Tetris Effect Review - Feel The Groove

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 16:00

Without context, the premise of Tetris Effect won't stop you in your tracks. It's Tetris at heart, and its familiar playfield is presented against fantasy backdrops with songs and sound effects that react to your actions. What that basic description doesn't tell you is how powerful the combination of conducting tetrominos and music at the same time can be. Give Tetris Effect your complete, undivided attention, and you'll form a sympathetic bond to the notes and puzzle pieces alike and lose yourself in the flurry of color and energy that permeates every stage. It's a lofty promise, to be sure, but there's no other way to describe the impact Tetris Effect has once it finally clicks.

Though there are a handful of modes--no sign of multiplayer, sadly--with basic twists on the standard formula that are worth exploring at your leisure, the bulk of the Tetris Effect experience takes place in Journey Mode. It's an aptly named trip that will take you to recognizable locations like the moon, but more often to abstract settings that are best defined by a list of adjectives. These dreamscapes can be breezy, electric, stressful, haunting, heavenly, or crunchy, to name a few of the standout qualities. The music in each stage may not always be a predictable pairing, but just because you didn't see a particular harmony coming doesn't mean it can't work.

Over time, you will notice that the game not only hooks you with music, but that it gets you hooked on songs that may not traditionally fit within your musical preferences. Odds are you don't listen to chanting in foreign languages nor the complicated beats of the tabla on a daily basis, but Tetris Effect makes these uncommon sounds enticing. It's hard to say what these songs would feel like without first experiencing them during gameplay, but when you're enraptured in their rhythms whilst simultaneously flipping and reconfiguring puzzle pieces in a race against time, they become relentlessly catchy, sticking with you long after you stop playing.

Because Tetris Effect is so infectious, it's very difficult to put down once you fall into its rhythm. Tetris has proven itself to be a highly effective game, and one that has an ever-rising skill ceiling that allows it to draw in players who have decades of experience under their belts. Journey mode will ramp up, but in keeping with the sense of going on an adventure, it will also slump down, though rarely for long. The non-linear flow is an important part of the experience that charges you with anticipation and rewards you with relief, and is an unexpected benefit to the standard flow of a session of Tetris.

The shift in tone and pace is often determined by your progress within a stage. Most require you to clear 36 lines total (on normal difficulty), with milestones along the way that dictate the present rhythm. You do, however, have a tool at your disposal that is designed explicitly to pump the brakes and give you a chance to salvage a potentially disastrous situation or to build up a high scoring combo. The Zone ability can be triggered with a single button press at any time that you've got some charge in the relevant meter, which is fueled a quarter of the way every time you clear eight lines.

With Zone activated, pieces hover rather than fall, and you get to take your time--as allotted by the meter--placing them in your stack. Clear a line, and it will shift to the bottom of the stack, ready to be cleared automatically when Zone disengages. Because lines persist even when "cleared" while in Zone, you can make combos that go beyond the standard four-line Tetris clear if you're skilled enough. They won't count towards your line count for the level, but they will give you extra scoring opportunities that wouldn't otherwise be possible.

The new Zone mechanic adds an interesting layer of strategy for new and veteran players alike, but more than this new mechanic, it's the quasi-spiritual bond that forms between you and the game that defines Tetris Effect. Even though you don't need a PlayStation VR headset to get a taste, there's no question that Tetris Effect is best played in VR with headphones turned up loud.

With your vision and hearing cut off from the outside world, you fade into the game. You feel things that you'd never imagine a game of Tetris could make you feel. Don't be surprised if you catch yourself bursting with joy, or on the verge of tears, all because the confluence of gameplay and sensory stimulation works so well. There is no extra physical movement asked of you--the opposite of almost every other VR game in recent memory. Tetris Effect wants your mind, rather than your body, and even though we all dream of one day being completely immersed in a high-end VR game. In truth, Tetris Effect achieves the base goal--belief in your connection to the game.

Tetris Effect is a transformative game that will more than likely be overlooked by people who think it's "just Tetris." Well, it is and it isn't. Anyone who knows Tetris can pick up Tetris Effect and begin playing right away. The fundamentals remain the same; it is a time-tested formula that continues to work, after all. But Tetris is just the beginning of Tetris Effect. It provides the foundation for a complex emotional journey that defies expectations. Its a vector for meditation. It's a driving force that pushes you beyond your presumed limits. It is the definition of awesome, and if you have an open heart and an open mind, you owe it to yourself to take the plunge and see why it's anything but "just Tetris."

Categories: Games

Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption Review - Trials and Tribulations

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 02:00

Many stories like to use religion as a narrative device, and the name would suggest, Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption takes a crack at it too, offering a refreshingly pared-down experience of Gothic religious horror. But while the game's boss rush structure possesses some clever mechanical twists, its more superficial elements don’t quite have the same shine.

Enter Adam, the titular protagonist, not-so-subtly named after the world's first sinner. Instead of an apple from a tree, you've clearly been far naughtier than your namesake. Here, the afterlife has dealt you a rather unfortunate hand; defeat the manifestations of all seven mortal sins, and you just might get a happy ending. However, that's definitely a lot harder than it actually sounds, because the bosses are all about 20 feet tall, incredibly strong, and they hate your guts, and you have to give something up before you fight each one. This is the pivotal "sacrifice" part of the equation.

Sinner is about going from boss to boss and beating them into the ground before they can do the same to you. It clearly takes inspiration from the Dark Souls lineage of games, both conceptually and mechanically. Each adversary you face has succumbed to a cardinal sin, whether it's by lack of action or by a conscious choice to take a particularly unsavory behavior too far. As a result, the bosses are fascinatingly warped beyond human recognition--we're talking about headless noblewomen, hunchbacked sorcerers, and walking fortresses that are more metal than man.

Mechanically, Sinner features animation locking, that has you commit to your attacks, and tough-as-nails enemies. You're given a handful of javelins, health potions, and melee weapon options that you can swap between on the fly before the game throws you at the first boss. All your enemies have unique attack patterns that you'll have to memorize if you want to win, and some are more telegraphed than others, which leads to a good variety of challenges across the board. It's a strong, if familiar, set of systems, but Sinner's biggest feature lies in its sacrifice mechanic.

Inventively, the game puts you in the unique predicament of getting weaker as you progress. Your 'sacrifice' could be a portion of your HP, some of your weapon attack damage, or even resources. You lose that thing, and you get a little bit weaker each time you go toe-to-toe with a malevolent foe. It's an innovative spin and its focus on the core basics means Sinner feels like an evolution of the genre rather than a derivative work. Sinner also includes a new game plus mode, which adds some exciting spice in the form of more challenging boss gauntlets where you fight them in groups along with broader weapon customization options.

Each enemy is introduced by way of an epitaph and a scene which tells you how they ended up in that sorry state. The scenes are compelling on their own, and despite the sparse monologues which don’t give you a whole lot to go on other than your own imagination, the villainous Victorian-inspired visuals and the individually distinct boss arenas also provide just enough environmental storytelling to pique your curiosity. While you may still be slightly in the dark about what you've truly accomplished for your character in the atonement department when the credits roll, the road to redemption is still a scenic one.

However, Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption suffers from some problems with repetition. After about the sixth hour, things start to blend together a little. Each boss has its own unique orchestral accompaniment, which are enjoyable in their own right, but they're all based on the same recipe of overdramatic string sections and choral vocals. Each boss also harnesses a theme or an element of its own, but the arenas don't necessarily hold up to scrutiny over long periods of time; the surrounding textures in the background suffer slightly from a lack of fine detail, and there's only so much crumbly ruined stonework that you can stomach.

It's also a little disappointing, though not completely surprising, to see the game run worse on Switch than on other platforms. There were instances of framerate lag turned deadly because of the pace of gameplay and also an instance of blinding light effects for a particular boss in a dimly-lit environment that were a hindrance. On the PlayStation 4 and PC versions, the framerate lag is almost undetectable.

Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption is an ambitious game that brings something new to an increasingly popular style of action game. While it seems like it's missing a lick of paint to make sure that its aesthetics are as strong as its mechanics, it's still a smart step forward and a good example of how we can pay homage to the beloved works of others with originality.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 19:00

Heralding the game's release date next week, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and IO Interactive revealed the official gameplay launch trailer for Hitman 2. Right on the heels of the live-action trailer featuring Sean Bean, the video demonstrates a multitude of way to assassinate targets in the game. 

The trailer shows agent 47 using a sniper rifle to snap the ropes securing a heavy beam, Spartan-kicking an armed man over a cliff, and throwing a deadly ninja star – and that's only in the first 30 seconds. Watch the rest of the trailer below to get some inspiration for your own playthrough. 

Hitman 2 will feature all-new multiplayer modes; you can watch us play Ghost on this New Gameplay Today. Players will also be able to explore the Sniper Assassin co-op mode alongside six dynamic locations. 

Don't forget to check out the fan-influenced Elusive Target mission called "Explosive Penmanship" where you can eliminate a target played by Sean Bean with an exploding pen. This mission goes live on November 20. 

Hitman 2 is coming out on November 13 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. To learn more, you can read our early impressions of the game here

Categories: Games

Hitman 2 Review: Hit Parade

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 11:00

Hitman is a game about killing people. Well, killing specific people and trying not to kill other people unless you really have to. But it's also a game about exploring large, real-world-inspired spaces, learning about how they operate, finding multiple solutions to problems, and using that knowledge to improvise and manipulate the environment to hit the people you're hunting. The episodic nature of the Hitman refresh in 2016 saw IO Interactive release one level every month--a contentious move at the time, but one that helped accentuate the potential in each mission. Hitman 2 ditches the episodic model and adds a few new minor mechanics, but the loop of continuously replaying a single location, slowly uncovering the wealth of possibilities, and being able to effectively draw upon that knowledge in new challenges is where Hitman is strongest.

Hitman 2 takes you to six new locales, and each poses unique situations to overcome as you attempt to assassinate your targets. Mumbai is a standout with its densely populated streets and labyrinths of tenement buildings--a great environment that makes the most of a new Assassin's Creed-style crowd blending mechanic, allowing you to disappear into big groups of people. A mission in Miami, Florida takes place at an active raceway, a loud and vibrant stage that feels like a theme park with its swaths of attendees, distinct zones, and a concealed backstage underbelly.

These levels are overwhelming in the best way possible, and it's exciting to begin peeling away the layers of these large, intricate areas--exploring the spaces, discovering routes, finding tools and disguises, and figuring out the best places to utilize them. If you're familiar with Hitman, you know that each stage and its AI inhabitants run on routines like clockwork, making Hitman a game that rewards social stealth and patience. Eavesdropping, tailing, and passive observation are good first steps to success. Even the Whittleton Creek stage, a small, sparsely populated suburban block in Vermont, feels like a mindmap of interconnected causality when you begin to dig deeper. Having the curiosity to uncover how things operate within levels, stumbling upon minor plotlines and amusing flavor dialog along the way, is interesting in its own right.

Hitman does make an upfront effort to help focus your scope and give you some momentum toward your objectives, though thankfully your initiative is still necessary to solve some predicaments. Stumbling across a Mission Story (previously known as Opportunities) might lead you to a machine you can sabotage, for example, but you need to find the tool to do so and work out the best method of either distracting or dispatching the people around it.

Mission Stories are a great first step, but Hitman becomes its best when you start to internalize the stages and uncover the more obscure ways things can unfold in subsequent playthroughs, be it through pursuing alternative Mission Stories, Challenges that ask you to perform specific tasks, or your own improvisation. There are few fail states other than your own death, and there are so many approaches and tools at your disposal that the path to victory can be as creative and elegant or as bumbling and messy as it needs to be. Completing a stage typically takes a long time, and there will be plenty of moments when a guard catches you doing something you shouldn't be doing and calls for backup. Unhinged gunfights still feel as futile as ever, but when things get out of control there's almost always the opportunity to escape to a less hostile part of the level, swap your disguises, and come up with an alternative "make do" approach. In fact, Hitman is sometimes more exciting when your initial plans fail.

The only problem with being presented with such a staggering array of interactions is that the limitations of the sandbox will eventually reveal themselves if you push the wrong way. For example, while you can stash bodies in dumpsters and closets, I was disappointed to discover I couldn't stash them in one of many vacant portable toilets. While Agent 47 can leap tall fences and shimmy across daringly high ledges, he seemingly can't muster the courage to drop down from certain first-floor balconies. Guard AI behavior is stern but generous--if you're found trespassing in a restricted area they'll give you a chance to find the exit before reacting, but sometimes it's too generous. I was amused to see a target's personal bodyguard decide to go home for the day after his employer "accidentally" fell off a building, even though I was the only other person in the room.

Hitman 2 continues to embrace a trial-and-error playstyle in its campaign. The levels are long, but autosaves are generous and manual saving is encouraged, which gives you the freedom to experiment with different ways of approaching a problem. And the closer you get to bending the systems in just the right way--trying to narrowly squeeze past a guard's sightline from different directions, or using coins and cheeseburgers to divert someone's attention--the more thrilling it feels, no matter how goofy it actually looks. Hitman 2's interstitial cinematics are as grim and dramatic as a British espionage drama, and it's hard not to let yourself buy into the clinical overarching conspiracy. But in the field, the series' tongue-in-cheek absurdity happily remains with ridiculous costumes, unlikely weapons, and Agent 47's self-aware deadpan acting, which perfectly accompanies any bumbling improvisation. Both exist distinctly, don't really compliment or detract one another, but are still enjoyable in their own right.

Hitman 2 also boasts a few significant modes outside of its campaign, including Sniper Assassin, which adapts the design seen in the Hitman: Sniper smartphone game and tasks you with taking out a series of targets from a single vantage point using only a scoped rifle. It's a straightforward but enjoyable, low-stakes mode that allows for a surprising amount of creative freedom, and it can be played in two-player online co-op. But Hitman 2's most enticing bonus, at least if you own the previous Hitman, is the ability to download the original stages into Hitman 2, which gives you feature-complete versions of them with the addition of new mechanics like functional mirrors (which enemies can spot you in) and the briefcase (which lets you conceal and transport tools discreetly), among other things. These legacy stages are wonderful to revisit under a new light.

It should also be mentioned that one of the most compelling elements of the 2016 Hitman was the continuous, free live content updates that occurred after the game's launch. Escalation Missions, where you're given specific conditional challenges of increasing difficulty, and Elusive Targets, limited-time events where you have only one chance to take out unique assassination targets, added tense trials that tested both your knowledge of levels and improvisational skills. IO Interactive has announced that these familiar features will be making a return, along with free content updates to Sniper Assassin and Ghost Mode. We obviously can't judge the quality of this content at launch, but it's surely something to look forward to.

The addition of other minor mechanical changes--like concussive weapons, a picture-in-picture enemy activity alert, and visible security camera sightlines--help to improve Hitman 2 overall as a dense and accessible stealth assassination game. But the new locations are the real stars, impressive and inventive sandboxes ripe for picking apart with exciting experiments. Hitman is about experiencing the anticipation of seeing whether a plan will work when you try it for the first time. It's about feeling the tension of briskly walking away from a bad situation, hoping you can lose the suspicious guards. It's the satisfaction of knowing the machinations of a level so well that when a target moves into a particular place at a particular time, you have the perfect way to intervene. Hitman 2 is a familiar experience, but in the Hitman world, familiarity is an incredible strength.

Categories: Games

The Elite Four Shows Their New Faces In The Latest Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu & Eevee Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 17:12

The latest trailer for Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee reveals the 3D models and concept art for characters that appeared in the original Pokémon Red, Blue (and Green), and Yellow. You can see a bunch of the gym leaders in both 2D and 3D forms like Lorelei, Bruno, Agatha, and Lance, the villain Giovanni (who might be Ash's mom?), as well as the Elite Four that you fight at the end of the game.


Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee releases November 16.

Categories: Games

The Quiet Man Review - Silent, But Not Golden

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 00:12

The interactive movie--that nebulous, hard-to-define genre briefly fashionable in the mid-1990s, when CD-ROM technology made it possible for developers to integrate live-action footage into games--is not exactly remembered for its high quality. But even in the tradition responsible for such notorious follies as Night Trap, Sewer Shark, and Who Shot Johnny Rock, The Quiet Man is astonishingly dire--a graceless, outdated game that belongs squarely in the era of laserdiscs and the Philips CD-i. When it isn't an interactive movie, it's a simple 3D beat-em-up of the kind once ubiquitous at arcades. But an interest in the past does not make The Quiet Man a love letter to video game history, and its ideas are poorly realized.

The Quiet Man boasts a formal conceit that is at least moderately interesting. You play as a svelte blonde 20-something named Dane, who is deaf, and as a consequence the game is almost totally silent. You hear only the muffled patter of footfalls while walking, some indistinct notes of synthesizer to represent voices, and a faint patina of generic ambience elsewhere. The marketing materials describe this as an effort to allow the player to "experience the world in the way Dane does." But we clearly do not experience the world as Dane does. Dane reads lips; he communicates extensively and effortlessly with every character he encounters. So why are these conversations not subtitled? In one lengthy scene of dialogue after another, people talk with Dane, presumably advancing the story. Meanwhile, we have no earthly clue what's being said or what's going on.

This sort of inexplicable design is entirely typical of The Quiet Man. It’s difficult to understand so much of what transpires. Consider an early narrative sequence in which Dane meets either a colleague or a friend--the relationship was not apparent to me and only gets more confusing over the course of the story--and converses with him in his office. In a series of mundane closeups the other man speaks as Dane nods along, rapt; the nature of their discussion is opaque, and their performances, amateurish and hammy, are abysmal. You can imagine this scene being staged in such a way that the content would be clear even without sound or subtitles. The Quiet Man doesn't even try.

When these mystifying, interminable full-motion-video scenes at last end, the actors are switched out for crudely animated substitutions, many of whom bear such a poor resemblance to their real-life counterparts that it is frequently unclear who's who. It's never hard to pick out Dane in the heat of battle, though, because he's the only one who's white. The endless procession of villainous henchmen you're asked to brutally dispatch are uniformly latino, broad caricatures of "cholos" in street-gang garb who sneer at you between pummellings. You fight them pretty much exclusively throughout. The political implications of the game's demographic makeup are appalling, in this fraught time of wall-building especially, and the end result is plainly, unforgivably racist.

In any case, it's quite fitting for the enemies to be the same cliched type repeated ad nauseam, because repetitiveness is the very nature of The Quiet Man's beat-em-up combat system. Brawling has what might generously be described as an arcade-like simplicity: one button to punch, one to kick, and one to dodge, plus a finishing move that can be triggered on occasion. It would be more accurate to call this rudimentary. Almost every battle boils down to a dull frenzy of button-mashing, as enemies rarely block, scarcely fight back, and practically never come at you more than one at a time. Though waves of 10 or even 20 must be defeated to clear a given room, they don't change their approach or vary their style, and mostly seem to stand around awaiting their turn to be vanquished. There's no way to vary your own attacks, either, which gives every encounter the air of a chore.

Boss battles aren't much different in terms of character or technique. They distinguish themselves instead in terms of overwhelming difficulty. I almost never lost a fight in the course of regular gameplay; each of the handful of boss battles, though, kept me stuck for a long time, as I labored through dust-ups with enemies that seemed absurdly overpowered and virtually invulnerable to damage. Worse than simply losing these battles was how consistently vague they proved to be. Seldom is it apparent why you might be losing a fight. The game doesn't track damage or show the enemy's health, and it's never certain whether your hits are landing or registering much effect--hitboxes are indistinct and attacks almost always clip through bodies, which makes the whole process feel at once feeble, confusing, and outrageously imprecise.

Simplistic, ungainly combat is all the more surprising given that it is The Quiet Man's only gameplay mechanic. From beginning to end there is nothing else to do — no places to navigate, no items to collect, no weapons to wield, no puzzles to solve. It's just those same mind-numbing punches and kicks broken up by extended narrative scenes that by virtue of the enforced silence you can't hope to follow or understand. The broad contours of the plot are vaguely discernible: the drama involves childhood trauma, a seedy metropolitan underbelly, various acts of conspiracy and revenge. As for the details, it's impossible to say. The game's final moments tease an upcoming addition that will allow you to play it through a second time with the sound restored. This feels like both a preposterous cop-out--it's walking back the main conceit!--and a cruel punishment. With sound the story will surely make more sense. But having suffered through The Quiet Man once, I can't bear to try it again.

Categories: Games

Cities: Skylines - Industries Review - The Up And Up

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 20:21

If my nearly 10 years as a small-town mayor in Canada have taught me anything, it is that bringing in industrial growth is an extremely demanding task. So much production has moved offshore in recent decades that it has become tough to keep the industries that we still have, let alone add new ones. But this isn't quite the case in Industries, the new expansion for Cities: Skylines that adds character to your carefully crafted municipalities without much in the way of difficulty. While being able to concentrate on specific industries adds an involving and entertaining new dimension to city creation, the lack of challenge and reward when building these new districts makes the add-on less than essential.

With that said, this enhanced industrial focus has been seamlessly incorporated into the base Cities: Skylines game as if it had always been there. In addition to still being able to zone properties for random industrial use, there is a new option to paint part of your municipality as an industrial district specifically for forest, farming, ore, or oil. It is very easy to establish these zones. Mark them out, drop a main building to get started, and then lay down facilities to gather resources. You instantly start rolling in the logs, crops, rocks, and black gold. Levels are then gained based on the number of materials produced and employees hired, which unlocks new buildings. These industrial districts soon turn into into beehives of activity.

Getting these industrial districts up and running is satisfying, as it is the one employment area in Cities: Skylines where you directly construct industries and create jobs. As such, building industrial districts is more hands-on, as opposed to the usual "zone it and let it go" approach in the game's standard industrial, commercial, and residential development. The process is still straightforward, though. While industrial districts require a certain amount of micro-management, creating and running them is relatively easy to handle, especially for Cities: Skylines veterans. Start with something like a main forestry building and a few tree plantations and you can soon expand into sawmills, storage yards, biomass wood pellet plants, planed wood production, pulp mills, and factories making finished goods like furniture and paper products at a printing press.

Industrial districts add character to cities, making them more products of their environment than the mostly generic burgs of the original Cities: Skylines. Everything looks and feels more natural. Have a city surrounded by trees? Industries based on wood products are the only sensible option. There is also a lot to be said for finally taking full advantage of the natural resources on city maps, as previously there was little way to commodify what was all around you. Now, for example, a forest map plays like a forest map should play, with industries based on what is right in the neighborhood.

Playing on a map with multiple resource types makes things even better, as you can set up numerous industrial districts that feed into specific unique factories. The toy factory, for instance, needs both the plastic that comes from oil and the paper that comes from wood, so you need both to make sure junior is happy on Christmas morning. Districts tie into each other, making the entire industrial process operate as something of a mini-game; resource gathering, production, and warehousing all form a chain with these factories at the end of the line.

Just two minor drawbacks cause issues. First up is the need to reserve a ton of room on the map for industrial districts, as you have to build a lot of resource-gathering facilities and storage yards/warehouses to keep production humming and raw materials on hand. Second is the way that managing industries can become so involved that you forget about the rest of your city. I had a number of occasions where I spent so much attention on an industrial district that I didn't notice garbage piling up elsewhere or corpses going unclaimed in homes because I neglected to keep pace with population growth. Still, spending time dealing solely with industries is a welcome break from the other aspects of the game. As great as Cities: Skylines is, it has also become pretty familiar for those of us who have been with it since the beginning. A little micro-management isn't a bad thing in this case.

Industrial districts also never seem entirely necessary. While they are always enjoyable to plan out, and it is pretty easy to turn them into serious money-making machines, just about anyone who has played Cities: Skylines for a dozen hours or so likely has little trouble staying in the black with the original industrial zoning options. I really enjoyed turning forests into furniture and playing J.R. Ewing with oil, but I never needed the extra cash that these businesses generated. So as much as I appreciated the novelty, running these industries also seemed like extra work with questionable end benefit.

Other features added to Cities: Skylines are fairly minor. Snail mail has finally come to residents. Postal services operate much like other regional city facilities such as police stations, bus stops, and so on. Set up a post office or postal sorting station and watch happy faces sprout up all over a neighborhood. Toll booths can now be installed on city roads, letting you earn extra revenue from vehicular traffic at the small price of slowing everybody down a bit.

Industries somehow feels like both a worthwhile and an unnecessary addition to the Cities: Skylines family. Requiring direct management of industrial development definitely adds dimension to budding metropolises. Paying attention to nothing but smokestacks and jobs for a while also represents a needed change of pace from what has become a familiar city-building experience. Still, there are no significant new gameplay challenges to overcome here or enough unique rewards that make it an absolute must to create industries like an oil patch or ore mines. While this expansion provides a better, more involved experience when it comes to industry, virtual mayors can give this one a pass if they're satisfied with the factories of the original game.

Categories: Games

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection Review - It Belongs In A Museum

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 08:00

As an anthology of games from SNK's simpler days, the 40th Anniversary Collection offers a variety of classics that are more fun than you might expect given their age. The simple-looking Vanguard (1981) may not give off a rousing first impression, for example, but play it a bit and you begin to discover that its dynamic scrolling system and proclivity for handing out invincibility power-ups make it more than a predictable space shooter. This and many other entries show a glimpse of a company developing its prowess for making arcade games, and it's fascinating to take it all in. This is in large part thanks to the great attention to detail and comprehensive research that went into cataloging and smartly presenting an unsung but important part of gaming history. What's more impressive, and less obvious, is the work that was required to make every game in the collection playable at all.

The full extent of developer Digital Eclipse's efforts is difficult to know from the sidelines, but it's recognized among gaming historians that the team holds itself to a very high standard and often succeeds at meeting it. Beyond programming emulators, it also helps track down relics--original arcade motherboards--when the source code has been confirmed lost by SNK, in addition to scanning and restoring marketing materials that tell the story around the games at the time. Regular maintenance can keep old arcade boards alive, but with dwindling numbers of working units in the hands of private collectors, there's a feeling of "now or never" when it comes to preservation. The SNK 40th Collection is a treasure trove of classics that heeds the call.

At launch, there are 14 games to play: Alpha Mission, Athena, Crystalis, Guerilla War, Ikari Warriors, Ikari Warriors 2: Victory Road, Ikari III: The Rescue, Iron Tank: Invasion of Normandy, P.O.W., Prehistoric Isle, Psycho Soldier, Street Smart, TNK III, and Vanguard. For some of these games where there was an NES home port of the arcade original, you get both versions to compare and contrast. It's a great lens with which to examine the mindset of the day, where everyone wanted to bring the arcade experience home and people were willing to accept compromised graphics and gameplay to get there.

A perfect example of this is Ikari Warriors, one of a few proto-twin-stick shooters in the collection. As evident by the included console port, when the game made the transition to the NES, you could only shoot in the direction you were moving, rather than independently, as you would in the arcade game. Now that the collection is on Switch with two analog sticks to handle the controls, we are that much closer to having the true Ikari Warriors arcade experience at home. The game actually used a single arcade stick that had an added rotation function, but short of releasing a new peripheral to exactly replicate the stick, Digital Eclipse has gone as far as possible to achieve what consumers wanted when Ikari Warriors was on everyone's radar.

While there are a lot of solid games on hand, there are no doubt going to be games that are more interesting in theory than in practice. Given this, it's nice to see that each game--minus some NES ports--has an autoplay option. This will not only make it easy for you to examine a game with ease but also gives you the chance to tag in when a game gets good. Disengaging autopilot and taking the wheel isn't the smartest way to learn how to play any game, but if you find yourself up against a difficult section, you can also trigger the rewind button to fix mistakes and undo accidental deaths.

The 40th Anniversary Collection gives you a lot to play and many ways to tailor the experience to your whims, including settings that come in handy while playing vertically oriented games. From a technical and experiential standpoint, it's an all-around great collection. And if everything goes according to plan, Digital Eclipse has 11 more games scheduled to arrive before the end of the year via free patches and DLC.

In the meantime, if you exhaust interest in playing what's around, there are a lot of special features to explore. Scans include assorted marketing sheets and advertisements but even go so far as to include independent fan zines from the '80s and arcade game guides. For a more in-depth peek into the past, every game released by SNK between 1978 and 1990 gets a neatly animated history lesson, complete with screenshots and interesting anecdotes that help tell the overall story of SNK's formative years. And if you want to just zone out to some nostalgic music, there are soundtracks for 12 of the games in the collection ready from the start.

Digital Eclipse proves once again that it's the right team for the job of both preserving and resurrecting classic video games. For SNK and its fans, the team has elevated some of the company's most important milestones. It's responsible for more than just Neo Geo games, and though not every game that came before is worth replaying on its own today, the addition of supplemental materials and revitalizing modern gaming conveniences make them feel more interesting than they have in years, and in some cases, decades.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 14:00

In 1992, Looking Glass Studios (then Blue Sky Productions) pioneered the first immersive sim with Ultima Underworld. With its non-linear, story-driven gameplay and 3D environment, the Stygian Abyss, Ultima Underworld paved the way for future generations of games like Deus Ex, Bioshock, and Thief. In 2000, Looking Glass Studios disbanded, however, its talent scattering like seeds in the wind to leave their mark on other successful franchises. But with the founding of OtherSide Entertainment in 2014, much of Looking Glass’s talent has returned to continue what they started. With a 14-person team of seasoned industry veterans, which includes credited immersive sim creator, Warren Spector, and developers from Irrational Games to Fullbright, OtherSide Entertainment is creating the follow-up to Ultima Underworld with Underworld Ascendant. To bring something new to the formula, the team is diving deeper into concepts that the immersive sim was founded upon, giving players a wider array of tools and options and dropping them in a dynamic and highly interactive world. Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with writer and game director Joe Fielder to play the game and see just how deep these mechanics go.

Underworld Ascendant begins with a brief character customization process, allowing you to pick your skin tone, build, and voice (which also determines gender). From there, you’re immediately dropped into the depths, as your mystical guide and narrator Cabirus informs you that Typhon, “father of monsters” and “nemesis of Zeus” is close to breaking free, threatening the destruction of your world and the Stygian Abyss. To stop the primordial threat, you must unite the factions and learn the secrets they once used to contain Typhon. But first you must learn how to survive this brutal environment, which involves no small amount of creativity.

In Pluto’s Gate, the first task I’m given is a basic one – I must “escape,” Cabirus says off-screen in his ethereal bravado, voiced by Stephen Russell, who’s known for playing Garrett in Thief, Corvo Attano in Dishonored, and Nick Valentine in Fallout 4. Cabirus says that I must get past a locked door. Simple enough. Now I only need to locate the key or pick the lock to make my exit. But after all my years playing similar open-world games, I forget a simple truth: The door is made of wood. “In time, you could beat it down,” Cabirus says, noting the possibility of hacking through the door with your fists or a weapon, “or simply apply fire.” Indeed, I find I can pick up a wooden chair and ignite it over a brazier, then hold it against the door until the door is reduced to ash. In Underworld Ascendant, creative solutions to problems like this abound, and they generally revolve around the physical properties of objects or the delicate interplay between light and dark, and water and fire. If I want to avoid the icy gaze of a skeleton watcher, I can pick up a water bottle and throw it at one of the torches to douse the flame and darken the hallway. I can cook a leg of “mystery meat” by holding it over the open flame of a brazier. And objects have weight, so while I might be able to throw a cup at a lever, sometimes I’ll come across a heavier object that can only be carried and dropped onto a mechanism-activating pressure plate.

Players need to cleverly approach their environment to get past obstacles, which becomes evident when I begin the Challenge of Ishtass. After entering a large, spacious cavern, I encounter a platform patrolled by skeletons. A caged monstrosity hangs above them, looking like a giant, levitating face-hugger from Alien, only with an oversized brain for a head. A “mind crippler,” Fielder tells me; it’ll attack the skeletons if I release it, but it would “be prudent” to avoid its detection. Already, I have a couple of ways to get to the treasure on the other side: I can rain arrows down on the skeletons or attack them head-on with any number of junk items I’ve amassed. I can also sneak around and hit the lever to release the mind crippler if I’m quiet. However, there is another option that no one points out. I notch an arrow and fire it at the lever, then another, and another. After a few missed attempts, I finally get one of my arrows to ricochet off a boulder, striking the lever and releasing the groping tentacles of the mind crippler upon the hapless skeletons, which enables me to sneak around and snag the loot on the opposite bank.

The entire RPG system in Underworld Ascendant is built to encourage player creativity, interactivity, and immersion. When players start the game, for example, they aren’t allocated skill points, but are encouraged to navigate the world and acclimate to the systems. To encourage this, players are awarded skill points for completing “feats.” Feats, in Underworld Ascendant, are milestones and achievements players earn by overcoming new obstacles and figuring out the game’s systems such as killing a skeleton without being touched. There are three major skill trees: fighter, magic, and stealth. Spells in the game are largely about hacking physical properties, Fielder tells me. The Assemble spell allows mages to amass a number of items from the environment and build a bridge, which can also be used as a weapon if you light it on fire or drop it on foes. The stealth tree stacks damage bonuses for sneak attacks and includes the dash skill, which is essentially a short-range teleport. When it comes to the fighter tree, Fielder also points out how “combat is focused on movement, not just damage bonuses.” And indeed, much of the fighter tree is devoted to mobility, parkour, and getting the most out of your environment with skills like wall-run and double-jump becoming unlockable at higher levels. 

In the start of the game, like in the original Stygian Abyss of Ultima Underworld, players will struggle to survive as they’re limited to the tattered rags on their back. Food plays a role in the game as hunger ravages health, and cooking or pickling your foodstuffs becomes essential for removing negative status effects or adding positive ones. For a while, players will mostly be discovering broken equipment and rapidly deteriorating weapons. But as they progress they’ll be able to find rarer items, studier armor, and more powerful tools to add to their arsenal.

In one pre-loaded account, Fielder shows me the axe of Phobos, which breaks enemy morale with a successful parry. There’s also the jewel of befuddlement, which Fielder jokes is essentially a flash bang grenade, for those ungifted in stealth. Wands can be found which are branded with a single spell, and runestones can be added to your runebag, which allow you to create custom spells. During my playthrough, I find the Heal rune word, and am able to dual-wield two runestones, casting healing spells on myself with a flourish of wrists and levitating stones like Dr. Strange whenever I run into trouble. For archers, different types of arrows exist like water arrows, fire arrows (which can be made by dipping standard arrows into a torch), and blast arrows, which release a blast of compressed air upon impact. At one point during my playthrough, I find a left leather boot, which grants a status boost to mobility, but when I equip it, the bonus is cut in half since I lack the corresponding right boot. Also making its return from Ultima Underworld, players can plant the seeds of the hallowed Silver Sapling in patches of soil to set custom respawn points when they die.

The Stygian Abyss was the first world to play home to an immersive sim, and Fielder is quick to point out that it is a character unto itself, inspiring other failed subterranean utopias like Rapture in Bioshock. And the new abyss has a lot of character, too with its colorful tabletop mini-figure art inspiration and myriad factions. During my playthrough, I only see the bipedal Lizardman tribe, the Saurians. But the game is full of races, such as: The Shamblers – a “fungal hivemind” – the deep elves who can gift players enchanted weaponry, and the Dwarven Expedition who can forge master-crafted armor.

The environment itself is also quite attractive. The failed utopia incorporates lava-flooded caverns and mist-covered dungeons and small details like graffiti written in the Lizardman language. Glowing lotus-like flowers propel themselves through the darkness like bioluminescent jellyfish. But the setting isn’t just for show. While the world isn’t as sprawling as some contemporary RPGs, the Stygian Abyss is constantly evolving.

“Within the game, there’s a degrading world state,” Fielder explains. “As you play through the game, creatures from the lower abyss start to crawl up to the higher levels.” There’s also a faction known as the Outcasts who are constantly expanding their construction efforts, meaning new ramparts and platforms might be built up (or torn down) when you return to a former location.

“In an area where you had a quest earlier, you’ll find it’s radically different,” says Fielder. “There are different movement options. There are different creatures. And it’s really a new setting pretty much every single time you return.”

During my brief time with the game I was pleasantly surprised with what I was shown. While Underworld Ascendant might not be as polished as some of its triple-A contemporaries, the small but talented indie team of OtherSide Entertainment is doing something different. Focusing on its core world and players’ ability to interact within that environment as opposed to other modern games’ sprawling but less interactive worlds, the team is shooting for quality over quantity, which is appropriate, considering the small team’s relationship to what Fielder calls the “grandfather of immersive sims.” Underworld Ascendant is coming to PC on November 15 and to consoles in 2019. As a fan of games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Bioshock Infinite, I saw a lot to like from this indie offering, and for only $30, I’m eager to dive back into the abyss to more fully immerse myself in its depths.

Categories: Games

Deracine Review - Grains Of Sand

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 11:01

Dark Souls creator FromSoftware is renowned for its vague, interpretative stories and captivating gameplay--two strengths of the studio that have been successfully applied to similarly styled games for nearly over a decade. Deracine is a departure from what the studio is primarily known for. It's a narrative adventure that makes good use of PlayStation VR and the immersive nature of the hardware but fails to consolidate a poorly structured story and mundane gameplay to create something truly special.

Deracine puts you in control of an invisible Faerie who manifests in a mysteriously secluded boarding school that serves as a home to five children. You're summoned by one of the children, Yuliya, who believes in a Faeries' duty to guide and protect those in need with their ability to alter and traverse time, tasking you with looking over the other children at the school. Deracine's tale begins with innocent chores around the school, where you play simple pranks on the children in a bid to prove your existence. But its overarching narrative quickly starts exploring greater themes concerning life and its sacrifices, obsessions with the past and the morality surrounding the ability to change past events.

It's a story that presents its ideas without much hand-holding, which combined with the frequent time jumps can create a difficult thread to follow. It can often feel like you have a grasp of where the narrative is heading before it completely flips itself again, introducing more characters and supernatural elements that undermine the overall story. The final two chapters are most guilty of this, tossing aside previously established themes and instead focusing on numerous jumps between two days in an attempt to explain these sudden additions. The repetitive nature of these chapters wear thin quickly and only confuse the narrative further, sadly undercutting the harrowing conclusion that desperately tries to tie everything together.

As a Faerie, Deracine gives you two abilities to command with disappointing limitations. The first lets you glance at current objectives though a magical pocket watch, while also giving you the power to travel through time when the narrative allows it. The second is a glowing red ring that can absorb time from objects and beings around you. The earliest example of this has you transferring the limited time left on a ripe pair of grapes over to a wilted and dead flower, instantly rejuvenating and reviving it. This initially seems like a clever mechanic, but you rarely get to use it. You're only able to use it freely in two puzzles, and even then, the choices presented to you are too straightforward. It's a shame that more of Deracine's puzzle-solving couldn't be designed around this single intriguing mechanic, especially when you ponder how captivating it might have been to be given the chance to experiment with its power in smart settings.

Each chapter takes place within a frozen moment in time, letting you explore the school at will and interact with both past and present versions of the children residing there. Translucent echoes of characters give you insight into past events and create a breadcrumb trail for you to follow back to their current locations for more context into their current actions. Past conversations play out after you manipulate certain objects around the house and on the children's persons, while larger changes to their surroundings culminate in short showings of how they react to your meddling. Deracine makes your impact on its world and characters felt with each action, even if it gives you little to no room for experimentation.

Exploration is the gateway to Deracine's point-and-click-like puzzles, which have you hunting for items you'll need to advance stories during each chapter. This can be as simple as hunting down a key for a locked chest or as involved as figuring out a way to move a stubborn black cat from your path (since Faeries seem to fear the cute pets). Puzzles are all similar to one another and expect you to pay close attention to each of the conversations you stumble upon for vague clues to their solutions. Sometimes, these clues don't offer meaningful information, leading to infrequent but frustrating instances where you're stuck trying to use every item in your possession to elicit a response. But most of the time they delicately point you in the correct direction--not outright explaining what to do, but giving you enough to make your eventual solutions feel satisfying to orchestrate.

Moving around Deracine's surprisingly large boarding school and accompanying grounds makes good use of existing VR systems of control. You're forced to use a pair of PlayStation Move controllers (since you'll be handling items frequently with your hands) but an intelligent combination of segmental rotation and teleportation makes getting around a breeze. You use two face buttons to rotate the camera through fixed angles and then use a third button on the right Move controller to teleport to any highlighted area within view. In instances where you need to take a closer look, you can get right up and close with the item in question, orbiting the camera around to give you whatever desired angle you might need. It doesn't take long to become comfortable with the control scheme, making its frequent exploration easy to engage with and comfortable during long sessions of play.

Deracine does contain an impressive level of detail to its world, enrapturing you in a space that is primed for you to pick apart. Finely detailed objects give you insight into its lore, with the benefit of VR and motion controls letting you manipulate each item carefully to inspect its every detail. The ability to move around freely and engage without numerous objects within Deracine's world with your own hands is effective in making you feel exactly like the Faerie the children describe, which just wouldn't be the same with a traditional controller.

Deracine has the buildings blocks of a good VR debut from Dark Souls creator FromSoftware, but it lacks the engrossing gameplay and mystique that has made the studio's previous titles so successful.

Expressive animation also plays a big role in enriching the many character moments with a strong sense of emotion and personality. The boarding school and its surrounding forests are also beautiful, bathed in warm lighting and rich seasonal colors. It's contrasted by a delicate and somber score, which loops and changes with each scene to provide a serene backdrop to your adventuring. Silence is also used to great effect, creating an ominous atmosphere at key, powerful moments. With the immersive properties offered by virtual reality, Deracine is a technical treat on both eyes and ears.

Deracine has the buildings blocks of a good VR debut from Dark Souls creator FromSoftware, but it lacks the engrossing gameplay and mystique that has made the studio's previous titles so successful. It is a good example of a PSVR-exclusive title that uses the medium effectively, giving you ample control over your movement and an enticing space to explore fully with the flexibility of using your own two hands to pick it apart. Its narrative ambitions fail to meet the same bar, though, with intriguing themes that get lost within a poorly constructed narrative that's difficult to follow. Its puzzles fall prey to the same inadequacies, failing to leverage the more exciting mechanics presented from the start and instead relying on trivial scavenger hunts though frozen time. Deracine is a disappointingly flawed adventure that won't likely stick with you long after its conclusion.

Categories: Games

Sean Bean Stars In Live-Action Trailer For Hitman 2

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 11/04/2018 - 20:40

With Hitman 2's release date looming, IO Interactive has released a live-action launch trailer starring English actor Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, GoldenEye, Troy), who will be playing one of the in-game characters in the upcoming title.

Bean is to play Mark "The Undying" Faba, the first Elusive Target mission to appear in-game on November 20.  Elusive Target missions are free for all players, giving you only one chance to kill a character during a 10 day period. Faba is a former MI5 agent who became an assassin. In the trailer, Bean talks about the inventive and creative ways you can kill your foes by using unassuming items like an exploding rubber duck. 

Hitman 2 releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on November 13. Read our hands-on impressions here.

[Source: Hitman on YouTube]

Categories: Games

Latest Kingdom Hearts III Trailers Gives Us Another Glimpse Of Tangled's World

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 11/03/2018 - 20:10

The latest trailer for Kingdom Hearts III, which premiered at this year's Lucca comics and games festival, shows off another glimpse at the game's rendition of Tangled. While the world was previously revealed in a previous trailer, we this offers us a deeper (if still brief) look at what players will actually do in this particular world, as well as some fun looks at Rapunzel and Flynn Rider interacting with Sora, Goofy, and Donald.


Categories: Games

Football Manager 2019 Review - A Winning Strategy

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 23:40

There are a lot of variables that go into having a successful season in Football Manager. You have to contend with the delicate balancing act of keeping your team's morale high, deftly navigating the transfer market to make astute signings, developing players on the training ground, and rotating your squad to micromanage the risk of injuries, among other things. It's a unique challenge geared towards racking up points on the pitch, yet all of these disparate aspects must first be built atop a solid foundation that begins with pieces on a whiteboard. Tactics are the bedrock of any great team, and Football Manager 2019 gives you more control and flexibility over how your team plays than ever before.

While not a complete overhaul, the granular redesign of the tactics interface opens up your strategic options and tactical pliability. The composition of each team's playstyle is now broken up into three distinct phases: in possession, in transition, and out of possession. Your options in possession will be familiar to anyone who's ever played Football Manager in the last few years, dealing with facets of your team's approach play and plan of attack once you enter the final third. The transitional phase is perhaps the most exciting for the budding Pep Guardiolas and Maurizio Sarris of the virtual dugout, allowing you to decide how your team reacts when both losing the ball and winning it back; while your options out of possession let you set where on the pitch you want your team to engage the opposition and how high or low you want your defensive line to be stationed. All of these additional choices feed into a transparent approach to the tactics module that removes a lot of the previous guesswork that went into creating your team's identity. If you want your team to press high up the pitch and counter once you've won possession, that option is now just a couple of mouse clicks away.

To give you a better feel for how potential tactics are constructed, there are now a number of preset tactics too. These ostensibly recreate generic real-life strategies like possession control and parking the bus, while also featuring distinct philosophies such as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp's Gegenpressing, Tiki-taka, and the Italian Catenaccio. Choosing a preset isn't a simple plug-and-play solution, however, since you still need to consider your squad's strengths, weaknesses, and composition of player roles for any of these tactics to be successful. It's no use asking a team with a low collective work rate to press for 90 minutes unless you want them dead on their feet, just like asking a non-league side to play expansive passing football isn't going to result in a beautiful Barcelona-esque style. Instead, these presets provide a practical baseline to teach you how forging tactics in Football Manager 2019 works, allowing you to borrow, learn from, and expand upon these ideas yourself.

This is beneficial for both veterans and newcomers alike because it provides a clearer understanding of how each instruction can affect your team's makeup, as well as being a necessary complement to Football Manager 2019's tactical redesign. It's not a perfect renovation--implementing something as simple as a midfield pivot, for instance, still isn't an option--but it ditches a lot of the restrictive elements of past games, and impacts the game in a positive way that also lays down building blocks for further improvements in the future.

Elsewhere, your work between the orange cones at the training ground has been completely overhauled. Training sessions were previously presented in fairly broad strokes, compartmentalizing each area into straightforward groups of attacking, defending, fitness, tactical, team cohesion, and ball control. Football Manager 2019 expands upon training in a way that's initially overwhelming, introducing you to a customizable plan of up to three sessions per day that allow you to select from an exhaustive list of training drills and exercises. You can opt to work on areas such as your team's defensive shape, numerous types of set pieces, chance creation, chance conversion, ball retention, endurance, and even extra-curricular activities such as community outreach and team bonding, which both improve your squad's teamwork.

It all seems a bit too much at first, but the comprehensive--albeit wordy--tutorial does a decent job of explaining how everything works, and after a few games training is likely to become an integral part of your pre-match preparation when it was previously viewed as an afterthought. Have a big game coming up against a free-scoring team? Spend the week working on various defensive drills that can potentially counteract their attacking style. Playing some minnows in the cup? Dedicate your training to chance creation and finishing to keep your offensive players sharp. Or you can always have your backroom staff handle all of this themselves. You can engage with as much or as little of Football Manager 2019 as you please.

Additional choices feed into a transparent approach to the tactics module that removes a lot of the previous guesswork that went into creating your team's identity

Of course, all of this groundwork eventually culminates in front of a packed stadium on a Saturday afternoon, and the 3D match engine has undergone some tangible improvements as well. The most noticeable of these is the way the ball now dips and curls through the air in a much more authentic manner. You'll see diminutive playmakers lift the ball over a high defensive line with some cute backspin, and free kicks that bend and nestle in the top corner of the net as though they were off the foot of David Beckham in his prime. It makes for more dynamic passing moves and generally improves the flow of play.

Mistakes, on the other hand, have always been part and parcel of Football Manager's DNA--whether it's a centreback misjudging the flight of the ball, a goalkeeper dropping a cross, or a striker blazing a shot over from six yards out--and now referees are fallible, too. VAR and goal-line technology have been included for league and cup competitions that utilize them (such as Serie A and the newly licenced Bundesliga), and they add an extra layer atop each high-intensity match. There's a specific heart-dropping moment that occurs when you're celebrating a goal only to see the referee on his way over to the video assistant to make sure there wasn't a missed foul or offside call in the buildup. It's another feature that maintains Football Manager's attention to detail.

Touchline shouts, however, are still needlessly vague, but the immediate feedback you receive after issuing one makes them a viable tactical option. Players are generally more intelligent as well, holding their runs when they know they're offside, and picking out the right pass when inside the opposition's penalty area. There are still some legacy issues that persist, such as the high percentage of goals that are scored from crosses, which usually stems from fullbacks not being particularly adept at stopping opposing wingers. You'll also see players dribble into advantageous positions only to stop dead in their tracks to give a defender time to recover, and defensive mistakes are sometimes a little too frequent. These can be frustrating, but they don't dominate the match day experience like they often have in the past.

All of this contributes to Football Manager hitting its prime, like a 28-year old striker. The tactical redesign--while not as thorough as some may have wanted--improves clarity and gives you more control over how you want your team to play, while the match engine and newfound emphasis on training enhance your work in the tactics room by bringing all of your ideas to fruition. These are meaningful changes that push the simulation further, making it feel like you can really impose your footballing philosophies on a team. Watching your players score a goal by completing a sweeping move in the exact way you envisioned is an absolute joy that no other sports game can match, and it's a more viable feat now because of these additions.

It's still not the most welcoming game for newcomers, stacking systems upon systems upon systems, but for veterans and those willing to put in the effort to learn, there's never been a better time to hop in and entrench yourself in the virtual dugout. Football Manager 2019's tweaks will have you happily settling in for another mammoth play session of juggling egos, pipping your rivals to the signing of a wonderkid, and smashing in a 90th-minute winner to capture a league title in triumphant fashion.

Categories: Games

Call Of Cthulhu Review - Squid Logic

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 00:00

Even if you haven't read any of H.P. Lovecraft's literary works, you likely possess a passing understanding of why he is broadly recognized as one of the most significant horror writers of the 20th century. His ideas of unspeakable, unknowable terrors driving men (and it is almost always men) to madness, and his creation of the Cthulhu mythos with its pantheon of ancient gods utterly indifferent to the lives of men, have influenced countless novels, films, pen-and-paper and video games in the years since. This latest effort, from French studio Cyanide, spins a familiar tale of artistic obsession, unnatural experimentation and the frailties of the human mind into a mostly successful--if not exactly revelatory--exploration of Lovecraft's core thematic concerns. But its achievements in narrative and mood-setting are regularly undermined by some lackluster sleuthing, run-of-the-mill adventure game puzzles and a handful of truly terrible pseudo-action sequences.

Edward Pierce is a private investigator in Boston who seems to specialize in underwhelming his employer, the Wentworth Detective Agency, and self-medicating the trauma he suffered during World War I with alcohol and sleeping pills. Still shaken after waking from yet another nightmare, he agrees to look into the death of Sarah Hawkins, her husband, and their son three months prior in a house fire on the tiny island and former whaling port of Darkwater. Sarah's father seeks out Pierce after taking posthumous receipt of one of his daughter's paintings, a rather heavy-handed depiction of a woman cowering before some kind of demon. Pierce, summoning all his investigative acumen, suggests Sarah was trying to send a message via her art.

The rhythm of Pierce's detective work, and thus the bulk of the game, is established as soon as he disembarks at the fog-drenched and permanently midnight Darkwater docks. You can explore, in first-person, a small location, talk to the various locals and examine certain items of interest. Conversations are presented with a dialogue wheel offering multiple topics, some of which are only unlocked if Pierce has learned relevant information while occasionally others are delivered as binary choices--pick one and you can't go back to pursue other spokes on the wheel. The voice performances here as entirely serviceable, and not nearly as hammy as one might fear given the setting, though the writing itself suffers from some jarring tonal shifts as you navigate the branches of dialogue and countless unfortunate typos in the subtitles.

Taking cues from the Cthulhu pen-and-paper RPG, you can earn and assign points to a collection of stats that, in theory, let you tailor Pierce's detective expertise towards Investigation, Psychology, Eloquence and so on. These stats affect both the dialogue options--a high level in Eloquence might enable Pierce to choose a more persuasive line of questioning--and the ways you can interact with the environment, i.e. Pierce can draw upon his knowledge of Medicine to reveal something about a corpse. Yet these moments rarely, if at all, feel significant; they mostly seem like minor excursions en route to the same outcome.

In general, the RPG nature of the game feels undernourished. The idea of these stats is, I assume, to let you know you're applying specific techniques of investigation; in some instances, it succeeds, most notably in the few occasions when Pierce is able to solve puzzles in multiple ways. But much of the time the differences between having leveled up your Strength stat instead of your Investigation stat feel ambiguous at best and trivial at worst.

It's ambiguous at best because you get the feeling that's what the game is aiming for in order to drive central narrative themes. When you make certain choices or perform certain actions the message, "This will affect your destiny," pops up in the top left corner in a manner similar to a Telltale adventure game. What's never clear, however, is how your destiny has been affected. There's no end of chapter screen that recaps the crucial choices you made and little sense, by the game's conclusion, of how those decisions lead to the choice Pierce has to confront in the very final scene. On my first playthrough I was faced with two possible endings, while on my second, after making a bunch of different choices throughout, I had unlocked a further two without any real understanding of how I'd been given the chance to alter Pierce's destiny.

Call of Cthulhu, and Lovecraft himself, revels in the inexplicable, the ineffable, the fallibility of human perception and its limited capacity to understand the world. Over the course of the game, Pierce finds himself grappling to make sense of what he's seen--or what he thinks he's seen. As his grip on reality, already tenuous to begin with, further loosens, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to reason out cause and effect. On a narrative level, this serves the story well, maintaining suspense and hitting you with well-timed twists. But on a more mechanical level, as you select each choice with a shrug of ignorance, it feels weirdly distancing and ultimately unsatisfying.

Much of Pierce's detective work is routine. You scour each location for hotspots with which to interact, pocketing clues and the odd useful object. Progress is typically a case of diligence--find enough hotspots and Pierce will work out what to do next. Sometimes, however, he's able to "reconstruct" past events that occurred at the present location, but while these tend to be interesting in terms of plot revelations they, again, only require you to find the relevant hotspots and click on them. There's a kind of grim pleasure to be had here, I suppose, a measure of compulsive enjoyment gleaned from tracking down every last hotspot that some players will find gratifying. It's rote work, though.

When Call of Cthulhu breaks out of its procedural setup, it reveals itself at its best and at its very worst. The high point sees Pierce trapped in a hospital you've previously visited--and thus, crucially, should be familiar with. He has to traverse a shadow version of the hospital, navigating its pitch black corridors using only the fading light of a lantern to unlock a route through the normal version. By drawing upon the knowledge you've accumulated previously, it works fantastically as a tense and unsettling puzzle.

In contrast, the low points arrive when you're forced into the game's handful of action sequences. In one, you're hiding from a monster that will kill you instantly if it gets too close. You eventually realize you have to find a particular item--one, it should be said, out of a dozen near-identical items scattered throughout the adjacent rooms--and use it in a particular spot. The only clue you're given is a comment Pierce makes when he picks up the correct item, noting that this one "seems different somehow." I'm not ashamed to admit that, in the heat of the moment, I failed to pick up on this dialogue change as I was a little bit distracted by the howling monster pursuing me across the room. During this trial-and-error cycle of death and reload I must have attempted this sequence 30-odd times before I eventually worked out what to do and was able to systematically try each item until I found the correct one.

In another, Pierce is equipped with a handgun for the only time in the game and has to make his way across an area populated with slow, shuffling enemies. On my first playthrough, I died while experimenting with what happens when you get caught and, when the game reloaded, found myself without a gun. The only way I could proceed was by running around the area, luring enemies into chasing me around until eventually, a gap opened between them that was wide enough for me to dart through. It turned what was probably meant to be a dramatic, seat-of-the-pants dash for safety into a comical farce. (On my second playthrough I simply shot everyone, thanks to my gun not disappearing, and it proved rather more mundane than dramatic, but at least it wasn't frustrating.)

Dwelling on these few low points may seem overly harsh--they account for no more than a small portion of the whole game, after all. But they are not merely poor moments in an otherwise solid game; they're awful pieces of game design utterly inconsistent with the rest of the game. Much of Call of Cthulhu is a perfectly competent adventure game built on firm, if uninspired, point-and-click traditions. And while it won't dazzle you with ambitious, creative puzzle-solving, its central story is as haunting and consuming as you want a good Lovecraft tale to be. But then, like some nightmare creature, an action sequence comes out of nowhere and ruins the experience.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 11/01/2018 - 14:51

Good recon is important if you want the edge in a battle, so you'd do well to take a look at Battlefield V's latest trailer which gives an overview of the upcoming title's eight launch maps.

From using a tank in the rocky terrain of North Africa to scrambling around the streets of Rotterdam and dealing with the dynamic weather of Norway, these fields of battle hope to offer challenge and intrigue to players through the environments and the maps' modes/objectives.

The trailer also offers a sneak peek at the post-launch map in Belgium.

For much more in-depth info on the game's launch maps, head over to the game's official page and read individual entries on each location.

Battlefield V comes out on November 20 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

[Source: Electronic Arts]

Categories: Games

Gwent Review - Heart Of The Cards

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 10/31/2018 - 18:01

Editor's note: After two years in beta, Gwent is now a standalone game. It released alongside Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, a single-player game with Gwent mechanics. While the Gwent and Thronebreaker are connected, they are separate applications, and we have reviewed them separately. You can read or watch our full Thronebreaker review or read on for our full Gwent review.

In The Witcher 3, Gwent was an enjoyable but arduous side activity, only rewarding for those patient enough to scour the open world in search of more powerful playing cards. If you weren't inclined to do that, you'd miss out on much of what made Gwent a unique take on collectible card games. Gwent, now a free, standalone multiplayer game, gives you the room and resources to really enjoy it. Its rules are shaken up to provide an even playing field for veterans and newcomers alike, and it establishes a deeply rewarding loop that encourages you to stick with whichever of its various factions interest you most.

Gwent's fundamentals haven't changed much since The Witcher 3. You're still restricted to playing one card per turn, with the goal of attaining a higher power value than your opponent in each of three total rounds. Each card has an individual power value attached, and your total score will increase the more cards you commit to each round. If you feel as though you're outmatched or similarly far enough ahead in any one round, you can choose to pass and save your current hand for the next. Given that your ability to draw new cards is limited, having more cards in your hand gives you a tangible advantage. Gwent rewards calculated restraint, which makes knowing when to fold and when to go all in an important part of its strategy.

The big differences lie in the structure of the board. Previously Gwent featured three rows, one for each type of unit. That's been reduced to just two now--melee and ranged--and you're free to choose either for your units. Certain units will have abilities that you can only activate when spawned on a certain row, while other units that deal damage to enemies will have their range limited to one or two rows ahead of them. With fewer limitations on card placement, you're able to play Gwent with more fluidity. Experimentation with row-specific abilities and how they link up with cards already in play affects the board in significant ways during a single turn. These new rules keep rounds unpredictable at times and let the tide of the skirmish shift frequently. Having to decide between a big play or holding back for subsequent rounds makes for an engaging test of strategy, with no single approach being best in all scenarios.

The flexibility doesn't help the stagnant pace of matches, though, where each player turn feels far more drawn out than it should. Given the limited number of actions you can take a turn, it's frustrating to watch an opponent stall on playing a single card. Gwent could also benefit from more helpful visual feedback on card abilities and triggers, as I often found myself fumbling a play by placing a card into the wrong row simply because I missed a single word of text on the card itself. Boards should ideally give you more contextual information to work with when you select a card, so that you're not stuck reading each card repeatedly to make sure you're making the right play.

Cards are segmented into five different Factions, each of which requires a distinct strategy to play effectively. The noble Northern Realms specialize in cards with abilities like Deploy (which are triggered when you play a card) and Order (which you manually activate after meeting certain conditions). Monsters, conversely, enjoy strategies laden with Deathwishes that unleash often devastating chains of events when certain creatures die and head to the graveyard. You'll have a starting deck for each Faction when you initially begin Gwent which helps in familiarizing you with each of their differences. But it's also important to experiment with and figure out which Faction speaks to your style of play, and you'll have to decide where to invest your rewards from wins as you go.

Reward trees sprawl out on parchment maps, with one for each Faction and sub-trees for each of their respective Captain characters. Nodes on these maps can be unlocked with Reward Points, which you'll earn frequently by completing challenges in-game. These can be as easy as playing a certain number of cards during a match, or as complicated as eliminating a large number of enemy cards in a single turn. Unlocking nodes rewards you in multiple ways, including small gifts of in-game currencies and big bundles of card packs called Kegs. Each map rewards you with respect to the Faction it belongs to, incentivizing you to spend points on the Factions you play most. It emphasizes the need to experiment with different factions and settle on your favorites beforehand, as the influx of Reward Points slows down after clearing many of the easier challenges.

In-game currencies are plentiful in Gwent, and each serves familiar purposes. There's one that acts as the standard fare for purchasing new card packs, another that helps in the crafting of new cards, and a third that can be used to spruce up existing cards into shinier, animated versions of themselves. Gwent rewards you well for match wins (and additionally for matches where your opponent congratulates you, which is a nice touch) which makes progression towards your next card pack feel balanced. Combined with currency rewards you'll get from reward trees, I found it easy to amass a large amount of each resource in a handful of hours. Gwent is generous with how it rewards the time you invest in it, giving you the means to build up a formidable collection of cards before tempting you to spend real money on it.

Gwent clearly learns from other digital collectible card games that have carved their niche out of the market, but its play style offers up an entirely different type of challenge.

That's not to say that time will eventually come, unless you're planning to keep up with the shifting metagame that CCGs generally employ to keep things fresh. Gwent's in-game store gives you many options for purchasing bundles of resources and some alluring starter packs that reward you with a generous number of Kegs to open.

Gwent clearly learns from other digital collectible card games that have carved their niche out of the market, but its play style offers up an entirely different type of challenge. It's one that requires some investment, and hard decisions on which Faction you'd like to invest in, but Gwent also respects your time by rewarding you for nearly every action in a match, tempting you to play just one more. Its matches could use some fine-tuning in their pacing and presentation, but Gwent is otherwise a refreshingly new take on card games that establishes itself firmly outside of the simple side activity it was in The Witcher 3.

Categories: Games

Black Bird Review - Featherweight

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 23:47

Black Bird pits you--a young girl turned into a demonic bird--against overwhelmed cities in a frenetic side-scrolling shoot-em-up. Humorous sensibilities and gleeful chaos capture the frantic fun typical for the genre, but the charms are short-lived. With a mere four levels (and an unlockable remix mode), your bombing fantasies wrap up after just 20 minutes, leaving you plenty of time to ponder what ruffled that mean bird's feathers.

The cities you conquer are teeming with the lives of the ordinary people who live there. A mustachioed man on the sidewalk turns the crank of a pipe organ while his neighbors chatter happily away on a nearby balcony. It's only when you spew forth a stream of deadly bullets that the danger bells toll. The militia attempts to thwart your attacks with slow-moving arrows from precarious sniper spots or whatever vehicle they can leap into. The hot air balloons of early stages give way to jetpacks and missiles as you get deeper into your killing spree, flooding the screen with bright red projectiles that mean your death if you stray too close. The tried-and-true action is enlivened by the personality of the characters and the dramatic music, but once the sheen wears off, it's clear there isn't much depth to the action.

Aside from upsetting ordinary life in spectacular ways, the goal of each stage is to blow up the guard towers dotted across the city. These bases take more shots to destroy than the average enemy, and while you're unloading your arsenal into these hotspots, the local army is gathering its force to ensure your victory is not easy. Dodging their attacks isn't that difficult because Black Bird goes easy on the projectiles compared to a teeth-grinding, bullet-hell shooter, but there's enough danger to keep your hands sweaty and your attention engaged as you swerve recklessly through the air.

There isn't much in the way of strategy, though. Your gun automatically becomes more deadly as you progress--adding bigger bullets and shots that move diagonally--but there's no way to decide the upgrades yourself. And the vortex bomb power-up that deals massive damage in a pinch is too limited to fill that tactical void. The best shoot-'em-ups allow for deeper tactics, often by giving you control over weapon upgrades, which lets you inject your own personality into the killer proceedings. Without more options here, the only real strategy is to shoot the attackers while avoiding getting hit yourself, and that's not much to sustain your fun long term. With every run feeling very much like the last, a crushing sense of deja vu soon becomes your biggest enemy.

Stages circle in on themselves so you can fly over one well-protected tower, keep moving in the same direction, and then reach your mark again with fewer defenders in sight. This retreat-then-attack strategy works well because enemies materialize whenever you stay in one spot for too long, but you never feel as if you're wasting time by flying away from your target. The cities are jam-packed with bonuses and secrets to boost your score and extend your life. Blowing up neon signs or spinning windmills are neat diversions that build on the goofy presentation that is so prevalent throughout the adventure.

Even the enemies themselves are funny rather than threatening. The second boss is a chicken head perched upon a tank that spews projectiles, for instance. Filling its beak with bullets while avoiding the bouncing balls it spits out is much more charming than gunning down an ordinary fighter jet or attack helicopter. All the enemies have this off-kilter personality that keeps the game feeling light and carefree even amidst the most hectic moments.

After shooting down the boss on the fourth stage, you open up a true mode that bumps up the difficulty and adds new enemies. Bosses aren't too difficult the first time around, but once they're equipped with more attacks and a bit more speed, they go from being pushovers to genuine roadblocks. Although Black Bird never reaches the agonizing difficulty of other shoot-'em-ups, true mode offers a good challenge for those who want to be smacked down a few pegs.

Ultimately, though, the game isn't interesting for long. At first, I was frustrated that dying meant restarting from the beginning. But after seeing just how quickly I could reach the end once I knew the enemies' patterns, I could understand why death is so punitive. There just isn't a great reason to keep playing once you've seen everything. Sure, there are high scores to chase and alternate endings to unlock, but the stages don't allow for the diverse tactics that would make striving for a better ranking so exciting. After you've blown up those neon billboards once, the thrill wears off, and you're just going through stages by rote without having to put much thought into what you're doing.

It's a shame Black Bird is so shallow, because the core action is so appealing. The lighthearted atmosphere and sharp controls make it a joy to wreak havoc on the unprepared people and the difficulty hits a nice sweet spot where it provides a good challenge without ever being frustrating. I would have gladly spent more time in this sepia-toned world if there were more stages and more strategy, but with such meager offerings, I'd fly right by Black Bird.

Categories: Games

Diablo 3: Eternal Collection Review - Better With Age

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 16:00

More than anything, Diablo 3: Eternal Collection proves just how well Blizzard's action-RPG has aged. Six years after its original release, the dungeon crawler remains as rewarding as ever, and despite a few technical concessions, it has found yet another welcoming home on Nintendo's portable console.

For those unfamiliar with Blizzard's 2012 loot fest, Diablo 3 places you in the shoes of a superpowered demon-slayer in a hellish, gothic world. You explore five disparate regions from a top-down view, upgrading your character and earning new loot as you battle the lords of the underworld and their monstrous swarms.

With the Eternal Collection, Diablo 3 includes every expansion, every character, every quality-of-life improvement the RPG has ever added. One of the more notable options is the ability to play Adventure Mode right from the start, eliminating the need to slog through the slower-paced story out of necessity.

Of course, in coming to Nintendo Switch, Diablo 3 has also become a portable game. And it works. It works incredibly well.

In fact, I can think of few games better suited for a handheld port. So much of Diablo 3 plays best in short bursts, from the 10-minute chase for that next legendary item, to the satisfying flow of a challenge rift. I completed bounties on my way to work and organized my inventory on the way back. Of the 50 hours I spent with Diablo 3 on Switch, about half of them played out in handheld mode. It's another testament to the novelty of Nintendo's console, yes, but also the elegance of Diablo 3's design.

Movement still feels natural on the analog sticks--whether you're playing with the Joy-Cons or Pro controller--and custom controls make it easy to maximize your character build at any time. As was the case with Diablo 3's previous jump to PS4 and Xbox One, the mechanical leap to Switch is painless and fluid. It's just as easy to rely on muscle memory while you focus on the kaleidoscopic display of magic and fire. To paraphrase the designer Don Norman: good design is invisible.

When it comes to visual fidelity, Blizzard ensured that Diablo 3 on Switch runs at 60 frames across the board--aside from rare occasions when elemental effects didn't animate, the Eternal Collection is remarkably clean. Even during high-level challenge rifts, with hundreds of demons covering the screen, the dungeon crawler maintained a smooth and steady pace. The framerate is equally stable in handheld mode, and crunching those mobs is just as satisfying as it's ever been.

The Eternal Collection's resolution, on the other hand, is a bit more muddled. In the Switch's docked mode, Diablo 3 looks aggressively fine, or at least, as good as any other isometric game released in 2012. In handheld mode's 720p resolution, however, things get cloudier. I mean that both literally and metaphorically. In Diablo 3's darker areas--of which there are many--I have to crank my console's brightness all the way in order to really see what is going on. Even then, there's a slight haze over everything, making character models look more like mirages than actual figures. Handheld mode's jagged edges and foggy panoramas aren't massive flaws by any means, but after playing for long periods in docked mode, they tend to stand out.

What they don't do, however, is detract from Diablo's thrilling combat. And of course, in true series tradition, that combat is often more thrilling with a friend or two.

Few cooperative experiences compare to a Monk, Demon Hunter, Barbarian, and Wizard working in concert to whittle down mobs down little by little, one demon at a time. It's a special thrill to see my character build factor into a larger group, and an even better one to see how that group dynamic changes how I play. I'm still mainly focused on killing every enemy possible, but I'm also thinking about tanking with my Crusader, or healing with my Monk, or littering the screen with corpses to give my Necromancer ally more ammunition.

As with previous console iterations of Diablo 3, The Eternal Collection allows for up to four players on one console at a time. Item management is less satisfying in this scenario, as you're either quick-equipping new loot without appreciating its subtleties, or pausing the game for the entire party just so you can boost your damage by 100 points. The radial menus are also still as imprecise as ever, but I'm hard-pressed to think of a better solution without a mouse and keyboard.

I came into the Eternal Edition expecting a eulogy for one of my favorite games. Instead, I stumbled upon a celebration.

And although Diablo 3 on Switch gives you the option to use Joy-Cons as individual controllers, be warned: It's counterintuitive and cumbersome, with poor button-mapping and an overreliance on motion controls. Blizzard did the best it could with what the Joy-Con offers, but when in doubt, stick to the Pro controller or the dual Joy-Con rig.

The Eternal Collection brings the additional ease of playing via LAN connection on each player's respective Switch. It's helpful to have the camera focused solely on your character, especially in Diablo 3's more hectic moments. But I still couldn't help preferring local co-op. There's something novel--even nostalgic--about playing on the same screen, watching the same chaos unfold as the person next to you. Diablo 3 on Switch allows for several methods of playing with friends, and whatever your preference, the experience still holds up.

Like the best games, Diablo 3 has gotten better with time. And despite a few setbacks, the Switch is now my preferred home for the extraordinary RPG. It includes every major improvement Blizzard made to the formula, with the added handheld versatility every Switch port offers.

Diablo 3 is a game about long term goals accomplished in short, thrilling bursts. It's rewarding and subtle. It's flashy and boisterous. I have spent six years enjoying it, and will likely spend six years more. As far as video games go, that's a long time--I came into the Eternal Collection expecting a eulogy for one of my favorite games. Instead, I stumbled upon a celebration.

Categories: Games

Transistor Review

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 16:00

Editor's note: Transistor remains an absolute joy to play on Nintendo Switch. The system's screen has no issues with readability, though the game is best enjoyed in docked mode, where its visuals--which remain striking nearly five years after its original release--have room to flourish on a big screen. Its turn-based combat and relatively brief encounters are well-suited to short bursts of gameplay in handheld mode, though the strong writing and pacing are likely to pull you through extended sessions. The loss of the PS4 version's DualShock gimmicks, such as your sword's voice coming through the controller's speaker, are missed, but this port nonetheless represents a fine way to play what is still a gorgeous, terrific game. -- Chris Pereira, October 30, 2018

A dead man. A weapon. A dress, torn and discarded on the ground. A voice says, "What a night. You're still in one piece; that's all that matters."

Transistor begins with remarkable confidence, throwing you right into the life of nightclub singer Red at what might be her lowest point. There's no immediate explanation for who she is, or what this world is, or what happened the night before, and all this mystery only makes your journey more captivating. Transistor asks you to trust in it, to come along on the journey even though you have no idea where you're going. And it rewards your trust, weaving a beautiful and unconventional sci-fi tale with a human heart, and empowering you with a wonderfully flexible combat system that fuses real-time and turn-based action to create something that feels unique.

As you move through Cloudbank, the world of Transistor, you encounter manifestations of the process, a force that's seemingly running rampant, annihilating Cloudbank as it goes. With the help of the transistor--the strange weapon you pull from a dead man's body when the game begins, a weapon Red drags along behind her as if it's a sword that's too heavy for her to wield properly--you fight the process. You can run around fighting your enemies in real time, but you're outnumbered, and you're just not quick enough or strong enough to overcome them this way. Thankfully, you have a trick up your sleeve called turn, which enables you to freeze time, plot out your upcoming movements and attacks, and then carry them out in rapid succession.

As you progress, you collect more and more techniques, called functions, each one the essence of a fallen resident of Cloudbank. There are 16 functions in all, including straightforward attacks, movement abilities, a function that spawns a doglike helper, a function that temporarily turns enemies into allies, and others. Each one can be slotted as an active ability, or to upgrade another function, or to give you a passive benefit. There are a remarkable variety of ways in which these techniques can be combined, and hitting on particularly effective combinations and putting them to use in battle is immensely satisfying.

You can upgrade any function with any other function, making your skill set extremely customizable.

Transistor's combat makes you feel powerful by giving you an edge on the process, but it also encourages you to think carefully about what you're doing, because the process is no pushover. It has tricks of its own, sometimes obscuring your vision, sometimes pulling you out of your turning phase without warning. It's a clever foe, which makes matching wits with it all the more enjoyable. And, much like the idols of Supergiant Games' earlier game Bastion, Transistor has limiters, optional modifiers that make your life more difficult but reward you with more experience, so if you want a more challenging experience, you can have it.

But what is the process, really? And what has happened to all the residents of Cloudbank? Red is driven to get to the bottom of it, and she's not alone. From inside the transistor speaks a man's voice, bringing life to your quest as it responds to your actions and slowly helps you piece together the story of Cloudbank. The always-present voice also puts a relationship at the heart of Transistor. Red can't speak--the events of the night before have stripped her of her voice--but her wordless actions reveal her fierce determination, and as the voice speaks from the transistor, and Red finds ways of responding to it, a connection between the two becomes clear.

There's a touch of magic, even of spirituality, to Transistor's story, a sense that there are things within the world of Cloudbank that transcend our understanding of what's possible.

Also shedding light on the world and its people are the files accompanying each function. To reveal more about these people whose essence has been trapped in the transistor, you have to use their functions in different ways, putting them in active slots, upgrade slots, and passive slots, which gives you an incentive to tweak your build and try different techniques. The files are so well written and paint such vivid pictures of Cloudbank's fallen residents that you naturally want to uncover all the details they contain.

Red has a good set of pipes. Or she did, before last night.

What slowly emerges in Transistor is the story of a clandestine organization called the Camerata, working behind the scenes in Cloudbank for its own purposes. And while the answers to the plot's questions about who the Camerata are and what the transistor does are interesting, they're not what makes Transistor's story special. Cloudbank is a technological world, but not a cold one. It's not a place of pure ones and zeroes. There's a touch of magic, even of spirituality, to Transistor's story, a sense that there are things within the world of Cloudbank that transcend our understanding of what's possible.

And Transistor's artful presentation has some magic of its own. There are a few astounding moments in Transistor, like the moment when you step up to a microphone and press a button to sing, and Red's haunting voice comes in and carries you back to what had happened the night before, the visuals communicating in shorthand what words would take too much time to say. Or the moment when Red, silhouetted against the city, speeds across Cloudbank on a motorcycle, hunting the people who are responsible for everything that has happened.

Transistor is always a good-looking game, but in these instances, it demonstrates a rare knack for combining its visuals and music to powerfully convey both narrative information and tone, driving the story forward with Red's own unwavering resolve. So in the end, yes, Transistor is a fun action role-playing game with a neat combat system, but beautiful moments like these make it more than that. They make it a game with a soul.

Categories: Games

Fallout 76 Live Action Trailer Brings Survivors Together

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 22:20

Fallout 76 just had its first beta and will be getting its next fairly soon, and then the full release is just days after that. The game is a dramatic step in Bethesda's journey to lighten the tone of their nuclear apocalypse series, so with that comes marketing that enjoys the contrast between those horrors and the mirth and merriment of exploring the wasteland.

In this case, that comes in the form of a live-action trailer for the upcoming game.

The trailer tells you how you'll be spending your time in the West Virginia wasteland with friends. No one says your impending doom has to be done alone, especially when the next best option is a robot, so might as well make the best of it.

Fallout 76 releases November 14 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games