Games

Marvel's Spider-Man Review: Amazing Fantasy

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 09/04/2018 - 15:00

You can't go past Spider-Man's best stories without a good duality--the awkwardness of Peter Parker versus the confidence of his alter ego, the relatable humanity of his adversaries versus their heinous deeds, and the age-old ditty about juggling power and responsibility. Insomniac's take on Spider-Man juggles dualism too, not just in its narrative themes but its mechanical execution. Intense boss fights are balanced with leisurely exploration. You'll make the most of Spidey's acrobatic abilities in the open world, but also the mundane abilities of his less super-powered allies in linear stages. Dualities usually suggest there's a poorer trait, but they're often integral in characterizing the whole. That's Insomniac's Spider-Man--it's a fantastic experience that completely absorbs you into its unique slice of the Marvel universe, and while that's partly defined by a slew of menial tasks, it becomes easy to forgive, because they're part of what helps complete the fantasy of becoming a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

It's obvious to point out that a lot of the ideas in Marvel's Spider-Man have already appeared in a number of existing video game interpretations of the character--surely one of the pitfalls of revisiting something so perennially popular. But where Insomniac's version elevates itself, and where it makes an immediate impact, is in the slick presentation that neatly wraps major parts of the experience. It's obvious that the last decade of Marvel Cinematic Universe releases has had an effect here--its photorealistic slant shies away from any overt association to comic books. Bright, saturated colors and stirring orchestral hooks are ever-present, and sweeping angles with camera effects majestically frame Spidey's signature combat style and acrobatics around the city, emphasizing them as the hyperreal feats they are.

But it's the story that has benefited from Marvel's popular cinematic formula the most. Insomniac's interpretation spends a lot of time focusing on the human side of the tale, and Marvel's Spider-Man features some solid understated performances. Peter Parker is an experienced Spidey, but still suitably dorky, and his relationships with the important people in his life have a major role to play. The game spends ample time dwelling on supporting characters, a move which aids later narrative developments in producing more effective impacts.

There's always an interesting dynamic with superhero stories--you'll likely be able to accurately predict the fates of characters you're familiar with, but going along for that ride regardless and watching with bated interest to see how things unfold this time around is where the value lies. Marvel's Spider-Man takes inspiration from an Amazing Spider-Man storyline penned by Dan Slott, who is credited as a writer here. Peter's elderly Aunt May works at a homeless shelter run by Martin Li, an entrepreneur with a selfless heart of gold, but also a more negative side. Needless to say, things get complicated and worlds collide, but Insomniac takes multiple hard detours from the source material.

Li and other antagonists also benefit from a generous amount of time devoted to exploring their humanity, through both cutscenes as well as environmental storytelling. Marvel's Spider-Man features segments where you explore key locations as Peter Parker, observing spaces, finding audio logs, listening to Pete's self-narration, chatting with characters, and playing minigames passed off as "scientific research." You'll also occasionally step into the shoes of other characters like Mary Jane, a Daily Bugle journalist in this timeline, as she dives into a more involved investigation using her own unique sets of skills.

Mary Jane's stages feature rudimentary stealth mechanics on top of regular exploration, and her clandestine skillset becomes more diverse as you continue to revisit her side of the story. These mechanics aren't particularly demanding and you don't use them enough to wear out their welcome, but these supporting segments do feature some memorably tense scenarios and as a whole do help create a stronger attachment to the characters. It's easy to find yourself feeling more involved.

All this narrative build-up pays off in a big way, too, and when the game does reach its tipping point, it's shocking how devastating the events can feel--even if you can predict what's coming. Marvel's Spider-Man is very good at making its stakes feel sky-high, evil actions genuinely villainous, consequences actually upsetting. The story is emotionally charged and effective at spurring you into action--late in the game, there's an urgency that builds up and succeeds in creating the superhero's dilemma of being pulled in multiple places at once, each option a dire situation, and the circumstances make you feel helpless despite your supernatural abilities. It's an incredible feeling, and the major beats of Spider-Man's story missions are certainly one of the game's highlights.

The high bar set in the main plot shines a harsher light on the rest of the game's activities, though. The game features a number of side quests, most of which branch off the main story, but these don't have the same narrative energy as the main throughline, which makes them much less compelling. There are also a number of other optional activities, all ostensibly moderate tests of skill asking you to exercise your abilities in combat, traversal, or stealth. These challenges can be unique, but the dressing on them can also be uninspired, making them strange at best (curing avian flu in pigeons) and menial at worst (three different kinds of horde mode-style challenges).

Dealing with trivial matters are all part of being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, of course. Randomly occurring crimes, as well as two different collectible-hunting activities that encourage you to explore the city, are the activities that best embody this idea, despite becoming repetitive. But when tasks like backing up computer data, relieving the city's steam pipe pressure, or catching pigeons suddenly become Spidey's number one, life-or-death priority when there's some pretty serious stuff going on in the main story, it's hard not to be a little bewildered.

The best incentive to complete activities is tied to progression--each type offers its own unique tokens as the reward, used to purchase new suits, gadgets, and upgrades. Oddly, the most exciting activities are the ones plainly labeled as "Challenge Missions." These ask you to push yourself in time trials to break a series of benchmarks records for bonus tokens. Completing challenge missions are surprisingly the most motivating and rewarding of all the activities, even containing some special surprises.

The strangest part about the game's activities lies in the use of a trite open-world mechanic: tower reveals. You begin the game with a blank world map, and it's necessary to make time to traverse through each of Manhattan's neighborhoods to find and reactivate a number of towers in order to uncover the map and pinpoint optional activities. There is some light narrative justification for this (Spidey needs to get access to local police radio for info on crimes) but it doesn't address the puzzling nature of a veteran Spider-Man not innately knowing how to get around New York City.

However, for all the bewildering mundanity, the optional activities do provide some welcome relief in pacing from the more intense episodes of the main story. In fact, the game at times will give Spidey (and by extension, you) dedicated time for breaks in between missions to clear your head with some silly, low-stakes activities. And in the end, despite their obvious flaws, they are undeniably irresistible to seek out and complete, purely because they act as a satisfactory enough reason to get out there and play with Spider-Man's sensational web-slinging mechanics.

Swinging around New York as Spider-Man is endlessly fulfilling. It's a relatively straightforward system that isn't overly demanding on inputs, but the minor adjustments and variables in terrain you need to consider while in motion (webs require tangible attach points), as well as the weighty feeling of Spidey makes the process feel satisfyingly manual--there's just enough effort required to make you feel as if it's all on you. During a big swing, you may decide to hold on for just a little longer so you can leap higher and gain elevation. Then, while mid-somersault, you scan the environment and assess that a water tower atop a building you cleared is the best next option, so you accurately shoot a web to zip to its vertex, but when Spidey makes contact, you perfectly time a jump and push off with a bonus burst of forward momentum.

The fluid animations, visual effects, and controller rumble play a big part in selling the intensity, the speed and the giddiness of flinging yourself through the air. Spidey transitions between different movement techniques seamlessly in most cases, and there's also a slowdown mechanic that assists in helping you make more accurate and graceful traversal decisions. Holding L2 will slow down time to a crawl and let you manually aim a zip-to-point maneuver, but also let you initiate surprise attacks on enemies or perform other tasks--taking a photo of an iconic NYC monument to complete a challenge mid-swing, for example, can give you a wonderful feeling of competency. Because it's such an involved task, swinging around is Spider-Man's greatest joy. Despite its simplicity, every move you connect feels like a small victory, and the pace is rhythmic enough that putting in the effort to move elegantly becomes an absorbing experience.

There's a similar gratification to be had from Spider-Man's combat. The Arkham Asylum-inspired crowd fighting system suitably characterizes Spidey's acrobatic nature, and like web-slinging, observing the enemies and environment to find your next best move makes it a satisfying puzzle. It only takes a few hits for Spidey to go down, so picking the right gadgets and powers for the job, using the right techniques for different kinds of enemies, being proactive in using your skills to manage overwhelming groups, and working to earn buffs and long combos by focusing on hitting your attacks and dodges with perfect timing keeps even relatively unchallenging encounters interesting.

Combat-specific challenges also encourage you to mix up your technique, but it's the fluid transitions between attacks and the appearance of a natural flow that again sell the excitement. Spidey's flashy finishers and their over-the-top camera movements work to add some pizazz in addition to being an excellent tool in their own right, though you'll see these animations countless time throughout the course of the game, and they do start to lose their impact. This also true of the optional stealth mechanics which, while effective, will often see you watching the same stealth takedown animations again and again if you choose to go down that path.

What helps curb the monotony of combat later in the game are the story's boss battles. These fights are intensely chaotic affairs, featuring unique takedowns and bombastic set pieces. Though the solution to beating them doesn't take much to figure out, your opponents attack relentlessly, meaning you'll have to constantly stay on your toes, moving and dodging around while waiting for an opening--a dynamic that feels very true to the character, which goes a long way in making these moments memorable.

Minor shortcomings don't detract from Insomniac's achievement in creating a game that feels like an authentic interpretation of a beloved creation. The feeling of embodying Spidey and using his abilities is astonishing, and the time spent on exploring its major characters help make its story feel heartfelt, despite superhero bombast. There have been open-world Spider-Man games before, but none so riveting and full of personality, none that explore and do justice to this many facets of the universe. Insomniac has created a superior Spider-Man experience that leaves a lasting impression, one that has you longing for just one more swing around New York City, even after the credits roll.

Categories: Games

Planet Alpha Review: A Beautiful Planet

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 09/04/2018 - 09:00

From the outset, Planet Alpha is purposefully vague about what is going on. Your unnamed protagonist, a non-entity in an unrevealing spacesuit, limps through a series of harsh environments during the game's opening. After a minute, they stagger and collapse only to awake in a new area. The how and why of this event and everything that happens afterward never become important. This is a game of mystery and discovery where you're never sure who you are, where you're heading, or why you're on this glorious, mysterious planet. Planet Alpha does not have answers to the questions you might have--it's a sightseeing tour of a planet that feels truly alien, by way of a 2D puzzle platformer.

The sights and locations you'll see and explore are varied, with each of the game's chapters taking you to a different environment. You move through catacombs, jungles, enormous architectural structures, and even across islands floating in the sky. There is beauty in every environment, but nothing beats the deep backgrounds of the game's numerous outdoor sections, which teem with life and a sense of history. It's clear that something has gone terribly wrong on the eponymous planet and watching it all unfold--occasionally becoming involved in incidents as they break out--is a pleasure. While you might leave without a clear idea of what just happened, there's a coherency to Planet Alpha that suggests some deeply established lore.

From its opening moments through to its closing credits, Planet Alpha is stunning. It's the sort of game that dedicated screenshot buttons were made for--you feel like a tourist taking holiday snaps, only you're coming home with pictures of giant squid-aliens, bioluminescent plants, and inter-species battles that break out in the distance. There's no UI on the screen, so you can really appreciate how beautiful everything looks. The camera often zooms out to let you take in the scope and beauty of your surroundings and the vistas that stretch to a distant horizon. A large part of the appeal is wondering what you might see around the corner.

Planet Alpha focuses on platforming puzzles--you'll frequently have to move climbable boxes and figure out how to avoid the hostile creatures and robots that inhabit the planet. There are no real head-scratchers though, and succeeding is mostly a matter of paying attention to your environment and timing your actions well. Getting past enemies usually requires either some rudimentary stealth (like hiding among foliage or behind a pillar until an enemy moves) or luring them into danger. This can be frustrating since the AI patterns of your enemies are unpredictable, but the feeling of relief in finally managing to lure a killer robot to its death is always satisfying. Several sections can be solved through trial and error, and running forward and getting killed is sometimes the easiest way to work out how to avoid getting killed next time--respawning is very quick, and changes you make to the environment persist.

For reasons never fully explained, you also have the power to rotate the planet with the shoulder buttons. At first, you're only able to do this in designated spots, but later in the game you can do it anywhere. This means that you can switch from daytime to nighttime, making use of the day/night cycle and the fact that some elements of the environment change between the two. For instance, during the day, a mushroom might appear as a platform you can jump on, and at night some plants awaken and unfurl, allowing you to use them as cover as you sneak through an area. Rotating the planet can also move elements within the environment, so a platform might rise or shift, or a door might open if you rotate in the right direction. These puzzles are interesting, but they're rarely challenging or clever, and while the world rotation ability feels inherently grand when you first start using it, there are no unexpected twists or new interesting wrinkles in how this mechanic works. There’s beauty in watching the shift happen, though, as luminescent plants glow in the moonlight and the dawning sun casts a glorious light across the planet.

Planet Alpha gets trickier when you're asked to perform death-defying physical feats. Large sections of the game feel reminiscent of Uncharted and its ilk, as you scramble up walls and leap between pillars, or slide down an embankment and jump at just the right moment to avoid falling to your doom. These moments can be quite exciting, and there are plenty of great scripted sequences throughout the game that see you just barely surviving as you run, jump and climb away from danger. But the controls can feel stiff in instances where precision is required, and sometimes you'll fall to your death because your last-microsecond jump didn't register or because you character doesn't grab the ledge for some reason.

This is an especially big issue during a handful of sequences that warp you into what seems to be another dimension, a trippy, dark void full of huge floating blocks where gravity is greatly reduced. These sections are weird, even by "mysterious game set on an alien planet" standards, but their pure focus on low-gravity platforming can be exciting at times. Flinging across long jumps is exhilarating--if you're on a moving block and jump from it right as it comes to a stop you'll be sent flying, which allows for traversal puzzles on a bigger scale than anything outside of the void. But these areas can also get frustrating when the physics aren't quite gelling and you're finding yourself being flung further than expected, desperately wishing you could wall jump off the floating pillars you're smacking into.

While there are moments of frustration in its platforming, and the puzzles are relatively unsophisticated, the locations of Planet Alpha will most certainly stick with you. It doesn't matter why you're there, or what it is you're looking for. There's great pleasure in just existing on this planet, in navigating its harsh terrain and admiring its vistas, and the sheer beauty of it all makes the game's shortcomings easy to bear.

Categories: Games

Super Meat Boy Forever Shows How You Fight A Boss In An Auto Runner

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 09/03/2018 - 20:44

In the world of video games, "auto runner" is a four-letter word. It conjures up free-to-play mobile titles and endless runners that conveniently offer you the opportunity to keep playing when you fail for a price. In some ways, it is a simplification of the platforming genre, but games like Super Mario Run and Rayman Run have proven that plenty of fun and challenge can be found when you're not in charge of your forward momentum.

Super Meat Boy Forever is an auto runner, but nothing about it feels simplified or cheap as a result of now belonging to this new platforming sub-genre. In the original Meat Boy, you were generally leaning left or right on the control stick sprinting in one direction at full speed anyway, so now that the game is taking care of that action for you, you are free to focus on his new punching and ducking abilities. It makes everything faster, while still giving you the satisfaction of completing incredibly difficult challenges.

Talking with developer Tommy Refenes while playing through a handful of levels, he says bosses posed a particular challenge in Forever in a few ways. In the last game, bosses were basically gauntlets of avoidance. You didn’t beat the boss so much as you just didn’t get hit by it. In Forever, Meat Boy is always moving and can now punch, so Refenes wanted him to be an active participant in a boss’ destruction (by hitting them), while maintaining his momentum.

helping out a bit with animating for #SuperMeatBoyForever / @SuperMeatBoy !! Here's a part I animated pic.twitter.com/bvLJElwUZh

— temmie (@tuyoki) September 2, 2018

The boss we fought was a new take on Lil’ Slugger, now carrying two chainsaws as it climbed upward through a giant shaft. To defeat the boss I had to jump back and forth between the shaft’s walls dodging the dual chainsaws while attacking a set of glowing red lights. The safe bet was to punch the lights once and move on, getting back to safety, but you can also punch the lights multiple times if you’re fast enough. Taking down the boss took a few tries, but hitting all its weak points was a satisfying exercise in timing and speed.

One thing missing from my demo at PAX that Refenes says will be in the final game is the collection of overlapping replays showcasing all your hard work and attempts in one rewarding round-up. Refenes says in the final game, you will see a lot more than just Meat Boy in the replay as it will also account for all the assorted mobile obstacles, like missiles, that were part of each attempt.

For more on Super Meat Boy Forever, head here for 14 reasons why we're excited for the Meat Boy sequel. The game releases this year on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Switch, and mobile platforms.

Categories: Games

12 Minutes Of Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country Gameplay

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 09/03/2018 - 17:00

During PAX West 2018 we got a chance to play the upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles 2 expansion/prequel Torna – The Golden Country. The new chapter follows a new party of characters, takes place 500 years before the events of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and features a reworked combat system that gives you direct control over more direct control over Blades. You can see it all in actin in the video above.

Torna – The Golden Country releases as part of Xenoblade Chronicles 2's expansion pass as a digital download on September 14, but will also be available physically September 21.

Categories: Games

Hands-On With Artifact At PAX West 2018

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 09/01/2018 - 23:43

I had plenty of questions going into my demo for Valve's upcoming card game Artifact. How could the three lane structure be anything but a mess? It's true, you essentially are playing 3 different games at the same time - and you need to "win" two of them. After several games (I went back to the booth several times because frankly, I'm already hooked), any concerns I had about the game vanished. Somehow, Valve has crafted a simple to understand but insanely complex strategy game that rewards careful planning and execution.

The game uses Dota 2 lore and characters as inspiration, but outside of that and the fact that it has three lanes, there's no need to have any knowledge of the MOBA. This is a card/strategy title at its core, and I'm almost certain that it has much more to offer Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone, and Gwent players than the core Dota audience.

Conceptually, you play five heroes in each of the three lanes. Heroes often have passive and active abilities that key into their Dota counterparts, like Earthshaker stunning enemies in his lane, Crystal Maiden providing additional resources, or Lycan buffing up his allies. Some, like Axe, have no abilities at all and are just "stat sticks" with high numbers. The goal is to defeat the enemy tower in 2 lanes, or take down an ancient (ancients have truckloads of hit points and only appear after a lane's tower is defeated), which is significantly more challenging and requires absurd lane dominance or a strategy designed to focus on that goal alone.

Gameplay took some getting used to. There are an absurd amount of moving parts, but it's a refreshing and delicious complexity that lets you plan moves far in advance, make interesting decisions about how to allocate resources, and consider each card played, in what order, and when. My first few games took quite a while in comparison to other digital card games, but the game time was cut down significantly by my third game - around 20 minutes.

Essentially, it's a game about taking turns playing cards or passing. In this fashion, it's very reactive - if you have a healing potion in hand, it's probably best to use it on your injured hero early on in a turn, because your opponent is probably holding some kind of damage card or ability, saving it until later could result in your hero not be around to heal. In addition, all cards are "color coded". Simply, to play a blue spell you need a blue hero in the active lane. In this fashion, stacking all your blue characters in one lane is probably a terrible idea, as you will be able to play blue cards there but nowhere else. You can build a deck around a single color or play all four, but you had better have a real good plan if you're attempting to roll that way (and internally at Valve, there are apparently some very powerful 4 color decks)

The item deck is just as important as your hand, as is knowing when to spend your money. Gold is a resource separate from mana and can be hoarded to purchase extremely powerful items that can swing lanes and even games, but saving coins in your piggy bank may cause you to be overwhelmed and outmatched, leading to an early defeat. Again, it seems like a deluge of different things to keep track of, and it can be intimidating at first, but it flows smoothly after a few rounds.

As games play out, you must constantly analyze the game state and make decisions accordingly. Is it worth pulling out of the first lane completely because your opponent has invested a ton of resources there and focus on smashing the other two? Should you go all in on one lane and attempt to defeat the ancient? The correct decision may shift rapidly as more heroes and items land on the table. Some cards can be played from one lane into different lanes, adding yet another layer of strategy and texture. Let's say you have taken over a lane and the opponent has (wisely) started focusing efforts elswhere. You can still get value out of that lane by using your heroes to play cards into other lanes, like a blue effect that does damage to enemies in the lane every turn, or spells and abilities that let you draw cards - your hand is shared between all lanes, so you can turn the lane you're already winning into a resource station to help win fights in the others.

I was concerned the game would be slow (Matches are definitely longer than other card games) but they don't feel slow at all once you have two players with some idea of what they are doing. It's a fast back and forth, with major decisions happening at every turn. The three lane structure somehow works, and offers compelling strategy decisions. The characters and cards are fun and powerful, and even the 4 pre-constructed decks I had a chance to play with gave a great taste of potential deckbuilding considerations once players get to build on their own. From econ ramp to board control to big big buffs, there's going to be a strategy for everyone.

I can't wait to play more Artifact, and with the beta coming in October, I thankfully won't have to wait too long.

Categories: Games

Anthem Gets A Trailer Today And A Demo Early Next Year

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 09/01/2018 - 21:30

The latest trailer for Anthem, released alongside PAX West 2018, has some bold statements to make about the potential of its narrative. The trailer promises Anthem will be, "A reinvention of personal narrative in a multiplayer game," which is a bold promise. The trailer also shows off new gameplay, and what will likely some of the important characters you will meet over the course of your adventure.

We also got a few details about when players across the world will be able to get their hands on the game. EA has announced there will be a demo for Anthem starting February 1 to anyone who's pre-ordered it or has EA Access.

While that demo date is fairly set at this point, EA didn't rule out the possibility of of other alphas or betas for the game to test servers or other features. This demo is simply a way for players to get their hands on the game.

While you wait for the demo, you can check out the trailer below.

For more on Anthem, you can check out this screenshot gallery with new images from the game.

 

You can also click on the banner below for all of our exclusive features from when Anthem was our cover story.

Categories: Games

Freedom Planet Review -- Speedy Ambitions

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 09/01/2018 - 15:00

As a 2D platformer, Freedom Planet draws much of its inspiration from classic Sonic the Hedgehog. The game exhibits a riveting sense of speed, lively retro visuals and music, and clever level design packed with exciting touches. Challenging large-scale boss fights typically reserved for 2D side-scrolling shoot 'em ups, such as Gunstar Heroes and Contra, are frequent and satisfying. There's great ambition in what Freedom Planet manages to blend together, and while some of its highest moments are accompanied by a few blemishes that are difficult to look past, it's still a joy to play.

Freedom Planet's story starts out simple: when an alien force invades the peaceful planet of anthropomorphic protagonists Lilac, Carol, and Milla, the three are called upon to help thwart the tyrannical ambitions of its evil leader, Lord Brevon. Despite sounding rudimentary, the story makes a big show of itself with lengthy cutscenes interspersed between each of its 10 stages. There's a great amount of detail written into the world and surrounding lore with characters and locations given more background than you'd expect.

Unfortunately, none of this development ever amounts to anything remarkable or intriguing, often relying on a bevy of tropes to push the narrative forward. What's worse is the main cast's painfully overacted performances, which results in a litany of cringeworthy moments in both funny and serious scenes. It is possible to play the game in Classic Mode, which removes all the story cutscenes. While this benefits the experience as a whole, you simply wouldn't know this to be the best way to play the game without having experienced the mediocrity of its writing and presentation first.

Where Freedom Planet is likely to hook you is in its level design. There's a ton of pleasure to be had zipping to and fro across the varied multi-lane pathways of each stage, which feature a wealth of loops to pass and well-placed hazards to avoid. The routes are generally easy to navigate with brief platforming challenges that keep you moving from one pathway to the next. Like the 2D Sonic games that inspired it, Freedom Planet's stages are split across two parts, but the separation between them isn't heavily signposted, instead pushing you from one section to the next as soon as a boss is defeated. This subtle shift increases your time spent running across stages, and as each one comes to close, you'll feel a stronger sense of accomplishment to the trials and tribulations you experienced in your journey through it.

Each stage exudes its own personality, and there's plenty of visual diversity present. You'll clear through shopping malls inspired by Chinese-motifs, explore bamboo forests, and cross a fleet of airships. There's some decent pixelated art on display, but a lot of it appears flat with textures from the foreground and background often blending together, which can cause minor inconveniences during certain platforming challenges.

Speaking of which, a higher focus on platforming provides some welcomed respite from racing towards a stage's finish line. In addition, you'll often stick around in some areas to engage in melee combat against crowds of enemies. All of this is aided by how each of the three playable characters have their own distinct modes of navigation and combat. While Lilac can use her Dragon Boost ability to instantly zip across the environment and make short work of enemies in her way, the more combat-oriented Carol and defense-focused Milla have to rely on their pounce and energy shield abilities, respectively, in order to pick up speed and dispatch foes. Each of their abilities lead you toward new paths you wouldn't be able to reach otherwise, and you're rewarded for putting in the time as other characters, as they occasionally get their own stages designed specifically around their abilities.

Bookending Freedom Planet's stages are boss fights that are as tough as they are ostentatious. They're not too demanding at first, but as you progress, they start to require advanced tactics that test both your timing and reflexes. There's an impressive sense of scale to the battles. One fight has you dueling against a giant robotic mantis who jumps all around the battlefield to slice you, while another has you engaging in a high-speed chase with an an evil snake mercenary piloting a massive dog mech. These moments are some of Freedom Planet's most memorable, especially because each character has very different ways of dealing with them. Lilac has to rely on her standard melee and jumping spin attacks to hit bosses, using her Dragon Boost to fly up in the air to avoid screen-filling attacks. On the other hand, Carol doesn't have the same conveniences as Lilac, instead relying on precision platforming and her wall jump ability to avoid larger boss attacks.

Lilac and Carol are the definite highlights of the roster, as their utilitarian movesets make them a joy to use. Both characters are rewarding to play in their own right, providing their own unique thrills and challenges. However, the same can't be said for Milla, whose abilities feel more like an afterthought to round out the pack. Compared to her more able-bodied comrades, Milla lacks any meaningful way to quickly pick up speed, which often slows down the pacing of levels that are more built around moving swiftly. Her energy shield's short range is a pain to use, and its various attacks aren't all that functional when you're moving through areas filled with enemies due to their slow startup.

Milla's abilities are admittedly entertaining to use against bosses--whose difficult patterns oftentimes feel more built around the abilities of Lilac and Carol. At times, these instances feel like they're weighed against you, but they often pave way to tense and fulfilling uphill battles that demand you to act more defensively. A momentary satisfaction, this sense of reward quickly wears off when you begin a new stage and realize just how much you're bypassing threats simply because of how long it takes for Milla to fight against normal enemies.

Despite echoing the design of early 2D Sonic games, Freedom Planet manages to create its own take on the formula that's well worth playing. For a game that emphasizes tightly-paced stage design and challenging boss fights, it's disappointing that the game's story never reaches the same heights. But if you have any vested interest in Sonic-like games or 2D action-platformers, you'd be remiss not to add this one to your queue--just make sure to play in Classic Mode.

Categories: Games

Devil May Cry 5 PAX Panel Reveals Nero's Devil Breakers, Nico Concepts, And More

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 09/01/2018 - 01:55

At PAX this year, Devil May Cry 5’s heads sat down in the Wyvern Theater to hold a panel on the latest game in the stylish action series. It’s been a whirlwind tour for senior producer Michiteru Okabe, producer Matt Walker, and director Hideaki Itsuno, coming to PAX West in Seattle after announcing the game only a few months ago at E3 and then showing it playable for the first time last week at Gamescom. Today, the trio sat in front of an audience of DMC5 fans to give a bit more info on their next evolution in action gameplay.

The discussion eased the three developers in by talking about their favorite aspects of the series and their favorite characters within it. Itsuno, who started on the series with Devil May Cry 2, likes Dante’s brother Vergil the best of all the characters in the series. This is because, while Vergil was introduced in a somewhat mindless form in the first game, Itsuno felt the character really came into his own and became the character everyone knows and loves in Devil May Cry 3.

Walker went with classic Dante, while Okabe said Nico, Nero’s mechanic from Devil May Cry 5, is his favorite. This dovetailed nicely into the panel explaining Nico’s humble origins, concepted as a woman that would go into battle with Nero to contrast Kyrie. This isn’t the first time Kyrie has been mentioned in regards to the game, going back as far the reveal trailer where Nero yells her name out without much context.

Early concept art of Nico was also shown, looking more than a little like rival action character Bayonetta, which is probably just a fun coincidence.

The team took the opportunity to announce new modes for the game, including a photo mode, so players can share their smokin’ sexy styles whenever they want. Another new mode is a gallery, which gives you descriptions and presumably backstory for different weapons, items, enemies, etc. alongside a model viewer. The final one is the requested training mode for players to perfect their combos outside of the game’s main story.

The panel was then able to share both of Nero’s revealed Devil Breakers, his robotic arms, and several unrevealed ones. The first one we already knew about was Overture, which is named such because it was the first Devil Breaker that Nico had ever made. It produces an electric pulse and can aim at the ground, in front of Nero, and in the air. The second was flower-themed Gerbera, which has different attacks depending on if Nero uses it in the air or on the ground. The ground attack, Stamen Ray, is a large laser that move around. The air attack petal ray is multiple lasers being shot at all angles.

The first new Devil Breaker shown was the Punch Line, a bow-shaped wrist with a fist at the end of it. This arm acts as a rocket, punching enemies autonomously while Nero fights. Nero can also jump on top of it and surf around the area, which Itsuno made sure to point out was “something young teenagers would find cool.”

Next was the Tomboy, which powers up Nero’s Blue Rose shotgun and his sword Red Queen. The name is meant to hew closer to the Japanese definition of Tomboy, which is a woman that pushes past normal limitations. In Nero’s case, the Tomboy makes his weapons too powerful for him to control, so he loses the ability to lock on while using it.

Ragtime lets Nero stop time, giving him 2-3 seconds to simply beat on enemies around him. They take their damage while time is frozen, so it doesn’t just all happen at once when the Devil Breaker’s effect ends.

Helter Skelter is a drill that looks like blades curved around each other. When Nero buries his arm into an enemy, hammering the B or Circle button forces the drill deeper into the demon and opens it up so the blades fan out for two levels of charge. It’s not pleasant.

Finally, the last Devil Breaker shown is called Rawhide. This weapon becomes a whip, which can not only bring enemies toward you like Nero’s Devil Bringer in Devil May Cry 4, but whips around him to hit multiple enemies in his sphere of attack. While it didn’t look like it did a large amount of damage, it seemed like a way to keep enemies off Nero in the heat of the moment.

While the rest of the panel did not announce much, we did learn from Itsuno that Dante’s favorite pizza topping is pepperoni, so we’ve at least learned that.

Devil May Cry 5 releases on March 8 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 23:37

Insomniac today showed off a photo mode for the soon-to-release Spider-Man game on PS4. In a video that was part of Insomniac’s tweet (viewable below), you can see the flexibility on offer in the new mode, which allows quick freeze frames, rotations, filters, and plenty more; for enterprising fans, it seems like the mode would offer more than enough options to craft your very own Spidey comic book.

Check out Photo Mode, coming free to #SpiderManPS4 as part of our Day 1 Update! #BeGreater pic.twitter.com/rpRuGo2Yzk

— Insomniac Games (@insomniacgames) August 31, 2018

Spider-Man is coming exclusively to PS4 on September 7.

Categories: Games

Hitman 2 Heads To Columbia In New Video

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 21:53

Warner Bros. Interactive today pulled the curtain back on one of the settings of Hitman 2 – a tease of the Columbian rain forest, where Agent 47 once again stalks and assassinate his targets with his usual flair for drama.

The location looks like something of a change of pace for the series, which often feature more urban environments.

Hitman 2 is targeting release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, and the mission is set to begin on November 13.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 18:20

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is on its way to an exclusive launch on the Switch, and we now know when to expect it. Previously announced for a 2018 release, a tweet from Nintendo today revealed that the quirky hero’s new adventure will begin on January 18, 2019.

Get ready to wander into the game world and embark on a rampage of epic proportions when #TravisStrikesAgain: #NoMoreHeroes launches exclusively on #NintendoSwitch on Jan. 18! pic.twitter.com/O8L08zzJOJ

— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) August 31, 2018

The new game from Grasshopper Manufacture (directed by Suda51) sees the titular hero drawn into a corrupted video game console, leading to what sounds like a surreal adventure through eerily familiar video game landscapes as Travis aims to squash bugs in the code. The game is also set to include cooperative play with an additional player.

Watch the previously revealed trailer for Travis Strikes Again below. For more from Suda51, check out our interview with the Grasshopper Manufacture figurehead.

Categories: Games

Little Dragons Cafe Review - Dragging On

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 17:29

Little Dragons Cafe defies categorization. Despite being the latest endeavor from Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada, it's not a farming sim. While you have to manage your cafe, keeping the staff in line and adjusting the menu to fit your needs, it's also not really a management sim. You instead split your time between exploring with your dragon to hunt down recipes and ingredients and going hands-on at the cafe--and they combine to make a strangely satisfying loop. But Little Dragons Cafe is also held back by frustrating pacing problems in its story and progression, as well as technical hiccups that make it feel outdated.

In Little Dragons Cafe, you're one of a pair of twins whose mother has fallen into a deep sleep. You learn that she's part dragon, and in order to save her, you need to raise a dragon while also running the family cafe. You meet new cafe customers with problems of their own, and one by one, you help each of them through their struggles (mostly using food) to progress. There's a lot of silliness and cheerful platitudes throughout the story, and they're largely sweet, if a little corny; one customer, for example, is an angry young girl who learns to better understand her father through a comforting shrimp dish.

Each character's story is broken up into around a dozen short scenes, usually one per day. Early on, you'll only be able to explore the area immediately around the cafe; unlocking new areas is dependent on your dragon's size (two physically small stages and two stages that you can ride and fly on), which is in turn dependent on your progression through the story. The pace of the story lags behind that of exploration, and you'll find yourself ready to move on, having found every recipe and ingredient in the early areas, before the story structure will allow you to. The slowness feels forced and artificial, rather than a choice you make to fit the game's relaxed pastoral setting.

This early section is also dragged down by janky movement controls. You can jump, but it's clumsy, and you'll often have to tweak where you're standing slightly to actually get onto something. A hilly area in particular is filled with ledges you can jump down from but not back onto, forcing you to backtrack multiple times to reach everything on foot. Despite all that, though, you'll still outpace the story.

Little Dragons Cafe improves a lot once your dragon can fly. New regions, like a rocky cliffside set to upbeat music and a more subdued waterfall filled with rare ingredients, provide more variety in both your day-to-day exploration and in your cafe's menu. Flying eliminates all the problems with navigating on foot, and it becomes faster and easier to gather everything you need over the course of a day. Your cafe, too, becomes busier; you'll likely run out of ingredients faster than you can gather them, and you either have to consistently harvest what you need or plan your menu around what you have on hand. It's a satisfying balancing act that keeps you heading out day after day, even after you've thoroughly searched each area.

Creatively, cooking itself is a short rhythm minigame in which your accuracy helps determine the quality of the dish. The prompts often seem to be just off-beat, but the game is also forgiving, and creating high-quality dishes isn't difficult. The actual fun comes from coordinating your menu--in addition to regularly swapping out recipes as your ingredient stock fluctuates, you can check it to see which recipes are popular and which need to be swapped out for better ones. It's not a complex or deep system, and you don't have to try too hard to keep customers happy, but tinkering with it gives all that gathering a purpose.

You can also spend time on the actual operations of the cafe, including taking and serving orders, cleaning plates, and reining in the group of goofy weirdos that comprise the staff. While they're mostly likeable in cutscenes, the staff is not very helpful or efficient as employees and will frequently run into you and block your path as you try to complete tasks. They also slack off periodically, and while you can talk to them to get them back in line, the cafe won't suffer much for their poor performance. Generally, helping out in the cafe is busywork--the only incentive to do it is the guilt trip you might get from your sibling for shirking your responsibilities.

Little Dragons Cafe is heartwarming overall, with cute character designs and joyful music to accompany each colorful region. The dragon in particular is adorable as a baby, encouraging you to bond with (and feed) it as it grows. Unfortunately, texture shimmer, lag before cutscenes load, and limited lighting effects make it feel like a much older game than it is. The technical problems aren't obtrusive, but combined with the control and pacing issues, they do make Little Dragons Cafe feel like a much older game.

In many ways, Little Dragons Cafe doesn't really fit a modern mold. It's conservative with the goals it gives you, spacing out progression so much that it's easy to get impatient with it. None of your individual tasks are very complex or challenging, either. But when the right parts come together, it can be fun to succeed in its charming world, and it's easy to lose track of time hunting for hidden recipes or rare ingredients to make the best dishes possible. If anything, it's a lovely game to relax to--even if you're forced into a slow pace.

Categories: Games

Capcom Reveals New Mega Man 11 Robot Master, Impact Man

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 17:18

Capcom has gradually been unveiling the boss fights on offer in the forthcoming release of Mega Man 11 (including Torch Man and Blast Man) , and today we get a look at Impact Man. With a stage themed around building and construction, the character recalls some of the earliest Mega Man levels from the original game. The fight against Impact Man sees the baddie deploying a variety of dangerous spike attacks. Knock him out of the fight, and you acquire the pile driver for yourself, which allows for long horizontal dashes that end with an explosive blast.

Check out the trailer below. And if seeing Impact Man brings back any memories of previous Robot Masters, share your favorite in the comments below.

Categories: Games

Touring NBA 2K19's New And Improved Neighborhood

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 02:00

NBA 2K18 took a bold swing at innovation with the introduction of The Neighborhood, a one-stop-shop social hub that served as the virtual space where players could get a haircut, shop for new gear, or play one of the three modes supported by MyCareer. While the concept seemed promising, develops Visual Concepts has a few kinks to work out before The Neighborhood reaches its potential. 

Today, we got our first glimpse on how the studio plans to innovate on the social space in NBA 2K19. 

 

Categories: Games

Gameplay Footage OF The Sinking City Keeps You Uncomfortable

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 00:30

The Sinking City had a number of CG trailers to set the tone, but the first gameplay footage of the game gives us a better idea of the way the game plays and, of course, a heaping helping of tone to go along with it, too. 

There's a minute or so of gameplay here being narrated by a developer at Frogwares, showing a bit of a quest and a NPC. Check out the footage below.

The footage is cool, interesting, and mildly horrifying. The first character, with her lips sewn up, is genuinely kind of disturbing to look at. I really dig the ethereal flashback segments, as well.

The Sinking City releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on March 21.

Categories: Games

The Golf Club 2019 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 00:11

The first two Golf Club games from HB Studios were capable and compelling golf sims, but they lacked the punch of the official PGA Tour license. Thanks to a new deal, HB Studios now has the license, and this--along with solid, smooth swing controls and fine attention to the small details of golf--helps make The Golf Club 2019 a drive forward for the golf simulation series.

The Golf Club 2019 brings six real-world courses to the game, including some of the well-known ones like TPC Sawgrass (home of the Players Championship) and TPC Scottsdale (home of the Phoenix Waste Management Open). The licensed courses are baked into the game's new PGA Tour career mode, with fictional courses filling in the gaps. The six TPC courses are modeled with a fine attention to detail. The famous and dramatic No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass shines in the Florida sun, and I found myself holding my breath teeing it up to the protected island green. The love-it-or-hate-it party hole, No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale, is captured faithfully with its huge stadium-like atmosphere and massive crowds. The Shriners tournament at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas even includes fezzes as tee boxes just like in real life. If you've seen a broadcast or walked any of these courses in person, they will look familiar. The Golf Club 2019 is a good-looking game, particularly when playing at dusk with sunspots peeking through the clouds. And there is a fine attention to the small details. The distinctive cracking sound of a well-struck drive reflects what you hear on the course in real life and on TV. You'll hear birds chirping and see beautiful vistas of mountainsides, lakes, deserts, and lush forests.

That level of realism, depth, and detail doesn't extend to the other aspects of the career mode, however. There are no player likenesses, so don't expect to tee it up as the recently resurging Tiger Woods. Also absent are famous courses like Augusta National and St. Andrews. As a result, The Golf Club 2019's PGA Tour career mode feels limited, especially when only six of the mode's 32 events take place on real golf courses. Although the fictional courses are beautiful, challenging, and diverse, I was left wanting a lot more for a career mode carrying the PGA Tour name. That being said, it was a memorable and challenging journey to advance through the different tours, building skills and experience on the way to the top.

It's too bad that the journey to becoming the best golfer is not generally a fun one to listen to. Just like in last year's game, tournament commentary in The Golf Club 2019 is distractingly rough at times. You'll hear the commentary team making out-of-place comments and repeating themselves very often. It almost never feels natural and comes across as forced and contrived, with main commentator John McCarthy speaking in overly hushed, serious tones However, the commentary while playing solo, outside of a tournament atmosphere, is another story. In this more relaxed setup, McCarthy is a delight. He cheers you on and makes polite, playful little jabs when you miss a putt or shank a shot. He even makes groaning, guttural noises when you narrowly miss a putt, and he mimics Borat with a "Very nice" quip when you make a difficult shot.

As you progress through a PGA Tour season, you'll level up your player and unlock new customization options like clothing and clubs. You also unlock sponsorship tiers and related items after wins, including gear from real-world companies like Under Armour. These rewards, in addition to a rival system that tracks your progress against a fictional player on the tour, give you ample reasons to keep coming back and shoot low scores. It's also nice to see that progression--for the career mode and head-to-head multiplayer--does not include leveling up the attributes of your player. This helps keep everyone on a level playing field, unable to smash a drive many yards longer just because they've played more. Also of note is that the character creator is extremely deep, letting you tweak things like the fine contours on your face and the color of your hair with a wide spectrum of options. Weirdly, the game only offers one shade of darker skin tone, which stands in contrast to the plethora of other personalization options to choose from.

On the course, The Golf Club 2019 is the most mechanically sound, challenging, and rewarding golf sim out there. The swing mechanics heavily emphasize tempo. It's a real challenge to make sure you're swinging with the right speed and direction to send the ball where you want it to go off the tee box or with a short iron into a green. One of the most exciting and compelling parts about golf is creating your own shots and scrambling, and The Golf Club 2019 gives you the tools you need to succeed in this regard. The game automatically recommends clubs and shot angles, but these are mostly suggestions on how to play it safe. While there are times when it's important to make safe, normal shots, that isn't always the case and the mechanics are fluid and dynamic enough to give you fine control when you need it the most. Very often you will be in between clubs on a critical approach shot, and your success or failure depends on your ability to dial in the right combination of many distinct elements like height, fade, power, and direction, all of which you manipulate simultaneously. There are also times when you will need to go for a gutsy shot over water or trees, or with draw/fade to get around a corner. It's a thrill when you get this right, and a gut-punch when you don't.

Getting to the green is just the start, and putting is where your skills will truly be tested. The game lets you see the undulation of each green, but you must pick a line and judge the speed correctly to send the ball rolling in. Like the two games before it, The Golf Club 2019 earns its simulation nature by being difficult, particularly on the greens. You are punished for poor swings and misreading wind and lies, and the game's most challenging courses will put all of your skills to the test in an experience that can feel frustrating at first but ultimately rewarding when it all comes together. While the game is unquestionably difficult, the swing mechanics and systems for drives, iron shots, and putting, always feel fair. The ball might not always go where you want it to, but you can always reasonably pin your failure on something you could improve.

A lot of the animations in The Golf Club 2019 are very good. The way your character's knees buckle when they miss a close putt faithfully captures the pain of that experience many golfers know too well, and. things like body positioning over the ball and the angles and extensions of your character's arms and hands from start to finish appear natural. Unfortunately, there are some problems as well. There is a fist-pump animation you'll see after sinking a nice putt, and while it's effective in capturing the magnitude and emotional expression of the moment, it's the same animation over and over again which eventually makes what should be an exciting moment a boring one. Some of the animations when your player gets in a precarious position, like near the water or on the lip of a bunker, are not very fluid. There are further unfortunate moments of strangeness, including your character standing over the hole when they sink a putt and galleries during competition rounds looking in the wrong direction and acting in unison as they clap and cheer. These weird moments detract from what is otherwise a well-presented package.

Another major element of The Golf Club 2019 is its robust course-creator that was one of the signature elements of the first two games. Using a relatively simple and intuitive interface, you can adjust and design almost everything on your course. Want to add alligators next to the tee box on a Par 5 that stretches over water on a blustery day to make the tee off even scarier? Go for it. You can upload and share courses with the community, and the ability to play new and never-before-seen courses will surely keep golf fans coming back for a new challenge.

Additionally, the game brings back last year's online-focused Societies mode, which lets you create and join clubs where you and your friends (or the wider public) can compete against other players' ghosts in seasons that run for multiple weeks. There is also head-to-head online multiplayer that, for the first time, now lets you play Skins and Alt-Shot game modes in addition to standard ones like Stroke and Match play. However, as of 10 AM AEST on August 29, I was unable to find any head-to-head online matches on PC.

The Golf Club 2019 remains a challenging and ultimately rewarding golf sim with a solid swing system that puts a premium on skill and strategy. The addition of the PGA Tour license is a welcome but limited addition that gives the game a further level of realism and authenticity, while the course-creator again shines as one of the franchise's standout features. Despite its issues, The Golf Club 2019 is the franchise's most attractive package yet.

Categories: Games

Hollow Knight Review - An Exceptional Adventure

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 08/29/2018 - 21:41

Hollow Knight routinely finds ways to surprise you and regularly delivers more than you might have bargained for. Its rich 2D world is filled with tragic tales of a lost kingdom that unfurl during an expansive adventure that feels breathless from its humble beginnings to its climatic, emotional end. Its demanding combat and smartly designed platforming puzzles made a strong debut on PC last year, but the more complete package on Nintendo Switch with every bit of DLC to date is a more robust challenge filled with excitement and dread--and one that you’ll struggle to pull yourself away from.

Hollow Knight routinely finds ways to surprise you and regularly delivers more than you might have bargained for. Its rich world is filled with tragic tales of a lost kingdom that unfurl during an expansive adventure that feels breathless from its humble beginnings to its climatic, emotional end. With demanding combat and smartly designed platforming puzzles, Hollow Knight presents you with challenges around every corner that are both exciting and frightening--and that you'll struggle to pull yourself away from.

Hollow Knight doesn't concern itself with exposition and very quickly lets you loose on a massive, sprawling world with little direction. There's no hint as to your purpose within its curious bug kingdom, one that has seen better days and now lies rotting beneath the surface of the last standing settlement, Dirtmouth. Its citizens--from harmless-looking beetles to aggressively violent bees--protect their spaces with ferocity. There's peril in adventuring through Hollow Knight's world, but there's always something new to poke at to entice you to push further through.

Central to Hollow Knight's compelling exploration is the large map itself. None of it is filled in from the start, and Hollow Knight doesn't even present you with a way to track your travels until several hours in. This is frustrating at first. You'll become hopelessly lost in the labyrinths below Dirtmouth, unsure of whether you're heading towards progress or in the opposite direction entirely. Purchasable maps help fill in the blanks, but even then, you'll need to equip a specific item just to see where you are at any given time. It's overwhelming before you get your bearings, but overcoming that initial hurdle provides you the skills and knowledge required to traverse the rest of Hollow Knight's intricate world.

Hollow Knight's distinct spaces are a marvel in design. Each bears a striking aesthetic to make it clear where you are and what sorts of enemies you should expect to face. The depth of their variations is what truly stands out. Honeycomb-laden halls stretch out over multiple screens in a rich, royal bee hive, contrasted by desolate and lonely caverns on the edges of the kingdom. The creaky and eerie waterways below the City of Tears sits comfortably next to the dark catacombs of a spider's nest, with webs obscuring your view to only increase the tension preceding a surprise attack. Hollow Knight's spaces each tell a story, and you can engross yourself in the small tales its sparse inhabitants tell through text to piece together what befell this once regal society. They're accompanied by wonderful musical scores that breathe an immense amount of personality into each area with fitting backdrops, but Hollow Knight also understands that silence is sometimes just as effective.

Exploration is governed by key items you'll find around the map, giving you new abilities to traverse previously inaccessible areas. The Mantis Claw, for example, allows you to augment your regular jump with chained wall jumps. Another will let you fly across seemingly endless caverns of spikes without a care in the world. It's immediately clear when you're not equipped for an area, which helps avoid any potential frustration. A dangerous acidic pool will prevent you from reaching clear pathways to new areas, for example, while a large stretch of thorny vines prevents you from crossing large chasms safely without something to aid you. Its multiple sections also fold over into themselves in ingenious ways, and uncovering useful shortcuts, hidden passageways, and crucial resting places are paramount to avoiding tedious backtracking.

Backtracking itself is only dangerous because Hollow Knight is designed to make your travels as hard as possible. There are hundreds of enemies waiting to knock you back to your last resting area, each with unique attack patterns and behaviors. Mosquitoes are easy to swat away in small numbers, but swarms of the fast-moving devils can become problematic in areas with limited platforms to traverse between. Conversely, larger enemies that deal more damage to you will routinely appear in claustrophobic spaces, such as the heavily armored beetles in Deepnest or the grotesque leeches in the Royal Waterways. These foes make you consider charting out alternative routes to avoid them entirely or entice you to formulate smart attacking options to reap monetary rewards from a successful takedown. Both approaches feel satisfying in their own right because their solutions are not immediately apparent, giving you a real sense of accomplishment for figuring them out.

Combat is deceptively simple, though, and more focused on timing and patience than dexterity. For a long stretch, Hollow Knight only gives you a single attack to work with, but your repertoire is eventually filled out with omnidirectional spells, risky charged attacks, and status-affecting Charms, with enemies keeping up in kind to provide appropriately advanced challenges. It feels great to revisit an early area in the game and cruise through sections of the map that you once had to navigate cautiously. Hollow Knight features plenty of new challenges to uncover, though, be it secret combat arenas, grueling platforming, or hidden boss battles. The more you look, the more you're rewarded for doing so.

What makes Hollow Knight feel especially brutal at times is the way it handles death. Each time you die you'll have to navigate back to your body to reclaim dropped currency. You'll additionally have to duel your disembodied soul hanging over your death spot to reclaim it, which can present problems if you find yourself falling in a particularly dangerous area. For a large part of the game, you'll use money to acquire upgrades and core items required for progress, so losing a large chunk of it due to careless error is demoralizing. Still, it's difficult to feel frustrated considering how carefully designed each combat scenario is and how exceptionally good Hollow Knight is at putting the onus of failure squarely on your shoulders.

Hollow Knight offers a ridiculous amount of good content. Its main quest will last easily around 30 hours, without relying on artificially padded areas or needlessly repetitive backtracking. But over the year-plus since its release on PC, Hollow Knight has seen large updates. Three DLC packs have added significant swaths of content to the existing package for free, in the vein of quality-of-life changes, various Charms, and new quests and characters to interact with. Some are small enough that it's hard to imagine Hollow Knight existing at a time without them (the ability to pin areas on your map, for example, was curiously not present at launch), while others give you more to chew on should the main narrative not satiate your appetite.

Godmaster feels like the ideal way for you to truly test your Hollow Knight prowess.

The largest of these content packs is Godmaster, which feels like the ideal way for you to truly test your Hollow Knight prowess. It gives you three new areas to explore that aren't as expansive as you might expect, but do set the stage for rematches against previously defeated bosses. You'll be able to tackle them with modifiers that limit your total health, deny your use of offensive spells, or reduce the amount of damage you deal out. This makes even the more straightforward bosses found in the early portions of the game test your skills in new ways by forcing you to be more patient and react without useful abilities you might have become comfortable with. The proximity of each of these fights also makes you appreciate how much variety Hollow Knight's large roster of enemies features, and just how difficult it can be to adapt from one to the next in a small window of time. Given that some challenges require you to have found certain characters, you'll find renewed incentive to explore areas you thought you had already charted, engrossing you yet again into its loop of exploration.

Hollow Knight feels exceptional because so many of its smaller, expertly designed parts fit so well together over an extraordinarily long adventure that could easily have fallen prey to poor pacing. But its expansive enemy roster and routinely surprising areas and platforming challenges ensure that your journey through this fallen bug kingdom is one you're unlikely to forget. Hollow Knight offers a surprisingly large and harrowing adventure, and it's a treat that every bit of it is just as divine as that last.

Categories: Games

First Spelunky 2 Gameplay Trailer And Details

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 08/29/2018 - 18:40

Spelunky 2 was announced last year at Sony's Paris Games Week pre-show with only a short cinematic trailer. Between the agony of not knowing anything about Spelunky 2 and the hopefulness of knowing it will probably be great like the original game, the lack of information was killer. Now, finally, we get a gameplay trailer and information on the game.

The trailer, which you find below, shows familiar Spelunky gameplay amped to 11. Shotguns, running, rideable animals, ghosts that freeze shopkeepers, A GUN THAT SHOOTS OUT CATS, and more are present in the first footage of the sequel. Perhaps most importantly, co-op in the game will now be online, as well.

Additionally, PSBlog has helpfully posted an interview with Spelunky creator Derek Yu with gives us a few details on the game. Yu mostly points out that the game will be an extension of the first title and they have been adding more and more to make it feel new and instantly familiar to fans.

"We’ve also added liquid physics that are really fun to play with," Yu said, "combined with the destructible terrain you get things like dynamic water or lavafalls that you have to deal with on each run. The world breathes more. And then there’s all the expected new areas, items, monsters, and traps. It really is a lot."

Based on the original trailer, the protagonist of Spelunky 2, named Ana Spelunky, is the daughter of the main character from the first game who was apparently named Spelunky. Other characters like a Sloth with a pompadour and a bomb-wielding tunneler are also in the new game.

Spelunky 2 has no date yet, but it's safe to say it will at least be arriving on PlayStation 4.

Categories: Games

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate Review - A Formidable Beast

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 08/29/2018 - 15:00

With Monster Hunter: World, the famously esoteric series received a massive overhaul, including many changes that lowered the barrier to entry for new players. Dozens of quality-of-life boons not seen in previous entries--easy quest tracking, extensive tutorials, and more nuanced combat, just to name a few--have made the series a lot more accessible than it's ever been. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, a Switch port of the 2016 3DS entry, has basically none of those improvements. Generations is tough as nails, unforgiving, and downright cruel at times--especially if you're coming off of World. Even so, it makes plenty of strong cases for its less-forgiving systems and offers up some thrilling challenges for Nintendo's hybrid console.

If you're at all lost on the basic premise of Monster Hunter, rest assured, all you need to know is in the name. Your job is to pick out a ridiculous weapon, find some over-the-top armor, pick a beast to hunt, and bring it down. Truth be told, Generations flubs all but that last bit on some level. You're plopped into a world packed to the gills with fantastical beasts and gargantuan creatures with little to guide you.

For starters, there are about a dozen weapons that handle in wildly different ways. The insect glaive, for instance, gives you a massive pole arm and a helpful insect that acts as a support character. If that isn't enough to give you pause, even the standard sword and shield don't carry the play style you might expect. Where in most games the classic fantasy gear pairing might lend itself to a sturdy, rough-and-tumble fighter able to get in close and mix up attacks and blocks, in Monster Hunter, the class works best as a support. Plus, given the prevalence of long-reach weapons, the shield is helpful, but doesn't keep you out danger in quite the same way.

What you pick is all a matter of preference, but if you plan on running multiplayer hunts (which is highly recommended), you'll want to coordinate your picks with your friends so you've got good coverage. And, if you're new to the series, it's definitely going to help to have someone take point and offer recommendations. Beyond that, though, multiplayer helps make fights more manageable. Enemies scale with how many companions you bring, but having specialized roles and team coordination and strategizing to fall back on when the going gets tough isn’t just about making these challenges surmountable, but about joining together with other players to revel in the carnage. Otherwise, you'll be stuck experimenting with weapons until you find the right one or picking one and sticking with it come hell or high water.

At first, you won't have much in the way of beasts to fight. Where Monster Hunter World throws you right into the thick of combat, Generations has a long, slow grind to the interesting foes--the idea being that you can cut your teeth on the weaklings for some time before you're tasked with a major hunt. Unfortunately, this also means that a good chunk of the early game is a slog.

Breaking that up a bit are the Palicos, anthropomorphized cats that come in a few different flavors across the Monster Hunter games. In this iteration, they are a distinct playstyle unto themselves. As you gather Palico friends to help you along the way, you can take control of them and go on quests like you would as your human avatar, albeit with a few twists. You can't use items, limiting certain types of tactics, but they also don't run out of stamina and can survive extreme temperatures thanks to their fur coats. Those distinctions are enough to offer some variety as you progress and give you a chance to get a better understanding of the world.

A big part of the game is also gathering supplies from the environment to craft gear and potions, and that's another area where Prowlers (an honorific given to Palicos that take up hunting) come in. Because they each have a distinct style, from a party support to grenadier, it's worth it to experiment with each and see which fits for you, especially since you'll gain bonuses for the whole clan of kitties if you level each type up. The catch, though, is that while all these extras offer more flexibility in play style, it's in service to Generations' proclivity for grinding through content.

In a sense, though, that's the point. All the small hunts and gathering missions work together for the grand goal of tracking and hunting the game's biggest and baddest monsters. Hunts are an ordeal, but the effort that precedes the triumph makes victory all the sweeter. And that's no mere platitude. Monsters are tricky beasts that are all too happy to grind you to dust, but knowing how to disable a creature, or misdirect it with a flashbang and then also having put the work into prepping that knowledge and the supplies to match is an unparalleled experience.

Part of that stems from the fact that these bouts are grueling affairs. And across that time, you're watching for telegraphed attacks and possible openings to unleash your own volleys. How you maneuver and jockey for that position as well as pacing out your item use to fit the battle is exhilarating. The grandiose scale of these fights is truly something to behold. And there's something grippingly primal about them. When you're facing down the gargantuan metallic black dragon Kushala Daora, it just wouldn't do to have it felled in a few short minutes. That's where Monster Hunter breaks from like-minded outings. Nowhere else will you feel quite the same level of powerlessness, and then, through perseverance and planning, reap the high of a successful hunt.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate game is not for the faint of heart. It is a commitment, and it's not something that you genuinely play casually.

And that's all that matters here. The Switch port specifically has more critters to fell than any of its predecessors----and almost three times the current Monster Hunter World roster. That, combined with some new combat styles and an added difficulty level make it one of the strongest entries for classic fans of the series yet. Hunter Arts and styles, two features new to the original 2016 Monster Hunter Generations, have been beefed up, adding some new techniques and offering plenty of additional content for those coming back for a second round.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate game is not for the faint of heart. It is a commitment, and it's not something that you genuinely play casually. You can sink dozens of hours into the game and still not get close to conquering the full set of monsters contained within. For those that are down for such an extraordinary adventure, there's more than enough here to thrill and delight. Just know what you're getting into. You will struggle to understand the basics if this is your first Monster Hunter game, but there are incredible rewards should you make it over every one of its initial hurdles.

Categories: Games

Into The Breach Review: Mechanized Masterpiece

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 08/28/2018 - 23:43

In 2012, Subset Games released FTL--a strategy roguelite whose best moments were when everything worked like a well-oiled machine, but also when you were frantically trying to adapt to dangerous, unexpected situations in the spur of the moment. Into The Breach, Subset's sophomore effort, again has you enacting carefully planned strategies. The difference is that when the going gets tough, Into The Breach's turn-based mechanics and tactical tools allow you to improvise precisely, and respond purposefully, with perfectly choreographed counters in an aggressive ballet that feels amazing to conduct again and again.

In a world where giant monsters called Vek threaten the earth, humanity has devised equally giant, human-operated mechs to combat them. Humanity has also invented time-travel technology to give pilots the opportunity to go back in time and start the whole conflict over, should the worst happen. You command a squad of three mech pilots whose purpose is to deter the advances of the Vek, one region at a time, through four different island stages with the ultimate goal of destroying their hive.

In each region, your primary objective is to stop Vek from causing collateral damage--each civilian building destroyed depletes part of the game's overall power grid meter, and if it hits zero, your game is over. However, Vek almost always outnumber your squad, with even more continually spawning in, which makes wiping them out entirely a difficult task. Into The Breach is a tactics game with an emphasis on deterrence and creatively mitigating damage with the limited tools at your disposal.

It's a daunting task, but there is one central feature that makes this process enjoyable and manageable: Every action the enemy will make in their next attack phase is clearly telegraphed through the UI during your turn. You can see which tile a particular Vek will hit and how much damage it will do, meaning you can assess your priorities and the response options you have available, then take direct steps to address the fated outcome. In the critical moments, just before a Vek flattens a hospital, you might dash in and tackle it out of range, and into the firing line of another Vek. Or, if your mech lacks close-combat abilities, you might move into harm's way to prevent the building from destruction. You might notice that more Vek will be spawning from the ground, and decide to throw a boulder on the tile to stop them from emerging, or shoot an off-the-mark missile, letting the explosion push another Vek on top of it.

Knowing the exact outcome of each action means that Into The Breach feels like a game of violent chess, in the best way possible. Each turn will have you pondering over possible moves and outcomes, threats you can feasibly attend to, and pieces you can afford to sacrifice--common characteristics found in any good turn-based tactics game. But because the possibility spaces of Into The Breach skirmishes are so confined (every battle takes place on an 8x8 grid, just like a chessboard, filled with impassable squares) decisions can be reached quickly, and momentum rarely comes to a standstill for long.

What also makes these decisions so entertaining to consider is not just the novelty of the way different components can interact in delightful ways, it's the certainty of how they will interact. Into The Breach is a tactical game that features a relative lack of probability, uncertainty, and risk. Attacks will always connect and do a distinct amount of damage, the grid-based scenarios mean units move and take actions in exact distances, and nothing ever occurs without at least some warning. The transparency and amount of information communicated provide great peace of mind, since every action you take will go as planned.

The only exception is that when a Vek attacks a building, there is a tiny chance that the building will withstand damage. The probability of this happening is related to your overall grid power and can be increased, but the percentage value is always so low that this rare occurrence feels more like a miracle when it happens, rather than a coin toss you can take a chance on.

The game's time-travel conceit also has a part to play here--you have the ability to undo unit movement, and each battle gives you a single opportunity to completely rewind and re-perform a turn. It's possible to execute your most optimal plan for each scenario every time, and the result is that turns in battle can feel like choreographed moves in an action movie, a confidently flawless dance of wind-ups, feints, counters, and turnabouts.

You can unlock up to eight different premade squads, each comprised of three unique units, which focus on entirely different styles of combat. The diversity here is significant enough that each team calls for distinct strategic approaches. The default squad, Rift Walkers, focuses on straightforward, head-first, push-pull techniques. The Blitzkrieg crew works best when corralling Vek together in order to execute a lightning attack that courses through multiple enemies. The Flame Walkers focus on setting everything ablaze and knocking Vek into fire for damage-over-time en masse. Each different combination of mechs can completely change how you perceive a battlefield; things that are obstacles for one squad could be advantageous strategic assets for another.

But where the possibilities of Into The Breach really open up is in its custom and random squad options, and the imaginative experimentation that comes from putting together unique all-star teams with individual mechs from different squads, along with your choice of starting pilot--whom all possess an exclusive trait. You might have a team composed of a mech who shields buildings and units, one that freezes anything on the map into a massive block of ice, one whose sole ability is to push everything surrounding it away, and a pilot that can perform one additional action each turn if they don't move. Can you complete a run of the game with that custom squad of pacifists? The game's structure makes these unorthodox options enjoyable challenges that are legitimately interesting to explore.

Into The Breach maintains a roguelike structure of procedurally generated trials and permadeath, but when a campaign goes south not all is lost. If a mech is destroyed during a battle, it will return in the next, only without its pilot and their unique trait. Too much collateral damage is game over but means you have the chance to send one of your living pilots--experience points and bonus traits intact--back in time to captain a new squad, in a new campaign. The game is difficult, but starting over isn't tiresome because your actions so directly determine outcomes, and you always feel you can improve. And individual battles are so swift and satisfying that they become a craving that you'll want to keep feeding over and over.

The clean and understated surface elements of Into The Breach complement the precise nature of its mechanics. The simple presentation, as well as the sharp UI layout, is attractively utilitarian and serves as a crucial component of the game's readability. There is no explicit plot outside of the time-traveling conceit, but the flavor text--small snippets of dialogue for each mech pilot and island leader, whom you'll encounter again and again throughout multiple playthroughs--adds a modest but pleasant facet of character to contextualize the world and round out the overall tone.

There is so much strategic joy in seeing the potential destruction a swarm of giant monsters is about to unleash on a city, then quickly staging and executing elaborate counter maneuvers to ruin the party. Into The Breach's focus on foresight makes its turn-based encounters an action-packed, risk-free puzzle, and the remarkable diversity of playstyles afforded by unique units keeps each new run interesting. It's a pleasure to see what kind of life-threatening predicaments await for you to creatively resolve in every new turn, every new battle, and every new campaign. Into The Breach is a pristine and pragmatic tactical gem with dynamic conflicts that will inspire you to jump back in again, and again, and again.

Categories: Games

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