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Team Sonic Racing Delivers Kart Racing With A Squad-Based Twist

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 17:37

Developer Sumo Digital landed a hit with its 2012 kart-racing game Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Now, the developer is partnering with Sonic Team, stripping away the non-Sonic characters, and adding a new layer of team-based strategy for Team Sonic Racing.

In this new kart-racing title from Sega, the developers are focusing entirely on the Sonic universe, which means no Aiai or Ryo Hazuki this time around (sorry, fellow Shenmue fans). Instead, players get a roster of 15 Sonic characters. In the build I played, I could choose between Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, Shadow, Rouge, and E-123 Omega. Each character fits into one of three classes: speed, technique, or power. Once you choose a character, you're placed in a team of three based on the character's alliances; Sonic was always placed with Tails and Knuckles, while Rouge raced alongside Shadow and Omega.

When the race begins, it plays out much like a standard kart racer. Characters drift around corners, acquire consumable items, and avoid zany obstacles in the push to be first. In addition to the tried-and-true formula, players can help their teammates; you can gift items, request items, and slingshot around teammates by following their path. The game will also include a solo mode that removes the team-based mechanics, but outside of an occasional pure kart-racing foray, I don't foresee myself playing that mode much.

At the end of the race, it assigns points for your team based on where each member finished. This means you must help your team in order to actually win. In one of my races, my team finished third, fourth, and fifth, but because we were the most consistent team, we came in first in the race. In another race, I finished first, but my teammates were in the middle of the pack, so we came in second overall. I like that twist of having to keep an eye on your standing in the race, as well as your teammates.


When the game ships, it will feature stages that are both brand new to the Sonic universe, as well as familiar levels. While the developers wouldn't spill any additional details, Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka tells me that some stages will feature recognizable songs from Sonic's past, and that Jun Senoue is composing the game. In addition, Senoue's fan-favorite band, Crush 40, performs the main theme.

Team Sonic Racing may not have the fancy transformations or characters outside of the Sonic universe, but it makes up for it with thoughtful team-based mechanics that add new twists to the formula. Sonic Team Racing is set to launch this winter on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

Categories: Games

Metro Exodus Is Content Complete, Giving 4A Games Eight Months To Polish

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 19:38

The Metro Exodus E3 2018 demo was based on the same content we saw back in February for the March cover story, giving the world its first chance to see the boundary-pushing graphics, unforgiving gameplay, and ambitious transition from the linear focused Metro underground to the harsh, more open Russian countryside that convinced us to put the game on the cover of Game Informer. Running at 4K on the Xbox One X console, the game's beauty won over many. But the demo wasn't without its share of gameplay hiccups.

The shooting felt good, and all of the game's systems were online, but we noticed a few rough spots as well. Collision issues made moving across the countryside more burdensome than it should be, framerate drops disrupted the gameplay, and the rowboat Artyom uses to explore the Volga River region outside Moscow was tough to steer. When we brought these issues up to executive producer Jon Bloch, he said the team is keenly aware of the current build's shortcomings and the team has more than enough time to hone the experience. 

"We've never shown Metro on a console this early before, and we felt like it was appropriate for showing off this content on Xbox One X in 4K – it's already there," Bloch says. "Yes, we have some polish to go, and yes, there's still some performance stuff to nail, but it's already in good shape, so trust us when we say this extra time really is focused on polish. We're not still making the game at this point, we're smoothing it out."

Since the game is content complete and feature complete, the 4A Games to-do list in the lead-up to Metro Exodus' February launch includes raising all the levels up to the quality bar the team has set, smoothing out environmental collision both on foot and in vehicles, plugging narrative gaps they noticed once they strung the levels together, and fine-tuning performance.

Given 4A Game's strong track record, we're inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that the game will be running smoothly by deadline. Metro Exodus is scheduled to launch alongside a surprisingly strong lineup (Anthem, Days Gone) on February 22 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. 

Categories: Games

Lego DC Super-Villains Shows A Renewed Focus For TT Games

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 19:20

TT Games has been steadily releasing Lego titles for more than a decade now, bringing notable franchises like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Marvel and DC comics to life in charming, family friendly games. While the frequency of releases has been reliable, its quality has occasionally slipped. If you were frustrated with the state of Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 at launch, you’re not alone, either. TT Games has been examining how to revitalize its games moving forward, starting with the upcoming Lego DC Super-Villains. I played the E3 demo and chatted with Arthur Parsons, head of design at TT Games, about what the studio is doing to make the best possible game – for both returning players and newcomers. 

There’s a lot to unpack with this game, so I’ll focus on the big things first. Lego DC Super-Villains is the first time that players will get to play through a campaign centered around the best part of most stories: the bad guys. “Everyone loves playing as Vader or Voldemort, or whoever the bad guys are,” Parsons says.” And because of the wealth of source material here, TT Games had a lot to work with. “DC’s villains, I think they out of every IP we’ve ever touched, they’ve got the best roster of villains. By a long way.”

Players have been able to play as the baddies in free play in the DC games, with one exception. “In Lego Batman 1 we had villain levels, but you had to complete the whole hero bit first,” Parsons says. “They were actually the most fun bit of Lego Batman 1, but we’ve not been there since. When it came time to do another DC game, villains was the obvious choice. It effectively feels like a new IP.”

While you’ll interact with bad guys like Lex Luther, Joker, and Harley Quinn, there’s also another major player in town: you. “For the first time ever, the customizer is important to the game,” Parsons says. “Normally it’s an afterthought; it’s just something for free play. This time around, the first thing you do is create your own villain who joins with the Legion of Doom. But the villain that you create is actually important in the story, and you can upgrade them along the way, so they have the ability to absorb energy, so you get new powers and new abilities, and it’s a character who weaves in and out of the story all the way right through the end.”
If you don’t care all that much about your character, you can pick from a variety of presets or have the game come up with a random selection. Lego veterans know the depth that players have with their created characters, and it’s fully on display here. You have a wide array of options at your disposal, from decals, body parts, and weapons, right down to your villain’s backstory. Your character has an absorption ability, so he or she can acquire new powers throughout the campaign. When it’s over, it’s possible to end up with an overpowered jack-of-all-trades style villain, who can deftly handle gold and silver blocks, laser-cutting puzzles, and anything else that gets in the way – similar to how the unlockable Stan Lee character acts in the Lego Marvel titles.

The demo is a silly escape from Stryker’s Island, where Lex Luther and Mercy help my created character out of the prison. As we move from one brick-bashing location to the next, I also get to play as Solomon Grundy, Cheetah, Joker, and Harley. There isn’t anything particularly mind-blowing about any of it, but it does highlight some of the refinements that TT Games has made – refinements that are a long time coming. For example, when you encounter a situation that requires a specific character’s ability, control will automatically leap to that villain.


“We’ve put a lot of attention on accessibility with this game,” Parsons explains. “We don’t want kids to get roadblocked, we don’t want anyone getting frustrated not knowing what to do.” In one area, I climb to the top of an area with wall jumps. Once I get to the top, Cheetah jumps away from the opening to prevent her from accidentally falling back down. “I know that’s not much of a touch, but all those little things, people just get through the content nice and easy and they don’t get roadblocked,” Parsons says. 

Parsons says that his team went back to the studio’s earlier games as an exercise, and played through them again. It ended up providing them with some great internal feedback, including the realization that it’s quite easy to get stuck on the first levels of their games. “We can’t allow that to happen. I know when I play games, and you get to a point where you get frustrated or there are roadblocks, you put the controller down, and sometimes you won’t come back. That’s just unacceptable. We create all this content, and we spend a lot of time creating it, and we want everyone to be able to get through it.”

Technical issues have been a problem for the Lego games, too, and those have been given special attention. Sometimes, the solution comes from avoiding problem areas altogether. I build a drivable gadget with Joker, and after I place the final brick, the character automatically moves a little bit away from the creation. “You know far too well that some games in the past once you build something, sometimes you get embedded in it or wedged into things,” Parsons says, “Little things like that help stop these little niggly bugs and irritants that are going to come through.”

One such irritant is the platforming. It’s never felt great in the games, and characters have a tendency to fall during lengthy jumping sections. Parsons says it’s being addressed with DC Super-Villains. “People won’t notice, but there will be slight magnetism, so if you’re doing a jump and you kind of drift, we’ll sort of auto drift you back, but you won’t notice it. In terms of refinements from say, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 to this one, there will be several thousand, but people won’t necessarily notice them because they’re all little tiny bits here, there, and everywhere. It’s that constant evolution. We do try to get better and better at what we do.” 

Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 ended up being a bit of a wake-up call for TT Games. As I mentioned in my review, it was loaded with technical issues that made it difficult to play. “Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 in my mind is a great game, but there were a few bugs and glitches when it came out,” Parsons says. “They’re all fixed in a patch now, but the problem is they shouldn’t be there in the first place.” He says his team is working to do everything they can to make sure this game ships bug-free. “ The way we’ve had to do that is actually lengthen our debug phase. It’s more than double for this than if we were doing a normal dev cycle. The results of this should be that when people get it in their hands it’s slick and it’s clean.”

We won’t know until the game’s October 16 release date if they’re successful, but what I played was rock solid. I appreciate the little quality-of-life touches , such as automatically switching characters during some sections in single player. After years of playing the games, I’ve gotten used to some of the peculiarities. But as Parsons says, his audience is constantly changing. “As kids graduate up and start playing Fortnite, there’s a whole new package of kids that come and are going to play it. Despite all the Lego games we’ve made, this could be someone’s very first Lego game.”

Hopefully, the little touches and improvements will make life much easier and more fun for those new players. Me, I’m just eager to hang with Joker and his friends.

Categories: Games

Crytek Outlines New Weapons, Monsters, And Map Coming To Hunt: Showdown

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 18:25

Hunt: Showdown was one of the most promising titles of last year's E3, and in the year since our first look at the reworked competitive survival horror shooter from Crytek, the studio has slowly been refining the technology driving the game in Steam Early Access. The logistical work has paid off, and the game has mostly very positive user reviews since the last big patch (bringing the total user review rating up to the mostly positive category).

Now that the developer feels more comfortable with the game's performance, the team is starting to further expand the content for the game. We sat down with Crytek at E3 to hear about its plans.

New Weaponry

Hunters can look forward to wielding several new weapons in the near future. In the early moments of each round, most hunters equip their melee weapons to move silently and avoid detection. Crytek plans to expand the melee options to include a throwable tomahawk ax and throwing knives, both of which are retrievable. 

Two new types of grenades are also being introduced. The Hive Bomb unleashes a torrent of wasps on enemies in the vicinity, and the Sticky Bomb sticks to its target before detonating. 

Crytek also plans to add two new crossbows. The vintage version is a classic two-handed weapon, and can be modified with explosive arrows that pack a serious punch. The hand crossbow is a faster loading one-handed model. 

New Enemy

The water is typically one of the safest places in the Hunt map, which seems counterintuitive given this is the land of gators. Rather than add scaly reptiles to the mix, Crytek is introducing the Water Devil. This worm-like monster will have you watching for unexpected ripples in the water. Once it starts heading your way, you better get moving or expect to be overwhelmed by the swarm of tentacles.

New Time Of Day

The night and day versions of maps give the map a very different feel, but soon you may be subjected to a third option – fog. A popular fan request, adding fog to the map diminishes the sightlines significantly, forcing you to move more cautiously unless you want to accidentally run into a pack of enemies or, even worse, and a more careful party of hunters than your own.

New Map

Crytek wouldn't tell us much about the new map, except to say that it's still set in the Louisiana bayou. 

Other changes coming in the next several months include death screens that show you who shot you, spectator mode for after you die but want to watch the rest of the map, and player looting that allows you to take ammo and consumables.

To learn more about Crytek's list of planned changes for Hunt: Showdown, you can check out the full roadmap on its website.

Categories: Games

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Sat, 06/16/2018 - 18:12

Gamers have had a glut of interesting cooperative shooters to play in the last few years, with standouts like Destiny, Ghost Recon Wildlands, and The Division keeping squads together through various universes. But one curious absence in the current cooperative landscape is a survival-horror experience that riffs on the tension and teamplay sensibilities of the cult favorite Left 4 Dead franchise. A small team of former Payday developers at 10 Chambers Collective hopes to tap into that neglected theme with GTFO. 

This universe isn't another me-too zombie game sending waves of brain-eaters at your squad. Instead, players assume the role of prisoners sent into the depths of a mysterious underground complex against their will to retrieve curious items of interest for their warden. Finding the objects is easy enough; making it out alive is the tricky part, as the halls are roamed by deadly monstrosities that look like grotesque evolutions of The Last of Us' clickers.

Before dropping into the darkened halls for a hands-on session I had a chance to check out the arsenal available to players. Each prisoner can carry two guns, a melee weapon, and a special tool like a motion sensor, area scanner that can tag enemies behind walls, sentry turret,  and a glue gun that can be used to slow the advancing horde of creatures. Picking the right combination of tools can be key to making it back alive.

When we drop into the complex, its halls are eerily quiet. A squad member scans each door before we open it expecting to find a pack of enemies waiting for us, but four doors in we haven't seen a thing. The tension hanging heavily in the air continues to build with each empty chamber, but eventually the scanner lights up with activity. We move carefully so not to disturb the enemies, and they stand quietly, waiting to spring into action at the command of the scout. These creatures extend visible tendrils into the atmosphere hoping to pick up movement. Once they sense someone is there they let out a shrill cry to spring the other enemies into action. Moving around these tendrils can be dangerous, but we arm our melee weapons and successfully take this small forward group out stealthily to avoid a bigger firefight.


Moving further into the complex, we come across a command console near a locked door. These computers look like they are running DOS, and players can even type commands into the prompt. Since we need the key to the door, we query its location into the console and it gives us a new objective marker to pursue. 10 Chambers doesn't want to hold players' hands in these circumstances, and instead wants the teams to problem-solve solutions. Players also have to work together to figure out how to open locked supply crates.

Going further into the complex, things finally get hairy. Once alerted, the enemies come fast and furiously, forcing players to stay in constant communication and never stray too far from one other. Friendly fire compounds the issue, as a few wayward bullets can do the creature's job for them. These frantic battles create great circumstances for heroic moments, like the last person standing trying frantically to survive the wave so they can revive their fallen comrades. Failing to do so would kick you back to the start of the mission, though longer challenges will feature some checkpoints with the caveat that they only save during the duration of that play session. If you shut down for the day, you'll have to start from scratch next time. 

Unlike Payday, which sent unrelenting waves at you the moment you get noticed, GTFO is a much more rhythmic experience, shifting from quiet moments of stealth and resource gathering to the more deadly enemy onslaughts. Giving players a breather is a welcome evolution, as supplies can be scarce and making sure everyone has at least a few clips and access to a med kit is crucial before engaging the next encounter.

Once we find the keycard, the real firefight begins. We head back to the Apex door that has the object of interest behind its walls, and insert the key. This starts a bioscan, where all four players must stand in a highlighted circle to get the door to unlock. Apex doors make you go through multiple bioscans before opening, during which waves of enemies continue to rush toward your position.

Preparing for these battles is crucial; we make sure to cover the floor in front of us with glue to slow their approach and position the sentry so it covers two hallways. Our original plan was sound, but in moving from the second to the third bioscan we forget to move the sentry to a forward position. When the horrors descend on our position, the sentry picks up the movement and starts firing. This proves to be a problem considering we are standing in between the monsters and the turret. Friendly fire – 1, squad – 0. Thus ends our run in the underground; another team of prisoners will have to complete the job. 

GTFO pulls no punches. The missions can be unapologetically hard, demanding constant communication between squad mates if you want to make it to the extraction point. The missions are tiered so players must complete three jobs before they get to one that provides a loot drop. 10 Chamber Collective founder Ulf Andersson says they want to slow the reward drip so each time you get an item it feels more meaningful. Some missions could take upwards of six hours to complete, but the studio also plans to offer more breezy "lunch" missions as well. 

The gameplay felt tight, and the studio is aiming for 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. Given those parameters, you may be surprised to learn it's running on the Unity engine, a popular mobile platform that is making strides into the PC and console platforms. 

10 Chambers Collective hopes to have a beta out on PC by the end of the year, but won't release it until they feel it's ready. I only experienced a brief slice of gameplay, but the emphasis on teamwork and suffocating tension make this one worth watching. 

Categories: Games

Why Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Isn't A Souls Game

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 16:59

Sekiro is a major departure from what has been seen in From Software's Souls series, and mastermind Hidetaka Miyazaki's next game is not just Bloodborne or Dark Souls set in feudal Japan. There are a number of reasons why this is the case, and you can expect to find something different compared to previous titles using the Souls formula. Lets take a look at 10 things we noticed about Sekiro that separate it from the other Souls games and how these changes could help Shadows Die Twice entice new players and old fans alike. 

The info was assembled from a variety of interviews and hands-off demos from around the industry during E3, including Polygon, Digital Trends, Gamesradar, and PCgamer.

1. A Jump Button:
None of the games in the Souls series feature a jump button, and the only way a player can go airborne is to sprint and leap together. It is unwieldy, imprecise, and frustrating, and the world is not designed with verticality in mind outside of ladders and elevators. The rare "platforming sections" in the Souls games are the weakest parts of the series. Sekiro has a dedicated jump, which is used to traverse the world, dodge enemy attacks, and explore the more varied level design.

2. A Grapple:
Sekiro features a grapple mechanic that is used to pull yourself quickly and closer to enemies for attacks, and to have more freedom to explore the world. The grapple, mixed with the ability to jump, makes the act of traversing feudal Japan in Sekiro different from anything you experience in a Souls game.

3. Stealth Mechanics:
The closest you get to stealth in a Souls game is slowly trudging up behind an enemy and getting a backstab in. Sekiro has dedicated stealth mechanics, such as crouching in tall grass, silent kills from hidden areas or rooftops, and sidling up against walls for cover. Players can slowly take out weaker enemies one-by-one before engaging larger, tougher enemies in combat. 

4. No Stats Or Classes:
In Sekiro you are a set character, and have no stats to manipulate or classes to pick from. The game is designed around being a Shinobi in feudal Japan, and From Software has designed the world and weapons to fit that character. With stealth, traversal and swordplay all major parts of the game, focusing on being a ninja is the only option in Sekiro. From Software has stated there may be some replacement for stats but it won't be anything like what has been previously seen in their Souls games. 

5. No Other Weapons, Only The 'Shinobi Prosthetic':
While Players have access to a number of options and gadgets, the only main weapon at this time is the katana mixed with your prosthetic limb. The focus is on perfecting your skill with the sword and utilizing gadgets to buff your blade or change up your playstyle. The limb offers a number of options, such as a limited block ability, an axe that can break enemy defenses, or firecrackers to stun your opponents. The gadgets can be mixed with your weapon, like using the firecrackers to light the katana on fire. The prosthetic arm used to activate them looks like the closest analogue to trick weapons in Bloodborne.

6. No Armor:
A new departure will be that no extra armor can be found, in line with the theme of being a ninja and cutting out the RPG elements.  From Software has already stated that Sekiro is not a role-playing game and insinuated that the only form of upgrading will be involved with the gadgets. The major reason to explore is to find new options for your prosthetic. 

7. Emphasis On Story:
While Sekiro won't be the next Mass Effect, it has a greater focus on story compared to the Souls games, starting with the fact that you play as a fixed character. Players don't customize their identity or choose a class. You only play as a Shinobi, Sekiro, or "The One-Armed Wolf." Characters have more of a focus, and their relationships evolve over the course of the game. Despite this, Sekiro will probably have telltale elements From Software's world-building and cryptic storytelling. Miyazaki told Polygon in an interview “It’s not going to be a thickly story-driven affair, but we think it’ll be a nice change of pace from what you’ve seen so far.”

8. Resurrection
The title of the game Shadows Die Twice is not just a cool subtitle; it is intrinsic to a major change from previous games by From Software. You can use death to your advantage and choose when to resurrect your character. An enemy can kill you but you have the ability to wait for them to let their guard down, come back to life, and take advantage with a surprise attack. The ability has consequences and is limited, but changes the death-mechanic that has been the staple of the Souls series.

9. Posture 
The major stat in Sekiro is posture, and much like stamina you have a meter representing it. Your enemies also share that same weakness, and parrying their attacks lowers it, allowing you to take advantage with a powerful and brutal attack. Depending on the opponent, whether it be a larger enemy or a boss, it can either instantly kill them or do a significant amount of damage. You have to focus on dodging attacks with your jump, timing your blocks to cause a parry, and striking when you have the advantage. These acts lower your enemies posture and open them up for a devastating attack. If you focus too much on blocking, or receive damage, it lowers your posture, and the enemy can finish you off as well. A kanji appears that represents what sort of attack is incoming, giving you a chance to know whether it can be blocked, parried, or must be avoided altogether. It doesn't make it any easier though, as you still have to learn attack animations to know where and when to dodge, or to parry their attack when possible. 

10. No More Bonfires Or Lanterns
So far, Sekiro does not have a traditional lantern or bonfire system like the Souls games. Removing the need for souls or blood echoes as a currency allows From Software to change the way they look at checkpoints and death in their game, such as with the new resurrection system. Whether the game has a more typical checkpoint system or its own version of bonfires is unknown. It will be interesting to see how From Software plays with the idea of progress in a game that does not have as concrete indicators of it as the Souls games.

Something New
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is looking to be something wholly new by From Software, and that is incredibly exciting. The game is shaping up to be From's vision of a character action game as opposed to a feudal Japanese action/RPG. That focus should allow fans of the Souls to experience something new, and also interest newcomers to the typically impenetrable series.


Categories: Games

The Golf Club 2019 Adds More Than Just The PGA Tour

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 22:53

HB Studios' The Golf Club franchise took its career mode forward in a big way when it signed the PGA Tour license. The tour – including preambles Q School and the Tour – culminates in the FedExCup Playoffs, but there's more to the career mode than just a sponsorship.

Six real-life courses are licensed (Summerlin, Scottsdale, Sawgrass, Southwind, Deere Run, and Boston), with more planned for after launch, but the tour's 32-course schedule also includes user-created courses. User-created courses are the foundation of the series, and it's cool that some talented creators are going to see their courses as part of the game's career mode in events big and small. HB Studios even talked to them in order to get information the developer could use to inform the commentary during the course flyovers at the beginning of an event.

Unfortunately, the courses themselves are set for a single PGA Tour season even though stats are kept for up to five seasons (you can play beyond that) and the golfers on the leaderboard will fare differently from year to year.

While you're playing on the tour you'll form rivalries with individual golfers. Points are accumulated for each event based on more than five categories. Whomever is the first to 20 points wins the rivalry. You can add some extra emotion to these rivalries and the tour in general by renaming the 300 golfers on the circuit.

HB Studios says it would like to add license real pros, but that is only a future possibility. The developer isn't planning to put out The Golf Club 2020, for example, on a yearly cue, so we'll have to wait and see how the franchise implements real pros if it happens.

The Golf Club 2019 is also adding a golfer level. This goes to 100, and each step up the ladder gives players cosmetic items (there is no boosting of golfer stats) and in-game currency used to bolster your golf society and/or use in multiplayer skins matches.

Leveling, along with season-long sponsorship goals, tie into the game's expanded customization options – which now included branded apparel from Under Armor, Tattoo Golf, Royal & Awesome, and Vice Golf. Each sponsor has three levels, and you can switch between them mid-stream for a slight tradeoff.

While golf societies won't change a whole lot for the game this year (the clubhouses you can purchase have been freshened up), multiplayer is bolstered by options like quick matchmaking with strangers over a curated course selection, as well as private matchmaking among friends where you'll have control over course conditions.

I played a couple rounds of the game, and didn't have too much trouble with getting the timing right on the backswing and for the speed of my followthrough, but I'll have to play more to get a better feel of the consistency of delicate finesse shots. Will I have the skills to hack in on the tour? I'm excited to find out.

Categories: Games

Gameplay Is Still King For Pro Evolution Soccer 2019

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 17:08

Pro Evolution Soccer’s gameplay has captivated in past years, and after my hands-on with the game at E3 2018 I’m happy to say that realistic but eminently fun gameplay is still the series’ bedrock in PES 2019.

The main thing that strikes me about PES 2019’s gameplay is the ball itself. I’ve always liked the way PES’ ball has felt when shooting and for deliciously weighted through balls, and this year you can definitely see players reacting to it differently from last year. It may take an extra second for a player to bring down that chest-high lofted pass on the touchline or take an extra touch in order to get the ball under control. You can also see it in some passes, as a lofted pass with curve on it forces the recipient to adjust.

PES 2018 made a point to slow the game down, and ironically, the free movement of the ball makes the action tick along briskly even though PES brand manager Andre Bronzoni told me that nothing had been done to the game’s actual speed per se. PES 2019 features snow in appropriate stadiums, and although it does not accumulate, Bronzoni says it and rain will affect the ball.

Elsewhere on the gameplay front during my hands-on time I perceived that players got headers off quicker (requiring less of a windup) and fouls occurred when expected (for both teams) without it being a parade of yellow cards. This was a point of contention last year, and Bronzoni says that some leagues should be more strict about fouls (like in Brazil) than others (such as in Scotland).

Visable fatigue is new element of the game, and I certainly saw players with their hands on their knees while waiting for a throw-in, for example. The onscreen quick sub system (similar to FIFAs) can be used to adddress fatigue, but I don’t think players’ actual fatigue levels (viable in the pause menu) were different from last year. Despite this, pushing fatigued players will lead to injuries, and it will drain players’ overall stamina reserves game-to-game in the Master League mode.

The Master League is an area that PES 2019 needs to succesfully address, and one of the central components is the transfer system. Konami says it’s being overhauled (click for some more basic details on the game), but I did not get a lot of information on this front. I am, however, disappointed to hear that outside clubs don’t influence players' transfer prices during negotiations even though they’re listed as being interested the same player you are. Club prestige is a concept, however, that comes into play when it comes to whether players sign with your club or not. Smaller clubs will be out of luck for the big names until they are more established. This has been the case in past Pro Evos, so I’m unclear how PES 2019 is distinct.

MyClub is also getting a makeover, with the most notable being that Konami is releasing special versions of players through the year. It's also ditching the black ball system where scouts and agents based on certain player characteristics are stacked to increase the chances that you’ll pull the player you like.

MyClub in 2019 lets you see who you’re going to sign, although agents are still used to find specific players. Bronzoni wouldn’t say if the packs you’ll buy consist of players, agents, or a mix, but overall he says that the odds of gamers getting the players they want shouldn’t be vastly different.

The developer is still figuring out how it’s going to handle auctions – which had a useful two-stage bidding system – given the big changes to the mode, but the dual stars/GP currencies are the same. Moreover, users can still train players.

Nothing is written in stone just yet for PES 2019 – there are still a lot of details I'd like to know for the Master League and MyClub modes. We’ll have to wait and see how those shake out, but once again gains have been made on the gameplay front that certainly show that the game is putting its best foot forward.

Categories: Games

How Naughty Dog Is Enhancing The Last of Us: Part II’s Combat

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 06:05

The Last of Us: Part II opened Sony’s press conference with a bang. Not only did we meet a new character named Dina who’s obviously important in Ellie’s life, but we also saw a slice of the combat. As with any follow-up title, the next game always looks to improve on its predecessor, and true to Naughty Dog, it’s set on taking things to the next level. During E3 2018, I got the opportunity to sit with co-directors Kurt Margenau and Anthony Newman to discuss how combat has evolved and what we can expect from it the highly anticipated sequel. 

Proving More Stealth Options

According to Newman, when the Naughty Dog team sat down to think about the game, it explored what worked well and what would be appropriate for this game and expand on what was done previously. “The Last of Us has always been about the natural world and reclaiming society and civilization, so a natural evolution of Last of Us 1 was to increase the vegetation in the world,” he explained. “That obviously plays into the stealth game that’s super important, so that pushed us to create this analog stealth system where based on your stance, whether you’re crouched, standing, or prone in the thickness of the vegetation you’re in, enemies have an easier or harder time seeing you. There’s this sliding the scale of how susceptible you are. It’s more appropriate to the tension of the world of The Last of Us.” That means gone are the isolated patches, and instead, the environments offer lush, full forests that provide plenty of opportunities for Ellie to strategize.

Melee Has Been Revamped

In the demo, we saw Ellie dodging left and right as enemies attacked her. Naughty Dog added a dedicated dodge button this time around. “This allows us to do a lot more with melee,” Margenau said. “You can fight multiple enemies at once and [there are] all these cool contextual moves she does like planting off the surface and attacking with various finishers. We also have all the melee weapons, like she’s able to take a hammer off someone and use that.”

“That’s actually a new detail; if you don’t have a melee weapon beyond your switchblade and you’re finishing off someone who does have one, you can smoothly transition and grab that weapon from them,” Newman added.

Historically, melee has been animation-based, but more collision-based elements are being added to it. For instance, if a brute keeps swinging his hammer, he can hit stuff in the environment if he misses the player. “It’s kind of a small detail but it makes the system much more connected to the environment,” Newman explained. This has also enhanced the returning melee weapons, such as the machete and switchblade. Newman spoke to the movesets being more nuanced and complex than they were in the first game.

Taking Care Of Arrow Wounds

In the trailer, we saw Ellie face off against bow-and-arrow enemies. At one point, she gets an arrow stuck in her. This was not scripted for the demo; it’s something else you must consider as you battle menacing foes. When an arrow pierces you, it stays in you until you find a safe place to remove it. “While it’s in you, you don’t have access to listen mode and your aim is all out of whack,” Margenau said. “It’s the first status effect that we’ve introduced in the game,” Newman added.

Making Crafting Matter

Margenau confirmed there will be new craftable ammo for the bow and arrow, such as the explosive arrow we saw in the demo. “When we think about crafting such a core part of that experience in the Last of Us is the choice you make and what you give up when you craft it,” Margenau said. The team is always looking for what makes the experience unique as opposed to giving you a laundry list of items you can craft. It’s important there’s always something at stake. “It is a delicate balance of what options you give the player and what we showed is just a slice of what we’re planning,” Margenau teased. 

A Different Fighter With More Enemies To Master

This entry is upping the ante with the weapons enemies use against you, such as bow-and-arrow users alongside different classes of the infected. Margenau spoke to one big adversary, who has a heavy melee attack and can throw Ellie through things and over things. He’s certainly no pushover; he can also block and parry your attacks. This doesn’t mean Ellie is defenseless against him, though. “This is obviously a harsh world and anybody who is going to survive in this world must become a very competent fighter,” Newman said. “Ellie has had five years to pick up some new tricks along the way.”

However, the team also had to think of how she would be a different fighter than Joel and what would make sense for her character. “She’s not as big or as bulky as Joel,” Newman explained. “She’s not going to be able to just overpower enemies with her raw strength.” 

To compensate for this difference and to keep combat interesting, Naughty Dog added a dodge for the melee to increase complexity. A new addition is also a jump button to make environments more vertical. “This makes escaping more dynamic and frenetic,” Newman said about the addition. “Escaping is always an option,” Margenau added. “The squeezing through and hiding under things … you don’t always have to kill everyone.” 

No Easy Way Out

While I discussed combat with Margenau and Newman one thing that kept coming up was the importance of tension, which they aren’t letting simmer in the slightest. “We’re trying to provide a lot more options for the player,” Newman said. “Overall, the level of threat that you’ll be facing means that you’re not going to be able to take things head on. Whether you want to do stealth or go loud with your combat, you’re never going to be able to do it without putting a lot of careful thought into what you’re doing.” The co-directors assured us they’ve expanded both the stealth and action playstyles. Naughty Dog wants players to have options and different ways to tackle every situation. “We’re not trying to make it more of an action game than The Last of Us,” Margenau assured. “It’s still a survival action game.”

To learn more about The Last of Us: Part II, check out our recent preview that delves deeper into the narrative. 

Categories: Games

Control Feels Like The Ultimate Realization Of Remedy's Vision

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 05:59

During PlayStation's E3 2018 press briefing, Remedy wowed attendees and viewers with the first trailer of its upcoming game, Control. The trailer was exciting but left more questions than answers. Thankfully, I met with Remedy to see the game in action and learn more about the company's mysterious new world.

Remedy has always been known for narrative-driven experiences, but creative director Sam Lake says the team wants to expand beyond what the studio is known for. “Coming out of Quantum Break, I was concepting this with Mikael Kasurinen, who is our game director,” he says. “We wanted to, first and foremost, create a deep and mysterious world – a many-layered world that players would be drawn back to even when they have played for a long time to explore, find secrets, and piece things together.”

In Control, you play as Jesse Faden, a person who had a traumatic encounter with the unexplainable as a child. The encounter changed her and left her with questions about what she is and what is possible in the world. In search of answers, she travels to the Oldest House, a massive Manhattan skyscraper where the secretive governmental organization in charge of investigating unexplainable things, the Federal Bureau of Control, resides. However, just as she arrives, a mysterious, supernatural force known as The Hiss attack the Oldest House, possessing the employees of the Bureau and killing the Director.

Not realizing what it is, Jesse picks up the Director’s gun. However, the gun is an Object of Power with the ability to morph and shift its powers. In picking up this weapon, Jesse becomes the new Director, placing a target on her back for the possessed Bureau employees. As Jesse turns a corner, a man holding a gun creepily walks toward her. He slowly looks at her and readies his gun. Jesse realizes what’s about to happen and pulls a portion of the floor up to block the gunfire. Turns out the gun isn’t the only powerful part of the main character. She then blasts the debris at the assailant, stunning him. Using her powers, she grabs a computer monitor from across the room and smashes it into him, knocking him down.

“The thing that we wanted from really early on was to make a really challenging experience.”

Exploring the Oldest House is easier said than done. In addition to the myriad enemies trying their luck at taking down Jesse, you also must deal with shifting walls and rooms. Remedy relies heavily on elements of new weird, a subgenre of science fiction revolving around a normal world being changed by a foreign object that is often unexplainable by human science, as well as dream logic. The building behaves unpredictably, but you can sometimes trigger these shifts by performing abstract rituals that require you to think outside the box.

“It’s a Place of Power on its own… this weird, shifting, strange place that’s vastly bigger on the inside than the outside would lead you to believe,” Lake says. “If you know the rules, if the conditions are right, if you know the right rituals, you can keep on traveling – essentially forever – deeper into this building. And step by step, also, leaving our known reality behind.”

Remedy Entertainment

Quantum Break placed a heavy emphasis on story, but Lake says this time around, the studio is more focused on the gameplay. Lake and Kasurinen also wanted to deliver a less linear experience where players would want to dive back in time and again to learn more about the world, complete challenges, and discover new things.

This is evident as Jesse comes to a big, long room with multiple doors. Each door leads to different area, giving the Oldest House sandbox elements. As Jesse continues down the path, she comes to a chasm with seemingly no way across. The demoer says that to pass this gap, she must unlock the Levitate ability. Thankfully, Jesse already has this ability, so there’s no need to backtrack to find it. Jesse effortlessly glides across and continues down the path.

As you play, you encounter multiple side-missions. The optional quest I see is a guy who’s stuck staring at a refrigerator. He tells Jesse he’s been stuck staring for days without rest or food and he’s hoping she can relieve him of his duties. I’m not sure what that would entail, but there’s no time for that. Jesse leaves the poor soul behind and continues along her way.

Music Implementation

One thing Remedy is known for is how well it implements music into its games. I asked creative director Sam Lake if fans should expect more of this. “You should,” he says with a smile. “I’m sorry, I won’t go any further into that. [laughs] We like to use music in various forms as a storytelling tool, but also, atmosphere is really strong in our experiences. We’re trying to push this further, so down the line, you should be discovering interesting new uses for music.”

As the demo nears its end, Jesse encounters Rooney, the head of security. Unfortunately, the Hiss have gotten to him as well, and he is much more powerful than any other enemy she’s encountered at this point in the demo. Rooney possesses similar skills as Jesse, but he seems faster and has more projectiles. After shooting him and smashing him with several pieces of debris, Rooney gives one last-ditch effort, but Jesse expertly dodges it and delivers the killing blow.

Jesse leaves the room and enters a bright, white room. She walks toward a massive upside-down black triangle – The Astral Plane. The demo ends after the impressive boss battle, and I’m left wondering what will await her in the Astral Plane.

Control feels like the ultimate realization of what Remedy has attempted in past games. “I would like to think that with each project, we learn what works and what didn’t work that well,” Lake says. “We always want to bring in new elements and try out new things. Here, I think we’ve done a bit more of that than times in the past. But also, I feel there will be a lot of things that the fans will see the evolution of and where certain things have come from.”

Remedy Entertainment

The more open structure, the powers Jesse wields, and the abstract shifting building lead to a complex title to wrap your head around. Control looks to keep players on their toes more than other Remedy games.

“The thing that we wanted from really early on was to make a really challenging experience,” Lake says. “We are dealing with weird concepts, but also from the gameplay side and storytelling side, if you have a linear game, what you end up doing is you are holding the player’s hand and leading them through the experience. ‘Look now, here is the next thing. And you go straight down the hall, and then you see the next thing.’ We decided very early on that this is hands off. We are not helping. We want this to be more player-driven, and the player goes in and pursues the things they are interested in. We are serving fewer things on the platter for you, and leaving you more to piece together for yourself, and try out and experiment, and discover, and learn. We do believe that this will make it more engaging and more rewarding.”

I can’t wait to see what else Control has in store when it launches in 2019.

Categories: Games

Five Ways Dying Light 2 Is A Bigger, Better, And More Intense Sequel

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 03:47

Despite the overabundance of zombie games on the market, the original Dying Light stood out from the undead horde thanks to its first-person parkour mechanics, gritty melee combat, and dynamic day/night cycle (you really didn’t want to get caught outside after the sun went down). For the sequel, Techland is not only improving upon these pillars, but also introducing a wealth of narrative choices that will shape the very city you find yourself in. Here are five big takeaways from our hands-off demo.

Improved Parkour

The ability to climb, jump, and slide your way through the city of Harran gave players a fighting chance in the original Dying Light, and Techland is literally doubling down on mobility for the sequel – players have twice the number of parkour abilities at their disposal compared to the first game. During our demo, we saw the player slide under railings, hop across the tops of lamp posts, swing around corners on a rope, and slide down a banner Errol Flynn-style by slicing through it with a knife.

Dying Light 2 also introduces parkour attacks and parkour puzzles. Parkour attacks allow players to take down enemies while navigating the environment – examples during our demo included kicking a bandit while vaulting over a waist-high gate, and knocking another enemy off of a building while swinging from an overhead bar.

Parkour puzzles, on the other hand, take a bit more planning. Players will encounter certain areas that require them to string together a combination of moves before their stamina bar depletes. In our demo, the player was tasked with navigating the inside of a water tank; each successive leap and climbing action took off another chunk of his stamina bar, until he reached a platform he could stand and rest on. Other sections were more timing-focused, requiring him to combo wall-runs into jumps and monkey-bar swings to reach the top.

The fluidity and variety of Dying Light 2’s traversal reminded me less of the first game and more of Mirror’s Edge – albeit with more zombies.  

More Complex Combat

Dying Light 2 takes place 15 years after the infection, in the last city humanity has left. As such, humans are as big of a threat as the undead – most of the enemies the player encountered during our demo were club-wielding bandits.

All in all, the melee combat seemed even more complex and deliberate than the previous game, with enemies changing stances during encounters, requiring the player to block, dodge, and time their attacks when they see an opening. You can also use environmental objects to your advantage – the player in our demo finished off one particularly adept enemy by picking up a bucket and hurling it at his head, before giving him the aforementioned parkour swing-kick down to the pavement below. Taking on even just two bandits at a time seemed challenging, so if you get on the wrong side of an entire gang of enemies, you may want to put your parkour moves to good use.

Deadlier Undead

While our demo mostly focused on human enemies, the undead are also getting an overhaul. Techland says that in the original Dying Light, nighttime was scary, but not complex. As such, the developer is revamping the infected to feature both independent and group A.I., which will result in more complex behavior from our undead counterparts. Players can expect to run into bigger hordes of slow-moving zombies on the streets during the night, as well as faster and more agile zombies on the rooftops.

During the day, the infected will congregate in nests inside darkened buildings. We got a peek at one of these nests during our demo, when the player ducked into an old, abandoned department store. Over a dozen enemies stood eerily among a collection of mannequins, grunting and sniffing as the player tried (in vain) to sneak around them. While stealth is an option, Techland says that most of these nests will contain valuable loot if you clear them out – and manage to stay alive during the process.

  Your Choices Matter

Dying Light 2’s biggest change is how you affect the city itself. Each choice you make during missions will shift the balance of control between the game's various factions, which in turn affects the state of the city (scroll between the above images for a visual example of how the city might change).

In the demo we watched, the player had the choice to relinquish control of the water tower he scaled to either an organized force called the Peacekeepers, or a pair of less-than-reputable entrepreneurs. If you side with the Peacekeepers (and then wait a few in-game weeks), the city transforms into a cleaner and more secure environment. Squads of Peacekeepers will attack any zombies they find shambling in the streets during the day, and help clear out zombie nests. New shortcuts such as ziplines and pulleys also become available, and the water tower you handed over to the Peacekeepers provides fresh water to the entire population via fountains throughout the city. However, there are downsides to aiding the Peacekeepers as well – the faction isn’t particularly big on democracy, and holds public executions to discourage or dispatch of anyone who breaks their rules.

If you side with the water-stealing bandits, on the other hand, the citizens remain free to do as they please – but they also don’t have the added security that the Peacekeepers provide. The city looks more rundown and dangerous in this scenario, and you’ll run into destitute survivors begging for water, as the criminals you handed the tower over to charge a premium price for a drink. On the bright (and somewhat cynical) side, however, your “business partners” will supply you with a share of the revenue from their endeavor. How do you live with yourself?!

Techland is taking these player-driven choices seriously; the developer has hired on famed game designer Chris Avellone as the Dying Light 2’s narrative designer, and hired members of The Witcher 3’s writing staff to help craft compelling choices. The decisions you make will also open up entirely different areas in the city. For instance, if you sided with the bandits, a massive black market called La Puerta will open in the city, with new NPCs that you can interact with, adding another layer of replayability to the game.

The Game Is BIG

Techland is no stranger to creating big games; not only did the original Dying Light take place over two sprawling open-world maps, The Following DLC introduced a third map that was twice as large as the two previous locations combined. Dying Light 2 ups the ante yet again – Techland says the new city you’ll be exploring is four times the size of all the previous maps put together. While bigger doesn’t inherently mean better, our demo already showed the player having way more interaction and influence over the environment than the previous game. Add to that the increased parkour abilities, deeper combat, and the return of four-player co-op, and Dying Light 2 may just keep fans busy until the actual zombie apocalypse.

Categories: Games

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Fri, 06/15/2018 - 03:20

I don’t have long. I’m being attacked by a zombie, but I’m using one hand to type out this preview and the other to protect my neck. I’ll try to share everything I loved about the demo before this zombie bites me. (Sorry for the typos, I'm fighting for my life.)

Overkill's The Walking Dead is based on Robert Kirkman’s comic, but who really cares, I came for some zombie action, and I got it. I’m tempted to make a Left 4 Dead comparison, which is fair since this is a four-player co-op shooter with hordes of zombies, but The Walking Dead allows for more tactical stealth, similar to Overkills’ Payday series. (Man, the zombie attacking me is really putting up a fight. He’s a squirmier.)

Throughout The Walking Dead, you and up to three co-op buddies head out on a series of missions to scavenge gear and help build up your home base. This means that you’ll face off against both the undead and hostile, well-armed survivors. You don’t want to be a hero and venture off on your own, because you’re safer closer to the pack. The world is very hostile and a few hits can send you to your knees. The environment is also littered with dangers like bear traps that pin you to the ground and make you a sitting duck.

The Walking Dead’s shooting feels good, and I got off several headshots on our first group of zombies before they got too close and I switched over to a machete, which rips through their limbs. (I wish I still had it, so I could deal with the guy who is currently nipping my ear.) During your journey, you can scavenge for extra supplies. If you have a lock pick, you can find extra goodies in lockboxes. If you have a blade, you can cut open chainlink fences and find shortcuts.

Obviously, human enemies put up more of a coordinated fight, and I found it useful to remain hidden as long as possible. You can mark targets for your co-op buddies and try to co-ordinate a well-timed attack, but if you make too much noise during combat, you’ll attract roaming hordes, who will attack indiscriminately. This addeded chaos is fun, but it’s far from safe (kind of like me right now). I found this out the hard way when I accidentally set off a car alarm while hacking through a group of zombies.

When we reached the end of the level, we found the supplies we needed, so we set a flair into the sky had to wait a few minutes for our ride to show up. Of course, this attracts a big group of zombies and we soon found ourselves staring down a wave of rotting limbs. The suppressor on my pistol breaks, which would normally attract more zombies, but what’s a few more at this point. The zombies in The Walking Dead are a bit slower than those in Left 4 Dead, but they hit harder and can take a few hits before collapsing. Big bloated zombies will explode if you get too close and take you out immediately.

(Ack, dammit, I think I just got bit. Yeah, that’s a lot of blood. Not sure how much time I have left now. I’m sorry mom.)

Overall, Overkill's The Walking Dead was a fun time. It scratches that Left 4 Dead itch, but feels a bit more tactical and deliberate like Payday. I just wish I was going to live to play it again. Starbreeze, Skybound Entertainment, and 505 Games are bringing the game to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the PC on November 6.


Blech, I have a bad taste in my mouth now. I’m starting to feel itchy and I want to eat dog food. Itchy. Tasty.

Categories: Games

<p>CD Projekt Red is getting a lot of

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 02:10

CD Projekt Red is getting a lot of hype at this year’s E3, and everyone wants to know more about the next project from the team behind the Witcher series. But is the game really as good as everyone says? In order to find out if Cyberpunk 2077 will really be an Elder Scroll’s killer, I charmed my way into the game’s E3 demo and used my critical eye (the right one) to analyze every second of gameplay. Here are things about Cyberpunk 2077 that you should be really worried about.

Nitpick one: The game HUD features a lot of red, so if you hate that color you’ll probably hate this game by proxy. 

Nitpick two: The year 2077 is too far away. How are we supposed to know how accurate this setting is?

Nitpick three: This game looks too good. It’s kind of ruining me for other games I want to play now. I was going to go home and play Detroit: Become Human, but now I want to vomit on that game.

Nitpick four: The character creator looks pretty customizable; there is even a stat called “cool.” I guess it’s like Cyberpunk’s version of a Charisma stat, and dictates how other character react to you … hold on, that actually is kind of neat. This isn’t really a nitpick; let’s call it a nonpick.

Real Nitpick four: The game’s man currency is the Eurodollar, but everyone calls it Eddies for short. Eddies is a stupid name for money. If that’s what the future holds, count me out.

Nitpick five: I saw newspapers scatter all over the place, which is ridiculous. Everyone knows that print is dead.

Nitpick six: The crowd animations look good, but I noticed several NPCs with the same walking animations. Is it really too much to ask for all of Night City’s millions of inhabitants to have their own unique animation?

Nonpick two: When the main character gets a call, her (or his) eyes glow red. This indicates that she can see her caller on her internal retina display. I thought that was a nice touch.

These guys should really be the main characters

Nitpick seven: At one point the main character asks an NPC a question and while they’re answering she walks away, but the NPC keeps talking even after she’d left. What a moron!

Nitpick eight: CD Projekt Red says that all of your choices will have consequence and could dramatically impact the flow of the story. That’s too stressful. Why can’t I just have a mindless shooter without all of this interesting story and exploration bits?

Nitpick nine: At one point, the main character gets a subdermal grip upgrade on her hand, which allows her to do more damage when firing a gun. That’s not how guns work! Bullets don’t fly faster or do more damage if you pull the trigger harder (I think).

Nitpick ten: There is a lot of blood and violence in the game. Why does everything have to end in violence? What are we teaching our kids with these video games?

Nonpick three: Okay, I just saw a cut scene where the main character unlocked a nonlethal option to complete a mission. I guess CD Projekt Red is smarter than I thought.

Nitpick eleven: CD Projekt Red is smarter than I am.

Nonpick four: If you do pick the violent option, the action actually looks pretty cool. Some weapons can shoot through wall. At one point, a enemies does this, and the main character has to scramble for cover. Also, some upgrades allows your character to ricochet bullets off walls, and some weapons tech will actually fire ammo that curves around corners like the cartoon bullets from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Nitpick twelve: I can’t read my notes here, but it looks like it reads, “blueberry swinging.” I don’t know what blueberry swinging it, but I’m sure it’s pretty damning.

Nitpick fourteen: This game still doesn’t have a release date, and I’m pretty sure it’s not tomorrow.

I’m going to be honest with you, even when I was trying to be hypercritical, I still walked away incredibly impressed with Cyberpunk 2077. That game looks like a next level Action/RPG and the open world is incredibly dense and full of life. You should be excited for this game, so please don’t hate on CD Projekt Red’s hard work. In fact, please don’t hate on anyone hard work. Our lives are too short to focus on the negative or try to pick apart something people find joy in. We’re all floating though space together on one great big blue home, so let’s try to look out for one another. One love y’all.

Categories: Games

What We Loved From Just Cause 4’s Stupid Demo

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 01:33

Avalanche Studios has been delighting E3 ongoers all week with an action-packed demo of Just Cause 4, and if you’re looking for a traditional preview of what they showed, Javy has you covered. However, he’s not the only one who saw the tools of destruction that Rico Rodriguez is packing this time around. Jeff Cork and Jeff Marchiafava also sat in on the demo, with a laser focus on the kind of stupid fun in-game pranksters can look forward to. Rather than keep their ruminations to themselves, they decided to memorialize their thoughts about Just Cause 4 in a text conversation, which you can conveniently view below. You’re welcome!

Jeff Cork: Hello, Jeff Marchiafava! Remember when we saw the Just Cause 4 demo together? What was the biggest surprise for you? Personally, I wasn’t expecting to learn that the tornadoes that were highlighted in the reveal trailer are being controlled by various factions in the game through some kind of weird array of high-powered fans. And no, I am not making that up. The tornadoes in the game are, indeed, being controlled through some kind of weird array of high-powered fans. 

Jeff M: Conspiracy theorists rejoice – the government really is controlling the weather! I think the biggest surprise for me was that apparently Avalanche can read my mind and decided to tailor-make Just Cause 4 into exactly what I want from the series – a big dumb playground for me to mess with NPCs in ridiculous ways.

Jeff C: Sure, you could shoot them with your guns, but that’s amateur-hour stuff. During the demo, we got to see all kinds of wacky nonsense. I think they know their audience perfectly; rather than focus on the various socioeconomic conditions that have led to the downfall of this region, we got to see a lengthy masterclass about how physics can be fun. Rico’s repertoire has been enhanced with an upgraded grappler, allowing for even more mayhem. We all had fun using boosters to rocket people, cars, and other things away, but Just Cause 4 puts it on a completely different level. We saw it in action as the demoer methodically shot booster after booster at a crane and cargo container and stuck them together with a tether. Moments later, the contraption sprung to life, whirling around like an out-of-control wrecking ball and ruining everything within its radius. 

Jeff M: Yeah, I was delightfully surprised to see that you can customize a bunch of characteristics for how your grappler functions, seemingly for the express purpose of causing goofy shenanigans. Some of the options don’t even make sense in any logical circumstance – why would you ever need a tether that continually contracts and expands between to objects? That only makes sense when you’re trying to do something stupid, and I love that they give players the option. Should we talk about the damn balloons now?

Jeff C: Rico can fire off balloons now, which inflate and – you’re not going to believe this – lift whatever they’re attached to into the air. “Whatever” probably includes what you’re thinking about already. You want to pretend you’re a cutrate Snake and whisk people away with your phony Fulton? They won’t be added to your roster, but your victims will float away. Close enough? You can also put them on the corners of the top of a storage container and create a floating mobile platform – one that, when combined with boosters, can fly you around until it probably slams into a mountain or spirals out of control. You can also equip a mod that lets the balloons follow you around, so you can have a conga line of red barrels above you. Why? I don’t know. Maybe drop them and they’ll explode on your enemies? Asking “Why?” seems fairly fruitless, as you said.

Jeff M: Yeah, unlike the Fulton, there really isn’t a point to it beyond “more physics-based fun,” and that’s good enough for me! I’m really looking forward to diving into the grappler customization and seeing what hilarious combinations you can come up with. The biggest news, however, might be that Avalanche even figured out a way to make the weather fun! Apparently the entire island has simulated wind patterns, which make getting around with Rico’s windsuit a little easier – though I doubt it will stop me from smashing into the sides of mountains. Avalanche said Just Cause 4 simulated a number of weather conditions as well, but the one they were showing off was the aforementioned tornadoes. 

Jeff C: They seem to spin real good. During the demo, we saw one tear through an enemy outpost, where it tore up nearly everything in its path – including the red chaos objects, which ordinarily reward Rico with points for destroying them. Guess what? You still get credit for blowing up those generators, gas tanks, and towers, even if the tornado is technically doing all the work for you. He’s not lazy, he’s enterprising! Those chaos objects have a little more utility this time around, beyond blowing up nicely when shot at. For instance, you can put balloons on a gas tank, blow out the back of it, and watch as the resulting jet flame propels the tank away like a missile toward some enemy fighters. And then, of course, it explodes because it’s still Just Cause. 

Jeff M: It is indeed more Just Cause, which is exactly what I wanted from the series in the first place. The new island seems massive and varied, the destruction physics have been kicked up a notch, and everything is gorgeous. I think the real fun is going to be experimenting – Rico has a new box of toys, and I look forward to playing with them!

Jeff C: Boom.

Categories: Games

Dead Or Alive 6 Puts Fighting Back In Focus And Lowers The Skill Ceiling

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 00:20

Dead or Alive 6 was announced last week, the first full sequel in the series since Dead or Alive 5 released in 2012, and Dead or Alive 4 in 2006 before that. The series does not treat full sequels lightly and tends to try and interpret the wishes of its community through their own development lens with new features and characters and overall focuses with each new game. With Dead or Alive 6, Team Ninja and KOEI Tecmo are trying to fit the 22-year-old series into a more modern mold while not leaving what fans like about the series behind.

The new big addition to Dead or Alive 6 is the Fatal Rush button. Much like a lot of other modern fighting games, Dead or Alive 6 adds an auto-combo button, but places it as its own separate skill. Gone is the Power Blow from the previous game, with the button replaced by a combo that does fairly significant damage to the enemy. If the meter is full, a Fatal Rush culminates in a move similar to what a Critical Blow in Dead or Alive 5 ended with. 

Unlike with most auto-combo functions in fighting games, DOA focuses heavily on reversal mechanics, making Fatal Rushes difficult to use against someone who knows where attacks will be coming from. As a method to make their game friendlier for casual players, the Fatal Rush seems to put a hard ceiling on how far a new player can go with it until eventually it becomes useless for competitive play. Combo variety has always been required to make DOA competitive, so making a combo that plays out the same way the entire time feels like the game has almost solely dedicated a button to training wheels that will eventually become vestigial.

Far more interesting is the Fatal Reversal, which used the Fatal button and a direction to essentially dance around an enemy attack and appear behind them, with them completely stunned. With the ninjas, this obviously manifests itself as disappearing and reappearing behind them, but every character has their own unique flourish and animation to make it looks flashy and visually interesting.

Dead Or Alive 6's Fatal Reversal

The game as a whole is making a concerted effort to display a more modern version of cool. Of particular note are the UI and presentation in the demo, which are leagues ahead of the previous game, with special mention being given to the game's gorgeous character select screen. It gives the game more personality than the stark black and white industrial mid-2000s look of DOA5.

The demo had an option for the story mode, which was greyed out for our build. Game director Yohei Shimbori told us that they plan to include the story in a similar manner to Dead or Alive 5, but cautions that they will be tweaking the structure “because the story of the last game was hard to understand.” The previous game’s story mode jumped around to different times to hide a plot twist that was not made particularly obvious in the story.

During Dead or Alive 5’s development, Team Ninja was reactive to community concerns and worked to fix them before the game’s release. Whether or not the community will find long term issues with the new Fatal action system, it might be something Team Ninja needs to take a closer look at before Dead or Alive 6 launches in 2019 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. 

Categories: Games

My Hero One's Justice Should Probably Be Held Back

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 19:58

My Hero Academia is my favorite new anime. There's not much I don't like about the show, which made me excited to play its first video game adaptation to make its way to North America. Unfortunately, I didn't have much fun playing it.

The hands-on demo had nine playable characters available: All Might, Shoto Todoroki, Izuku Midoriya, Katsuki Bakugo, Ochaco Uraraka, Tomura Shigaraki, Stain, Dabi, and Himiko Toga. I played as Himiko Toga just because I think she is weird as hell. There were six stages available: Gran Torino Residence, U.A. High School Building, U.A. High School Classroom, The Beast's Forest (Day), Hosu City Urban District (Day), and Hosu City Alleway. I went with Gran Torino Residence, because I liked the idea of fighting in someone's home.


You can take two characters with you as back up. The hero and villain mix doesn't matter so I took All Might and Stain with me. The first game I thought of while playing was Power Stone, which may be an exciting comparison for some, but I tired of the combat pretty quickly. The hits lacked a profound sense of impact, which is a big shortcoming considering many of the characters in My Hero Academia will put all of their strength into a single blow. The characters were also too floaty, which didn't feel great mechanically, and is also at odds with the characters. Seeing Shoto Todoroki float a little bit as he moved in for a hit looked weird because that character doesn't fly.

Characters are also highly customizable, which I am torn about. Dressing your characters up is always fun, but the costume each hero creates for him or herself is an important element of the anime. They spent a whole episode on it! To see Katsuki Bakugo wearing all kinds of other costume embellishments alongside his signature grenade hands just looks a little weird. If the things you can add to your fighter are dumb enough, though, I supposed I can get on board.

There were some things I liked, like the ability to run along walls, and when you hit someone hard enough, they will slam headfirst into a wall and their legs will awkwardly stick out for a few moments. Maybe more time with My Hero One's Justice will show more depth in the combat, but my initial impressions left me wanting more.

Categories: Games

The Surge 2 Is One Of E3’s Biggest Surprises

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 19:56

After the admirable Souls clone Lords Of The Fallen, Deck 13 tried its hand at a sci-fi action game called The Surge. The futuristic hack and slash title had some great narrative concepts that never realized their potential as well as a fun combat system centered around dismemberment that was brought down by receptive enemy types and a lackluster environment.

With The Surge 2, Deck 13 seems to have embraced all of these criticisms and worked hard to address them in the sequel. The result, from what we’ve seen from a demo presentation, is a promising action-adventure game that presents an intriguing world filled with secrets and hectic combat encounters.

Gone is the forgettable protagonist (seriously, what’s that dude’s name?) from the first game. With The Surge 2, you’ll have a character creator to make you own protagonist, customizing their gender and looks. The weapon types from the original game have been doubled, expanding from 5 to 10, with the new additions functioning a lot like the trick weapons in Bloodborne. That’s not the only thing that Deck 13 seems to be borrowing from From’s beloved Souls offshoot.

The enemies in the first Surge were essentially mindless, robotic zombies or massive machines that gave a challenging fight but weren’t exactly memorable. In The Surge 2, we watched as our heroine squared off against human mercenaries, all decked out in advanced armor capable of cloaking, that moved and acted much like the hunters from Bloodborne. 

These duels were frantic, with our demoer having to adapt and dodge whenever one of the mercs cloaked and disappeared out of a sight, the only clue to which direction they were going being a tree limb or patch of long grass moving before the foe struck. Killing these enemies allows you to gain access to their tech depending on which limb finisher you cut off. During the first encounter, the demoer finished off the first opponent by tearing through his arm with an axe.  The reward? A floating pistol that they could summon at any point to attack someone. The pistol doesn’t do much damage but is a nifty gadget capable of luring foes into traps or stunning them. Other armor attachments will give you different abilities, making combat not only visually striking (with finishers rending heads or tearing foes in half) but also constantly offering enticing rewards.

The environments are also a big step up from the original game, with the samey factory setting being replaced by the futuristic, quarantined city of Jericho. During the demo we watched the main character investigate a totally synthetic park created for the rich to enjoy. Massive guardians disguised as statutes hide, waiting for “undesirables.” The best part of the demo came when our heroine squared up against one of these guardians in a mini-boss fight that had the boss using a shield. After some crafty dodge work and a few shots from the pistol, the guardian’s shield went down and our demoer made an exciting, risky play, slashing and slamming into the boss and bringing it down. A flashy explosion marked the end of our demo.

The Surge was a promising title marred by a number of issues, all of which the Surge 2 seems to be rectifying. We’re excited to see what else this sequel has to offer when it releases on PS4, Xbox One, and PC in 2019.

Categories: Games

Mavericks: Proving Ground Is An Ambitious-As-Hell Battle Royale With MMO Aspirations

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 19:35

Mavericks is the next game to compete in the very competitive Battle Royale genre. It is talking a big game, and in some cases, even calling out what will likely be its direct competitor, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

The developer, Improbable, is made up of folks who have worked on games like Killzone, APB, and Wipeout among a few other impressive titles. It started out its presentation detailing some of the things it hopes will set Mavericks apart from the competition. It promised different weather effects in the environments, like snow and rain, and said it has the technical capabilities to go as high as 400 players in a match. Improbable also wants, long-term, to have 1,000 players broken into a collection of five-person teams. The area of play for the battle royale mode will take place on a 10 x 10 km area (as opposed to PUBG’s 6 x 6 km area), and that will only be a portion of its planned larger 16 x 16 km playable area. Basically, Improbable is making an MMO shooter that will have missions taking place in this large area and battle royale will just be one mode present in the larger game.


Players will impact the map as they play. One of the small examples Improbable offered was when you change bandages out to heal, your old bandages will be discarded on the ground. This way, other players will know someone has been there, and they’re injured. Bullet shell casings will also litter the ground, along with footprints, blood trails, and used med kits. You will also see animals in the world minding their own business.

The environment is also be destructible, with the ability to fire through thin walls, blow down doors with grenades, or even shoot the locks off of doors. You can also quietly pick those locks, too.

An area called The Capital will act as a safe hub where players will be able to collect quests, buy things in shops, or engage in player to player interaction. Improbably has a whole story premise for the world in place occurring after a World War III. People compete in the battle royale for a kind of limited immortality, but we didn’t get more details than that.

Improbable talked a big game with its long-term plans for Mavericks, and it is undeniably ambitious. It’s more MMO (or maybe Destiny would be the better comparison) than you might think, considering much of the talk surrounding the game has been related to its battle royale mode. After the presentation, we did get a chance to go hands-on with a very early version of the game.

Its built using CryEngine, so it looks sharp. The trailer released during the PC Gamer Show (seen above) uses the game’s engine, but all the animation and choreography is custom. It started raining during our demo, which looked cool, and I used a bandage and saw that I did leave behind a bandage on the ground. The destructibility was also in place, and I was able to shoot through the walls inside a random house, and shoot up into the ceiling to expose the attic. In theory, if someone is hiding upstairs and you can hear them, you will be able to shoot them from below. It had its hiccups in this early build of the game, and there was no option to go prone, but on its shooter merits (there wasn’t much opportunity to explore the larger open world) it felt pretty good.

Mavericks will enter closed beta in August (you can sign up for it here), and you can sign up for it now. In late 2018 the battle royale mode will be available, and next year Improbable is hoping to integrate its plans for the persistent open world, ongoing player-driven narrative, as well as player choices that will affect the larger world.


I admire Mavericks: Proving Grounds’ ambition. Improbable wants to make a massive shared shooter world where people can experience an ongoing narrative and level up their character while participating in battle royale. The promised tech is impressive, but it’s impossible to say if it will be able to deliver. It’s a game I will definitely be watching to see if it is able to live up to its potential.

Categories: Games

Schoolyard Arguments Find Resolution In Jump Force

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 18:25

As part of Microsoft’s massive E3 conference, Phil Spencer introduced a fighting game from Bandai Namco as a way of communicating Microsoft’s commitment to Japanese games. The trailer showed Dragon Ball’s Goku and Freeza, the titular character of Naruto, and Luffy from One Piece all fighting each other in realistic modern environments. Bandai Namco introduced the world to Jump Force, a 3D fighting game celebrating manga magazine Shonen Jump’s 50th anniversary.

The story of the game is that our world – that is to say, the real world – is colliding with the world, or worlds, of various Jump series. Unlike previous Jump crossover games, Jump Force is intended to have a story mode explaining why the various heroes and villains are clashing, though Bandai Namco would not tell us the reason quite yet. They only hinted that it would involve the machinations of Light and the Shinigami Ryuk, who were seen observing the fights from the top of a building at the end of the reveal trailer.

The fights take place, at least from what we were shown, in real-world locations. At E3, the only two levels shown were New York City and the Matterhorn, rendered with fairly realistic graphics. There weren’t any citizens fleeing from Naruto’s Kyuubi super or Freeza’s finger lasers, which is good, because that might have been a bit too much to take in.

The actual gameplay of Jump Force is not dissimilar to 3D fighting games already associated with the respective series. Mashing buttons will often get you exactly what you want to happen, usually a disappearing act as you dart across the arena and use your opponent as a volleyball. Holding a shoulder button and combining it with attacks gets you special moves like Goku’s Kamehameha, Luffy’s Gum Gum Pistol, or Naruto’s Rasengan. In that respect, the ease of execution is very similar to Smash Bros. more than, say, Dragon Ball Budokai or Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm.

The combat at the moment, however, is a little slow and unvaried. Characters all move at about the same speed and seem to have a lot of the same combos, making them feel extremely similar outside of their special moves. Mobility doesn’t seem that different between One Piece’s Zorro and Dragon Ball’s Goku, giving the possibly intentional impression that the game is designed to simply be picked up and played for anyone with any favorite character.

Bandai Namco wouldn’t give up the roster for the game, but hinted that there more than a few surprise characters that fans wouldn’t think of. While fighting ability and popularity are important factors, being able to please fans of more niche series is also a major goal for the development team.

Jump Force is scheduled to release in 2019 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

Generation Zero Is A Game You Should Keep Your Eye On

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 02:09

The latest in the slew of games the Avalanche Studios, Generation Zero is much quieter than the chaos inherent in both Rage 2 and Just Cause 4, both in its gameplay and development. A small project with only around 40 people developing it and no publisher attached to it, the demo we saw for Generation Zero managed to leave an impression thanks to its unique vibe and killer presentation.

Set in an alternate version of the 80s, Generation Zero takes place in Sweden and finds you playing as a teenager (or a group of teenagers) who have come home to find from a trip from an isolated island to find that the nation has been overrun with violent robots made out of junky cart parts. People are missing or worse, and there’s only you, maybe your friends, and a countryside filled with murderous machines.

Generation Zero immediately draws comparisons to the cult classic S.T.A.L.K.E.R and earns them, giving you a wide and desolated landmass to explore, filled with towns and settlements, most of them occupied by neighborhoods with houses that you can go into and explore—or use as barricades for when the action gets tough. Runing on the Apex engine, the same engine that powers both Just Cause 4 and Rage 2, Generation Zero’s version of Sweden is stunning, with light that cuts through the trees and a slight fog that makes figures in the distance all the more ominous. Game Director Emil Kraftling points to some island in the distance, saying that co-op players can explore the entire island while in a multiplayer session without being tethered to one another, if they so choose.

The demoer spends the first few minutes scavenging ammo and loot from cars and boxes, armed with only a rusty PPK. We come across one of the machines, a runner, that looks like four pipes stuck to a car engine with a lamp for a head. The demoer manages to kill it with a few shots to the head but Kraftling warns that the vast majority of machines aren’t that easy to take down. You’ll have to be smart if you want to survive.

Many of the robots have specific body parts you can disable that will give you an advantage in battle. Clip a robot’s legs and it can’t move (though it can still fire at you with machienguns), shoot one in its visor and it won’t be able to use heat seeking signatures to track you. Environmental objects also let you even the odds when you come across a pack of foes. During our session, the demoer found three Runners in a town center. Using a boombox he picked up earlier, our player tosses it next to a nearby electrical station. The Runners investigating the song playing from the boombox immediately suffer a shock to their systems when the demoer unleashes a volley of bullets on the electrical station. He quickly takes them out while they’re stunned.

The best thing about Generation Zero is just how effective and uniquely eerie the game’s atmosphere is. Despite being set in the 80s, you won’t find an obnoxious amount of neon splashing your screen or hear Michael Jackson blaring from nearby radios. From what we’ve seen Generation Zero refuses to give into the temptation of paying excess homage to the decade of excess. Instead, there’s an unnerving level of HG Wells-style crypticness about the whole affair. Where did the machines come from? What do they want? How do you repel them?  Avalanche says that answering these questions will drive the game’s narrative which, again, can be experienced as a solo player or with a squad.

Our demo ends when our player comes across a new kind of mech in a field, one that dwarfs the Runner in size, awkwardly strutting about like a hobbled giraffe. There are square shaped boxes on its shoulder. The player takes a rifle shot at the mech and it responds by opening those boxes and showering the entire field with a rainstorm of missiles that kill the demoer and cutting to black.

We came away impressed with this slice of gameplay from Avalanche’s latest. As far as setting a mood, Generation Zero fires on all cylinders, engendering a spooky horror atmosphere that makes the game stand part from both Avalanche’s trademark zany output as well as the vast majority of other open-world survival games. We’ll have to wait more to learn about Generation Zero, which is due out in 2019, but this is one spooky co-op fest that has our undivided attention.

Categories: Games