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    Vane Review – Frustrating Fever Dream

    GameInformer
    By GameInformer,

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    Publisher: Friend & Foe
    Developer: Friend & Foe
    Release: January 15, 2019
    Rating: Everyone 10+
    Reviewed on: PlayStation 4

    As Vane opens, a powerful storm rips apart a mysterious landscape, and you control a child clutching something to their chest. As the storm breaks the ground below your feet, you sprint to safety and the dark, synthwave soundtrack kicks in, accompanying your journey to a building in the distance. When you arrive at the door, a mysterious cloaked creature wearing a plague mask blocks your path, pushes you to the ground, and you are lifted into the air by the storm you were trying to outrun. Everything fades to black. Vane establishes intrigue early and asks many compelling questions during these moments, but it is not equipped to answer them. Frustrating moments pepper the experience, but a few high points almost make the full journey worthwhile.

    Click here to watch embedded video

    After the impressive opening, you are suddenly in a quiet, storm-free desert – and you are a bird. You make your way forward along a deceptively linear path. As a bird you can fly anywhere and land in certain places, but you can also transform into a child who explores on foot. Much of the gameplay and puzzle solving revolves around swapping between bird and child forms. Flight gives you the chance to explore large areas and plan out puzzle solutions without restriction, but the child can actually move objects and pull switches. Controlling the protagonist is harder than it should be in both forms. The camera is erratic, making it difficult to land when you are the bird, and the child often gets hung up on geometry while the camera clips through the environment. I also had to restart one puzzle multiple times as the A.I. put in place to assist me would inexplicably lose its motivation or get stuck in corners. The immersion was constantly being broken when I should have just been looking around in awe.

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    As you’re solving puzzles, you journey deeper into a strange dilapidated world that shifts and rebuilds itself around you while freeing your captured bird brethren or delivering gigantic strange golden balls to the masked creatures seen in opening. You don’t know exactly why you’re making your way toward your destination or doing what you’re doing, but the landscape is beautiful, showcasing a place that was built up like a city, only to topple and fall apart before your eyes.

    It all looks stunning, but the direction you need to go is often unclear. The atmosphere is impressive, but getting lost made me struggle to appreciate it. In one instance, while trying to figure out my next path, I accidentally sequence-broke the game. This placed me in the next location without the tools I needed to continue, forcing me to fall back on a previous checkpoint.

    Click image thumbnails to view larger version

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    So many little things cause frustration and create unnecessary hurdles, but when the game is functioning, and you are able to maintain a reasonable pace of discovery, Vane delivers strange and creepy moments that compelled me to see what was coming next. The climax leading up to the finale is so odd and interesting that I immediately restarted after finishing and played through the whole game again just to try and wrap my head around it. I didn’t walk away with an explicit understanding of what this world went through and how I was connected to it all, but I am still pondering specific imagery from the journey, like conveyor belts transporting cages through a series of caves or the strange masked creature looking down at me from above as a violent storm swirled around it.

    Vane feels like an indescribable fever dream when it works, relaying a wordless story about a transforming creature trying to figure out its place in a world that appears to be falling apart. Too often though bugs and a lack of clear direction reminded me that Vane could have used a little bit of extra development time for polish.

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    Score: 6.75

    Summary: Vane establishes intrigue early and a few high points almost make the full journey worthwhile, but frustrating moments pepper the whole experience.

    Concept: Explore a mysterious world and solve puzzles as a creature that can transform between child and bird forms

    Graphics: The dark, atmospheric art style does a fantastic job selling a world that feels like it came out of a bizarre dream

    Sound: The music is great, offering a moody, synthwave soundtrack that recalls the music of Blade Runner

    Playability: Whether you’re controlling the child or the bird, movement is a struggle. The child gets caught up on the environment often, and directing the bird to specific landing spots is difficult

    Entertainment: Vane’s atmosphere, music, world, and abstract story are affecting and strange, but the bugs and design lead to unnecessary frustration

    Replay: Moderately low

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    Westworld Mobile Is Shutting Down

    GameInformer
    By GameInformer,
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    After a dramatic legal battle between Warner Bros, Behaviour Interactive, and Bethesda over the game's similarities to Fallout Shelter, Behavior Interactive has announced it's pulling the plug on Westworld Mobile. The game has been removed from The App Store and Google Play already and its servers will go go offline completely on April 16.

    Behaviour Interactive made the announcement on Westworld Mobile's Twitter page:

    pic.twitter.com/y7NS7QeSlX

    — Westworld Mobile (@WestworldMobile) January 15, 2019

    For more on Westworld, head here.

    View the full article


    New Gameplay Today – Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

    GameInformer
    By GameInformer,
    ace-site.jpg

    Click here to watch embedded video

    It's been a dozen years since the last numbered entry in the Ace Combat series, and fans have been eager to take to the skies again. Was it worth the wait? Reiner is a longtime fan of the series, and he shares some of Ace Combat 7's highs and lows – including a look at a PlayStation VR mission.

    Take a look at our latest NGT to watch ace-pilot Reiner scrape mountaintops, evade fire under cloud cover, and blast a bunch of opposing planes into clouds of debris. We also take a look at some of the unlockables and loadouts before strapping on the VR goggles. Will his lunch stay down? There's only one way to find out! (Fine. He doesn't barf.)

    Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 18, with a PC release coming February 1.

    View the full article


    Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown Review – A Worthy Throwback

    GameInformer
    By GameInformer,

    acecombat7header.jpg

    Publisher: Bandai Namco
    Developer: Project Aces
    Release: January 18, 2019
    Rating: Teen
    Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
    Also on: Xbox One

    Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is an adrenaline-filled thrill ride that soars high with excellently crafted dogfights, responsive controls, and payloads large enough to crack the planet in half. As your fighter rips through a narrow canyon in pursuit of a bogey with a death wish, Ace Combat 7 delivers top-tier intensity. In these moments, the music swells, your wingmen scream for immediate success, and if your rocket hits the mark, you feel like Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star. The battles often culminate in exciting and nerve-wracking ways, but not without some turbulence.

    Developer Project Aces taps into the latest military technology to introduce new planes and more potent adversarial forces for the series, but the overall game design resembles an old warbird that feels like it’s going to shake apart before it reaches the runway. The missions, their pacing, and the rewards they bring leave much to be desired. The game is designed to be a throwback to the glory days of the series, drawing heavily from the gameplay direction of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War. While honing in on what made combat great in that title, missions have a lot of downtime, and objectives like scoring challenges feel like filler activities in between the meaningful dogfights.

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    When you are engaged with rival ace pilots, different weather conditions often up the challenge; you may need to dart into the clouds of a raging storm to trail an adversary. This affects visibility conditions, and your plane gets batted around by strong winds –  maybe even struck by lightning. When this happens, the electrical surge scrambles the HUD, making targeting and tracking enemies more difficult. It’s a little annoying to lose targeting, as it seems like it comes down to the random chance of a lightning blast, but it ups the chaos and makes you panic – it’s effective. Weather and low altitudes are also used to give missions a layer of complexity. For instance, you sometimes must fly at dangerously low altitudes to avoid radar detection – the series’ version of stealth, which functions well and delivers plenty of excitement in slower moments of specific missions.

    The dogfighting mechanics are Wright-brothers-old in terms of gameplay design, but are still reliable, dynamic, and all about outsmarting your foe. After highlighting an enemy, the dance of positioning begins, with a large green arrow telling you which way to fly. To an onlooker, this may look ineffective at times, as your plane appears to be looping aimlessly, but the goal is to line up behind your adversary as close as possible for a quick rocket blast that can’t be evaded with flares. This process is as challenging as it is thrilling. As you spin through the air, you and your adversary exchange lock-on warnings before one of you eventually lands a shot. The skill-sapping targeting from Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is nowhere to be found in this installment; it’s old-school Ace Combat design against the series’ hardest foes and it's glorious.

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    Yes, you square off against a new group of rival aces, but the biggest threat comes from drones, which can turn on a dime and are not affected by g-forces. These new threats are tied to a complicated story that once again sees the Osean Federation locked in war with the Kingdom of Erusea. The Ace Combat series has told great stories in the past, but this is not one of them. It begins as a fascinating tale about a mechanic struggling to find her place in her family’s shadow, but quickly becomes a preposterous journey of prisoners being forced to fly fighter jets to save the world. It plays out like a  Fast and the Furious story that is trying to be touching and serious, but it just doesn’t mesh. I ended up laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it all, but yes, it does make for some silly fun.

    Over the course of the 20 story-based missions, you earn credits to purchase aircraft, weapons, and upgrades, but you can’t freely pick what you want. You need to purchase items along paths that make up a sprawling, spiderweb-like store. If you see a plane you want, you may have to buy some stuff you don’t desire just to reach it. This design keeps the balance in check, as souped-up craft are at the ends of the paths, but it creates the problem of the using the same vehicle for numerous missions in a row, as you likely can’t afford other planes that will make a difference when you need them. The series was better off when it handed out planes as rewards for progress and kills.

    Click here to watch embedded video

    You can earn additional money by venturing into multiplayer, which includes an eight-player battle royal mode (no, not "royale," but it is everyone against everyone). Taking on other players is a test of skill, but almost every one of my matches ended with no one being downed. The player that dealt the most damage ended up winning. Part of the problem is a five-minute time limit, but it mostly comes down to the evasion and dogfighting tactics being damn good and players knowing how to survive. The homing capabilities of missiles definitely could use a boost here, as the matches end up going nowhere. You see a couple of enemies go down in team death match, which allows for multiple planes to engage a singular target, but battle royal has been hilariously uneventful for me.

    For fans of this long-running series, Skies Unknown doesn’t live up to its name. This is the Ace Combat we’ve known and loved for decades, and it’s great to have it back. The dogfighting is rightfully the highlight and will give your reflexes a good workout.

    The VR Vomit Comet
    The PlayStation 4 version comes with an exclusive PlayStation VR mode that makes no concessions in how the game is played. Rotation speeds are virtually the same, meaning you’re going to feel it. Using head movement to help track enemy vessels is pretty damn cool, and the sensation of movement is wild – especially when spinning or flying close to the ground.  The entire game cannot be played in VR, and the headset is only used for a unique mini campaign, which is fun in its own right. The VR aspect isn’t a selling point, but if you do have the headset already, it is worth checking out for the sensation of hitting extreme Gs. Just make sure you have a barf bag nearby.

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    Score: 8

    Summary: This is the Ace Combat we’ve known and loved for decades, and it’s great to have it back.

    Concept: A thrilling continuation of a series that hasn’t had a mainline installment in 12 years. Dogfighting is once again the main attraction, but the story and missions often miss the mark

    Graphics: The aircraft are highly detailed, and the settings that have sci-fi inspirations look great. Trees and buildings occasionally pop in, but dense clouds and weather conditions often hide it

    Sound: The soundtrack is all over the place, bouncing between choirs belting out doomsday tones and guitars playing upbeat melodies. The odd arrangement works well, and is joined by constant chatter of wingmen and roaring missiles

    Playability: Even on the advanced settings, the controls are arcade-like and designed to keep the action simple to manage. Each plane and weapon brings something different to the battlefield

    Entertainment: The game makes you work for each kill, and as a result you feel like you’ve achieved something notable with almost every ace you down

    Replay: Moderate

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    Reader Discussion - Do You Prefer New Characters Or Old Favorites?

    GameInformer
    By GameInformer,
    mortalkombatx.jpg

    It really does feel like we're in the season of returning characters. With Resident Evil 2 coming out soon, the game is obviously a remake, so we're playing as Leon and Claire again. There's a nice familiarity to taking control of Leon Kennedy again, as we've done in Resident Evil 2, 4, and 6. Claire herself was in the relatively recent Revelations 2. We're going back to Sora again in Kingdom Hearts III, Dante again in Devil May Cry 5, Yoshi in Yoshi's Crafted World, etc.

    While these games often have some variation, I was thinking about whether or not I prefer new or old characters in games. Reading Suriel's interview with Ed Boon, the Mortal Kombat director talked a bit about the mixture of old and new characters in Mortal Kombat 11 and having to keep a balance, edging toward the returning characters versus new ones. It got me thinking about how much I liked the new characters in Mortal Kombat X, though I didn't grow up with the series, which might be the root of my thinking on it.

    So I was curious what everyone else thought: do you prefer playing new characters or do you prefer your old favorites come back? It doesn't necessarily have to be fighting games. Does Ethan Winters in Resident Evil 7 matter to you or could that have been Chris Redfield and felt as good or better?

    It's kind of a cop-out answer, but for me it's a case-by-case basis. The open-minded part of me says, sure, I'm open to an entirely new roster as long as all the new characters replicate the feelings I had growing attached to the existing ones through my childhood, which is obviously an impossible ask. So I know I'm never going to be completely fair to any new roster or characters in an established series.

    What about you? Let us know below in the comments.

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    GDC Recognizes Sega's Rieko Kodama For Pioneer Award

    GameInformer
    By GameInformer,
    phantasystariv.jpg

    Even if you don't recognize Rieko Kodama's name, there's a good chance you've played a game she's either worked on, directed, or produced. Dubbed "The First Lady of RPGs" by magazine Nintendo Power due to her pioneering work in the 1980s, Kodama is famous for making her name and work none in a male-dominated industry. You might best know her for games like Phantasy Star IV, 7th Dragon, and Skies of Arcadia, but she has also contributed to titles like Sonic the Hedgehog and Altered Beast, as well.

    Kodama will be recognized with the Pioneer Award at the Game Developer's Conference in March taking place in San Francisco.  

    "After decades spent developing some of SEGA's most indelible classics, Kodama-san could easily rest on her laurels, but instead has dedicated herself to creating games that transcend gender and generations to give us countless hours of joy," GDC's general manager Katie Stern wrote in a statement given to Gamasutra. "This award is a 'thank you' to Kodama-san and all creators who work so hard to achieve greatness."

    Kodama currently still works at Sega as a producer and is behind the Sega Ages titles and has repeatedly busted barriers in her career. The ceremony will take place March 20 at 6:30 p.m. PST as part of the Game Developer's Choice awards.

    View the full article


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