Games

The Missing Review - Lost And Found

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 14:00

The games of Hidetaka Suehiro (better known as Swery) impart a distinctly identifiable creative vision. He revels in grounding you in the mundane before throwing you off balance with a moment of absurd humor or plunging you into a sequence of fantastical horror. Before you know it, that ground has opened up and swallowed you whole. The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories feels smaller and less ambitious than his most recent works, Deadly Premonition or D4, but it could not be mistaken for anything other than a Swery game. At heart, it is a 2D platformer akin to Limbo or Inside that alternates between ambiguous narrative beats with frequently macabre puzzles, wrapped in a creeping sense of dread. As a puzzle-platformer, it succeeds in testing your timing and your wits despite a couple of overly finicky sections. As a story, it deftly explores themes of teen sexuality and identity with a rare tenderness, though it would ultimately be better served by a guiding hand that wasn't quite so determined to have a big late-game reveal.

You play as J.J. Macfield, a first-year college student living away from both home and the prying eyes of a loving yet conservative mother. On a holiday break, J.J. goes on a camping trip with best friend Emily, who goes missing during the night, spurring J.J. to set off and find her. J.J.'s search takes place on the small Memoria Island off the coast of Maine, whose indigenous name translates, appropriately enough, as "the place to find the lost." Even though it is set on the opposite side of the continent to Deadly Premonition, The Missing sees Swery return to quaint, semi-rural American landscapes where J.J. will travel through fields dotted with windmills, a sawmill, a lonely diner in the middle of nowhere, a bowling alley on a small-town strip mall, a dilapidated church, a highly exaggerated clock tower, and so on.

Early on, J.J. inherits the ability to survive incidents that would otherwise kill you. Fall too far, for example, and you'll land with a sickening crunch. But you won't die--you'll get back up and continue on as a dark, shadow version of J.J., only with, say, a broken neck leaving you dazed and staggering. Lose a leg and J.J. resorts to hopping around and inevitably falling over, severely restricting your movement. Lose your arms and J.J. can no longer pick up objects or climb.

This grotesque mechanic informs a number of the game's puzzles--fail to crouch under a spinning buzzsaw and J.J. might be decapitated. You'll control J.J.'s head, rolling along the ground, and now able to squeeze into otherwise inaccessible crevices. Certain high impact "deaths" result not only in such injuries but flip the entire world upside down, sending J.J. tumbling to the ceiling along with any other objects affected by gravity. At any time, though, you can return this shadow version of J.J. back to original human form--limbs fully re-attached, neck un-snapped, world no longer upside down--thus ending the thematic body horror show and, more prosaically, allowing you to quickly retry that jump you missed or puzzle you mishandled. It is possible to actually die--hurling your decapitated head onto yet another spike trap will do it. But this simply resets you back to the last checkpoint, typically only a few minutes away at the start of the current puzzle section.

The Missing extracts a lot of mileage from this not-really-death mechanic. Together with the physicality of the platforming and the introduction of fire-, electricity- and water-based environmental interactions, puzzles are rarely too obvious and mostly satisfying to piece together. There were only two occasions when progress was halted by what felt like unfair means, where seemingly feasible puzzle solutions were overlooked by pedantic design, but these only make up a small number of the game's challenges overall.

As J.J.'s search continues, key milestones are greeted by the buzz of a mobile phone. Over the course of the game, J.J. exchanges a series of text messages with F.K. (no, not the chap from Deadly Premonition), a childhood plushie toy apparently come to life, and is also able to unlock past conversations with Emily and with her mother. These messages, along with additional conversations with friends unlocked via collectibles, serve to sketch out J.J.'s backstory and gradually, but elusively, relate the events leading up to the beginning of the game.

The buzz of the mobile phone right on the tail of a stressful bit of platforming can feel jarring, puncturing the moment in what feels like a typically Swery way. Tonally, the conversations are all over the place, too, veering from stonewalling a concerned parent to arranging a study session with a classmate, or shrugging at career advice from a professor to telling your plushie to shut up. But they do a terrific job of painting a portrait of J.J.'s life before it was upended by a camping trip. Reminiscent of the audio diaries in Gone Home, these text messages are a heartfelt window into the insecurities and vulnerabilities of a teenager struggling to process the ways in which they don't conform to the expectations of so-called normal society.

The Missing opens with the message: "This game was made with the belief that nobody is wrong for being what they are." It's a sentiment supported throughout, and particularly in its portrayal of the relationship between J.J. and Emily, except for one thing. The way the story structure withholds information--drip-feeding details to maintain suspense, in order to construct a surprise reveal at the end--ultimately feels like it undermines some, but crucially, not all of the good work it does along the way. The game wants to embrace diversity while at the same time treating a part of someone's identity as something of a 'gotcha' moment. It doesn't feel cynical--there are no bad intentions detected here--but its execution comes off as clumsy and its impact is diminished.

The faltering plot twist doesn't detract from the overall experience. The Missing is smaller and more mechanically conventional than Deadly Premonition or D4, but its components remain focused on distinctly a Swery game: a dark, idiosyncratic experience that tells a deeply personal story that's as confronting as it is sincere. It is absolutely not for everyone, but as the game reminds us, there is nothing wrong with that.


Categories: Games

Luigi's Mansion Review - Old Haunts

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 14:00

Luigi's Mansion was a curious launch title for the GameCube back in 2001, and it's even more curious as an end-of-life title for the 3DS. It's got the feel of an eccentric mid-generation release, a July stopgap to keep you going while you wait for the next major title. But Nintendo's faith in Luigi's Mansion, which has taken on a cult status over the years and has a second sequel due to release on Switch next year, isn't misplaced--the game still has a lot of charm.

Luigi's Mansion sees Mario's put-upon younger brother exploring a mansion after receiving a letter telling him that he won it in a contest. He arrives to find that not only is the mansion haunted and full of ghosts, but that Mario received a similar letter and has not been seen since he entered.

When it released, the game represented a major shift away from the usual Mario format--there's no jump button here. Instead, Luigi has a flashlight and a ghost-sucking vacuum (the Poltergust 3000), which he needs to use to rid the mansion of ghosts and save a captured Mario in the process. You move through the mansion methodically, unlocking new rooms by vacuuming up the ghosts in the ones you've already opened.

The ghosts are divided between your standard ghoulies, 'portrait' ghosts (mini-bosses and bosses, essentially, which have escaped out of paintings), and Nintendo's familiar Boos. Standard ghosts come in a few different varieties--some will grab you, others will punch, throw bombs, or hurl banana peels for you to slip on--and can be vacuumed up once you shine your flashlight at the heart visible in their ethereal chests. When you start up your vacuum, Luigi will be dragged around the room as they try to escape, and you lower their hit-points by pulling the stick away from them, as though Luigi was pulling back, while keeping the vacuum trained on them. It's a fun system, especially when you manage to nab multiple ghosts at once and have to put in the effort to reel them all in.

Luigi's 'Strobulb' flashlight from Luigi's Mansion 2 has also been added. The Strobulb, which can be charged for an extra big flash of light, is useful in a few scenarios--I found that it was helpful for nabbing multiple invisible enemies at once--but the game was designed with a standard flashlight in mind, and I mostly stuck with it.

Portrait ghosts are the main meat of the game and capturing them generally involves solving a small puzzle or figuring out the pattern of their movements. None of them are too complicated--you can examine each portrait ghost for a clue, and simply interacting with the objects in the room will usually trigger the ghost's 'stun' state so that you can begin to vacuum them. These are fun encounters, even if their patterns are usually easy to predict. Hunting the 50 Boos that scatter around the mansion at a certain point in the story is enjoyable for the first 40-or-so--a blinking light on the screen lets you know when you're close to one, and during a chase they can slip through walls and into other rooms--but the novelty of these pursuits wears out towards the end of the game.

Once most of the mansion's doors are open and its rooms cleared are towards the end you'll have to do a lot of backtracking, which can get tedious. But it's worth tracking down every ghost--this is a short game, and you'll get more out of it if you hunt down everything. The brevity of Luigi's Mansion was a major complaint during the initial launch, and while our expectations regarding game length have shifted somewhat (six-hour games are less unusual than they were at the time) Luigi's Mansion still feels like it ends too early. While you can replay for a high score, dictated by how much treasure you find and earn, or play the more difficult 'Hidden Mansion' mode that unlocks after finishing the game, the core experience is still a tad thin. 2013's Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon was a big improvement in this regard, although there's still an allure to the original game's focus on a single location that you slowly master.

The 3DS' second screen is put to great use too, now displaying a 2D map of the mansion at all times. This makes navigation much easier than it was on the GameCube, as there's no need to bring up a separate map screen, which cuts down on some late-game frustration. You now tilt the 3DS to dictate where Luigi is pointing his light or vacuum, which mostly works but can be finicky when the camera plays up in some of the game's tighter spaces. Although the game supports the C-stick on the New Nintendo 3DS, it's not viable since Luigi barely moves his torch or vacuum when using it--motion controls are essential.

Despite these few tweaks and additions, Luigi's Mansion still feels like the same game it was in 2001. That means the little touches that made the game so memorable have remained. Luigi still charmingly hums the theme tune--confidently or fearfully, depending on whether the room you're in has been cleared or not--and his shaky animations are as much of a delight as ever. Luigi still carries a translucent purple 'Game Boy Horror', which can be used to scan rooms for clues. Even the hilarious interact animation that makes it look like Luigi is humping everything in the room, often paired with an enthusiastic 'oh, yeah!', is unchanged. The stranger puzzles and curious aesthetic elements that you might remember remain, and it serves as an interesting, fun look into how Nintendo managed the transition into their fourth console generation.

Luigi's Mansion is the only GameCube port Nintendo has put onto the 3DS, and while some details have been noticeably toned down for the 3DS' smaller screens (the ghosts are less translucent, for example) there's nothing that feels like an unreasonable compromise. The game adapts to a lower resolution much better than many of the Wii and Wii U ports we've seen to the 3DS, giving the game the curious feel of an excellent tech demo for a system that is now on its way out.

The main new feature is an offline co-op mode, which lets you play the entire game through with another player if they also have a copy of the game (or replay boss fights with anyone who owns a 3DS). The second player gets to control the charmingly named 'Gooigi', a version of Luigi made entirely from green goo, and can assist throughout the game by sucking up ghosts and helping to solve puzzles. This is likely to be a very niche feature--Luigi's Mansion is not an especially difficult game and playing together on your 3DS just doesn't appeal the same way a traditional console does--but it's a neat bonus. The whole game also supports 3D, and looks great with the slider turned up.

The game also supports four amiibo--Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Boo--and each one will make your game permanently easier. Mario will change the poisonous mushrooms ghosts sometimes spit out into super mushrooms that restore health, Luigi gives you a chance of surviving death, and Boo will mark the location of five undiscovered Boos on the map. By far the most useful, though, is Toad--the Toads scattered around the mansion act as save points, and if you scan this amiibo they'll also restore your health. This is the one enhancement that should have been made universal--not having to shake every item in every room for hearts takes some potential tedium out of the game.

Seventeen years after its first release, with one sequel out and another on its way, there's still nothing quite like Luigi's Mansion. Nintendo's strange foray into the paranormal has aged well--I was surprised at how much of it had stuck in my memory, and how good it felt being back in its haunted halls. It's a basic port with a few issues, but Luigi's Mansion still remains a charming and enjoyable game.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 23:28

Amanita Design has revealed a trailer and a few details about its upcoming adventure game, Creaks. Creaks seems to follow in the trail of the studio's previous work, with a whimsical art style and puzzle-focused gameplay. But, if the trailer can be interpreted, this game explores the idea of what lies behind those creaky walls in an old house.

Amanita Design has won praise for its previous games, including Machinarium and Botanicula.

Creaks is targeting release on PC and consoles in 2019.  

Categories: Games

<img src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/prod

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 23:28

Amanita Design has revealed a trailer and a few details about its upcoming adventure game, Creaks. Creaks seems to follow in the trail of the studio's previous work, with a whimsical art style and puzzle-focused gameplay. But, if the trailer can be interpreted, this game explores the idea of what lies behind those creaky walls in an old house.

Amanita Design has won praise for its previous games, including Machinarium and Botanicula.

Creaks is targeting release on PC and consoles in 2019.  

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 20:34

Bungie today offered details about what Guardians can expect to discover in this year’s Festival of the Lost, which is set to run from October 16 to November 6. While the event has yet to begin, the initial announcement suggests that the event is significantly more robust and feature-rich than some players have come to expect.

In addition to an engram-themed redecoration of the Tower, there are several discrete activities and collectibles to pursue as well. The character Eva Levante used to be the centerpiece character of the Festival, but she has been missing since the events of Destiny 2’s core game. Instead, Shipwright Amanda Holliday will step up as the main vendor for this year’s event. She will offer daily bounties that reward fragmented souls – this new currency, in turn, can be used to purchase new masks, as well as a new legendary auto rifle called Horror Story.

A new activity area is also opening up called the Haunted Forest. Inside, players attack enemies and see how deep into the area they can reach in 15 minutes, with the challenges becoming more difficult the further in you go. Bungie doesn’t offer a lot of additional detail about this new locale and activity, so we don’t know if the Haunted Forest will come along with any specific loot. The Haunted Forest is available to play solo, with a premade team, or with matchmaking – a fact that will come as welcome news to many players frustrated by the absence of matchmaking for modes like Escalation Protocol and Blind Well.

Festival of the Lost will also serve as the launching ground for a multi-week murder mystery, beginning on October 30. Master Ives, the Cryptarch of the Vestian Outpost from the original Destiny, has been killed, and players must figure out who did the deed. The connected quest line includes a new powerful engram to be earned each week, so it’s one more way to level up. We clarified with Bungie, and while the Festival of the Lost will only run until November 6, the new powerful engram and its weekly reward will continue on past that conclusion date for a few additional weeks.

As players level up throughout the Festival of the Lost, you’ll also gain a new Eververse Ephemeral Engram with each level passed, along with the standard Steadfast Engram you always get. The Ephemeral Engram seems to feature a number of new rewards, including ships, Ghost shells, and emotes. This new engram type can also be purchased using real money. Tess will also sell a selection of specific items from the event for direct purchase using Bright Dust.

Festival of the Lost will be available to all Destiny 2 players (regardless of expansions owned), and on all its platforms - PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

[Source: Bungie]

Categories: Games

My Memory of Us Review - War Has Changed

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 14:00

My Memory of Us, a game by Polish developer Juggler Games that focuses on the plight of two Polish children during a robot uprising, serves as a thin allegory for World War II, and obviously means well. This is important, as a version of My Memory of Us that didn't have its heart in the right place would be a disaster. This puzzle platformer aims to pay tribute to the Polish citizens who lost their lives during the Nazi occupation, especially those that provided shelter and help to the people around them, and the game feels like it intends to be respectful, especially in the collectible "memories" that tell you more about the real-world people who inspired the game. Unfortunately, the good intentions of My Memory Of Us are obscured by dull gameplay and poor metaphors.

You play as a young boy and girl simultaneously, neither of whom are given names. Early in the game a "robot occupation" occurs, standing in for the Nazi occupation of Poland, and you find yourself guiding these two kids through an increasingly perilous situation. The game is a puzzle-platformer with an intentionally limited monochromatic color palette, with a sparing use of red. You can swap between the two characters or move them both at once by having them hold hands, and solving most puzzles comes down to running around interacting with everything and using the unique abilities of each kid. The boy can sneak and shine light into people's eyes to temporarily blind them if he happens to be standing in a patch of light, while the girl can run and use a slingshot, abilities which make her more enjoyable to control.

Occasionally the children will be separated or will need to work together while having access to different parts of the map and different resources. Some sections have a stealth focus, where you'll need to creep between cover and avoid enemy patrol patterns, and there are even a few vehicle sections (think Excitebike but much slower) scattered throughout. Any sequence like this with a potential fail state can get tedious thanks to some control issues--climbing objects requires more inputs than it should, the hand-holding mechanic can be unresponsive, vehicle sections feel stiff, and checkpoints that could stand to be more generous.

The puzzles you solve often resemble those you might find in a very simple point-and-click adventure and are rarely well implemented into the game world or plot. For example, figuring out a padlock combination during one sequence set within an orphanage involves observing an equation left on a blackboard, which encourages you to multiply birds by strawberries, then subtract the number of ships. The solution is to use a telescope upstairs to count the birds outside, multiply that number by the strawberries that appear in a thought bubble above an NPC's head after finding and giving them a jar of strawberry jam, and then subtracting the number of ships dotted around the house the padlocked door is in. This isn't a difficult puzzle to solve, but there's a sense of disconnect between your actions and the outcome, and completing it feels like busywork.

This is an issue throughout the game, where the impact and logic of your actions is often unclear. You're regularly stumbling ahead just looking for the next thing you're able to interact with, unsure of what outcome you're trying to achieve. The best puzzles are the more traditional ones--there are sliding tile puzzles, a few numeric brain-teasers, and even a clever maze later in the game. They largely feel divorced from the levels they're in, but some of them are at least entertaining.

A bigger problem is the concept of dressing up a Nazi invasion as a robot invasion. The plot's framing device--that the boy, now an old man voiced by the great Patrick Stewart, is telling a story to a young girl who visits his bookshop--can only justify the game's euphemisms so far. The conceit is that the story is being changed to make it child-appropriate and more exciting; in practice, though, obscuring the truth of the story just makes things weird. Stewart delivers his lines, set against static cutscenes between missions, with his trademark timbre, but it's hard to get past the fact that the game has taken something horrific and made it cute.

Worst still is when the metaphor the game is operating under starts to fall apart. Partway through the game, the girl gets marked as "red" by the robot army. The game's "red" people wear red clothing, painted on by the robots' machines, and suddenly find themselves treated like lesser beings by everyone. It's an obvious tribute to the girl in the red coat from Schindler's List, but as a metaphor for how the Polish Jews were treated, it feels too ham-fisted as a metaphor and far from the horror of what it is meant to fill in for, especially when it seems like the citizens being painted are being chosen, essentially, at random. It's possible to tell a Holocaust story like this through metaphor and abstraction--Art Spiegelman's comic Maus stands as perhaps the best example--but it never feels like My Memory of Us has anything new or interesting to say about the period it is depicting, and framing it as a story being told to a child does not excuse this.

The disconnect between the game's cuter aesthetic elements and the story, where characters get sent to live in ghettos and whisked off to concentration camps, is jarring. In one scene, a robot commander demands that the girl dance for him (which plays out as a button-matching minigame), throwing her a literal bone (which you need to subdue a dog) when she succeeds. The cruelty of this act is obscured by the game's layers of metaphor. There are a few moments when the game's aesthetic works well--one section where the two characters dress up in a crude robot costume is a standout--but the tonal confusion dampens most of the experience. The game's art style and soundtrack are both great, despite a few mild performance hiccups where the music would blip out for a moment, but even the way both children are smiling in their idle animations feels wrong.

Things improve later in the game when it leans in harder to the underlying horror of the situation. The weird fantastical elements still don't quite sit right, but when you're, say, releasing other "red" people from the robot's flying train while it's on its way to a camp, there's a tangible sense of gravity to proceedings, and there are a few plot beats that land well. When a weird, out-of-place final boss fight (complete with stuttering performance issues) breaks out in the penultimate level it's hard to know what the game stands for. But the emotional finale that immediately follows, while simple, manages to pay off well on the relationship at the game's core, providing the closure a story like this needs.

My Memory of Us feels misguided; a concept that doesn’t sit well, marred by puzzle gameplay that fails to challenge or excite. It means well, and divorced from the game's context, the game's aesthetic is charming. But it doesn’t really work as either a puzzle game or as an educational experience.

Categories: Games

Pathfinder: Kingmaker Review - The Classics

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 19:37

While there have been many, many attempts to translate the tabletop roleplaying experience to the PC and console, more often than not it hasn't quite worked out. One of the biggest struggles in transitioning a traditional tabletop RPG into the quicker, imminently more binge-able video game form is incorporating a complex ruleset faithfully. Hypothetically speaking, with the right combo of spells and skills, a tabletop campaign can get utterly bizarre, with players collaborating to do things like using effectively unlimited ammunition to shoot through a mountain. These kinds of solutions are impossible in video games, where destructible environments and the difficulty of coding different possibilities necessarily limits the ways you can interact with the game. Pathfinder: Kingmaker is a partial exception to that rule, but it often fumbles with the execution.

Just about everything has been wholesale imported from the Pathfinder tabletop games; nearly all the mechanics, spells, skills, etc. make their way in, and so does a massive chunk of the lore and mythology. That's all well and good, particularly because Kingmaker offers plenty of options to help customize the difficulty and effectively put you in the role of Game Master. There are more than a dozen options for adjusting everything from damage scaling for foes--a handicap that makes you more resistant to harm in tougher fights--to how the AI will manage your (eventual) kingdom.

Given that this is a hefty choose-your-own-everything adventure, your character is a blank slate. You can pick from many of the basic races--as well as the godlike aasimar--and a fair few of the basic classes, skills and abilities from the tabletop edition. Your companions are initially pulled from a crowd of heroes you meet in the game's opening, but it expands soon after with any number of additional friends and allies to bring along the way. For the most part, these serve as means to an end. Your allies are as much a part of the experience as your own character is, both in terms of party composition and roleplaying in the narrative.

This is reinforced by one of the few concessions the tabletop game doesn't make, but the game does: party-wide skill checks. Passing obstacles in the tabletop Pathfinder, for instance, can often separate the party, as those that don't have a skill like acrobatics won't be able to maneuver through a thicket. Instead, in Kingmaker, the party completes these tasks as a team. It behooves you, then, to really spread out your abilities and party to maximize coverage of options over making sure everyone has the same basic setup with slightly different modifications down the line.

Such concessions transition well into group cohesion in combat, as well. With such a diverse set of specializations, party management is exceptionally important--especially because of the intense base difficulty. By default, Kingmaker follows the rules of tabletop perhaps too closely; it's a system where simple combat with a few foes can take 30 minutes to an hour (or more), all compressed into a few seconds on-screen. That can be taxing as it requires tremendous familiarity with each classes' traits as well as the acuity to know how to pull them together.

Were everyone sitting around the table, each would have a couple minutes to look over their spells, consider all manner of responses, and then execute the plan on their next turn. In Kingmaker, though, combat largely happens in real time. Sure, you have a pause button and can quickly look over your characters to devise tactics mid-battle, but this absolutely grinds combat down and really hits the pacing of the game in the worst way.

Perhaps a bit more troubling is the fact that within Pathfinder's ruleset, many monsters and creatures require very specific tools to kill. Swarms of small creatures like rats, for instance, can't be effectively fought with a sword and shield. Sometimes Kingmaker warns you, but other times it simply expects you to know how to handle the problem. Rust monsters, skeletons, ghosts, and so on all have specific tools that you need to understand and be able to use with relative ease. That's made easier by having a diverse party, but then you have to take far more time aside to learn the ins and outs of your band of characters than a traditional tabletop player.

This tension--between what Kingmaker is trying to be and what that looks like in practice--is at the heart of many of its missteps. With more than a dozen references and resources to draw upon, quite a few things have slipped through the cracks, causing issues of balance throughout. There’s the distinct impression that Pathfinder’s convoluted rulesets have led to oversights in how damage gets calculated by the game in this or that room, or whether you’ll face a much higher spell failure chance when squaring against a boss.

There have patches since release, and many of the adjustments definitely work. A slightly modified Story Mode (the name of one of the difficulty presets) is a solid entry point for many. Still, the rules and procedures can be labyrinthine--and that's even with tooltips that explain proper nouns and the requisite in-game encyclopedia to explain everything else.

For those willing to take on the challenge, however, what lies beneath the brusque exterior is a welcome return to involved roleplaying. The voice acting is spotty, and writing can be a bit cliché at times, but the game doesn't shy away from its subtitle. In relatively short order, you earn your barony and have the ability to build it out however you choose--hiring advisers and upgrading facilities to help you along the adventure. Kingmaker’s campaign cuts much closer to long-term tabletop campaigns and gives you a stable home base from which to plan your next outing. And, not to belabor the point, but most of your mini-adventures will definitely require prep.

These outings also constitute the bulk of your questing play and a good chunk of the ongoing narrative--an interconnected web of relationships and allegiances that lends itself to plenty of political intrigue and exciting adventures. Unearthing the mysteries of not only your “employers” but also the shifting factions of the Stolen Lands and how that plays into the world at large is definitely an extraordinary and rewarding endeavor.

For those willing to take on the challenge, what lies beneath the brusque exterior is a welcome return to involved roleplaying.

The interaction between the ruling bit of play and the rest of it is great. Having each of these systems--roleplaying, combat, adventuring, and what's essentially SimCity-lite--feed into and influence one another yields an experience that is as broad as it is deep. Your level of investment and engagement with each is largely up to you, but each of them matters and will require attentiveness to get the best results. But the opportunities it yields are exceptional. Having your roleplaying choices and character story and alignment all play into how you rule and who accompanies you on your trek is amazing. Working towards getting a well-crafted set of gear for your party after carefully maneuvering through hours of quests and adventures, all for the glory of besting a big bad using all the skills and abilities you've given your team, are high points of the adventure.

All-told, Kingmaker isn't a stellar outing, hampered by a litany of small issues, balancing, and the gargantuan knowledge base you'll need to play most effectively. But, for those with the patience, the rewards are well worth the investment.

Categories: Games

Five Big Takeaways From Our Hands-On With Resident Evil 2’s Dangerous Corridors

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 16:00

The Resident Evil 2 remake has generated all kinds of positive buzz since it was unveiled at E3. With the game just a few months away, Capcom has been showcasing more and more of its re-envisioning of the beloved entry. Leon and Claire both have their own campaigns, with some overlap. While Leon was the focus of E3; Gamescom was Claire’s time to shine, putting her in a hectic battle with William Birkin. Most recently, Capcom let us see what happens after that intense encounter, providing some gameplay surrounding the meat-and-potatoes of classic Resident Evil: exploration and puzzle solving. Here’s what stood out from our demo. 

Every Encounter Feels Dangerous

One thing Resident Evil 2 does right is how it approaches each menace around Raccoon City and their power level. Each enemy is a threat and none of them can be taken lightly, even on their own. When facing multiple enemies, you may be looking at a crisis for anything tougher than your run-of-the-mill t-virus zombies. Precision and understanding your arsenal are key – without the right weaponry used in the right way, you’ll find yourself up a creek. 

You have some options for how you protect yourself. When in the clutches of a zombie, the knife is worth its weight in gold. I slammed it into the zombie’s side – not enough to kill it, but enough to escape the deadly bear hug. This removed the knife from my inventory, but not all was lost. Once you take care of the enemy, you can recover it, but if the danger’s too high, you might have to walk away from it and hope you can find another knife. Knives are also breakable, so keep that in mind when you bust it out. 

Although fighting isn’t always your best option...

Running Is Vital To Survival 

Claire Redfield isn’t Master Chief; she doesn’t have to fight everyone within a five-mile radius. You often have to think quickly and depend on your instincts. Don’t feel bad if you choose to run, because it’s an extremely useful tool. As I explored the police station, I encountered a corridor with a licker on one side of the door. With just handgun ammo in my inventory, I was in no mood to battle, so I ran… directly into the other licker around the corner. Without the firepower to take down the one, much less a second, I booked it for the end of the hallway. Somehow, I made it through without taking any damage whatsoever, and the lickers were happy in their corridor. Although, I did have instances where enemies followed me, even one sneaking up behind me when a door was ajar. 

Avoiding combat is frequently worthwhile, but some enemies can be more tenacious than the lickers. I blew past some standard-issue zombies after I found a car key and wanted to figure out just what car it opened. After spending some time in the parking garage, I was startled to find those two former officers waddling in to find some brains. I took them down in short order, because I made sure to investigate every area thoroughly for items and had the ammo to spare.

Searching Can Be Just As Rewarding As It Is Dangerous

Exploration matters if you want to survive, because it gets you all sorts of goodies. The car trunk contained a powerful handgun along with ammunition. I explored a morgue, filled with dead people who (mostly) were just that. Each of the refrigerators could be individually opened and explored, revealing, aside from the corpses, things you’d normally find: herbs, ammunition, and keys. Don’t forget, exploring and trying to suss out every item also comes with its share of risks. Opening one refrigerator to find a red herb on the side of a corpse ended up being more than I bargained for, as that body was instead a zombie ready for battle.

After making quick work of it thanks to the aforementioned handgun, I went to pick up the red herb, only to find that all 12 slots of my inventory were full. Resident Evil 2 might be a brand-new reimagining of its former self, but the bogeyman still remains.

Resource Management Is Still A Big Part Of Strategy 

Capcom’s producers and directors were quick to make note that inventory and resource management are still important. The delicate balance of deciding between what you need and can ditch has always been an essential part of the series. Just because this is a remake doesn’t mean the developers are easing up or changing their tune on this element. When I asked point-blank about any kind of auto-management, the response was that it wouldn’t happen, as it adds to the ambiance of Raccoon City. Want to load up on weaponry? That’s less space for healing items or key items like cranks and keys.

The traditional storage chest system does return, so you can keep items you don’t need right now, but the decision always looms. However, one new convenience is the ability to know when a key item is used up and can be discarded. When I opened the car trunk, a checkmark appeared next to the key, alerting me there wouldn’t be any other uses for it. I could simply remove it from my inventory, freeing up space for more pressing items.

The Updated Graphics Take Things To A New Level

Our demo ended shortly after our exploration of the police station, spawning a cinematic sequence with Chief Irons, Claire, and young Sherry Birkin, ending with Irons locking Claire in the parking garage and escaping with Sherry. I was impressed with my short time with the game. It’s clear Capcom has put a significant amount of work into updating this classic, while still retaining the charm it had when it first launched on the PS1. 

The team also added plenty of nods and Easter eggs for longtime fans. Even more impressive is how much the new graphics make a difference. “We tried to update it for a more believable, grander feel because it’s using the RE engine for this amazing photorealistic look,” says producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi. This new realistic touch informed everything, right down having puzzle objects make sense for the setting and the look of the zombies.

 “We want to make sure that every zombie and character in this game is truly terrifying and life-threatening,” adds producer Tsuyoshi Kanda. “We got this ‘wet gore,’ as we call it, where they just look glistening and horrible. We also have the ragdoll physics on the way the zombies move. You might think you’ve got them down but then they come back to life and grab you again. Even the way you can aim for different parts and dismember them, we put a lot of effort into realistic damage and making the zombies the best zombies we ever made.”

Based on the tension and terror I felt as I explored, I’d say they’ve done just that.

Resident Evil 2 launches January 25 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

 
Categories: Games

Dead Or Alive 6's Tweaks Are Making For A Stronger Fighter

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 14:03

At a recent KOEI Tecmo event, the Dead or Alive developer let us sit down with the latest build of its new fighting game, Dead or Alive 6. 

I last got a chance to sit down with Dead or Alive 6 with E3 and was not feeling it at the time. Since then, Team Ninja has made a number of changes to the special attack system, including incorporating it into the game's sidestep mechanic. This current build contained newcomer Diego, but did not have the recently-shown Tina, Bass, and Mila.

The Fatal Rush mechanic, which allowed players to perform an auto-combo and end with a super, has been toned down quit a bit since E3. It now does less damage overall and isn't a trump card that would ultimately become useless. The biggest change is incorporating the special button into the dodge, letting you perform an evasive move during a sidestep that blasts enemies similar to Dead or Alive 5's power blow.

The new stages are also more interactive than before. The pirate ship stage shown off earlier has multiple levels, each with different hazards. On the top deck, a kraken picks up characters and throws them around. A lower deck has treasure lining the floor, while another deck is lined with burning gun powder and tons of explosions. Another arena brings dinosaurs back to the series and delves into different Jurassic Park-like environments, complete with angry dinos.

You can check out a few matches I played with Team Ninja's community manager, Emmanuel MASTER Rodriguez, who claimed he was going all out on me. Considering his tournament wins, I am not sure I believe him, because I managed to hit him once or twice.

Dead or Alive 6 releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on February 15.

Categories: Games

We Go Hands-On With Hitman 2's Colombia Levels

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 14:00

The path of the Hitman series has been as circuitous and complicated as one of the conspiracy-tinged stories that follow Agent 47 through the twists and turns of the path of bodies he has left behind him. With the confusingly-named Hitman 2 releasing soon, IO Interactive is backing off from the episodic model of the previous game, this time backed by a new publisher. We got to go hands-on with the latest revealed level of the game, Colombia, and take out three narco-kingpins in the jungles of Santa Fortuna.

Agent 47 stalks through a jungle-village with multiple compounds surrounding it. In the village center, a party is being set up by the cartel to welcome themselves as liberators of the people, replete with musicians, drunkards, and soldiers to watch over the whole thing. There’s rarely a place to blend in without a patrol unit walking by, a camera capturing your presence, or a villager going about their day and eyeing up the weird bald guy walking around the village.

There is something about Santa Fortuna that makes it feel unique in that way. The tried-and-true methods of following someone to an empty room and then whacking them with a soda can to steal their clothes will still work, but there’s far fewer opportunities that Hitman maps have had before. There’s less sprawl to Santa Fortuna and that works in its favor. There are always people around and assuming you’re alone will not work out in most cases.

Colombia is similar to the previous game’s Marrakesh level, which had riots and protests in the streets, but makes its NPCs more mobile. A guard I lured over to a garden with a running hose came at the same time the gardener also checked it out. Following the gardener leads back to his house where he has an argument with his wife, making me wonder if it would have been better if I had hit him with a wrench like I planned.

Things escalate as you go to the actual cartel compound, which is populated by personal bodyguards, soldiers, and service staff. There’s no single disguise that fools all three groups, forcing you to switch outfits here and there, block suspicion by hiding, or hoping for the best as you dash through the hallways to get the outfit you need to get and hope you’re not compromised.

Of course, the disguises are a key part of the Hitman formula and Hitman 2 loves giving you plenty of cosplay for Agent 47 to use no matter what execution you choose. Dress up like a soldier and head to the jungle to look for some missing cargo or disguise yourself as a drummer for some actions that may help you take down a target. Almost every NPC you find will unwillingly give you their clothes after knocking them out and I was unable to find any, like in the previous title, that had no disguise to give.

You can check out the Colombia mission in action in the video below, where I take out two targets in one planned way and one happy accident.

IO Interactive's last Hitman game was published under Square Enix and the switch to Warner Bros. doesn't seem like it has forced any errors on IO's part for the sequel. It remains to be seen if it can be every bit as amazing as its predecessor, but everything looks good for fans so far.

Hitman 2 releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on November 13.

Categories: Games

FIFA 19 Nintendo Switch Review - Switched Off

Gamespot News Feed - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 01:54

If FIFA 19 on PS4 and Xbox One is a 40-piece orchestra with all the bells and whistles you can think of, then FIFA 19 on Nintendo Switch is the tribute band. The Switch version of EA's footballing behemoth purports to have all the same qualities--the Champions League! Ultimate Team! Career Mode!--but under the surface, each of its many facets lacks the depth and longevity from other versions. On the pitch the Switch port feels relatively smooth, if a little dated, but it's hard to shake off the feeling you're playing an inferior and incomplete version of this year's biggest soccer sim.

Some improvements from the PS4 and Xbox One editions carry over to the Switch port, such as timed finishing and the new Kick Off house rules options like No Rules and Survival Mode. Others, such as game plans--or any kind of tactical tweaks or player instructions--do not make the cut.

Once you get on the pitch, things feel satisfying--sometimes. Passing still feels imprecise, even with the world's best players, but shooting and dribbling feel almost as good as what's available on other platforms. But this port also seems to pull from older versions of FIFA--many cutscenes and environmental cues like those read out by stadium announcers are from as far back as FIFA 10.

Additional problems crop up when you want to play a friend with one Joy-Con each. It works, but not particularly well. As with FIFA 18 on Switch, fewer buttons and sticks means there's no way to use finesse shots, threaded through balls, knuckle shots, manual defending, skill moves, or driven passes. Double-tapping the right bumper allows you to knock the ball ahead of you in a similar fashion to the right stick when playing with traditional controls, but similar workarounds don't exist for the other missing functions. Playing with one Joy-Con is possible but often ends up feeling like more hassle than it's worth. You are, at least, able to matchmake with friends when playing online, which was missing from last year's Switch port.

The Champions League license and standalone mode do form a part of the Switch version, complete with Derek Rae's Aberdeen-Atlantic commentary and UEFA's operatic anthem. Night games look impressive on Switch, even if the atmospheres don't quite live up to the sights and sounds of the PS4 and Xbox One editions, in part due to lower resolution. The standalone mode is essentially a stripped-down version of Career Mode, which itself is even more bare-bones on Switch than it is on home consoles this year. On Switch, neither mode contains the dynamic cutscenes or interactive transfer negotiations found on other platforms. Here, FIFA 19 really does feel very similar to 18, just with updated licenses.

Ultimate Team has a similar story in this version. FUT is easily FIFA's biggest and most popular mode, thanks in large part to EA's Squad Building Challenges, in-form cards, and more live services that keep things fresh. All those are present and correct on Switch, but the mode is lacking in ways to actually use your squad. Division Rivals, FUT's new sub-mode for this year on PS4 and Xbox One, is nowhere to be found, meaning you have to make do with standard old Online Seasons matches. Squad Battles, the primary method of play for offline players in FUT, is also absent--the more miserly Single Player Seasons are your best bet here. To make matters worse, you still need a constant internet connection to access even Ultimate Team's single-player sections, so playing FUT on the go isn't an option unless you tether your Switch to your phone signal. Oh, and the FIFA 19 companion app is not compatible with Switch versions of the game, so you're out of luck there, too.

All that's left is to lament the ongoing absence of The Journey, which of all FIFA's modes appears the best fit for Switch--a deep, offline story playable in small chunks--and yet it's omitted entirely from the port. And that sums up the Switch version of FIFA 19: a playable, competent game of football encased in a package of outdated modes and lacking the controls and features you really want.

Categories: Games

New Footage Of System Shock Remaster Shows Off Remade Environments

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 10/06/2018 - 22:16

Backers of the System Shock remaster kickstarter campaign will soon have access to the Adventure Alpha, which aims to be an early version of the game that's actually playable. To accompany the announcement of the alpha, developer Night Dive studios has released a new trailer showing off the remake.

Fans of the original should be able to recognize most of the levels shown, even if they've been retooled with higher-resolution textures. Of course, this being an alpha, the actual look of the game has not been finalized. "Not only will these re-tooled textures make the Adventure Alpha more interesting but it will provide the team with a blueprint of how to approach updated art, lighting, level design, and more," the studio posted.

After being put on hiatus until recently, but is expected to release in 2020 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux.

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Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 20:20

Earlier today, Sony outlined the exclusive content coming to Red Dead Redemption II when it releases later this month. As previously announced, the content is only exclusive for the first 30 days, at which point it will release for Xbox One, but these are the first details of what exactly it will be.

For the game's story mode and Red Dead Redemption online, you get access to the Grizzlie's Outlaw Outfit. You can start using this outfit from the game's launch date. When Red Dead Redemption Online launches soon after the game's release, you get access to some other items and accessories and a horse.

The PS4 content for Red Dead Redemption Online includes a Chestnut Arabian Horse, the Alligator Skin Ranch Cutter Saddle, and the quick-shooting High Roller Double-Action Revolver. These items are only for the online mode and will come to the Xbox One a month after they launch on PS4.

Red Dead Redemption II releases on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on October 26.

[Source: PSBlog]

Categories: Games

New Dead Or Alive 6 Trailer Shows Off Tina, Bass, And Mila

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 19:25

KOEI Tecmo today showed off a new trailer for Dead or Alive 6, their upcoming fighting game title. The trailer shows off returning characters Tina, Bass, and Mila, two long-time DOA veterans and the latter introduced in Dead or Alive 5. Check out the new trailer below.

Tina and her father Bass have set up a tag team with each other called Muscle Team, which seemingly gives superfan and MMA fighter Mila a shot at fighting her wrestling idols. The trailer also shows off the wrestling ring stage, which has some variation in every modern game in the series.

Dead or Alive 6 releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on February 15.

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Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 18:55

While Yu-Gi-Oh's Yugi Moto was revealed a few weeks ago for the upcoming manga fighter Jump Force, we haven't really seen him in action yet. Thankfully, Bandai Namco has provided a new trailer for the game showing exactly how the card-slinger fights.

While it's been sometime since I have familiarized myself with the card-battling story of Yu-Gi-Oh, my understanding is that Duel Monsters' eponymous monsters were holograms created by the weird thing they wore on their arms, which is clearly not the case here. Yugi fights using corporeal versions of Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl and finishes enemies with a certain legendary monster. 

It's unclear if Yugi will have different monsters to play with, but for now his bread and butter seems to be the two Dark Magicians in his deck.

Jump Force releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in February.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 15:31

Bandai Namco has revealed that Inferno is joining the Soulcalibur VI roster. As a new trailer shows, it looks like fighting him is going to continue to be a massive pain in the rear.

Inferno's gimmick is centered on his ability to mimic other combatants, and also the fact that, well, he's on fire. 

Soulcalibur VI is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on October 19. 

Categories: Games

Cities: Skylines Review - In The Zone

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 23:50

Editor's note: We have updated this review to reflect our experience with the Nintendo Switch version of Cities: Skylines. See the end of the review for our thoughts.

Now this is more like it. Even though my real-world occupation as the mayor of a Canadian town means that I try to escape such things as budget meetings and zoning hearings when I play games, Cities: Skylines still managed to hook me due to its authenticity. Unlike the latest SimCity, which was far too fantastical to let me build cities that resembled those in the real world (size limitations and not being able to establish proper zoning districts drove me crazy), this Colossal Order production nails just enough of what is fun about running a municipality in the real world. Proper zoning, room to grow, and the addition of policies and districts that let you plan out sensible city development make for a (mostly) bona fide experience in the virtual mayor's chair.

Is it too geeky to be excited about the use of zoning rules and policies in a city-building game?

Making comparisons between games is not always helpful, but in this case, it's difficult to ignore the tight relationship between Cities: Skylines and its SimCity inspiration. Colossal Order delves deep into what Maxis and EA once made so popular with a traditional city-building approach. Few surprises or even significant innovations can be found here: There is just a standard single-player mode of play in which you choose from a handful of maps representing territory types ranging from flat plains to tropical beaches. You may also play the game with standard conditions, dial up the difficulty, and/or turn on sandbox and unlimited-money mods. No tutorial is included, either, which makes for a learning curve at the beginning. At least tips are provided on a continual basis during regular play.

Multiplayer is totally absent, as are frilly options like disasters and giant monster attacks. There are no multiple-city games, either. You have one city to deal with, along with a mostly invisible outside world that allows you to buy and sell goods on a common market. The game has been developed with modding in mind, however, and it ships with a full editor. Therefore, you can expect a lot of user-made add-ons to hit the net shortly. Nonetheless, at the present time, this "just the facts" focus makes for an initially bland experience. The plainness is exacerbated by stark menu screens and dated visuals that are attractive enough to get by, while at the same time cutting corners by cloning buildings and signs, as well as lacking amenities like a day-night cycle and weather patterns.

If you have been jonesing to be a virtual mayor, though, Cities: Skylines gets nearly everything else just right. First off is zoning. You have full control over zoning neighborhoods as low or high (medium is absent, although I didn't miss it) residential, commercial, and industrial. These basic mechanics provide thorough control over laying out cities, which gives you a real sense of being in charge. Second up is map size, which allows for a lot of stretching out. The initial size is restrictive at 2km by 2km, but you can access more plots of land to eventually expand to a metropolis spanning a whopping 36 square km. That allows for expansive burgs, and an incredible sense of freedom. You always have room to correct mistakes and grow out of early problems, making you feel more like the super-mayor that you should feel like, and not the goofball constantly demolishing whole neighborhoods to fix problems you couldn't have foreseen three hours ago.

Two other great features involve establishing districts and policies. This allows for the creation of boroughs with separate identities (policies can be set to take in entire cities, as well) by drawing them out with the Paint District tool. If you want your very own Brooklyn hipsters or a hardhat neighborhood for factory Joes, you can paint out city blocks and then tweak localized settings. This allows you to offer free public transit, boost education, give away smoke detectors, get into high-tech homes, ban high rises, and even alter tax rates for different zones. You can also set up specific industrial areas to focus efforts there. So if you want a green city, allow only farming use in industrial zones. If you want to go in the other direction with the sort of hardcore factories that killed grandpa, you can set up oil or ore districts and watch the smokestacks pump out poison.

Smart use of districts and policies allows for the creation of cities that closely resemble their real-life counterparts.

Policies are on the fanciful side, and establishing wildly different rules on social activities and even tax rates between neighborhoods in the same city will not go over well on election day. But I still love the ability to fine-tune cities without delving too deeply into micromanagement. The district and policy features combine to let me sketch out what I want in each part of my city--yes, this will be my gentrified borough for snotty white-collar professionals, complete with a smoking ban, no pets, no high rises, recycling, allowance for the use of certain controlled recreational substances, high-tech homes, and, of course, stupid high taxes--and then sit back and watch neighborhoods evolve.

The challenge is not pronounced, especially if you have city-building experience. You needn't worry about random sparks somehow taking down whole blocks, or other acts of God obliterating all of your hard work. This gives Cities: Skylines a relaxed character, instead of coming across like a rigorous game loaded with set objectives and problems to be solved. It's an old approach, but a great one, as it allows you to concentrate on the abstractions of building, instead of mindlessly racing around meeting random goals related to citizen happiness or residency numbers.

I wish I had shares in Go Nuts Doughnuts.

The only aspect of the game that becomes annoying to handle is transit. Given the same developer's Cities in Motion series, you might expect roads, buses, and the like to take on a vital role. Ultimately, however, transportation systems are overly Byzantine and convoluted, particularly when it comes to bus routes. It's difficult to tell if transportation woes are your own wrongdoing, or if there are problems with vehicle pathfinding in the game itself. You can muddle through, although you never exert the same level of control with transit as with everything else.

Moving Cities: Skylines to the Nintendo Switch is mostly what you would expect. This is a pretty thorough port of the PC release, including the original game as well as the After Dark and Snowfall expansions that added evening activities and ho-ho-ho weather. But while the game experience itself is virtually the same as it is on PC, you have to make a few sacrifices on the Switch. While the interface itself functions (perhaps surprisingly) well ported from mouse-and-keyboard to the more limited d-pads and buttons of the Switch, the controls are less than precise. I often overshot or undershot my mark. Laying out roads, for example, requires patience here, especially when compared to the ease of putting down long stretches of asphalt on the PC. I eventually became accustomed to the controls, although I still prefer mouse and keyboard.

While the game experience itself is virtually the same as it is on PC, you have to make a few sacrifices on the Switch.

Portability presents some big pluses in that it makes Cities: Skylines more of a pick-up-and-play game where you can bite tasks off in chunks. I played the game more casually and more frequently on the Switch, knocking off sessions throughout the day just because I had the system close at hand. Still, taking the game on the road or even around your house comes with some drawbacks. The intricate nature of city layouts and the small size of the screen makes it tough to track everything easily. This problem grows as cities get bigger. I spent almost as much time zooming in and out as I did zoning neighborhoods. In some ways this made me pay even more attention than usual to what was happening on the mean streets of my cities, but it also led to some frustration.

Camera manipulation reveals performance problems as well. Even though the graphics have clearly been dialed back a touch on the Switch, the game chugs when it has to handle larger cities. This can be a problem when you need to take a close look at things. These stutters seem more pronounced when you have the Switch docked and you’re playing on a TV, so they don’t present as many annoyances when using the console’s own screen, when--as noted above--you have to zoom in more often. Still, this slowdown is not a show-stopper, although optimizing the game through a patch would be welcome.

Even with a few PC issues and a less-than-perfect Switch port, Cities: Skylines remains the best city-builder on the market right now. The game's presentation is stodgy, but it is all but guaranteed to provide you many hours of carefully crafting cities, laying out zoning, and establishing districts for specifics residential and industrial uses…all free from real-world mayoral headaches like 6 a.m. phone calls griping about snowplowing. Right now, there is no better way to take a peek at life as a mayor without filing your papers to run for office in the real world.

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Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 14:38

Darksiders III hits on November 27 (PS4, Xbox One, PC), and the latest trailer for the game shows the evolution of Horseman of the Apocalypse, Fury. Her unlockable/switchable Hollow forms give her the might to defeat the Seven Deadly Sins through an array of abilities.

Fury's giant hammer, Scorn, is not only a powerful weapon, but a way for Fury to draw in energy to scale walls.

For more on the game, be sure to check out our hands-on impressions of the demo as well as the Gamescom trailer.

Categories: Games

Super Mario Party Review In Progress - Super Stardom

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 14:00

Anyone who's played a Mario Party game in the past 20 years has a good idea of what to expect from Switch's Super Mario Party, but Nintendo's latest offers a few new modes that each add their own creative spin on the tried-and-true formula. In many ways, Super Mario Party feels smaller than previous games in the series, but added layers of strategy and clever, fun minigames help keep it lively and fresh.

The fierce competitive nature of the series' earliest titles is back, as Super Mario Party ditches Mario Party 9 and 10's cooperative car mechanic and once again pits players against each other in a race for Stars. The overall goal in Super Mario Party is to earn five Gems, which you get after completing each of the game's five major offline modes: Mario Party, Partner Party, Challenge Road, River Survival, and Sound Stage.

Mario Party mode features the series' classic formula of bite-sized games interspersed between rounds of board game hijinks. Your character is still placed on a board with three others where you'll all race after Toadette and her collection of Stars. The biggest change is the introduction of character dice blocks; while previous Mario Party games utilized virtual 10-sided dice, now every character has two dice blocks, one six-sided and the other unique to them, and you have to decide which one to use each turn. The six-sided die rolls a one through six, while each character die comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses.

For example, Mario's has a number three on three of its sides, while the remaining three sides are one, five, and six. In comparison, the devilish gambler Wario has a special die where two of the sides cause him to lose two coins, but the other four sides are sixes. For the first time in a Mario Party game, your choice of character is more than just aesthetic, and figuring out the best time to use a specific dice block adds a level of strategy to what's typically been an act of randomness.

Each of the game's four boards requires slight tweaks to your strategy for reaching the Star, but they're all small, and most don't take advantage of their unique makeups. Whomp's Domino Ruins, for example, features Whomps who will block your path down certain shortcuts. The board only has two Whomps, though, so you don't encounter them very often, and even when you do, the board is small enough that taking the long way around won't put you at much of a disadvantage. Super Mario Party's four boards don't feel distinct, so your strategy for each one won't be all that different. And since there are only four boards in total to pick from, Mario Party mode grows stale fairly quickly.

There are a total of 80 minigames in Super Mario Party, putting it just behind Mario Party 6, 7, and 9 in terms of quantity. Of the 80 minigames, nearly half rely on the motion control or rumble features in the Switch's Joy-Cons. Don't fret; both the motion and rumble features work surprisingly well, and it makes for some of the most cleverly designed games in the Mario Party series. For example, in Fiddler on the Hoof, you and three others race horses, and making a pulling back motion with the Joy-Con to simulate whipping the reins increases your score if you move with the beat of the song that's playing. In Nut Cases, you and a partner need to outwit the other team by claiming the five boxes that have the most walnuts inside them. You get an idea as to a box's contents by picking it up and measuring the severity of your Joy-Con's vibration. As Super Mario Party only supports motion control with a single Joy-Con, you won't be able to play the game in handheld mode or with a Pro Controller.

Partner Party mode is Super Mario Party's reimagining of Mario Party 6's Team Battle mode. The rules are similar to Mario Party mode, but there are more paths around the board, and you need to actually land on Toadette's spot to get a Star instead of just collecting it while passing by. The minor obstacles from Mario Party mode become trickier to get past in Partner Party because you need to remain mindful of both you and your partner. Paying to move Whomp out of the way might get you to the Star more quickly, but doing so could trap other players, including your teammate. There's the possibility of winning the next minigame and earning enough coin to buy an item to free them, but that's no guarantee. This type of consideration and amount of forethought simply doesn't exist in Mario Party mode.

Two of the other major modes, River Survival and Sound Stage, are new to the Mario Party franchise. The former has you working together with three others to survive a trip down a dangerous river while playing Co-op minigames, while the latter is an energetic dance competition where you solely play Rhythm minigames. Both River Survival and Sound Stage offer fun, albeit brief, alternatives to the staple Mario Party formula. The Co-op and Rhythm minigames are also some of the best in the Mario Party series, especially the Rhythm ones like Fiddler on the Hoof, that have you actually standing up and moving around to match the groove of the game's characters. Both Co-op and Rhythm minigames lack the heated competition of other head-to-head minigames, but they do pump up a room.

Super Mario Party's final major mode, Challenge Road, is the closest the game has to a single-player campaign, but it only opens up once you've unlocked all 80 minigames. The mode has you play through every single minigame with specific handicaps placed on you to make each one harder. For example, a racing minigame might challenge you to get first place without running into any of the track's hazards. This mode comes very close to giving Super Mario Party just the amount of challenge the game would need to increase its longevity, but unfortunately it buckles. If you fail at a challenge three times, the game asks you if you'd like to just skip it. You can always come back and beat the challenge later if you want, but the mode never punishes you for skipping any of the minigames. As long as you get to the end of the road, regardless if you skipped a dozen challenges to get there, you'll still earn one of the five Gems you need.

Super Mario Party also has several smaller modes and features that aren't tied to earning the Super Star title. In Mariothon, you compete in five minigames where outlasting your opponents in time-based games earns you extra points on the tournament ladder. There's an online version of Mariothon too, but the servers aren't live until the game's launch. Square Off is also a minigame-based tournament, but after each win, you're allowed to claim a territory space. Owning the pieces of territory on either side of another player's territory nets you their space too, and the game continues until every space is filled. The winner is whoever owns the most spaces at the end of the match. Both modes give you a goal to strive for while playing minigames, which creates extra levels of friendly competition amongst a group of friends.

The new Partner Party, River Survival, and Sound Stage modes add enjoyable alternatives to Mario Party mode--which at least returns to its competitive roots.

There's also Toad's Rec Room, where you can play unique games that change based on how you position your Switch, and a Stickers room, where you can cover a wall in a mural of stickers you've collected. Both seem tacked on to Super Mario Party; the former to justify putting the game on a console that can be played on a horizontal plane, in kickstand mode, or in a dock, and the latter to give you a reason to go out and buy some Amiibos to scan and get special stickers that aren't earnable within the game. Although the option of changing perspectives in Toad's Rec Room--such as looking at a baseball field from a bird's eye, laid-back, or pitcher's view--is an interesting gimmick, none of the games are really made better by adjusting how you look at them. The Stickers room is not worth getting invested in at all.

Everything about Super Mario Party feels smaller in comparison to previous titles in the series. Both Mario Party and Partner Party mode play on small boards, and certain modes, like Challenge Road, have clear tier points to make it easy to play through in small chunks. So it's all the more puzzling that you can't actually play Super Mario Party on the go in handheld mode. Given you need a seperate Joy-Con to perform the motion-based actions in the game, it makes sense, but it's still odd to see a game on Switch that actively prevents you from making use of the console's portability.

Most of Super Mario Party's varied assortment of 80 minigames are fun, especially if you've got a full group of four players, as the NPCs aren't smart or skilled enough to pose much of a challenge until you unlock Master difficulty. The new Partner Party, River Survival, and Sound Stage modes add enjoyable alternatives to Mario Party mode--which at least returns to its competitive roots. And even if the unique character dice blocks don't shake up Super Mario Party's four boards enough to give Mario Party mode some longevity, they implement small moments of strategy into a series that has for too long solely relied on randomness to determine a winner.

Editor's note: As we have not been able to test Super Mario Party's online features on live servers prior to its release, this is a review in progress. We will update and finalize this review when we're able to test its online functionality at launch.

Categories: Games

Latest Hitman 2 Trailer Shows Off Wetwork Weaponry For Your Contract Killer

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 21:56

Agent 47 may work on a different team than James Bond, but they both share an affinity for deadly gadgets. The latest Hitman 2 trailer shows off the array of wetwork weaponry you can take on the job this time around. 

The teaser showcases remote exploding cell phones, proximity tasers, concussion grenades, remote audio distractions, and disposable scramblers. How you use them will determine if you successfully terminate the target. 

Hitman 2 is scheduled to release on November 13 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. 

Categories: Games

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