Games

Battlefield 5 Review In Progress - On The Front Lines

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 23:48

Editor’s note: We are waiting to finalize this review until we are able to test Battlefield V’s server stability with more players and see if certain bugs persist after initial patches upon release. While the free Tides of War updates for Battlefield V are scheduled through March 2019, we are evaluating the game based on what is currently available as of its November 2018 launch. Look out for our final review in the coming soon.

Chaos and scale have always been the foundation of the Battlefield franchise, and Battlefield V is no different. Squads of soldiers relentlessly push towards objectives with either sheer force or improvised tactics while gunfire and explosions ring throughout the beautiful, but war-torn landscapes. It's an overwhelming sensory experience and a fine execution of a familiar formula--if you play the right modes.

Battlefield V goes back to where the franchise began by using World War II's European theater as the backdrop for first-person shooting and vehicular combat in large multiplayer matches. It's not too dissimilar to Battlefield 1, where every weapon has a distinct weight and impact hat comes through vividly in both sight and sound. The core conceits of Battlefield remain mostly untouched, but small tweaks have been made to the formula, most of which are welcome.

Ground troops are even more deadly this time around, with a revamped ballistics model (random bullet deviation is gone) that results in reduced time-to-kill for skilled players; floundering in open areas is now more dangerous than ever. Navigating the maps' messy terrain has a smooth, intuitive feel whether you're mantling obstacles or scrambling for cover. All players regardless of class can revive squadmates and highly encourages sticking together and alleviates the disappointment of dying without a medic around. Since it takes a few precious seconds to perform a revive and is limited to squadmates, it doesn't negate the importance of the Medic class' instant revive. The ability to spot enemies is now exclusive to the sniper-focused Recon class by using the manual spotting scope or having the subclass perk to reveal enemies you fire upon.

Another new mechanic introduced in Battlefield V is Fortifications, which consists of building predetermined structures--like sandbag walls, barbed wire coils, and Czech hedgehogs--within the environment. There are no resources tied to your ability to construct them, though the Support class builds much faster than other classes and can prop up a stationary gun in certain spots. Overall, building fortifications feels a bit tacked on and inconsequential given the pace of some modes, but there's no denying their effectiveness in the right situations. Something as simple as improvised sandbags for a little cover can go a long way by turning a sitting duck into a well-positioned defender who can better hold down an objective when every other building's been reduced to rubble.

As impactful as Attrition sounds, it's not so overbearing as to drastically shake up Battlefield's core, though it does make going rogue less viable.

Above all else, Battlefield V truly shines in Grand Operations, a series of three consecutive matches (or rounds) intertwined by brief narrative bits inspired by WWII events. Each round, presented as one in-game day in the same theater of war, is a specific game mode, and teams can earn reinforcement bonuses for certain rounds depending on the outcome of the previous one. The narrative dress-up is a nice touch, but the real reason Grand Operations works is because it keeps up the momentum from round to round and packages a variety of the game modes into one long match, encouraging you to see it through.

The success of Grand Operations should be primarily accredited to the more focused, well-executed modes like Airborne, Frontlines, and Breakthrough. Frontlines in particular plays out like a tug-of-war; teams fight over varied objectives in sequential order within defined sections of a map, depending on the phase of the match. Teams will struggle to hold capture points in sequence to push the other back, and other phases may be demolition-style attack/defend skirmishes. The opportunity to push back a phase also makes it so you can regain ground if your back is against the wall; by the same token, you can't get too comfortable with a lead.

These game types aren't entirely new; Frontlines was seen in Battlefield 1 DLC and borrows elements from Rush and Conquest, and Grand Operations is a variation--albeit improved--on the original Operations in Battlefield 1. However, the tools and mechanics built around Battlefield V along with how map dynamics shift at each phase make them an absolute thrill to play. It accentuates the best features of the map roster, and also makes the moment to moment firefights distinct since they're concentrated across different sections. The structure of modes like Frontlines naturally ushers a team's attention to a handful of clear objectives at a time and provides a method to the madness, creating a satisfying push-and-pull where success feels earned.

As great as Grand Operations is, the series staple of Conquest has become the weakest link. This traditional mode has devolved into a match-long carousel of flag captures, easy kills, and cheap deaths. Maps like Twisted Steel and Arras function well enough for Conquest, but that leaves a majority of the eight available maps lacking. Narvik, Fjell 652, and Devastation feel too condensed for the high player count and mechanics of Conquest; the action hardly ever stops, but cramming everyone together in compact, circular maps means you're often caught from behind or flanked by enemies that simply stumbled upon that fruitful opportunity. It goes both ways, as you'll frequently find yourself catching enemy squads with their backs turned because you lucked into a certain spawn and ran off in the right direction.

The success of Grand Operations should be primarily accredited to the more focused, well-executed modes like Airborne, Frontlines, and Breakthrough.

Battlefield V is also rough in spots. A few bugs are forgivable, like wild ragdoll physics, but some are more problematic. On rare occasions, the map goes blank when enlarging it, or health packs just don't work. Very rarely would you have to revive a squadmate by a door, but when this happens, you're likely to only get the prompt to interact with the door, leaving your friend to die. Thankfully, these issues are not enough to overshadow the game's best parts.

Regardless of your preferred mode of play, you'll be earning XP for a number of separate progression paths. There's overall rank, class rank, individual weapon rank, and for good measure, each tank and plane has its own rank as well. There isn't a whole lot to unlock for weapons given the WWII setting, but leveling up weapon proficiencies lets you customize them to your play style, like choosing greater hip-fire accuracy, faster reload, quicker aim-down-sights, or less recoil in ADS. Various weapons and pieces of equipment (such as the spawning beacon for Recon or the anti-tank grenade for Assault) unlock as you rank up classes. It's a fairly sensible system, though the same can't be said about vehicle progression. Vehicles are tough to come by in Battlefield V as it is and since each one ranks separately, it takes an extra-concerted effort to level them up. There are some useful perks to obtain for vehicles that can provide a slight disadvantage, but it can be a struggle to acquire them.

The structure of modes like Frontlines naturally ushers a team's attention to a handful of clear objectives at a time and provides a method to the madness, creating a satisfying push-and-pull where success feels earned.

Aside from weapon skins, you'll customize each class's appearance for both Allies and Axis. It's the cosmetic aspect where you can fit yourself with different parts of uniforms, though it doesn't bear much fruit since this is a first-person game that moves so fast, even your enemies won't really notice the 'rare' uniform you're wearing. Cosmetic customization is also how Company Coins, the in-game currency that you earn through completing challenges (daily orders or assignments) or completing matches, comes into play. Most cosmetics can be bought with Company Coins, which can be a grind to earn. You should note that unlocking weapon and vehicle perks are also tied to Company Coins, but at least they are relatively low-cost. There are no microtransactions at the moment, but they are said to coming in the future, and for cosmetics only.

Battlefield V isn't solely a multiplayer endeavor. War Stories returns as the single-player component that attempts to present a brutal conflict with a more earnest tone. The campaign highlights lesser-known parts of WWII, like the Norwegian resistance, and the Senegalese Tirailleurs who fought for the French Army amid racial discrimination. The effort is admirable, especially when it comes to the Tirailleur campaign as it sheds light on piece of history that has nearly been forgotten; the scale of Battlefield comes through in and the story speaks to the horrors of war. However, the campaign doesn't quite stick the landing in the end. Nordlys boils down to a mix of stealth and combat that casts you as a one-person army that's enjoyable at times, but doesn't go beyond lone-wolf skirmishes--at least it showcases some of the game's best setpieces. And the Under No Flag campaign for the English side is an eye-rolling series of tedious missions that goes for a lighthearted note that doesn't work. War Stories has its moments but is all over the place in tone and style.

The effort is admirable, especially when it comes to the Tirailleur campaign as it sheds light on piece of history that has nearly been forgotten.

Currently, Battlefield V still has features to implement as part of its game-as-a-service approach (designated Tides of War), but there's enough to chew on for now given the quality of the better modes. It's an exciting prospect that there's more to come at no additional cost, but you can't help but feel that the launch package could've been a bit more dense considering there's only eight maps. Additional modes (including co-op), new maps, another Grand Operations mission, and the Firestorm battle royale mode will be rolling out intermittently between now and March 2019. All that could make for the most feature-rich game in the series; unfortunately, we won't be able to evaluate those parts of the game until they arrive.

The Battlefield series has a winning formula that Battlefield V doesn't deviate far from, at least for now. Conquest and the map roster don't mesh well together, however, Grand Operations-- and the other modes within it--steal the show and foster some of the greatest moments the franchise has offered. You might be surprised by the impact of the slight changes made for Battlefield V, especially when you're deep into pushing objectives in Frontlines alongside teammates fulfilling their roles. That's when Battlefield is at its best.

Categories: Games

Left Alive's Character Trailer Shows Off The Interplay Between Protagonists

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 01:35

Square Enix dropped a new Left Alive trailer today, the newest game in the Front Mission universe that seems to be incredibly influenced by the Metal Gear Solid games. The title features multiple protagonists, survivors of a major military excursion in the city of Novo Slava, and interweaves the story between them, which the trailer does its best to show off.

You can check out the Survivors trailer below.

You also get a pretty good look at both the on-foot and mech gameplay of Left Alive, the first games of its type with the more strategy-based other Front Mission games. If the art reminds you of Metal Gear Solid as well, that's because Yoji Shinkawa of Metal Gear fame designed the characters.

Left Alive will be releasing on March 5 on PlayStation 4 and PC.

Categories: Games

God Eater 3's Intro Emphasizes Its Art Style

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 21:00

Bandai Namco has released the intro for God Eater 3 as its own separate trailer, so if three God Eater games down the line you still don't have a good sense of the series tone, this intro trailer will likely dispel all doubt for you. The intro was animated by animation studio Ufotable, which did the actual God Eater TV series. It's set to a track titled Stereo Future by idol group BiSH. 

Check it out below.

God Eater 3 is the first title in the series to be made entirely for console graphical standards, where previous games also included Vita versions, as well. The title is also the first game in the series to be developed by Marvelous, as the God Eater team from the previous games is currently working on Souls-like action game Code Vein, which has been delayed into 2018.

God Eater 3 releases on PlayStation 4 and PC on February 6.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 19:35

It would be difficult to set out to make a game like Contra and not have it look exactly like Contra, so why not just lean into it instead? That's pretty much what Blazing Chrome is setting out to do and it was obvious when we first took note of it at PAX East earlier this year, but every new trailer completely reinforces it. The developer has announced that you'll be running and gunning in early 2019 and have officially announced a Switch version will come in tow.

Check out the new environments trailer below.

Developer JoyMasher has announced that the game will be releasing in early 2019, just missing its 2018 target date. However, this does give time for the newly-announced Switch release to launch alongside the other versions, so you can take it on the go from day one.

Blazing Chrome releases on PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC early next year.

Categories: Games

Overkill's The Walking Dead Review - DOA

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 01:00

Despite appearances and obvious inspirations, Overkill's The Walking Dead often doesn't feel like a shooter at all. It takes the rules established by Robert Kirkman's comic series and its subsequent TV adaptation to heart in the wrong ways, imposing unbalanced rules on its missions that heavily restrict how you're able to play. Combined with a dizzying assortment of survival mechanics buried in unintuitive menus, meaningless customization options, and non-existent incentives to improve your gear, The Walking Dead feels unrefined and unfocused.

This iteration of The Walking Dead features a new cast of characters and little to no ties to the rest of the series' mythos. It's set in the heart of Washington D.C. as you establish a camp and attempt to survive as one of four playable characters. These characters are borderline lifeless, with no real stories of their own aside from previously released promotional material. Nothing about their personalities materializes through the game's story, and neither do stories between survivors within your own camp. The Walking Dead forces you to engage with your camp and its inhabitants between missions but gives you absolutely nothing to do or say to them, which makes it a struggle to care about their fates at all.

The overarching story is equally thin on details, with only slideshow animations and voiceovers providing context for each of your missions. The voice acting is monotone and dreary, the writing vague and uninteresting, merely existing only to give veiled purpose to the missions they precede without weaving a captivating story through them. Overkill plans to add more story content in the form of seasons, but its heartless premiere doesn't instill much confidence for where this story might go in the future.

In action, The Walking Dead presents itself as a first-person shooter, with the familiar trappings of cooperative play that games like Left 4 Dead and Payday successfully capture. But even though you might be equipped with two firearms and a melee weapon, The Walking Dead only encourages the use of the latter. Each main mission bears a meter that fills up whenever you make noise. Firing a weapon, triggering one of the many near-impossible-to-see traps, and even unavoidable enemy actions all contribute to this, and eventually summons waves of undead enemies towards you without reprieve.

The strength and scale of these waves is determined by one of three tiers that the meter bears, with each tier pushing you further towards insurmountable odds of failure. In fact, simply hitting the first tier makes most missions too difficult to continue, as the constantly spawning enemies can clutter the narrow linear walkways of most mission areas to the point of comedy. It's not uncommon to see doorways entirely blocked by hundreds of enemies, forcing you and your team to mindlessly chip away at the crowd only to have the same issue arise at the next chokepoint. It's wildly unbalanced and overly punishing, making most missions tediously long and frustrating.

Missions are diluted into more stealthy affairs as a result, which can be mildly entertaining when you're working closely with teammates. As part of a well-organized team you can keep noise to a minimum and circumvent enemies entirely, but it usually only takes one player not sticking to the script to ruin a run. Making matters worse, there's no support for voice chat in-game nor any other ways to communicate aside from text chat.

If The Walking Dead didn't make it feel mandatory to play with other people, this might not be as big of a problem as it seems. Missions are unnecessarily difficult to begin with but borderline impossible to play alone. The number of enemies doesn't scale and mission objectives don't change based on party size, making even early easy missions a chore to slog through without friends in tow. This is exacerbated by unreliable matchmaking; it's tough to find matches with other players currently, which can bring your progress through the game's story to a complete halt until you manage to find others to play with.

Even when you've overcome the technical hurdles of matchmaking and unnecessary difficulty spikes, The Walking Dead is just not engaging to play. Its missions all follow identical designs, populated by scores of undead enemies and sparse camps of armed human foes. You'll have to fight or avoid a group based on your strategy, then hunt for objects around the area to solve simple puzzles to progress. These puzzles never change beyond hunting down specific items and bringing them back to a location and are used as a poor method of pacing that just adds tedium to every mission. There are also no objective markers or other indications that would make these items easier to find, adding to the unnecessary frustration as you attempt to hunt down a single electrical fuse while enemies continually spawn around you.

In between standard story missions are simplistic wave-based survival modes where you'll have to fend off humans or the undead back at your home camp. This is the only mission type where you're free to work with the weapons you've unlocked, as noise isn't a factor. Gunplay emphasizes headshots, especially against zombie foes, and it can be exhilarating to pull off a string of them to down a small horde in no time. Outside of that, gunplay is mostly unremarkable, as are the weapons you'll find along the way. You're able to customize them with modifications, increasing range, damage, stability, and an abstract power value. These stats feel superfluous, and The Walking Dead never feeds them into its gameplay in a tangible way. It makes your starting weapons feel as effective as ones you've collected 10 hours in, which just makes the hunt for better loot meaningless.

The same can be said for the four playable characters. Each one has a unique gameplay mechanic, be it the ability to deploy medical kits for healing or flashbangs to blind enemies. Beyond physical items, each character also has their own unique skill tree that feeds into their type of playstyle. Aidan, who I spent most of my time playing, has skills that increase the amount of damage you can output when low on health, for example. But like the modifications to weapons, these skills never surface in a tangible way. No matter how many improvements to my personal stats I had unlocked, or which melee baseball bat I had equipped, zombies always required the same two light attacks or single heavy attack to kill.

From its restrictive mission structures, unbalanced difficulty and frustrating means of progression, The Walking Dead struggles to justify the time it requires from you.

The Walking Dead could easily be described as a management simulation as much as it can a first-person action game. Despite your camp feeling desolate and lifeless, you'll need to provide resources for upkeep costs, which impact your ability to progress. Your map is restricted by certain upgrades you've made to your camp, which can halt your progression and force tedious grinding to just continue with story missions. There's a frankly ridiculous number of upgrade trees to manage, pertaining to weapons training, medical facilities, radio outposts, and more. It's overwhelming trying to micromanage every aspect of your camp and frustrating that progression demands you engage with it regularly just to continue with missions. Coupled with unintuitive menus and a lack of teaching tools to guide you through all these subsystems, The Walking Dead doesn't make its secondary focus on survival management easy to parse or entertaining to engage with.

From its restrictive mission structures, unbalanced difficulty and frustrating means of progression, The Walking Dead struggles to justify the time it requires from you. It's a collection gameplay blueprints stacked upon one another without thoughtful consideration on how they might cohesively work together, wrapped up in a dull presentation and mundane combat that very rarely excites. The Walking Dead is a mess of scattered ideas and a lack of direction, and there's no reason to make sense of it all.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 23:50

Battle Princess Madelyn, a retro indie platformer that was Kickstarted in March 2017, has been eagerly anticipated by classic platforming fans that feel unheard by Capcom ignoring the Ghouls 'n' Ghosts series for so many years. The title doesn't hide its inspirations, though it does one-up Arthur by giving the titular main character a stronger motivation: her dog died and she's going to get some revenge. There's also some stuff about saving her family and her kingdom, but her dog seems to be more important.

You can check out the release date trailer below.

The title is developed by Casual Bit Games, who is best known for Insanity's Blade. Creative designer Christopher Obritsch's daughter, named Madelyn, enjoyed watching him play Capcom's classic platformer, but wished it was her in the game fighting the "Green Head" enemy, the Shielder. This inspired Obristch to actually feature his daughter in a game in pink armor she wanted to wear.

Battle Princess Madelyn is releasing on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on December 6. Rather remarkably, Vita and Wii U ports will follow sometime in 2019.

Categories: Games

Spyro Reignited Trilogy Review - Fan The Flames

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 20:36

Many would-be mascots have come down the pike over the years, trying to capture just the slightest hint of Mario-level stardom. Spyro the Dragon never quite got there, but he did manage to star in some of the most charming and accessible platformers of the PlayStation era, and the Reignited Trilogy is a grand testament to the little guy's staying power.

The trilogy includes the first three--and best--titles in the series: Spyro the Dragon, Ripto's Rage (also known as Gateway to Glimmer in Europe and Australia), and Year of the Dragon. His adventures are simple but delightfully cartoonish fare. The first game has him traveling through the five dragon realms freeing his bigger, badder brethren from Gnasty Gnorc. The second has Spyro attempting to take a vacation after his previous adventure, but winding up getting dragged into a realm being invaded by effete warlock Ripto. The third has him facing off against the evil Sorceress, who has stolen over 100 dragon eggs with the help of her rabbit apprentice, Bianca.

Ignore the graphical overhaul, and these are very much the games that released the first time around on PS1. The fact that they stand up so well mechanically against more recent games is the most pleasant surprise of the package. Movement and attacks are one-button affairs, and the simplicity works in the collection's favor. If there's a learning curve to be found, it's in the fact that it's all too easy to use Spyro's charge attack too recklessly, sending him flying off cliffs or missing the enemy he's aiming for by inches.

Thankfully, Spyro’s moveset need not do much heavy lifting, especially in the first game. Every area has a number of crystallized dragons to find, and once enough of them have been freed, you take a balloon off to the next dragon realm, and repeat until you reach Gnorc's trashy fortress. There's some minor puzzle solving, and an enormous amount of treasure to be found, and that’s about it. If anything, the first game's biggest weakness is that there's so much other stuff to collect, between the hundreds of gems, hidden treasure chests, and dragon eggs stolen by hidden--and super annoying--Egg Thieves, but only freeing the dragons really matters in terms of progress.

The sequels are much better in that regard. Each stage has its own little tale of animated hijinks that plays out, from a tribe of Himalayan telepaths being terrorized by a Yeti, to my personal favorite, helping superspy moppets Hansel and Gretel stealth their way into a heavily guarded fortress of nomadic lizards so they can use their psychic powers and take over. There's a slew of unique challenges within each stage for you to do, usually involving super-powered versions of Spyro's current abilities or sequences where you have to take to the skies and firebomb specific objects for gems. The third game brings new playable characters into the fray, all with their own specific movesets and bonus stages, giving you a very good reason to run around collecting shiny stuff to unlock it all. The linear repetition of the first game never rears its head again for the rest of the collection.

As mentioned, it speaks well of the originals that the Reignited Trilogy doesn't change a thing mechanically and all three games are still a joy to play. The audio has gotten a bit of remixing and reworking but remains fairly true to the original soundtrack, which can be switched to on the fly. But the Reignited Trilogy goes above and beyond here, giving all three games an impressive visual overhaul, essentially making all three games close to a Dreamworks animation. More than just new lush-looking foliage, skin and scale textures, and warm, blissful lighting, hundreds of tiny new details are here, giving each character and enemy more personality. There are a bunch of visual gags and quirks every character will run through if you leave them alone for a moment. The generic gruff dragons from the original are all unique creatures with their own personalities when imparting knowledge to Spyro, same for the dragon babies in Year of the Dragon, who each react like delightful, rambunctious toddlers when they hatch. The Spyro trilogy already felt timeless to play. Now, it’s much more dazzling to look at.

The Reignited Trilogy is the best kind of collection that not only brings a beloved series up to current visual standards but also proves just how well-built the original titles were. Granted, the originals were done by a little studio called Insomniac, and it's not exactly surprising something that team did is a fine example of the genre. But the Reignited Trilogy's developer, Toys for Bob, deserves major kudos for bringing Insomniac's vision to life in the way we could've only dreamed in 1998.

Categories: Games

Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu / Let's Go Eevee Review In Progress

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 14:00

Editor's note: As of November 13 at 6 am PT, the Pokemon Go-compatible features in the Let's Go games are not yet available. We will update this review in progress when those features, which include transferring Pokemon from Go to Let's Go, are live and we've had a chance to test them.

Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee are gorgeous--albeit lean--reimaginings of one of the series' most beloved adventures. While some features fans have come to expect are missing--like abilities, breeding, and held items--Let's Go has an admirable amount of depth for a game aimed at a younger audience that has never played a Pokemon RPG. Both games may not have the same lasting appeal as previous entries, but revisiting Kanto and catching some of the series' most iconic creatures makes the journey worthwhile.

Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee take you back to Kanto, the home of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow. Not much has changed structurally, but the previously 8-bit region has been realized in vibrant detail. Revisiting some of the series' most memorable locations like Viridian Forest and Saffron City on a big screen is an absolute joy. Areas that were once composed of lines and simple shapes are now colorful forests and detailed cities. Pokemon both big and small roam the wilds, giving personality to the region--you can watch a tiny Horsea speed through the waves or a massive Onix slink through a dark cave. The catchy original soundtrack has also been remastered, and it sounds better than ever.

Those familiar with the originals or their remakes, FireRed and LeafGreen, should have no trouble navigating the world. After you're introduced to your partner Pokemon (Pikachu or Eevee depending on the version you choose) you set out on an adventure to collect Gym badges, defeat the Elite Four, and put an end to Team Rocket. While there are a few surprises, the layout of the region and your progression through it is nearly identical to the originals. Fortunately, Let’s Go sheds some of Red, Blue, and Yellow's more archaic designs. For example, HMs--"hidden moves" that allowed you to get past certain obstacles--are replaced with "Secret Techniques" that fulfill the same purpose without taking up one of a Pokemon's move slots. As a result, you can focus on team composition and complementary move sets instead of figuring out how to divvy up HMs between your party Pokemon.

Let's Go also does a much better job at guiding you through the world and story. After you made your way through Rock Tunnel in the originals, you had little direction through Lavender, Celadon, Fuschia, and Saffron and could do certain Gym battles and events out of order. It was easy to miss key items and wind up fighting Pokemon much stronger than your own, which led to frustrating backtracking with little idea of what to do next. While you still can complete certain beats out of order, Let's Go ensures you don't miss anything crucial. For example, after you beat Erika in Celadon City, a character gives you a key item that will let you enter Saffron City. Previously, you had to buy a drink from an inconspicuous vending machine on the roof of the department store and give it to a city guard, and if you failed to do so, you wouldn't be able to fight the sixth Gym Leader.

One of Let's Go's most fundamental changes is how you catch Pokemon. Instead of the random encounters and wild Pokemon battles of previous mainline games, Let's Go adopts Pokemon Go's catching mechanics. Pokemon roam the wilds in real time, and you have to walk into one to initiate catching it. Then, rather than battling it to whittle down its health, you just have to throw a Poke Ball at it, and the timing and accuracy of your throw increases your chances of a successful catch.

The new catching mechanics are a welcome change to the formula that breaks up the pace of traditional trainer and Gym battles. Although catching wild Pokemon doesn’t require as much strategy as it did before, the act of catching is far more engaging. You don't need to worry about accidentally defeating and therefore failing to catch a rare or one-time Pokemon, and if there's a Pokemon you don't want to catch, you simply avoid it. The absence of random encounters also makes traversing caves a lot less tedious. Yes, that means you can even avoid Zubats.

Let's Go encourages you to catch Pokemon more so than any other mainline Pokemon game, and it's better for it. Sure, catching every single species has always been the overarching goal, but I've never felt more inclined to complete my Pokedex. Catching Pokemon is the most efficient way to level up; with each successful catch your entire team is awarded a generous dose of experience. This alleviates the need to spend significant amounts of time grinding and makes it easier to experiment with different party compositions.

Let's Go also introduces Catch Combos, which occur when you catch the same species of Pokemon multiple times in a row. As you build your combo, your chances of running into rare and powerful Pokemon increase. You can even find Pokemon you typically wouldn't find in the wild. Catching repeat Pokemon is both useful and satisfying--it's great knowing that luck is not the only factor involved when trying to catch a rare Pokemon, and it's very hard to stop when you're deep into a combo, knowing something good could spawn.

However, the new catching mechanics don't come without issues. The Joy-Con motion controls are inaccurate at best and unpredictable at worst. Over the course of my journey, I never found a reliable way to throw a Poke Ball to the right or left. In most cases, I would just wait for the wild Pokemon to return to the center of the screen before throwing a Poke Ball, and even then, the ball wouldn't always go where I wanted it to.

The Poke Ball Plus controller, an optional Poke Ball-shaped accessory, is a bit more precise, but because there are only two physical buttons on the controller, navigating menus and interacting with the world can be a pain. As novel as it is to see Kanto on a big screen, handheld mode is the best way to catch wild Pokemon. You can either use the Switch's gyroscope sensor or the left control stick to line up a throw. It's far more precise than the other methods, but you do have to consider the Pokemon’s size and distance.

Despite changes that make the Pokemon experience more accessible than ever, Let's Go is surprisingly deep. It does an excellent job at easing new players into some of the more complex mechanics without being bogged down by tutorials. Each Pokemon still has six base stats and one of 25 natures, and the game seamlessly presents all that information to you. For example, whenever you switch Pokemon during a battle, you are shown its stats. You can get through the entire game without paying attention to a Pokemon's stats, but it's helpful to see that information presented clearly and often. Early on, you even get the ability to "judge" a Pokemon, which lets you see its base stats (also called IVs). While this may not be super useful for beginners, it's presented in a way that's easy to understand and it gives veterans the opportunity to check for Pokemon with good stats early on.

Unfortunately, those invested in the competitive side won't have as much to sink their teeth into. The absence of abilities, held items, and breeding limits the potential for highly competitive play. You can farm for Pokemon with higher stats through the aforementioned catch combos, but even if you do manage to catch a Pokemon with the stats you want, you won't have much to do with it.

If you do decide to build a competitive team, the online features are limited. You can trade and battle, and that's about it. There are no ranked battles, the Global Trade System is nonexistent, and there is no Wonder Trading. The barebones trading features may be disappointing at first, but given the smaller roster of Pokemon, I never felt that I needed the GTS or Wonder Trade to complete the Pokedex. However, the inability to matchmake and battle with other trainers online is a bit of a letdown.

Despite changes that make the Pokemon experience more accessible than ever, Let's Go is surprisingly deep.

Without the competitive mechanics fans are accustomed to and the limited Pokedex, it can be difficult to come back to Let's Go after the credits roll. While there certainly are reasons to revisit Kanto once you have finished the game, like completing the Pokedex and grinding for Pokemon with perfect stats, the pull isn't quite as strong. There aren't many surprises and what's there isn't all that enticing. The last thing I need to try is the Pokemon Go connectivity, which isn't available as of this writing.

Despite these concessions, Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee are delightful reimaginings of the series' origins and a deep RPG in their own right. It makes a lot of smart improvements on the original Red, Blue and Yellow while holding on to what made them so special in the first place. Fans of the series might be let down by the lack of features they've come to expect, but Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee take the Pokemon formula in some exciting new directions.

Categories: Games

11-11: Memories Retold Review - Modernist Warfare

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 05:00

Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the armistice treaty signed on November 11, 1918 that ended World War I, 11-11: Memories Retold follows the stories of two men swept up in terrible events (mostly) beyond their control over the course of two years on the Western Front. A collaboration between Aardman, the animation studio best known for the Wallace & Gromit TV series and films, and DigixArt, a fledgling French game development team, it's a visually striking adventure game that foregrounds its occasionally moving, occasionally ludicrous narrative atop a layer of light puzzling and collectible gathering.

The intertwining story sees you play as both Harry (voiced by Elijah Wood), a young photographer from Canada who finds himself in France shooting film--not foe--for propaganda purposes at the invitation of a British major, and Kurt (Sebastian Koch), an older German electrical engineer who enlists when he receives word that his son's unit has gone missing. Their tales are connected, of course, and at key moments in each chapter your control will switch from Harry to Kurt and back again, often multiple times. Later, there are even scenes in which you are free to switch between them, and a third character, whenever you wish.

Each man's journey plays out across a France (and bits of Germany and Canada) that is rendered like an oil-on-canvas painting, the thick individual brush strokes and contrasting colours an obvious nod to the Impressionist style that was still en vogue in the early 20th century. It feels like each scene is being painted in real-time as you walk around, as the brush strokes flicker in a manner suggesting an artist constantly reapplying paint on canvas. From the crackling ember reds of a battlefield to the dappled whites and yellows of an idyllic farmstead, the unique art direction succeeds in setting the emotional tone of each scene. The overall effect is quite startling and very often beautiful.

What you're actually doing inside each scene is rather more conventional. Harry and Kurt walk--and occasionally crouch or run--around a series of mostly small locations, talking to people and picking up dozens of collectibles. Helpfully, you always have a specific objective to accomplish; in Harry's case it's typically whatever task Major Barrett has ordered him to perform while Kurt's pursuit of his son's whereabouts is often derailed by the whims of his own superiors. Regardless, most objectives are easily completed by simply walking to the desired destination, interacting with a certain object or talking to the right person. Sometimes there's even a box to push out of the way or a couple of levers and dials to fiddle with, but absolutely none of it is in any way taxing.

This is for the best, perhaps. At least, it means the story takes center stage and you're not in any danger of getting stuck on a puzzle and finding yourself unable to see that story to its conclusion. More than that, though, it also works because the story 11-11 tells is genuinely good. Sure, it's a romanticised version of World War I that doesn't really confront the senseless brutality of trench warfare or the sheer scale of human loss and suffering that resulted--there's but one scene where you don a gas mask, for example, and when Harry is finally called upon to go "over the top" he's more focused on getting a few good pictures than whether he'll survive the mad dash into no man's land. But the story works because Harry and Kurt are convincing characters whose flaws and motivations remain all too real no matter what the war throws at them. The plot may contrive to see the lives of the two men intersect in unlikely fashion, but they themselves are utterly believable and empathetic until the very end.

Further, the story works because you are given choices to make at critical junctures. Each choice feels weighty and full of consequence. I didn't replay scenes to see how things could have played out differently--and perhaps the rippling effects are minimal--but I didn't want to. What matters is that the import of the decisions I made was felt in the moment I made them, and ultimately I was more than satisfied with how my version of the story ended.

Where the story undermines itself, however, is in its pacing. Or, to be more accurate, in how certain pieces of the story are locked behind collectibles, the search for which sees you get bogged down in scouring every area for hidden documents and items rather than keeping the plot ticking over. Not to mention that it's quite silly when Kurt's ordered to quickly fix a radio during an attack while you're thinking, “Hang on, let me just check if there's anything I've missed down the other end of this trench….” You can ignore the collectibles, but you'll also be missing out on story content.

When it comes together, whether in moments of high drama and urgent choices or in the quiet interludes that follow, 11-11 draws you deep into the lives of these men. When it misses the mark, whether through an implausible coincidence, a throwaway puzzle or tedious collectible, it can push you away and cause the surrounding narrative beats to fall flat. It's uneven, yes, but there's undoubtedly more good than bad, and there are poignant scenes, tense moments and breathtaking images that will resonate long after the end credits have rolled.

Categories: Games

Capcom Shows Off Devil May Cry 5's Void Mode, Mega Buster

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 11/10/2018 - 21:00

As part of the XO18 livestream presentation, Capcom showed off a new mode for Devil May Cry 5, as well as a few new Devil Breakers. 

The new mode, known as The Void, allows players to practice combos at their leisure. Unlike other "waiting areas" in games like DmC: Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, this is a dedicated mode and lets you modify a number of parameters in order to cook up some seriously creative combos and share them online, similar to the training modes in fighting games. You can experiment with different moves, display the amount of damage different combos deal, and use whatever Devil Breakers you want, and give them infinite uses.

Speaking of Devil Breakers, we got a look at a few new ones, including a few deluxe ones. The Gerbera GP01 sacrifices the original's ability to repel projectiles, but increased mobility options, allowing you to instantly dash up or down, depending on your position. The Past Breaker, which is a metallic arm with a fork on its business end, allows you to cycle your other Devil Breakers. Sweet Surrender allows you to heal three bars of health if you can pull off its break gauge move. Finally, we got to see the previously-announced Mega Buster allows you to shoot energy bullets like the Blue Bomber, and also changes most of Nero's animations - his dodge, for example, turns into a Mega Man's iconic slide. Catch all of these new tools in action in the extended trailer below.

Devil May Cry 5 launches on March 8.

Categories: Games

Full Metal Furies Review - Puzzle-Brawler

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 11/10/2018 - 01:26

It's difficult to define which exact genre Cellar Door Games' Full Metal Furies belongs to. On a cursory glance, the co-op game appears to be no more than a well-structured brawler, and you'd be forgiven if you completed its 15-hour campaign thinking that's all it is. However, if you dig a little deeper into the optional hidden content, there's another five to seven hours of complex, multi-layered riddles to find. There's a fascinating meta narrative interwoven into Full Metal Furies' puzzles, and journeying to its end makes for a satisfying cooperative experience.

In Full Metal Furies, each player takes control of one of four adventurers. If played solo, the game puts you in control of two and you can switch between them at will. There's Triss, the leader whose penchant for sassily drinking tea often leads to hilarious spit-takes; Meg, the lazy, nearsighted sniper with a poor sense of direction; Erin, the brainy tinkerer who desperately wants to be cool; and Alex, the air-headed soldier who wholeheartedly believes bashing in the skulls of the arrogant men she and her friends run into should be both a first and last resort to solving all their problems.

Collectively known as the Furies, the four girls are on a quest to cross the monster-infested wasteland that humanity once called its home in order to find and destroy god-like entities known as the Titans. The sons and daughters of the mad tyrant Cronus, each of the four Titans desires a better world, and their conflicting ideologies as to how to bring about that dream have led to a war that threatens to destroy all life.

This seemingly straightforward battle between good and evil hides a surprising number of twists and turns. With every step forward, the Furies notice more signs that their efforts might be actually causing more problems than they're solving. But the team keeps pushing onwards, hoping that in the long run, their efforts will have a positive effect on the world. The narrative plays out in a series of sprite-based conversations, both during and in between combat missions. For the most part, these are tongue-in-cheek skits--some even throw in the occasional pun or reference to the fact that this is all a video game--but a few also focus on Triss' growth. Despite putting on airs, she struggles with the responsibilities of leadership and the morality of the Furies' quest. Unfortunately, her teammates don't receive the same treatment, and are fairly two-dimensional throughout the main campaign.

In combat, each of the four ladies handle and attack in their own way. For example, Meg can use a grappling hook to maneuver out of danger and snipe opponents from afar, while Triss can defend her teammates and herself with a near indestructible shield and also clear out enemies by screaming at the top of her lungs. Each of the girls fulfills a unique role seen in many other team-based brawlers--with Triss as the tank, Alex as the fighter, Meg as the archer/sniper, and Erin as the summoner.

Full Metal Furies supports couch co-op and online multiplayer. As of publishing this review, the Switch servers are fairly empty, but we did manage to test online play using two copies of the game and can confirm it works relatively smoothly. There were some brief stutters at the start of a few levels, but none of them negatively impacted gameplay. However, my game did completely crash at one point.

It's unfortunate the servers are so empty as playing with an incomplete team puts you at an immediate disadvantage. So unless you recruit some friends for couch co-op, you're in for a fairly tough time. Even Erin and Meg are crucial, as Triss and Alex rely on their teammates' supportive attacks to give them both time to recharge their special abilities. Button-mashing with the two melee fighters can be an effective strategy early on, but it will only get your team so far. Mid- and late-game enemies and bosses require a certain degree of tactical assessment, and chaining together each character's abilities is the ideal path to success. For example, when confronted with a mob of jumping werewolves that are too quick for the slower fighters, your team might rely on Triss' area-of-effect shout to stun a few, use Alex's dive bomb jump to launch the weakened wolves into the air, and then have Meg shoot their leader out of the sky. All the while, Erin's portable turret and her mid-range pistol can finish off the members of the pack not caught up in the combo.

Combat in Full Metal Furies is constantly evolving, with new enemy types appearing almost every third level. It keeps the game from descending into a grindfest of similar foes, while leaving room for you to experiment with new strategies on enemies you've encountered before. Sections of certain levels can get brutal, resulting in dozens of game over screens. But checkpoints are numerous, cutscenes you've seen are skippable, and it's typically very clear which careless mistake resulted in the failed mission. If anything, the game's combat seems content to really only punish those who play with less than four people, which presents an interesting way of making the game easier or more difficult for yourself at any point in the game. If things are still too hard with a full team of four, or you can't scrounge up a full team but don't want to make the game more difficult, there's an easier Story Mode too.

Despite being labeled as a brawler, only about half of Full Metal Furies is regulated to combat. The other half is a series of interlacing puzzles and riddles, and it's here where the co-op nature of Full Metal Furies truly shines.

None of the puzzles or riddles in Full Metal Furies are obvious to find, and the game doesn't teach you how to solve them either. It's completely dependent on the player to be curious enough to wonder if the symbol-covered stones hidden throughout about two dozen of the game's levels are more than meets the eye. Finding the stones themselves is a challenge, and once discovered, each stone's riddle is typically even tricker to figure out.

Eventually, the main campaign reveals that solving these riddles is necessary for gaining access to the game's final area and true ending. The riddles grow more meta as you discover additional stones, some even requiring you to do things outside of the main game, such as watching a YouTube video for a clue or adjusting the game's accessibility settings to perceive colors and sound in a new way. Teaming up with friends to overcome a challenging boss fight is fun, but the most satisfying moments in Full Metal Furies are when you have a eureka moment and are able to figure out the next piece of the overarching mystery. Several of the solutions to certain puzzles and riddles rely on a particular Furies' unique skill as well--some answers even require multiple Furies or the full roster of four--so every player gets to enjoy being a part of the process of figuring something out at some point. Completing this game is very much a team effort, and it successfully makes sure no single player feels left out or useless.

So yes, Full Metal Furies is primarily a brawler, and a good one that promotes teamwork instead of button-mashing. But it's also a very hard puzzle game, one that challenges you to perceive each level, as well as the game's mechanics and characters, in new ways. It's a shame most of the Furies are so two-dimensional throughout the main campaign--especially Meg, who's arguably the most lovable of the bunch--but the story is consistently witty with its humor and an absolute joy to watch unfold. And while coming up with strategies to handle new enemies and piecing together the clues for each puzzle is fairly difficult at times, it's a rewarding and deeply satisfying challenge.

Categories: Games

Battlefield V's Launch Trailer Is An Action-Packed Ride

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 18:50

With its original date, Battlefield V would have already been out by now, but EA and DICE decided to hold the game back a few weeks for polish. That means we're getting the launch trailer for the game now as we wait for DICE's newest foray into World War II. You can check out the launch trailer, in which the action comes fast and frantic, below.

The trailer is mostly made up of CG with bits of interspersed game footage and outlet accolades for the game. It does give you a decent idea for what you'll be doing in the new game, with seemingly a pretty heavy focus on the multiplayer aspects. 

Battlefield V's battle royale mode, dubbed Firestorm in the internal vernacular, is not expected to launch until March according to DICE's content roadmap for the game. That is also around the time where virtual currency will be purchasable for the game's cosmetics.

Battlefield V releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on November 20.

Categories: Games

Tetris Effect Review - Feel The Groove

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 16:00

Without context, the premise of Tetris Effect won't stop you in your tracks. It's Tetris at heart, and its familiar playfield is presented against fantasy backdrops with songs and sound effects that react to your actions. What that basic description doesn't tell you is how powerful the combination of conducting tetrominos and music at the same time can be. Give Tetris Effect your complete, undivided attention, and you'll form a sympathetic bond to the notes and puzzle pieces alike and lose yourself in the flurry of color and energy that permeates every stage. It's a lofty promise, to be sure, but there's no other way to describe the impact Tetris Effect has once it finally clicks.

Though there are a handful of modes--no sign of multiplayer, sadly--with basic twists on the standard formula that are worth exploring at your leisure, the bulk of the Tetris Effect experience takes place in Journey Mode. It's an aptly named trip that will take you to recognizable locations like the moon, but more often to abstract settings that are best defined by a list of adjectives. These dreamscapes can be breezy, electric, stressful, haunting, heavenly, or crunchy, to name a few of the standout qualities. The music in each stage may not always be a predictable pairing, but just because you didn't see a particular harmony coming doesn't mean it can't work.

Over time, you will notice that the game not only hooks you with music, but that it gets you hooked on songs that may not traditionally fit within your musical preferences. Odds are you don't listen to chanting in foreign languages nor the complicated beats of the tabla on a daily basis, but Tetris Effect makes these uncommon sounds enticing. It's hard to say what these songs would feel like without first experiencing them during gameplay, but when you're enraptured in their rhythms whilst simultaneously flipping and reconfiguring puzzle pieces in a race against time, they become relentlessly catchy, sticking with you long after you stop playing.

Because Tetris Effect is so infectious, it's very difficult to put down once you fall into its rhythm. Tetris has proven itself to be a highly effective game, and one that has an ever-rising skill ceiling that allows it to draw in players who have decades of experience under their belts. Journey mode will ramp up, but in keeping with the sense of going on an adventure, it will also slump down, though rarely for long. The non-linear flow is an important part of the experience that charges you with anticipation and rewards you with relief, and is an unexpected benefit to the standard flow of a session of Tetris.

The shift in tone and pace is often determined by your progress within a stage. Most require you to clear 36 lines total (on normal difficulty), with milestones along the way that dictate the present rhythm. You do, however, have a tool at your disposal that is designed explicitly to pump the brakes and give you a chance to salvage a potentially disastrous situation or to build up a high scoring combo. The Zone ability can be triggered with a single button press at any time that you've got some charge in the relevant meter, which is fueled a quarter of the way every time you clear eight lines.

With Zone activated, pieces hover rather than fall, and you get to take your time--as allotted by the meter--placing them in your stack. Clear a line, and it will shift to the bottom of the stack, ready to be cleared automatically when Zone disengages. Because lines persist even when "cleared" while in Zone, you can make combos that go beyond the standard four-line Tetris clear if you're skilled enough. They won't count towards your line count for the level, but they will give you extra scoring opportunities that wouldn't otherwise be possible.

The new Zone mechanic adds an interesting layer of strategy for new and veteran players alike, but more than this new mechanic, it's the quasi-spiritual bond that forms between you and the game that defines Tetris Effect. Even though you don't need a PlayStation VR headset to get a taste, there's no question that Tetris Effect is best played in VR with headphones turned up loud.

With your vision and hearing cut off from the outside world, you fade into the game. You feel things that you'd never imagine a game of Tetris could make you feel. Don't be surprised if you catch yourself bursting with joy, or on the verge of tears, all because the confluence of gameplay and sensory stimulation works so well. There is no extra physical movement asked of you--the opposite of almost every other VR game in recent memory. Tetris Effect wants your mind, rather than your body, and even though we all dream of one day being completely immersed in a high-end VR game. In truth, Tetris Effect achieves the base goal--belief in your connection to the game.

Tetris Effect is a transformative game that will more than likely be overlooked by people who think it's "just Tetris." Well, it is and it isn't. Anyone who knows Tetris can pick up Tetris Effect and begin playing right away. The fundamentals remain the same; it is a time-tested formula that continues to work, after all. But Tetris is just the beginning of Tetris Effect. It provides the foundation for a complex emotional journey that defies expectations. Its a vector for meditation. It's a driving force that pushes you beyond your presumed limits. It is the definition of awesome, and if you have an open heart and an open mind, you owe it to yourself to take the plunge and see why it's anything but "just Tetris."

Categories: Games

Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption Review - Trials and Tribulations

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 02:00

Many stories like to use religion as a narrative device, and the name would suggest, Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption takes a crack at it too, offering a refreshingly pared-down experience of Gothic religious horror. But while the game's boss rush structure possesses some clever mechanical twists, its more superficial elements don’t quite have the same shine.

Enter Adam, the titular protagonist, not-so-subtly named after the world's first sinner. Instead of an apple from a tree, you've clearly been far naughtier than your namesake. Here, the afterlife has dealt you a rather unfortunate hand; defeat the manifestations of all seven mortal sins, and you just might get a happy ending. However, that's definitely a lot harder than it actually sounds, because the bosses are all about 20 feet tall, incredibly strong, and they hate your guts, and you have to give something up before you fight each one. This is the pivotal "sacrifice" part of the equation.

Sinner is about going from boss to boss and beating them into the ground before they can do the same to you. It clearly takes inspiration from the Dark Souls lineage of games, both conceptually and mechanically. Each adversary you face has succumbed to a cardinal sin, whether it's by lack of action or by a conscious choice to take a particularly unsavory behavior too far. As a result, the bosses are fascinatingly warped beyond human recognition--we're talking about headless noblewomen, hunchbacked sorcerers, and walking fortresses that are more metal than man.

Mechanically, Sinner features animation locking, that has you commit to your attacks, and tough-as-nails enemies. You're given a handful of javelins, health potions, and melee weapon options that you can swap between on the fly before the game throws you at the first boss. All your enemies have unique attack patterns that you'll have to memorize if you want to win, and some are more telegraphed than others, which leads to a good variety of challenges across the board. It's a strong, if familiar, set of systems, but Sinner's biggest feature lies in its sacrifice mechanic.

Inventively, the game puts you in the unique predicament of getting weaker as you progress. Your 'sacrifice' could be a portion of your HP, some of your weapon attack damage, or even resources. You lose that thing, and you get a little bit weaker each time you go toe-to-toe with a malevolent foe. It's an innovative spin and its focus on the core basics means Sinner feels like an evolution of the genre rather than a derivative work. Sinner also includes a new game plus mode, which adds some exciting spice in the form of more challenging boss gauntlets where you fight them in groups along with broader weapon customization options.

Each enemy is introduced by way of an epitaph and a scene which tells you how they ended up in that sorry state. The scenes are compelling on their own, and despite the sparse monologues which don’t give you a whole lot to go on other than your own imagination, the villainous Victorian-inspired visuals and the individually distinct boss arenas also provide just enough environmental storytelling to pique your curiosity. While you may still be slightly in the dark about what you've truly accomplished for your character in the atonement department when the credits roll, the road to redemption is still a scenic one.

However, Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption suffers from some problems with repetition. After about the sixth hour, things start to blend together a little. Each boss has its own unique orchestral accompaniment, which are enjoyable in their own right, but they're all based on the same recipe of overdramatic string sections and choral vocals. Each boss also harnesses a theme or an element of its own, but the arenas don't necessarily hold up to scrutiny over long periods of time; the surrounding textures in the background suffer slightly from a lack of fine detail, and there's only so much crumbly ruined stonework that you can stomach.

It's also a little disappointing, though not completely surprising, to see the game run worse on Switch than on other platforms. There were instances of framerate lag turned deadly because of the pace of gameplay and also an instance of blinding light effects for a particular boss in a dimly-lit environment that were a hindrance. On the PlayStation 4 and PC versions, the framerate lag is almost undetectable.

Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption is an ambitious game that brings something new to an increasingly popular style of action game. While it seems like it's missing a lick of paint to make sure that its aesthetics are as strong as its mechanics, it's still a smart step forward and a good example of how we can pay homage to the beloved works of others with originality.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 19:00

Heralding the game's release date next week, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and IO Interactive revealed the official gameplay launch trailer for Hitman 2. Right on the heels of the live-action trailer featuring Sean Bean, the video demonstrates a multitude of way to assassinate targets in the game. 

The trailer shows agent 47 using a sniper rifle to snap the ropes securing a heavy beam, Spartan-kicking an armed man over a cliff, and throwing a deadly ninja star – and that's only in the first 30 seconds. Watch the rest of the trailer below to get some inspiration for your own playthrough. 

Hitman 2 will feature all-new multiplayer modes; you can watch us play Ghost on this New Gameplay Today. Players will also be able to explore the Sniper Assassin co-op mode alongside six dynamic locations. 

Don't forget to check out the fan-influenced Elusive Target mission called "Explosive Penmanship" where you can eliminate a target played by Sean Bean with an exploding pen. This mission goes live on November 20. 

Hitman 2 is coming out on November 13 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. To learn more, you can read our early impressions of the game here

Categories: Games

Hitman 2 Review: Hit Parade

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

Hitman is a game about killing people. Well, killing specific people and trying not to kill other people unless you really have to. But it's also a game about exploring large, real-world-inspired spaces, learning about how they operate, finding multiple solutions to problems, and using that knowledge to improvise and manipulate the environment to hit the people you're hunting. The episodic nature of the Hitman refresh in 2016 saw IO Interactive release one level every month--a contentious move at the time, but one that helped accentuate the potential in each mission. Hitman 2 ditches the episodic model and adds a few new minor mechanics, but the loop of continuously replaying a single location, slowly uncovering the wealth of possibilities, and being able to effectively draw upon that knowledge in new challenges is where Hitman is strongest.

Hitman 2 takes you to six new locales, and each poses unique situations to overcome as you attempt to assassinate your targets. Mumbai is a standout with its densely populated streets and labyrinths of tenement buildings--a great environment that makes the most of a new Assassin's Creed-style crowd blending mechanic, allowing you to disappear into big groups of people. A mission in Miami, Florida takes place at an active raceway, a loud and vibrant stage that feels like a theme park with its swaths of attendees, distinct zones, and a concealed backstage underbelly.

These levels are overwhelming in the best way possible, and it's exciting to begin peeling away the layers of these large, intricate areas--exploring the spaces, discovering routes, finding tools and disguises, and figuring out the best places to utilize them. If you're familiar with Hitman, you know that each stage and its AI inhabitants run on routines like clockwork, making Hitman a game that rewards social stealth and patience. Eavesdropping, tailing, and passive observation are good first steps to success. Even the Whittleton Creek stage, a small, sparsely populated suburban block in Vermont, feels like a mindmap of interconnected causality when you begin to dig deeper. Having the curiosity to uncover how things operate within levels, stumbling upon minor plotlines and amusing flavor dialog along the way, is interesting in its own right.

Hitman does make an upfront effort to help focus your scope and give you some momentum toward your objectives, though thankfully your initiative is still necessary to solve some predicaments. Stumbling across a Mission Story (previously known as Opportunities) might lead you to a machine you can sabotage, for example, but you need to find the tool to do so and work out the best method of either distracting or dispatching the people around it.

Mission Stories are a great first step, but Hitman becomes its best when you start to internalize the stages and uncover the more obscure ways things can unfold in subsequent playthroughs, be it through pursuing alternative Mission Stories, Challenges that ask you to perform specific tasks, or your own improvisation. There are few fail states other than your own death, and there are so many approaches and tools at your disposal that the path to victory can be as creative and elegant or as bumbling and messy as it needs to be. Completing a stage typically takes a long time, and there will be plenty of moments when a guard catches you doing something you shouldn't be doing and calls for backup. Unhinged gunfights still feel as futile as ever, but when things get out of control there's almost always the opportunity to escape to a less hostile part of the level, swap your disguises, and come up with an alternative "make do" approach. In fact, Hitman is sometimes more exciting when your initial plans fail.

The only problem with being presented with such a staggering array of interactions is that the limitations of the sandbox will eventually reveal themselves if you push the wrong way. For example, while you can stash bodies in dumpsters and closets, I was disappointed to discover I couldn't stash them in one of many vacant portable toilets. While Agent 47 can leap tall fences and shimmy across daringly high ledges, he seemingly can't muster the courage to drop down from certain first-floor balconies. Guard AI behavior is stern but generous--if you're found trespassing in a restricted area they'll give you a chance to find the exit before reacting, but sometimes it's too generous. I was amused to see a target's personal bodyguard decide to go home for the day after his employer "accidentally" fell off a building, even though I was the only other person in the room.

Hitman 2 continues to embrace a trial-and-error playstyle in its campaign. The levels are long, but autosaves are generous and manual saving is encouraged, which gives you the freedom to experiment with different ways of approaching a problem. And the closer you get to bending the systems in just the right way--trying to narrowly squeeze past a guard's sightline from different directions, or using coins and cheeseburgers to divert someone's attention--the more thrilling it feels, no matter how goofy it actually looks. Hitman 2's interstitial cinematics are as grim and dramatic as a British espionage drama, and it's hard not to let yourself buy into the clinical overarching conspiracy. But in the field, the series' tongue-in-cheek absurdity happily remains with ridiculous costumes, unlikely weapons, and Agent 47's self-aware deadpan acting, which perfectly accompanies any bumbling improvisation. Both exist distinctly, don't really compliment or detract one another, but are still enjoyable in their own right.

Hitman 2 also boasts a few significant modes outside of its campaign, including Sniper Assassin, which adapts the design seen in the Hitman: Sniper smartphone game and tasks you with taking out a series of targets from a single vantage point using only a scoped rifle. It's a straightforward but enjoyable, low-stakes mode that allows for a surprising amount of creative freedom, and it can be played in two-player online co-op. But Hitman 2's most enticing bonus, at least if you own the previous Hitman, is the ability to download the original stages into Hitman 2, which gives you feature-complete versions of them with the addition of new mechanics like functional mirrors (which enemies can spot you in) and the briefcase (which lets you conceal and transport tools discreetly), among other things. These legacy stages are wonderful to revisit under a new light.

It should also be mentioned that one of the most compelling elements of the 2016 Hitman was the continuous, free live content updates that occurred after the game's launch. Escalation Missions, where you're given specific conditional challenges of increasing difficulty, and Elusive Targets, limited-time events where you have only one chance to take out unique assassination targets, added tense trials that tested both your knowledge of levels and improvisational skills. IO Interactive has announced that these familiar features will be making a return, along with free content updates to Sniper Assassin and Ghost Mode. We obviously can't judge the quality of this content at launch, but it's surely something to look forward to.

The addition of other minor mechanical changes--like concussive weapons, a picture-in-picture enemy activity alert, and visible security camera sightlines--help to improve Hitman 2 overall as a dense and accessible stealth assassination game. But the new locations are the real stars, impressive and inventive sandboxes ripe for picking apart with exciting experiments. Hitman is about experiencing the anticipation of seeing whether a plan will work when you try it for the first time. It's about feeling the tension of briskly walking away from a bad situation, hoping you can lose the suspicious guards. It's the satisfaction of knowing the machinations of a level so well that when a target moves into a particular place at a particular time, you have the perfect way to intervene. Hitman 2 is a familiar experience, but in the Hitman world, familiarity is an incredible strength.

Categories: Games

The Elite Four Shows Their New Faces In The Latest Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu & Eevee Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 17:12

The latest trailer for Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee reveals the 3D models and concept art for characters that appeared in the original Pokémon Red, Blue (and Green), and Yellow. You can see a bunch of the gym leaders in both 2D and 3D forms like Lorelei, Bruno, Agatha, and Lance, the villain Giovanni (who might be Ash's mom?), as well as the Elite Four that you fight at the end of the game.

 

Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee releases November 16.

Categories: Games

The Quiet Man Review - Silent, But Not Golden

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 00:12

The interactive movie--that nebulous, hard-to-define genre briefly fashionable in the mid-1990s, when CD-ROM technology made it possible for developers to integrate live-action footage into games--is not exactly remembered for its high quality. But even in the tradition responsible for such notorious follies as Night Trap, Sewer Shark, and Who Shot Johnny Rock, The Quiet Man is astonishingly dire--a graceless, outdated game that belongs squarely in the era of laserdiscs and the Philips CD-i. When it isn't an interactive movie, it's a simple 3D beat-em-up of the kind once ubiquitous at arcades. But an interest in the past does not make The Quiet Man a love letter to video game history, and its ideas are poorly realized.

The Quiet Man boasts a formal conceit that is at least moderately interesting. You play as a svelte blonde 20-something named Dane, who is deaf, and as a consequence the game is almost totally silent. You hear only the muffled patter of footfalls while walking, some indistinct notes of synthesizer to represent voices, and a faint patina of generic ambience elsewhere. The marketing materials describe this as an effort to allow the player to "experience the world in the way Dane does." But we clearly do not experience the world as Dane does. Dane reads lips; he communicates extensively and effortlessly with every character he encounters. So why are these conversations not subtitled? In one lengthy scene of dialogue after another, people talk with Dane, presumably advancing the story. Meanwhile, we have no earthly clue what's being said or what's going on.

This sort of inexplicable design is entirely typical of The Quiet Man. It’s difficult to understand so much of what transpires. Consider an early narrative sequence in which Dane meets either a colleague or a friend--the relationship was not apparent to me and only gets more confusing over the course of the story--and converses with him in his office. In a series of mundane closeups the other man speaks as Dane nods along, rapt; the nature of their discussion is opaque, and their performances, amateurish and hammy, are abysmal. You can imagine this scene being staged in such a way that the content would be clear even without sound or subtitles. The Quiet Man doesn't even try.

When these mystifying, interminable full-motion-video scenes at last end, the actors are switched out for crudely animated substitutions, many of whom bear such a poor resemblance to their real-life counterparts that it is frequently unclear who's who. It's never hard to pick out Dane in the heat of battle, though, because he's the only one who's white. The endless procession of villainous henchmen you're asked to brutally dispatch are uniformly latino, broad caricatures of "cholos" in street-gang garb who sneer at you between pummellings. You fight them pretty much exclusively throughout. The political implications of the game's demographic makeup are appalling, in this fraught time of wall-building especially, and the end result is plainly, unforgivably racist.

In any case, it's quite fitting for the enemies to be the same cliched type repeated ad nauseam, because repetitiveness is the very nature of The Quiet Man's beat-em-up combat system. Brawling has what might generously be described as an arcade-like simplicity: one button to punch, one to kick, and one to dodge, plus a finishing move that can be triggered on occasion. It would be more accurate to call this rudimentary. Almost every battle boils down to a dull frenzy of button-mashing, as enemies rarely block, scarcely fight back, and practically never come at you more than one at a time. Though waves of 10 or even 20 must be defeated to clear a given room, they don't change their approach or vary their style, and mostly seem to stand around awaiting their turn to be vanquished. There's no way to vary your own attacks, either, which gives every encounter the air of a chore.

Boss battles aren't much different in terms of character or technique. They distinguish themselves instead in terms of overwhelming difficulty. I almost never lost a fight in the course of regular gameplay; each of the handful of boss battles, though, kept me stuck for a long time, as I labored through dust-ups with enemies that seemed absurdly overpowered and virtually invulnerable to damage. Worse than simply losing these battles was how consistently vague they proved to be. Seldom is it apparent why you might be losing a fight. The game doesn't track damage or show the enemy's health, and it's never certain whether your hits are landing or registering much effect--hitboxes are indistinct and attacks almost always clip through bodies, which makes the whole process feel at once feeble, confusing, and outrageously imprecise.

Simplistic, ungainly combat is all the more surprising given that it is The Quiet Man's only gameplay mechanic. From beginning to end there is nothing else to do — no places to navigate, no items to collect, no weapons to wield, no puzzles to solve. It's just those same mind-numbing punches and kicks broken up by extended narrative scenes that by virtue of the enforced silence you can't hope to follow or understand. The broad contours of the plot are vaguely discernible: the drama involves childhood trauma, a seedy metropolitan underbelly, various acts of conspiracy and revenge. As for the details, it's impossible to say. The game's final moments tease an upcoming addition that will allow you to play it through a second time with the sound restored. This feels like both a preposterous cop-out--it's walking back the main conceit!--and a cruel punishment. With sound the story will surely make more sense. But having suffered through The Quiet Man once, I can't bear to try it again.

Categories: Games

Cities: Skylines - Industries Review - The Up And Up

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 20:21

If my nearly 10 years as a small-town mayor in Canada have taught me anything, it is that bringing in industrial growth is an extremely demanding task. So much production has moved offshore in recent decades that it has become tough to keep the industries that we still have, let alone add new ones. But this isn't quite the case in Industries, the new expansion for Cities: Skylines that adds character to your carefully crafted municipalities without much in the way of difficulty. While being able to concentrate on specific industries adds an involving and entertaining new dimension to city creation, the lack of challenge and reward when building these new districts makes the add-on less than essential.

With that said, this enhanced industrial focus has been seamlessly incorporated into the base Cities: Skylines game as if it had always been there. In addition to still being able to zone properties for random industrial use, there is a new option to paint part of your municipality as an industrial district specifically for forest, farming, ore, or oil. It is very easy to establish these zones. Mark them out, drop a main building to get started, and then lay down facilities to gather resources. You instantly start rolling in the logs, crops, rocks, and black gold. Levels are then gained based on the number of materials produced and employees hired, which unlocks new buildings. These industrial districts soon turn into into beehives of activity.

Getting these industrial districts up and running is satisfying, as it is the one employment area in Cities: Skylines where you directly construct industries and create jobs. As such, building industrial districts is more hands-on, as opposed to the usual "zone it and let it go" approach in the game's standard industrial, commercial, and residential development. The process is still straightforward, though. While industrial districts require a certain amount of micro-management, creating and running them is relatively easy to handle, especially for Cities: Skylines veterans. Start with something like a main forestry building and a few tree plantations and you can soon expand into sawmills, storage yards, biomass wood pellet plants, planed wood production, pulp mills, and factories making finished goods like furniture and paper products at a printing press.

Industrial districts add character to cities, making them more products of their environment than the mostly generic burgs of the original Cities: Skylines. Everything looks and feels more natural. Have a city surrounded by trees? Industries based on wood products are the only sensible option. There is also a lot to be said for finally taking full advantage of the natural resources on city maps, as previously there was little way to commodify what was all around you. Now, for example, a forest map plays like a forest map should play, with industries based on what is right in the neighborhood.

Playing on a map with multiple resource types makes things even better, as you can set up numerous industrial districts that feed into specific unique factories. The toy factory, for instance, needs both the plastic that comes from oil and the paper that comes from wood, so you need both to make sure junior is happy on Christmas morning. Districts tie into each other, making the entire industrial process operate as something of a mini-game; resource gathering, production, and warehousing all form a chain with these factories at the end of the line.

Just two minor drawbacks cause issues. First up is the need to reserve a ton of room on the map for industrial districts, as you have to build a lot of resource-gathering facilities and storage yards/warehouses to keep production humming and raw materials on hand. Second is the way that managing industries can become so involved that you forget about the rest of your city. I had a number of occasions where I spent so much attention on an industrial district that I didn't notice garbage piling up elsewhere or corpses going unclaimed in homes because I neglected to keep pace with population growth. Still, spending time dealing solely with industries is a welcome break from the other aspects of the game. As great as Cities: Skylines is, it has also become pretty familiar for those of us who have been with it since the beginning. A little micro-management isn't a bad thing in this case.

Industrial districts also never seem entirely necessary. While they are always enjoyable to plan out, and it is pretty easy to turn them into serious money-making machines, just about anyone who has played Cities: Skylines for a dozen hours or so likely has little trouble staying in the black with the original industrial zoning options. I really enjoyed turning forests into furniture and playing J.R. Ewing with oil, but I never needed the extra cash that these businesses generated. So as much as I appreciated the novelty, running these industries also seemed like extra work with questionable end benefit.

Other features added to Cities: Skylines are fairly minor. Snail mail has finally come to residents. Postal services operate much like other regional city facilities such as police stations, bus stops, and so on. Set up a post office or postal sorting station and watch happy faces sprout up all over a neighborhood. Toll booths can now be installed on city roads, letting you earn extra revenue from vehicular traffic at the small price of slowing everybody down a bit.

Industries somehow feels like both a worthwhile and an unnecessary addition to the Cities: Skylines family. Requiring direct management of industrial development definitely adds dimension to budding metropolises. Paying attention to nothing but smokestacks and jobs for a while also represents a needed change of pace from what has become a familiar city-building experience. Still, there are no significant new gameplay challenges to overcome here or enough unique rewards that make it an absolute must to create industries like an oil patch or ore mines. While this expansion provides a better, more involved experience when it comes to industry, virtual mayors can give this one a pass if they're satisfied with the factories of the original game.

Categories: Games

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection Review - It Belongs In A Museum

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 08:00

As an anthology of games from SNK's simpler days, the 40th Anniversary Collection offers a variety of classics that are more fun than you might expect given their age. The simple-looking Vanguard (1981) may not give off a rousing first impression, for example, but play it a bit and you begin to discover that its dynamic scrolling system and proclivity for handing out invincibility power-ups make it more than a predictable space shooter. This and many other entries show a glimpse of a company developing its prowess for making arcade games, and it's fascinating to take it all in. This is in large part thanks to the great attention to detail and comprehensive research that went into cataloging and smartly presenting an unsung but important part of gaming history. What's more impressive, and less obvious, is the work that was required to make every game in the collection playable at all.

The full extent of developer Digital Eclipse's efforts is difficult to know from the sidelines, but it's recognized among gaming historians that the team holds itself to a very high standard and often succeeds at meeting it. Beyond programming emulators, it also helps track down relics--original arcade motherboards--when the source code has been confirmed lost by SNK, in addition to scanning and restoring marketing materials that tell the story around the games at the time. Regular maintenance can keep old arcade boards alive, but with dwindling numbers of working units in the hands of private collectors, there's a feeling of "now or never" when it comes to preservation. The SNK 40th Collection is a treasure trove of classics that heeds the call.

At launch, there are 14 games to play: Alpha Mission, Athena, Crystalis, Guerilla War, Ikari Warriors, Ikari Warriors 2: Victory Road, Ikari III: The Rescue, Iron Tank: Invasion of Normandy, P.O.W., Prehistoric Isle, Psycho Soldier, Street Smart, TNK III, and Vanguard. For some of these games where there was an NES home port of the arcade original, you get both versions to compare and contrast. It's a great lens with which to examine the mindset of the day, where everyone wanted to bring the arcade experience home and people were willing to accept compromised graphics and gameplay to get there.

A perfect example of this is Ikari Warriors, one of a few proto-twin-stick shooters in the collection. As evident by the included console port, when the game made the transition to the NES, you could only shoot in the direction you were moving, rather than independently, as you would in the arcade game. Now that the collection is on Switch with two analog sticks to handle the controls, we are that much closer to having the true Ikari Warriors arcade experience at home. The game actually used a single arcade stick that had an added rotation function, but short of releasing a new peripheral to exactly replicate the stick, Digital Eclipse has gone as far as possible to achieve what consumers wanted when Ikari Warriors was on everyone's radar.

While there are a lot of solid games on hand, there are no doubt going to be games that are more interesting in theory than in practice. Given this, it's nice to see that each game--minus some NES ports--has an autoplay option. This will not only make it easy for you to examine a game with ease but also gives you the chance to tag in when a game gets good. Disengaging autopilot and taking the wheel isn't the smartest way to learn how to play any game, but if you find yourself up against a difficult section, you can also trigger the rewind button to fix mistakes and undo accidental deaths.

The 40th Anniversary Collection gives you a lot to play and many ways to tailor the experience to your whims, including settings that come in handy while playing vertically oriented games. From a technical and experiential standpoint, it's an all-around great collection. And if everything goes according to plan, Digital Eclipse has 11 more games scheduled to arrive before the end of the year via free patches and DLC.

In the meantime, if you exhaust interest in playing what's around, there are a lot of special features to explore. Scans include assorted marketing sheets and advertisements but even go so far as to include independent fan zines from the '80s and arcade game guides. For a more in-depth peek into the past, every game released by SNK between 1978 and 1990 gets a neatly animated history lesson, complete with screenshots and interesting anecdotes that help tell the overall story of SNK's formative years. And if you want to just zone out to some nostalgic music, there are soundtracks for 12 of the games in the collection ready from the start.

Digital Eclipse proves once again that it's the right team for the job of both preserving and resurrecting classic video games. For SNK and its fans, the team has elevated some of the company's most important milestones. It's responsible for more than just Neo Geo games, and though not every game that came before is worth replaying on its own today, the addition of supplemental materials and revitalizing modern gaming conveniences make them feel more interesting than they have in years, and in some cases, decades.

Categories: Games

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