Games

Arktika.1 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 10/25/2017 - 00:00

Usually known for impressive, but short-lived experiences, VR games at their best can be intensely immersive. So when I heard the developers of the superb Metro series were making a VR shooter, I was hopeful that 4A Games' stellar reputation for crafting powerful and foreboding worlds would translate well to VR. Arktika.1 doesn't break the mold, but 4A Games' creative strengths are on full display.

Arktika embodies the Metro series' grim futuristic feel despite not being a Metro game, taking place in the frozen wastelands of Russia where environmental disasters have reshaped both the land and its inhabitants. Some unfortunate humans have mutated into nightmarish monsters, desperate raiders roam the land fighting for survival at all costs, and you’ve been brought in as a hired gun to protect a remote military outpost from these looming threats.

Arktika isn’t a first-person shooter in the sense of Metro or Doom so much as it is a throwback to classic coin-op light gun games like Time Crisis or House of the Dead. Over the course of about five to eight hours, you’ll lean, duck, and dual-wield a variety of firearms while regularly teleporting short distances to advantageous positions and out of harm's way. Arktika is not a sedate game, and requires enough room to move from side to side, duck behind cover and pop out to line up your next kill.

There isn't much enemy variety, but they are different enough from each other to require a solid mix of strategies during any given scenario. Normal soldiers can be shot up fairly easily, while snipers rely on distance and cover, and heavies must be shot in the head to take down.

Arktika's weapons consist of different types of pistols, from a classic revolver to sci-fi energy guns. Different guns require unique reload gestures, which is confusing at first and sometimes unresponsive, but it feels like a fun throwback to the reloading mechanics of Time Crisis and other similar games. You even holster your guns by placing them on your shoulders. Using Oculus Touch controllers as your weapons and moving your actual body to hide behind cover, engagements are intense, making a successful pistol juggling act feel consistently rewarding.

While the main focus is definitely on gunplay, there are other VR-specific touches as well. Using the Touch controllers, you’ll reach out and virtually grab and pull switches, push buttons, interact with screens, and even solve puzzles. Puzzles include tasks like searching for door codes, accessing terminals, changing fuses, and even redirecting the flow of power to systems by plugging in cables. Most of these elements are really just an excuse to provide a brief respite from shooting sequences and certainly aren’t overly challenging, but succeed in breaking up the gameplay enough so Arktika doesn’t entirely feel like mindless blasting.

The shooting galleries are detailed and full of animated elements that can be used to your advantage with proper timing, like the unsteady motions of trunk lids on old sports cars that can be used for cover. Since the enemy is also smart about using cover, it’s vital to keep moving from point to point to get the best possible angle. Some of the cover is also destructible (like glass walls or crowded shelving), but 4A has designed their sets with a frenetic, active sensibility. The game goes out of its way to force you to make creative shots, leaning out from cover to aim between sweet spots of crowded landscapes. The end result is exciting and even tense action that ensures you'll stay on the move.

The action is enhanced thanks to the excellent graphics, which offer a terrific sense of depth and scale. Arktika uses the Unreal engine to create one of the most visually impressive action games on Oculus Rift, where even the mission selection room looks cluttered and palpable, and the outside environments, like the abandoned parking lot, show off the apocalyptic nature of the world without needing any exposition.

While Arktika relies heavily on familiar mechanics, it definitely uses the unique powers of VR to create a shooter with a tense atmosphere and exciting gunplay. The mix of excellent graphics and surprisingly intense battles makes this one of the more enjoyable action games available on Rift.

Categories: Games

Steven Universe Is Getting A New Villain With Hessonite

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:00

Steven Universe: Save the Light, the upcoming RPG sequel based on the show, is adding a new villain to the canon.

Hessonite was created in collaboration with the show's creator, Rebecca Sugar, who is also heavily involved in the game. Their backstory and motivations are still a mystery – you will have to play the game to learn about those – but you can learn a little bit about her by checking out the game's launch trailer below.

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Here's a clip of Hessonite as they appear in the game.

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And if you want even more Hesssonite, here's the isolated audio performance of their introductory line, and you can also find some screens and art of Hessonite in the gallery below.

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Steven Universe: Save the Light is coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on October 31.

Categories: Games

Golf Story Review

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 10/21/2017 - 20:00

Golf Story is zany, unexpectedly funny, and mechanically sound. Those descriptors aren't overly exciting on their own, but then again, the same could be said of what constitutes contemporary RPGs; you fetch things, hit other things, and generally do the bidding of others while your heroism goes ignored. Golf Story is essentially an RPG based on mundane, real-world concerns dialed up to the nth degree, and it's that relatability that makes it much more charming than it sounds on paper.

It's a not-so-sneaky homage to titles like Mario Golf considering its central conceit: absolutely everything can be solved with a combination of golf clubs, golf balls, and dogged persistence. That's where the player-character enters--a man who's lost half his life to a soul-sucking wife and the general indifference of others--and the fun begins. This is your typical redemption story, but instead of saving the world, you're trying to simply restore order to your otherwise bleak existence in memory of your father. It's a small-scale situation, but the the stakes feel enormous.

There's no way this could go wrong, right?

It's immediately clear that while golf is (quite literally) the name of the game, it's not the be-all and end-all of this affair. Just like any RPG, you'll encounter towns of people who need your help, which usually gets old pretty fast. However, Sidebar Games has managed to keep the pall of boredom away by injecting some local humour into the proceedings. For those lucky enough to be putting their feet up in Australia or New Zealand as they read this, good on ya. The jokes, sly nudges, and the meat pies that are prevalent throughout Golf Story are definitely charming signifiers that people Down Under will be familiar with. While you don't necessarily need to have watched Kangaroo Jack to get a laugh out of "mate" being used as an insult, those comedic touches will mean that little bit more to those already familiar with the vernacular.

Every quest-giver is, in some timeline or other, a verifiable idiot. It feels just like helping out the usual flood of gormless peasants, but there's a lot more to it than bringing hungry villagers some cheese. Ever wanted to be a single mother's hero by hitting her son in the face with a golf ball? You're in luck. Ever wanted to command an entire legion of turtles who exist solely to help you get a hole-in-one? What about raising an army of the dead to defeat a grand wizard? Golf Story takes the traditional plausibility rulebook and throws it entirely out the window, and it's better for doing so. Golf is unlikely to be considered a high-adrenaline sport by the general public, but throwing in quests that are equal parts mid-life crisis and downright diabolical certainly gets you more mileage out of your drive.

Speaking of driving, there's a lot of it. Most golf games make you play through courses of increasing difficulty as part of your journey to being the very best, and this is no exception. You'll spend a lot of time on the golf course, doing some combination of driving, chipping, putting, and internally screaming. It'd be a lie to say that there weren't some holes that had the potential to try the very limits of human patience, but luckily, those were generally spaced out well enough to not be a deterrent. Swings work on a three-click system: pick your club, pick your power, and pick your precision level. It's a no brainer as to what the best way to play is: toggle your precision indicator until it shows the distance pay-off that you're looking for, and make sure that you hit it.

There are other factors to consider too like wind speed, slope, and roaming wildlife who will take any opportunity to get their grubby little hands on your balls. Hitting an elusive albatross (three shots under par, not the giant bird) is really only possible if you manage all the above factors successfully, but you won't be punished for muddling your way through the nine-hole courses and enjoying the scenery if that's your cup of tea. Putting seems to be an exercise in futility, since it's difficult to decipher the slope of the green, but nothing's stopping you from swapping clubs and chipping your ball straight into the hole once it's on there, so go hard or go home. If you feel like the story isn't to your liking, then Quick Play mode allows you to subject yourself to round after round of golf on your favourite course, cutting out the middleman. You can change the default conditions of various courses to make things more challenging, and the best part of it is, you can do all of this with a mate for some local friendly competition.

However, there's a lot of other things to do in Golf Story, and once you master the basics of hitting a ball, you'll be free to focus on the other things that make it so charming. The game has an arsenal of gaming and pop culture references that it relies on, and recognising each is rewarding in its own way. Without giving too much away, the fact that you're tasked with solving a supernatural murder mystery in one breath and launched into a Pacman-esque gathering quest the next would keep most on their toes. It's a credit that the pacing doesn't suffer from the inclusion of these in-jokes, often taking the form of mini-games, and if you ever get sick of playing golf, you always have these side quests and bad puns to fall back on.

There are some glitches and bugs that make their presence known every now and again, but encountering something of the game-breaking variety is rare. You may find yourself interacting with new areas and being stuck in a background music loop as the player character becomes unresponsive, or more interestingly, you could find yourself in the dark space between one room and the next, unable to leave until you path through the same doorway multiple times. However, Golf Story's little issues don't make it a write-off.

It can take a little while for the narrative to ramp up in Golf Story and for you to feel like you've really cultivated the skills of a champion, but based on the sheer scope of what the game delivers, there's likely something for everyone to enjoy whether their shtick is mini-golfing or terrorising delinquents with frisbees. It has successfully captured the trappings of yesteryear's RPGs, and the witticisms and idiosyncrasies of the characters you encounter are a great palate cleanser between rounds. Switch has had a swathe of indies hit its eShop recently, but if you're looking for something that'll give you satisfaction in terms of an interesting story and a rewarding mechanic, then Golf Story is certainly par for the course.

Categories: Games

New Screens Show Off Captain Ginyu, Nappa, And Story Details

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 10/21/2017 - 14:00

Bandai Namco offered up a huge collection of Dragon Ball FighterZ screens this morning showing off new characters, online modes, story details, and more.

We've divided up the collection images into different sections of the story so follow the links for Captain Ginyu screens, Nappa screens, and story screens. First up, is Cpatain Ginyu.

Here is Captain Ginyu on his own.

And here he is with the Ginyu Force, who can assist him in battle.

That must be the Recoome boom.

Ginyu is also apparently able to body-swap with his opponents.

Captain Ginyu | Nappa | Story | Additional Screens

For more from our month of Dragon Ball coverage, including new details for FighterZ, click the banner below.

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Categories: Games

The Promising Multiplayer Is Held Back By An Uninspiring Setting

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 10/20/2017 - 21:10

Game of Thrones is getting in on the mobile craze with Conquest, the newest in the ever-growing lineup of Game of War-style games. 

If you haven’t played Game of War, the concept is simple: Start a castle (a ‘house,’ in Conquest), build and upgrade military and resource plots (ad infinitum), build military units, create or join an allegiance, and pillage those weaker than your allegiance until they flee or join your side. While this sounds exciting on paper, in both Game of War and Conquest this is all done through an often boring system of clicking and waiting. Upgrading buildings takes a few minutes in the beginning of the game, but upgrades soon take hours to complete. If you want to attack your neighbor, you click attack on their keep, select which units you want to attack with, then wait. Then, if you damaged their wall and kept most of your soldiers, you can attack again. Repeat until their wall is destroyed and pillage their resources.

Allegiances help make pillaging quicker, thankfully. Working as a team, an allegiance of players can destroy a wall quicker than a lone player. To start an allegiance, you must find someone willing to be your Bannerman. Each allegiance owner can have up to five Bannermen, with each of them having five as well, all the way down to fourth-tier Bannermen, who cannot have any of their own. This allegiance system is a good way of keeping straight who is in charge and passing orders down a chain of command. Unfortunately, it also requires asking strangers to bend the knee if they want to team up with you. This can be fun if you’re powerful enough to be a threat, or it can be frustrating if you’re being harassed by an allegiance wanting you to kneel.

Allegiances fight over Seats of Power such as Winterfell and Casterly Rock. These seats of varying power (King’s Landing is the hardest to take but gives the most benefits) are mostly inactive in the preview build of the game, but allegiances can take active ones, for glory and the tangible benefits they bequeath members of the allegiance, such as increased march speed or resource collection.

The setting and characters you’re surrounded by in a game can make or break the experience. Unfortunately, Conquest’s setting fails to put my mind in the Game of Thrones universe. It feels more classically medieval than Game of Thrones-inspired. My castle only features one building distinctly from Game of Thrones, the Maester's tower, which can be used to research upgrades. The upgrades in the Maester’s Tower, which fall under one of four categories (military, city defense, logistics, and economy), go back to having no relation to the universe, however helpful they are gameplay-wise.

Conquest does feature some of the series’ most popular characters, but they don’t feel like those characters. They mostly pop up in a microtransaction advertisement or to teach a new mechanic, but with no voice acting and written dialogue that breaks the fourth wall more than it tries to stay in-universe, there’s very little connection between the characters in Conquest and the characters on HBO or in the books.

From renting extra workers or Maesters to work on more buildings and research, to buying packs of boosts and currency, microtransactions are hard to avoid in Conquest. What’s most tempting to buy are speedups, which allow you to finish construction, research, or train troops faster. Instead of waiting an hour for a farm to upgrade, a speedup can upgrade it immediately so you can get started working on something else. These speedups are given away for free occasionally, but those who spend money will be able to progress through the ranks much faster than those who try the free-to-play route.

Game of Thrones fans should temper their expectations before diving in, as the game released yesterday, October 19. The setting and characters offer nods to the broader fiction, but what I experienced in the preview version of the game is mostly rooted in a familiar and established mobile game structure. Fighting over Westeros’ Seats of Power with an organized allegiance might fulfil some people’s fantasies, but the fear of microtransactions deciding the fate of those Seats is real. If the game ever manages to capture that Game of Thrones feel however, it has a chance to suck a lot of people in.

Categories: Games

Elex Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 10/20/2017 - 16:00

As a big, open-world RPG, Elex shows great ambition. The world of Magalan is a fractured yet beautiful place, having spent the last 150 years recovering from the devastating impact of a comet. It’s not your typical post-apocalyptic world, showing the signs of rejuvenation that makes exploring its heavily scarred, mountainous surface an enticing and occasionally captivating proposition. But despite this, a disjointed story, unresponsive controls, and frustrating combat mechanics consistently suck the life out of Elex, making its 30-hour campaign too arduous to recommend.

You play as Jax, a widely feared former Commander within the Alb faction, the game’s main antagonists. Albs are known for their addiction to Elex, an element that has permeated through the planet since the impact of the comet, which makes them both immensely strong and emotionally void; the perfect soldiers. Driven by their dedication to their leader, The Hybrid, and his directive to gain control of all the Elex in the world, they begin an aggressive reclamation of the planet, waging war on the other factions and building giant Converters to rip the Elex from the ground.

The Alb Directive demands the punishment of death for failing a mission, and when Jax is deemed to have failed, he is put down, albeit unsuccessfully, by another Alb commander who leaves him for dead. Having woken up some time later--a fact that is poorly communicated through the course of the intro--with his armor stolen and the residual Elex gone from his body, Jax begins his search for a new place in the world. The Alb’s savagery is a gripping premise of its own accord, but it never really lives up to the potential of its setup.

Where Jax goes from here is entirely up to you, though you are given a little direction by way of Duras, a Berserker warrior who leads you to Goliet, the main Berserker settlement. Peaceful settlements dot Magalan, as do raider camps, mutants and other assorted creatures who have been transformed into ghastly beasts by the Elex that has ravaged the land.

You can learn unique abilities from each faction, like casting magic or suggestive mind control through dialogue, once you’ve proven your worth. The Berserkers retreat to nature, transmuting Elex into Mana for magic and using it to revitalise the scorched planet, while the religiously bound and technologically advanced Clerics utilise Elex-powered technology built upon remnants of the old-world. The lawless Outlaws live off the scrap of the desert, while all three factions live under the threat of the Albs' aggression. Appeasing their needs is no easy feat, though, largely due to the balance of difficulty in the game’s opening chapters.

Starting on the 2nd hardest of the four difficulty levels, it didn’t take me long to wind it back to normal, and then to easy. But regardless of difficulty level I felt hopelessly underpowered, even against enemies that appear early on, so much so that the only way I felt I could make significant progress was to run from as many encounters as I could. However, avoiding combat doesn’t help in the missions where you’re forced to fight.

Feeling under levelled in an RPG isn’t the problem here, rather it's that there's no real way around it. Any time I would find a newer, stronger weapon, I’d try to equip it only to be denied by my lack of certain skills. There are five main attributes you can pour your skill points into, and most weapons require you be at a minimum level with at least two of those attributes.

Upgrading weapons feels equally trivial, as doing so also affects their stat requirements and can put them well beyond your character’s capabilities, rendering it a pointless pursuit. This becomes less of a problem in the late game, but it wasn’t until around 20 hours into Elex that I felt marginally comfortable jumping into a standard, open-world encounter.

Even then, there are still some real issues with the game’s controls and combat that present themselves early; something Elex never truly recovers from. Melee combat feels cumbersome, with Jax’s quickest attack requiring a hefty wind up before the swing. The auto-targeting function doesn’t differentiate between friend or foe, and when combined with poor hit detection and slow animations, it causes all manner of problems when fighting next to groups of friendlies. Ranged combat is a little better, but similarly suffers from some problems with hit detection.

Most frustrating is when you successfully hit an enemy with either a melee or ranged attack and it does no damage whatsoever, at least until you’ve hit it three or four times. Initially I thought this had something to do with my stamina meter being drained, but that just stops you from attacking in the first place. I never did work out the precise reason why this happens, but it’s stunningly frustrating as it makes nearly every engagement feel horribly unbalanced, overshadowing Elex's better qualities.

While character models and faces leave something to be desired, much of the environmental art is incredible. Separated into distinct regions, Magalan is gorgeous. From the green, flora draped lands of Edan and the canyon laced deserts of Tavar, to the volcanic region of Ignadon, the layout of its heavily cracked and damaged surface feels superbly hand-crafted. The details can lead to occasional frame rate drops, especially with lots of characters onscreen, but it’s hard to deny Elex’s wonderful art design. The addition of a jetpack to help you traverse mountainous regions, despite feeling a little clumsy, is also a nice touch.

Some of the inter-factional rivalries are interesting on the surface, with politics between clan leaders and in-fighting providing a bit of fun through dialogue and faction missions, but the overarching narrative rarely proves to go anywhere significant. Some of these missions touch on thought-provoking themes, like the idea that, despite being of the same faction, one person’s morality doesn’t always equate to another’s. Despite the interaction of different factions being a running theme through many of the game’s quests, Elex doesn’t have much more to say on the topic.

The main story quests aren’t quite as interesting, and are riddled with bugs in their presentation. Jax’s back story is slowly pieced together through memories presented as cutscenes during moments of exposition, though the transitions between these are jarring at best, with some cutscenes occasionally not playing at all. Numerous times did I come out of a cutscene only to find the world tearing itself apart and my character falling through the floor, either crashing the game or requiring a full restart and forcing me to replay the same section over again in the hopes that it wouldn’t fall apart.

Elex's world is no doubt enticing, but the good moments are heavily dispersed among some rough technical problems and odd designs that only serve to frustrate. The game offers an incredibly designed world and the basis of a compelling RPG that disappointingly fails to live up to its potential in almost every way. For a game that relies heavily on its combat for progression, it feels overwhelmingly geared against you, and with the added technical issues and lack of a compelling story to tell, Elex takes the wind out of its own sails at nearly every turn.

Categories: Games

WWE 2K18

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/19/2017 - 16:22

Spectacle and showmanship are as vital to professional wrestling as its storylines and in-ring action. Fans will fondly remember a Superstar's distinctive mannerisms, or the pageantry of a glorious entrance, just as much as a five-star match. WWE 2K18 takes this aspect to heart with a substantial leap in visual fidelity--further complementing developers Yuke's and Visual Concepts' adherence to wrestling authenticity. However, the game's cosmetic advancements fail to cover up stagnant gameplay mired in technical issues.

WWE's superlative lighting, character models, and motion captured animations bring each star of the squared circle to life with startling accuracy. And while there are some disparities between the poor saps at the bottom of the card and those at the very top, the gap isn't as significant as it has been in previous years, with entrances remaining a dazzling highlight. Small details, like stretch marks and surgery scars, also contribute to WWE 2K18's graphical showcase. Muscles are defined and flex when a Superstar heaves an opponent over their shoulders, veins bulge under the strain of submissions, and even Finn Balor's demon paint gradually peels off over the course of a match. As a visual representation of the product we see on TV each week, it's definitely impressive, and this devotion to realism extends to the gameplay, too. This is nothing new, of course, and if you haven't enjoyed the series' methodical pacing and restrictive over-reliance on counters in the past, WWE 2K18 is unlikely to change your mind. This is essentially the same game as it was last year, with a few incremental additions edging the needle closer to the authenticity the series strives for.

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Hot tags have been modified to be a more natural, momentum-injecting part of tag team matches, and a new carry system gives you more options on offence, allowing you to forcefully haul your opponent around the arena and execute a variety of context-sensitive actions with ease. This is particularly enjoyable if you're playing as a giant like Braun Strowman, since you can hoist smaller opponents over your head and launch them directly out of the ring--which is certainly impactful in Battle Royales and the Royal Rumble. Speaking of which, eight-person matches are also new this year, adding an element of chaos to any over-the-top-rope shenanigans. The only downside is that so many Superstars duking it out at the same time has a negative impact on the game's frame rate, with the slowdown enough to disrupt your timing on counters.

This isn't WWE 2K18's only technical issue either. While the AI is passable at best and dim-witted at worst, there are also myriad glitches spread throughout its various match types and game modes. From Superstars getting trapped inside inanimate objects and being teleported around the arena; referees not counting pins in eight-person tag matches; the Royal Rumble completely breaking due to Superstars failing to appear when their number is called; or the way the Elimination Chamber acts as a proverbial cooking pot for a concoction of ludicrous glitches, WWE 2K18 is a messy experience. Sure, a number of these mishaps are funny, but there are others that actively ruin the experience on a larger scale, whether it's the game crashing every single time there's a promo in Universe mode, or the way MyCareer struggles to keep track of your allies and rivals, even forcing you to wrestle yourself in championship title matches. This series has always suffered from its fair share of glitches, but they're especially egregious and plentiful this year.

Meanwhile, MyCareer still tasks you with creating a character and climbing the ranks of the WWE, however, there's still no option to create anything but a male wrestler, which is disheartening. Some light RPG elements do at least attempt to spruce up the action in-between matches, and you're now free to explore the backstage areas, chatting to your fellow Superstars and picking up side quests that will further your alignment as either a face or heel, unlocking specific perks for each. The aforementioned glitches create problems here, however, as you might be asked to cut a promo on Enzo Amore, only to call out Cesaro instead, and then be told backstage that Dean Ambrose knew your plan. It's a mess, and a struggle to keep track of. These backstage segments are overly lethargic due to the regularity and length of their loading times, which mean you'll often spend more time watching the game than playing it.

This series has always suffered from its fair share of glitches, but they're especially egregious and plentiful this year.

Beyond these issues, the writing in MyCareer remains its biggest problem. Even if you excuse the juvenile insults and complete lack of voice acting, there's nothing here that carries any weight or interest. The writing lacks character and individuality, so it doesn't matter who you speak to backstage. Bray Wyatt might be an occultist hillbilly with an anomalous promo style, but he'll still speak with the same verbiage as Seth Rollins, who will in turn sound just like John Cena. And this carries over into the promos, too. These work much the same as they did last year, tasking you with picking from a number of dialogue options, and then trying to maintain a cohesive tone throughout to achieve a high score. The dialogue options aren't quite as vague as they were before, so it's easier to craft a coherent promo, but the terrible writing and silent pantomiming rob these moments of any impact. Last year, the promo system felt like a flawed first draft with room to grow, but there's been very little progression one year later.

MyCareer's online counterpart, Road to Glory, fares much better than its single-player brethren. By following the real-life WWE calendar, it allows you to take your created character online to compete against others in daily match types in order to earn enough stars to qualify for pay-per-view events. This adds some purpose and impetus to online brawls, and the netcode this year is surprisingly good, with smooth matches and no noticeable input delay, even when you bump it up to a fatal-fourway.

It's fun seeing everybody else's created Superstars, but customisation in MyCareer is disappointingly limited by the inclusion of loot boxes. There are no microtransactions in WWE 2K18, so 2K isn't trying to urge you to part with more cash. But, honestly, that just makes this approach all the more baffling. The vast majority of customisation options, from hairstyles and T-shirts, to wrestling tights and even the vast repertoire of moves, are locked behind these loot boxes. You earn virtual currency throughout the game, and Road to Glory also has weekly loot boxes to unlock, but you're still at the whim of a randomised draw. If you want a specific beard or a finishing move, you're just going to have to hope luck falls on your side.

Fortunately, the creation suite outside of MyCareer is as exhaustive as ever, with everything unlocked from the get-go. You can tinker with every single facet of a Superstar's design and create new title belts, custom matches, and arenas, and download other users' creations to, say, fill out the NXT roster with the likes of Adam Cole, Drew Galloway, and Kairi Sane.

WWE 2K18's in-ring combat is fundamentally flawed, and will be as divisive as it often is. Yet there's no denying the inherent joy derived from performing your favorite Superstar's signature moves. Whether it's cracking your opponent over the head with AJ Styles' Phenomenal Forearm, or pounding the life out of Asuka's latest victim, there are moments of pure pro wrestling enjoyment to be found here. It's just compounded by too many frustrating issues, disruptive glitches, and a dearth of engaging single-player modes. This series has remained stagnant for far too long, and WWE 2K18 doesn't change things.

Categories: Games

Hands-On With Star Wars Battlefront II's Single-Player Campaign

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/19/2017 - 15:00

Few series have lineages as storied as Star Wars, which can be a burden for every new project that attempts to pull from its universe. For decades, Star Wars games have tried to retell the stories from the movies or diversify and explore the outside periphery of the galaxy far, far away. The story campaign of Star Wars Battlefront II charts a middle ground between the two, teetering on the edge of the movies we know and love without being directly involved.

The last Battlefront game that released in 2015 alongside The Force Awakens was a multiplayer-only affair that focused on back-and-forth battles across Star Wars history. However, one of the major complaints from fans was the lack of a single-player campaign, prompting EA to bring a high-budget campaign for the sequel.

Developed by EA Motive, the studio headed by former Assassin’s Creed producer Jade Raymond, the campaign puts the player in the shoes of Iden Versio. As a lifelong servant of the Empire, she has dedicated to the cause of wiping out the Rebel Alliance as commander of the Inferno Team. When the game starts, Iden is captured by the enemy and has to remotely control her backpack droid to free her. From there, she’s one blaster rifle and a hundred Rebels away from escaping the ship.

The prologue mission introduces you to all the basic game mechanics. Iden can use her droid to zap enemies into unconsciousness, which is good for stealth approaches. This skill requires a cooldown that can be lessened by killing enemies or making headshots, so Iden can’t avoid fighting for long.

After she makes her escape from the rebel frigate, Iden meets with her team to discuss the Empire’s counter-offensive on Endor. The then game leaps into the future to the forest moon just before the climactic moment where the Millennium Falcon blows up the Death Star as Iden and the rest of the Inferno Team try to fight their way back to their command post. Interestingly, some of the firefights here can be skipped, if you are feeling too moral to shoot some celebrating Rebels from the grassy knoll.

While the larger space of Endor does not quite have a Halo-like quality of tackling encounters any way you see fit, there is a lot less linearity to the level design than in the cramped hallways of the prologue chapter. You can sneak around the enemy, attack from behind, or lead a group of pursuers into a small enough space where you can take them all out with a grenade.

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Iden commandeers a TIE Fighter and heads into space, looking for her Admiral and father to reconvene. She finds his ship being bombarded by Y-Wings, forcing her into a space battle. The full space battles lack the strategic element of 1994’s TIE Fighter, but they are as fast and frantic as you would hope. Chasing an X-Wing through the remains of exploded Death Star as you both weave through debris is exciting and leaves you gasping at every near miss.

The chapter ends with Iden receiving posthumous orders from the Emperor, who left one final mission for his subordinates and was maybe better at predicting the future than people gave him credit for. The goals of the mission aren’t clear, but the objectives are, and Iden is more than willing to rebuild the empire that she believes is a force of good in the world.

The third chapter starts with a slightly more involved space battle, allowing Iden to dock into enemy ships, shoot up their bay, and then proceed to their main computers on foot.

Battlefront II’s story campaign is likely the best Star Wars has ever looked in video game form. During some moments I squinted and was unable to tell the difference between the game’s cutscenes and the movies themselves. Space battles are visual treats, and I occasionally found myself being so distracted by what I saw that I crashed into the broad side of a Star Destroyer.

I ultimately walked away from Battlefront II wanting to play more of the campaign, but also hoping that the rest of it becomes more interesting. I worry that Iden’s story will follow too many familiar tropes of confusion, redemption, and eventually rebellion, which would be disappointing if it does not subvert expectations. The gaming landscape has had Titanfall II and Doom’s campaigns since the last Battlefront released, so Battlefront II's campaign has big shoes to fill if it wants to impress when it releases on November 17.

Categories: Games

Fire Emblem Warriors Review

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 10/18/2017 - 14:00

Fire Emblem Warriors brings heroes from the revered Fire Emblem strategy series and drops them onto the chaotic battlefields developer Omega Force's Warriors games are known for. These knights, paladins, and mages are a natural fit for medieval clashes against swarms of hapless enemies, but their influence on the Warriors formula is otherwise fleeting. However fun it can be in short spurts, Fire Emblem Warriors feels like plenty of other Warriors games before it: a simple joy plagued by repetitive and shallow encounters.

Like more recent Fire Emblem games, you're introduced to a new pair of protagonists--Lianna and Rowan. Sibling heirs to the Aytolis Kingdom, their land comes under threat with the appearance of an evil dragon and thousands of otherworldly fiends who've slipped through a rift in space and time. In a similar fashion, characters from various Fire Emblem timelines (The Blazing Blade, Shadow Dragon, Awakening, Fates, and Echoes) come to Lianna and Rowan's rescue. It's a thin narrative that leads to plenty of awkward exchanges and cliche events. And though this may be par for the course for the Warriors series, Fire Emblem games are typically heralded for their captivating stories and deep characters, so it's hard not to be a little disappointed to see very little of that transition over to this experimental outing.

If you’re at all familiar with the Warriors games, then you already know what to expect as Fire Emblem Warriors follows the formula very closely: Playing as one of the many available heroes, you venture onto the battlefield and slay hundreds, if not thousands, of enemies during a single mission through hard-hitting yet simple-to-execute combo attacks.

Attacks and combos are input via a two-button system for light and heavy attacks, and you have access to a flashy special ability once your damage meter is full. The weapon triangle system pulled from Fire Emblem dictates how effective one character is against another depending on their default weapon, but weighing the advantages of individual face-offs slows the rapid and enjoyable pace of combat. Likewise, the pair up system, where you do your best to create a bond between two characters, doesn't make this game significantly different from other Warriors spin-offs.

Apart from feeling somewhat shallow, Fire Emblem Warriors plays smoothly, and it’s enjoyable to watch favorites like Chrom, Marth, and Lyndis break free from their turn-based ways to slay massive swarms of low-level enemies in real time. Sadly, not every beloved Fire Emblem character made the cut, with notable protagonists like Alm, Eliwood, Ike, and Roy missing in action.

Given the potential impact Fire Emblem's demanding nature could have had on the Warriors series' straightforward hack-and-slash engagements, the diminished classic mode is another source of disappointment.

In keeping with Fire Emblem tradition, you have the option between “casual” and “classic” game modes, though the rules work differently, eschewing classic permadeath for something a little less punishing. During a casual playthrough, fallen allies are easily revived at certain checkpoints; however, they can also be revived on the classic difficulty provided you have enough gold and other relevant items. In other words, no character is ever truly dead. It's also rare that you ever need to worry in the first place, as you’re free to switch between any one of the up to four characters you can take on a mission, allowing you to quickly control and heal allies that may be on the verge of death. Given the potential impact Fire Emblem's demanding nature could have had on the Warriors series' straightforward hack-and-slash engagements, the diminished classic mode is another source of disappointment.

The same can be said for your AI partners, who are nearly incapable of autonomy, even when given a direct purpose such as attacking or defending a chosen person or location. They rarely take the most efficient route following your order, and often end up simply standing in place once they reach their destination. With such unreliable partners, you're ultimately left to do everything yourself as missions unfold.

And because Fire Emblem Warriors is a Warriors game, there are hundreds of enemies on-screen at once. The frame rate takes a notable hit from time to time, almost chugging as the game attempts to render both the enemies you've defeated and their replacements spawning into battle. The same issue occurs when characters are introduced during missions in short, voiced cutscenes, causing the game to throttle down to stop-motion like speeds. These performance issues don’t hinder your ability to succeed, but they are obtrusive enough to be annoying.

Fire Emblem Warriors doesn’t radically change the formula of the two-decade-old Warriors franchise, nor is it concerned with attempting to do so. At best, it's a decent vehicle for Fire Emblem's characters, a chance to flex their muscles in a new venue without the limitations of turn-based combat holding their abilities back. There are signs of potential left unrealized, and the thought of what a Warriors game with truly dramatic character relationships and permadeath could have been lingers. For now that remains out of reach as Fire Emblem Warriors is yet another collaboration where Omega Force's tendencies dominate the finished product.

Categories: Games

Join The Resistance In The Launch Trailer For Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 10/17/2017 - 16:29

The launch trailer for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is out, presenting the option "German...or else!" We'll take the latter, thank you very much, and so will many others.

The trailer's Nazi killing looks like a fun proposition, and be sure to stick around until the end when Hitler himself presents himself as an attractive target.

The game comes out on October 27 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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Categories: Games

Trailer Promises 'This Isn't The Alola You Thought You Knew'

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 10/17/2017 - 16:23

The latest trailer for Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon outlines a looming battle between darkness and light.

Along with its good versus evil allegory, the trailer also reveals new Pokémon you can ride (was that Solgaleo?), what appears to be a Star Fox-style flying sequence (was that Lunala?), as well as a promise that, "This isn't the Alola you thought you knew."

Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon are coming to 3DS on November 17.

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For more on Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon head here. To read a recent opinion piece about what Andrew Reiner wants from the future of Pokémon, head here.

Categories: Games

South Park: The Fractured But Whole Review

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 10/16/2017 - 12:00

In South Park: The Fractured But Whole, the fantasy theme of its predecessor gives way to the equally popular subject of superheroes, parodying the current state of comic book-to-film oversaturation we see today. This shift is complemented by the change in the combat system, which proves cerebrally satisfying despite the juvenile sight of your main character using flatulence to overpower and outsmart everyone from ninjas to a red wine-enraged Randy Marsh. And when you add town exploration that awards practical character benefits, the resulting game is a delightfully fart-tinged journey that delivers satisfying gameplay and surprising absurdity in equal measure.

Like many South Park episodes, The Fractured But Whole's story kicks off with Eric Cartman cooking up a self-serving scheme: the search for a missing cat so he can use the reward money to fund a movie franchise for his troupe of superheroes. Yet, this is South Park after all, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that what develops goes way beyond a simple feline rescue. We're talking about police corruption with Lovecraftian twists and having to stomach debased attacks by pedophile bosses. As you once again play as the New Kid, you promptly join Cartman's team, Coon and Friends, engaging in a host of bizarre stories that play fast and loose with crude humor and sensitive topics alike.

This is South Park through and through, where outrageous and unpredictable plot developments contrast against the day-to-day goings on of seemingly normal suburbanites. There's also the typical smattering of references to recent real-life events, from the Black Lives Matter movement to Morgan Freeman running a taqueria. But the game follows the franchise blueprint of lampooning pop culture and society without in-depth commentary, typified by the non-combat difficulty slider where being black is supposedly the hardest setting, and being white is the easiest. It's an opportunity to present something meaningful left half-realized as a flyby gag.

Seemingly more care was put into the game's more benign comedic touches, starting with game title itself. 'The Fractured But Whole' isn't a mere excuse to hide 'butthole' in a game title; it's also a clever take on Captain America: Civil War, relevant since the game's story involves two rival superhero teams. The Fractured But Whole is a consistent chucklefest where genuine laugh out loud moments are spread thin, which is forgivable for a playthrough that can last over 20 hours. Thanks to fast travel, completing missions comes at a steady pace, which means you're only minutes away from a new scene that would warrant a chortle at the very least. That could be Mr. Mackey's disturbing inquisitiveness about your sexual preferences or the City Wok staff moonlighting as ninjas. And even in the more private settings of a stranger's bathroom, the minigame of dropping a deuce offers its own flavor of hilarity.

Your arduous rescue mission is filled with hostile encounters against everyone from sixth graders to the elderly. As a welcome change to the precision demands of the Stick of Truth's RPG-inspired mechanics, Fractured But Whole employs tactics-style combat, prioritizing strategy-driven thoughtfulness over adept reflexes. While those new to tactical RPGs won't have to worry about the intricacies of terrain effects or improving chemistry between squadmates, you're nonetheless rewarded for thinking a couple turns ahead. Moreover, the modestly sized combat grids give the initial false impression that only rudimentary battle planning is needed for success. In actuality, these sometimes cramped spaces force you to think carefully on how to efficiently navigate your characters around the field, ideally to capitalize on their powers.

It's a superbly balanced combat system that values smart thinking while also offering the flexibility of personal preference when choosing your character's class and abilities. Whether you like supporting and buffing friends or want to be the most powerful tank possible, you can complement your strengths with the many superfriends you amass over time. While it's a stimulating challenge trying to make a great team, it's even harder to come up with a bad one. For every hero that has a potent attack that can knock back enemies, there's a buddy who can heal and buff. Another advantage is the accessibility of craftable health-restoring mexican food. This can turn the bulk of encounters into easy victories, though The Fractured But Whole offers its share of optional encounters above your fighting weight--as measured by your squad's Might level--not to mention a number of challenging boss fights.

Growing your team's Might is inextricably tied to every bit of forward progress you make, whether that's wrapping up a story goal or completing the myriad side quests assigned by familiar townsfolk. From building a follower count on social media via the Coonstagram app or collecting gay romantic manga for Mister Tucker, experience earned through those missions accumulate to increase your levels and unlock slots for Might-boosting artifacts.

As you head to any map-marked objective, the various unexplored homes and businesses along the way are well-peppered with practical crafting items and side-mission collectables. Thanks to a number of quality-of-life conveniences, exploring seldom feels like a chore. Accessible drawers are well-marked with yellow handles, backpacks you've sifted through remain open, and when you've completed various collection missions, you're rewarded by the quest giver immediately, saving you the trip to physically hand the goods. These benefits far outweigh The Fractured But Whole's slight annoyances such as not knowing what attacks in battle result in friendly fire and the tiny font of your app updates.

Aside from exploration and battles, South Park is loaded with environmental puzzles that--while hardly brain teasing--can elicit more than a giggle depending on how a hurdle is overcome. The most challenging obstacles are surmounted by your legendary farting abilities and select friends you can call in for an immediate assist. By combining your flatulence with the flight ability of Human Kite (aka Kyle's superhero persona), you can reach higher, previously inaccessible areas. Toilet humor transcends to depravity when you fire Butters' rodent out of your butt, launching it to reach and sabotage open electrical panels. While The Stick of Truth had its share of gassy gags, this sequel doubles down on farting as an essential multipurpose game mechanic, powerful enough to bend space and time at your whim. Not only does it prove useful in solving puzzles, it's also invaluable in preventing enemies from using their turn in battle.

Much like The Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole can be appreciated as a standalone adventure, accessible to those who've fallen off the TV series over a decade ago. Fans who have kept up will appreciate the handful of recent call backs to the show plus at least one timely spoof that creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone previous said they would not tackle. And if there's one aspect of the show that hasn't changed in its 20-plus years, it is the endearing qualities of the kids' reality-breaking imaginations. This is best exemplified in the classic pronouncement that the floor is lava, which is represented by initially impassible red building blocks strewn throughout the town.

Fractured But Whole succeeds as an interactive South Park mini-series, while effectively emulating the show's current style of adult-targeted entertainment and satirization of political correctness. In other words, it's consistently amusing and provocative without the edginess the series used to be known for. Both the game's combat and explorative strengths effectively bridge the many comical plot developments, which range from mildly amusing to downright hilarious. It's an accomplishment that this game will wholly entertain devoted fans while delivering a heap of jokes that won't fly over the heads of casual viewers.

Categories: Games

Comical Live Action Trailer Invites You To Reassemble Your Squad

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 10/15/2017 - 18:54

Activision released three new trailers today for the upcoming Call of Duty: WWII. Instead of teasing in-game footage or revealing a cinematic trailer, the video is a lighthearted live action trailer that invites players to reassemble their group of friends to prepare for the game's release.

Three teasers were revealed for different regions: US, France, and UK. Each are slightly different with varying actors, but all have a similar amusing tone and message. You can view them all below:

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For more on Call of Duty: WWII, you can take a look at our cover story hub that includes exclusive videos, interviews, and more. Call of Duty: WWII releases on November 3 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

Shuhei Yoshida And Other Executives Reflect On The Series 20 Years Later

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 10/13/2017 - 19:40

Sony and Polyphony Digital are celebrating Gran Turismo’s 20th birthday a few months early in preparation for the launch of Gran Turismo Sport next week.

A video released today features executives from Polyphony and Sony explaining a bit of the history of the series and what it’s been like to work on the games. President of Sony Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida also explains how Polyphony CEO Kazunori Yamauchi’s always optimistic attitude encouraged the team during the development of the original Gran Turismo.

There are a lot of interesting quotes about the series’ development and how it’s changed over the years, including tidbits about the scale of Gran Turismo Sport and the effort that has gone into developing it. Be sure to check out the video below.

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Categories: Games

The Evil Within 2 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 10/13/2017 - 03:24

Innovating within the bounds of horror's familiar tropes and rules is a difficult task, but one that The Evil Within 2 handles with grace. Developer Tango Gameworks cleverly introduces old-school horror design within the confines of a semi-open world that ultimately makes for a refreshing trip into a world of nightmares.

Picking up several years after the first game, we find the former detective Sebastian Castellanos in dire straits, still wracked with guilt over the loss of his family and haunted by his last visit into a nightmare version of reality. When a shadowy organization gives him the chance to set things right with his past and rescue his daughter from the dangerous and unstable world of Union, he willingly re-enters the haunting realm despite his residual trauma.

Right from the beginning, there's a sense of deja vu as Sebastian wanders the eerie and unreal locations in Union. Despite being one of the few survivors from the first game, he oddly finds himself falling for the same tricks and set-ups that the world and its inhabitants lay out for him. While this could be chalked up to a simple retread, much of these instances make a point of illustrating some key differences from this game and the last.

There's generally more of an adventurous feel compared to the original's isolated levels. With more side characters to interact with--opening up moments of dialogue that flesh out the story--and optional events scattered around the world, there's a level of freedom and variety in The Evil Within 2 that was largely absent from the first game. However, there are a few notable sections where backtracking is required, which slows the pacing and sense of progression to a crawl.

Despite this, exploration is consistently enjoyable, rewarding treks to the places tucked away, where you can find details about Union's history and meet other characters looking to survive the nightmare. With so many little details that add a lot to atmosphere, there's a clear respect for The Evil Within's world. The many nods to original game feel more impactful for it, giving a renewed appreciation for Sebastian's previous adventure.

Compared to its predecessor's singular levels in unique chapters, The Evil Within 2 possesses a more organic and interconnected set of places to explore--focusing on several large maps with multiple points of interest. While there's still plenty of mind-bending and perspective-skewing set pieces, such as a tentacle creature with a large camera for an eye, the explorable spaces are the real standout. In many ways, it's like traversing through a demented amusement park filled with hideous creations, forcing yourself to face past horrors. Adventuring to places not marked on the map often yields valuable resources, and also leads to some surprising encounters with obsessive ghosts and multiple unnerving, fourth-wall breaking events.

It takes more than just going for the head to take out some of the tougher enemies.

Over time, environments descend into chaos when Union inevitably grows unstable, turning a small town into a horrifying and unnerving shell of its former self. Streets vertically upend, and fire and blood exude from places they shouldn't. The visual design of The Evil Within 2 successfully juxtaposes vastly different settings and aesthetics, and presents them in a bizarre package that illustrates the erratic and unpredictable nature of the world.

While Sebastian felt more like a mere sketch of a hardened and weary protagonist in his first outing, he feels better realized and more grounded in this sequel, giving a certain gravitas to his struggle. Showing bewilderment and confusion throughout the first game, he's more confident and determined this time, even throwing in some fitting one-liners that poke fun at some of the dangers in the last game. The supporting cast of villains also feel more active in the ongoing events, and have a greater sense of place this time around--particularly with the eccentric serial killer artist who photographs his victims upon their deaths.

The Evil Within 2 successfully juxtaposes vastly different settings and aesthetics, and presents them in a bizarre package that illustrates the erratic and unpredictable nature of the world.

While there's occasional moments of cheese and humor throughout--such as the inclusion of a goofy shooting range and collectible toys related to other Bethesda games--the levity never feels out of place, which is an accomplishment considering the game's pervasive macabre atmosphere.

Putting a greater emphasis on the survival aspect of survival horror, The Evil Within 2 demands resource management and bravery in its relatively spacious world. While common enemies are fewer in number compared to the original game, they're far more threatening alone and can easily manhandle Sebastian. There's a thoughtful approach to engagement and progression this time around, which means you'll have to think twice about whether or not to engage a group of enemies. With that said, you have a sizable arsenal of weapons and gear--including the return of the Crossbow with six different ammo types--to take on the enemies as you see fit.

Some encounters will pull out all the stops to prevent Sebastian from making progress.

Throughout his journey, Sebastian carries a communication device, allowing him to keep track of main objectives, along with points of interest and intel on the fates of side characters in the area. How you go about dealing with these characters and exploring is up to you. Similarly, whether you avoid conflict with enemies or take out as many as possible along the way is down to your preferred playstyle. The Evil Within 2 accommodates those that prefer action as much as those that like to be stealthy. Combat is robust, thanks to improved weapon handling and character upgrading that allows you to focus on the specific areas of Sebastian's skillset to enhance stealth, combat, and athleticism.

Sebastian can return to the safe haven of his mind to upgrade weapons and skills, and review case files and intel on various characters. With the Green Gel collected from fallen enemies--and the new Red Gel that unlocks upper tier upgrades--the core upgrading system has been greatly improved. Going beyond simply increasing damage of melee strikes and stamina length, new special perks can be unlocked such as the ever-useful Bottle Break skill that uses bottles as self-defense items when grabbed by enemies. Along with the expanded weapon upgrade system, using only weapon parts, the systems of progression feel far more nuanced and open.

Sebastian will have to scavenge for supplies and other materials to make up for the lack of ammo boxes and health items. While this may seem like it can make things easy, efficient crafting can only be done at dedicated workbenches, whereas crafting in the field via the radial inventory menu should be done a last resort as it costs twice as many materials. This crafting element adds a bit of a survivalist feel to The Evil Within 2, where you're scrounging around corners to find materials, all while avoiding packs of enemies looking to pummel you.

Though the game is challenging even on its standard difficulty level, it's not unfair, and there are options for multiple playstyles. The standard Survival difficulty mode is manageable, and you won't find yourself hitting a way due to lack of resources. However, the Nightmare mode raises the stakes, featuring slightly altered combat encounters, harder enemies, and fewer resources to find. If you're up for a challenge of a different kind, the unlockable Classic mode will disable auto-saves, upgrades, and limit you to a finite amount of saves. In addition to extra unlockables for completing the tougher difficulties, the experiences they offer is more in keeping with the true survival horror experience, where resources are hard to come by, and the enemies are deadlier than before.

There's a clear respect for the horror genre in The Evil Within 2, with a number of references to classic films and games. The game channels that style and tone into combat that feels brutal and raw, stealth that has an air of suspense, and unsettling confrontations with dangerous, otherworldly creatures. The Evil Within 2 doubles down on the core of what makes survival horror games great: the focus on disempowerment and obstacles, and the ensuing satisfaction that comes with surviving a harrowing assault.

Though there's some occasional technical hiccups that result in some particularly frustrating moments and weird pacing issues, this horror sequel elevates the tense and impactful survival horror experience in ways that feel fresh and exciting. What this cerebral horror game does isn't totally new, but it rarely feels routine, and offers plenty of surprises. Coming in at a lengthy and surprisingly packed 15-hour campaign, the sequel does an admirable job of ratcheting up the tension and scares when it needs to, while also giving you the freedom to explore and proceed how you want. It's a tough thing to balance, but The Evil Within 2 does it remarkably well, and in a way that leaves a strong and lasting impression after its touching conclusion.

Categories: Games

The Flame in the Flood Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 23:00

Survival games challenge you to gain control of treacherous worlds. You typically start with very little, and need to scavenge for supplies and resources in order to craft the tools needed to help you avoid death. Success usually means having enough power to establish yourself in a higher place on the food chain, or hunkering down and building a fortified space strong enough to keep the rest of the food chain out. The Flame in the Flood doesn’t allow you to achieve either of those goals and is a consistently gripping experience as a result.

Set in a rural post-societal America, The Flame in the Flood is a procedurally-generated survival game that focuses on constant movement and improvisation. The entirety of the game’s world consists of a large, overflowing river that has engulfed the countryside, destroyed man-made infrastructure, and isolated parts of the geography, turning them into islands.

The Flame in the Flood’s audiovisual presentation is integral to establishing its strong sense of place. The art direction invokes the aesthetic of a gothic storybook. The atmospheric sound design is ever-present. The rush of the flowing river is refreshing, and the heaviness of the thunderstorms is frightening. The musical score is an excellent array of Americana, ranging from mournful blues harmonica, cheerful acoustic guitar fingerpicking, wistful mandolins, and rough alt-country vocals. Together, they give The Flame in the Flood an aura of both despair and quiet beauty.

Your protagonists are a seemingly immortal dog and a survivor whose main concerns are keeping her hunger, thirst, body temperature, exhaustion, and any major injuries under control. Because the survivor can die from neglecting any of these concerns, players must keep them at bay by either scavenging or by crafting a variety of items using resources obtained from the land. But because of the game’s narrative conceit, you’re only able to scavenge on small islands with severely limited offerings. Finding the right components to create items you need often means exploring multiple islands as you traverse the river on your makeshift raft.

Your raft can be upgraded at marinas, provided you have the right components.

There are two major constraints that make this task both interesting and difficult. The protagonist can initially carry only a dozen items in her backpack, and you’ll only be able to dock at one or two islands in a cluster of many before the current pulls you further downriver. This design is frustrating at first--the impulse to grab every item and explore every area will cause you to waste far too much time and energy rearranging your backpack and paddling against the current. But once you embrace the idea of “going with the flow” so to speak, The Flame in the Flood becomes an engaging exercise of short-term prioritization and impulsive decision-making.

Though it will take a number of failures to understand the ecosystem, learning which items are universally useful and avoiding long-term hoarding are the key to staying alive. For example, keeping uncommon fire-starting materials in order to have a method of staying warm, dry, and being able to build a safe place to sleep is more vital than hoarding food--food eventually spoils, and edible flora is common enough in certain ecosystems to snack on as you come across it. Working out your priorities and having the courage to leave valuable things behind is a stimulating challenge. The Flame in the Flood keeps you on your back foot at all times. This feels like true survival.

Unfortunately, the user interface can prove to be a source of frustration. Essential tasks, like sorting your inventory and getting a broad idea of your current crafting options feel unnecessarily taxing because of the number of steps required. All pertinent information is kept within multiple subcategories accessed from a single screen. Inventory management and crafting existing in separate subcategories, and the recipes for different kinds of craftable items are separated into subcategories under that. Finding out what components are missing for a particular tool can be tedious because of the need to flip between menus and scroll through multiple entries to reach the information. Even after hours of play, I was still wrestling with the menu system, especially when using a controller. In fact, I began switching to mouse and keyboard exclusively for menus to make navigation a little easier.

Sure. I'm cold, wet, starving, exhausted, and lacerated all over. But man, what a view.

But switching to mouse and keyboard is not something I want to do because movement, especially piloting your raft, is far more precise and satisfying with a controller. Travelling to new locations via raft requires deft avoidance of rock formations, remnants of human infrastructure and floating debris. Lightly flowing waters regularly turn into violent rapids, which are as treacherous as they are fun to navigate--impacts are devastating on both your raft’s integrity and your own vitals. Using the last of your stamina bar to push your raft just shy of a large, jagged outcrop is consistently thrilling, and when things quiet down, gently steering your raft through the remains of drowned towns at sunset while a haunting lap-steel melody plays is a sublime experience.

The Flame in the Flood encourages you to put long-term goals aside and live in the moment, to make choices and overcome short-term problems with risky but satisfying spontaneity. Despite the awkward menu system, it’s an absorbing game that lets you experience a journey in the present, and fully appreciate the sights, sounds, and joys of floating down the river in its alluring world.

Update: The Flame In The Flood’s arrival on Nintendo Switch as a “Complete Edition” comes with the mechanical refinements and feature upgrades that have been added since the game’s initial release. These include quality-of-life tweaks to crafting, an insightful developer’s commentary, and more importantly, an alternate dog companion to choose from. While the visual fidelity noticeably lower on the Switch and there are some minor hiccups in performance that aren’t present on other platforms, The Flame In The Flood still remains a unique and absorbing survival game. We have updated the score to reflect our experience with the Switch version. - Edmond Tran, Fri. October 13, 2017, 9:00 AM AEST

Categories: Games

Cosmo The Spacedog Sets Up The Story In New Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 16:21

Even though it's typically obscured beneath a haze of slapstick and rubber-duck jokes, TT Games' Lego titles do actually contain narrative strings that tie the experiences together. Really! If you don't believe us, a new trailer for Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 will certainly dismantle your skepticism. It highlights the main conflict between a massive roster of heroes and their time-travelling foe, Kang the Conqueror. Also, it's narrated by Cosmo The Spacedog, who is a good boy.

You may recognize the voice of Kang the Conqueror, too. Actor Peter Serafinowicz, who plays TheTick on Amazon's The Tick voices the villain.

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Warner Interactive revealed a slew of characters at New York Comic Con, too. They include: Grandmaster (Thor: Ragnarok), Valkyrie (Thor: Ragnarok), Arizona Annie, Blade, Captain Avalon, Charlie-27, Chipmunk Hunk, Dormammu, Ghost Rider & Hell Cycle, Hellcow, Hobgoblin, Hulk 2099, Koi Boi, Lady Spider, Luke Cage, Misty Knight, Morbius, Phantom Rider, Red Wolf, Living Totem, Squirrel Girl, Super Adaptoid, and Ursa Major.

Players can expand the roster further by purchasing either the $14.99 season pass or the game's deluxe edition, which will add 60 additional characters and six levels. The levels are based on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Cloak & Dagger, and The Runaways

Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on November 14.

Categories: Games

Need For Speed Payback's Sweet Revenge Story Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 15:22

When The House – a syndicate controlling Need For Speed Payback's Fortune Valley – goes after Tyler, he assembles a crew and hits back.

Take to the streets, win races and earn respect, and go on set-piece missions to take down the organization.

For more on the game, check out Jeff's hands-on impressions from Gamescom.

Need for Speed Payback is out November 10 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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Categories: Games

Pokémon Ultra Sun & Moon Z-Moves Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 15:07

A new trailer for Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon has come out, showcasing the Z-Moves of Dusk Mane Necrozma and Dawn Wings Necrozma, as well as a powered-up Rotom Dex.

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon are out for the 3DS on November 17. For another look at the game, take a visit to Ultra Megalopolis.

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Categories: Games

Launch Trailer Reveals Horrifying Sights

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 16:01

Tango Gameworks' upcoming sequel to The Evil Within launches in a couple of days, and a new trailer highlights some of the game's horrific creatures and setpieces.

Take a look at the clip below to see a host of monstrous enemies, weird hallucinatory imagery, and a fair bit of gore. Don't worry – it's all in Sebastien Castellanos' head. Or is it?

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For more on The Evil Within 2, check out our earlier preview, which features 40 minutes of the game's second chapter.

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