modes.

In addition to bringing more female golfers to EA Sports PGA Tour, this edition of the game features the Amundi Evian Championship, which is one of the five major championships of the LPGA Tour. That means you can tee off as a female golfer at a true representation of the Evian Resort Golf Club. Players can expect additional game modes on top of the Amundi Evian Championship from the long-term LPGA partnership, including being able to create their own female athletes in the newly overhauled create-a-player mode. Players can also expect LPGA-themed challenges, amateur tournaments, and more.

"We are also making sure that notable events produced by the leading women's golf association were included as well; just like any of our other tours," EA Tiburon senior producer Jenny Martin says. "One great example is our announcement today of adding the Amundi Evian Championship, one of the major championships in women's golf, and of course where it's played – the Evian Resort Golf Club in Évian-les-Bains, France – in high-fidelity for the next generation of female golf professionals, enthusiasts, and gamers to enjoy."

To more realistically capture the spirit of the women's game, the development team worked with a diverse group of professional golfers and broadcasters, including former professional golfer Iona Stephen, who not only worked with EA for over a year on the design, audio, visuals, community, and golf trends, but also joins the commentary team as the first female on-course commentator in the game. She joins the team as a member of the EA Sports Creative Council. 

"We know that women's golf is not the same as men's golf, and the LPGA differs from the PGA," Stephen says. "We wanted to take the same approach in partnering with the PGA with the LPGA, which includes involvement from female professional athletes and professionals, like me, to amplify the authenticity of women's golf and female golfers in EA Sports PGA Tour."

The team isn't ready to delve deeper into the LPGA-centered modes or the female golfers in the game, but EA Tiburon has revealed that the 2019 winner of the Amundi Evian Championship and current #2 ranked LPGA golfer in the world, Jin Young Ko, is on the roster. "We can't yet share the complete list of names just yet, as this process is still ongoing," Martin says. "Our goal is to include more female golfers than any other golf game out there. With the help of the LPGA, Creative Council, and a diverse dev team, we will be able to represent women in golf in a broader stroke."

EA Sports PGA Tour is set to launch in spring 2022 on new-gen consoles. For more on the partnership the game has with The Masters, head here.

Categories: Games

Exclusive Look At The Characters Of Shin Megami Tensei V

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 05:00

Publisher: Sega Developer: Atlus Release: November 12, 2021 Platform: Switch

Last month, we offered some exclusive screenshots for the highly anticipated RPG from Atlus, Shin Megami Tensei V. This month, we have more screenshots, as well as some additional information about the characters you will encounter in the early stages of the game.

As we already know, the story of Shin Megami Tensei V puts you in the shoes of a third-year high school student in Tokyo, but when the tunnel he enters collapses, he's taken to another dimension that's overrun by demons. While the protagonist fuses with a mysterious man named Aogami to become a condemned being known as a Nahobino, it turns out he's not the only person who was transported to this alternate version of Tokyo known as Da'at. 

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The protagonist soon reunites with Yuzuru Atsuta and Ichiro Dazai, two of his classmates. They each had their own close encounters with Da'at's demons, but together they're able to return to their version of Tokyo. Yuzuru is a good friend of the protagonist. Described by Atlus as "principled and upright," as well as "responsible, capable, and assertive." Meanwhile, Ichiro is a cheerful guy who can be a bit bumbling at times. He's not the best student, and many of his classmates see him as a loser. Still, Ichiro loves livestreaming, which he was doing in the tunnel when it collapsed. 

Once they group is back to their version of Tokyo, they encounter the caring and kind-hearted Tao Isonokami, another classmate of theirs. She explains that two parallel versions of Tokyo exist: their version, and Da'at. The demons are localized to Da'at for now, but she says they have their sights set on Tokyo. She then reveals to them that she knows all of this because she is a member of of Bethel, an organization that fights the demons they encountered in Da'at. Not only that, but the Japanese prime minister, the strategic and collected Hayao Koshimizu, serves as the main representative of the Japanese branch of Bethel.

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The trio of the protagonist, Yuzuru, and Ichiro decide to join Bethel to protect Tokyo from the impending demonic invasion. The protagonist uses his powers as a Nahobino, while Hayao grants Yuzuru and Ichiro the power of the demon summoning program. Just as the team is getting back to their normal, everyday lives, they receive an emergency notice from Bethel that demons have appeared all over Tokyo; the invasion has begun in full force.

While the protagonist and his friends head out to protect people in the areas the demons are swarming, they learn that a group of demons are attacking their high school. Not only does this trap their classmate, Sahori Itsukishima, but also Yuzuru's little sister and only living relative, Miyazu Atsuta. 

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With his newfound powers, the protagonist can fight demons using the standard command-based press-turn battle system, where striking enemy weaknesses can not only give you the upper hand, but also give you more turns with which to execute your plans. You do have to be careful though, as enemies can also strike your weaknesses and gain the momentum for themselves. All new skills such as Humble Blessing, Maziobarion, and Sanguine Drain allow you to employ a wider range of strategies in combat, while the Magatsuhi Skill system lets your party and your enemies activate special moves that can unleash powerful attacks or provide healing and support at crucial times.

It's been a long road to the release of Shin Megami Tensei V, but fans are ready to dive back into the series that has spawned other hit franchises like Persona and Devil Summoner. Thankfully, the release date is just on the horizon, as Shin Megami Tensei V launches on Switch on November 12.

Categories: Games

FIFA 22 Next-Gen Hypermotion Technology Is An Impressive Evolutionary Step

Tue, 07/20/2021 - 23:54

Publisher: Electronic Arts Developer: EA Canada Release: October 1, 2021 Rating: Everyone Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

FIFA 22 is the first installment in the popular football franchise to be completely designed for a true next-gen experience. The sheer power of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S have led to advancements for the team at EA Canada that are sure to excite devoted fans of the franchise. With the new addition of Hypermotion Technology (exclusive to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Stadia versions), FIFA 22’s gameplay, on a visual and analog level, feels much tighter this year. I got some hands-on time to test out these new features and was impressed at the new level of immersivity. 

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First thing’s first: what is Hypermotion Gameplay Technology? You may have watched the trailer above and are still unsure about how this shifts the FIFA formula. As opposed to capturing life-like football maneuvers by way of optical means – going to the studio and applying conventional mocap procedures with only a few players on the pitch at a time – Hypermotion allows EA Canada to implement what it calls “advanced 11v11 match capture” and “machine learning.” For the first time ever, FIFA’s physics and fluidity are directly informed by motion capture from 22 professional footballers playing intense, untampered, real-time matches. Cutting-edge computers use the data gained from these matches to imitate player movements and create new animations on the fly – and there are over a whopping 4,000 new animations! This is three times more than previous titles.

How does this translate in-game? I only had access to the classic kickoff mode, but after choosing a team and walking onto the pitch, I immediately noticed that the stiff movements from FIFA 21 were rarer. In fact, each footballer looked and felt more human. Players step into passes and readjust depending on where the ball meets their feet. Moreover, those odd ragdoll entanglements that happen during air battles or sudden tackles are nowhere to be seen. In FIFA 22, the smaller interactions truly go a long way. Players argue with one another (although this animation was hard to see with the default, zoomed out camera) and you might even catch someone wiping the sweat from their brow. This seems minimal, but each interaction gives matches more nuance. 

I’ve never been a particularly skilled player, but the “Tactical AI” in FIFA 21 offers more challenge and is consequently more rewarding. The defense moves as a unit, which was a little robotic from time to time. Opponents close in on your position and limit passing lanes as often as possible. This also makes racing past defenders more difficult, which is a nice touch seeing as how the FIFA series (and many other sports series, for that matter) prioritize high speed stats. Sprinting down the pitch on offense is a blast too. Smoother transitions allow you to be more explosive. Lob and through passes are more natural when the receiving footballer slows down to seemingly assess the ball’s trajectory and prepare accordingly. And since the defense pressures you as much as it can, you're better off performing agile dribbles or fakes to get out on top.

My time with the game was brief, but the moment-to-moment action feels steps ahead of its predecessor. The new animations and realism go a long way in making bouts more atmospheric and visceral. Outside of gameplay, EA Canada is working to fine-tune FIFA 22’s other modes but, for now, polishing up the on-pitch physicality has emerged as a primary objective for the developer; one that fans should notice when the game launches later this year.

Categories: Games

Back 4 Blood's Latest Trailer Shows Off 4K PC Gameplay With An Uncapped Framerate

Tue, 07/20/2021 - 16:08

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Developer: Turtle Rock Studios Release: October 12, 2021 Rating: Mature Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Turtle Rock Studios' Back 4 Blood is a cooperative zombie shooter that draws heavy inspiration from the studios' previous work on the Left 4 Dead series. It's a bloody reimagining that already won us over last year in our first look at the game. You can watch the new trailer here.

We loved what we played of Back 4 Blood last December, and in a few weeks we'll have the opportunity to see how the game has progressed since that early look in an open beta. If you pre-order Back 4 Blood, you'll get a jump on the open beta and can play from August 5-9. If you don't want to go this route, you can register for a chance to play from August 12-16 at the game's official website. Space for the open beta is limited, and not every person who registers will get in.

Today, Turtle Rock and publisher Warner Bros. Games released a new trailer that gives us a taste of what this wild experience will look like on a high-end PC. Make sure you set your video to the 4K setting to get a good look at the enhancements, which includes an uncapped framerate. Turtle Rock also says this version will offer NVIDIA deep learning super sampling, ultrawide and multi-monitor support, and other graphical and visual quality options. If your friends are playing on Xbox or PlayStation platforms, you'll be able to team up with them via crossplay when the game releases on October 12.

For more on this exciting shooter, check out our video preview that shows off plenty of gameplay, as Matt O'Driscoll, Turtle Rock's lead producer, walks through the game's design, approach to microtransactions, and more. You can also check out a trailer for Back 4 Blood's PVP, a mode that will give you control of fun classes like the reeker, retch, exploder, stinger, hocker, stalker, tallboy, crusher, and bruiser.

Categories: Games

Everything We Know About NBA 2K22 So Far

Tue, 07/20/2021 - 16:00

Publisher: 2K Games Developer: Visual Concepts Release: September 10, 2021 Rating: Everyone Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Last year, Visual Concepts’ NBA 2K series saw a season of highs and lows, as it made the move to new-gen hardware and tried to keep last-gen users happy. For NBA 2K22, the mission hasn’t changed: a new-gen and current-gen version are both in development with new features to keep players on both hardware invested. “We have two unique experiences again this year,” says executive producer Erick Boenisch. “We made two brand-new games again. That's something that I feel really solid about. It worked really well for us last year; our fans resonated with the different experiences they could play. "

After revealing the main cover athlete Luka Dončić last week among other special covers, Visual Concepts is finally ready to pull back the curtain on what to expect from NBA 2K22, providing the first information drop today in its Courtside Report. In addition, we attended a presentation from the Visual Concepts team, where it dished more on new features and answered a few questions. Here’s what we know so far.

On-Court Gameplay Improvements

Visual Concepts is promising more impactful changes on both sides of the game, although the details are still light on what this will entail. Offensively, the goal is to give players more control over how they score. Basketball IQ and stick skills will play a bigger role in your success, and you can expect precision jump shooting, dunking in traffic, and pulling off alley-oops to be more skill-based alongside new signature moves and combos to break down defenders off the dribble.  Gameplay director Mike Wang said, "If you don't make the right play, then that's going to be on you."

Defensively, a revamped shot contest, stealing, and blocking system bring more realism to the game. Elite defenders should make much more of an impact, being able to play suffocating defense on the perimeter. "All the things you do in the game, they're a lot more skill-based," Wang says. "What you come away with is an experience that just feels a lot more rewarding."

A trailer coming later in August will show off the gameplay improvements in action. 

Seasons Are Going Game-wide

Seasons are back, and they’re expanding. They are going game-wide and will be making their way into other modes beyond MyTeam. Visual Concepts says to expect more content, rewards, and more ways to play. "It's free for all NBA 2K22 gamers; there's no pay, no battle pass, this is all free content," Boenisch confirms. "It's going to be playable in MyTeam on both gens, it's gonna be playable on MyCareer mode on both gens. And also on The W on the next-gen consoles. This brings more constant more rewards, more ways to play for gamers all year long. " 

NBA 2K22 will also introduce a new way to level up your MyPlayer and earn prizes via The Neighborhood. "One thing I will say, a little nugget for you guys, is season modes and MySeason mode in MyCareer really gives an opportunity for us to kind of change the archaic rep system, and how it's worked for many years in The Neighborhood, and in The City last year."  We’ll find out more about this in late August. 

Drafting Returns For MyTeam

MyTeam fans will also be happy to know one much-requested feature is finally making a return: drafting. "The MyTeam draft mode will have you select an entire lineup," says MyTeam producer John Smith. "And it's going to have a constantly updated pool of players, because as everyone knows, with My Team, that roster and the players that we put out all year long, evolve very much from Season One to Season Two to Season Three and beyond. This is an online mode. And the rewards that you get with your drafted team are for your permanent MyTeam collection."

Smith did tease to expect another new mode outside of drafting to come around this holiday season. And before you ask, yes, just like in 2K21, all your progress will carry over across console generations, so if you do upgrade, you won't lose all your progress. 

The New City (PS5/Xbox Series X/S) and New Neighborhood (PS4, Xbox One)

Last year, new-gen players were introduced to The City and current-gen players had The 2K Beach. The former is getting some much-needed improvements, while the latter get to take to the waters and compete in a community aboard a cruise ship. The cruise ship will dock at exotic destinations throughout each season, with special shoreside events to keep things interesting. 

The City has a new layout this year, and Visual Concepts said it made the experience much more lively and interactive, with more NPCs populating the city to make it feel alive. A new quest system is promising more creative content, while also providing new ways to level up and earn rewards. Visual Concepts says it will go into specifics at a later date.

Matchmaking options for The City should give players quicker alternatives for getting into games, with special buildings designated for this feature. Visual Concepts also said these types of sessions will be available for a number of game types and contribute to all MyPlayer progress.

Some other confirmations we received: Affiliations still exist and Visual Concepts said they'll "be bigger than ever." You also won't have to spend games grinding in Rookieville to access The City, as Boenisch confirmed that's a thing of the past.  "Rookieville was a good experiment for us," he said. "I enjoyed it for what it was. But at the end of the day, I didn't feel it added to the game what we set out for it. So there is no Rookieville in 2K22; you start as a fresh-faced kid in The City." 

Visual Concepts said to expect more information in September on both The City and Cruise Ship Neighborhoods. 

MyCareer Is Getting Reenvisioned For New-Gen

A traditional career mode will hit current-gen versions, but Visual Concepts is merging MyCareer with The City for new-gen versions, so your growing career will be reflected in this venue. As your player makes a name for themselves, they can pursue side ventures here, such as entering the fashion world or getting involved in the hip-hop business. You will also watch your home base grow with your ambition and success right in The City.

"What we're doing this year is [we] really tore down the wall between The City and MyCareer; they're one," Boenisch explains. "Your MyCareer takes place in The City. You'll be using the [new] questing engine we made as part of the MyCareer experience. Your house, [it's] going to start off really simple, and as you kind of play along in your career, your house becomes bigger and bigger until you get the penthouse in the sky. But the whole point is, you're living in The City with tons of other people who are on their careers as well. You're just interacting with all of these people, pushing along your objective. "

When asked if we would get an authored, cinematic story like the past, Boenisch had this to say: "The story of MyCareer is it's the narrative of you - the MyPlayer that you create and your journey, from wherever we start you to ultimately where you want to end up. That's different for many people. That's an NBA champion, or that is making it to the NBA, or that is making it to the Hall of Fame. There's so many ways you can choose. But without giving too much away because I do want to talk about this a lot later, that tearing down the wall of MyCareer and The City is you will have these interactions, these cinematics, if you want to call it that, in real-time in The City. As you are going about your story, you're going to visit your agent's house, you're going to the Nike facility to have your negotiations in the environment there. You're moving about your career in The City alongside many, many other players doing the same."

More will be revealed in September about exactly what the storyline entails and how much freedom you have within it.

MyNBA/WNBA (PS5/Xbox Series X/S)

While Visual Concepts wouldn’t elaborate just yet what it has planned, it said to expect the road to building a winning franchise to involve a bigger focus on the staff behind the players. Staffing is going to be just as integral as signing star players to bolster your roster. This includes scouting, training, and coaching. We can expect more details in early September. 

Release Timing

A global launch is set for September 10 on all platforms (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC). You can check out all the different editions and what's in them here.

We will be updating this story as more info is revealed, so you can keep track of it all in one place.

Categories: Games

Cris Tales Early Impressions

Mon, 07/19/2021 - 23:00

Publisher: Modus Games Developer: Dreams Uncorporated Release: July 20, 2021 Rating: Everyone 10+ Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, PC

Cris Tales hits tomorrow across nearly every major platform, and the review embargo has officially lifted. Unfortunately, I'm not ready to deliver a verdict on the new role-playing title, so instead, I'm going to give you my early impressions from the opening hours of this pretty throwback RPG.

The game is undeniably gorgeous, possessing one of the most consistently beautiful art styles I've seen in a long time. Every environment, every enemy, and every party member is stunningly hand-drawn, creating a distinct and eye-catching style that has delighted me in my early travels. The aesthetic is complemented by memorable, fitting music and well-acted, fully voiced dialogue.

While the visuals are definitely an early highlight, I'm also quite enjoying the combat. I love Crisbell's ability to reverse or speed up time in battles, accelerating or removing status effects from enemies. For example, I can move forward in time to make a poisoned enemy die instantly, or reverse time to make them a younger, less powerful version of the enemy I originally encountered. You can also use these powers to play off of abilities of other party members, like moving forward in time to rust a metal shield that your party member attacked with water.

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While this mechanic reveals itself as a useful tool to the player early on, I'm particularly excited to see how it evolves over the course of my journey. Crisbell and her talking frog companion can also use these time-travel powers to solve puzzles in the environment, even changing the fate of entire towns, but its execution has been rather rudimentary at the point I've reached in the adventure.

I do want to reiterate that I'm still very early in Cris Tales' story, but I'm excited to see how the mechanics that have already been introduced continue to evolve and grow as I make it deeper into the journey. To see the game in action and learn what my colleagues think, check out the episode of New Gameplay Today above! Cris Tales launches tomorrow, July 20, on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

Categories: Games

12 Minutes Preview – Time Changes Everything

Mon, 07/19/2021 - 23:00

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive Developer: Luis Antonio Release: August 19, 2021 Rating: Mature Platform: Xbox One, PC

The last five minutes of your life have been great. Arriving home, your wife is in a fantastic mood. She asks you to dance around the living room. It’s silly, but you do. She’s made you your favorite dessert, too. As you sit down to eat, she reveals a gift. When you open it, you’re greeted with baby clothes. You’re going to be a father. And then there’s a knock on the door.

The next five minutes of your life are going to be hell. On the other side of the door is a man claiming to be a cop. He says he has a warrant. You let him in. He accuses your wife of murdering her own father eight years ago. For whatever reason, he’s insistent on finding a pocket watch that belonged to your wife’s father. Apprehending the both of you, tying your hands behind your back, the cop chokes you until you fall unconscious. When you wake up, you’re inside the doorway of your apartment, five minutes ago, as if nothing ever happened. What do you do next?

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Your wife comes out of the bathroom. She’s made you dessert. She has a present for you. You tell her about the cop. You ask her why she killed her father. She is insulted and confused. What are you talking about? Five minutes later, the cop is back.

So goes the opening of 12 Minutes, developed by Luis Antonio, starring James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe. How you progress, largely, is up to experimentation. Playing the first 45 minutes or so, I tried my hand at whatever I could. I called 911. I hid my wife in the bathroom while I tried to stall the cop. In a moment of helplessness, I killed my wife, flushed the murder weapon, and hid in the closet, allowing the cop to stumble upon the body. At every turn, the game reacted to my decisions. Not that it ever did me much good. No matter what I tried, time always reset. I was never solving the puzzle, just finding more pieces.

“12 Minutes never tells you what to do,” Antonio says. “So, as things get more and more complex, it’s going to be a bit of your own interpretation of how things are going.”

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12 Minutes takes place in one location: your apartment. During my time with the game, loops ran roughly five to seven minutes; five minutes before the cop shows up, a couple minutes after as everything falls apart. Each run gives you more knowledge of the situation, and no run felt like time wasted.

“The small space allows for very quick iteration where if you make a mistake or you want to try something, you have a very small [window],” Antonio says. “You have a very quick answer to your experiment; you’re not trying 50 things and then you fail at action 49. You do two actions; you know very quickly.”

My time playing 12 Minutes is short, but immediately interesting. Since completing the demo, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do differently when I play again. If the rest of 12 Minutes can deliver on the intrigue of its opening hour, it could be a unique take on the timeloop genre. Time will only tell. 

Categories: Games

New Tom Clancy’s XDefiant Is ‘Fast-Paced Firefights Meets Punk Rock Mosh Pits’

Mon, 07/19/2021 - 19:15

Publisher: Ubisoft Developer: Ubisoft San Francisco Release: Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Today, Ubisoft unveiled the latest chapter in the Tom Clancy franchise: Tom Clancy’s XDefiant. A free-to-play first-person shooter, XDefiant is a Ubisoft original with no narrative ties to other IPs like The Division, Rainbow Six, or Ghost Recon (however, there are some direct influences that I’ll bring up later). In fact, XDefiant doesn’t have a story mode; it’s a 6v6 free-to-play multiplayer-only title. In the announcement trailer that dropped today, developers showed off a bevy of gameplay, talked about the cool features coming to the game, and enthusiastically stated that Tom Clancy’s XDefiant is “fast-paced firefights meets punk rock mosh pits.”

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XDefiant “combines realistic gunplay with personalized classes.” This means that despite having a multitude of customization options that can change the way you interact with teammates and adversaries alike, the shooting mechanics and game feel emerge as the most important aspects of the player experience. As the devs mentioned in the trailer, each weapon and attachment has been fine-tuned to provide differing experiences to match any playstyle. Moreover, no firearm is locked behind any class; you can sprint around the battlefield with your favorite gear at any time. Each player will have a primary, secondary, and a device that can be swapped out while on the respawn menus. 

The available factions have been selected from and inspired by maverick groups in  other Tom Clancy games: the Wolves (Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon), Echelon (Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell) and the Outcasts and Cleaners (Tom Clancy’s The Division). Each faction comes with its own unique traits, abilities, and ultra (ultimate). Based on the footage provided, these kits range from healing gas to invisibility cloaks and much more. 

The grittiness of combat is juxtaposed with colorful graffiti-covered maps that evoke the “mosh pit” feeling that the devs were excited about. A press release reads, “XDefiant will immerse players at the forefront of the Tom Clancy universe at iconic locations in the throes of technicolor chaos, with maps mixing indoor and outdoor environments, ensuring smooth gameplay and unpredictable engagements.”

The modern and futuristic equipment and sliding physics are reminiscent of the mechanics in competitive, team-based shooters like Warzone and Apex Legends so Tom Clancy’s XDefiant might be up your alley if you’re a fan of those two games. XDefiant is still in early development, but tests will be available to the public, the first one dropping on August 5. 

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XDefiant will be available for current- and last-gen consoles as well as Stadia with crossplay at launch.

What are your early impressions of the game? Are you planning on registering for the upcoming playtests? Do you wish there was a single-player campaign? Let us know below!

Categories: Games

New World Beta Goes Live Tomorrow

Mon, 07/19/2021 - 16:00

Publisher: Amazon Games Developer: Amazon Games Release: August 31, 2021 Rating: Teen Platform: PC

Amazon Games’ upcoming MMORPG New World goes into a closed beta state this week. In fact, it goes live tomorrow! If you already prepurchased the game, you are guaranteed a spot in this beta phase, which showcases a number of features that we had a chance to try out in a lengthy preview demo session. Over the course of a few hours, we played the Outpost PVP mode and had a chance to dive into an end-game dungeon called an expedition.

Outpost is essentially a game of Domination with some quirks. With three capture locations and two teams, one team seeks to secure the most points and accrue points until victory is achieved. Of course, it’s not quite that simple and there are some other elements in play as well during this PVP endeavor. Wildlife and resource nodes are dotted across the map, and these can be used to bolster your cap points with additional defenses. Therefore, you can’t just sit around and defend your holdings if you want to have the best shot at winning, you have to actively get out there and grab some tools to help that victory happen. There’s also a boss that spawns occasionally that incites the action to pool in one location for a big bonus - kind of like killing Roshan in Dota 2 or Baron in League of Legends.

As a heavy two-handed maul wielding berzerker type, I had no problem running into the center of combat, flattening (stunning) opponents, and generally causing a ton of disruption behind enemy lines. Even when I was just running around in the middle of a pack blocking I was wasting their time and preventing them from moving up on a cap point, so my interactions always seemed useful. The game itself seemed slowed-paced than some other MMORPG offerings like WoW battlegrounds, but that might be what you’re looking for.

The dungeon I got to participate in consisted of a ridiculous amount of skeletons and a boss. There were more bosses to be had in the expedition, but that’s all the time we had time to get to. Given that my crew consisted of players that had never played New World before, including myself, I’m actually surprised that we got even that much done. In a few underground chambers, we tackled some light puzzles and some wave-based fare before taking on a boss that had fairly textbook MMORPG mechanics, including a buff that kept damage stacking up over time making burst damage important.  We were well equipped going in with loot that was higher gear level than what was dropping, but the purple gear that was dropping seemed fairly generous. Since I had learned how to somewhat play my heavy two-handed mace wielder in PVP, I carried that character template over to this experience, and toyed around a bit with the gemming system that allows you to fine tune your equipment to your playstyle, with perks that let you change your raw damage to elemental or get boosts on slamming into undamaged enemies.

While it’s impossible to really get a feel for how a MMORPG is going to feel from a demo session, I left eager to give things a try from the beginning with a low level character so that I can understand how things advance and play better. Starting with everything unlocked in any game can be overwhelming, so having a fully-geared character with all stat points ready to rock didn’t really give me a sense of things. We’ll see how things go as we head toward the August 31st launch date.

Categories: Games