Games

Watch 40 Minutes Of The Evil Within 2's Second Chapter

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 22:11

The Evil Within 2 launches this Friday on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. We still don't know exactly how this sequel begins, but you can take a look at Sebastian Castellanos' first steps in a new version of STEM, the device that links minds together and brings horrors to life. This 40-minute clip does contain small story spoilers, but more so serves the purpose of showing how the new free-form exploration works in the city of Union.

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Categories: Games

Watch A New Level From The Nintendo World Championship

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 22:30

The Nintendo World Championships were yesterday and hosted a number of Nintendo-themed gaming challenges for some of the world's best players to take on. The entire event (embedded below) is worth watching, but the final challenge is the most interesting, since it features a brand-new level from Super Mario Odyssey.

The challenges (which you can watch starting at the 4:34:54 mark in the video) had the final two competitors for the event, John Numbers and Thomas G, fighting for a five-second head start in the final challenge, which featured a boss fight from Odyssey. The new levels featured several 2D-platforming segments, some tricky flicking using Cappy, and an ice level featuring deadly rings and rotating platforms.

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Categories: Games

The Sequel Is Coming To The West

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 19:27

Bandai Namco has announced God Eater 3, a new title in the action-RPG series. The game's brief first trailer (below) features the same tactical weapon-switching that's become a staple of the series, as well as the big ol' bosses (named Aragami). The plot involves the main character breaking free from comically thick handcuffs in order to continue their mission of killing giant baddies with their transforming weapons, called God Arcs. The official press release also hints at a growing conflict within the God Eaters themselves.

Bandai Namco has not announced platforms for the game. However, judging by the look of the game and the Vita continuing to trail off worldwide, this could be the new game in the series (besides God Eater: Resurrection, a remake of God Eater Burst which made its way to the PS4) to land on modern consoles, which could help the series find a new audience.

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Categories: Games

Overview Trailer Shows Off Delightfully Wacky World

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 10/07/2017 - 18:01

As we inch towards Super Mario Odyssey's release later this month, Nintendo is trickling out new details surrounding the highly anticipated platformer. The newest trailer gives fans an overview of Mario's capture ability, along with new game modes including Assist Mode and co-op.

The trailer gives a lot of raipid-fire information about Mario's powers, such as how Cappy can help him reach higher places and the numerous beings he can capture. With the Odyssey, a giant hat-shaped flying ship, Mario can traverse the world to reach its many kingdoms. We also see more of the photo mode in action, where you can pause gameplay to take a snapshot, as well as a quick overview of several minigames that are scattered around the world.

Co-op is shown briefly in the video, where you can pass a joy-con to a friend to play together. In this mode, one player controls Mario while the other takes control of Cappy. We also learn about Assist Mode, which gives players some guidance through the campaign, such as arrows pointing you in the right direction and second chances if you fall to your death.

To see all of this in action, check out the video below.

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For more on Super Mario Odyssey, read our hands-on impressions and watch this video to see how wacky this platformer can get. Super Mario Odyssey releases on October 27 for Nintendo Switch.

Categories: Games

Stardew Valley Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 22:17

On the surface, Stardew Valley is a game about farming, but there are more adventures awaiting curious players beyond cultivating a rich and bountiful garden. From mining and fishing to making friends and falling in love, Stardew Valley's Pelican Town is stuffed with rewarding opportunities. As modern day woes give way to pressing matters on the farm and within your newfound community, Stardew Valley's meditative activities often lead to personal reflection in the real world. It’s a game that tugs at your curiousity as often as it does your heart.

Your journey begins in the field, cleaning up a neglected and rundown farm. Plotting and planning your garden requires care and attention to detail. What fruits and vegetables do you grow? How much room does each plant need? How do you protect your crops from nature's troublemakers? You learn through practice, and while the basics are easy to grasp, you quickly need to figure out the best way to outfit your budding farm with new tools and equipment.

Upgrades help speed up essential tasks like tilling the earth and watering your plants, but advanced equipment becomes a necessity when the time comes to break down large rocks and stumps that stick out in your garden. The crafting menu also entices you with optional time-saving tools; automated sprinklers that water the crops every morning, artisan equipment to make preserves or beer out of your harvest, and refineries, such as a furnace for turning ore into metal bars. If you want something, you can make it, you just have to scour your environment for the necessary components.

As your farm improves, you gain the ability to raise livestock. Animals are expensive to buy and maintain, and the barn they live in isn’t cheap either. You start small, with a barn just big enough for a few chickens and ducks. But if you run an efficient and bountiful garden, you can eventually afford to upgrade to a bigger barn and keep hearty livestock like pigs, cows and sheep.

You have to feed your stock every day, which can get expensive, but they will eventually begin to produce eggs, milk and other rewards for all your hard work. Beyond their monetary value, animals are simply endearing to be around. Give them a name and work a little petting time into your routine; before you know it, your commodities have become your friends. Like your crops, the goodies livestock produce give you a sense of accomplishment, but their companionship is a different yet equally valuable reward.

The goodies livestock produce give you a sense of accomplishment, but their companionship is a different yet equally valuable reward.

When your farm is healthy and your equipment set, Stardew Valley opens up and your routine expands: after you water your plants, feed your animals and tidy up in the morning, you get to head out in search of adventure and friendship. There’s a mine north of Pelican Town with a seemingly endless bounty of buried treasure, but also danger. Combat is simple--a plain swipe of a sword will brush back most common monsters--but the dangers you face grow as you delve deeper into the mine, pushing your basic tactics to the limit.

There’s a risk/reward relationship to seeking out valuable treasure, as it becomes increasingly more difficult to defend yourself from procedurally generated creatures the deeper you go. You hit checkpoints--in the form of elevator stops--every few floors, which both encourages you to keep going and to return in the future in search of grander rewards as checkpoints allow you to skip past the mine's early levels. The precious gems you find can be sold for profit, donated to a museum that will conduct and share research, or simply hoarded in a chest to be fawned over down the road.

When you grow weary of toiling underground, you can also spend time fishing on lakes, streams and coastal beaches. Fishing in Stardew Valley is straightforward--you use one button to reel in a fish and let go when the line is tense--but it gives you a chance to soak in your surroundings and experience the joys of catching a wide array of fish unique to specific seasons and locations. It’s a calming experience at sunset after a long day that gives you a chance to reflect on your progress and daydream about adventures to come.

Stardew Valley constantly encourages you to explore, be it mining, foraging for fruit in the woods, or collecting seashells, and your curiosity is amply rewarded. Every hidden area you find, every train track you follow, leads to new sights and discoveries that add detail and color to the world around you. Yet as fulfilling as farming and exploring are, visiting Pelican Town's community center pulls you ever deeper into your new life. Like your farm at the beginning of the game, the community center needs a little attention at first: you’re sent out on fetch quests to gather the necessary materials to fuel its reconstruction.

Outside of the community center, the rest of Pelican Town's inhabitants also need your help. In working together to achieve small goals, you grow to understand your neighbors' personalities and identify what makes them tick. Some are pursuing their hopes and dreams, while others fight day to day to overcome personal obstacles; others are quirky creatures of habit that round out the community's overall identity.

Relationships are gauged by a heart meter, and getting to a certain number of hearts results in a cutscene that offer a closer look into your new friends' lives. Offering gifts and completing tasks from a board in the center of town are easy ways to increase your connections, and slowly but surely you’re allowed in the inner circle of people’s otherwise private lives. You may befriend a father named Kent who’s dealing trauma after years at war. He’s working on his temper and trying to bond with his child after being away from home. The child, whom you meet in hiding in his parent's basement, is quiet and introverted. But when you put the time in to get to know him, he reveals that he actually doesn't mind being alone, even though he believes that he's at odds with his parents. These personal moments are touching, and encourage you to spend more time getting to know the people around you.

And if you decide to enter Pelican Town's dating scene, don't be surprised if you end up with butterflies in your stomach. Giving your crush the right gift and seeing the joy on their face makes you genuinely happy, but you have to put yourself out there first. Sure, working with townsfolk in general is a good way to understand the ins and outs of potential suitors, but no amount of preparation diminishes the impact of anxiously delivering a heartfelt gesture. Because you've invested so much time and energy into forging relationships, you get nervous when you expose your feelings, regardless of the fact that you're courting a pixelated crush. Through strong writing and characterization, Stardew Valley stirs up surprising feelings: when your date shares his umbrella in the rain, you know he's the one.

Through strong writing and characterization, Stardew Valley stirs up surprising feelings

Romance often buds during community events that take place each season. In spring you’ll attend a dance and try to get someone to be your partner. At the summer luau you’ll have to bring something delicious from your harvest for the community potluck. At each of these events you’ll have time to get to know the people within the community and see them in a different light than usual. Although it’s lovely to see them outside of their usual activities, it’s a shame year after year the comments and actions of the villagers remain the same. Still, you can learn from previous years, adding better food to the potluck and finally earning the affection of your favorite dance partner.

Mastering farming and earning the affection of your special someone in Stardew Valley are fulfilling journeys filled with surprising and rewarding challenges. But when you have those accomplishments under your belt, it's hard to know where you go from there. Divorce is an option, but if you put a lot of yourself into finding a spouse, dumping them merely to extend your game doesn't seem like an attractive path. Besides, with your money-making farm, cash isn't a concern either.

Ultimately, Stardew Valley's eventful world is so inviting that you may opt to simply start from scratch and forge a new life. For anyone who played Stardew Valley earlier this year when it launched on PC, the new console ports capture the same magic that made the game special all those months ago, and allows you to play from the comfort of your couch. Controls on console are essentially identical to what you get from the PC version's controller support. Console versions also get the fully updated version of Stardew Valley, which includes the aforementioned divorce option, new farm maps that focus on different skills, and a handful of new mechanics that add appreciable wrinkles to life on the farm and about town.

The sheer number of things to accomplish in Stardew Valley can keep you interested beyond the original three in-game years you need to reach the end of your story--you may just want to start over rather than continue on. You’ll work quite hard to gather enough money for your first horse, so that you can quickly move to the mines to get a mineral to complete a bundle at the community center. It’s all centered around whatever it is you want to accomplish that day. And that’s truly what makes Stardew Valley such a lovely experience, it encourages you to go out and be the best you can be, in whichever task that brings you the most joy. Stardew Valley motivates naturally, with blissful optimism.

Editor's note: After further testing, GameSpot has updated the score to reflect the Nintendo Switch version of Stardew Valley. - Oct. 6, 2017, 2:17 PM PT

Categories: Games

Fear What Happens Next

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 20:34

This article original appeared in Game Informer issue 294.

Famed game creator Shinji Mikami, known as the “father of survival horror” for his work on the Resident Evil series, is not returning to the director’s chair for The Evil Within 2. After successfully launching this new horror series, he stepped back to let his young team at Tango Gameworks take the reins. While Mikami remains a key player in overseeing the progress of this sequel, he handed the bloody directorial baton to John Johanas, who served as a visual effects designer on The Evil Within, but also got his feet wet as the director of the game’s two DLC add-ons, The Assignment and The Consequence.

The shakeup in direction doesn’t mean a new start for the series. Unlike the first few Resident Evil games, which introduced new protagonists and threats, The Evil Within 2 once again inflicts pain and suffering upon Sebastian Castellanos, a detective for the Krimson City Police Department who lost his family, sobriety, and everything but his sanity.

At the beginning of The Evil Within, Castellanos was dispatched to investigate multiple homicides at Krimson City’s Beacon Mental Hospital, but soon found himself the pawn in a sinister game created by a mysterious organization called Mobius, as well as a sick individual named Ruben Victoriano (known more commonly as Ruvik).

After losing his sister in a barn fire, Ruvik created a device called STEM that unites multiple users’ minds into one, allowing them to physically live within one central user’s memories. Ruvik created this machine with the hope of seeing his sister again. He was sloppy in his experimentation, and the technology soon became the desire of Mobius. They killed Ruvik and stole his creation, but soon realized that they needed his brain to operate it. They reanimated his brain to use it as the central operating system of STEM, which was activated again when Castellanos entered the hospital.

Castellanos was trapped in a world of horror where he experienced Ruvik’s torment and anger firsthand. After a hellish journey, he ended Ruvik’s psychological threat by detaching his brain from STEM, but it may not have stopped him completely. The game’s conclusion is left ambiguous, perhaps implying Ruvik returned to the real world and is now controlling the body of a patient named Leslie Winters.

Three years have passed since the incident at Beacon Mental Hospital, and Castellanos has been searching for answers that may link Mobius to the death of his family. As The Evil Within 2 begins, he receives a message from his former partner Juli Kidman, who was secretly working for Mobius the entire time.

“Sebastian, for three years since Beacon happened, you’ve been searching for answers,” she said in a recording. “You didn’t find what you were looking for because they didn’t want you to. Mobius knows you’ve been following us. They’ve been watching you for a long time. You trained and trusted me, and in return I betrayed you. Long before we met, you lost your daughter Lily. She’s still alive. This is your chance to save her; to get back what you lost. Lily needs you. You’re going to need to go back into STEM. Again.”

As reluctant as Castellanos is to return to a world that nearly killed him a hundred times over, he learns that the central brain being used for this new iteration of STEM is his daughter’s. He must enter her mind to locate her, and hopefully save her. He also hopes to destroy Mobius in the process.


An Old Threat Reborn
Our demo begins in the game’s second chapter, called “Something Not Quite Right.” We don’t know what events precede this playthrough, but the dialogue leads us to believe Sebastian just entered STEM again.

Kidman is back as a guiding voice, but an untrusted one now that Castellanos knows her true intentions. She tells him that he should begin by looking for the members of Mobius’ lost Search Party Team, who disappeared in a town called Union. She suggests they may have a lead on Lily. The town, which is created by Lily, is supposed to be quaint and peaceful, showing how STEM should -really -work.

We meet Castellanos in a deteriorating elevator, but he already looks like he’s been through hell. His right hand is bandaged, he looks disheveled, and although he’s wearing a tactical shoulder holster, he appears to have already lost his weapons.

When the elevator doors open, the environment around him is shrouded in darkness. A lone florescent light illuminates a small section of a regal black and white checkered floor. A fenced in area can faintly be seen to the left. Castellanos approaches the light, and ducks down to squeeze through a hole in the fence that appears to have been munched on by something large. Again, we see nothing but an unnerving black. Castellanos activates his flashlight, which provides a little comfort, but not nearly enough. A quick scan of the area reveals nothing of importance – more fencing to the left, torn white drapes to the right, and the makings of machinery and equipment for a factory. Looking dead ahead, Castellanos sees dozens of corpses wearing white robes dangling from ropes. They all appear to have been hanged, but the blood on their bodies shows something sinister happened to them before this.

The only way forward is through the corpses. Castellanos moves slowly, but accidentally runs into a couple of them. They remain dead, swaying gently from his touch. The sea of bodies gives way to a metal wall with a red eye painted on it. He can’t interact with it, but a loud swooshing sound rings out, and he spins to see a camera on a tripod across the room. He examines it, and again hears a swoosh. The dangling bodies have moved, and now are lined in straight rows, revealing a clear path to a metal door. Castellanos cautiously inches forward, and opens it. A well-dressed man stands directly behind the door holding a camera. Before Castellanos can do anything, the camera flashes brightly, and then we see nothing but darkness.

Awakening on the floor of a new room, Castellanos sees a wall-sized mirror holding the photograph that was just taken of him. Frustration begins to sink in. He angrily grabs the photo, and then sees something out of the corner of his eye – a woman dressed in red reflected in the mirror. A quick spin reveals nothing, just more white drapes covering age-old items. Castellanos turns back toward the mirror, which now holds the sinister smile of a demon that looks like Laura, the spider-like demon that stalked him throughout the first game.

The mirror shatters loudly, and this new version of Laura now caled “Guardian” stands in his world. As a manifestation of Lily’s mind, she’s different now, standing somewhat normally on two legs, but is at least 12-feet tall. Her hair is still a hypnotic mess of black, but it’s no longer her defining feature; her right arm is replaced by a gigantic, spinning saw blade. A deeper look at Guardian’s body reveals her flesh is sewn together with black wire, and every once in a while you can see smaller arms reaching out from her limbs. She’s a monstrosity, and once again incredibly violent.

Castellanos spins and runs, turning every which way, but the room is relatively small, offering no escape route. Guardian laughs hysterically, but has trouble keeping tabs on her prey’s location. This allots Castellanos time to sprint past her into the opening where the mirror once sat. Guardian’s wild laughter keeps up with Castellanos’ descent into a lengthy hallway, his stamina draining with each step.

Castellanos looks back to see where Guardian is, only to see her burst through a wall. The pursuit continues, and panic is clearly setting in on our unlucky protagonist. He keeps looking behind him, but should keep his gaze directly ahead to a glowing white door that has silently opened to reveal the man with the camera again. He’s done taking photos, and now wields a sizable hunting knife. The man throws the blade forward and it slides easily into Castellanos’ shoulder, sending him to the ground. The man turns around and vanishes in a puff of smoke. Guardian’s pursuit intensifies. She lunges forward and grabs Castellanos off of the floor with what appears to be three separate hands that make up her left arm. As he’s being strangled to death, Castellanos pulls the knife from his arm and jams it into his attacker. She drops him and screams in pain, creating a window for escape. After entering the doorway of light, Castellanos falls to the ground, and the door behind vanishes in a flash. He’s now in a quaint, abandoned house.

This is how our hero obtains his first weapon: the hunting knife. This dramatic moment also signals a shift away from unrelenting action to Castellanos becoming the hunter through slower-paced exploration.


Fighting Back

Electricity still pumps through the home, and many of the rooms have working lights that show it’s been lived in recently. The windows are broken and trash bags are everywhere, but everything else is pristine, such as the nicely arranged vases on the mantel and modern furniture. The home holds healing items, the first of 40 hidden documents, and a handgun. Castellanos almost misses the firearm when leaving the house through the front door, but grabs it from an end table with one foot out of the household.

Standing outside on the front porch, his surroundings are darkened woods with a tall tree canopy blocking out most of the moonlight, but not the light rain. A concrete path begs him to venture into the woodlands, and he wastes no time finding out where it leads. He assures himself, “Don’t worry. It’s just a small, quiet town,” but takes it back seconds later, “Yeah… Too quiet.”

A good way down the path, he sees a woman sprint into another home. He calls for her, but she doesn’t break stride. He tries to knock on the door, but it slides open when his hand touches it. Again, darkness, but this time with a voice saying “Skin and bones… Eat. Gotta eat…” We then see plastic bags filled with unrecognizable meat, and a woman at a table feeding a boy. He looks near dead, but his gargles say otherwise. She slaps him when he struggles to swallow whatever she spooned him. “Don’t cry. I’m doing what’s best for you,” she says, as she slams his head against the table.

It’s a disturbing moment, and for the sake of spoilers I won’t detail what happens next, but Castellanos learns humans are more than they seem. Their heads are made up of white tentacles that squirm wildly, but almost appear to be made of milk or glue.

So far in this demo, one of the big things jumping out is Castellanos’ animations. He may vocalize his thoughts to a thing he is seeing, but you’ll sometimes seem little animations that go along with his state of thought. When he approaches the boy at the kitchen table, he puts his left hand up to his face to cover his nose, and then his right as he draws in closer. If the player didn’t approach the table, this little sequence wouldn’t be seen. A thorough inspection of the house reveals the crafting component gunpowder.

Castellanos once again enters the wooded area. The rain has ceased and nightfall appears to be setting in. A short run down the stone path leads to a road with abandoned cars obscured in light fog. The sounds of gunshots and yelling ring out. Castellanos tracks the sounds to what appears to be the heart of the city, with several small two-to three-story buildings and a church.

Just when it seems the coast is clear, several rotting zombies sprint across the road in hot pursuit of a Union security detail. Although the detail is decked out in flak jackets and equipped with heavy artillery, there are too many zombies to deal with. A few panicked shots hit their marks, but the zombie hunger wins out. One Union member enters a house and slams the door.

Castellanos uses stealth to navigate the swarm, sliding along the side of cars and emerging at the right times to silently take down lone zombies with a knife through the top of their skulls. Enemies have three stages of alertness: a sound wave indicating they hear you, a partially open eye for thinking they saw something, and an open eye for full awareness. Although timing is everything, and Castellanos won’t want to remain exposed for too long, he wants to recover the Green Gel enemies drop, which can be used later to upgrade his abilities.

Most of the zombies are feeding on their new meals, and Castellanos has no problem making short work of them. A close look at one of their corpses again reveals the milky substance on specific body parts. After entering the same home that the Union person fled to, Castellanos moves a bookcase in front of the door to block it, just like Leon could in Resident Evil 4.

The frightened Union worker has barricaded himself in the basement. He reveals himself as Liam O’Neal, and appears wary of a non-Union member talking to him. Castellanos says he’s here to “restore the Core,” which likely means he’s trying to remove his daughter from it.

The game then indicates that the player has located O’Neal’s Safe House, a location that can be revisited. The first Evil Within game was linear in design, but the sequel now features areas you can return to. Union is somewhat of an open space that can be freely explored. O’Neal won’t venture out of the house with Castellanos, but does have information on the Core, and tells him Castellanos’ “communicator” can be tuned to detect its activity. The goal now is to track the girl’s voice to its origin.

Before leaving the safe house, Castellanos drinks a cup of coffee, which restores him to full health. He must brew another pot if he wants to use it again, but this action will take some time to complete. He also grabs ammo, weapon parts, and more gun powder, which he combines at the workbench to craft more handgun bullets. He also uses this station to upgrade his handgun’s ammo capacity. The other upgrade options are firepower, fire rate, and reload time. All options feed from the same weapon parts pool, and each field can be upgraded numerous times, leading to the weapon gaining levels. Castellanos can also craft items in the field, but at the expense of more resources.


Resonances

The hallway in the safe house produces a familiar sight: a specter of a nurse walking into a mirror. Castellanos shouldn’t be confused by this vision, as they were one of the few beacons of safety in Ruvik’s mind, but he immediately questions it. “What the…who was that?”

He peers into the mirror and is teleported to what appears to be a police station. At the end of a hallway sits a wheelchair under a spotlight. When Castellanos approaches it, static appears on screen and he’s teleported to another reality, one that cannot be made out for a split second, before returning to the chair. Reality shifts to a darker place again, and we see the chair consume 
Castellanos, fastening his arms and placing a device over his head.

The nurse approaches him, and he finally recognizes her as Tatiana. From this chair, the player can once again exchange Green Gel for upgrades in health, combat, athleticism, stealth, and recovery.

These fields should allow players to sculpt skills to their preferred play style. Upgrading stealth can lead to small bonuses like increased movement speed, and bigger perks down the skill tree like the ability to perform a stealth kill from around a corner. The combat tree increases damage of melee attacks, and can decrease the kickback of a shotgun. Athleticism can be upgraded to enable an auto-avoid for specific attacks, and recovery has a perk that makes Castellanos automatically use a medical syringe when taking a fatal blow.

The police station is a haven for Castellanos. Here, he finds the first of a new collectible, one of 11 photographic slides that can be viewed through a projector on his desk. This particular slide shows us a moment from Castellanos’ family life. He comments on it.

After returning to Union via another mirror, Castellanos ventures to the city square to track down a girl’s voice using his communicator. By holding it in front of him, he can scan for resonance, indicated by a frequency fuzz that intensifies when he points the communicator in the right direction. Once a strong signal is found, he can lock onto it.

Heading onto the street again triggers an event. Part of the world sudden collapses, creating what appears to be a bottomless canyon. Another part of it jets upward to create a mountain-like structure with a portion of the city still perched precariously atop it. The search for the girl requires just as much stealth as before, but now with the added effort of bringing up the communicator to keep going in the right direction. At one point, Castellanos picks up chatter from a fallen Mobius operative and uses the frequency to find his location, leading to the bounty five handgun bullets.

The world is open for him to freely explore, should he chose to do so. He can also track “unknown resonance” to perhaps find other people in need. In this playthrough, he scavenges the exterior of homes for a bit, but continues following the girl’s voice.

His journey leads to a beautiful white home, where he finds a journal on the kitchen table. When he touches it, the room temperature drops, and a chair shakes violently. Lights flicker as he retreats to the living room. Before he can get there, a ghost-like apparition of a woman appears behind him. She hums a melody, as she slowly floats forward.

I’ll again refrain from spoiling what happens next. This sequence shows just how terrifying The Evil Within 2 can be for encounter design, pacing, and keeping players off kilter. The gameplay hasn’t changed much since the original entry, but this second stage shows the player has more freedom in exploration.

It’ll be interesting to see just how far Tango takes this element when The Evil Within 2 launches on October 13 (Friday the 13th). Our first taste of this dark adventure was filled with jump scares, gore, and monsters galore, but the big hook is once again Castellanos’ journey for answers, which is far more personal this time with his daughter being dangled in front of him.

Categories: Games

A Hat In Time Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 10/06/2017 - 01:54

Though it's not apparent at first, A Hat in Time has all the best ingredients of an N64-era 3D platformer. It's cute and colorful with a wacky cast of characters; it offers a variety of collectibles to find on each level, some far easier to get than others; its worlds hide cheeky secrets and delightful details. While t he first of its four main worlds is disappointingly generic, once it opens up, A Hat in Time offers creative, charming areas that make it feel true to its beloved predecessors without getting stale.

A Hat in Time begins with you, a young girl and captain of your own spaceship, losing all the hourglass-like Time Pieces you need for fuel to get home. 40 of them cascade out your window (never mind that there's a window in a spaceship) and scatter around a mysterious planet, meaning you have to venture down there to find them. Your first stop is Mafia Town. It's a basic island level populated by identical, burly men who speak broken English, and the mafia theme is half-baked on top of that. But hopping through the seaside town, past "in cod we trust" graffitied on the walls, and using your special top hat's objective-highlighting powers to find one of the missing Time Pieces is enough to get acquainted with everything--even the over-the-top voice acting, which you'll probably mute as soon as you have a spare minute to flip through the settings.

You'd think time would be the game's core conceit, but your hat is the star of the show. In addition to Time Pieces, each world also has balls of yarn for you to collect; once you have enough, you can knit a new hat with its own unique powers, like the ability to sprint or use short-range explosives. The yarn itself provides an incentive to explore, and in turn, each hat grants you access (or easier access) to new areas. For the most part, each world is separated into chapters with a Time Piece each, but the worlds themselves are open for you to explore so long as you have the right hats. If that wasn't enough reason to look for all the secrets, you'll also collect gems as you go that can be used to buy pins for your hats. Each pin gives you an extra buff, like magnetically attracting all pickups in your immediate vicinity, and they are definitely worth having in the later, trickier areas.

Once you have all that sorted out, you'll have moved onto the next world, where A Hat in Time comes into its own. You start out in a movie studio, where an owl and a penguin are competing to win an award. The world's chapters are split between their movie sets: half on the owl's old-timey train and half in the penguin's New Orleans-esque party town. You're given a score based on the collectibles you get in each chapter, and the bird whose chapters you perform the best in is named the winner. It's absolutely adorable and unexpected, and your reward for being a completionist and returning to the world later is a clever ending to an already interesting twist.

Each of the worlds in A Hat in Time unravel like this. You explore initially to get balls of yarn for new hats and gems for pins, but if you look hard enough, you'll find more and more rewards. Sometimes it's just a cute reference in a random book or a cheeky remark from an otherwise unimportant NPC. But there are also things you'll have to work harder to find. Tricky platforming can lead to special collectibles called artifacts; you might find a crayon in one area and a box in another, and you have to arrange the full set in your spaceship. Once you combine them correctly, you unlock a special side level where you collect photographs that tell a story about the world. The complete photo albums are cute and flesh out the antagonists just a little bit, which is a treat after beating each of them in their boss fight. There are also bonus levels hidden in each area that take away all the side distractions and present you with clean platforming challenges (and beautiful, almost melancholic music).

While the platforming in A Hat in Time never gets terribly difficult, movement is smooth, and there are plenty of just-barely-made it moments that are simple but satisfying. Once you get the hookshot pin, you'll be able to transition from the ground to a jump to swinging off a hook and back down to the ground seamlessly. Getting from place to place just feels good, and the challenge levels are legitimately fun places to show off the grace in movement you've developed. They are pure and fun and blend well with the more inventive landscapes you're traversing for a 3D platforming homage that doesn't feel by the numbers.

A Hat in Time is slow to start, but it's brimming with the charm and collectible-finding joy of classic 3D platformers. Collectibles are both fun to find and help guide you to the game's best secrets, and seeing everything there is to see is its own reward. The platforming isn't particularly challenging, nor does it do anything especially new, but A Hat in Time's cleverly themed worlds and witty quips lend it a more contemporary feel that's just right for satisfying a 3D platforming craving.

Categories: Games

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 23:00

When Nintendo announced a Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga remake for the 3DS, I wasn't sure I needed it. The beautiful 2D art, laugh-out-loud dialogue, and blend of action- and turn-based RPG gameplay of the Game Boy Advance original still feels every bit as vibrant and engaging today as it did when it came out 15 years ago. But after playing through Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions, I'm absolutely convinced that it is the definitive way to experience one of Nintendo's best RPGs.

The premise is the same: The evil witch Cackletta and her talkative minion Fawful have devised a scheme to conquer both the Mushroom Kingdom and the neighboring Beanbean Kingdom, starting with turning Princess Peach's voice into an explosive force. Bowser, angry that he can't abduct Peach in this state, teams up with Mario and an (unwilling) Luigi to give chase in an airship, only for the brothers to crash-land in foreign territory. Mario and Luigi must brave the strange lands of Beanbean to stop Cackletta's plan. And while that's going on, Bowser's armies are on their own quest to figure out just where the heck he vanished to.

While the core game remains the same, the already great visuals get a gorgeous update on 3DS. The art has been completely redone, from the core sprites of Mario and Luigi to the tiniest of background details, and the result is some of the most beautiful and vibrant 2D art around. Various character animations have also been touched up and expanded upon, giving the brothers and their foes a lot of extra personality through their movements. (Sit back and watch some of the duo's idle animations during combat when you have a spare moment-- – it's a real treat.) The music has also been revised and expanded, with longer melodies and higher-quality instrumentation adding an additional spring to the step of the bouncy, energetic tunes from ace composer Yoko Shimomura. The only disappointment in the audiovisual department is the complete lack of a 3D option;: we've seen how good other “2D- art- in- 3D” games look on the 3DS, and given that the game has its fair share of perspective and platform puzzles, it would have been both a big help and a great visual enhancement.

The silly story of Superstar Saga is brought to life through dialogue and events that evoke the whimsical, humorous nature of the Mario universe. Characters like the elegant Prince of the Beanbean Kingdom and the wicked Cackletta have memorable quirks that make their personas stand out. Even some of the more minor side NPCs, like the Chuckola Bros, have a notable amount of care and attention put into their speech. That still shows through after all these years--though the most memorable character, Fawful, doesn't have quite the impact he once did, coming off an era where nonsensical JRPG translations were common.

The core gameplay remains primarily the same as the original game, with a few enhancements. You explore various environments from an overhead view, using special skills to navigate and solve puzzles when necessary. When you encounter an enemy, you enter a battle sequence that blends turn-based commands with timing-based button presses to both deal extra damage to enemies and evade or counter their attacks. Some subtle improvements from later games in the Mario and Luigi series have been added, too: The pair can now perform an emergency guard during combat by pressing the X button, reducing damage from enemy attacks if you're not confident in your evasion skills. You can also retry boss fights on an easier difficulty if you get a game over. Story scenes can be sped up by holding down the R button, making some of the dialogue-heavy scenes zip by faster if you've seen them before (or if you're a speed reader). These additions help streamline the experience, but by and large, if you remember the events of the original Superstar Saga, you're going through the same motions in the remake.

Most the brand-new content is in a sub-game that opens a little over an hour into the main story. Called "Minion Quest," this is a separate adventure with no bearing on the main story that follows a gallant Goomba who wants to find and rescue his Lord Bowser. To accomplish this, he needs to find other minions from Bowser's army, convince them to band together, and fight against Fawful's brainwashed hordes.

Instead of a traditional RPG, Minion Quest plays like a simplified real-time strategy game: You assemble a small army of troops from characters you've recruited and send them to battle against other armies. It feels pretty hands-off. Most of what you do is just watch characters bop each other and press buttons when prompted, since you can't really control your army the way you would in a proper RTS (for example, you can't tell troops to fall back and guard your commander if enemies break through your lines of defense). It can also get very frustrating and grindy--some quests practically demand you use a specific character type to counter a specific opponent, requiring you to either replay previous quests until you either randomly recruit enough of that character or get your levels high enough that it doesn't matter. And sometimes even when you do bring a counter to the enemy's forces, you can lose for reasons that feel completely arcane. As cute and charming as the cutscenes depicting the power struggle among Bowser's army are, several of the fights in Minion Quest can really test your patience and willingness to continue.

Even though Minion Quest falters, it's still an optional outing that doesn't detract from what's fundamentally an excellent adventure. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga has aged astonishingly well, and the various improvements offered in this remake only serve to make an already great game even better. Whether you're a series veteran or visiting the Beanbean Kingdom for the very first time, there's no better way to experience this classic RPG.

Categories: Games

The Multiplayer Beta Is Fun But Suffers From Frame Drops

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 22:45

Going into the Star Wars Battlefront II beta having not researched the game much, what immediately strikes me when first spawning into the forest of Takodana Fortress as a First Order Stormtrooper is the atmosphere. I immediately recognize the large lake and dilapidated architecture from The Force Awakens, and when I start hearing blasters I feel like I am in the Star Wars universe. This is the same feeling Battlefront gave me last time around, so if the atmosphere didn't do it for you then, this game probably won't do much to change that.

Quickly learning the abilities of the Assault class I picked for this eight-on-eight objective mode called Strike (the beta also includes Galactic Assault, Starfighter Assault, and Arcade modes), I shoot a scan dart at the entrance of Maz’s Castle, the building my team needs to retrieve a package from. The dart pulsates for a short time, showing all enemies within a small radius around it. I use this information to try and time a perfect grenade through the building's sliding door into a slew of enemies, and...the door happens to slam shut; the grenade bounces back and blows me up. My first match isn't the time to be making perfect plays, but within seconds I’m reselecting the assault class (I like the blaster’s short and medium range versatility) and spawn with a number of teammates.

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The game always tries to spawn you with a group of teammates, but it isn’t afraid to spawn you alone if none have died by the time your spawn timer reaches zero. It’s meant to encourage group play, but half the time squads seem to run in as many directions as there are people immediately after spawning. The quick respawn speed makes the scale of battles feel a lot larger than just 16 people, however. Sticking together this time, my new squad makes its way back into the fortress, where another teammate has already grabbed the objective.

A waypoint on my HUD shows me where the package is, which is helpful because my aforementioned teammate drops it before he’s even out of the base. Having now successfully infiltrated Maz’s Castle, I lob another grenade through a narrow doorway, and a few seconds later hear a satisfying explosion and see another line of text appear in the kill feed. Each class has a unique grenade in Battlefront II, and the assault class’ thermal detonator feels powerful. Pushing to retake the objective and get it to the extraction point in the forest, I'm shot in the chaos and notice a number on screen go down by one. It’s the number of lives my team has to extract the objective before we fail.

Spawning again, I notice defenders posted atop Maz’s Castle. Defending snipers have been taking pot shots at my team unnoticed. There are stairs in the base I can climb to reach the roof, but I have another idea.

I stay back this life, using my blaster’s zoom to pick off enemies, who feel a bit bullet spongy. This is where my number-one gripe with the beta comes in: lag. Particularly when large battles occur, there’s a tendency for frames to drop and the game to freeze for a few precious seconds. This is what betas are for, though, so hopefully these problems don’t make their way into the full game.

Having taken out a number of enemies from a safe distance, at last it's time to bring my plan to fruition. I've saved up 2,000 battle points from kills and other gameplay actions, and I’m ready to become a Jet Trooper, which has both upward and forward jump jet abilities. I run to the wall of Maz’s Castle and jet up, but I don't make it nearly high enough. Disappointed, I feel somewhat taken out of the experience. I expected to jump clear to the roof, but my 2,000 battle points barely got me half way there. I later try the Wookie character, who has a powerful crossbow and the ability to quickly increase their health. These upgraded characters bring some variety to combat, but battle points aren't going to be an auto win for anyone unless they have the skill to go with it.

Battlefield II’s beta is very fun to play. The quick respawn system keeps the flow of play fast, and the variety of characters and weapons keeps the gameplay fresh. I didn’t expect to be transported back to the Star Wars universe until Episode VIII in December, so the atmosphere of the game really took me by surprise.  I’m afraid the smaller map and game mode selections will get bland before the beta ends Monday, but even after hours of playing the same map and mode, I plan on hopping back in soon. I hope the rest of the game lives up to my first few hours of play, but I'll definitely be playing it for the rest of the week and am looking forward to the game’s November 17 release.

Categories: Games

Gundam Versus Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 20:00

It’s hard not to get a kick out of watching giant robots slug it out, and that’s precisely what Gundam Versus is all about. It's a celebration of all things Gundam on the surface, with over a hundred playable mechs from the many Gundam anime series since 1979's Mobile Suit Gundam. It's a hybrid fighting game at heart that puts you in the pilot’s seat, tactically flying at enemies, dodging attacks, and slamming opponents through buildings. Undoubtedly it’s one for fans of the Gundam universe, but for those unfamiliar with the series and its origins, there’s still a whole lot of enjoyment to be had.

Gundam Versus plays more like a beat-em-up than a traditional fighting game, and depending on which game mode you choose, you’ll play as either a lone wolf or in a group with one or two CPU players--real players if you take it online--and team up to take down the enemy. In the single-player modes you’ll face pre-defined waves of enemies or a team of Gundam. Just beware: most dialogue is left untranslated. It won't prevent you from knowing what to do, but you can't easily follow what most characters have to say, save for your navigator.

Competitive multiplayer is more raw, focusing solely on Gundam-versus-Gundam bouts, which feel more dynamic and dramatic than merely facing off against AI. PvP is not just the most exciting way to play, but also the most gratifying. This is assuming you have a strong connection, as any server issues, which feel particularly prevalent in 3v3 modes, hurt the frame rate and render matches nigh unplayable.

How you go about dispatching the enemy is largely dependent on the mech you choose to pilot. Not that selecting a particular style of Mobile Suit aligns you to one playstyle; thankfully you are free to attack opponents how you see fit. You can lay down cannon fire from long-range then close in for a quick melee combo, or take advantage of your Suit’s maneuverability, waiting for the right moment to counter-attack. But whether you’re effective on the battlefield comes down to how well you learn each mech’s particular behaviors.

Despite the Gundams' impressive power, they are relatively simple to control. You can fly straight up into the air and change direction on a dime using power boosters; you just have to govern them appropriately to avoid overheating. Melee and ranged attacks typically require one button to activate, though you can often combine them for slightly more advanced attacks. However there are some subtle and not-so-subtle variations of this, which means there’s a heap of variety, but it can also feel inscrutable at times. Sometimes pulling back on the left stick and hitting your melee attack throws a block, using the Gundam’s giant shield for protection. But for others, this same move can unleash a devastating attack instead of providing the protection you’re seeking.

Hitting with ranged attacks is more about precise timing--and perhaps a bit of luck. There’s no free aim; everything offensive is governed by a locking system that cycles through enemies by tapping a button. Without a way to lead your target to make sure your shots are landing, often you can get a little lost when trying to cycle through to latch on to the one you want to take down. It could be a little smarter too, as it doesn’t take distance to the target into account when cycling. That split second can be the difference between nailing a sweet combo, or being on the receiving end of deadly flurry of blows that ends the round in a fireball. More annoying--and borderline unfair--is that enemies don’t take any damage from attacks while they’re staggered, but they can seemingly knock you about while you’re in the same position. Feeling like you’re at such a disadvantage under attack can lead to some incredibly frustrating defeats.

Having your mech shot down is something you get used to pretty fast, but it doesn’t mean the end of the battle. Respawns aren’t governed by a number of lives, but rather a Battlefield-style ticket-based system, where the number assigned to your Mobile Suit (as seen on the character select screen) represents the number of tickets respawning in that Mobile Suit will cost. Given the number of tickets you’re allotted changes on a per-battle basis, weighing up that cost versus the level of firepower they provide should factor into your choice. It’s all good and well to default to some of the more powerful suits, but they can be slower and more unwieldy, leaving you open to attack more often than you might be prepared for.

The arenas within which you unleash robot hell give the appearance of being much larger than they really are; the playable area in each is pared down to only a small portion of the map. While this is somewhat disappointing, each of the environments has its own aesthetic style, from a space colony split in half by an asteroid that’s still embedded in its side, to the more familiar surroundings of a large earth city or an open forest or mountain range.

Some of the less spectacular ground and surrounding building textures are highlighted by nice lighting, but the overall scope and size of each arena does enough to make up for the missing detail. And many of the buildings and objects within each arena are destructible, crumbling to chunky pieces as you and your opponents launch all manner of missiles, lasers and big robot fists at each other. It’s a nice touch but also gives the impression of kicking over a tower of foam blocks, lacking the kind of visual quality and wow factor that would bring it up to par with many of the mechs' attacks--some of which, by the way, look devastatingly powerful, with huge flashes of lasers, lights and explosions dominating the screen when they hit their target.

Gundam Versus is dedicated to the Gundam universe, and the treatment of the source material is easy to appreciate, even for someone unfamiliar with the series. That said, some loose mechanics, the paltry localization, and multiplayer's inability to deal with less-than-perfect network connections aren't easy to ignore. A smarter locking system, better demonstration of the differences between various Mobile Suits and the ability to attack downed enemies like they can to you would make for an improved experience, on the battlefield at least. But Gundam Versus nonetheless offers some light-hearted, robot smashing fun.

Categories: Games

Here's The Full Soundtrack In Spotify Playlist Form

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 17:38

The Need for Speed series is known for its quality licensed soundtracks, and today, EA is letting players get a full listen to the soundtrack for the next entry.

The soundtrack includes music from artists like the Gorillaz, Queens of the Stone Age, Run the Jewels, and a whole lot of other musicians that I must admit I have never heard of because apparently I am old man and this is how I found out.

For more on Need for Speed Payback, which is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on November 10, head here.

[Source: Need for Speed Payback]

Categories: Games

Visit Ultra Megalopolis In New Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 15:08

Jump down the wormhole in the newest trailer for Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon – coming to the 3DS on November 17.

Players can get a look at Ultra Megalopolis where legendary Necrozma has stolen the light, meet the Ultra Recon Squad, and take a look at new Pokémon like UB Adhesive and UB Burst.

For more on the game, check out its previous trailer, as well as these details.

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Categories: Games

Middle-earth: Shadow Of War Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 14:14

One of the first people you meet in Middle-earth: Shadow of War is a woman with midnight black hair and a dress torn in intentionally strategic locations. You'll then learn that she's a version of Shelob, a giant deadly spider creature. The game explains her mysterious human form in time, and while fans of Lord of the Rings lore might have trouble embracing this unique interpretation of Tolkien storytelling, it shows that Shadow of War is a game that's willing to take risks with its source material. And, in a way, this example represents the full arc of the game: off-putting in the beginning, disappointing in the end, but seeing how they explain it all is an exciting ride.

Like its predecessor, Shadow of War is populated by powerful Orc Captains that have specific strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits defined by the game's Nemesis system. The number of fears, special abilities, and beneficial powers are much more robust than the first game, making it important to find a strategic approach to taking down some of the game's more powerful foes. The amount of information you get about each Orc once you've revealed its vulnerabilities can feel almost overwhelming, but you quickly adapt to the game's shorthand and what traits to look out for.

Your primary goal is to raise an army against the forces of Mordor by recruiting every Orcish leader you meet. These characters strike the perfect balance of humor and absurdity against the dull seriousness of the human cast, and you'll wish the quirkier denizens of Mordor could be constant companions instead of the brief vignettes that flash across the screen when you either kill or are killed by one. One especially colorful character I met was an Orc prophet who yelled at me about some serpent cult he was a part of; I ended up killing him, but it left a lot of questions in my mind about how Orc religions work.

Most of your time in Mordor is spent killing Orcs. Building off the first game, Shadow of War has a free-flowing combat system that lets you dominate creatures one-on-one but still stay in control when surrounded by a dozen or more adversaries. That momentum slows when too many things are happening on-screen at once, though. When an enemy captain is ready to be coerced over to your side an icon above his head turns green. Incoming attacks can be countered following a flashing prompt, and you have a slew of different abilities to take out legions of enemies. But the chaos of battle can make targeting opponents frustrating.

That's a shame because Shadow of War's most memorable moments revolve around its large-scale Siege battles, where you take over Orc-controlled fortresses using your own loyal followers. With an army of Orcs at your back, both pressing the offensive on a castle and protecting it are equally exciting, and the final entrance into the main hall of a fortress for the final fight feels as reverent and grand as walking into a towering cathedral in real life.

In the moment, these tense battles are the core of the Shadow of War experience, but the overarching narrative outside of the broad "tour Mordor, fight Sauron's forces," feels directionless. Part of that's because you don't spend enough time with any secondary characters (except for Gollum, whose brief appearance is somehow still too long). Characters you meet in the game have relatively short asides that range from the absolutely boring "save some Gondorians" to the furiously funny "learn how fight pits work with Bruz the Orc." It's hard to get invested in the stories of less interesting characters, and once you've completed a few of their quests, they disappear forever anyway. And, like most open-world games, after you've spent a couple hours running around collecting trinkets, it makes an NPC's entreaty about an imminent enemy invasion feel less immediately pressing.

Menus on menus

But, narrative problems aside, some of the setpieces are breathlessly fun. You ride a drake, team up with some ridiculous Orcs, fight an imposing, flame-winged Balrog, battle the Ringwraiths. It's a greatest-hits compilation of the most bad-ass moments from The Lord of the Rings. After a slow-building introductory act, the game gains momentum as it crashes toward what seems like a final standoff against the forces of evil. And this fight addresses criticism of the previous game; it's an epic multi-stage battle that does still have QTEs, but no more than the ones you find while playing through the game normally.

Bafflingly that battle isn't the end of the game. Shadow of War continues on, but with its momentum drained completely. What should be an exciting climax instead descends into a tedious slog for a cutscene that doesn't quite feel worth the time and effort.

In the game's actual final act, you cycle through the four fortresses you explored previously for a total of 20 more defending siege battles. If you haven't upgraded the Orcs you met early in the game--and up until this point, there was no reason to--you have to replace and upgrade your entire retinue of Orcs to match this more powerful invading force. The enemies you face level up with each encounter, so you're also forced into upgrading each castle over and over again, either by building up your current Orc army or finding new fighters and replacing the old. This Sisyphean quest has no corresponding significant characters to keep you company or explain why it's important to tackle the defense missions in the order you do. It's not even clear, exactly, why you want to do them at all.

More than once I felt like giving up on this quest thinking I'd stumbled onto some optional side content that was clearly only made for obsessed completionists. But enduring on, I found that finishing every stage unlocks the final cutscene and credits. It did not feel worth it.

It's an entire section that should have been cut or severely truncated, and playing through the repetitious levels felt like padding meant only to make the game last longer. But although the game's final act is the most egregious, there are several other systems that Shadow of War fails to justify.

Almost every item and Orc has some type of associated rarity (which scales from Common to Rare to Epic to Legendary), and with higher rarity comes more abilities. For Orcs, this means that they have additional, more powerful attributes that aren't available elsewhere. For weapons, it includes perks like "48% chance that a headshot lights enemies on fire." The buffs are useful, but the effects aren't so amazing that you'd keep a significantly underpowered weapon or Orc just for its benefits. It feels like a system tacked on purely to add another set of items to collect.

The menu systems for your Orcs and weapons is the part that feels most overburdened. It's grating that there's no way to sort or search through your own army if, say, you need an Orc with a cursed weapon and an immunity to beast attacks to take out an especially tricky opponent. But to find out what skills are active based on your current weapon loadout, you have to go to each item in your menu and read up on what you have equipped. There's no overview screen that lists out what effects you currently have active.

And buried within the weapon screens is yet another separate item menu, this one for gems. Gems are stat-boosters you find throughout the game that give each item yet another upgrade like increasing the chance that enemies killed with that weapon drop in-game currency or a 12.5% increase to the amount of experience you earn. They're helpful, but managing the upgrades for yet another set of items that are nested as a menu within your own equipment amounts to busywork.

Even with the Russian nesting doll of item menus, the most initially intimidating and complex of Shadow of War's systems is its skills menu. There are six primary skill tracks with points that have to be unlocked in order, and each skill has a separate unlockable set of 2-3 sub-skills (only one of which can be activated at any time). The ability grid is so dense and spread out that it's a chore to read through and decide what to put your points into every time you level up. And reallocating in the middle of battle (say if you want an area of effect attack to shoot out flames instead of poison), involves too much work and slows down battle too much to be practical.

As an example of how overwrought with options the skill system is, there's an upgrade that unlocks the ability to "collect items by walking over them." In normal play, you actually have to manually push a button to pick up every item you come across. It's an ability worth prioritizing when you're looking to spend skill points, but it's nonsensical that such a basic quality of life improvement isn't just the default way item collection works.

Fun with photo mode

Despite the bloated feel of its systems, you earn all of these skill points, weapons, and Orcs at such a frantic pace that the game doesn't feel dragged down in the same way as it does by the final act.

Going beyond skills and menus, one of Shadow of War's more controversial additions is its online storefront where you can pay real-world money to earn loot boxes that have guaranteed high-rarity Orcs and equipment. One early quest in the game gives you a small sum of the paid currency to purchase some loot boxes, but you can also buy them from the store using an earned in-game currency called Mirian.

Although the random loot drops only include Epic tier rewards instead of the paid currency's Legendaries, the difference in quality between the two, in practice, isn't substantially different. And after finishing the game, even with buying a dozen or so 1,200 Miran loot crates over the course of my adventure, I was still left with over 70,000 Mirian in reserve. Like so many of the other game's systems, the storefront feels less predatory and more like a cluelessly unnecessary addition.

And that addition sums up several of Shadow of War's additions--things like the storefront and the menus and loot system don't make the game terrible, it just would've been better without them. It tries to be larger than its predecessor, there are more abilities, more weapons, more Orcs, yet it leaves you wanting less. But at its core, it's a fun experience with brilliant moments that provide fascinating insight into some of the untold stories of Middle-earth. I just wish it had known when to stop.

Categories: Games

FIFA 18 Nintendo Switch Review

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 23:00

FIFA 18 on Nintendo Switch is a tough game to categorize. When compared to the likes of FIFA's past PS Vita, 3DS, and other mobile versions, it's easily the best portable FIFA ever made. But compared to its current console cousin--FIFA 18 on PS4 / Xbox One--it's lacking features and much of the shine that makes that version so appealing.

On the pitch, it actually replicates the other editions' gameplay pretty well. Dribbling feels responsive, crosses are accurate, and overall match speed is faster than on PS4 / Xbox One, a change that better suits the Switch's immediate pick-up-and-play sensibilities. Commentary is also just as impressive, and animations look as smooth as they do on current-gen (though you're better off not looking at the cardboard cut-out crowds). Shots don't pop like they do on PS4 and Xbox One, and the omission of player instructions is a frustrating and bizarre one. But playing a match of FIFA 18 on Switch is an enjoyable experience.

The problems arise when you consider the game as a package. FIFA's Switch port is missing Pro Clubs and The Journey, meaning the only options to play offline are the bog standard Kick Off and aging Career Mode. I say "aging" because the Career Mode here is not the one included in FIFA 18 on PS4 and Xbox One--it's more like the Career Mode seen in FIFA 16. It does not include the latest additions of dynamic news clips or interactive transfer negotiations because--like The Journey--they are powered by the Frostbite engine, which FIFA 18 on Switch does not use. With such a faithful recreation seen on the pitch, it's disappointing that attention to detail is not reflected off it.

This means that, despite feeling good when you're in a match, FIFA 18 doesn't really offer much to do when you're not connected to the internet. The Journey in particular would've been a perfect fit for a portable FIFA--a match on the way to work, another on the way home--but its omission leaves the only proper mode, save for the aforementioned Career Mode, as Ultimate Team.

FUT is, again, replicated well--it looks and plays like the real deal, and contains much of the live content the other versions boast, like Team of the Week and SBCs. However, once again, the Switch edition is missing the mode's big new feature for this season, FUT Squad Battles. Ironically, Squad Battles are the feature that would have fit this version of Ultimate Team best--as a single-player portion, it would've been perfect to play a couple of matches while on the bus and have the game sync when I get home. Unfortunately, they're missing from this version, and you can't even access FUT's menus when you're not connected to EA's servers. Of course, you can play it when you get home, but you'll be playing a version of Ultimate Team missing many of the PS4 / Xbox One versions' innovations from the past couple of years.

One advantage the Switch version has over the home console edition is the ability to play with a friend while on the go. FIFA 18 supports single Joy-Con play, meaning I was able to play football on my Switch against my brother on the way to an actual football match this weekend. It works, but I always felt l was struggling against the controls--fewer buttons and only one stick means there's no way to use finesse shots, threaded through balls, knuckle shots, manual defending, skill moves, or driven passes. EA has come up with a clever workaround to allow you to knock the ball ahead--double tap the right trigger rather than using the absent right stick--but it's a shame similar solutions haven't been found for the other missing moves. It remains a convenient way to play a quick match against friends while on the go, but you'll be fighting to get both Joy-Cons back before long.

Unfortunately, the ability to play with friends is not reflected in FIFA 18's online offering on Switch. While you can play online--in FUT or in the standard Seasons mode or a single match--there is no way to matchmake with friends unless they happen to be in the same room as you and have their Switch on them. It's a glaring omission, and doesn't do justice to the community EA has cultivated so well on Xbox and PlayStation.

FIFA 18 on Switch delivers some enjoyable soccer when on the pitch, but without Pro Clubs and The Journey, and in restricting all access to FUT when you're not online, it shoots itself in the foot. Being able to play FIFA on the go or with a friend is gratifying, and if you're happy to just play through Career Mode for the next year, then this port will satisfy your needs and is the best mobile FIFA you can buy, but compared to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions, this port is inferior in every other way.

Categories: Games

Forza Motorsport 7 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 03:00

In Forza Motorsport 7, the familiarity of driving your favorite cars on beloved tracks goes hand in hand with the joys of discovery. It's about owning sporty cars priced just out of reach in real life, whether that's a Mazda RX-8 or an Infinity Q60. There's exhilaration in taking those sweet rides down roads you've visited countless times and still finding something new around familiar bends. And whether you're preoccupied with a pack of assertive Drivatars or fiercer real-life competitors, Forza 7--much like the other installments in developer Turn 10's mainline racing series--is decidedly abundant in different ways to compete.

The first thing you'll notice about Forza 7 is that it strips away the often amusing glorification and ostentatiousness of motorsport that decorated the series' last few games. Granted, I loved the dulcet voice over of Jeremy Clarkson when he dispensed with insight and trivia on cars and courses. Forza 7 relies less on wooing you with superficial spectacles and instead lets the cars and courses speak for themselves. This break from the ceremonious aspects of motorsport is a welcome one, especially when all you want to do is race.

The career mode alone--dubbed Forza Driver's Cup--encourages you to get down to business in a wide array of competitions spread across six championship series. Since you don't need to enter all the races to win the cup, you're offered the flexibility to compete with the types of cars you're most used to. That said, the opening races effectively remind you of Forza 7's vehicle variety, encouraging you to play outside your comfort zone. You can spend a dozen hours beelining for the cup, or more than double that if you want to get first in every race. There's no clear theme to distinguish one series over another, but it's easy to go along with Turn 10's seemingly arbitrary playlists of tournaments, given the wide variety of cars and courses lining your journey.

Even after you've raised the final trophy in the Forza Driver's Cup, the quest to build a respectable collection of cars goes on. As always, the draw of browsing the hundreds of cars in Forza is the tease of purchasing a new model like the 2017 Nissan GT-R or scratching that nostalgic itch with a Pacer X from the now-defunct American Motors Corporation. And while the recent withdrawal of Lexus and Toyota production models from racing games leaves a void in this robust roster, Turn 10 helps cushion the blow with a hearty selection of Porsches, a manufacturer that was missing from the launch version of Forza 6.

Competition takes many forms in Forza 7. The friends-as-AI Drivatars return as a pleasing alternative to age-old CPU racing behaviors like rubber banding. Online you'll find, more often than not, disorderly strangers who are as impolite as they are careless. Your best hope of winning is placing near the front of the starting grid. The alternative is, of course, participating in a private race, provided you can convince other friends and Forza players--ideally enough to fill a 24-car grid--to play fair and do their best at avoiding crashes. For the least chaotic approach to measuring and comparing greatness, Rivals presents a host of tough yet worthwhile asynchronous contests where you attempt to beat other players' lap times. Unfortunately, the traditional Forza outlets of aggression like zombie or tag are not available in the launch version of Forza 7. The same goes of Forzathon and Leagues modes, unique timed events that enhance the replay value of Forza Motorsport 6 and Forza Horizon 3.

Like many Forza Motorsports before it, Forza 7's greatest strength is its diversity of driving experiences, which says something for a series that relies mostly on circuit races, rather than adding point-to-point and off-road competition. The challenge of weaving a Mini Cooper through traffic at 45 miles per hour can be as thrilling as navigating your way through the various slopes and dips in Dubai Circuit of the Emirates. These moments are made all the more rewarding thanks to the 122 finely detailed and authentic track configurations spread across its 32 locations.

The last couple Forza Motorsports, along with Forza 7, are engrossing due to their true-to-life tracks and how surrounding environments are enhanced by changes in weather and time of day. Yet whereas Forza 6 had a premade rain condition for select tracks, Forza 7 has an impressive 16 variations of inclimate weather like thunderclouds and summer drizzle. Road Atlanta on an overcast day can exude the secluded quaintness of a course in the U.K. like the Top Gear Test Track. Suzuka--one of the oldest circuits in video games, dating back to Pole Position II--has never looked as good as when it's accentuated by the sun as it breaks through clouds during an early morning race. The ability to set multiple changing weather states in a single match further adds character to these riveting tours. The right combination of car and weather conditions can give you a newfound appreciation for a track you've raced on hundreds of times in other games.

What has always set Forza Motorsport apart from other racing sims is the depth of its newcomer-friendly accessibility options. Forza 7 continues this tradition with an array of adjustable assists and difficulty settings. Naturally, many of Forza 7's challenges arise when you've tweaked your settings just right so first place wins are hard fought. And with the return of mod cards--originally introduced in Forza Motorsport 6--you can self-impose other performance incentives for greater rewards. It's mildly gratifying to receive bonus currency for great passing or cornering even if the game didn't notice you shoved a couple cars when executing these supposedly graceful maneuvers.

Mods are unlocked as part of Forza 7's blind card system, known as Prize Crates. These packs evenly mix practical items like cars and mods with cosmetic goods such as badges and driver outfits. When you spend most of the game encased in a car's cockpit, these detailed jumpsuits and helmets might seem like throwaway gear, but when you see your decorated driver in a convertible or the pre-race menu, envy blooms. After opening a dozen packs, I felt like I broke even, feeling elation when spending little to win a rare car, as well as heartbreak for buying the most expensive crate and ending up with only common items. While cars are now organized by loot-inspired rarity--based on their price ranges--you can still buy cars no matter the rarity without relying on the uncertainty of chance with the Prize Crates. And it should be added that having access to the Ultimate Edition gave me a VIP mod that doubled my earned XP over five races. While this perk temporarily accelerated my progression, it did not impact the quality of my overall experience.

By the time I had logged a couple dozen hours in Forza 7, the confluence of environmental and driving realism unexpectedly inspired me to recreate real-life racing events like the famous 1996 Zanardi pass at Laguna Seca. These are the kinds of experiments that Forza 7 inspires, thanks in part to the game's variety and flexibility. Even with an imperfect roster and a selection of modes that doesn't compare to the comprehensiveness of Forza 6 at launch, Forza Motorsport 7 is still a feature-rich and competition-diverse bundle of racing events that keep you coming back for more. The ability to control the weather to create rich, painterly cloudy backdrops goes a long way in making up for the lack of zombie modes and the Toyota MR2.

Categories: Games

New Modes, Mechanics, And More

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 10/03/2017 - 19:20

The developers talk improvements and changes made to this year's game and how they'll impact players.

...(read more)
Categories: Games

Battle Chasers: Nightwar Review

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 21:00

Based on a hit comic book series from the late '90s, Battle Chasers: Nightwar successfully translates the look and feel of a comic into a video game. The mesmerizing animated intro shows exactly what you're in for: a wild world where steampunk meets Dungeons & Dragons, rendered in beautiful, deep-shaded colors. It's only when the turn-based RPG gets down to business that its greatest spell wears off.

The premise of Battle Chasers is that a girl named Gully has taken a pair of magic gauntlets, along with a motley crew consisting of a sellsword, a wizard, and a kindly robot, on a journey to find her missing father. The Nightwar chapter, however, is a minor sidetrack from that journey. The crew gets shot down from their airship over a mysterious island with serious problems of its own. Supposedly, the island is home to a motherlode of mana, which has prompted something of a magic-based gold rush. Mercenaries, thieves, unsavory merchants and, most worrisome of all, the attention of an evil sorceress named Destra, are drawn to the island. The crew's plans to depart dissolve into a trek that goes deep into the island's darkest regions.

Everything is captivating and breezy early on. The game's overworld is dotted with opportunities to battle oozing slimes, vicious wolf men, and surly prospectors. Dilapidated little shanty towns pop up along the way, as well as the occasional side quest, which usually impart a bit of lore before asking your band to thwart a high-ranking enemy in a dangerous place. The bread and butter of the game, however, is its major dungeons. Eight in total, the dungeons are procedurally generated, but each room and its layout is so impressively detailed, the puzzles so smoothly executed, that most of the time it's impossible to tell every dungeon wasn't meticulously laid out until you reset one, and re-enter to find an unrecognizable location.

From the outset, combat is fairly standard turn-based fare, though every character also has a special skill to affect enemies within dungeons--pro-actively stunning, ambushing, or igniting them--just before a fight kicks off. But the big gimmick is the Overcharge system. Basic attacks contribute to a special pool of red mana points that can be used to cast magic and tech attacks, rather than actual mana points. Even as the game progresses, MP remains in short supply, so you're forced to be mindful about whether to build Overcharge or expend mana when using abilities. This gets increasingly tricky, but in a way that keeps you engaged in every battle no matter how small.

Battle Chasers endears you in the process of establishing its world, characters, and combat systems. Garrison, the mercenary, is exactly what you might expect from a square-jawed warrior with a tragic backstory: his terse personality keeps him at arm's length from his cohorts. On the flipside, the hulking mech, Calibretto, is a gentle soul who acts more as the defacto healer, and the beating heart of the story as it goes along. The cast at large brings infectious personality and energy to every scene, and all of this is underscored by a delightfully diverse soundtrack, flavoring typical medieval adventure anthems with everything from Chinese string instruments to bassy, trip-hop backbeats.

The sour notes start to hit around the third dungeon. Where just minutes prior an enemy could barely manage 100 points of damage per hit, suddenly you find multiple basic enemies hitting for 200-plus points in the same wave, leaving debuff effects like Poison and Bleeding in their wake. And then, as if to cut you some slack, you meet a dungeon boss shortly after who struggles to make a dent in your party.

But what do you do when you're overwhelmed? Logically, it's a good time to step back, grind a bit, maybe even attempt one of the bounty hunts from town. This works for a while, but proves to be an inadequate means of levelling up in the later portions of the game.

Instead, dungeons can be replayed for faster XP gains, and each features higher difficulty levels granting better rewards. But dungeons are also slow and rather sizable undertakings that (despite the procedural generation) leave you fighting the location's same enemies ad nauseum, and for the same paltry amount of XP. On PS4, it's a problem exacerbated by long load times, which between the overworld and dungeons--and occasionally before fights on the world map--can last upwards of 30 seconds, making the process of exiting a dungeon to swap characters or visit stores an eye-rolling annoyance. Thankfully, these issues didn't appear on when playing on PC.

Despite the potential for loot within dungeons, it's also disheartening to see that most pieces have strict drawbacks that are difficult to counterbalance. Armor typically raises a character's HP, stamina, and speed, but drastically lowers physical and magical defense--stats that matter against stronger enemies. Weaponry and accessories are more balanced, but typically, what drops from battles or treasure chests doesn't offer the boosts you need.

Shops tease you with plenty of options, but buying new gear is easier said than done. Gold is a strangely rare commodity, no matter which enemies you beat or dungeons you go to. Killing an elite enemy in a dungeon set to the highest difficulty may net you a small bounty and a low level set of armor for Gully. To get the item you really want, you turn around and sell that armor for a pittance, along with a slew of other items, to try and afford good armor from the blacksmith. And quite often the armor you need is restricted to a level three or four above your own.

Hours upon hours, this little passion play repeated itself throughout my playthrough. Even after stopping everything to grind for experience, the next major area would present another drastic difficulty spike, with help nowhere to be found. Stacking debuffs on enemies was often the only effective recourse, forcing the enemy to unwittingly murdering themselves, rather than handle the task through my own attacks. While effective, it's also the least enjoyable way to experience a turn-based RPG.

Despite these issues, Battle Chasers is sustained through the strength of its story, a rollicking tale that takes our heroes literally to hell and back. It's bolstered by some sharp dialogue, gorgeous artwork, and an ensemble that plays extremely well off of each other. It's also a long game, but considering its relatively few major beats, it feels unnecessarily drawn out. It's too bad, because Battle Chasers is otherwise one of the rare comic-based games to have this many pieces in the right place.

Categories: Games

Batman: The Enemy Within - Episode 2: The Pact Review

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 10/02/2017 - 08:01

In Episode One of Batman: The Enemy Within, the tragic loss of a friend and stalwart ally threatened to undermine Batman's crusade for justice, while also throwing Bruce Wayne's personal life into disarray. As someone that loves to see the duality of DC’s Dark Knight used to unravel him I was eager for Telltale Games to pull at this narrative thread, but Episode Two allows it to slip away. While this is certainly a missed opportunity, Telltale makes up for it by thrusting Bruce Wayne into situations that begin to blur the line between right and wrong, and it proves to be just as compelling.

Episode Two is perhaps the strongest indication that Telltale is done drudging up Bruce Wayne’s past trauma to torment him, and more interested in giving him new demons to face. Though perhaps “new” is a bit of stretch, since the villains Bats goes up against are familiar faces from his rogues gallery, mostly unchanged from the way they've been depicted in the past, albeit with one major exception. Harley Quinn, who is the standout character in the episode, exhibits a drastic shift in her power dynamic with Joker.

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Traditionally, Harley has been depicted as Joker's long-suffering right-hand woman, doing all the hard work and receiving very little respect for it. She's always been infatuated with the mentally deranged Clown Prince of Crime, even though he treats her like a disposable tool, reciprocating her love only when it suits him. Telltale has turned this dynamic on its head, placing Harley in the position of power instead. John Doe, the man that the series is setting up to become Joker, is still very much on the edge of his madness, yet to leap into the insanity that transforms him. As such, he's still unsure of himself and finding his way, which Harley takes full advantage of. This time around, he's the one fawning after her, and she relishes in toying with his emotions. This subversion, for longtime fans of the Batman mythos, is fascinating to watch and an interesting new take on the character.

But it's not just Joker that Harley has at her beck and call. With The Riddler taken care of, she assumes control of Gotham City's cabal of new villains. In Episode One John Doe offered Bruce an opportunity to meet his "friends" and, under direction from Amanda Waller to infiltrate their ranks, Wayne finds himself having to win their trust.

This setup paves the way for Episode Two's most tense and defining moments. As Bruce Wayne, you must weigh up the need to curry favour from dangerous criminals against the inherent risk of dealing with devils. While the decisions you make therein generally resolve themselves in a way that keeps the narrative on script, in the moment there's plenty of drama in directing Bruce to toe the line and attack an innocent so that the nogoodniks trust him. Telltale asks fans to violate the principles they know Bruce holds dear, effectively twisting their own image of the character. The various decision-making moments in Episode Two are very effective realisations of that classic "doing something bad for the greater good" trope.

This sense of being between a rock and a hard place extends to Batman's new working relationship with Amanda Waller, and the strain it puts on his friendship with Jim Gordon. The cliffhanger in Episode One revealed that Waller, true to form, knows much more about Batman than most, giving her leverage over him. Since her investigation is undermining Gordon's, Batman finds himself stuck between two people on the same side of the law but with different objectives. Again, this is another instance where Telltale has set you up to either make life harder for Bruce by siding with Waller, or betraying someone you know is an ally to Batman. This early in the series, it's difficult to say whether these decisions will pay off in a way that's gratifying, but in the moment, it really sucks to have disappointed Gordon.

While Episode Two is filled with strong characterization and writing, one person stands out as a weak link. Alfred's involvement in the story thus far has been entirely forgettable, serving mostly to parrot back the events that happened in the scene preceding his appearance, or doing the worried father-figure routine. Alfred is a tricky character to make valuable, especially when Bruce is out of his moping, woe-is-me phase, when he can serve as the emotional anchor for Batman. As of yet, his inclusion in The Enemy Within doesn't feel justified; he feels like dead weight against the rest of the cast.

Episode Two also continues to push further away from the slower paced, investigation sequences from the first season. One bomb defusal section aside, the majority of gameplay is made up of action driven set-pieces controlled through quick-time button presses. It's a shame that Telltale seems to be playing down the clue-hunting and puzzle-solving elements featured in the first season. Although this keeps the story moving at a brisk pace, those moments were key in delivering a well-rounded Batman experience. Fans that like to see the cerebral side of Batman are going to be left wanting by Episode Two.

Nevertheless, Batman: The Enemy Within Episode Two builds on a strong opening to the season. It raises the stakes for Bruce Wayne by throwing him into a shark tank and asking him to turn bloodthirsty enemies into friends. Along with an empowered Harley Quinn and the unnerving powder-keg that is John Doe, the second episode provides drama and excitement in equal measure.

Categories: Games

Trailer Puts Focus On Story And Malevolent Messenger Droids

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 09/30/2017 - 18:03

EA's Star Wars Battlefront II is making a lot of changes in comparison to its predecessor, such as introducing a single-player campaign. Recently, a new trailer released on the PlayStation Blog finally gives us a glimpse of what to expect from the story.

Battlefront II's campaign takes place between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Although Emperor Palpatine has been defeated, he lives on through Messenger droids. These Messengers bear the face of the dead Palpatine through a hologram. In the trailer, we see a Messenger droid giving foreboding instructions to enact the Emperor's plans of revenge.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

"Early in Star Wars Battlefront II, a Messenger tasks Iden and her father, Garrick Versio, with terrifying instructions," EA writes on the PlayStation Blog. "We don’t want to reveal much more about this critical sequence, but its pretty clear that Iden’s “unusual” mission will place her on a collision course with the last wishes of the fallen Emperor."

Star Wars Battlefront launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC as of November 17. If you're eager to try out the game sooner, a multiplayer beta is coming October 6, or October 4 if you pre-order the game. For more on Battlefront II, check out the recently revealed Arcade mode.

[Source: PlayStation Blog]

Categories: Games

Star Fox 2 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 09/30/2017 - 16:00

With the launch of the SNES Classic, Star Fox 2 gets the official release that was originally planned for 1995-96. The game was finished but ultimately scrapped during this transitional period for game consoles, when both the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were on the brink of delivering richer 3D experiences. It’s a game that’s hard to evaluate in 2017 without contextualizing it in the time it was created. But out of its 22-year limbo, Star Fox 2 is both an expression of technical limitations of the SNES platform and laudable modern game design.

At the start of a playthrough, you choose two pilots to embark on the campaign. The original cast of anthropomorphic critters--Fox, Slippy, Falco, and Peppy--returns with two new female characters in Miyu and Fay. Each character has their own special item, shield strength, speed, and ship design. The overworld map is where you swap between your two pilots, in case one is low on shields and needs a break between battle sequences. This approach detracts from the feeling of camaraderie present in the squadron-style premise of past Star Fox games, especially since you engage in fights as a duo or on your own. It does, however, make you responsible for managing characters’ statuses.

Star Fox 2 breaks from tradition as it's structured more as a game of base defense than a pure on-rails shooter. The overworld map operates in real time as you send your pilot duo off to defuse a multitude of interplanetary threats in the embattled Lylat system. And the core of the game is to take down Andross (again) before Corneria reaches 100% destruction at the hands of incoming forces. In order to get to Andross, you repel attacks in familiar locations like Macbeth, Titania, and Fortuna. His cronies and high-ranking pilots Star Wolf, Pigma, and Leon will intercept you at times; it’s in these instances where you engage in free-flowing 3D dogfights in space.

Free-roam planet missions differ slightly and offer Star Fox 2’s best moments. Your Arwing ship can transform into a land-based walker. Doing so causes the game to switch to manual acceleration and an alternate aiming system. It’s a showcase of rudimentary third-person shooting that feels surprisingly contemporary, especially with the 16-bit era as your frame of reference. The L and R shoulder buttons control your aim and the D-pad controls forward and backward movement and strafing. Swapping between air and land vehicles as you take down planetary bases is a highlight and peaks in the final level when the game opens up branching paths. But like the game itself, these moments come to a close very quickly.

Each run of the campaign is built around obtaining a high score, and making it to the final stage takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Since actual battles eat up real time, and the ultimate goal is to take down Andross before Corneria is destroyed, you’re encouraged to accomplish everything as soon as possible; plus, you get more points for faster mission completion. It’s a deliberate design decision, but it sacrifices the more intricate boss fights seen in the first Star Fox, which results in a game that feels too thin overall.

To the developers' credit, the systems in place that make up the base-defense segments in Star Fox 2 instill a valuable sense of player agency. You decide where to go, what to defend, and how to juggle multiple threats; it’s in contrast to the distinct paths you choose in other Star Fox games. You’d be hard-pressed to repel every enemy, and you have to put a bit more foresight into your approach through the campaign, despite its brevity.

However, the biggest factor that holds back Star Fox 2 is its poor technical performance. While we can boil it down to the lack of system resources the original developers had to work with on the SNES, knowing this doesn’t negate the fact that the sluggish framerate and rudimentary visuals make dogfights laborious. You’ll find yourself mindlessly following target indicators since it’s nearly impossible to track enemy ships in the game. It’s hard to enjoy the pace of fights when Star Fox 2 runs almost like a slideshow.

Star Fox 2 can be praised for the ambitious structure that seemed to be ahead of its time, but the enjoyable moments are hamstrung by modern standards and expectations. Framerate issues and tech that wasn’t suited for this style of game prevent Star Fox 2’s vision from being fully realized, but it’s an important piece of gaming history kept alive with an official release. This game alone isn’t the driving force to seek out an SNES Classic, and you’ll want to consider the more time-tested games in the package.

Categories: Games

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