The Invisible Hours Review: From Every Angle

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 04/24/2018 - 18:00

Sharing much of the style of Punchdrunk's 2011 play Sleep No More, The Invisible Hours is more immersive theater than it is interactive fiction. You exist as a ghost in each scene, and you can follow any of the characters at any time, rewinding, fast-forwarding, and pausing as you please. But you don't act on anything; you just observe, gathering pieces of a larger story along the way. That story draws heavily from classic mystery novels, and even though its twist isn't as original as it initially might seem, it's intriguing to watch things unfold from every perspective and learn more about its shady characters.

Set in an alternate version of the late 1800s, The Invisible Hours takes place at inventor Nikola Tesla's mansion, where an assortment of guests--including a very arrogant Thomas Edison--have gathered at his behest. When the first chapter begins, Tesla is already dead, lying in a pool of his own blood in the entryway. If you pause as soon as the chapter opens and wander Tesla's island, you can find five of the guests in their rooms and one outside in a gazebo--and no indication of who the murderer is, of course. In true Agatha Christie fashion, among the guests is a detective who supposedly can help the process along.

That detective, Gustaf Gustav, is the first character you meet and the only person at Tesla's isolated mansion who arrived after the murder. You start out on the docks of the rocky island just as Gustaf's boat approaches, though you can go anywhere at any time rather than sticking by his side. But following Gustaf through a scene gives you the most straightforward perspective, since he's the only one of the seven suspects who almost certainly didn't do it and is simply looking for the killer. Effectively making him the protagonist for your first playthrough of each of the four chapters is the easiest way to get your bearings, and it's a strong anchor for the rest of the story.

That said, The Invisible Hours works regardless of the order in which you experience different events. The game is structured so that one revelation or detail won't ruin any other scenes in the same chapter, so you can follow whoever interests you the most and go from there. You can listen to a character discuss a murder trial and then find a newspaper clipping about it with new details, or you can find the news story first--each instance works in isolation with the bigger picture. For the most part, there's something going on at any point in time. There are stretches where characters, when left alone, aren't doing much--looking out windows into the storm, reading books, or sitting and staring into the distance--but there's always a lead to chase somewhere, if not more than one.

The characters and their sordid backstories turn out to be far more interesting than the murder itself. The real mystery is not who killed Tesla but why Tesla invited these people to his mansion in the first place, and as the story progresses, those reasons become more and more clear. The depth of each side story makes rewinding and revisiting scenes rewarding, rather than the chore it could have been. The game also tracks who you've seen and at what time during each chapter, so it's easy to find exactly whose perspective you're missing and track them down--and find out what they were doing when you weren't looking.

Because it shares a lot of the same DNA as classic mystery novels, The Invisible Hours can initially come off a little campy. A few over-the-top characters--especially Edison--and some convenient explanations for their behavior feel like dinner theater fare at times, but there are significant reasons for those apparent missteps to appear the way they do. The Invisible Hours' performances are reflective of that, and the more you learn about each character, the more you can appreciate the acting that goes into all of them. The stage actress in particular is impressive, with shifting body language and changes in her speech revealing the different sides to her.

The Invisible Hours works regardless of the order in which you experience different events.

In the same vein, every plot hole I thought I'd found turned out to be solid once I saw it from every angle. That put me in the position of the characters in mystery novels that frustrate me the most: the ones who jump to conclusions, make assumptions, and cause more problems than they solve. It was a reminder that my job wasn't to figure out whodunnit, and I appreciated The Invisible Hours most when I stopped trying to solve the mystery and instead just watched as it unfolded. Once I did find out who the killer was, I wasn't even concerned with it anymore, for better or worse (though a hard-to-find secret ending makes the killer's reveal more interesting than it is on its own).

The Invisible Hours shifts depending on how you approach its story; scenes take on different meanings as you see them from different perspectives, and as a result, finding every detail in the bigger picture is rewarding. It strikes the same tone as an Agatha Christie novel and at times feels campy for it, but the characters are interesting and well-acted, making each trip through the same few minutes worth it just to see a different character's side of things.

Categories: Games

Versatile Vehicles Add Smashing Strategies

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 04/24/2018 - 17:10

A new trailer for Codemasters' destructive racing title Onrush gives great details on the game's vehicle classes and their unique abilities. There's a tool for every job, and each of the eight classes brings some significant advantages to the table.

Onrush is all about taking out any opponents in your way, but the classes' abilities go further by enabling gameplay strategies that could make this title about more than just naked aggression. Draining or disabling an opponent's boost ability, helping nearby teammates in a variety of ways, blinding competitors with your gravestone, and much more give you plenty of options.

For a full list of each of the classes' particulars head over to the game's official blog, and be sure to check out the video below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

[Souce: Codemasters] 

Categories: Games

The Swords Of Ditto Review: One Good Turn Deserves Another

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 04/24/2018 - 14:00

As games continue to grow in scope and complexity, there is something to be said about the light-hearted, compact RPG stylings of The Swords of Ditto. It mixes childlike cartoon visuals and a delightful soundtrack with light puzzles and simple-yet-challenging combat. And while it doesn’t offer anything particularly groundbreaking to seasoned RPG or roguelite fans and backs you into a wall in some confusing ways, the intuitive nature of its systems, along with the inclusion of local two player co-op, makes The Swords of Ditto a fun leap down the rabbit hole into saving a strange and ever-changing cursed town.

The main loop of each playthrough is simple: Wake up, gather a sword from its resting place in the town of Ditto--either from statue or in the graveyard--to become the hero, then seek out the Toys of Legend to destroy the Anchors that the villain Mormo uses to strengthen her grasp on the world, making her easier to defeat in the final confrontation. If you die before then, Mormo wins and Ditto lives under her rule for another 100 years before the new Sword of Ditto is awakened, and the cycle continues. If you succeed, Ditto lives in peace for 100 years until Mormo returns, and it all happens all over again. Getting the hang of this can all feel a little overwhelming at first, but any confusion quickly slips away as the game’s rhythm settles in, and it doesn’t take long to feel comfortable with what’s expected of you.

Co-op play is local only, but the drop-in, drop-out system makes it very easy to have another player come and go at any moment. It also changes up the dynamics of play fairly significantly. Enemies are stronger, as you’d expect, meaning some enemies require a more tactical approach to take down. Items are shared between players, which can put a sudden strain on health items if you’re both struggling to deal with the added difficulty. Thankfully this is alleviated somewhat by an increased item drop rate, so health items can be replenished nearly as quickly as you go through them.

The entirety of the explorable areas are made up of individual sections that are pieced together at random for each playthrough. When out exploring the world, there’s plenty to find and keep you busy. In Zelda-like fashion, you can slice up grass to score more coins or health items. One standout touch: If the weather is dry, you can torch a field of grass and watch it all go up in super-satisfying fashion. Random shops, caves and houses filled with cute and interesting characters dot the world, and while some only share a few repeated lines of dialogue, others offer quests for items or keys to unlock dungeons in other parts of the map. Almost everywhere you look there’s something else to see and do, and it’s this sense of discovery that's felt when finding these hidden gems that makes The Swords of Ditto so rewarding.

Combat is mechanically straightforward; you can perform a simple melee attack with your sword as well as a roll dodge, and you have four interchangeable gear slots for items or weapons that are accessed using the d-pad. You can also buff your character by applying stickers that you find around the world or purchase within certain shops. It’s all fairly rudimentary, but despite the combat’s relative simplicity the enemies are a huge challenge, and this is where it gets gratifying.

Each foe has its own unique way of attacking or defending, and learning this for each enemy will make you much more effective at taking them down. The three-headed fireball will, if it touches you, turn your sword attacks into healing slashes for a few seconds, forcing you to retreat before the effect wears off. The green slime-ball monster falls harmlessly apart when physically attacked--it'll only taking damage when it’s set on fire. It takes some time to learn all of this, but when you do, combat feels much more satisfying. You become more capable of clearing large groups of monsters than if you’d just kept slashing away, and having to think each encounter through makes it all the more enjoyable.

While it needs a little refinement, The Swords of Ditto is sure to delight, whether played on your own or with a friend.

Dungeon puzzles are also relatively simple yet engaging. Some involve coloured switches that rearrange the room entirely, altering your path and the enemies within. Some rooms simply involve killing all the enemies to make a key or a chest appear, while others are increasingly more elaborate and labyrinthian. It’s not unusual to come across a room that demands you place a multiple runes in slots that only appear when a certain switch is triggered, all separated by large chasms, locked doors, and rows of floor spikes. Later rooms will combine all of these variables into one, adding a light complexity that manages to keep things breezy and enjoyable.

Alongside the puzzles, each dungeon submits to the Isle of Trials rules--a set of modifiers that changes the rules of how each dungeon works. Early dungeons will only have one or two of these applied, but later playthroughs will throw upwards of four, and they could be anything from negating poison to activating auto-health-regen while prohibiting the use of consumables. These modifiers keep the game and the dungeons feeling fresh, especially in subsequent attempts, offering new challenges that unpredictably swing things either for or against you.

It’s not a game without issue, though. Even while playing on PS4 Pro, The Swords of Ditto can be prone to quite a bit of slow down and stutter, mostly when there are lots of items strewn about. I also had a couple of triggering issues that would block my progress, meaning I had to quit to the menu and reload the game to reset the room. But the biggest problem is the time limit that’s enforced for each playthrough. You are only given a handful of in-game days--which changes depending on difficulty--to explore, gather resources, and complete quests before being forced into confrontation with Mormo at the end of the final day. Not only that, it feels like the days are too short, making some of the more elaborate discoveries difficult to fully engage with in a single playthrough.

While you can unlock the ability to rewind time by collecting enough of a particular type of item and taking them to a shrine, you have to collect yet a second currency to purchase them on top of that. Given that some of the items required for these longer quests are lost with a new character, It feels like you should have this ability to purchase rewinds from the start. This would have given me more confidence to explore more of the game, instead of keeping one eye on the days remaining and the other on whatever tasks are left to complete.

The Swords of Ditto is nothing short of a light-hearted good time. Despite a few bumps getting in the way of progress and some misgivings about the forced time limit per playthrough, it’s still a joy to slash through enemies and collect items while humming the game’s ear-tickling soundtrack. Meeting oddball characters and watching the world react to past playthroughs is a wonderful exercise, and pushing through the game’s barriers to exploration feels rewarding every time. While it needs a little refinement, The Swords of Ditto is sure to delight, whether played on your own or with a friend.

Categories: Games

The Indie Adventure Game Explains Itself

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 21:28

The Swords of Ditto, a game that combines old-school Zelda inspirations with modern roguelike-lite mentalities, is out tomorrow, so its launch trailer is here today!

You can check out the trailer below with its cute animation explaining the basic concept of the game. Players go through generations of heroes in an effort to get stronger and get more items during runs and defeat the villain taking over the island. Successful attempts result in a happier island, while failed attempts lead to a century of oppressive rule.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

The Swords of Ditto launches on PlayStation 4 and PC on April 24. We included it in our list of best indie games we played at PAX East.

Categories: Games

The Alliance Alive Review: A Change Of Pace

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 20:00

The Alliance Alive wastes no time throwing you into a dark and oppressive world. As soon as you begin, you meet young Azura and her friend Galil. In their world, Daemons have sealed off continents from each other, forced humans to toil under Beastfolk masters, and covered up the sun for over a thousand years. Azura dreams of seeing a painting of a blue sky. It seems like a silly thing to obsess over, but anything that can bring even a twinge of happiness is something worth risking life and limb for.

This story is only the beginning, however, as you are funneled through a series of three intersecting perspectives: Azura and Galil, the Daemoness Vivian and her desire to observe humanity directly, and a human servant to Daemonic overlords named Gene. At about ten hours in, the three parties’ stories converge in a spectacular battle against a powerful foe, and the game transforms from a linear RPG into a more open-ended adventure to free humanity from its oppression and discover the truths of the world they live in.

Alliance Alive’s world captures your interest from the get-go and is uplifted by strong visual design that creates a series of distinct, detailed environments. The story moves along at a brisk pace, never lingering for too long on a singular location or plot point. Dialogue is also succinct and punchy, though some of the character development suffers a bit as a result--Daemon noble Vivian’s motives are flimsy compared to the machinations of the mysterious Gene and eccentric inventor Tiggy, while Azura and Galil’s rebel companions barely get any characterization at all. Overall, though, The Alliance Alive never feels likes it’s dragging its feet.

The game's turn-based combat deviates from established RPG norms in a lot of interesting ways. First, characters do not level up; instead, they randomly gain stat boosts after battle. Secondly, most characters can equip any weapons and armor they want, but they need to use said weapons in combat in order to gain proficiency and skills (which, much like stat gains, are learned at seemingly random moments). Thirdly, combat formations are hugely important here: depending on their position and the role (offense, defense, or support) a character is assigned, the effectiveness of attacks and skills is altered--and skills have individual levels tied to the specific position a character is in.

These oddball elements, though perhaps strange at first, help make combat more engaging than just mashing through menus. However, the game does a poor job of explaining most of these systems, expecting you to either be familiar with the series that inspired them (Square-Enix’s SaGa games) or having played developer Cattle Call’s previous RPG with similar combat mechanics, The Legend of Legacy. There are a few NPCs in the starting village that will drop hints, but they’re easily missed and don’t go into a lot of detail. An easy-to-access guide from the camp menu would have been a huge help, but unfortunately, you’re just going to have to learn a lot of Alliance Alive’s quirks through experience.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of everything, you’ll eventually reach a point where the game’s progression shifts towards a more open-ended structure. Despite this change, however, the speedy pacing and the solid combat don’t suffer much--though you may encounter more instances where you need to run from a high-level enemy that’s kicking your tail. One of the most fun elements also opens up around this time: the ability to find helpful NPCs who can be recruited to the various guilds that dot the land.

Groups like the Signimancy Guild, the Library Guild, and the Blacksmith Guild have set up towers across the world, and being in the towers’ sphere of influence yields benefits like enhanced combat stats and random start-of-round attacks and status ailments on enemies. They also aid the party by developing specialty weapons, armor, and spells. As you recruit more NPCs to these guilds, their capabilities also increase. You can engage with this element as little or as much as you want, but it can be one of the most enjoyable parts of The Alliance Alive. The feeling of building up support for your ragtag rebel crew is immensely satisfying--it’s just a shame it takes about a third of a game before it even opens up.

There’s a lot to love about The Alliance Alive: a well-paced story in an interesting world, a meaty mashup of unique combat elements, and a fantastic soundtrack that keeps you pumped and eager to explore. If you can put up with a bit of a learning curve, you’ll find a great portable adventure well worth dusting off your 3DS for.

Categories: Games

Our Thoughts After Two Intense Hours

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 15:00

Director David Cage and his team at Quantic Dream like to take risks, not all of which have paid off. In a way, it’s encouraging to see a team constantly push the boundaries of interactive storytelling, but this boldness has also certainly brought controversy and criticism. Even so, Quantic Dream never dials back, and Detroit: Become Human is its most ambitious project to date. This became more clear to me after playing through its first two hours and chatting with creator David Cage at a recent press event. With only a month until launch, here’s what you need to know about Detroit: Become Human.

A Scary Glimpse Into Our Potential Future

From people perpetually glued to their smartphones to the emergence of self-driving automobiles, technological advancement is an intriguing topic right now. What if our future is filled with robots who can ease our burdens and complete tasks incomparably? Detroit: Become Human begins with a grandiose statement, “This is not just a story. This is our future.” 

Set in 2038, Cage imagines a more technologically-dependent landscape and what issues would arise from that. Human-like androids have been integrated into society, available for purchase by anyone, and are programmed to obey their owner’s every command. Androids look like humans, but are treated just like objects. What happens when those supposed “objects” begin to feel emotions and attachments to their human owners? 

Detroit’s story also touches upon societal issues, such as abuse and segregation – androids must sit in the back of buses and are not allowed enter certain establishments. The tensions are high because the androids are negatively impacting the job market. Humans’ livelihoods and sense of purpose are at stake. Since you play from the perspective of three different androids (more on that later), you are constantly aware of humanity's complicated feelings toward you. Some have embraced androids for the ease they put on their lives, but others abhor them, protesting their existence and resorting to brute force against them to make their displeasure known. You never feel safe walking down the street, as you never know who will confront you or what you may see that will be a constant reminder of your status in the world.

Complex Androids With Intriguing Humans At Their Side

It seems like androids bring out the worst in humans, or more aptly, amplify humanity’s negative traits. Greed. Resentment. Violence. Cage sets up his story not to make you sympathize with the humans, but instead imagines how humans would abuse technology on top of all the other issues we see in our society today, such as equal rights, climate change, and abuse of power. Throughout the game, you shift through perspectives of three androids who begin to develop emotions and gain the ability to go against their programming. 

Each is paired with a human character, and these supporting relationships display the struggles of this world, which featured the best writing in the demo. Kara is a fugitive, helping a little girl escape her abusive father. Markus is owned by a kindhearted, elderly artist who treats him like a son and encourages him to form his own identity. Lastly, Connor is programmed to hunt down disobedient androids, and forced to partner with cop Hank Anderson who isn’t exactly fond of his kind. Cage said the idea to give each android a sidekick was decided early on. “It was very challenging to write from the beginning to the end, because suddenly you don’t manage one arc, you manage two arcs, and the relationship is almost the third arc,” he says. “Then you have to provide a satisfying sense of closure for all of those characters, and they have their backstories and they have their own motivations and agendas. It made everything much more complex, but I’m so glad we did it because I think it really does something for the experience and story.”

Every android plays a bit differently based on their role in the story. When playing from Connor’s perspective, you search for clues to piece together what happened at crime scenes, then based on your findings decide your next move. Connor has a rewind ability you can use as you put together events, allowing you to view all angles of the situation and find new clues. When I played Connor, his story revolved around his role in helping the police. These include situations like trying to defuse a tense hostage situation and interrogating an android who would self-destruct if I pushed him too hard.

Kara’s scenes aren’t so much about piecing together complex events, but discovering the best way out of them. A down-and-out father purchases her to play the role of caretaker after his wife leaves him. He’s extremely unstable, using drugs and lashing out at his daughter, Alice, for his failures. As Kara, you need to decide just how to get Alice out of this awful situation and keep her safe.

Markus lives in a better atmosphere, working in a lavish mansion with Carl, a well-off artist who genuinely appreciates and cares for him. Markus’ challenges come from other people, whether it’s strangers who hold animosity for androids to Carl’s drug-abusing son Leo. As an old man, Carl is trying to prepare Markus for this bleak world without him. Carl ended up being my favorite supporting character in the demo. He’s a wise man, who isn’t blind to mankind’s depressing flaws. In these early hours, I found myself basing my decisions on the three relationships. For instance, with Kara, I always wanted to set a good example for Alice, and as Markus, I never wanted to cause Carl extra strife, especially knowing that he’s sick.

The Difficulty Of Playing Those Intense Scenes...

Dramatic and emotional moments abound in Detroit: Become Human. Throughout my demo, I saw everything from tender moments to uncomfortable scenes of violence. Yes, certain parts are unpleasant to play through, putting you right in the middle of a tense dilemma and gauging how you’d react. Cage knows he’s taking on sensitive subject matter that’s largely been absent from video games, but feels it’s important to see if video games can tell these stories. 

From what I played the moment that sticks out the most deals with the aforementioned child abuse. You not only fear for Kara’s safety but also for this little girl’s as you watch her father unraveling from drug abuse and depression. You are told to stand there and not move, as the father prepares to “teach his daughter” a lesson. The scene isn’t done poorly, but made me feel anxious and distraught. It’s up to you whether you intervene (I did), which turned into an intense fight scene. Did it stir emotions in me? Yes. Did it serve a purpose in the narrative. Again, yes. Will it be too much for some people, especially those who have gone through these situations? Absolutely. Cage isn’t shying away from these complex topics. I am wary of how these intense scenarios are handled in the larger scheme of the game, since exploring them authentically and respectfully in a video game is tough to pull off. 

Cage is quick to acknowledge this concern. “We talked about [the subject matter] pretty much every day on the team, because we were aware we had a responsibility. When you tell a story like this you need to be respectful for people to understand the situation. We consulted different people. We talked to people from different horizons to make sure we knew how to tackle [specific] parts. We totally understand that these are sensitive issues. We did have a moment where we said, ‘Look we need to be very careful about what we’re saying,’ because you’re not just saying one thing, you’re saying many different things and you want every single branch and structure to say something right, although you offer choices. We’re scared, but at the same time, we thought, ‘Wait a second, we’re working on something that’s really important' and for us it becomes a statement. We believe that games are legitimate as any other medium to talk about these things… if we step back it means interactivity is not trying to do these things.”

Lots Of Story Variations

All of these characters have opportunities to forge relationships, make difficult decisions, or die, depending on your plentiful choices. At the end of each chapter comes a flow chart of all the possible variations of the story, and I was impressed with just how many different things can happen depending on what items you pick up, how you problem-solve, and what dialogue choices you make. You get a percentage in this flow chart, showing you how much you completed out of your potential options. “From day one, the most important thing on Detroit for us was to make the most branching narrative we ever created,” Cage says. “We didn’t want to do any smoking mirrors to make you think something has an impact and it actually doesn’t.”

Cage said the team deliberately put the flow charts in so people would know just how many variations there were to any given path. “We didn’t want to make anything invisible, because when it’s invisible, people assume it’s not there,” Cage explains. “This is why we have the flow charts because we put so much effort into the branching aspect of the game and you have to see it to be aware that it’s there.”

An example of a big choice is trying to find a safe place to stay in the pouring rain while Kara and Alice are on the run. You can choose to find a way to get money for a hotel, an abandoned house, break into a car, and more. Depending on what you pick, you will be placed in different scenarios with tough decisions; sometimes you will even meet certain characters based on what path you take. As I played my demo, I looked at other people’s screens around me and saw events play out very differently. This leaves me hopeful for navigating this fascinating and scary world and feeling like the story actually reflected my actions. “The game has a lot of tradeoffs, ‘you can play this, but you need to get that’ that you have to accept,” Cage explains. “It’s not binary choices, it’s usually difficult choices and interesting dilemmas like, ‘Am I ready to steal to have a safe place for tonight?’” 

To do justice to all the actions and outcomes, it took Cage two and a half years to write the script. “I’ve never spent so much time on the script,” he says. “It became crazy just to provide consistent consequences to everything that happens. It’s not just about offering choices, it’s about being able to manage them [well].” Cage says he knows some arcs will be seen by a mere 10 percent of players, and part of the challenge was anticipating every possible way someone would play a scene, whether they’d have an item or obey a command. “You embrace the idea that you’re going to produce all the dialogue and characters [for a path] and few people will see it,” Cage explains. “It’s challenging to write and then it has a cost in production, which you have to be willing to accept, which we did on this project, more than anything we’ve done so far.”

Final Thoughts

While I felt that Detroit’s introductory two hours were intriguing and gave me more confidence about the game, it’s hard to know if it will fall apart or end up being remarkable. Cage reinforced that what I saw was only the introduction to the tale, saying it really picks up into the core story after this. “What we wanted to do with the first part is really make you feel empathy for the three main characters and like them so by the time the big things happen, you’re in their shoes.”

Cage isn’t entirely sure how gamers will take to it either, but felt tackling sensitive subject matter was worth the risk. “It’s an attempt at trying something different and making a proposition to the industry... to see if people will think this is interesting, and if games should be about these serious matters.” He also knows taking this chance means he might not necessarily succeed. “We need to do it right, and I don’t know if we did it right, but players will tell us,” Cage says. "We’re aware of the responsibility and weight on our shoulders.” 

That’s the thing with risks – you have to take them to try and move the medium forward, but you can never predict the outcome. 

Detroit: Become Human launches on May 25 for PS4.

Categories: Games

Horror Title Releases Next Month

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 23:00

Agony, an upcoming first-person horror game set in hell, is releasing next month. You make your way through the frightening underworld with the use of special abilities that allow you to control other beings and possess demons as you attempt to find the mythical Red Goddess.

The new release date was announced via a trailer, which you can view below. 

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Agony was supposed to come out in March, but it was delayed. It's new release date is May 29 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

An Experimental Game About A Young Boy With Mental Illness

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 04/22/2018 - 18:16

To Leave is an upcoming game from Ecuadorian studio Freaky Creations. It's the studio's first title and has been in development for six years. To Leave tells the tale of Harm, a young man battling mental illness who finds a magical flying door that could help solve many of both his problems and the world's problems.

The protagonist, named Harm, deals with manic depression, and the team wants to portray these difficulties in the gameplay as well. "...To Leave makes use of several points of view and game-genres to convey that experience," writes creative director  Estefano Palacios T. on the PlayStation Blog.

Much of the gameplay consists of you navigating through dreamlike sequences, where Harm holds onto the flying door for dear life as you navigate him through obstacles. You can view the trailer below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

To Leave releases on PlayStation 4 very soon, on April 24. A PC version is also in the works, but it does not yet have a release date.

[Source: PlayStation Blog]

Categories: Games

First Teaser Trailer Shows Sam, A Bike, And A Bunch Of Baddies

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 16:09

Croteam has revealed a teaser trailer for its upcoming Serious Sam 4: Planet Badass, which shows the titular character and a bunch of his closest friends.

There's not too much to the clip, but it's fun to see Sam again, as well as one of those creepy headless guys with bombs for hands. We won't have to wait too long for additional information – Croteam says more information, including the official announcement for the game, will be coming at E3, during Devolver Digital's press conference. 

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Categories: Games

Your body is a temple in this open-world survival title

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 22:00

With numerous survival and battle royale titles swarming the video game market, developer Gamepires aims to stand on top using realism with their upcoming Steam Early Access game, SCUM. 

As a prisoner on a TV show, the ultimate objective is to win their freedom by surviving against zombie-like creatures with or against up to 64 other contestants on a 12 kilometer island. The focus to achieving that goal is mastering the human body and its complexities through the “most advanced human body simulation in the world,” creative director Tomislav Pongrac claims. The inspiration for the simulation comes from the team’s research while playing myriad survival titles. They realized that, aside from weapons players discover, differences were merely cosmetic. “You can’t call yourself a survival game if you don’t simulate the real world in some way,” says Gamespire CTO Andrej Levenski.

A chip on the back of your character’s head tracks numerous physical stats, from  respiratory rate to blood volume and calorie consumption, all of which are determined by attributes customized during character creation. Exercising and watching what and how much you eat are the king factors in your success – much like real life. In turn, poor choices result in stat reductions. For example, if you charge into battle and lose a tooth,  that hole in your mouth can affect your ability to eat, which causes a domino effect in stat reductions due to starvation. Hunger depletes attributes such as strength, which governs things like hand-to-hand blows as well as steadiness with a rifle. Players can also get sick if they loiter in the rain too long and don’t have water-resistant gear, and contract diseases from fighting animals.

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“In real life, we are all slightly different depending on what we have learned and what we are capable to perform,” says Pongrac. “In SCUM, all players will be different, regarding their knowledge and capabilities, and we found it much better and more realistic than classes which can be found in some games. In those games, you can create a sniper, a heavy guy, a medic, etc. while in SCUM you will be able to create a character who was a medic before he has been cast on the island, but they also can have a knowledge of using rifles, martial arts, or any other skill you find important. It provides players with almost endless possibilities.”

Upon death, players respawn as a clone of their character, who is created by the TEC1 corporation, the runners of the TV show. Your character maintains all of their attributes thanks to the chip tracking their stats, but the equipment you respawn with depends on a fame system determined by points with different tiers. The more renowned you are, the more equipment you can respawn with, at the cost of spending more points.  Pongrac describes it as “in-game monetization.” Respawning, however, subtracts points and makes you less popular with viewers. “We wanted to create a system that will allow players to continuously upgrade their characters and not to go mad when hundreds of hours invested in gameplay go to waste,” says Pongrac. “There will be no permadeath in the game, but we will make sure that players who try to survive are rewarded while all others who play recklessly are punished in a certain way. There are more things related to the fame system, from sponsor gifts, optional coupons for healing, food, and gear, along with how fame will be distributed within teams, but we will save that for later.”

Despite these numerous systems, Gamepires says SCUM also appeals. A randomized character option that assigns sporadic stats allows players to quickly jump into multiplayer modes that range from team deathmatch to battle royale. “[These types of events are great] because players can rotate faster and try some top gear from the game,” says Levenski. “You can do your regular survival things like hunting, crafting, and cooking, and when events are ready just join in … Your character stats and abilities from survival mode still count in those type of events, so you better join when your character is in good shape.”

If players want to focus on surviving without narrative intrusion, they can ignore plot points and discover the secrets of the show at will. “SCUM provides different gameplay mechanics depending on what players want to do,” says Pongrac. “We like to compare it to the onion. You can peel it layer by layer, or just take a big bite, whatever makes you happy.” 

Though SCUM is ambitious in scope, these factors seem to meld well for what looks like a distinction the survival genre desperately needs. You’ll have the chance to try SCUM when it hits Steam Early Access in the second quarter this year. For more on survival games, check out our hands-on thoughts on SCUM, the latest trailer for State of Decay 2, and our Subnautica review.

Categories: Games

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Review - Keep the Good Times Rolling

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 21:00

It's rare that a prequel truly works, where a story can captivate despite the audience knowing what's coming and where the path will lead. Life Is Strange: Before The Storm is one of those exceptional stories because it draws you in on its own terms. The only problem: You know it's building you up just to break your heart.

As we know, the original Life Is Strange is steeped in tragedy. Maxine Caulfield's estranged friend Chloe Price comes riding back into her hometown, hoping to find her missing friend, Rachel Amber. The search brings Chloe and Max close again after years apart, but it also illustrates a vast gulf in their life experience, which never fully closes. Max's life is defined by good fortune and privilege. Chloe, as seen through Before The Storm, is defined by loss.

When Episode 1 starts, Chloe is forced to finagle her way into an underground metal concert with nothing but street smarts and her own awkward sense of sass. She's not yet as sharp and hardened as the girl we meet in the original game, but she has it in her to become stronger as life gets tough. That girl's outlook on life is everywhere in Before The Storm: the greyer, evocative, post-rock soundtrack compared to the sunny lilt of the original game, the sneering commentary of the information in the menus. The Backtalk system—a stand-in for Life Is Strange's time travel mechanic—gives you even more control over the flow of a conversation to get what you want. It's a way to portray Chloe's very human strengths that sadly doesn't get implemented often enough in the latter two episodes.

Whoever you choose to make Chloe become, meeting Rachel shifts her focus. In the original game, Rachel is to Arcadia Bay what Laura Palmer is to Twin Peaks: a bonafide popular girl whose absence seems to mean everything to everyone, but who no one seems to really know on a personal level. Chloe Price, however, did know her, and Before The Storm gives you the chance to find out what was so special about Rachel in Chloe's eyes.

On the surface, the answer seems to be nothing. Episode 1 has Chloe and Rachel playing hooky, and trying to suss each other out, which doesn't tell you anything you couldn't guess on your own. It's only after Rachel catches her District Attorney father in a compromising act that she metaphorically bares everything, revealing she and Chloe aren't as different as they seem.

Before The Storm's three episodes are roughly two hours each, depending on how compulsive you are about exploring every nook and cranny. Compared to the original game, which leaned heavy on the implications of Max's time travel, Before the Storm has no real supernatural crutch to lean on to solve the world's problems. What few flights of fancy there are--aside from a heartwarming impromptu Shakespeare performance in Episode 2--manifest as occasional dream sequences, more for Chloe to sort through her own grief than to affect the world around her. The real world around Chloe continues to crumble, and your choices tend to fall on the side of figuring out how to sort the remains. It's choices like figuring out how best to deal with being kicked out of school, whether it's worth upsetting Chloe's mother to clap back at her trashy gun-nut stepfather, or parse out how much basic respect to give the gossip girls on Blackwell Academy's campus.

The heart of it all remains Chloe's relationship with Rachel. It's a textbook case of two people finding someone worth clinging to, and taking it on good will that their faith in each other isn't misplaced at best or going to get them killed at worst. Episode 3 veers ever slightly off into low-grade cable-TV drama, but even that's played earnestly, with Chloe and Rachel's mistakes having tangible, believable consequences, and choosing how Chloe deals with her failings is endlessly captivating to play through.

That captivation is, of course, the problem, if you can call it that. It's a game that so admirably and genuinely builds a relationship between two girls who absolutely need and deserve each other; when it gets to the ugly business of reminding you where it ends, it sours and saddens every moment. You could use your choices to keep Rachel at a bit of distance, but even that distance feels unfair, because why wouldn't both girls deserve their momentary bliss?

Still, Before The Storm's main three episodes largely play out as though the future isn't set in stone, allowing you to craft something resembling a momentary win for an ill-fated relationship, entertaining the notions of coping and vulnerability in ways very few games typically have time or inclination to. The bittersweet cherry on top, however, is contained in the game's Deluxe Edition, a final episode that allows you to play through Max and Chloe's last beautiful day together before Max leaves for Seattle. It's light, whimsical, often funny, and bathed in a gentle golden nostalgia. And once again, its final moments bring truth rushing in, and it's a stab in the heart.

This, apparently, is the heartbreaking joy that is Life Is Strange: the inevitability that life will do terrible, unexpected things to people whose presence we love, and people who absolutely deserve better. Developer Deck Nine's contribution through Before the Storm posits that the pain is still worth it; just to have the time at all is enough. A storm is still coming to Arcadia Bay, and Rachel will still disappear one day, and it doesn't matter. Being able to spend time with Chloe when her heart is at its lightest, and putting in the work to keep it going, is powerful and worthwhile.

Categories: Games

Taking The Circuit By Storm

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 16:07

The rise to the top always starts with a first step, and for those aiming for number one in the rankings in Tennis World Tour, you're going to have to methodically work your way through tournaments across the globe.

Developer Breakpoint (who worked on the Top Spin series) has released a new video for the game (coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC on May 22) outlining how players construct their schedule in the game's career mode.

Your player's schedule is more than just a menu of dates, however, as managing it well is crucial to maximizing your earnings, avoiding fatigue, and growing as a player.

For more on the game's career mode, check out this rundown from the Sports Desk column.

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Categories: Games

Sora Journeys To Classic Kingdom

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 06:34

A new Kingdom Hearts III trailer dropped today showing off some of the minigames that will be playable in the game, specifically focusing on a bizarre handheld system in Sora's possession that recalls the old days of LCD games.

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The trailer dropped during then KINGDOM HEARTS Union χ Dandelion Meeting in Anaheim, a fan event for the Kingdom Hearts mobile game, Kingdom Hearts Union χ (read as Cross). The short trailer really only gives a small look at the game's minigames, but it is interesting to see any more of the decidedly elusive game.

Kingdom Hearts III was first announced in 2013 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Categories: Games

The MMO Sequel Is Headed To The West

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 20:05

Nexon has announced its long-awaited MMO sequel, MapleStory 2, is finally headed to the West.

Originally released in Korea in 2015 and in China last year, MapleStory 2 improves on the original's 2D sprites and playing field by turning them 3D. You can split your time between dungeon-crawling and facing monsters, or idly build up your house after exploring the world.

Though Nexon did not announce a release date, players can sign up for a closed beta until May 6. The beta will run from May 9-16.

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Categories: Games

Penny-Punching Princess Review: In For A Pound

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 04/13/2018 - 15:00

Penny-Punching Princess opens by declaring that, in the age of capitalism, money is where real power comes from. This is a game about a princess who needs to accumulate wealth to get revenge on the Dragaloan Family, who sent her father into poverty and death with their harsh interest rates. It's an intriguing, startling note for a cutesy beat-em-up game to open on. This isn't a 'message' game--don't go in expecting a searing critique of capitalism, as it's largely played for laughs--but this framing device immediately makes it clear that this brawler is going to be different. It might not be in the top-tier of its genre, but at the very least Penny-Punching Princess is unique.

The game is an isometric beat-em-up, in which fighting is your main form of interaction with the world. There are no puzzles to solve, and the level design is extremely simple, to the point of being universally uninteresting, designed just to funnel you between fights--the extent of permissive exploration is simply a matter of going left when your compass is telling you to go right. When a fight starts, the Princess (or Isabella, a zombified second playable character that you unlock a few hours in) can perform quick punches, use a stronger charge attack, or roll to safety. It's not the deepest system, and your defensive options are limited.

Most fights involve a few waves of enemies, usually of increasing danger, and generally, there will be traps, like buzzsaws, giant rolling balls, and fields of poison, to avoid too. The Princess and Isabella play very differently, although most players will likely attach themselves to a favourite rather than swapping between them--I stopped using the Princess almost entirely after unlocking Isabella. Unfortunately, there's not much variety in the game beyond this choice between the two. The arenas you fight in throw more and more traps at you as the difficulty ramps up towards the end of a chapter, but no specific encounter every really stands out.

When you beat enemies to a certain point, the word 'break' appears over them, and if you rotate the right stick, coins will spill out of them. Coins are important during a fight, as they can be used to bribe both enemies and traps. Enemies vary in price depending on their power, but if you bribe an enemy not only will it disappear from the battlefield, but you'll be able to summon it to fight for you. You can bribe traps too, meaning that they'll stop hurting you and can be turned onto enemies. Traps are more cost-effective--they're cheaper and tend to do a lot of damage--but using them properly also means that you need to lure your enemies into range. Leading a powerful enemy right into a trap and doing massive damage is extremely satisfying, even if most of the game's boss fights come down to you leading a huge enemy from trap to trap. During hectic battles, it's hard to know exactly what you're about to bribe--the Princess can be more exact, but in the heat of the moment you're more likely to just nab whatever is directly in front of you--which can get frustrating.

Every enemy and object you bribe gets added to your collection, which can be cashed in to build new armour and Zenigami Statues (which are effectively the currency used for stat upgrades). A piece of armour, for instance, might require you to have previously bribed five of a specific minor enemy, two of a stronger, more expensive enemy, and two buzzsaw traps. Each piece carries a price like this, and if you're missing something the level select screen handily highlights four enemies and traps you'll encounter in each individual level. Upgrading your armour is essential--occasionally you'll hit enormous difficulty spikes and realise that you're under-equipped, at which point you'll typically need to jump back into earlier levels and grind to collect specific bribe targets (and search for treasure chests, many of which contain additional Zenigami statues).

The grind is rarely too severe if you're being mindful and upgrading as you go, but the difficulty spikes can hit hard. It's frustrating when you reach the end of a level only to find that the final boss is far too powerful for you to take on, and the checkpointing, which can be somewhat capricious, means that you'll often have to redo easier fights just to reach the more difficult ones again. My frustration only occasionally boiled over to the point where I had to step away for a moment, but there was also rarely a real sense of reward for having beaten a difficult level, because you know the next level is just going to involve doing the same thing again.

All of this is presented without too much flourish. The sprite-based character designs are occasionally charming (Sebastian, a stag-beetle who acts as the princess' butler and appears in pre-and-post-level interstitials, is pretty funny), and the weird script plays up the game's irreverence to good effect, but it's difficult to really get invested in Penny-Punching Princess' cycle of punching and spending. While the game is moderately entertaining and has its moments it just doesn't offer lasting satisfaction. Penny-Punching Princess doesn't set its sights particularly high, and while it feels like it's achieving what it intended, it's hard not to wish there was a little more to it.

Categories: Games

Choosing Your Own Path In The Abyss

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 04/13/2018 - 14:00

Underworld Ascendant is a game that, for better or worse, has the chains of history shackled to it. The new immersive sim from OtherSide Entertainment is a spiritual successor to Ultima Underworld, a 1992 game by many of the same developers who were more than happy to explain that it is often considered the first ever first-person action game. With that kind of precedent, the kind of pressure Underworld Ascendant is under starts to take form, though the game definitely seems willing and able to hold that weight.

To say the gameplay in Underworld Ascendant is player-authored might be selling it short. When we talked to OtherSide Entertainment cofounder and immersive sim luminary Paul Neurath earlier this year, he emphasized a desire to take the immersive sim genre further beyond its limitations. Circumventing limitations is the underlying foundation of the genre, after all.

In Underworld Ascendant, players have free reign to seek out solutions however they see fit using whatever is at their disposal. Using what is appropriately titled the Improvisation Engine, players can use and manipulate their environment to solve puzzles, cross gaps, defeat enemies, and generally just tackle any issue in front of them they may need or want to overcome.

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One example in the first dungeon is using water to put out fire. The game imparts the knowledge of this mechanic early on by simply telling you that water, in any of its forms, can be used to put out the various bits of fire around you, from candles to torches to objects set ablaze. It is up to the player to figure out how to apply this knowledge to progress. An immediate option to use water arrows to douse hanging lanterns around an enemy skeleton, befuddling them before sneaking in for the kill. Another might be to set fire to a nearby wooden block as a distraction and then put it out to sneak past. Or the player could just not engage with the mechanic at all until they absolutely need to use it.

The game's narrative is similarly influenced by player behavior. Rival factions vie for your attention and are offended by a lack of it. The player's actions have consequences that ripple across the land and choosing how best to navigate between often contrary options can drastically affect the world.

Still, experimentation sits at the heart of the game and courses through all aspects. The overall structure of Underworld Ascendant has players taking quests, gaining skills, and having helpful eureka moments that can't be quantified within a skill tree. You only need to learn that wooden doors are flammable once before it becomes a core part of your mental toolset for solving puzzles.

The immersive sim genre is one that trades in the currency of stories and experiences, acting as a playground for experimentation for players to tell each other how they overcame various obstacles using unlikely tools. Underworld Ascendant seems to be seeking to do more with its world than merely telling players to have at it, however, and is trying to be a game that uses its variety and openness to encourage repalyability. OtherSide wants players to find their stories of creative puzzle solving and then try to create more stories on top of that.

Underworld Ascendant has a lot of history to live up to, but the far more interesting question is whether the game will live up to its own potential. While we'll know for sure when the game releases later this year on PC, it is making a strong argument for meeting that lofty goal already.

Categories: Games

Siegfried Comes Swinging In Soulcalibur VI

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 16:56

Soulcalibur VI is marching towards a release this year (PS4, Xbox One, and PC), and Bandai Namco has just announced another combatant for its roster – Siegfried, who wields his massive zweihander Requiem in this gameplay trailer.

While you don't get to see the game's destructible armor in the trailer below, you can witness Siegfried's super in action.

To see more of the Soulcalibur VI's gameplay in action, check out this New Gameplay Today footage with our hands-on time with the fighter.

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Categories: Games

God Of War Review: Divine Bloodshed

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 08:01

The God of War series has, until now, stuck very close to the standards set in the original 2005 game. More than a decade (and many games) later, it makes sense that Sony would want to mix things up for the aged hack-and-slash series. Like so many popular franchises that have reinvented themselves in recent years, the new God of War dips into the well of open-world RPG tropes. It also shifts its focus to Norse mythology, casting off the iconic Greek gods and legends that provided the basis for every previous game.

These major shifts don't signal the end of God of War as we know it, rather they allow the series' DNA to express itself in new ways. There are many reasons why the structural transformations are a good thing, but it's what's become of Kratos, the hulking death machine, that leaves a lasting impression. A furious, bloodthirsty icon has transformed into a sensitive father figure. Part of him retains the old violent tendencies that made him a star long ago. However, with his young son Atreus to protect and guide, we also see Kratos take a deep breath and bury his savage instincts in order to set a positive example.

Watching Kratos take care in nurturing his child's sensibilities does feel a bit jarring at the start, but thanks to the natural writing, fitting voice actors, and flawless animation, it's easy to get sucked into the duo's journey and buy into their mutual growth. Though he is a teacher, Kratos carries a mountain of grief and self pity that only the innocence of his son can help him overcome. And Atreus experiences his own ups and downs that might have set him down a very different path if not for Kratos' guiding hand.

Atreus was raised in isolation from the dangers of the wild world around him, and rightfully fails to grasp his place in it when confronted with the realities of a land protected by and under siege from gods. It's the death of his mother prior to the start of the game that thrusts Atreus and Kratos outward; her dying wish was to have her ashes spread atop the highest peak in the land. As if wild predators and ghastly fiends weren't obstacles enough, representatives from the pantheon of Norse mythology arise in an attempt to disrupt their mission, establishing the amplified stakes and the clash of impressive forces that you expect from God of War.

And like its predecessors, God of War is a technical and artistic showcase. It is without a doubt one of the best-looking console games ever released, with every breathtaking environment and mythical character exhibiting impressive attention to detail and beautifying flourishes aplenty. The vision behind all of this is evident in Kratos' meticulously grizzled physique and weathered equipment, in the atmospheric effects that transform believably rustic environments into the stuff of dreams, and in the overall design and structure of the world itself.

The majority of the journey is set in the realm of Midgard. At its heart lies a wide lake that you can explore by canoe, with a coastline dotted by optional puzzles, formidable opponents, and entrances to the map's primary regions. Your mission will carry you through to most of these places, and along the way you'll likely take note of inaccessible pathways and glimpses of sealed treasures. There's always ample room to explore off the main path and good reasons to give into curiosity regardless, but these teases in particular spur you to re-examine previously visited areas as your capabilities expand.

With the boy fighting by your side, firing arrows or choking unsuspecting enemies, you will team up against corrupted cave trolls, face towering beasts, and fight hundreds of intelligent supernatural warriors during your travels. Kratos prefers to use an axe these days, which functions very differently than the chained Blades of Chaos he's known for. This comes with the very satisfying and cool ability to magically summon your weapon to your hand (like Thor and his hammer), a move that never gets old.

And really, neither does combat in general. The new over-the-shoulder camera brings you directly into the fray, and consequently limits your view. You can't see enemies from all angles at once and must be on guard at all times. By default the game provides proximity icons to alert you of incoming attacks, but it's worth tinkering with the UI for a more immersive experience as you get the hang of how fights flow.

It's rare that you can actually spam combos without putting yourself at risk, and this emphasis on mindfulness solidifies God of War's graduation from the traditional hack-and-slash doldrums. The realities of fighting with an axe also makes skirting away from harm an exacting process. But when variables align and you get to lay into an enemy, Kratos' dexterous axe handling allow him to hit hard, and give you the opportunity to flex his might with a bit of style.

The basic set of close-range combos and weapon behaviors can be expanded by pouring experience points into a skill tree and by activating magical rune abilities that bind to your two attack inputs. There are a lot of options to consider and tactics to learn, including skill trees for fighting empty-handed. There's a wonderful rhythm to be found when switching from axe to fists, and then into Kratos' satisfyingly brutal execution moves, all the while ducking and rolling out of harm's way.

God of War's combat is already great at the start, but it gets better as it steadily introduces one new layer after another. You can absolutely stumble into incredibly punishing enemies that are made easier with adept timing and mastery of every available skill, but you can also succeed at any level so long as you've mastered the art of parrying and dodging incoming attacks.

Atreus can't be configured to the same extent that Kratos can, but there are still a lot of ways to tailor his capabilities to your liking. The arrows he fires can be laced with different types of magic, with multiple elemental and functionality upgrades, and he eventually gains the ability to summon spectral animals that can harm and distract enemies, or collect items. Thanks to the smart button layout, it's actually very easy to both attack and defend as Kratos while also commanding Atreus. God of War gives you plenty to do in any given moment and makes you feel like an experienced warrior in the process.

The armor that Kratos and Atreus wear can influence a range of character stats, elemental affinities, and may include slots for enchantments that grant further bonuses. Armor can be purchased or crafted using the few resources scattered about the world, and can be upgraded by the game's two blacksmiths: two dwarven brothers constantly at odds with each other. There's Brok, the foul-mouthed blue dwarf, and Sindri, a far more gentle yet tragically germophobic fellow--a gag that is usually funny, though occasionally pushed a bit too hard.

As enjoyable as those two can be, it's Mimir that ultimately steals the show. The horned, one-eyed sage accompanies you and Atreus for the majority of the game, serving as your guide to Midgard, and an inside source into the ins and outs of Norse politics. Mimir and the blacksmiths have strong individual personalities, as with every other character you meet during the course of the game. We're keeping other identities vague in general to avoid spoilers, but regardless of who you bump into, God of War's cast is strong, convincing, and oddly enchanting. But the real accomplishment is how, even though there are just a handful of characters to interact with, their big personalities color your adventure with tantalizing anecdotes that draw you into the world and imbue the land with a tangible sense of history.

If there's any piece of the overarching mission that feels like a letdown, it's the final battle against the primary antagonist. He's great from a narrative standpoint, unraveling in a manner that changes your perspective, but it's the fight itself that leaves you wanting. There are plenty of big boss battles and tests of skill throughout the course of the game, yet this fight doesn't reach the same heights, and feels like it was played a little safe. It could be an effect of configuring Kratos and Atreus just so, or it may just be too easy to begin with. Thankfully, that's not all the game has up its sleeve.

Two optional areas in particular seem designed with the endgame in mind. The first, Muspelheim, offers a series of battles in arenas surrounded by lava flows and scorched earth. Some trials are merely fights against strong enemies, while others require you to defeat waves in quick succession--if even one enemy remains alive, it only takes a few seconds for others to resurrect automatically. The other realm, Niflheim, is randomly generated every time you visit, but it's always filled with poisonous gas. The goal there is to survive for as long as possible while racking up kills and collecting treasure, and escape before the poison takes hold. Both locations offer tense and rewarding pursuits that are only accessible if you play at your best.

And odds are that you'll be so hooked by the story's pacing and procession of events that there will be plenty of other side activities left in Midgard after the credits roll. God of War isn't set in a massive open world, but it is stuffed with secrets and quests. Where most games with long and diverse quest opportunities tend to run a bit stale by the end, God of War has the opposite effect. It's far longer than it needs to be, though you hope you never run out of things to do.

In many ways God of War is what the series has always been. It's a spectacular action game with epic set pieces, big-budget production values, and hard-hitting combat that grows more feverish and impressive as you progress. What may surprise you is how mature its storytelling has become. Like Kratos, God of War recalls the past while acknowledging the need to improve. Everything new it does is for the better, and everything it holds onto benefits as a result. Kratos is no longer a predictable brute. God of War is no longer an old-fashioned action series. With this reboot, it confidently walks a new path that will hopefully lead to more exciting adventures to come.

Categories: Games

Seeing Alien Planets Through The Eyes Of A Robot Bounty Hunter

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 04/11/2018 - 20:15

From its inception, one of virtual reality’s best video game applications has been the action of firing a gun. Gunheart, which is currently playable in early access, has not stumbled into some unknown fun mechanic of virtual reality, but it is trying to create a version that offers a compelling reason to fire a gun, and to do it over and over.

You are a bounty hunter tasked with clearing assorted work sites on various alien planets of their alien bug problem. You do this by making your way through levels and shooting the bugs alongside up to two other players. Structurally, Gunheart has a lot in common with Destiny. You work your way through the site with random cooperative players (or friends), get paid, return to the hub location, The Bent Horizon, exchange your earnings for upgrades and new guns, and repeat the process. A story is present to add some context to why you are shooting alien bugs, but the main thrust to keep playing is going to be the upgrades.

The shooting feels good, if somewhat familiar to other VR shooters, but it does have a few wrinkles that I quickly noticed and enjoyed. Reloading certain weapons requires two actions: pressing the reload button and flicking your wrist in order to reset the gun. The action is a satisfying one, especially when a bunch of alien bugs have you pinned down and you need to quickly reload. Flicking your wrist to reload your gun and firing off a last-second shotgun blast feels good.

The alternate weapons are also equipped in a novel way. You typically hold two weapons, one in each hand, but when you want to use your powerful chain gun, or bow and arrow, you bring the two guns together in front of you, and they automatically transform. I especially liked the bow and arrow weapon as bringing your hands together in this way is already the natural way you would hold your hands to fire off an arrow, and pulling back and letting one fly feels right.

Some of the familiar VR qualms are present with Gunheart, as well as some not-so-familiar oddities. The best way to make your way through the levels without succumbing to motion sickness is to warp everywhere. This action still feels odd, and it also affects the general balance. It’s hard to feel overwhelmed by the alien menace when it’s easy to turn around and hit the warp button a few times to get out of danger. The look of the player is also odd, and the way other players are represented in-game is similarly strange. You and others play as robots wearing scarves around their necks, and when you see other players, they are seated in floating chairs zipping around the level. It doesn’t change the way the game is played, but it does look strange.

Gunheart has a lot going for it in the crowded VR shooter space. It doesn’t feel hugely innovative or new, but it also doesn’t feel like a shallow VR tech demo. Developer Drifter Entertainment has missed its self-imposed deadline to take the game out of early access six months after its initial release, but even in this early-access state, Gunheart feels like a fully-featured shooter and is worth keeping an eye on, especially if you’re a fan of Destiny’s loop of perfecting familiar encounters to acquire new weapons and gear.

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We played Gunheart using an Oculus Rift and a pair of Touch controllers, but the game is also available on Vive.

Categories: Games

Extinction Review - A Giant Mess

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 04/10/2018 - 05:00

Don't let the AAA price tag fool you into thinking Extinction is a high-end product. It ain't, and there's nothing in the game--not even cutscenes--that come close to approaching the level of quality seen in its lavish, pre-launch cinematic trailer.

Discovering Extinction's sub-standard quality is frustrating because its premise is very enticing, and there are moments early on when it feels like it's primed to deliver. As a warrior who's capable of sprinting up walls, soaring through the air, and channeling sacred energy to tap into supernatural strength, you go toe-to-toe against incredibly tall and powerful giants. Taking them down requires you to lop off limbs and dismantle armor, building up enough energy to deliver a killing blow: a whirlwind slice through the back of their neck. Yes, it's obviously inspired by Attack on Titan--you even have a whip that can be used to latch onto hook points and pull yourself through the air.

Zipping across a city to reach a faraway objective, with your character effortlessly scaling walls and bouncing off treetops and canopies to avoid touching the ground altogether, can be enjoyable. And the early battles against the first few giants definitely strike a chord, with their impressive scale and intricately textured body parts giving their artificial bodies a dash of realism. It's all well and good while you're learning the ropes, but these initial thrills fade fast. Extinction quickly transitions into an incredibly repetitive game that fails to build upon its promising foundation.

The excitement of battling giants--easily the game's most admirable piece--wanes quickly. Despite the variations that appear over time, their behavior barely deviates from the standards set early on. Most often, you're merely challenged to target different types of vulnerable objects that bind their armor together, but as you pour points into the upgrade tree to unlock things like extended slow-motion attacks, your character's abilities scale quickly enough that these added steps are no more than inconvenient speed bumps in practice.

In order to get to the back of a giant's neck to take it out for good, you will most often need to cut off one of its legs to make it fall to the ground. Alternatively, some giants have bits and pieces that you can latch onto with your whip, though this system is largely too cumbersome to rely upon. It's very easy for the game to misinterpret its auto targeting and send you flying in the opposite-than-intended direction. Rather than a fun and reliable mainstay, your grapple ability is relegated to Plan-B status.

Nine times out of ten, a hit from a giant means instant death. Your only defensive options are to keep your distance--not always easy, given how close you need to be to cut off their limbs off--or to dodge out of harm's way before an incoming strike. Giants are so big that these attacks often come without warning, save for small red icons that appear near your character's head that are easy to miss while scrambling to simultaneously attack and stay alive.

Should you die, you respawn back into the stage with all your progress intact, but being brought back to life in this way sometimes puts you at an unreasonable disadvantage. Each stage is filled with buildings that giants will gradually destroy until interrupted; when the city is totally leveled, you fail the mission. Many times you respawn at the entry point of a location, which forces you to sprint back all the way back to the fight while a giant whittles away at the remaining buildings in your absence. In light of the great potential for one-hit deaths, being sent back to the beginning of the stage doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Extinction is made by Iron Galaxy, a studio with experience making fighting games. There are reminders of fighting game mechanics within but any depth hinted at by the presence of super-armor and invincibility frames is shot down when you get a glimpse at the three combo lists. Practically every combo is executed with a single button and is only mixed up depending on when you decide to hold it down or delay the next input. Not that you need to master these skills in the first place. You can't damage giants with basic attacks, and smaller enemies are too dumb to put up a good fight.

And if you thought your sword, which is capable of slicing a giant's arm off, would be able to make quick work of an enemy 10 times smaller, you'd be wrong. The same attack you use to slice through bone a meter thick will only kill the most basic type of enemy, leaving others with plenty of health left over to keep fighting.

During missions where your only goal is to rescue citizens, the game arbitrarily changes the rules of engagement, but even then, not consistently. Most stages allow you to activate rescue towers at a normal rate regardless of the number of low-level enemies in the area. But in some rescue missions, suddenly it's "too dangerous" to attempt to activate a tower with nearby monsters, a proclamation from your partner that causes the charge rate to drop to unreasonably slow levels. But in later instances this is no longer the case, and rescue missions can be completed in two minutes or less as a result. Whether by design or by accident, there's a fundamental lack of consistency; some stages change the primary objective after you complete the task presented to you at the start, which, given the destructibility of cities, can put you in an unexpectedly frustrating position.

Perhaps the game's most damning quality is the fact that its story missions are often set in procedurally generated environments. That isn't bad in theory, but Extinction's random stages are typically flat and incredibly similar, and they aren't even in predetermined locations, which completely nullifies any chance of connecting with the story at hand. If giants level a city in one mission, how is it suddenly rebuilt in the next? Your guess is as good as mine. Likewise, the random generation of locations and giants (and their arrangement) can change the difficulty of a particular level from one playthrough to the next. You never quite know if you should press on during a challenging run, or just re-roll and try out a different permutation from scratch.

The story driving you through all of this is told primarily through conversations at the start and the end of a mission. In both cases, the in-game world freezes and static portraits pop up, along with a frustratingly small text box that can only fit two lines of text at a time, even when far more is usually said. While you watch text scroll through this box, dialogue is read aloud at a snail's pace by decent voice actors trapped behind hackneyed writing. The skip button quickly becomes your best friend.

You do get 2D cutscenes between missions on very rare occasions, but the hand drawn art is rough. The fact that only some cutscenes are properly animated while others are storyboard-grade stop-motion is guaranteed to cause concern. Even the game's ending, arguably a pivotal moment deserving of some investment in cinematic flair, is of the stop-motion variety, no more impressive than dressed-up placeholder art.

Extinction shoots itself in the foot time and time again. It's so frustrating to see its good ideas buried under repetitive missions, a forgettable story, and embarrassing production values for its AAA price. Play one hour of it and you've basically done a bit of everything it has to offer; then it's rinse and repeat for as long as you can bear to stick with it. It's a frail and monotonous game destined for the bargain bin.

Categories: Games