Exclusive First Look At Harmonix's New VR Shooter

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 17:00

Publisher: Harmonix Developer: Harmonix Release: 2019 Platform: PC

For over twenty years, Harmonix has been guided by a mission to bring the joy of music to more people, offering experiences that tap into the emotional core of interacting with great tunes, even if you’re not a musician. The studio virtually defined the modern music/rhythm genre as we know it, as the original creators behind both Guitar Hero and Rock Band, not to mention Karaoke Revolution, Dance Central, and Amplitude, among dozens of other titles. Today, the veteran developer is pulling back the curtain on its latest endeavor, a VR rhythm/shooter called Audica.

“It’s an invented word that is meant to simultaneously evoke sound and music, as well as a sense of place,” says Harmonix co-founder Alex Rigopulos. “We really wanted to create a place for the player to go that felt special, and to allude to that in the name as well.” Rigopulos is more than a spokesperson for the project; as a VR enthusiast who has been looking for the right way to do a music-focused shooter for years, Rigopulos is taking on the role of creative director for the project.

“Back in 2014, we did a closed beta for a prototype game called Chroma,” Rigopulos says. “At the heart of every great action game, there is a core mechanic below the level of gameplay that is incredibly pleasurable. There’s a joy-producing feeling of locking into a beat and locking onto a target. At the time, it was dressed up as a team PvP first-person shooter. It had all these other trappings that were competing with the core gameplay itch. It was set aside.”

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Years later, as VR has begun to gain steam, the team at Harmonix was still musing about that potential, and simultaneously playing and enjoying some of the other music-focused VR games that have hit the market. Alex began experimenting with a purer reflection of the concept Harmonix had abandoned with Chroma and discovered that another Harmonix developer, Ryan Challinor, was also exploring a similar guns-and-music concept, and the two started working together. Challinor is now credited for helping with design and code on the game. Audica began to take shape; “We stripped away all the stuff that was encumbering the music shooter idea from Chroma, and just went 100 percent focus on gameplay and sensory immersion,” Rigopulos says. “We’re thrilled by the results.”

Audica plays as a dual-wielding VR shooter. Targets of different colors and shapes are flung toward you from multiple directions, almost like a reverse skeet-shooting experience. A concentric and closing circle around each note indicates the precise moment at which you should shoot each target, even as thumping electronic music beats lend a futuristic and rhythmic core to the action. The style will feel recognizable to players who enjoy successful VR projects like Audioshield and Beat Saber, but the addition of the shooting mechanic and precision aiming adds a whole new dynamic. And, like virtually all of Harmonix’s previous work, the real depth emerges as you boost your difficulty settings. Audica turns from a simple beat matching experience into an incredibly challenging game of concentration, Zen-like flow, and an almost choreographed feeling that sits in the odd but satisfying space between pulp sci-fi raygun wielder and ecstatic teenage rave-dancer.

“Choreographic is exactly the correct word,” Rigopulos says. “In some ways, even though this is a rhythm/shooter, some of the language we used early on when we were designing it was the language of a dance game. We wanted the gameplay to be highly physical, and provoke a lot of motion and performative qualities from the player.”  

The Soundtrack

Audica focuses on a broad array of electronic music as its audio palette. “The Audica soundtrack includes everything from household names and world-class electronic artists to electronic artists that many people may have never heard of, but that are just incredible hidden gems,” Rigopulos says. “We want to introduce the world to some of these amazing electronic artists through the gameplay and the soundtrack.” The game is currently targeted to include 70-80% licensed music, while the remaining music will come from Harmonix “friends and family,” which has been a common approach for the studio over the years.  

The early access version of Audica will include ten songs when it releases, and Harmonix is ready to share the first five announced inclusions.

  • 1788-L & Blanke “Destiny”
  • Alison Wonderland “I Want U”
  • Donna Summer “I Feel Love (Afrojack Remix)”
  • James Egbert “The Space”
  • Savant “Splinter”

I had the chance to spend several hours shooting my way through the songs of Audica. My first impression reminded me of the sensation I had when I first picked up a Guitar Hero controller: “How has this game not already been made?” The precision shooting in VR is a fun experience in its own right, as different shots come rocketing in your direction. Blue and orange targets must be hit by the correct colored gun. Some targets demand you turn the gun on a side grip. Others require a sustained trigger pull, or holding the trigger and dragging the target shot in a wide sweeping curve, even as your other weapon is fending off a new swath of incoming projectiles. As the difficulty escalates, your field of vision fills, and you're forced to abandon singular ocular focus and rely, in part, on your peripheral vision. The beats come faster, you internalize the rhythm, and your mind drops into that pleasant trance that music game aficionados chase with such passion.

Those fans won’t have long to wait to try out Harmonix’s newest project. Audica is steering toward a release on early access for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive on March 7, with an initial 10-song lineup. The full version is targeting release by the end of 2019, and the studio hopes to expand to other VR platforms like PSVR and Oculus Quest if the opportunity presents itself.

Want to see the game in action? Check out the (frankly awesome) announcement trailer below.

Click here to watch embedded media

Categories: Games

The Past And Present Collide In New Days Gone Story Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 15:00

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Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Developer: SIE Bend Studio Release: April 26, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4

In Days Gone, a church can both be a place where you reminisce about the happiest moment of your life and where you sledgehammer another human being to death.

Those are separate moments for Deacon St. John in the game's latest trailer, where he wallows in a brief interlude from the harsh realities of his current life.

Days Gone comes out on PlayStation 4 April 26.

For more on the game, check out all the coverage from our cover story as well as this zombie-invested recent trailer.

[Source: Official PlayStation Blog]

If there's one thing you can learn from this trailer, it's that you should at least take off your stupid baseball cap when you get married.
Categories: Games

Metro Exodus Review - Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 15:00

Beyond the dark, oppressive tunnels and radioactive surface of Moscow are the societies that emerge from a nuclear apocalypse and prospective lands habitable for new life. It's a sensible change in setting that broadens Metro's horizons, though it sometimes loses the focus the series is known for. Still, the firefights and stealth deliver a familiar and incredible tension, complemented by streamlined survival mechanics necessary to face terrifying threats. But with Artyom and friends punching a one-way train ticket in hopes of greener pastures, Metro Exodus becomes a journey more about the enduring relationships and ties that bind an earnest crew of survivors.

In the opening hours, returning protagonist Artyom is shown with a tenacious insistence that human life exists outside the metro. It gets him into serious trouble, and it's further revealed that a larger conspiracy is at play. Your departure seems all too sudden and a bit of a disservice to the hardships endured in the previous games, but the heat of the moment and gut instincts of your companions help ease you into the premise of a year-long expedition to wherever the railroads lead.

The way the map works in Metro Exodus is a nice touch.

Thus, Metro Exodus takes the franchise in a bold direction by having a few significant chapters dedicated to open sandbox-style environments where you're free to roam, explore non-critical points of interest, and follow the main story path. Exploration tends to not be a reward in itself as these open areas are sparse and struggle to incentivize you to venture far off. Doing so pits you against mutants that force you to expend valuable resources for very little in return. Navigating isn't entirely enjoyable whether it be because of the sluggish rowboats in the Volga or empty lands of the Caspian. It sometimes feels as if Metro's methodical movement was thrown into much larger spaces it wasn't meant for. Thankfully, the game reins it in for its other chapters, especially when you make it to the lush forest of the Taiga that masterfully guides you to and from open areas and confined spaces at a tempered pace.

It's a sensible change in setting that broadens Metro's horizons, though it sometimes loses the focus the series is known for.

During your time in the open areas, optional side quests will organically populate your map by way of environmental hints or characters mentioning a point of interest in dialogue. These aren’t traditional side quests that get logged into a checklist; instead, they're opportunities to experience more of Metro’s tense combat scenarios and lead to potentially finding new equipment, scavenging additional resources, or extracting smaller stories that feed into the bigger picture.

Despite the addition of open environments, Exodus primarily plays similarly to previous games, and for the majority of the time it channels the series existing strengths. Carefully laid out levels strike a balance between freedom of approach and linear, focused paths to objectives when you face human enemies, creating a fine flow within missions. Sure, some guards will have their backs conveniently turned or make silly moves in combat, but the overarching thrill that you can swiftly kill or be killed lingers. Another Metro staple of fighting mutated beasts delivers a different style of tension. Irradiated spiders, nimble mutants, and lurking amphibians strike fear as you brace for their attack in ravaged pitch-dark corridors and flooded buildings. Even the harmless spiders that crawl on your arm and across your face further build a terrifying atmosphere. It's a state of vulnerability covered in a layer of dread that Metro gets right yet again.

Hardly do you ever feel either unfairly disadvantaged or overpowered, as weapons fire with impact and can be a challenge to handle. Each firearm has a roster of modifications that you'll scavenge from enemy weapons--sights, scopes, barrels, loading mechanisms--which give you control of how you want to fight. This wide variety of customization options can turn a dinky revolver into a formidable long-range weapon or a janky Kalashnikov into a devastating assault rifle--it's a satisfying system that gives gunplay an additional layer of depth. Modding can also be done using your backpack at any time, giving you the chance to adapt to situations as they arise.

Workbenches and your backpack are saving graces in Metro Exodus, since there are no longer any shops to buy equipment and items. Gone is the clever system of trading in military-grade bullets for critical items; in its place is a crafting system that's both manageable and fitting for the survivalist mentality Exodus instills. You'll accumulate scrap metal and chemicals to craft medkits, filters, and ammo, and maintain weapon condition. Even when you're juggling systems such as keeping your flashlight charged and changing out gasmask filters, it never becomes overbearing and adds an enjoyable challenge of gear management even as you're fending off foes throughout.

For the most part, Metro Exodus does away with the supernatural by leaving the clairvoyant Dark Ones in the past. In venturing into the unknown, the game tends to rely on familiar post-apocalyptic tropes. You have the cultists who've brainwashed locals to shun technology, a society of cannibals who put up an orderly front, and slavers who exploit and abuse others. But Exodus uses them to lay the groundwork for its better moments between characters and the struggles they endure. And despite the story being less centered around Artyom--who oddly remains a silent protagonist outside of loading screen monologues--Exodus unfolds in a much more personal fashion. The broader examinations of humanity and psychological twists have been dialed back to make room for a more grounded story about the necessary sacrifices you make for the ones you love.

These characters are brought to life with an impressive amount of dialogue that seems to go on forever, but because the moments of levity have a degree of charm and earnestness, you’ll want to stay and listen.

The best parts of the story are found in chapters between the action where you simply hang out aboard the Aurora, the train that functions as headquarters. Here you have the chance to tune the radio to eavesdrop on transmissions that play off of in-game events or listen to some sweet tunes, but more importantly, it's your opportunity to unravel the endearing personalities that make up your crew. These characters are brought to life with an impressive amount of dialogue that seems to go on forever, but because the moments of levity have a degree of charm and earnestness, you’ll want to stay and listen. It's not without a few lines that feel contextually out of place, though the natural flow of dialogue and interactions between the team communicates just as much about them as the stories they tell.

Anna shares her thoughts about the life she hopes to build with you as she rests her head on your lap. Damir's commitment to his ethnic roots and what remains of his homeland of Kazakhstan leads to a bittersweet exchange. Stepan, the big softy, is an uplifting presence who also fills the air with his acoustic guitar. And Miller is the hardened leader exemplifying the tough love of a father figure who wants the best for you and his daughter Anna. These are just a few of the characters that represent the best in Metro Exodus' narrative.

Anna is one of the several great characters in Metro Exodus' story.

The exact narrative threads can change, however; Metro's morality system makes a return, subtly judging your actions without explicitly revealing itself. What's important is that it doesn't always force you into non-lethal approach; if you want to cut the throats of the heartless slavers or take a shotgun to a cannibal's head, by all means do so, and as long as you don't hurt the innocent, you're in the clear. And with a keen eye or sharp ear, you may also come across unexpected events that'll pay off depending on your course of action. Consequences don't make themselves immediately apparent, but can lead to fascinating results as the story progresses.

It's worth noting that technical issues are strewn throughout Metro Exodus. In one playthrough (pre-day one patch), I've fallen through the game world just after an auto-save, inexplicably lost upgraded equipment I couldn't get back at a workbench, and had some rare, but noticeable framerate drops at modest settings with a fairly high-end PC. They didn't break the game, but can frustrate and negate hard-earned progress. In the few hours spent with the PS4 version, the game was stable, and as expected it ran on a lower framerate than a capable PC. It's not always a smooth ride, though it doesn't take away from the gripping journey that the game takes you on.

You may miss the mystery and intrigue of the previous games, but Exodus puts together a charismatic crew of friends and family that you'll want to follow to the ends of the earth.

At first glance, Metro Exodus gives you that wide-open, free, and dangerous world unbound by tunnels, though the scope of its tale focuses on what drives you personally and the lengths you're willing to go to protect what matters most. The open sandboxes may not be strongest addition, but the game still embraces the sense of vulnerability and post-apocalyptic terror alongside impactful weapons used in refined combat and stealth scenarios. You may miss the mystery and intrigue of the previous games, but Exodus puts together a charismatic crew of friends and family that you'll want to follow to the ends of the earth.

Categories: Games

Buckle Up For Dangerous Driving's New Trailer & Release Date

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 14:00

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Publisher: Three Fields Entertainment Developer: Three Fields Entertainment Release: April Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Dangerous Driving – the latest chaotic creation from Three Fields Entertainment (Dangerous Golf, Danger Zone 2) – has an updated release date (April 9) as well as a trailer giving players a taste of the game's high-speed hits and near-misses. 

The game features eight different game modes, and whether you're trying to string together combos in Heatwave or taking down all you see in the aptly-named Takedown mode, the game's commitment to eye-watering speed, fantastic crashes, and threading the eye of the needle with a steady hand on the wheel remains. The game even lets you control a cop car so you can take out scofflaws with extreme prejudice.

Dangerous Driving also includes eight-player online and 30 courses set across seven locations.

When the game comes out on April 9 (PS4, Xbox One, PC), fans can get it for $29.99 digitally or at retail – including Danger Zone 2 as a bonus – for $39.99.

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Categories: Games

Jump In

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 20:00
Developer: Bandai Namco Release: February 15, 2019

Only one small Valentine's Day stands between you and Jump Force, Bandai Namco's upcoming crossover fighting game using characters from the Japanese manga publication Shonen Jump. This means characters like Naruto, Yugi, Goku, and more are fighting each other and fighting off villains. Nothing exemplifies the explosiveness of that dynamic better than the Jump Force launch trailer, which you can watch below.

Click here to watch embedded media

The trailer shows how the heroes get assembled and the force they're getting together to stop and also shows Yusuke Urameshi punching a guy real hard with spirit power. 

Which character are you most excited to get your hands on? More importantly, which character are you most excited to finally punch? Let us know below in the comments.

Jump Force releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on February 15.

Categories: Games

Outpost Blitz

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 19:05
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Developer: Avalanche Studios Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

There's no shortage of post-apocalyptic shooters these days, but Rage 2 is hoping to differentiate itself with fast gameplay and a unique style. We get to see good examples of both of those in the latest gameplay footage from the game, showing the player taking down a Goon outpost and then engaging in a car chase.

Click here to watch embedded media

You can see a lot of your potential arsenal in this video, from superhero pose ground hits to classic assault rifles to rocket launchers drone-like vehicles that hover above the ground. As this is official footage, the player obviously has a lot of experience with the game, so hopefully you can start playing this stylishly after just a little while with the game.

Rage 2 releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on May 14.

Categories: Games

Sow Divisions With Your Friends In Division 2's Open Beta

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 17:43
Publisher: Ubisoft Developer: Ubisoft Massive Release: March 15, 2019 Rating: Not rated Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

For any Division fans or anyone curious about the highly-anticipated follow-up, Ubisoft has set the dates for The Division 2's open beta. Set aside a few days at the beginning of March, because from March 1-4 the beta will be available for anyone on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

While you wait for March you can watch us play through a chunk of the game in an episode of New Gameplay Today, see our big takeaways from the game's open world, or see what the creative director had to say about changes to this new game. The Division 2 will launch shortly after the beta closes on March 15.

Categories: Games

Civilization 6: Gathering Storm Review - The Wind Rises

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 00:00

Civilization VI told a straightforward story of the consequences of your actions. Fail to keep your people happy and they would put down their hammers and raise pitchforks. Be rude to the other leaders and they would soon refuse to deal with you. Beyond that, however, you could go about building your empire mostly unconcerned with any repercussions to your decisions. Last year's Rise and Fall expansion added some complexity to the tale with the introduction of its Loyalty mechanic. Operating in isolation was no longer possible. Settlements on the fringes of an empire could, if they liked what they saw across the border, decide to rebel. Players who took their citizens' loyalty for granted would find themselves leading no one.

This kind of accountability is extended in multiple directions with Gathering Storm, the second major expansion for Civ VI. Through the institution of a World Congress, Gathering Storm lets leaders reward and punish each other for certain actions, allow them to pass sweeping resolutions that affect every civilization, and ultimately secure their diplomatic favor. And with its new World Climate system, Gathering Storm makes you accountable to the world itself by hitting you--sometimes painfully hard--with the calamitous consequences of exploiting the map's rich resources.

Your path to victory in Civ VI was predictable once you'd established the foundation of your empire by the Modern Era, but the new World Congress and World Climate systems add enough dynamism to keep you working right up to the new Future Era. Gathering Storm encourages you to “play the map," taking advantage of the surrounding resources, and then adapt the repercussions of your decisions reflected on that map. As an expansion focused on consequences, however, it can take some time for the new stuff to make its presence felt.

The World Climate system is the most meaningful change, but it doesn't really kick in until you've started extracting strategic resources like coal and oil. Early on you'll encounter floods, hurricanes, blizzards, and endure the odd drought or volcanic eruption. These weather events pass in a couple of turns, potentially reducing your population, injuring units and pillaging improvements, but they can also fertilize tiles to reward you with greater yields in future.

But weather is not climate. Once you start burning coal and oil to fuel both the power plants in your industrial districts and the battleships and tanks that comprise your military force, you start pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As those emissions rise, tallied by the new World Climate report that tracks the cumulative contributions of each civ and resource, the world will progress through up to seven phases of climate change. Sea levels will rise, at first flooding coastal tiles and eventually leaving many of them completely underwater. Weather events will increase in both frequency and severity, simultaneously desiccating your farmlands through drought and ravaging your cities with tornadoes.

The choices you're forced to make here are difficult and meaningful. Resources like coal and oil are powerful and refusing to exploit them will cede an immediate advantage to any rival. Through the Industrial and Modern Eras they fuel the most effective units in your navy and army. Do you really want to rely on defending your homeland with frigates while the enemy has ironclads? Further, consumable fuel resources are the first ways you're able to power your cities. A concept debuting in Gathering Storm, powering a city--say, via a coal power plant--boosts the yields of various districts and buildings. Can you really afford to let your research labs and stock exchanges sit idle while your coal-guzzling neighbor is sprinting ahead in the science race?

Later you're able to develop methods of harvesting renewable energy resources such as wind and solar farms, but by the time you're able to deploy them, you may find yourself lagging too far behind a less eco-friendly rival or, worse, suffering the consequences of irreversible damage to the planet. Helping to mitigate such destruction and preserving the natural environment will slow down the effects of climate change. This forces new, perplexing early game decisions. Chopping down that nearby rainforest will give a quick boost to producing a settler, but leaving it untouched may mean future settlers will live to see a world that still has air to breathe. Before Gathering Storm, this wasn't a choice--you chopped for the short-term gain because there were no long-term consequences. Now, every decision is purposeful. Now, every tile in your empire is asking: "Are you sure you want to do that?"

The World Congress is slightly less successful at providing new and meaningful choices than the World Climate system. What it does, though, is make you far more aware of what other leaders are up to. Once the congress convenes, from the Medieval Era onwards, you'll find yourself voting on various resolutions every 30 turns. You might be asked to vote on boosting or banning certain types of great people, or whether trade routes to particular civs or city-states should receive bonuses. You don't just get one vote; instead, you can spend a new form of currency called Diplomatic Favor to vote as many times as you can afford. Favors can also be traded with other leaders, just like any resource, meaning diplomatic players will need to give away valuable luxuries or strategic resources in order to fully exert their influence on the World Congress.

In theory, these resolutions should enable the diplomatic player to tip the scales in their favor. In practice, though, their effects aren't transformative. You might get an extra trade route here, a slightly slower Great Engineer there, but nothing that feels game-changing. The randomness doesn't help--if you could propose a resolution rather than merely voting on the ones that pop up that would provide a better return on the investment.

More compelling are the choices to be made around actually pursuing the new Diplomatic Victory, awarded to the leader who first reaches 10 Diplomatic Victory points. You're still essentially voting your way to the top, but you're also competing with other leaders to send the most aid to another civ recently devastated by floods, for instance, or to generate the most great people points to win the Nobel Prize. Diplomatic Favor is also earned via alliances with other civs and becoming the suzerain of a city-state, so the Diplomatic Victory is genuinely a case of demonstrating you can lead the world.

These are the two biggest new features in this add-on, but Gathering Storm also includes countless smaller tweaks that in combination with the above make it an essential purchase for Civ VI fans. There are new World Wonders to build, such as the Great Bath or the University Sankore. There are new Natural Wonders, new military units to fill in the gaps between eras, and nine new leaders, including the series' first-ever dual-nationality leader (Eleanor of Aquitaine can represent either England or France).

Thoughtfully, the new leaders are balanced between those that are clearly geared towards Gathering Storm's prominent additions--Kristina of Sweden is all about winning diplomatic favor while the unique abilities of Kupe, the Maori leader, incentivize leaving untouched as much of the natural world as possible--and those who embrace some previously overlooked facet of the game. In the latter camp, Matthias Corvinus heads a Hungarian empire whose military force is best composed of units levied from allied city-states, while in the Inca, lead by Pachacuti, we finally have a civ that wants lots of mountain tiles throughout its lands.

Gathering Storm is overall a great expansion, ushering in two significant new systems that work hand in hand to deepen the experience. The embellished diplomatic options extend the range of interactions with other leaders, allowing you to work cooperatively towards common goals or pull the strings to your advantage behind the scenes. While the introduction of climate change delivers new strategic choices whose consequences resonate ever-more-loudly as you advance throughout the eras. It isn't simply more Civ, it's a whole new way to play Civ.

Categories: Games

Crackdown 3 Won't Ship With Competitive Multiplayer Parties

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 21:33
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios Developer: Sumo Digital Release: February 15, 2019 Rating: Mature Platform: Xbox One, PC

Crackdown 3 is coming out in just a few weeks and fans of the series are excited to co-op through the city together as private super agents making their own buddy cop movie. While players will get to run around Crackdown's open world together, it doesn't seem they will be able to do everything in the game together.

Wrecking Zone, Crackdown's cloud-based destructive multiplayer, puts multiple players in an arena that can basically be destroyed with the pull of a trigger or the press of a button. While it might be fun to team up with a friend to do this, according to creative director Joseph Staten, you won't be able to immediately.

Not for day one, no. Stay tuned for updates on our plans post-launch.

— Joseph Staten (@joestaten) February 10, 2019

Basically, you'll just have to enjoy Wrecking Zone with other players who aren't your friends at first. Then you can make them your friends by winning a lot! And then not party up with them until the game gets updated to allow that. It is unclear how long that will be the case, but it's certainly odd for the game to ship without party support in the multiplayer. Hopefully it is not too long a wait.

Crackdown 3 releases on February 15 on Xbox One and PC.

Categories: Games

Axis & Allies Invades Steam Early Access

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 18:10

Developer Beamdog announced an online adaptation of Axis & Allies, the long-running World War II-themed board game, aptly titled, Axis & Allies Online. For anyone unfamiliar, Axis & Allies tasks players with maneuvering and battling for control over the board as either, as you might expect, the Axis or Allied powers.

This is not the first time that Axis & Allies has been translated to a video game. It was brought to PC in 2004, and while that had an online component to it, it was primarily a single-player affair. Axis & Allies Online looks to adapt the 1942 Second Edition of the board game with up to five players taking turns. It will also allow for asynchronous play if you need to take a break.

The nature of the board game seems a smart fit for this style of play. This seems especially well-suited for anyone who likes to play board games, but where the hard part is actually wrangling a group of people together to play. This will serve that audience quite well assuming the game manages to maintain the specific flavor of the board game. It’s currently available in Steam Early Access on Windows, Mac, and Linux for $19.99. Take a look at the – very brief – teaser below.

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If you’d like to see what else Beamdog has been up to, check out the suite of PC RPGs they’re bringing to consoles later this year. 

Categories: Games

Praey For The Gods' Developers Talk Shadow Of The Colossus And Breath Of The Wild Inspirations

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 02/10/2019 - 19:58

Publisher: No Matter Developer: No Matter Release: January 31, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PC

Praey for the Gods has been in development in some form since 2014. The game is heavily inspired by Shadow of the Colossus and found success on Kickstarter when it earned $500,000 in pledges with a $300,000 goal. The game entered early access on January 31, which has offered a fairly substantial look at the full experience. After spending some time with the game and felling a few of its "gods," we reached out to creative director Brian Parnell to ask a few questions about the game's inspirations and its future.

Game Informer: How much of the game is in the early access version?

Brian Parnell: We've delivered on the goals of the Kickstarter but the game is not done yet! We love working on this game and are looking to add a couple more bosses prior to our 1.0.

We're also looking to continue to shape the game based on the feedback we've been receiving.

Shadow of the Colossus is an obvious inspiration. Do you consider Breath of the Wild an inspiration, as well?

Of course, there aren't many games with climbing in them, let alone climbing giant enemies, so we did our best to track down ones that we feel did it well, Breath of the Wild being one of them as I'm a huge Zelda fan and had been playing Skyward Sword with my son for about three years (we played once a week together). So that was seeping into our early design decisions without me really realizing it. There was a lot of design overlap with Shadow of the Colossus/Skyward Sword/Breath of the Wild (i.e. parachute, climbing, stamina). Inspirations also came from Deus Ex (my favorite game) with multiple paths to getting on a boss and some other games we were found of.

Consumable/durability items actually came from old games like Capcom's Final Fight where you'd get a pipe, use it for a while, and then move on. I figured most melee weapons would be kind of tricky or at least silly to use on a boss (i.e. hitting their toes) and by having them be limited it would allow the player to try new approaches. We saw Breath of the Wild come out after we announced and saw how similar these designs were. However, we are still looking to improve and adjust our systems while in early access.

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Is there a name for the giant creatures you’re taking down? How many are there (or will there be, rather) in the final game?

Many people call them gods. I find what is cool about that part is people the community trying to decide what they are. Are they gods? Why are they tied up? If they are gods, why are they miserable? I'll be honest, the lore page on our Steam Discussion group is amazing to me. I love it, and it's exactly what I was hoping to see.

As for numbers, we wanted to hit eight during the Kickstarter and we didn't. We have one additional for sure that we plan to get in, as well as a pretty cool ending. I got additional boss designs we'd love to bring to life. It looks promising that we'll be able to add more, and while it could push on the proposed timeline, I think players would want more bosses if it meant a little more time in early access.

Does the game have any dialogue? Or on-screen narrative text?

There is currently no dialogue in the game. Part of that reason was to avoid lengthy translation times as we wanted anyone from around the world to be able to play the game.

I'm pretty sure we'll keep it narrator-free. I was looking to do a  Journey-esque way to tell a story as I like to keep it cryptic and mysterious versus a heavy handed way of telling a story. I find allowing the player to piece the story together themselves and share what they know with others to be a pretty rewarding way. Expanding the lore is something we're planning as well, through journals left by fallen heroes.

Additionally, we're also prepping an update that will speak to some of the feedback we've received with our first release. A number of the players love how the game plays which is awesome! However, we watched streams of players as well as received feedback from players. We noticed a bit of a death spiral happen for players that didn't come to boss battles prepared. We've adjusted our easy/normal systems to be more incentive based. So now, eating boosts stamina for a while and returns it to normal, versus wearing the player down more. We've also offered a subtle auto-regen that helps them get back in the battle and not feel completely helpless if things aren't going quite their way. It's certainly not easy mode, but offers the player a little more flexibility with how they can be successful. Hard/Legendary are relatively untouched as most of this feedback came from Normal and Easy modes. We also fixed bugs, adjusted a couple bosses, and improved the length that fires will burn and regain warmth.

We're also prepping to expand crafting, durability systems, and of course more content. That's what Early Access is all about, right!?

For more on Praey for the Gods, head here. You can also check out the game's Kickstarter page here.

Categories: Games

New Gameplay Today – Ape Out

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 02/09/2019 - 18:00

Click here to watch embedded media

Publisher: Devolver Digital Developer: Gabe Cuzzillo Release: February 7, 2019 Platform: Switch, PC

Devolver Digital has made a habit of taking on some fascinating indie projects under their publishing banner in recent years, and today’s featured game is no exception. Ape Out comes from developer Game Cuzzillo, and features a gorilla who is on a frantic breakout attempt from imprisonment.

The top-down action of smashing past your oppressors is accompanied by an awesome freeform jazz soundtrack that reacts to every punch and throw you make.

Leo Vader and I sat down to play through a bit of the insanity. Take a look in the video below!

Categories: Games

God Eater 3 Review - Attack On Aragami

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 02/09/2019 - 01:00

Gigantic inhuman entities threatening mankind are something that we're all familiar with in the year 2019. Monster Hunter, Attack on Titan, Godzilla--there's something inherently compelling about the trope where desperate survivors pit themselves against incredible odds and incredibly large monsters at the end of the world. God Eater 3's narrative, much like its predecessors, leans heavily into this conceit and tells an enjoyable (if light) tale as icing on its frenzied action-RPG cake.

Part of a series that has historically been for PlayStation portable devices, God Eater 3 is the first entry created with home consoles and PC as its primary platforms. Also significant is a new developer, Marvelous, a studio perhaps more well-known for its contribution to games with prodigious amounts of swimsuit DLC than the stuff of the monster-hunting variety. This tonal shift isn't as evident as you might think, though, especially since the series was already awash with anime tropes and aesthetic choices. God Eater 3 doesn't deliver any real twists and honestly, that's fine. The real friends that you make along the way in God Eater games aren't the ones with compelling backstories; they're the ones that help you kill Aragami with the sort of precision reserved for surgical procedures.

Aragami are representative of the evil threatening the world--they're gigantic predators that devour everything in their wake as the world drowns under deadly ash storms. A nightmarish fusion of beast and mech, there's something brutal about their designs, which hammers home the divide between the alien and the organic world that you have to protect. You're the mostly-silent star in this particular story, doomed to take up the thankless job of Aragami eradication for people who have treated you like an expendable weapon since infancy. There's a predictable follow-up series of events: You're liberated, you recover from your trauma through the power of friendship, and then you meet a life-changing person who isn't quite who they appear to be. There are plenty of similarities between the core story of God Eater 3, the previous entries in the franchise, and whichever monster-fighting anime is currently trending on Crunchyroll, so while it's an entertaining tale, temper your expectations for crushing moral dilemmas.

What will likely exceed your expectations, whether you're familiar with God Eater's particular brand of slaughter or not, is the combat. While it's easy to draw parallels with Monster Hunter, God Eater 3 is a fair bit closer to Devil May Cry's style of action. It's fast-paced and frenetic, reliant on chaining high-octane and high-mobility combos without getting hit in order to efficiently dissect Aragami. You have no shortage of movement options, including a specific command for Dash abilities, and you can effortlessly switch between melee and ranged combat. The feeling of stabbing an Aragami's plated shins with your greatsword in close combat before flying away and firing a shotgun shell right into the exposed wound never really gets old.

Another mechanic, which is now a staple of the God Eater series, is the ability for your weapon to consume the essence of the beasts you kill. In doing so, you get to enter Burst Mode, giving you better damage output, flashier combo moves, and increased range on your basic attacks. The effects vary depending on your weapon loadout, which offers an interesting level of strategy for you to consider from mission to mission. The most difficult bosses in the game have a similar mechanic of their own, where attack patterns can grow a host of other deadly variables, making your defensive strategy just as important as your damage output.

Unfortunately, the game's difficulty curve is fairly stagnant until about the halfway mark, when it suddenly ramps up by increasing the number of baddies you need to take down at the same time. This can lead to an initial feeling of being underpowered for these tense stand-offs, where you'll have to rely on every ounce of your skills to not get nailed to the wall by twice as many deadly laser beams and teleporting death machines than what you're used to.

It's not all smooth sailing when it comes to the nuts and bolts of God Eater 3, either, with a number of small annoyances. One particular gripe here is that the game binds multiple options to the same input, and most frustratingly, the button to loot will also be bound to another action (whether it be dashing or blocking, depending on the control scheme) which makes looting a pain. Flitting around the maps as quick as you please is fine and dandy until you want to pick up something useful, like crafting materials; you have a higher chance of careening face-first into a nearby enemy.

Another issue is the presence of the various customization systems that the series has accumulated over the years. There are crafting systems, ability systems, what seems like well over 100 possible skills to use, and upgrades on top of those too. Fiddling with a million and one variables to make your character perform better is neat at first, but a mastery of those systems isn't at all necessary to do well in the game, meaning it's easy to ignore them.

The rest of the time spent as a God-eating machine is an affair punctuated by expository cutscenes and managing your various AI companions on the fields of war. The AI perform well enough at their respective jobs of doing damage, chaining skills, and trying to keep you alive if necessary. If you're craving a little more of a human feel to those connections, then there's the option of taking on the fast and furious multiplayer Assault Missions where pile-driving Aragami into the ground with mates before the timer runs out is the name of the game. It's a welcome reprieve from the grind of the single-player mode and its buffet of relatively run-of-the-mill missions, so having it as an option is a refreshing change of pace for the series.

God Eater 3 is a solid entry in the franchise that doesn't necessarily reinvent itself, but it doesn't have to. All the core things that make God Eater so enjoyable, from the lightning-fast combat to the anime stylings, have been given a new lick of paint and propped up enticingly next to additions like the well-tuned Assault Missions and creative enemies to make one delicious package. Some aspects of the game--like its difficulty curve and multitude of superfluous customization systems--miss the mark, but it's an enjoyable romp with plenty of raucous battles if you're hungry for an action RPG.

Categories: Games

Apex Legends Review - Battle Royale The Way It Should Be

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 02/08/2019 - 22:30

If Apex Legends has one thing going for it, it's the feeling that the game is complete--something not all battle royale games can boast. The explosion of popularity in the genre means there are a lot of games that do last-player-standing competition pretty well, but with some kinks. Some existing shooters are adding battle royale modes to their offerings, fitting their existing gameplay into a new framework; other battle royale games are constantly struggling to work out bugs, kinks, and balancing issues; and still others started life as something else and managed to retrofit their ideas the battle royale mold, with some fitting better than others.

Meanwhile, Apex Legends focuses on doing one thing extremely well. That thing is team competition in the BR genre; at launch, it only includes a team-based mode where 20 groups of three players square off against each other. Everything in Apex Legends works to further teamwork: that includes a number of improvements to issues that plague the whole genre, like cleaning up inventory management and increasing accessibility, and the addition of new ideas, like squad composition elements and special character abilities.

Apex Legends excels by combining good ideas that have worked in shooters before. The battle royale ruleset is the same as in similar games, with very few changes: Teams skydive onto a huge island with nothing and scramble to gather up weapons and items to use against any other teams they encounter until only one team survives. While there are no titans or wall-running, it's still possible to see the bones of Titanfall 2 undergirding Apex, which reuses Titanfall's weapons and some of its fluid movement mechanics, like sliding and mantling. But the core of the formula here is the tight, three-player squad structure, which all the other pieces benefit.

Another big change to the battle royale formula in Apex Legends is one extremely similar to what Blizzard brought to multiplayer FPS games in Overwatch. At the start of each match, each player chooses one of eight characters, each with specific abilities that serve specific roles. The defensive Gibraltar can drop a shield and call in an airstrike to drive another team back; the offensive Wraith can create portals between two locations and briefly disappear to avoid damage; the supportive Pathfinder uses grappling hooks and ziplines to help the team reach areas where they might have a tactical advantage.

It all plays back into the focus on teamwork, since no character is especially powerful, and no abilities are useful all the time. You're not a lone wolf--instead, you have a specific role that complements teammates as you play, and that works to help find a new side of battle royale that hasn't been explored before.

Moment-to-moment, though, what's remarkable about Apex Legends is that it just works. Battle royale is a bit of an obtuse genre with a lot of moving parts; in most games, you find weapons, gun attachments, armor, healing items, and more. You'll spend lots of time digging in menus to manage inventory. Apex streamlines all of that with user interface tweaks that make it possible to instantly identify what you need and ignore the things you don't. Ammo types are color-coded to the guns that use them. Attachments automatically join with guns they fit and swap to appropriate new guns when you pick them up, while things you can't use or don't improve your gear are brightly marked as such. It's an even more accessible version of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's battle royale improvements with its Blackout mode, and the rest of the genre should adopt it.

The best feature in Apex Legends is its extremely robust "ping" system, which lets you press a button to create a marker on your teammates' screens. The ping system is super smart--aim it at a gun or a helmet and your character will identify that object's location to everyone else. You can ping in your menu to call for things you need, mark places you want to go, or identify spots other players have passed through. Most importantly, you can use pings to mark enemy locations. The system is so responsive and well-implemented in Apex Legends that it can fully replace talking to your team at all. In fact, the accuracy of a ping on-screen can often be better at helping you quickly convey information than talking.

A revival system also helps you get more engaged with your team. If a teammate falls in battle and is knocked out of the match, you can recover their banner, an item that drops with their loot, and use it to respawn them into the game as if they just started. The system adds some intense, harrowing strategy to Apex that requires you to risk everything to save your squad; you can only call back dead teammates at specific, single-use Respawn Beacons on the map, but you're completely exposed while doing so. Pull off a clutch play, though, and you can bring your team back from the brink. The system provides a great incentive to stay in matches and keep talking to and aiding your team, instead of just leaving when you die to join another match.

Like in Respawn's previous games, shooting here is hefty and satisfying, and Apex sports a wide variety of cool guns to learn and master. However, gunplay sometimes gets held back because lots guns carry strangely small magazines. Players have a lot of health, which gets increased greatly with the addition of armor, so it often takes a lot of shots to take people down. Ideally, you're always shooting someone with the help of a pal, but the small magazines have the effect of making you feel underpowered alone. In most matches I've played, shotguns get the most use from players because they have the highest likelihood of actually taking down an opponent, while many of the other guns spray bullets too much and leave you vulnerable as you reload and reload and reload.

Apex Legends is a mix of smart shooter ideas that makes for a competitive, team-based game that gets at all the best parts of battle royale while addressing a lot of the weaknesses.

As a free-to-play game, Apex Legends includes both loot boxes and in-game items that can be purchased with real money, and loot boxes can also be earned by playing. Everything on offer is cosmetic, much like in Fortnite or Overwatch, so paying money isn't essential to playing the game and staying competitive, and you can largely ignore microtransactions if you aren't interested in paying.

The one place Apex Legends' microtransactions can irritate is in trying to unlock new characters. At launch, six characters are available for free, with two that can be unlocked either with paid or earned currency. Neither is essential--they offer different abilities but not better or worse ones--but as an average player, it still took me around 17 hours of play to earn enough currency to buy one character (it'll be shorter if you get more kills and more wins). With Respawn adding more characters to the game in the future, it's fully possible trying to unlock new characters will become a slog that turns off casual players and those unwilling or unable to pay.

Apex Legends is a mix of smart shooter ideas that makes for a competitive, team-based game that gets at all the best parts of battle royale while addressing a lot of the weaknesses. Respawn's intense focus on team play makes Apex more than just a worthy addition to the genre; it's an indicator of where battle royale should go in the future.

Categories: Games

Jet Force Gem

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 02/08/2019 - 18:55
Publisher: Electronic Arts Developer: BioWare Release: February 22, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Launch trailers are usually a strategy to get everyone hyped right before a game's release, usually with an explosive trailer showing how people will play and enjoy the game. As time goes on, the distance between the launch trailer and the game releasing grows wider, making that last burst past the finish line a bit harder to maintain. This Anthem launch trailer, which to be clear I do think is cool, is like two full weeks before the game's release.

Anyway, none of that matters once you actually see the jetpacks fly around, because that looks awesome. Check out the launch trailer below.

Click here to watch embedded media

You can check out a lot of the cool Javelins in the game from all sorts of cinematic angles in Bioware's newest multiplayer shooter. 

Anthem releases on February 22 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

Astroneer Review - New Frontiers

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 02/07/2019 - 23:03

It's rare that you'll ever feel stressed while playing Astroneer. Its colourful planets and soothing synth soundtrack make exploring its handful of varied planets a treat for the senses, but its reined-in take on survival is what makes your hours with it as serene as possible. With little to worry about in terms of actually surviving, Astroneer shifts its focus to a core resource gathering and building loop. But, disappointingly, it struggles to entice you to visit all of the land it has to see.

Astroneer's solar system includes seven uniquely styled planets with procedurally generated terrain. They feature a familiar low-polygon styling that is made striking thanks to bold, vibrant colors and a great range of colour palettes used throughout the solar system. Your starting planet features gorgeously green fields stretching for miles on end, while another nearby feels far less inviting with harsh mustard-yellow mountain ranges and darker, more ominous clouds hanging above. The cartoonish designs that stretch from your customizable character to the structures you build blend well with the vibrant backdrops. Everything looks larger than it should realistically be, from the tires on your trusty rover to the simplistic 3D printers you make use of frequently, but it's an aesthetic that gives Astroneer a great and distinct look.

You play as a lonesome Astroneer, or as part of a pair if you choose to play cooperatively with a friend. You're given nothing more than a few tools and a home on a planet mostly devoid of life to start off with. You also aren't given any objectives, either--instead you're encouraged to explore the land around you and harvest useful resources to fuel your home expansion. Resources such as the vaguely named "compound" lie in abundance next to resin and organic matter on a planet's surface, with the catacombs beneath it housing rare metals and strange alien elements. Your progress is defined by how you expand your home on the planet, with no direction or set path imposed on you.

You can feel aimless at first, but the initial hours of Astroneer are some of its most intriguing. With nothing but foreign land stretching out all around you, it's tantalizing to pick a direction and set out. Your exploration is limited by oxygen, though--without a direct connection to your home or a substantially large oxygen generator, you will quickly burn through the reserves on your backpack and succumb to suffocation. You can craft and then drop oxygen tethers to extend your supply far beyond your starting point, and, in the process, leave a glowing blue trail that can easily lead you back home when you need to return. It strikes a good balance between being both a simple survival mechanic and a way to chart your explorations on a planet, letting you recklessly explore with a means to return safely.

As you start hoarding and building more, your options start expanding. After gathering resources on foot, you can craft a tractor which can carry a train of trailers, allowing you to gather more resources during a single expedition. Refiners let you turn basic resources into the building blocks of more helpful structures. These can range from simple large storage units to lighten the load of your backpack to massive research chambers and soil refiners that reward you with research points and basic resources respectively.

Without a narrative reason to push your exploration, watching your barebones homestead expand over time is the strongest driving force behind your extensive exploration. Specialised structures require unique resources that can't be synthesized through constructed tools alone, which encourages you to explore beyond your starting biome. Yet despite the prospect of adding new structures to your home base, extended exploration on other planets isn't that alluring. It takes a lot of investment to build up your main base on your starting planet, and there's no way for you to move this from one planet to the next. Without established sources of oxygen and power, survival on each new planet is tricky, and it feels like you're starting from scratch. It's far easier to make short trips to other planets in the solar system and gather the exact resources you need as quickly as you can, almost completely ignoring their unique designs and possible secrets in the process.

When you aren't managing oxygen on the go, you're overseeing power distribution between new structures around your base. Each operation--such as refining raw materials, researching mysterious ores, and printing new tools--requires power to operate efficiently. Operations will slow down or speed up relative to how much power they're supplied, encouraging you to route power intelligently throughout your base. Instead of managing this in a series of menus, you have to physically connect each module and structure with large red power plugs. The constant redirection of power can become tedious to manage individually; it's not complicated to understand where power is coming from, but the larger your base becomes, the messier the tangled web of power wires becomes, too.

Astroneer's overall inventory management also struggles at scale. You aren't inundated with meters and bars to watch on your journeys; all the information you need is conveyed mostly by your large backpack. Your inventory, for example, is always visible, with stacks of resources occupying single slots on your backpack and mining tool. You can zoom in on this and swap out items without having to dive into a menu, or drag and drop items out of personal storage and into a structure nearby with the flick of the mouse. It initially seems clever, but problems arise again when there's just too much to manage. Trying to place a stack of organic matter on a specific small generator becomes challenging when your zoomed-in backpack view takes up half the screen in an already chaotic home base, for example, and finer movements with your mouse are undone by an overly aggressive automatic snapping that makes trying to place an object cumbersome and frustrating.

Inventory management initially seems clever, but problems arise when there's just too much to manage.

There are some technical hiccups that unbalance this serene setting on occasion, but none that are severe enough to really hamper your progress. Performance on PC (which in this case featured a RTX 2080Ti and 6th generation Core i7) can inexplicably plummet when you're surrounded by numerous oxygen tethers, and I had two separate instances where I clipped through the ground and was forced to reload a previous save. Astroneer is generous with when it saves, though, so progress loss is infrequent.

Astroneer succeeds when it's enraptured you with its beautiful visuals and the irresistible call to explore the planet you find yourself on. Although it lacks a central through line to give you guidance, the variety of structures you can build helps point you towards new resources to hunt for. It struggles to incentivise you to sufficiently explore other planets within its single solar system, however, while also forcing you to work with an inventory system that is often unwieldy. These are frequent frustrations that Astroneer never fully overcomes either, but they're worth putting up with to experience its serene sense of planetary exploration.

Categories: Games

New Trailer For Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Gives You Some Backstory

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 02/07/2019 - 18:06

Click here to watch embedded media

Publisher: Activision Developer: From Software Release: March 22, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

A new story-focused trailer for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice briefly showcases the game’s narrative. The cinematic depicts a war-torn Sengoku Japan as samurai clash against a half-lit sky. In the aftermath of the bloodshed, a young boy sits alone amid piles of corpses and swords. Overall, the clip briefly highlights the history behind the protagonist’s rapport with his master. 

From Software’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will be available for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC on March 22. For exclusive content, check out our dedicated Sekiro hub.   

Categories: Games

After A Delay, This Barcade Hit Will Come To Discord And Switch First

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 02/07/2019 - 17:40

Developer: BumbleBear, Liquid Bit Release: Q3 2019 Platform: Switch, PC

Killer Queen Black, the home version of the barcade phenomenon, is slated to hit later this year. That's a delay for the title, which was originally supposed to release last year before being pushed to early 2019. The current Q3 2019 is even further out, but game itself still looks impressive. 

The latest trailer for the game does two things well: It lays out the basic rules, and it showcases how great Killer Queen Black looks in action. See it for yourself below: 

Click here to watch embedded media

Beyond the new footage, Liquid Bit and BumbleBear Games revealed that the PC version of the game will be available first on Discord, releasing simultaneously with the Switch version. The exclusivity period on Discord lasts for 90 days.

For more on Killer Queen, check out our interview with the creators.

Categories: Games

New Gameplay Today – Dirt Rally 2.0

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 02/07/2019 - 16:00

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Publisher: Deep Silver Developer: Codemasters Release: February 26, 2019 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

When it comes to racing games, Leo and I lean more toward the arcade end of the spectrum. Fortunately for us, Matt Kato is here to save the day when more sim-oriented titles are on hand. In today's episode, Kato takes us through a few races in Codemasters' upcoming Dirt Rally 2.0, somehow managing to answer our questions while still staying on the course. Amazing!

There's a lot to take in here, but Kato gamely answers all of our (possibly dumb) questions, including, "What is rally racing." Look. We're not afraid to dig in deep for our New Gameplay Today viewers.

Look for Dirt Rally 2.0 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on February 26.

Categories: Games

Dragon Marked for Death Review - Dates With Death

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 02/07/2019 - 15:00

A war rages on for centuries between the powers of light and dark. After strife and sorrow, the light prevails in a veritable burst of glory that changes the course of the world forever. However, life goes on, and adventurers rise from the rubble of the old world to claim their fortune. This is where you come in. Considered the lowest of the low on the mercenary food chain, you harbor a dark secret and a tragic past: You've made a pact with an evil draconic legacy that seeks to disrupt the world anew. Unfortunately, you have to be a somebody to set things right, and so begins the true saga of many a video game protagonist--murder, mayhem, and fetch quests. Dragon Marked for Death delivers on all three fronts with colorful aplomb, but if you're looking for a solid single-player experience, then your prize is likely in another castle.

Inti Creates' latest offers a classic side-scrolling multiplayer action experience that will be instantly familiar--the studio is intimately acquainted with some of the most famous titles of the genre, such as Mega Man and Azure Striker Gunvolt, and Dragon Marked for Death appears to contain the necessary components for success. The big point of difference is the elegant anime visuals sprinkled on top of retro fantasy, which make it feel like a more original conception. It's a nice, modern facelift on the bare bones of Azure Striker Gunvolt, albeit with a less-stylised UI and a statistic display familiar to any RPG fan.

There are four distinct classes, all with their own quirks and charms, and each of the game's levels can be traversed in different ways that let you make the most of your character's capabilities. The Shinobi and the Empress classes, in particular, have gap-closing abilities that allow them to flit across stages with deadly efficiency, while the Warrior and Witch have far more situational movement inputs that open up the map in more indirect ways. Dragon Marked for Death differentiates these classes by difficulty, and this is evident in the way that the title has been released on the Nintendo eShop. There are two versions: Frontline Fighters (containing the Warrior and the Empress) and Advanced Attackers (containing the Shinobi and the Witch). In order to acquire the classes that your chosen version is missing, you'll need to buy them as additional DLC.

As indicated by the names of each release, some of the classes are better suited to getting hot and heavy up close. The Warrior is the most robust and is well-suited to living through absolutely everything that could be thrown at you. The Empress strikes a balance between mobility, damage options, and defensive capability--the perfect class for beginners. On the other hand, the Shinobi is more of a glass cannon, blessed with speed and damage in spades. And the Witch, potentially the most rewarding class to use if you can handle it, has powerful spell combinations entered with button sequences that you have to memorize, all locked inside someone with the physical constitution of wet tissue.

In solo play, it's easy to identify where things could get a little hairy for each class. Enemies are relentless in their pursuit of your character once they spot you, and each level sees you facing off against a variety of minions and sub-bosses that all have one single-minded focus: your destruction. You face down ogres who spew fire, cut a swathe through the bellies of seafaring monsters large enough to drown entire ships, and dodge bullets that take away your ability to control your movement. If you're advancing through the maps as they become available, each one will feel like a challenge and an exercise in how you manage both your class and your time. No matter which class you pick up, going toe to toe with the baddies is rewarding once you figure out the intricacies of damage dealing. Whether it’s suped-up spells that wipe out everything in a five-mile radius, knowing when to deploy a shield in that split-second between life and death, or running up walls and gleefully skewering your foes, there’s an interesting game plan for every character in Dragon Marked For Death.

Do you kill as many mobs as possible for experience and money? Do you skip all of the minor enemies in order to head straight for the sub-bosses at the cost of missing out on healing opportunities? If you run out of time on a level it's Game Over, and if you run out of your vitality, it's also a rude kick back to the starting line. Dragon Marked for Death forces you to find a strategy that works for you, and the timers are just tight enough that you're incentivized to learn the layout of maps and the quirks of the enemies inhabiting them if you want a chance at success. You repeat levels at different difficulties as you get stronger, farming missions for experience and for the gold to equip yourself with better weapons, all so you can chip away at the seemingly immovable wall of at-level quests to progress the story. This is essentially the gameplay loop that is fundamental to the title--grinding.

A frustrating difficulty curve emerges when venturing solo, and even if you're accustomed to this kind of loop, it's a bitter pill to swallow compared to the experience provided by the multiplayer mode. Each classes' distinct identity makes it feel like they've been designed for the sole purpose of filling a party role in an MMORPG, since their strengths and weaknesses are complementary. Playing as just one without any backup feels incredibly limiting--you aren't capable of much in the face of high stakes.

Luckily, linking up in multiplayer with your friends is as seamless as jumping into single-player. You need a Nintendo Online subscription if you're worlds apart, or simply flip to the local multiplayer menu if you're sitting next to each other. It's as easy as dropping in and out of a party, with the leader selecting what maps to tackle. After you finish a stage, you're returned to the map selection screen so you can jump right back into the action, and it's that kind of action that will keep you coming back for more.

Multiplayer is compelling because the classes work better in tandem--tank characters keeping the heat off damage dealers always results in a boss dying quicker--and levels feel less deadly when the Witch can focus on blasting through anything and everything with a Warrior to cover her from any fatal damage. In later stages, single-player requires an amount of dedication to the grind that can suck the fun out of the encounters, especially when you have had a taste of co-op and can spot moments where having a party would have helped save your bacon.

Akin to the classes themselves, the levels were clearly designed with multiplayer in mind. Because of the varied ways in which maps can be explored, including hidden segments that can be tricky to navigate if you don’t have a particular movement skill or the sufficient patience to figure out an alternative route, having more than one class in play at a time helps make those closed-off areas feel more accessible. The relentlessness of your foes is another thing which makes the single-player experience feel a little less than well-balanced in difficulty if you’re tackling new content as soon as you unlock it; you won’t have sufficient items or perhaps the know-how to navigate certain levels. As the Witch in particular, you only learn certain elemental spells when hitting level thresholds, which can leave you at a type disadvantage for longer than is necessary. What smoothes out all those little bumps, however, is another player to take the heat off you, and the experience bonus granted from multiplayer also sweetens that deal.

Overall, Dragon Marked for Death is a polished experience that draws on a lot of existing genre sensibilities, but with a heavy focus on aspects that make for a good co-op experience. The classes are thematically coherent and entertainingly distinct, and the levels are just varied enough that gliding through one for the first time is always aurally and visually pleasing. The unbalanced single-player experience is a big sticking point, but if you have friends who are willing to take up the Dragonblood mantle with you, then there are few action platformers more entertaining.

Categories: Games