Ninjala Review - Stylish Stealth

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 07/03/2020 - 00:54

In a landscape already oversaturated with live games, differentiation is vital. Ninjala attempts to forge its own path through a combination of bubbly style and unique melee mechanics. And though it's light on content and heavy on microtransactions at launch, those two qualities are enough to make it stand out, and could give it the necessary staying power to live on long-term.

The mechanical differentiation comes from eschewing the usual shooter tropes of competitive online games. Instead, Ninjala is a multiplayer game focused primarily around melee combat, forcing tight confrontations between kid-ninjas with limited range. That gives it a feeling akin to a game like Devil May Cry, as you may see an opponent from a distance and charge in to do battle and then dash off quickly. The attack button is mapped to the shoulder like a traditional shooter by default, but I found a different control preset that set it to a face button much more natural to the character-action feel.

The weapons are limited to only three types--balanced katana, powerful hammers, and ranged yo-yos--but they produce a surprising amount of variety. The weapon types come with a handful of design variants, each with their own special properties and powerful ultimate ability. Finding your preferred playstyle is a matter of narrowing down the options, first by toying with the weapon classes themselves and then diving into the next layer to find which combination of special abilities suits you. None of the weapons feel obviously overpowered compared to the rest, so it really comes down to personal preference.

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Categories: Games

Cyberpunk 2077's Shades Of Gray

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 07/02/2020 - 20:14

Publisher: CD Projekt Developer: CD Projekt Red Release: November 19, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PC), TBA (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X) Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

We recently had the amazing opportunity to go hands-on with Cyberpunk 2077, which you can read about in our full playthrough impressions as well as our biggest takeaways article. We also sat down with some of CD Projekt Red’s talented developers, learning more about their creative process and how they approached this ambitious project. One topic that consistently surfaced was the team's signature shades-of-gray storytelling and how it enhances the experience.

During our four-hour demo, we wrestled with who to trust, never feeling completely confident in our decisions or what the consequences would be. If you played CD Projekt Red’s Witcher series, you know this feeling all too well, but with each passing project, the developers only seem to be getting better at keeping you on your toes and making you second-guess your actions. To learn how much care and thought goes into these interactions, we asked lead quest designer Paweł Sasko for more insight into the complicated process. 

“It’s a very complex thing,” Sasko says, laughing. “It’s very easy when you design things to just fall into one [extreme] or another, and this is how our production style comes into play.” According to Sasko, every quest gets created with the writer, quest designer, and cinematic designer working together and challenging each other to show different sides to the character. “We’re always keeping each other in check… to figure out the correct way to present elements or the character when you look at it from their perspective,” he says. “We always look at it from a perspective of balance.” 

Sasko says it comes down to feedback from both designers and testers. If they feel strongly against a character, the designers come together to think of ways to better showcase the character’s point of view and give more context for their actions. Sasko worked on the famous Bloody Baron quest from The Witcher 3, where you find out the man who offered his hospitality to Ciri also has an abusive past. “One of our objectives was to find a parallel between Geralt as a father and Baron as a father, but also throw enough bad things in there so the player will like him and dislike him at the same time,” Sasko says. “This is what we are almost constantly playing with in Cyberpunk 2077, having it be like in real life where people say one thing and then do another.”  

CD Projekt Red goes to great lengths to pull this off in its games, using body language and dialogue to throw you in different directions. Just like in real life, you can never really know someone’s true intentions or what they’re thinking. Cyberpunk 2077 offers a world of danger, where it feels like everyone is out for themselves, just waiting to pull one over on you. As customized protagonist V, you must try to navigate these shady people to the best of your abilities, and deal with the repercussions. “It might be that a character is speaking in a very convincing manner, but through the animations, through their poses, and through the setup of the scene, we are showing that the character is not like that,” Sakso says. 

A character in our demo named Evelyn is a good example of this. Evelyn is shrouded in mystery when you meet her; she's a confident, charming young woman who contracted Dex, the fixer you get one of your first big jobs from. All your interactions with her prove she has some connection to Night City’s high circles, but every time you ask her questions, it feels like you’re only getting half the story. At one point, she offers to just cut Dex out of the deal so only you two split the riches. It’s suspicious, but then again, you don’t know Dex that well. Still, are you ready to cross a legendary fixer who could make your life hell? 

“When you're meeting Evelyn in Lizzie’s [Bar], she's doing very specific things in the specific moments and there are things she is not certain about that she’s discussing,” Sasko says. “The way she's moving in that scene, that's specifically designed to present that character in the best possible way, and to give the player lots of different interpretations and hypotheses.” 

Sasko says the team then throws in more potential clues to give players a certain perspective or vision of the character. Then in the next meeting with the character, the team tries to twist this a bit by adding more elements to the picture that test or confirm the player's hypothesis. It’s a tricky balance between conveying a sense of who that character is as a person, but also reflecting the complexity of people and their capacity to omit, forget, or alter details. After all, memory is a tricky thing, and people’s versions of events sometimes change as they relay them.  

The audio and dialogue also play a huge role in uncovering new information and giving you different ways to interpret characters. “When you talk to the characters and ask more questions, they can actually throw things in that are contradictory or will give you some more clues to what they really think to make you question things,” Sasko says. “It’s just really fun because that makes the player be conscious and look at the characters. Of course, we cannot be all over the place with that, because if you go completely random, then it won't work. It has to be designed very specifically.”

People are complicated, multi-dimensional beings, and CD Projekt Red certainly likes to display that in its games. In Cyberpunk 2077, there are no correct answers – just a bunch of choices and seeing where they lead. Either way, we can’t wait to see more of the intriguing people and conundrums V will face.  

Categories: Games

Outriders' Structure Explained In New Video

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 07/02/2020 - 19:40

Click to watch embedded media

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: People Can Fly Release: 2020 Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Outriders is the upcoming cooperative shooter/RPG from developer People Can Fly and publisher Square Enix, and the companies are giving eager players a new look at the game in action. The latest video dives into how Outriders' world and quests are structured.

Highlights include some info about your base/truck, a look at some members of your crew, and an explanation about how the hub-and-spoke layout of the map accommodates different sidequests. Get those details and more by watching the footage above.

To learn even more about Outriders, check out our rapid-fire interview, along with our coverage hub full of other exclusive features.

Categories: Games

Hyper Scape - Battle Like Everyone's Watching

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 07/02/2020 - 19:16

Publisher: Ubisoft Developer: Ubisoft

The battle royale arena always has new contenders entering, taking shots at the big players in the genre. Today, Ubisoft showed off its latest first-person foray into the battle royale ring, Hyper Scape. With 100 players, three-person squads, and some mechanics that change things up for longtime fans of the "where we dropping?" genre, Ubisoft is betting heavily on another element to power its boisterous bash: the viewers. Tapping into the world of streaming integration, Hyper Scape allows viewers to engage with the players in important ways, like voting on in-game events to change the shape of the game. Hyper Scape is free-to-play and coming to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

The game begins in a familiar fashion. In a waiting room, players wander around and size each other up as the player count ticks up. Then, it's drop time! Pods fly down from the sky (no fall damage) and allow you to pick and prioritize your landing zone. The major landmarks contain significantly more loot than the smaller ones, but as is the standard, you'll probably have to blast your way out of an early conflict to walk away with the gear.

Gear in Hyper Scape works a bit differently than other battle royales. Your weapons and abilities have different tiers that can be upgraded by collecting multiple copies, making those extra guns a boon when you find them. So if you have a shotgun and find another shotgun, it might upgrade the magazine size, and the next copy might upgrade the damage. Upgrade enough times, and you max out a weapon or ability, turning it golden. If you're really lucky, you can find golden items out in the wild without having to do any upgrading at all. If you're looking to score some fully-upgraded loot right away, the hot spots often contain them.

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Hyper Scape keeps it simple with two weapons and two abilities. That's your kit. Some of the abilities are familiar fare – healing, teleporting, invisibility – but I had a ton of fun with the bouncy ball. Yes, one of the skills you can pick up is an armored ball that you can bounce around in to giant heights, and then jump out of your ball midair and let loose a salvo at the enemy. The ball is a great way to dive into combat or escape a dangerous encounter, plus it looks really cool and plays up the game's vertical focus.

One mechanic that battle royales are tackling today is how to handle death. What happens if your teammate dies? Well, in Hyper Scape you can bring them back with a little effort, but the journey to make that happen is the most interesting angle. When a player dies in a squad scenario, they become a ghost. They're still in the game, but they can't interact with anything, meaning they still have sight and can feed you information regarding enemy movements with zero risks. If you defeat an enemy, a beacon appears where they've been slain, and your fallen teammate can head to this beacon and sit on it. At the beacon, you can revive your dead ally. They come back without their loot, but ready to get back in the action. This means theoretically a player could come back in a match many times, assuming they have savvy teammates willing to take risks and communicate to bring them back.

As with other battle royales, the field of play whittles down as areas of the cityscape collapse in stylish fashion over the course of a game, which feels less like a strict circle closing in and more about closing off the field chunk by chunk. With all the death involved in a final-zone scenario, you may be wondering how things get resolved when teams can potentially bring their allies back to life many times. That's where the crown comes in. In the late game, when players are corralled into the final district, a crown will spawn. If a player on your team can hold the crown for a short period of time, you win and the game is over. Of course, you are highlighted on the map while holding the hot potato, so everyone remaining is gunning for you. If you go down holding the crown, someone else can grab it, and the action continues until one team is left or a player holds the crown long enough.

It's 2020 and visibility and watchability are key factors for some games. Hyper Scape is one of those titles. With a robust Twitch extension, viewers can alter the game state in real-time by voting on alterations. Want to see some low-gravity action? Vote! Unlimited ammo? Vote! Health for everyone? Vote it up! As a viewer, you can have a direct impact on the game by slinging votes and then watching how your favorite players and teams handle the new rules. There are other ways that viewers can interact with Hyper Scape and streamers, like integration that allows you to play with your favorite streamer without any laborious friend invites; it's all handled by the extension. It's stream-centered gameplay from the ground up, so we'll see if Ubisoft's bid to win the viewers via integration pays off.

You can score an invite to Hyper Scape right now via drops by watching your favorite streamers, with more information on a wide release coming in the future.

Categories: Games

Furi Creators Bringing Co-Op RPG Haven To PS5, PS4

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 07/01/2020 - 22:56

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Publisher: The Game Bakers Developer: The Game Bakers Release: 2020 Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC

Developers The Game Bakers are taking a different approach for Haven compared to the studio's last title, action game Furi. Haven is designed as a simpler, less-frantic PS5/PS4 co-op action/RPG.

Creative director Emeric Thoa says he was inspired by the game Flower and its chill gameplay. Although Haven has standard elements like crafting, different approaches to combat, and much more, the aim was to make things as simple and un-confusing as possible, doing away with complex skill trees, crafting systems, and UI overload.

Instead, Haven wants you to focus on controlling Yu and Kay as they explore the world – including enabling seamless drop-in co-op – and becoming invested in the couple's story.

Haven was announced as part of Sony's PlayStation Indies initiative, but does not yet have a release date for either version.

Categories: Games

New Narrative Adventure, Where The Heart Is, Coming To PS4

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 07/01/2020 - 18:01

Developer: Armature Studio Platform: PlayStation 4

Revealed as part of PlayStation's recently announced indie-focused initiative, Where the Heart Is is an new narrative adventure slated to hit PS4 later this year.

The game is being developed by Armature Studio, and tells the strange story of a man named Whit Anderson. He falls down a sinkhole on his family farm, and then relives moments of his life in a series of vignettes. These story scenes have a dream-like quality, and players have the opportunity to make choices that impact the course of Whit's life and the consequences of his actions.

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You can get more details (and see more of the game in motion) by checking out the spotlight on the PlayStation Blog.

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Right now, Where the Heart Is has only been announced for PlayStation 4. However, since the game is releasing this winter, the question of a possible PlayStation 5 release naturally arises. Though the team has no additional platform announcements at this time, a PR representative for Armature Studio tells us that the team is incredibly excited for the PlayStation 5 and what it means for gamers and developers. 

Categories: Games

F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch Brings Bionic Bunnies

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 07/01/2020 - 17:31

Developer: TiGames Platform: PlayStation 4

Today brought the reveal of F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch, a new action/platformer from TiGames. With the help of Unreal 4, F.I.S.T. features a gorgeous dieselpunk aesthetic, showing off an industrialized world filled with anthropomorphic animals whose world has been overtaken by a malevolent machine legion.

Players take on the role of Rayton, a rabbit war veteran who dons a mechanized backpack suit that provides tremendous facility in battle. The suit can shift between a fist, drill, or whip attack form, giving Rayton different approaches to combat, from slow and devastating (drill) to fast and longer-distance (whip). Each weapon is built to allow for combo-heavy arcade-style combat against an array of mechanical enemies.

Beyond the 2D battles, F.I.S.T. is also billed as an exploration game, as Rayton makes his way through the interconnected city, so it’s fair to expect at least a bit of Metroid DNA in the mix.

F.I.S.T. makes a strong first impression. The visuals look great, the combat appears fast and reactive, and the world seems both charming and gritty. Take a look at the trailer below.

F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch is planned for release on PS4 sometime in the next few months.

Click here to watch embedded media


Categories: Games

Mr. Driller Drill Land Review - Digging Up A Classic

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 07/01/2020 - 02:41

In the late '90s and early aughts, a little fellow named Mr. Driller burrowed his way into the hearts of puzzle game fans worldwide. The years that followed saw several Mr. Driller releases across multiple platforms, but after a while, Namco seemed content to entomb the series and focus on other things. Now, a little over a decade later, Bandai-Namco has decided to unearth one of the most beloved Mr. Driller games, the formerly Japan-and-Europe-exclusive Mr. Driller Drill Land, to release on Switch and PC for a new generation of fans to enjoy.

Mr. Driller Drill Land focuses on the titular Mr. Driller, aka Susumu Hori, and his extended gang of excavator friends and family (including his dad Taizo, who you might remember from Dig Dug). They're off to visit a new underground amusement park called Drill Land, filled with attractions that very coincidentally are based around the colored-block-drilling gameplay that defines the Mr. Driller series--with some notable twists. Challenges, cards, and plenty of collectibles abound in Drill Land, and you'll have to see if you have the chops to conquer each of the park's different attractions for high scores and goodies. (And you might just save the world, too.)

The core Mr. Driller gameplay is a neat twist on the "falling colored blocks" idea. You control Susumu (or one of his companions), using your drill to break up colored blocks and dig deeper and deeper into the earth. As you destroy blocks and work your way into the earth, you'll free up other blocks, which will fall and join up with (and also break) others of the same color. Your goal is to reach a certain depth, but that's easier said than done--you have a limited air supply that acts as a timer, and some poor drilling choices could lead to your driller getting smooshed under a landslide. This makes the game a tense, careful balancing act--while air pickups are frequently available, being too hasty with your drilling decisions when oxygen is limited could lead to disaster. It might sound intimidating, but it's much easier to understand once you play a few sessions and see for yourself how loose blocks fall, combine, and break. After you grasp the basics, you'll grow into a groove and skillfully obtain pickups, create chains to eliminate lots of blocks at once, and find safe spots among a cascade of falling earth.

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Categories: Games

A New Crease On Life – Nintendo Shares Insight On Paper Mario's Latest Adventure

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 18:00

Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo Release: July 17, 2020 Rating: Everyone Platform: Switch

It all starts in a familiar way, with an invitation from Princess Peach. Toad Town is hosting a special origami festival, and Mario and Luigi are among the requested guests. Say no more! The brothers head out to the event, only to find that the ordinarily thriving town is ­virtually abandoned. Worse, Peach has been transformed: Her body has been reconfigured into an origami form, and her normally friendly personality replaced with a detached automaton.

Peach is among the latest victims of King Olly, the ­diabolical ruler of the Origami Kingdom. After she drops Mario into a dungeon, Olly wraps Peach’s castle in five massive streamers and places it atop a far-away mountain. Fortunately, all is not lost. Mario meets Olivia, one of the few origami creations who isn’t his enemy. Together, Mario and Olivia need to figure out how to unravel this plot and restore Toad Town and the rest of the land to its normal, flattened format – even helping a ­partially origami’d Bowser along the way.

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That’s the elevator pitch for Paper Mario: The Origami King, the latest entry in Nintendo’s RPG series. It may be hard to believe, but Paper Mario is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. Over the course of that journey, players have become comfortable with a “Mario, but flat” conceit that, if you step back, is about as weird as it gets. The tone is often as strange as the paper-thin setup, too, with plenty of humor and silliness scattered throughout. The Origami King is building on the past, but is also taking the series in some new directions, including an interesting ring-battle system and the introduction of open-world levels you can traverse seamlessly.

Ring Fight Adventure

“When continuing a game series, it’s much easier to carry over the basics from an existing game system rather than building new systems for each new installment,” says Kensuke Tanabe, producer at Nintendo. “But that’s not how you create new experiences or unexpected surprises. As a game designer, I want to deliver new experiences and surprises to our fans, so I always challenge myself to create something new. To be sure, I will sometimes use the same system in a subsequent game to further develop that system until I feel it has reached its full potential. But my goal is to continue to tackle new challenges as much as possible.”

This is a subject Tanabe knows a thing or two about. He worked on Super Mario RPG back in the Super Nintendo days, and has been involved with every game in the Paper Mario series since Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door released on GameCube in 2004. For the most part, combat has been consistent over the years, with turn-based battles that incorporate a little bit of timing. If you manage to hit your attack at the right moment, your attack will squeeze out some extra damage. It’s fun, but Tanabe and the developers at Intelligent Systems wanted to push themselves further with this entry.

“Mr. Naohiko Aoyama, who is a member of the staff at Intelligent Systems and the director of the previous entry in the series, Paper Mario: Color Splash, asked for a battle system in which the enemies surround Mario to attack from all sides,” Tanabe says. “That became our starting point when thinking about how the battles would work.” 

The designers thought about how best to reflect this feeling of being surrounded, and came up with an unusual take on a battle grid. Rather than setting the action on a traditional checkerboard, they arrived at something similar to the concentric rings and segments of a dartboard. Then players could rotate each of the concentric circles to line up attacks. But something was missing.

“We kept thinking about what to do, until one day an idea suddenly popped into my head while I was in the shower,” Tanabe says. “The idea was based on a Rubik’s Cube. It inspired me to add vertical rotations to the horizontal rotations, so we got the slide mechanic added to the program, and it worked well. That is the moment I was convinced we’d be able to build our battle system.”

When combat begins, players have a set number of turns in the planning phase to optimize their positioning. The goal is to line enemies up in groups so that Mario can take them out efficiently. His stomp attack hits enemies lined up in a row, and his hammer deals more concentrated damage to groups of enemies that are standing side-by-side and one row deep. It’s almost like a puzzle, with each combat scenario having an optimal solution. You can spend coins to purchase more time to think if you’re running low on time, or your Toad friends can give you hints – provided you pay them. Even if you blow it on your first attempt, you can still rearrange the stragglers once both you and the enemies have taken turns.

Each of the five streamers encasing Peach’s castle is guarded by a member of the Legion of Stationary, which are realistic depictions of familiar art supplies such as colored pencils, rubber bands, and tape. Tanabe says the team initially wanted to use the same basic battle system in these boss encounters, but they ran into a problem: Since you fight these bosses one at a time, you didn’t have anything to line up.

“It occurred to us that one way to avoid introducing a different system would be for the boss battles to be the opposite of regular battles, with the boss in the center and Mario creating a route to the boss from the outside,” Tanabe says. “I drew concentric circles on a whiteboard, put mock-ups of some panels using magnets with arrows and other things drawn on them so Ms. Risa Tabata [the assistant producer] and I could simulate how a battle would play out multiple times. We felt that we had gotten something pretty good out of that process, so I proposed it to Intelligent Systems.”

A New Crease On Life

These bosses aren’t just waiting in one location for Mario to find them. Instead, they’re scattered around the world. That creates a striking visual, as players can see the streamers far in the distance, while also giving them a hint as to where their next challenge lies. One of the biggest departures with The Origami King is that the story isn’t chapter-focused as past games have been. Instead, players can travel from region to region seamlessly in an open-world setup.
“One major feature that makes the world where this adventure takes place special is that there are huge maps to explore at every turn,” says Masahiko Magaya, director at Intelligent Systems. “Because the game is laid out this way, we were careful during the design phase to make sure there is always something in the player’s field of vision to catch their attention.”

Players can watch the scenery unfold through several modes of traversal. Mario can run around, but crossing major distances might get tiring. Fortunately for his feet, he can drive a boot-shaped car around (a nod to Super Mario Bros. 3’s shoe power-up?) and pilot a boat. I also saw him aboard an airship, where he takes command of the ship’s defenses to fire rockets at incoming paper planes.

That variety extends throughout the game. Players can expect to encounter lots of one-off activities and miscellaneous diversions. During his travels, Mario encounters a host of Toads who have been folded into different origami forms. Hitting them with his hammer reverts them back to their normal form, then several things can happen. They might return to Toad Town, restoring valuable services to the location, like selling items or opening the dock. The Toads may also join Mario in battle, watching from the sidelines and helping when asked (and paid). You can also go fishing, if you’re looking for some downtime.

Mario doesn’t do any of this alone. Olivia is a constant companion throughout the adventure, and other characters join and leave along the way. The shuffling cast is a function of the story, so players aren’t deciding which allies to bring along.

“We never considered whether or not we should implement a party-based system like some other games,” Tanabe says. “As we worked on Paper Mario: The Origami King, we decided we could create more memorable moments if Olivia and the other characters team up with Mario along the way. In other words, we first determine what elements are needed in a game and then figure out how to implement and program them. Bobby, the Bob-omb, was the first character we decided to include, and from there we chose the characters that would be the best fit for the events in each stage of the game. Bowser Jr. was an exception. The director, Mr. Masahiko Nagaya, personally had strong feelings about including a storyline where a son sets out to save his father, so in this case, we decided to include the character before deciding exactly what we would have him do.”

With an interesting combat system and a larger world to explore, Paper Mario: The Origami King looks like a nice evolution for the series. There are certainly some elements that are foundational to Paper Mario, but it’s great to see that Nintendo and Intelligent Systems are willing and able to color outside of the lines.

Paper Mario: The Origami King comes to the Nintendo Switch on July 17.

Categories: Games

Fuser Trailer Shows Harmonix’s Next Take On Music Gameplay

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 14:00

Publisher: NCSoft Developer: Harmonix Music Systems Release: 2020 Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the music gaming genre is familiar with Harmonix, or at least one of the studio’s many games. The developer has been synonymous with music gaming experiences for decades, and consistently reinvents itself with new perspectives on the always-changing world of popular music.

The studio’s latest effort is Fuser, a music mixing game that targets the festival music scene – in particular the music mixing DJ culture that helps define that experience for fans. In its gameplay, Fuser allows players to draw individual parts of a bunch of different songs – including vocals, guitars, drums, and more – and add them into a growing mix. Thanks to some remarkable technology behind the scenes, the music that results manages to sound great, like it was meant to go together, no matter which songs you select.

From there, it’s all about changing up the mix with new parts (often in response to fan demands), hitting the downbeats to create smooth transitions, and even writing in your own riffs on instruments like synths and drums, which then get added into the song as it plays live. And unlike many of Harmonix’s previous projects, Fuser requires no additional peripherals.

The game begins pre-orders today for a planned fall release, and doing so nets you three bonus DLC songs: Dua Lipa “New Rules,” Khalid “Young Dumb & Broke,” and The Killers “Mr. Brightside.”

In addition, Harmonix is offering a digital-only VIP edition that includes entitlements for the first 25 DLC songs, along with several in-game apparel options for your DJ. You can check out participating retailers by clicking over to the game's official site

NCSOFT is handling publishing duties on the project, and platforms include PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

Check out the new trailer below, and scroll past the video to read a list of the 34 songs already announced to be included in the core game release - the full game will include over 100 songs, even before the inevitable flow of DLC songs gets started. 

Click here to watch embedded media

Fuser Announced Song List
  • 50 Cent “In Da Club”
  • Armin van Buuren “Blah Blah Blah”
  • Billie Eilish “bad guy”
  • Blue Öyster Cult “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”
  • Brad Paisley “Mud On The Tires”
  • Cardi B “Bodak Yellow”
  • Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe”
  • The Chainsmokers ft. Daya “Don’t Let Me Down”
  • The Clash “Rock the Casbah”
  • Coldplay “Clocks”
  • DMX “X Gon’ Give It to Ya”
  • Dua Lipa “Don't Start Now”
  • Fatboy Slim “The Rockafeller Skank"
  • Grand Master Melle Mel “The Message (2012)”
  • Imagine Dragons “Thunder”
  • J. Balvin & Willy William “Mi Gente”
  • Jonas Brothers “Sucker”
  • Lady Gaga “Born This Way”
  • Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road (Remix)”
  • Lizzo “Good As Hell”
  • LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock “Party Rock Anthem”
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz “Thrift Shop”
  • Meghan Trainor “Me Too”
  • Migos “Stir Fry”
  • Nelly “Hot In Herre”
  • Panic! At The Disco “High Hopes”
  • Pitbull ft. Ne-Yo, Afrojack & Nayer “Give Me Everything”
  • Post Malone “Better Now”
  • Sia ft. Sean Paul “Cheap Thrills”
  • Smash Mouth “All Star”
  • Twenty One Pilots “Stressed Out”
  • Warren G & Nate Dogg “Regulate”
  • Whitney Houston “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”
  • Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey “The Middle”
Categories: Games

West Of Dead Review - Run And Cover

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 06/29/2020 - 21:51

There are a lot of reasons to take a look at West of Dead. Cowboys and Wild West aesthetics are hot in games right now, in the wake of Red Dead Redemption 2. Run-based games are, likewise, very much a structure du jour. It's dusted with voiceover narration from Ron Perlman, who you might know from Guillermo Del Toro's Hellboy films or the FX TV Show Sons of Anarchy. And it certainly doesn't hurt that its core mechanical conceit, as a cover-based twin-stick shooter, helps Frankenstein it to original and, dare I say, innovative gameplay. Unfortunately, West of Dead is a textbook case of a half-baked concept: Though its big sweeping ideas work well, the minutiae, from scaling the difficulty of encounters to unrefined enemies and plain old technical issues, threaten to undo the experience at any time.

West of Dead's conceit builds up a simple but interesting little tale. In Purgatory--which is apparently in Wyoming--the dead have stopped filtering "east" to heaven or "west" to hell. You play an undead cowboy called the Marshall who's lost his memory, save for his mission to kill the evil preacher holding up the afterlife. Though it's more narrative glue than captivating storytelling, the Marshall's inner monologue, in subdued performance from Perlman, keeps the story in mind, evoking a world that you might not see in its generic, monotonous Wild West-themed levels.

Like so many of today's Rogue-inspired games, the story naturally falls away at a certain point, as you play and replay the game over and over, attempting to reach your goal. West of Dead retains many of the tropes established by the many, many rogue-lites that have launched in the last few years, and it cribs its structure specifically from 2018's wildly successful version, Dead Cells. West of Dead procedurally generates long levels, which are punctuated with a store where you must spend Sin points to permanently expand your arsenal of weapons. In each run, you find upgrades to your specs and more powerful gear--two weapons, two accessories, and a passive charm. By defeating optional bosses, you gain access to branching paths with harder levels. You carry an upgradable healing flask, which you refill between levels. There's even a hall at the start of each run where you can see all the weapons and upgrades you've bought. Though it comes dangerously close to getting branded as a "Dead Cells clone," using familiar structure makes it easy to focus on West of Dead's combat, where its real innovations lie.

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Categories: Games

Pokemon Sword And Shield - The Isle Of Armor DLC Review

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 06/27/2020 - 19:42

One of the best parts of Pokemon Sword and Shield was exploring the Wild Area, an expanse of rolling hills, sand dunes, and lakes that made collecting the games' 400 Pokemon especially enticing. The first DLC for the games, The Isle of Armor, improves upon the original Wild Area--in fact, the island is all Wild Area, with far more variety and much more interesting locales to explore. While it doesn't alter the game much, The Isle of Armor recaptures the joy of exploration and catching new Pokemon, and it makes me especially eager to see where the next DLC takes us.

In my original Pokemon Sword and Shield review, I said that "the Wild Area is the show-stopping feature of this generation. Pokemon roam the fields and lakes, changing with the day's weather. They pop up as you walk by, and you can even identify Pokemon out of your direct line of vision by their cries. It's all too easy to set out for one destination only to be distracted by a Pokemon you haven't caught yet, an item glittering on the ground in the distance, or even an evolved form of a Pokemon that you didn't realize you could catch in the wild. There's constantly something new to do or discover, and it's there to engage you right out of the gate."

Me and Kubfu enjoying the sights.

The Isle of Armor doubles down on this. The island is bigger and better than the regular Wild Area, and its various biomes all feed into each other more naturally. Open fields transition to wetlands, which border a beach and a forest. Rivers flow out to the ocean, and following a river can sometimes lead you to a cave. Changing weather patterns make more sense than they do in the Galar region's main Wild Area, too, where weather shifts seemingly at random as you bike through similar-looking fields. Instead, because most areas on the Isle of Armor are separated by rivers or caves, the transition from rain to sunshine to fog isn't so abrupt. It's overall an even more satisfying place to explore.

Continue Reading at GameSpot
Categories: Games

See EDF: World Brothers' Blocky Bugs In Action

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 06/25/2020 - 20:07

Click here to watch embedded media

Developer: D3 Rating: Rating Pending

A few days ago, D3 Publisher revealed that two new entries in the Earth Defense Force series were on the way. One of them, World Brothers, features a striking visual departure from past entries in the series, with blocky heroes battling equally blocky bugs. Screenshots alone don't do it justice. Fortunately, we've got a trailer showing the game in all its voxel glory.

In addition to fighting the usual ants, spiders, and other pests that fans are accustomed to, players will have another potential hazard to contend with: the edge of the world. It looks like this planet's cube-shaped surface means that it's quite possible to walk right off the edge and into oblivion. Fortunately, at least some members of the EDF have jetpacks.

Stick around for the end, and you'll get a quick (and do we mean quick) look at Earth Defense Force 6, a more traditional entry in the franchise that was also announced along with World Brothers. That title is due this year, and EDF 6 is coming in 2021. No word yet as to whether they'll be heading over to our shores. 

Categories: Games

Our Five Biggest Takeaways From Our Four Hours With CD Projekt Red's Massive Action/RPG

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 06/25/2020 - 17:45

Publisher: CD Projekt Developer: CD Projekt Red Release: November 19, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PC), TBA (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X) Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Sci-fi action/RPG Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most anticipated games to hit this year, and for good reason. CD Projekt Red has earned a reputation for crafting fantastic story-driven experiences chock full of difficult choices and unpredictable consequences. Cyberpunk 2077 marks a new opportunity for CD Projekt Red to improve and meld these even further with the gameplay.

We went hands-on with the game for four hours to see how it was shaping up and walked away astounded by the ambitious scope and vast gameplay flexibility. While we ended our time feeling like we barely scratched the surface of this massive endeavor, we did get a sense of what to expect. Here are our biggest takeaways from our hands-on demo, which allowed us to experience the prologue, see life paths for player character V, play through a story mission, and check out some of the activities in the world.

Night City Is Gargantuan, With No Shortage Of Things To Do 

CD Projekt Red really stepped up the scope and map size with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Cyberpunk 2077 looks to top that in many ways. This is a much different backdrop than Geralt’s fantasy world, but it still captures a similar sense of danger and unpredictability. Night City is a fast-paced, technology-obsessed place that embraces excess. People modify and augment their bodies on a whim, enter virtual mindscapes to chase fleeting thrills, and contend with corrupt Megacorps running the show. During your time in the metropolis, you visit six vast and disparate districts in Night City, from the poverty-stricken Watson to the Las-Vegas-and-Kabukicho-inspired Westbrook, and there is never a shortage of things to do.

In addition to the main story quest, CD Projekt offers its own signature side quests that do everything from diving more into the main characters’ back stories to offering insight into the different gangs and corporations at play. Dynamic events also constantly pop up, whether it’s a crime taking place or gang-on-gang violence. You decide if you want to get involved and reap the rewards. V can also participate in fun activities, like car races, fistfights, and the shooting range. But perhaps the most lucrative venture is to take on gigs. Every area has a fixer who will send V jobs, and these are your main source of income. These tasks can be anything from eliminating a target to sabotaging a server. You can also take on bounties or unearth clues that point to secret stashes. 

Remember how in The Witcher 3 the map became littered with points of interest, and it felt like a massive undertaking to do everything each area had to offer? Night City produces a similar feeling of endless opportunities, but it also is much faster-paced and flashy, creating a feeling of sensory overload as you walk through it. The world is fascinating, as it is a portal into a gritty future where our dependence on technology has taken an ugly and excessive turn. 

The Customization Is Deep And Satisfying

If you thought The Witcher 3 didn’t provide enough options for how to build Geralt to suit your playstyle, Cyberpunk 2077 should please you. CD Projekt Red has created a fluid class system, and just opening up the skill trees and seeing all their branching paths is a remarkable sight. The impressive amount of freedom means there’s plenty to tinker with. It may seem overwhelming, but once you grasp the basics, upgrading your character becomes an exciting venture, as it always feels like a new powerful ability is in reach that will help you tailor the experience to your playstyle. 

On the most basic level, as you gain experience, you unlock attribute points and perks. The five core attributes are body (raw physical power, increasing health and stamina), intelligence (memory and intellect, improves hacking abilities), reflexes (coordination and speed, enhancing critical chance and evasiveness), technical (tech aptitude, providing armor bonuses and the additional chance of harvesting craftable loot), and cool (self-control and willpower, improves stealth and speed at which NPCs notice you). 

You invest points in improving the main attributes, but each one also has its own corresponding branching perk tree for unlocking new skills. For instance, in the intelligence attribute path, you can choose to focus on hacking, and from there you can invest in device or target hacking. You can mix and match between the two. Device skills improve your prowess with hacking things such as security systems or turning turrets friendly, while target skills disrupt enemy cyberware, like calling an enemy to another to get them in the same vicinity and making a grenade detonate. You also level up skills the more you use them, which can then open up rewards, such as increasing your memory regen – your resource for hacking – outside of combat. 
You are also never locked into one class or playstyle, so you can create cool combinations, such as a katana-wielding cyber ninja who also hacks their way through life. I experimented with the fluid class system, beginning my playthrough focusing on hacking and improving my intelligence stat to support it. However, I became very fond of the shotgun as my backup to when my stealthy approach didn’t work. This meant investing in my body attribute so I can handle the close-up combat required to use it. Just keep in mind your main attributes do factor into how far you can level up a specific skill. For example, the hacking ability is limited by the intelligence stat, meaning if my intelligence stat is at three, I can’t increase my hacking beyond level three. 

Beyond the core statistics, you also have cyberware you can install on your character, which also opens up fun new abilities and perks. Cyberware is a way to improve your body and give it superhuman abilities that can either be passive, active, or triggered. You can upgrade various body parts, from your arms and legs to your nervous and cardiovascular systems. All you need to do is visit a ripperdoc, who can do everything from putting a monowire (a whip-like narrow fiber optic wire that slices through enemies at lightning speed) into your arms, to installing a blood pump in your cardiovascular to improve healing. All cyberware has different tiers: legendary, epic, rare, uncommon, and common. The higher the tier, though, the more slots it will require to install. 

Still want more? All your gear can also have upgrades installed, such as adding silencers to guns so your bullets don’t alert the entire room. For armor, upgrades mostly add stat increases, like upping your chance for a critical hit or getting some extra padding for your armor’s effectiveness. All of these areas allow you to constantly tweak your character to something better, and most importantly, to one that best suits how you want to play. 

The Life Paths Provide Interesting Ways To Define V

Role-playing as V is one of the most exciting parts of Cyberpunk 2077. You ultimately get to decide who they will be, and this goes far beyond customizing their physical appearance (although, those features are extensive and impressive!). One of the interesting ways CD Projekt Red is approaching this is through life paths. When you create your character, you get to choose between three: Nomad, Corpo, or Street Kid, and each adds a different flavor to V. Similar to Dragon Age: Origins, Cyberpunk 2077’s prologue plays out differently depending on which path you pick, setting you off on your journey and teaming up with your partner Jackie in different ways and for different reasons. Throughout the game, certain dialogue options are available based on the life path you select, giving more context on situations as it pertains to that perspective. 

The Game Informer staff tested out all three, and came out with very different versions of V. The Street Kid means you’ve grown up living a tougher life, where you’ve had to work for everything, but it’s also taught you how to navigate tough situations with your street smarts. The Corpo has you living a more privileged life; you’re starting at the top and confident to boot, but staying there is a battle in and of itself. Then there’s the Nomad path, which has a Mad Max vibe to it and sends you to the Badlands, where you take on the role of an experienced smuggler who's a lone wolf in a place where many team up in packs to survive. You never forget your roots, and this certainly can color how you approach situations and role-play V in this world. We don’t know how far-reaching or the number of additional choices that appear based on the initial life-path choice, but it does set a good starting foundation for V’s story. 

Braindances Are A Cool Gameplay Hook

Remember Geralt’s Witcher sense? V has their own cool way to examine people and places for additional information and clues. As Night City’s main entertainment attraction, braindances allow you to dive into the memories of others, experiencing them as if you were the person living through it. You watch them like playing back a recording, and V has the ability to edit this footage. You can rewind, fast forward, and zoom in and out on particular objects for more information.

There are also layers to editing, such as focusing on audio to hear faraway conversations or shifting to the thermal observation layer to detect if an item’s in the freezer. We used this during our playthrough to detect hidden items and get more context on what exactly transpired. For instance, in one case, a guy set up his own man to get the reward all to himself. Scrubbing through footage can take time and dedication, and we aren’t sure how often the tool is used in the game, but it does provide a cool twist on V’s powers.   

The Replayability Is High

Because there is so much freedom in various aspects of the journey, Cyberpunk 2077 is teeming with replayability options. Missions can be approached from multiple ways, whether it’s going guns blazing or stealthily avoiding chaos. There are also branching paths based on dialogue choices and plenty of subplots to discover. For instance, in one of our story missions, you could choose whether to free a man from prison or not, determining if he would show up later in the story. 

Power struggles between corporations and gangs are everywhere, and your decisions could determine who comes out on top. From what we saw, it appears that situations will play out differently in terms of story events and gameplay sequences. Even in the prologue, we all had vastly different experiences, whether it was if we encountered a particular boss, character, or even gameplay area. This doesn’t even account for all the different dynamic events that can appear in the world. We can’t wait to see how far-reaching some of these decisions and consequences go, but if The Witcher 3 is anything to go by, it should be pretty substantial.

Cyberpunk 2077 launches on November 19 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. A PS5 and Xbox Series X version is also set to release, but no official date has been revealed.

For a more detailed account of the events of our demo, check out Matt Miller’s deep dive. Also, be sure to check out this week's podcast where we discuss and breakdown our hands-on experiences.

Categories: Games

Diving Deep Into The First Hours Of Cyberpunk 2077

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 06/25/2020 - 17:43

Publisher: CD Projekt Developer: CD Projekt Red Release: November 19, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PC), TBA (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X) Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Few games of recent years have garnered the broad and unrestrained sense of anticipation enjoyed by Cyberpunk 2077. CD Projekt Red, the same team that brought us The Witcher series, has earned a well-deserved reputation for sophisticated storytelling, strong world-building, and mature themes, all set within a strong framework for gameplay. Likewise, the Cyberpunk setting is richly crafted from a tabletop RPG that has been growing for decades, and its themes of rebellion and pushing back against government and commercial authority seem especially timely for many potential players. There’s also just the reality that, over years of seeing it teased, Cyberpunk 2077 simply looks enthralling. Set within a bleak dystopian future city, the game’s mix of role-playing narrative loops and first-person combat and exploration seems novel and exciting.

Until now, even with the bubbling enthusiasm that surrounds the title, it’s been challenging to understand a full picture, or get a perspective on the gameplay from outside the studio’s official channels. That has now changed, as three of our editors had a chance to finally play the pre-release game, trying out different avenues and opportunities over the course of four hours of playtime for each of us. As it turns out, that’s hardly enough to even scratch the surface of what Cyberpunk 2077 has to offer – but it sure gives us our best sense yet of what players can expect.

In this article, we walk through the hours we spent exploring the world, step by step. If you'd prefer to just get a broad scope understanding of what was most striking about the game, check out our five biggest takeaways from playing Cyberpunk 2077. If you're more into listening to our impressions, click over to this week's Game Informer Show to hear us talk about our experiences in the game.

Building A Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk 2077 opens with some important decisions that affect the entirety of your subsequent play experience. Character creation is extremely customizable, and earns the game’s inevitable mature rating before gameplay even begins, since you’re selecting gender and secondary sexual characteristics right away. In keeping with the cyberpunk aesthetic of people who have modified and changed the bodies they’re born with into their preferred nature, the game is quite fluid with what features you apply, and the male or female voice actor can be applied to any character, no matter what other changes you choose to make.

Beyond cosmetic customization, players also select starting attributes – each attribute opens up multiple perk upgrade trees. Body affects health, stamina, and overall power. Intelligence deals with memory and hacking abilities. Reflexes determines things like speed, critical chance, and evasion. Technical Ability connects to things like armor bonuses, control of technical interactions, and even the possibility of harvesting craftable loot when you come across it. Finally, the Cool attribute governs willpower and several features related to stealth. At character creation, you’re able to tweak these attributes with a few bonus skill points – I gave my V higher Body and Cool, with an eye toward a stealth-focused mercenary who occasionally gets into melee throwdowns – but the choice is up to you.

In the build I played, I received new attribute points and perk points when I leveled up, and when I acquired enough street cred (gained by getting a reputation for my actions). Once acquired, these points can be spread out as you like, improving a particular stat, with a separate pool of points going into upgrades presented on the perk trees governed by that stat. For me, my early points focused on successful infiltration. I took “Hidden Dragon” (in the Stealth perk tree, governed by my Cool attribute) which opened up aerial takedowns, and later on I snagged the “Embrace the Shadows” perk, which offered improved health regeneration while sneaking. For players curious about how “RPG-ish” this game is with its progression loop, these perk trees completely set my mind at ease. There are dozens of perks and customization options available here, and many of them offer significant and playstyle-altering changes to your character.

The next important choice before the game begins is your lifepath. These three foundational backgrounds determine the course of the beginning of the game, and also establish important options for dialogue, mission options, and flavor for the rest of the game. Because these lifepaths are so different – including entirely distinct opening missions – I won’t be surprised at launch to hear stories of players who have tried out all three before settling on the lifepath they prefer for a full playthrough. For me, the nomad was a clear winner. In this persona, the main character, V, begins life out in the Badlands surrounding Night City, and is already an experienced smuggler. One last job sends him into a new life in the city. Another Game Informer editor tackled the Corpo lifepath. In this background, V starts out in a cushy, but stressful, life in the dangerous corporate rat race, and having the wrong allies results in her being brought low and back to the streets. A third editor explored the Street Kid lifepath, where V is already an experienced hand living on the scraps of Night City, eking out hard-earned survival.

First Steps Into A Larger World

In an interesting twist, each of the three lifepaths offers a way to meet a character named Jackie Welles. Like V, your selection of lifepaths also determines Jackie’s background. For instance, you meet him on the smuggling job as a Nomad, but if you’re a Corpo, then he’s been your friend and confidante for years. Regardless of his origin, Jackie’s personality is relatively consistent across the three backgrounds. He’s a tough guy with charm and loyalty who can hold his own in a fight, and no matter which way you meet him, the story jumps forward to some time later, when a firm partnership has formed, as the two of you work together to survive on the streets of Night City.

Your lifepath intros can vary in length, but we were all generally through those crafted and individualized intros in around a half hour, at which point the story opens on a prologue mission that is the same, no matter your background. This mission, which has been seen in previous hands-off sessions of Cyberpunk 2077, shows V working together with Jackie and T-Bug – a remote netrunner on your team – to complete a job in which you must infiltrate a hideout and save a wealthy woman who has been kidnapped.

Before the action really gets going, this early gameplay stretch also houses a tutorial, accomplished in-game through a virtual program that you plug into your head port. Here, you get the basics of combat and infiltration. All of these features match expectations you might have for a first-person open-world experience. Of note, melee weapons use a timing and observation approach, where you balance quick light attacks and heavy attacks to break opponents’ blocks, as well as quick taps of your own block button to open up big-damage counters. Another important feature that is available right from the start is the option to hack both enemy augments and environmental features.

With the tutorial complete, the subsequent mission gives me the first sense of stealth and open combat, as V moves through a building and takes down the kidnappers. In this regard, mechanics are quite familiar to anyone who has played a first-person game of this style. Most encounters allow for a range of approaches, from sneaking up behind foes to choke them out (using either lethal or non-lethal attacks) or going in, guns blazing. In these early battles, shooting exchanges reward taking cover and staying mobile. Enemies use smart tactics to flank and move in on my position. In keeping with its RPG heritage, damage numbers pop on enemies to give you a sense of relative power between selected weapons, and the use of individual weapon types upgrades my skill with that style of attack. Once my enemies were dead or unconscious, I was able to loot their bodies – clear color-coding of the rarity of their loot let me know what items were worth snagging.

After dropping the bad guys, I found my target in an ice-cooled tub, barely alive. Because of her affluent status, she had “platinum trauma team” status, effectively adding up to a heavily armed EMT team that flies in to pull you from the brink of death. After dealing with the blocking tech that kept her trauma team from reaching her, they were able to pick her up and whisk her away. Mission success.

Broadening Options

At this point, the game begins to open up in some meaningful ways. After completing the job, I return to my pad in a large apartment complex, and settle in to sleep. The next morning, I’m free to begin exploring Night City. Walking out of my apartment and into streets of Night City, I’m immediately reminded of my first time, in real life, visiting Tokyo’s Shibuya district, with its brightly lit signage and masses of people crossing the streets, with small shops and restaurants clustered at ground level. Here in the fictional metropolis of Night City, the effect is even more exaggerated, with dozens of animated ad billboards, hundreds of people, and towering skyscrapers competing for attention. Jackie meets me at a street-food stand, and we talk about an upcoming job as he eats. For the rest of my time playing, I’ll be splitting my attention between the non-linear mission he pitches me on (part of the game’s main story), and more freeform wandering as I get to know a bit about Night City and my opportunities there.

Before I get too lost in the urban jungle, I have the opportunity to go visit the ripperdoc, and get some new cyberware. Ripperdocs are underground service providers, capable of installing new body augmentations on the fly when you arrive at their dingy offices. They quickly anesthetize the affected area, and use mostly automated tools to dramatically reformat your body. Players can install SynLungs in the cardiovascular slot, for improved stamina regeneration. Or snag microrotors in your nervous system slot, improving movement speed and precision. These augmentations come in tiers of quality, and also fall into one of three distinct categories – active, passive, and triggered. Unlike in some futuristic games, in which the application of technology becomes an existential question of whether you’re still human, Cyberpunk 2077 presumes a certain level of acceptance of tech. Moving forward through the game without cyberware seems, on the surface during my playthrough, to be basically impossible.

“The Pickup” mission turns out to be a multi-layered and multi-part adventure in its own right. We meet up with a legendary fixer named Dex, who drives me around town in his fancy car while laying out the job. He’s setting up a major heist that will no doubt figure prominently in the later story of the game, and in connection to that job, he wants us to hijack a fancy military droid spider-bot, recently stolen by a gang called Maelstrom from a big military supply megacorp called Militech. From here, there are a wealth of options regarding how to proceed.

In connection with the long-term plans for the heist, I choose to start with a chance to speak with the client, Evelyn Parker, visiting her at Lizzie’s Bar. The bar is neon-lit and has the look of a sex club, but in the world of Cyberpunk 2077, that designation means something different than it does today. Much of sex work in this future unfolds through the use of something called braindance technology, a sort of fully immersive virtual experience that lets you experience the memories and emotions of another. Clubs like Lizzie’s cater to a clientele interesting in living out their fantasies in these virtual formats, but the braindance format has much broader applications. Check out the sidebar to see how.

Evelyn Parker fulfills the role of the beautiful, but mysterious, woman in a detective noir story, and her motivations for the heist plans remain shrouded. However, to help us plan, she’s recorded her own braindance of an intimate visit to the Arasaka executive we’ll be stealing from. By meeting with Evelyn, and diving into her own braindance memory, we get some important info for later in the potential heist. But before we can deal with that bigger problem, we must complete the initial job, and get that spider-bot. 

Braindance The Night Away

In the world of Cyberpunk 2077, the prevailing form of entertainment is a technology called braindance. You can think of braindance as a variation on virtual reality, but the experience is fully immersive, and replicates the feelings and bodily sensations of a memory. Usually, these braindances are edited, tweaking and adjusting individual aspects to further accentuate the experience. It offers a way to live vicariously through another, with edited additions and subtractions, so many of the “influencers” of the world are individuals who people follow by living out their actual memories and experiences. On the black market, more extreme braindances cater to a clientele that wants more raw experiences – often sexual or extremely violent in nature.

For those with the technical know-how and equipment, raw memories can be edited and reconfigured on the fly as you’re experiencing them, letting users pluck additional information from the recorded memory. From a gameplay perspective, braindance becomes a tool that lets the player investigate and gather new clues.

In my playthrough, Evelyn Parker introduces me to Judy Alvarez, a braindance expert who helps V get acquainted with the tech. In that process, I experience two separate braindance memories. In one of them, I experience the raw memory of a thug who is robbing a convenience store, before his accomplice murders him. In-game, V is shocked by the visceral nature of experiencing what feels like her own death. In a second braindance that is more relevant to the impending heist, V inhabits Evelyn’s own memories of a late-night tryst with an important corporate executive. While visiting his penthouse suite, we’re able to learn the location of the tech we’ll be stealing.

Within the braindance, you have a number of editing tools at your disposal, and you’ll need them to uncover important information. You can experience the memory unaltered from beginning to end. You can also pause, rewind, and fast-forward the memory. Leave your own first-person perspective, and zoom around the perceivable space (from the current perspective of the person who recorded the memory) to learn more, like sighting in on secret information displayed on a distant mobile screen in someone’s hand. You can also move between different layers of the memory, between visual, audio, and thermal. With those tools, you can isolate conversations from across the room, or zoom in on a hidden freezer unit that might be hiding delicate tech.

As a storytelling tool, braindance offers a disturbing, but vicarious, dip into another character’s life and experiences. As a gameplay tool, it opens up intriguing avenues for players to gather information and clues.

As part of the larger mission, I can optionally meet with a Militech exec named Meredith Stout, from whom I glean that the theft is part of an internal power struggle at the company. She wants me to pay for the bot with a credchip implanted with a virus (a fact I only learn if my tech skills are up to snuff). If I chose to meet up with her, Stout’s agents follow me to the meet-up at a nearby factory. Meeting up with Royce, the Maelstrom gang boss, provides a wealth of avenues, which our different playthroughs made clear. I can pay for the bot with my own money, without using the virus-infused credchip – a pacifist, but pricey, proposition. I can warn Royce about the setup, but then Militech attacks. I can simply blow Royce away, angering his gang, but avoiding a later boss fight against Royce. Or, if I give Royce the credchip, an explosive battle ensues between the company and gang forces, and I can either shoot it out, or take a stealthy approach to escape. Taken together, the mission ably presents the range of choices players might expect to find in a Cyberpunk 2077 mission, and the way each decision is likely to have long-term consequences, both with organizations in the world, and individuals.

The Freedom To Explore

Beyond this involved mission, I spend the bulk of my time wandering the streets, both on foot and in my car. I’m driving a vehicle called a Quadra Turbo-R, an American-made muscle car – one of several distinct vehicle brands that I see scattered around the city. Driving may be accomplished in both first-person perspective or from one of a couple of third-person angles. The crowded streets of Night City make for a challenging space to navigate, and it takes some effort to not bump into poles and to make tight corners. In addition, the urban landscape is especially vertical, so I get lost a few times as I go in one direction, only to discover I need to be on a totally different level of the city to reach my destination. In addition to driving, there appears to be a fast-travel system that unlocks around the city, but I don’t use it much as I try to get the lay of the land.

My explorations of the city yield no shortage of fun opportunities. At one point, I find a weapons store, and purchase a katana in pursuit of my stealth melee powerhouse build. I encounter a fighting ring, and open up a new questline in which I can box my way through an increasingly challenging series of fighters. Out on the street, I stumble into more than a few gang hideouts, and at my low level, I die more than a few times to overzealous thugs, and am forced to reload to a recent checkpoint. In one amusing exchange, I encounter a guy who needs me to rush him to a ripperdoc, because some implant in his genitals have malfunctioned, and he’s in overwhelming pain. It’s one of more than a few moments that recall the irreverent tone of game franchises like Grand Theft Auto – but simply told with a futuristic spin.

In another more involved sequence, I infiltrate a hideout and take down a bunch of heavily armed enemies. I manage the feat of not raising the alarm, so by the end, I’m free to make a leisurely exploration of their hide-out, before stealing their van and driving off. Unfortunately, as I drive away, I accidentally bump the van into a civilian on the sidewalk. While my silent infiltration didn’t raise any alarms, this vehicular mishap results in a police bounty being put out on me. In order to lose the police bounty, I have to hightail it out of there, and find a way to keep a low profile for a time.

Cyberpunk 2077 recently pushed out its release date by a couple of months, and will now launch on November 19. While the version of the game we played already showed great promise, there’s no doubt that the team is using these extra months to polish moment-to-moment gameplay and knock out remaining bugs. With only one afternoon in a game that will no doubt offer dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of potential playtime, it was challenging to get a complete picture of progression, gameplay flow, and the feel of gunplay and combat as new perks and weapons unlock. Nonetheless, I came out of my demo time blown away by the scope of what CD Projekt Red is attempting with the game, and similarly impressed by the depth of its RPG systems. This is a rich and nuanced game well worth the long wait we’ve had to play it. If you’ve been wondering if the game can really be as big and complex as early looks have implied, our time playing made it abundantly clear that the game really is an especially ambitious and massive game – now it’s just a matter of seeing how the final version comes together.

Categories: Games

Marvel's Avengers Preview – Reassembling In Hopes Of Greatness

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 06/24/2020 - 18:30

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal Release: September 4, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia), 2020 (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X) Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC

Coming off the climactic conclusion to the Infinity Saga with Avengers: Endgame a month prior, Marvel’s most iconic heroes had a full head of steam going into E3 2019. However, its reveal drew a broad range of criticisms based on everything from how the game ran to the way the characters looked. As a result, the hype train slammed on the brakes as widespread concern grew about the state of the game.

A few months later, at Gamescom 2019, I played through the opening mission of the game, and while I enjoyed most of the experience, it wasn’t the game that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes deserved. Then, much like the Avengers themselves do in the opening of their game, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix went dark. The studio delayed the game from spring to fall in order to address player feedback, with its big reemergence happening today. The result was an Avengers game that look renewed from the version that was widely criticized in 2019. I spoke to the developers to not only learn more about how the team is creating a unique Avengers story, the various systems in place, and what players can expect from the game following launch, but how the delay helped the studio fine tune the experience.

Picking Up The Pieces

The opening mission that Crystal Dynamics showed off last year took place during A-Day, a celebratory festival in San Francisco honoring the Avengers and the opening of their west-coast headquarters. Unfortunately, this event erupts into violence as a mysterious foe led by the deadly mercenary Taskmaster attacks the Golden Gate Bridge. In this section, the player gets to experience brief sequences as each of the marquee heroes: Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Black Widow. While the Avengers do their best to take down this force, it’s not good enough, as the bridge attack turns out to be a distraction while the enemy targets the Avengers’ helicarrier. The hovering leviathan, which is powered by a Terrigen crystal, is destroyed, killing Captain America and raining Terrigen Mist onto the city, granting uncontrolled powers to countless civilians.

With San Francisco reeling and the world watching in horror, the superpowered are outlawed, creating a void of security the world had become accustomed to since the establishment of the Avengers. To fill this vacuum, in steps tech giant Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM), with a mission to replace the now-disbanded heroes. “They were offering a very noble solution, which is, ‘With science and technology, we can offer safety and protection,’ so a science-versus-superpowers solution was offered,” says creative director Shaun Escayg.

AIM promises to use science to not only protect the world, but also cure the “Inhuman” infection that spread across the now-quarantined San Francisco due to the Terrigen explosion. Unfortunately, while AIM may appear to have the best interests of the population in mind, the organization is anything but noble. The company, led by founding member George Tarleton, twists the public fear of the Inhumans into a fear of all who possess superpowers.

Pretty soon, Avengers fangirl Kamala Khan, who was at the A-Day celebration and remains steadfast in her belief in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, uncovers a conspiracy that not only is AIM experimenting on the Inhumans, but the company might have even been behind the bridge attack and subsequent helicarrier explosion. While Kamala needs the help of the remaining heroes, she is anything but powerless.

In fact, being at A-Day, she is exposed to the Terrigen Mist and undergoes an Inhuman transformation of her own that allows her to embiggen and stretch parts of her body. She takes up the name Ms. Marvel, modeled after one of her favorite heroes, Captain Marvel. Unfortunately, since she now has powers, she, along with many other San Franciscans, must go into hiding. Following this turn, she becomes a central and key component to not only the reassembly of the Avengers, but the story of the game as a whole.

An Ignoble AIM

While the emergence of Ms. Marvel is a positive side effect of the catastrophic events of A-Day, she isn’t the only central character affected by the Terrigen blast in San Francisco. George Tarleton was also caught in the explosion and left injured and disfigured. The aftereffects of the blast and exposure to the Terrigen cause Tarleton’s brain to grow massive. Tarleton tries to recruit Kamala, saying he can help “cure” her of the Inhuman “sickness,” but she doesn’t buy it and she escapes AIM custody to bring the conspiracy to Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, and the rest of the Avengers.

However, reuniting the Avengers is a task easier said than done. Not only are the heroes spread out and isolated, but they are often at odds with each other thanks to distrust sown by AIM and Tarleton, or MODOK as he’s come to be known. In fact, Tarleton’s transformation has made him even more brilliant than before. This combination of technological might and super-genius intellect make him a major threat to the Avengers.

While those who have only watched the Marvel Cinematic Universe films might not know who MODOK is, comic readers are well-versed in the character’s insidious nature. “We wanted a villain that was a formidable, Avenger-level threat, but more intelligent than the average villain, not just using technological might, but his ability to divide from within, his ability to propose a very provocative solution – even noble in some ways,” Escayg says. “He’s got Bruce Banner and Tony Stark at war; they can’t even see eye-to-eye because Bruce believes that Hulk is a dangerous being and maybe the Avengers are as well, and Tony shares the opposite view, like Kamala, that without them, the world would be in jeopardy. This villain in particular was smarter, mighty, could wield that might and sway public opinion even within the Avengers themselves about how they view or perceive themselves.”

Crystal Dynamics looked at the story it wanted to tell and realized that the malicious pessimism that AIM and MODOK operate under are perfect foils to the unfettered optimism Ms. Marvel has for the Avengers. Not only that, but they each personified the public conflict that’s unfolding in the world regarding those who are superpowered.

“It created the best conflict of the two opposing themes: Are these people really superheroes? Or are they just mostly dangerous, powerful beings? Can we use science and technology to control and harness that power? Or is it their humanity, their empathy, or their differences that truly make them the greatest protectors of Earth?” Escayg says. “It was the perfect recipe for conflict and to showcase these opposing themes.”

With a menacing and sophisticated organization led by a deranged-but-brilliant figurehead, the world needs the Avengers now more than ever. However, with the public opinion of the Avengers and distrust within the ranks of the heroes at an all-time low, Kamala Khan has her work cut out for her if she wants to get the team back together. So begins Operation Reassemble.

Assembling Your Own Avengers

While bringing together a team of Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk, and Ms. Marvel is an exciting prospect, players can make the heroes their own by utilizing a deep customization system. Each hero has skills, Heroic moves, and gear that can be customized in depth to deliver the playstyle you want. Each hero’s skills consist of four distinct categories and are upgraded through these skill trees. By using skill points earned through play, you can unlock new moves, combos, and attacks. For example, one of Thor’s melee skills is the Hammer Spin, which lets him twirl Mjolnir around his wrist, or Mjolnir Cyclone, which lets him spin to perform a fierce area-of-effect attack. Meanwhile, one of Thor’s ranged abilities is Manual Targeting, which lets you mark enemies to bounce your hammer off like a pinball.

On the Heroic moves side, each hero has three categories to fill: Assault, Ultimate, and Support. The Assault Heroic is the fastest to charge, with some moves allowing you to store multiple charges. These moves include attacks like Thor’s ground pound and Black Widow’s electrified projectile called Widow’s Bite. Support Heroics focus on helping your teammates. Warrior’s Fury is Thor’s, which calls down a special essence from the sky to grant nearby teammates temporary invulnerability. Ultimate Heroics take the longest to charge, but they can change the course of battle. For example, Thor’s God Blast calls down the power of the Bifrost from the Nine Realms to deliver a devastating attack that can pierce shields.

Thor is one of the most versatile heroes, but he’s not the only one that can be played the way you want. By configuring your heroes your way, you’re able to create different gameplay archetypes, even going as far as creating a support Iron Man or a ranged Hulk. You can even go deeper into the abilities you equip and use with a Mastery Tree, which lets you use a fine-toothed comb to configure and tweak every last piece of your heroes.

In addition to these skills and Heroic abilities, players can further customize their heroes using Gear, Perks, Artifacts, and more. Gear works much like it does in other games, giving stat boosts, while Gear Perks give you modifiers and buffs in specific situations. One piece of Epic Gear for Black Widow grants Perks like ranged power attacks buffing defense and heavy combos increasing stun damage. Some Gear even uses things like Pym Particles to shrink enemies, or Gamma Radiation to grant bonus damage modifiers.

“On top of all the unique powers the heroes had, we wanted to figure out what is something that none of them can do?” combat director Vince Napoli says. “We really leaned into the technological aspects of Marvel and some of the core concepts that are global to all heroes, which is the ability to use the Pym Particle technology and shrink enemies, or use Gamma Radiation to create a Gamma status effect. We also have Cosmic status effects and some other ones.”

On top of all this, the team at Crystal Dynamics has created tons of cosmetics, including emotes and outfits. I’m particularly excited to see the various uniforms and suits from across Marvel’s rich history for its most iconic characters. Some cosmetics are earned through mission completion, while others must be purchased via the in-game vendor, SHIELD’s own Chastity McBryde. Some outfits also require you to complete iconic mission chains, while others can only be purchased through the game’s online store. Players can choose from outfits like Iron Man’s Stark Tech outfit inspired by The Invincible Iron Man or Thor’s Donald Blake alias outfit from his first appearance in Journey into Mystery.

While this might sound overwhelming to people who just want to jump into a mission and mash buttons to victory, Napoli says Marvel’s Avengers is still, at its base, an action game about playing as your favorite superhero. “You always want to make that an option; all great action games have that tuning where you can get in there and really quickly pick it up and have it feel really, really satisfying with little investment,” he says. “The idea is once you’re invested in that, you’re more likely to go in and say, ‘You know what? I do kind of like smashing guys around. What’s the low barrier-to-entry to creating a better way to smash guys?’ Then, once you’re in there, we hope you take the next step, and then the next step, and the next step.”

From the cosmetic tweaks to the way you progress your skill trees, all these customizations come together to allow you to play how you want to. In our first glimpse of gameplay since Crystal Dynamics’ original A-Day reveal, we got a good look at how all of these components come together to deliver the experience you feel on the sticks.

Rising To Heroism

As Ms. Marvel begins looking at how to bring the team back together, she brings the proof of her conspiracies to Bruce Banner, who then travels with her to Tony Stark’s home. The two former Avengers continue butting heads over whether those with superpowers should be viewed as threats. In a later scene, we see a confrontation between Iron Man and Hulk. We don’t see how this fight ends, but before the screen cuts to black, Iron Man summons a giant fist from his Hulkbuster suit to punch the enraged Banner off him.

That appears to be just the beginning of Kamala’s quest to reassemble the Avengers. As Ms. Marvel continues tracking down the members of the disbanded team, the single-player story progresses, opening additional hero-specific missions. These Hero missions are cinematic, single-player campaign stages focused on a particular member of the Avengers.

One such hero-specific mission we got a look at is Thor’s “Once an Avenger…” mission. AIM is attacking the Avengers’ newly rebuilt helicarrier and the team must work together to prevent it from being destroyed once again. AIM drops several robotic walkers onto the deck of the Chimera helicarrier as Ms. Marvel watches. Iron Man swoops down and blasts one off the craft and onto the streets below. The crowd runs in horror as a Daily Bugle newscaster recounts that this is the same day that AIM promised to reveal its Adaptoid program.

The mission appears to be one of his earliest missions in the game, as Thor walks up to the scene dressed in his Donald Blake alias outfit, complete with volunteer T-shirt and jeans. He calls Mjolnir from the Captain America memorial statue as if to say he’s coming out of retirement. Thor rushes to the newscaster’s side and pushes him away as another metallic meteorite crashes down from the helicarrier right where he was standing. The god of thunder then goes from street level to the ship using a hefty swing of his hammer to help his fellow Avengers do battle.

The scene on the helicarrier as Thor arrives is dire; the AIM walkers are breaching the hull with their drills and the likes of Iron Man and Ms. Marvel look in danger of being overwhelmed. Thor flies up and with a proclamation of, “You should know, I’m not in the best of moods!” smashes into the deck, sending electric shockwaves to destroy a group of Adaptoid robots and walkers.

As the gameplay sequence commences, Thor wields his hammer mightily as the rest of the Avengers chime in on comms to talk about how glad they are to see him back in action. Every swing of Mjolnir looks as though it carries the weight I felt like it was missing during my initial hands-on experience last year, and every time the hammer smashes into an enemy, it rings out with a satisfying clang. Players can weave together combos using heavy and light attacks or use long presses to use signature attacks.

Thor turns his attention to one of the walkers, which not only protects itself with an electromagnetic field, but can blast projectiles, shoot flames, and take a hefty helping of damage. Once Thor gets inside the radius of the shield, he unloads on it with heavy combos using the hammer and lightning. Thor finally does the walker in by throwing his hammer into the core, grabbing it and uppercutting before calling down a barrage of lightning to finish it off.

Thor spots Hulk on a higher deck and joins him. Hulk doesn’t seem happy to see the Asgardian and reacts by throwing the AIM robot he just dismantled at the god of thunder, to which Thor remarks, “Just like old times.” The two then hurtle forward, blasting, smashing, and destroying encroaching mechs. Thor possesses a wide range of abilities that make him viable both from range and up close. His heavy hits make him a nightmare for the mechs that swarm him, while his hammer tosses and lightning summons let him pick apart enemies from medium range.

Thor and Hulk zero in on another walker. After they knock its health down, the two perform a Team Finisher where Thor flips the walker over, Hulk jumps on top with a chunk of the ground and smashes it, and Thor channels electricity through Mjolnir to deliver the final blow. In another team-up instance, the two collaborate with Thor slamming down into the middle of the walker, Hulk ripping its leg off and bludgeoning the walker with it. Thor and Hulk aren’t the only ones who can team up; in another gameplay sequence, I see Ms. Marvel and Hulk dismantling a robot together.

The deck continues to flood with more mechs, drones, and walkers, with Thor, Iron Man, and Hulk doing their best to keep up. MODOK announces he has one last card to play: a giant walker, which he drops right onto the middle of the ship to drill down into the engine room. Thor remarks that he can handle it himself, to which Iron Man rebuts, “You don’t have to! That’s the whole point.”

Thor gets knocked to a lower deck to once again join Hulk in battling some Adaptoids. He summons his Warrior’s Fury Support Heroic onto Hulk to grant the green behemoth temporarily invulnerability and let him smash to his heart’s content. Thor then redirects his attention to the giant walker, which possesses a special Stark Tech shield that Iron Man can’t penetrate with his beams. Luckily, Thor has an Ultimate ready, and he calls down the power of the Bifrost to bypass the shield, demolish the walker, and thwart MODOK’s plan.

Despite the threat being neutralized, the damage is done, and Black Widow comes over the radio to say there’s not enough power to restart the engines. Tony gives Thor his cue and the Asgardian blasts electricity into the front engines just in time to prevent the Chimera from crashing into the city below. This taste of the cinematic Hero missions made me excited to see how else Crystal Dynamics can capture the feeling of being a powerful superhero through curated missions designed with specific heroes in mind. However, with so much customization and gameplay variables on the field, Warzone might be where Marvel’s Avengers really flexes its muscles.

All Together Now

Learning more about each individual character through the Hero missions seems like a great way to delve into the lore of this title and the universe it exists in, but the Avengers are all about teaming up to save the day. With Warzones, you can take on missions with up to four players online, or offline alongside A.I. companions. All the customization you do with your heroes plays an even bigger role in Warzone missions, as not only are you bringing your tailor-made Avenger into the mission, but any A.I. characters you fight alongside are the versions you made using the Skills, Gear, and cosmetics.

The Hero missions are meant to advance the story, but Warzones also take place within the narrative, with the team coming together to fight AIM. As such, you continue earning experience and upgrades from completing these missions, even if they aren’t primarily designed with advancing the story in mind. You get missions from peripheral Marvel characters like Tony Stark’s A.I. Jarvis, SHIELD’s Maria Hill, or brilliant scientist Hank Pym. Once you select a mission, you jump into the Quinjet for matchmaking and hero selection.

Warzones take you all over the world, from remote locations to dense cities. Some Warzones are designed for team exploration and traversal, while others take place in tight corridors and buildings with a focus on combat. Each Warzone has a variety of objective-based missions and battles from which you can reap the rewards.

“There’s all these different things going on, and all of these are in different regions, so we could have built this giant, open-world game, but that wouldn’t have allowed us to have the Avengers be this global presence that can pretty much go anywhere and react to any threat,” Warzone director Phil Therien says. “Instead, we built regions that are basically small subsets of open world where we have many missions. That’s allowed us to have cities, forests, deserts, we can go underwater, we can go into orbit around the Earth. That really lets us tell the stories that we want to be telling with the Avengers.”

In addition to Warzones, you also work to repair your helicarrier and work with different resistance factions, headed up by recognizable comic characters like Dum Dum Dugan and Nick Fury. As you raise your reputation with these various factions, you gain access to new vendors, challenges, and items. You’ll want to have access to these powerful allies as new heroes, threats, and regions emerge as a part of Crystal Dynamics’ live-service roadmap.

The Journey To Be Worthy

While Marvel’s Avengers is much larger in scope than the A-Day footage Crystal Dynamics debuted with, feedback on that small slice was intense and plentiful, which helped the team decide on the four-month delay. “We wanted to respond to fan feedback,” creative director Shaun Escayg says. “We wanted to get the opportunity to polish and create a world worth playing in for years to come, but also give the opportunity to hear what the fans wanted, see how we could improve in areas that we have already invested in the storyline and timeline, and also perceive what the future of this game could be, how big it can be, how powerful it can be, how moving it can be.”

When I played the opening sequence last year, I loved how Black Widow, Hulk, and Captain America felt, but playing as the powerful Thor or the tech-loaded Iron Man just didn’t give me the sense of power I wanted to feel as I blasted through waves of enemies. When I ask Escayg what exactly the team addressed with the added time, he specifically references those two heroes as if on cue. “We wanted the characters to look, feel, especially play certain ways so that you weren’t just passively watching or feeling like you were bombarded by cutscenes, but you would feel that power on the stick,” Escayg says. “You would experience Thor’s hammer, experience Iron Man’s blast, and feel mighty as opposed to simply looking at mighty stuff.”

With the delay behind them, and the release date a few short months away, the team at Crystal Dynamics doubled down on its commitment to releasing a game worthy of wielding Thor’s Mjolnir or Iron Man’s suit. The result, as shown in the War Table presentation, is a game that appears to have learned from its early missteps and has transformed into a game to once again be excited for.

The Road Forward

At launch, Marvel’s Avengers hopes to deliver an all-in-one superhero experience in line with the rich pedigree of Crystal Dynamics, but much like the comics and movies, the universe is always expanding. While you can purchase items from the in-game store, heroes, villains, and regions are planned to be added at no additional cost.

“If we look at the main campaign, that’s kind of Kamala in that perspective as the point-of-view character, reassembling your heroes, getting through the campaign, understanding AIM and MODOK, and that story, that’s just getting your team together,” studio head Scot Amos says. “Then, as we start adding more heroes and more regions, we actually will add more stories – like full stories that actually have a front and an end and like, ‘Hey, we’re introducing a new hero, and here’s an actual story arc through that particular region they may be a part of.’ That also includes new villains. We’ll actually get new villains – named villains – will start showing up. This world continually expands. It starts with AIM and it’s very much about understanding AIM and the situation with them, that will start evolving further and further as we get more content released month to month and even months past that.”

Much like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Crystal Dynamics is dropping subtle hints throughout the launch content to give players fuel to theorize about what’s next. “Some of the hooks we cast into the water on day one, you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of cool. AIM has this undersea base. It’s doing some cool technology. I wonder if that ever goes somewhere.’ Then later, we pay that off with, ‘Oh my gosh! That tied to this, and now this other character showed up!’” Amos says. “Those types of arcs are things we’re starting at the core level and then adding these heroes, regions, and villains at no additional cost.”

Crystal Dynamics hopes to regularly support Marvel’s Avengers with post-launch content for years to come, but first, it needs to drive home a strong launch to establish a fan base that would necessitate such a long-term roadmap. Following the success of another modern Marvel superhero game, Insomniac’s Spider-Man in 2018, Marvel’s Avengers has a lot to live up to. However, with the improvements shown in the recent footage, as well as the understanding the studio demonstrates about what it needed to improve upon from its initial reveal, the Avengers are once again looking mighty.

Categories: Games

Surgeon Simulator 2 Let's You Commit Braindead Surgery

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 23:20

Publisher: Bossa Studios Developer: Bossa Studios Platform: PC

The original Surgeon Simulator was a pioneer in the clumsy sim space – a genre that tasks players with completing somewhat mundane or routine tasks while contending with intentionally awkward control schemes. In Surgeon Simulator, players manipulated a surgeon's arm through several increasingly risky medical procedures. Thanks to its cumbersome interface, players were often as likely to cut off a patient’s limb as they were to perform a flawless procedure. However, a dash of chaotic physics and cartoonish visuals lent Surgeon Simulator's life-threatening antics a sense of carefree glee. 

“In the first game, you were locked into what we call diorama scale,” says senior game designer Nate Gallardo. “This time, the game is expanded in every single direction. So you have a fully-featured first-person character to control. You can run around. You can crouch. You can jump. And you have an even wider range of motions with the hand. We have a gesture system, so you can scroll through different gestures and communicate non-verbally. It's great for self-expression. In fact, we get a lot of people who just start dancing. We often get distracted by dancing ourselves. While testing levels, we often end up creating new dance moves."

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As in the first game, players still complete a variety of surgical procedure, such as amputating limbs or transplanting hearts. However, in Surgeon Simulator 2 players also have to solve environmental puzzles and navigate simple environmental barriers before they even enter the O.R. During one opening level, I explored a maze of hospital corridors in search of a keycard to unlock the operating room. Surgeon Simulator's controls are a bit awkward, and it took me a few minutes to complete simple tasks, such as picking up a syringe and injecting my patient. Still, I couldn't help but laugh as I fumbled with my tools and knocked over a nearby rack of medical equipment. 

In another level, I was tasked with replacing a patient’s gangrenous leg, but to get a new leg, I first had to find a fuse that unlock an electric door. Then I had to bring the old leg through a winding hallway and deposit it on a scale. Fresh legs are dispensed through vending machine-like contraptions. However, my patient’s new leg dropped onto a conveyor belt behind a glass enclosure, so my final task was to power on the conveyor belt.

While I contended with all of these ridiculous tasks, my patient was slowing bleeding out, which ratcheted up the tension. Fortunately, you can also find syringes full of extra blood or other chemicals that help stop the bleeding, which buys you more time. If your patient remains stable, attaching a new limb is as easy as pressing it against your patient, but if you're feeling cheeky, you can swap your patients legs and arms. Not only does this look absurd, Surgeon Simulator 2 actually considers this a successfully completed surgery, which is just one of the ways that Bossa wants to encourage players to have a good time. 

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“Humor is something that we spoke about a lot early on,” says Gallardo. “I'm personally not super keen on being delivered the jokes unless it's a game that's very good at that. Something I really enjoy is when I'm given the opportunity to create my own humor, whether that's on my own or with friends. Having that social situation where things go wrong is funny, but when things go right in an unexpected way is also funny. For me, that’s the richest vein of humor you can mine. We didn't want to force a bunch of gags that only work once on the player. For the most part, we want to set up situations where the humor and the comedic element is emergent, or the players bring it themselves."

While the original Surgeon Simulator included a multiplayer mode that let a second player control the doctor’s other hand, Surgeon Simulator 2’s multiplayer lets up to four players control their own doctor. Having that many gloved hands in the operating room is a little chaotic, but the results are often hilarious. 

When you and your friends are done with Bossa’s set of pre-made story missions, you can work together to design your own levels in Creation Mode. Bossa says its already seen a wild assortment of creative levels that range from two-player time attacks to team-based basketball games to dioramas based on Alice in Wonderland. Once you’ve completed your masterpiece, you can upload it onto Bossa’s hosting service where you can also rate and review other fan-made content. If all this content is as creative as it sounds, hapless medical professionals should have an endless stream of surgeries to perform when Surgeon Simulator 2 releases in August.

Categories: Games

Breaking Hearts & Making Plays

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 16:17

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Publisher: EA Sports Developer: EA Tiburon Release: August 28, 2020 Rating: Everyone Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC

Reveal trailers are just that – they're meant to debut the game but not necessarily explain it. The other week Madden 21 had its debut, teasing some of this year's features but not going in more depth to what would be happening. That paves the way for today, with developer EA Tiburon a new trailer covering gameplay aspects on both sides of the ball.

Usually when a feature for offense is added there needs to be a counter on defense, and vice versa. This year the addition of more right stick moves applies equally to everyone. Defensive linemen's moves are now all on the right stick and triggers, and there's actually an optional onscreen meter showing how many you have left. Furthermore, offensive linemen learn from what you've done, so you'll need a varied arsenal to penetrate into the backfield.

Out in the open field, ball carriers are getting the side hurdle and a dead-leg pause. Both seem like they're less time-consuming and transition easier into continuing to run that the traditional full juke and jump back. Thus, it'll be interesting to see how balanced they are considering normal spin moves are already strong against players without a tackling superstar ability.

Speaking of making tackles, defenders will have another tool available to them through stuttering breakdown steps that help them prepare and size up an open field tackle.

These additions – as well as more animations for post-play momentum, sideline activity, QB throws, and user-generated celebrations for non-TD events like sacks and first downs – can help the game look good on your TV. However, the real test will be how accurate the game is at triggering and resolving these animations correctly, something I mention as one of the challenges for the series this year.

Of course, we won't know how it all plays out until we get our hands on the game. EA Tiburon will have to blend all these situations together to make the experience seamless, providing that flow like that of a great running back or defensive end.

Madden NFL 21 Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC Release Date: August 28, 2020 Purchase
Categories: Games

Deadly Premonition 2 Trailer Invites You To Visit Le Carre

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 16:09

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Publisher: Rising Star Games Developer: Toybox Inc. Release: July 10, 2020 Platform: Switch

Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise moves the action from Greenvale, Washington, to the charming Southern town of Le Carre, Louisiana. And although it's been a decade since the first game debuted, the game's latest trailer shows that not a lot has changed – for better or worse.

The clip shows off some of the side activities that agent Francis York Morgan can spend time on, including target practice and bowling. We also get a glimpse at some of the town, as well as a few shots of some incredibly odd scenes. What is going on with that frozen corpse?

Deadly Premonition 2 is coming to the Switch on July 10.

Categories: Games

Marvel's Avengers Is A PS5 And Xbox Series X Launch Title That Will Give Free Next-Gen Upgrades

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 00:17

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal Release: September 4, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia), 2020 (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X) Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC

Update: Square Enix has confirmed that Marvel's Avengers will be a launch title on both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, and that a free upgrade to these versions will be available to players who buy either the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One versions. Players who do take advantage of this offer will also be able to move their save files as well. The upgrade only works within the same console family (PlayStation 4 to PlayStation 5, Xbox One to Xbox Series X). Additionally, just as PS5 players can play with PS4 players, Xbox Series X players will be able play with Xbox One players.

However, Crystal Dynamics has not yet confirmed the advantages the Xbox Series X version will have over the Xbox One. Instead, Square Enix says we will learn more about Xbox Series X, PC, and Stadia features at a later time. 

Original Story (6/22/2020 at 5:38 p.m. CT):

Ahead of its War Table presentation scheduled for Wednesday, Crystal Dynamics has detailed how Marvel's Avengers will benefit from the upgrade from PlayStation 4 to PlayStation 5. In addition, the studio revealed that everyone who picks up a digital or physical PlayStation 4 copy will receive a PlayStation 5 upgrade at no additional cost.

According to a PlayStation Blog post from Crystal Dynamics' chief technology officer, Gary Snethen, the team received PS5 development kits and immediately got to work on a PS5 version. "PS5 greatly lifts the performance and graphics bar for consoles," he said. "The new GPU allows us to increase our texture resolution, push a higher level of detail farther from the player, enhance our ambient occlusion, improve our anisotropic filtering and add a variety of new graphics features such as stachastic screen-space reflections with contact-aware sharpening."

On PlayStation 5, Marvel's Avengers will offer enhanced graphics mode for the highest image quality possible, as well as a high framerate mode that will run at 60 FPS with dynamic 4K resolution. The company is also looking into ways to leverage the new technology of the DualSense controller.

Snethen also touts the high-speed SSD of the PS5 as a major advantage the next-gen hardware provides over the current platforms. "This is a transformative improvement in consoles that will reduce load times down to one or two seconds and enable real-time streaming of massive worlds at ridiculously fast speeds," he said. "Without any optimization work, the loading and streaming of Marvel's Avengers improved by an order of magnitude on the PS5. When optimization is complete, loading content will be nearly instant, allowing players to seamlessly jump into missions anywhere in the game world."

In addition to offering the free upgrade from PlayStation 4 to PlayStation 5, Crystal Dynamics also announced PS5 players can play online with PS4 players. Marvel's Avengers is set to launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia on September 4, and will launch alongside PlayStation 5 when the console releases this holiday season. Neither Square Enix or Crystal Dynamics has confirmed an Xbox Series X release.

[Source: PlayStation Blog]

Categories: Games