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  1. Publisher: Team17 Developer: Playtonic Games Release: October 8, 2019 Rating: Everyone Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 Also on: Xbox One, Switch, PC Playtonic Games debut title, Yooka-Laylee, paid loving homage to formula of 3D platformers of the ‘90s. That makes sense, considering several team members originally worked on Banjo-Kazooie – but sequel takes a much more surprising approach. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair flips the script, abandoning 3D to deliver a focused, well-paced side-scrolling platformer that feels like a successor to Donkey Kong Country (another game members of Playtonic worked on). However, rather than relying too heavily on trappings of the past, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair modernizes the 2D platforming formula in all the right ways to deliver a fun and novel experience. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair starts with a bang. After completing a brisk tutorial, the game dumps you into the eponymous Impossible Lair, a sprawling, extremely difficult level riddled with dastardly obstacles and challenging boss fights with no checkpoints. You may start the game on the final level, but unless you’re unimaginably talented at 2D platformers, you’re going to fail out before you even know what’s happening. While this experience does little to instill confidence in what’s to come, it effectively throws down the gauntlet to give you something to aspire to. That experience sticks with you; the final stage looms over you the whole time you play, just waiting for you to challenge it again – which you can try at any point. But how can you conquer the hellscape of obstacles the Impossible Lair presents? By completing stages in the main game, you give yourself a fighting chance. Click here to watch embedded media Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair delivers well-paced 2D platforming action across more than 20 unique stages, and every one you complete gives you an extra hit point when you attempt the Impossible Lair. I love how this unique approach lets you decide when you’re ready for the final onslaught; you don’t need to complete every stage to finish the Impossible Lair, but some of the are so clever and fun that you may want to keep playing anyway. From a level that has you dodging deadly buzzsaws to one that tasks you with swinging from different ropes while rolling and jumping off enemies, the diversity in the stages is impressive. While every obstacle course is exciting, my favorite was a nonlinear level that had me going to five distinct areas to complete quick challenges to retrieve five gems. Yooka and Laylee may control as one character, but their partnership isn’t just for looks. Similar to Mario and Yoshi, the two work together in important ways. When you start a stage, you have both characters, and access to your full arsenal of abilities. But if you get hit, Laylee panics and flies away, leaving you without movies like your twirl jump and butt stomp. You can get them back by chasing Laylee down (or calling her back at a bell), and this adds a thrilling risk to many stages. Every time Laylee flew away, I had to calculate whether the benefit of her abilities was worth the danger of pursuing her. Laylee’s abilities aren’t required to complete the stages, but they can be necessary for reaching collectibles like quills and coins. Quills are used as a currency in multiple situations, including purchasing game-modifying tonics, opening chests in the overworld, and buying hints from signposts. Meanwhile, coins are used to further open the map to allow you to access the next set of stages. I don’t mind collectibles in a game, but it’s annoying to have to replay levels if you didn’t get enough coins to access the next area in the world. However, the required coin thresholds are low, and I only had to go back to mine for coins once in the my playthrough. Click image thumbnails to view larger version Tonics are fun in-game cheat codes that modify the game in ways that can make the levels easier, harder, or different. For instance, one tonic makes enemies take an extra hit to destroy, while another makes it so Yooka doesn’t slip on ice. Based on how these tonics affect the difficulty, you earn a multiplier on the quills you collect in that stage. My preferred loadout was to gain 50 percent more quills by using the tonic that gives enemies an extra hit-point, while using another that makes every defeated enemy explode like a piñata with extra quills to collect. Between stages, you explore a 3D overworld with an isometric camera. This is a gratifying experience, as simple exploration and minor environmental puzzles yield worthwhile rewards like extra quills, tonics, and even alternate versions of the stages. The overworld also lets you tackle single-screen challenges where you must get creative to defeat a set number of enemies. I always looked forward to these creative puzzles to solve, like one with a movement-mimicking enemy that you need to manipulate to make it dive into a buzzsaw. The stage variants you unlock offer additional coins (and hit points for the Impossible Lair), but things are drastically different from the first time you tackled the level. One alternate version floods everything, turning it into a water stage. Another spills a sticky substance everywhere, making it more difficult to traverse – but also granting the ability to climb up the sticky walls and reach areas you couldn’t before. While you’re still technically playing the same levels, these versions feel as fresh as all-new stages, and I loved the surprises they threw at me. With rock-solid controls and imaginative level design, I couldn’t wait to see what awaited the chameleon/bat duo each time I entered a new area. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a superb 2D platformer with plenty to love for fans of the genre both new and old. Score: 8.5 Summary: This great 2D platformer delivers a crowd-pleasing adventure regardless of when you started enjoying the genre. Concept: A strong platformer that pays loving homage to the 2D games of yesteryear Graphics: With such vibrant and beautiful backgrounds, stage hazards sometimes blend in and get lost in the action Sound: A delightful score composed by the iconic duo of David Wise and Grant Kirkhope perfectly suits the action Playability: Tight controls and well-designed stages are a blast to platform through. Even the water levels are fun! Entertainment: The Impossible Lair may receive top billing, but the entire journey leading to that titular final challenge is rewarding Replay: Moderately high Click to Purchase View the full article
  2. Analogue, the company behind the Super Nt and the Mega Sg premium retro consoles, has announced the Analogue Pocket. This new handheld device follows in the footsteps of the Super Nt and Mega Sg systems in that it allows you to play retro games you already own natively, with no emulation required, but it also adds several new features to help make this a more unique product. The Analogue Pocket works out of the box with nearly 3,000 cartridges from the libraries of Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance. Additionally, you can purchase cartridge adapters to allow it to work with games from other handheld system libraries like Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket, and Atari Lynx. The Analogue Pocket features a 3.5-inch, 615 ppi LCD screen with 10 times the resolution of the original Game Boy. The team behind it claims it to be the most advanced screen to ever appear on a video game system. On top of that, all buttons on the system are mappable and the sound comes through stereo speakers or a 3.5mm set of headphones. The system also has a microSD slot, an original-style link plug, and a rechargeable battery that uses USB-C. If you'd rather play your games up on the big screen, Analogue will also be releasing the Analogue Dock, which lets you output directly to a monitor via HDMI. You can use the dock to sync directly with wireless Bluetooth controllers or connect up to two controllers directly via USB cable. While the Analogue Pocket's core functionality is playing retro games from various handheld devices of the past, the system has something for creative types as well. The Analogue Pocket is designed for FPGA development, with a second dedicated FPGA included specifically for developers to create and port using Analogue's proprietary hardware and scalers. The system also features a built-in digital audio workstation called Nanoloop, which includes a synthesizer and sequencer. This is designed for music creation and live performance, so you can even try your hand at composing and playing live using the Analogue Pocket. Click image thumbnails to view larger version The Analogue Pocket is set to hit sometime in 2020 and will cost $200. The price and release information for the dock has not yet been announced. View the full article
  3. In celebration of League of Legends' 10-year anniversary, developer Riot Games has revealed a huge slate of new games set in the League of Legends universe. In addition, a new animated series and documentary are on the way, and the popular autobattler Teamfight Tactics is coming to mobile. Click here to watch embedded media The first all-new game announced by Riot is Legends of Runeterra. This free-to-play strategy card game features cards based on the characters of League of Legends. Each character has their own style and strategic advantage. Legends of Runeterra features alternating combat that forces players to use creativity and cunning to emerge victorious. Players will have multiple options to acquire cards including "robust free-to-play options," as well as the ability to use real money or earned currency to purchase any card. Legends of Runeterra, which you can learn more about in the trailer above, is set to launch on PC and mobile in 2020. You can pre-register for the game here. Click here to watch embedded media Riot Games also unveiled an new MOBA for consoles and mobile called League of Legends: Wild Rift. This 5v5 MOBA features similar gameplay as the PC MOBA that took the world by storm over the last decade, but adapted for new platforms. While the genre is the same as the original League of Legends, Riot says this is built from the ground up. Wild Rift uses a twin-stick control scheme and mechanics redesigned for matches to last between 15 and 18 minutes. League of Legends: Wild Rift hits mobile in 2020, with console seemingly to come later. You can pre-register for Wild Rift here. Following those two 2020 titles, Riot Games revealed early-development details for three as-of-yet unnamed projects. The first one, codenamed Project A, is a competitive, character-based shooter for PC. Set in the near-future Earth, Project A has a diverse cast of characters with unique abilities. While we don't have a release date for this game, Riot says more details will be revealed in 2020. For years now, a fighting game has been rumored to be in development at Riot Games. The studio has finally pulled back the curtain on the project... kind of. Currently known as Project L, no additional details are available right now, but Riot has confirmed it's a fighting game set in the League of Legends universe. Nothing is known about Project F at this time other than it's a game very early in development that "explores the possibilities of traversing the world of Runeterra with your friends." No timetable is given for release or additional details. The final game Riot announced tonight is League of Legends Esports Manager, which tasks you with running your very own esports team, signing players to contracts and managing the day-to-day operations. The game features real esports competitors from the League of Legends Pro League, but hopes to expand into other regional leagues in the future. Money generated from League of Legends Esports Manager will be shared with the teams featured in the game. Click here to watch embedded media For fans of the MOBA, Riot also announced a new champion named Senna. A fan favorite since her introduction in Lucian's story, Senna is the newest support to join the roster. She is set to hit the Public Beta Environment on October 29 and the live servers on November 10. View the full article
  4. Each year, Overwatch fans look forward to the bounty of treats Jeff Kaplan and his team will bestow upon them during the Halloween season, and this year is no different. And with the dawn of a new spooky season, fans will be able to collect eight new skins for their favorite mains, including Ana, Ashe, Baptiste, Lucio, Junkrat, Orisa, Tracer, and Widowmaker, along with the rest of the classic Halloween costumes. Take a look at all the new looks your character can sport below: Click image thumbnails to view larger version Fans of all things spooky will be able to take part in the Halloween Terror 2019 event from now to November 4 and will actually be able to unlock skins for Baptiste, Junkrat, and Sombra by winning multiplayer matches. Along with the new skins, fans can also unlock new icons, sprays and play the returning PvE game mode Junkenstein's Revenge. For more Overwatch, check out our latest installment of New Gameplay Today, where we check out how the game holds up on the Nintendo Switch. View the full article
  5. It's that magical time of year where we're preparing for our 25-hour stream to raise money for Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minnesota! On November 2, starting at 8 a.m. Central, we'll be streaming games, auctioning off rare items, and throwing pies to raise some money and help some kids. You can follow along and donate on GameInformer.com, YouTube, and Twitch. We'll be updating this story in the near future with a full rundown of the schedule and list of the items up for auction. You can get started by joining Team Game Informer on Extra Life to help raise money towards the goal, or please leave comments below with what you would like to see from the stream this year. If you need a reminder of what these streams are like, you can watch the archive of 2018's Extra Life charity stream below. And, yes, this year we're planning to bring back some of Game Informer's former employees to help. Click here to watch embedded media View the full article
  6. Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Developer: Other Ocean Interactive Release: October 25, 2019 Platform: PlayStation 4 It’s been twenty-one years since the original MediEvil spooked players. Developer Other Ocean Emeryville is hoping to once again ensnare players’ imaginations. But, has the game stood the test of time? We recently talked with Mike Mika, chief creative officer, and Jeff Nachbaur, producer, about their upcoming game. If their passion is any indication, gamers have a treat in store this Halloween. The MediEvil Remake is not content with igniting mere nostalgia. Instead, Developer Other Ocean Emeryville has set out to create the fiendish vision the original was always intended to be, but couldn’t because of hardware limitation. Here are the reasons they might just succeed: The Realization of MediEvil’s Original Dark, and Humorous, Vision From the beginning, Other Ocean was determined to make the game the original creators always wanted. So, they began by bringing back original creators Chris Sorrell (original creative director) and Jason Wilson (Original lead artist and programmer). They directed and provided feedback on multiple aspects of the game, including art and gameplay, while offering insight into a vision that was previously impossible. “Looking at original source material, like concept art, reveals a richer world than the original PlayStation could handle,” Nachbaur explains. The original, with its polygonal limitations, relied upon the audience’s “imagination to fill in the gap.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTAhqVecfVY MediEvil always had a dark tone but some of its edgier elements were blunted by weak hardware. With the power of the PS4, Other Ocean “brings dark elements to the forefront,” allowing the macabre humor to shine. This is evident just in the game’s opening. Depicting a town of innocents transforming into murderous husks, the cutscene is a traumatizing event. However, on the PSOne, the towns-folk look like voodoo dolls. There’s certainly a charm, and the art team did wonders for the time, but it does not capture the intensity of what occurs. Fast forward twenty years and the presence of knife-wielding children is not just implied; it’s boldly depicted – capturing shocking horror and ridiculous hilarity simultaneously. The MediEvil remake also pays appropriate justice to the original’s classic score, with composers Paul Arnold and Andrew Barnabas returning to oversee the game’s sound design. They re-recorded the original music with a full orchestra and reviewed the entire game once finished to fine tune the sound effects. Mature Inspirations and Sophisticated Storytelling The biggest hurdle for Other Ocean came in modernizing MediEvil’s camera, and not for the reasons you’d expect. As Mika carefully explained, the fixed camera of the original, a bane of many early PlayStation games, had purpose: It was “used to deliver humor and pace the game.” If Other Ocean provided players with a modern, free-roaming camera the “auteur experience would go away.” When Sorrell and Wilson came on board, they emphasized the significance of the camera to the point that they gave the Other Ocean team books and films to study. “The original camera angles evoke German Expressionism,” Nachbaur declared. Knowing the significance of the camera put Other Ocean in a bind: Despite the beautiful effects, it often causes player frustration during gameplay. Other Ocean sought a compromise. They decided to design a camera that automates to certain angles while allowing players to adjust as needed. In so doing, they capture the authored feel of the original, eliciting the surrealism of German Expressionism at one moment and the comic horror of Evil Dead the next, while still letting player’s feel in control. We will not know until the final product is released how the camera holds up, but for now we know, at the very least, the inspirations are sophisticated and mature. Quality of Life Changes Mika said, the project began by “bringing in as many of the original elements as possible then asking, how does this feel against a modern perspective?” They aimed only to remove frustrations. The result is … well … MediEvil with some modern enhancements. Boss design is one of the main changes. The original “had unfinished elements, especially with the bosses.” Mika went into some detail about one particularly broken encounter. “The pumpkin king is an example of one we knew we had to work on because it was definitely unfinished. The player could just crouch down and spam the attack button to defeat him.” The remake retains the boss’s charm while providing the challenge the player, and character, deserve. The other major update came in improving the weapons. The remake adds the sequel’s dual weapon system and gives each weapon a secondary attack function, including a surprise one for the chicken leg! The remake also improves some previously impotent weapons. The longbow is now “useful.” On the smaller side of things, the team made a variety of tiny tweaks to make the game more balanced and appropriately challenging. From map accessibility to enemy placement, several changes make the game more fun and eliminate cheap deaths due to frustrating design. Mika asserted, “We took out all the little pain points!” Expanded World and Lore MediEvil’s kingdom of Gallowmere is haunting and mysterious; so, the team decided to build on it. They wrote a bestiary; one fully edited by Chris Sorrell. The tome draws inspiration from legions of fans. According to Mika the team looked to fan fiction to see “what fans were fixated on.” For instance, the Jabberwocky, a strange creature found only in a single cutscene, has perplexed fans for over twenty years. The monster is from a cut level in the original, so the team considered omitting it entirely. However, they decided against that, instead giving fans what they wanted. The bestiary delves deep into lore – expanding the world’s scope and providing rich detail on all the game’s baddies, including the Jabberwocky. It’s legit cannon. An Incomparable Sense of Character During our interview, Mika and Nachbaur were emphatic about the game’s continued relevance, especially concerning protagonist Sir Daniel Fortesque. As player’s discover in the game’s opening, Daniel has an embarrassing past despite his heroic legacy. Hundreds of years prior to the game’s story there was a great battle against evil sorcerer Zarok. Daniel died during the assault but was lionized – believed to be the savior who killed Zarok. In truth, the legend is a misunderstanding. Daniel was the first to die in the battle. Mika and Nachbaur see this situation as wonderfully unique, as players get to guide “Dan during his second chance at being a hero.” It offers a redemption arc. Not a moral redemption, like we get from anti-heroes such as Arthur Morgan and Kratos, but redemption for an ignominious death. Daniel is a brave “buffoon.” He may have been the first to die but he led the charge. Mike and Jeff also championed the game as a gestalt experience. In one of the interview’s more whimsical moments, they reminisced about playing through the entire game: “Once we assembled the game, playing through levels together, we realized it is more than the sum of its parts: Playing from the beginning is an ethereal, dream like experience.” They claim each level is a singular situation: Every area contains “distinct enemies” and “unique one-off moments.” The areas formulate a sense of purpose and consequence. There are no “prototype villains with repeating variations.” The characters, like the world, individually stand out. Final Thoughts Other Ocean Emeryville’s dedication to MediEvil’s original intent is commendable and their passion is infectious. I cannot say if their bold statements are true, but the game’s recent demo does bolster their claims. The colorful, yet disturbingly distorted, world evokes surreal art and the gameplay is charming. The combat feels simplistic, and a tad unwieldy, but I quickly found it enduring. The frantic sword swinging captures Dan’s buffoonery and carries tremendous weight. Taken all together, MediEvil seems poised to offer an indelible experience. MediEvil launches on October 25. For more on MediEvil be sure to check out our hands-on">https://www.gameinformer.com/preview/2019/08/21/a-ghoulish-gas">hands-on impressions from Gamescom. View the full article
  7. Google announced today that its bold entry into console-less gaming will arrive on November 19. With servers launching at 12 p.m. Eastern/9 a.m. Pacific, fans will either have to preorder the Founder's Edition or subscribe to the Stadia Pro plan. At $9.99 a month, The Pro subscription gives players access to 4K resolution, better sound, and access to a growing library of free titles, starting with Destiny 2: The Collection. The Founder's Edition of Stadia comes with a three-month subscription of the Pro plan, a Chromecast Ultra, an exclusive controller, a buddy pass to share with a friend, and first crack at a unique username for the service, for $129. Fans wanting to test out the service without paying for the Founder's Edition or Pro subscription will have to wait a bit longer, though. Google has stated that Stadia's base plan won't be available until next year and won't have access to perks such as 4K gaming or the free games the company will provide with the service. Over the last year, Google has garnered support from major developers such as CD Projekt Red, Gearbox, and Bungie, but time will tell if it can overcome the technical limitations of today's digital landscape. [Source: Google] View the full article
  8. In a new trailer, Sega has announced that the revitalization of the Super Monkey Ball series, an HD remake of Banana Blitz, will feature a hidden character for players to unlock. That character is none other than Sega's own Sonic the Hedgehog. While details are scarce at the moment, Sonic appears to play similar to how the monkey cast of the series has traditionally played, so you probably shouldn't expect any wild reinventions of the formula thanks to the Blue Blur's inclusion. However, if you'd like to see Sonic in action in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, you can do so through the trailer below. Click here to watch embedded media Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD comes to PS4, Xbox One, and Switch on October 29. View the full article
  9. Click here to watch embedded media All month long we've been rolling out exclusive features covering Pokémon Sword and Shield. To wrap up our exclusive content, we wanted to focus on the trip to visit Game Freak itself. In the video above, watch Brian Shea and I tour Tokyo while also showing off some unaired rapid-fire clips, a tour of a new town in Pokémon Sword and Shield, and the full creation of a league card. Click on the banner below to enter our hub of exclusive content. View the full article
  10. With just one month to go before the launch of Pokémon Sword and Shield, Game Freak is readying another reveal for the highly anticipated Gen VIII debut. While we don't know what will come of the tease, the official Pokémon Twitter account says there will be an announcement tomorrow morning. The reveal is set to happen at 9 a.m. Eastern/6 a.m. Pacific. https://twitter.com/pokemon/status/1184093563908440064 For more on Pokémon Sword and Shield, be sure to visit our ongoing exclusive coverage hub by clicking the banner below. Pokémon Sword and Shield launch on Switch November 15. View the full article
  11. Fewer than 48 hours after Fortnite's map blew up and the game was sucked into a black hole and taken offline over the weekend, the battle-royale phenomenon is back. Billed as Fortnite Chapter 2, the new update brings an all-new island to duke it out on, but it doesn't stop there. In addition to 13 new locations to drop in, explore, and fight over, Chapter 2 adds new water-based gameplay, including swimming, fishing, motorboats, and more. You can also heal your team with the Bandage Bazooka or carry your teammates to safety. You can also hide in haystacks, blow up environmental explosives, and upgrade a streamlined arsenal of weapons. On top of that, Epic Games has implemented an all-new XP system including medals you earn in matches. You can get a taste of some of the new locales below. Click here to watch embedded media Fortnite Chapter 2 is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. View the full article
  12. Publisher: NIS America Developer: Nihon Falcom Release: October 22, 2019 Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 The Trails of Cold Steel franchise continues to impress me. Whether it’s in the depth added to its fantastic turn-based battle system or the intriguing revelations tucked into its sprawling storyline, Nihon Falcom keeps taking the series in exciting directions. The way the developer has built up a massive world and its political tensions is fascinating, referencing events that happened way back in the Trails in the Sky arc. Seeing how all this history and lore unfolds has been an exciting part of the journey. Fans are constantly treated to callbacks and character reunions that feel like rewards for the long investment. While the narrative is certainly a big draw, Trails of Cold Steel III is also a solid RPG through and through, especially if you yearn for something with a classic feel and modern sensibilities. As the third entry in this four-game arc, Trails of Cold Steel III sets the stage for the grand finale. Instead of narrowing the focus or dialing back, Nihon Falcom goes all-out, adding tons of new characters and retaining familiar faces. The story picks up about a year and a half since the last entry’s civil war fiasco. Protagonist Rean has since graduated and become a professor at a new branch of Thors Academy, one reserved for the outcasts and misfits. After growing exceptionally close to the cast of the past games (don’t worry you’ll see them plenty), I was worried about how I’d take to a new class, but the fresh faces bring a lot of interesting dimensions to the plot. For instance, gunner Juna formerly worked at the Crossbell police academy, providing a more personal perspective on how political events affected that area. I grew to love most of the new students, but not all are great. Musse is just awful; her main shtick is constantly hitting on Rean, which is overplayed and gets grating fast. The coolest scenes in the story are the reunions with familiar characters from past games. Everyone reenters Rean’s life in an interesting or surprising fashion, making these moments feel super satisfying if you’ve been following the expansive plot through multiple games. If you haven’t, there is a backstory glossary that catches you up on everything from key characters to detailed summaries that break down each game. You can certainly get by using this, but this story is best experienced having played the previous two entries. Click image thumbnails to view larger version Trails of Cold Steel is content to keep its school-year structure, allowing you to guide the new Class VII on field assignments and socialize with them in your off time. The social elements remain a highlight, and this entry provides several opportunities to hang out with your new students or former classmates. You even have a camp where you can catch up, unearthing extra details or opening new side quests. But sometimes you have too much downtime, and the school aspects feel drawn out, creating busywork before you get to the good stuff. Just like previous entries, this installment is massive and slow-burning. I like how this builds up the relationships and world, but bloated dialogue segments and chore-like fetch quests test my patience. The turn-based battle system remains one of my favorites in recent years due to its many options. You’re forced to use your head instead of spamming attacks and specials. While the system is still focused on enemy weaknesses, character placement, and timing, Nihon Falcom introduced some new elements to keep you on your toes. A break gauge causes enemies to cease all actions for a turn with lowered defenses. I loved saving all my specials for this moment so they’d pack an even greater punch, as watching the high damage add up is extremely satisfying. Another new addition is Brave Order, which allows you to activate tide-changing perks, such as reflecting damage or taking half-damage. Implementing them into my strategy quickly became a new wrinkle to conquer boss battles. You can also now perform a “Burst” with two linked characters, which multiples break damage by 10. All of these new mechanics play off each other wonderfully, and combining them at the right times is a recipe for devastation. They make you feel powerful, and the gratification from crafting smart strategies is hard to top. While I enjoy the combat, the dungeons stand to be improved. For a good portion of the game, you revisit and run through trials in a bland practice dungeon. Outside of battles, you find switches and crawl through ducts to reach different places, with the latter being especially overdone, alongside the commentary about being able to see up the girls’ skirts every time you enter one. The dungeon design is simply uninspired; all the floors have a sterile feel, with only differing color schemes giving them any defining features. You also fight in other places such as forests, caves, and ruins, but they are pretty generic. Trails of Cold Steel III’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses. While the story takes its sweet time to unfold, it offers a lot of shocking outcomes. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that things just keep heating up and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead. There’s something special about following characters for so long across various games – that attachment makes these journeys matter so much more. I just hope the next entry addresses the more glaring flaws, because there’s too much good here for it to be bogged down by a few problem areas. Score: 8 Summary: With great combat, an engrossing narrative, and a charming cast, Cold Steel III has all the makings of a great RPG. Concept: Put lead character Rean in the role of professor and introduce fresh threats to an all-new Class VII Graphics: The visuals certainly have a dated look, especially the environments. However, the new designs for the returning characters look great Sound: Repetitive music loses its appeal fast, and the quality of voice acting is inconsistent Playability: Occasional framerate stutters and graphical hiccups aside, the controls are smooth and all the mechanics are well-explained Entertainment: Trails of Cold Steel III marks another school year full of adrenaline-pumping battles, interesting new faces, and unexpected hardships amidst political turmoil Replay: Moderate Click to Purchase View the full article
  13. Click here to watch embedded media While visiting Game Freak for our latest cover story on Pokémon Sword And Shield, we spoke with the new game's art director James Turner about the history of the Galar region and how his experience in the U.K. influenced the design. Thankfully, we also had time for Turner to show and explain his process for drawing Pokémon. Watch the video above to see Turner draw Vanillite and talk about his unexpected journey to working at Game Freak. Also, thanks to his generous donation, we'll be auctioning off James' drawing for charity during this year's Extra Life stream on November 2. Tune in! Looking for more awesome Pokémon content? Click on the banner below to get your exclusive look at the game before it launches on Switch November 15. View the full article
  14. Epic Games is no stranger to using viral events to promote the next season of its popular game Fortnite, but the newest way of hinting at what's next puts the strange purple cube from last year to shame. This morning, rockets flew through the map, then converged with a meteor to destroy the game's world. The event sent every player skyward, then a black hole appeared, consuming the entire game. Now, when you attempt to play Fortnite, you cannot access Save the World or Creative, but when you select Battle Royale from the menu, it tells you a technical error has occurred before the menu is sucked into the same black hole that consumed players earlier today. You can check out what happened just before the emergence of the black hole through a clip from popular streamer Dr. Lupo. Click here to watch embedded media Once at the black hole screen, you have one option: exit. However, many players have opted to watch the black hole for clues. Every once in a while, the lighting of the screen changes to reveal numbers, but not much else is happening. If you get bored while watching, you can enter the Konami code to unlock an elementary top-down space shooter arcade minigame. In addition to taking the game offline for now, the Fortnite Twitter account has also deleted all of its tweets aside from its most recent, which is just a livestream of the current game state. As of this writing, the official Fortnite account has over 100,000 viewers as the community attempts to find out what's next. Additionally, throughout the day, Fortnite has been a top trending topic on Twitter. You can monitor the current state of Fortnite by checking out its Twitch account below. Click here to watch embedded media View the full article
  15. Click here to watch embedded media Blizzard is bringing Overwatch over to the Switch, which leads to an obvious question: How the heck does it look and play on Nintendo's portable console? Reiner and Leo played the port recently, and you can judge for yourself how well it fares. Since Leo is a freaking professional, he tested out several of the game's different control schemes, including the the detached Joy-Con pointing-at-the-screen method. Let's just say he didn't love that one. Fortunately, the episode starts off with some of Reiner's Pro-controller gameplay before you see Leo's jittery experiment. Overwatch is heading to Switch on October 15, which is just in time for the upcoming Halloween event. View the full article
  16. Click to watch embedded media It's Friday, so it's time for another live episode of Replay. We're going live at 2 PM Central with Pariah, a story-driven shooter for the original Xbox. Reviews of the title were mixed, securing a nice 69 on Metacritic. The stream starts at 2 PM Central, so follow us over on YouTube, Twitch, Mixer, Twitter, or Facebook to be notified when we go live! View the full article
  17. Click here to watch embedded media With our exclusive coverage of Pokémon Sword and Shield, we've covered everything from Grookey, Sobble and Scorbunny to asking developers the hard questions such as what's really under Tangela's vines? And while we know a bit about what's going to inhabit the region, we don't know much about the world itself. During our trip to Tokyo, Japan, we took a peak behind the curtain, as art director James Turner discusses how his experience growing up in the U.K. influenced Game Freak's loving creation of the new Galar region. Looking for more awesome Pokémon content? Click on the banner below to get your exclusive look at the game before it launches on Switch November 15. View the full article
  18. Mobile games were supposed to be an indie developer nirvana. When the iPhone debuted in 2007, Apple pitched consumers on the promise of an endless stream of tiny creative games and other productivity applications. Indie developers immediately recognized the market’s potential: A small team of developers could release their experimental projects to millions of users at a low price and reap large rewards. Early mobile hits like Words with Friends, Fruit Ninja, and Temple Run seemed to confirm this notion, and those titles helped their developers amass significant nest eggs. Then the gold rush happened, and the mobile market metastasized into something ugly. App stores overflowed with ad-driven, free-to-play games that catered to the lowest common denominator. Mobile game development became financially unsustainable for many. In the midst of this mobile “indiepocalypse,” two friends found success in an unlikely place. Their secret: Make a thousand bad games. Ziba Scott and Alex Schwartz at a GDC party in 2013, around the time they came up with the idea for Slots THE BROKEN DREAMS OF GAME DEVELOPERS In 2013, Alex Schwartz and Ziba Scott joined a shared workspace co-op in Boston while independently pursuing careers in game development. Both designers had shifted to the mobile space with the dream of making their big break in the industry. After their first meeting, they quickly bonded over the struggle to realize that dream. Schwartz had attended college for game design before landing a job at Seven45 Studios working on a failed Rock Band clone called Power Gig: Rise of the SixString. After its release, Schwartz set off on his own and formed Owlchemy Labs, the indie studio that released the racing smuggler game Snuggle Truck as well as the early VR standout Job Simulator. Scott, on the other hand, worked for seven years as a Linux consultant and web developer when he decided that making games was more fulfilling. After earning a master’s degree in serious game design from Michigan State University, Scott secured a publishing deal with Adult Swim Games for his puzzle game Girls like Robots. By the time Schwartz and Scott met, they had both signed contracts with big publishers and released creative indie titles to favorable reviews. And yet, both designers still struggled to make ends meet. “We always felt like if we could do something that was creatively fulfilling, and we made enough money on game number one to fund game number two, then that was top-tier success,” Schwartz says. “We played the multiplatform hustle, where if you make something in Unity you can put it anywhere, and it wasn’t working. The dream wasn’t ‘Oh man, I hope we can be kings of mobile.’ We were just chasing platforms, and we were watching the concept that people would spend three dollars on a premium mobile game nosedive super hard.” We played the multiplatform hustle, where if you make something in Unity you can put it anywhere, and it wasn’t working..." “It was 2013 when it became clear that that premium mobile market was dying,” Scott adds. “It was becoming a strange beast. Even now, you can’t follow the successes from two years ago. You can’t follow those rules because the industry is constantly changing. That was something we were learning. I think both of us felt like we were a year or two too late to release a three-dollar game or even a five-dollar game on iOS that would even make its money back.” Half a decade after the release of the iPhone, the mobile market was awash with clones, reskins, and other low-effort shovelware. In some cases, the clones were actually making more money than the originals, which famously happened to number-based puzzle game Threes in 2014. Schwartz and Scott felt that it was nearly impossible for the average game developer to get noticed without a million-dollar marketing budget. As young indie developers struggling to pay the rent, Schwartz and Scott were growing disillusioned. Then they had a crazy idea. If the system had stopped working for them, maybe they could just work the system. Click image thumbnails to view larger version QUANTITY OVER QUALITY Every January, MIT helps host the Global Game Jam, the world’s largest game jam, which takes place at multiple locations around the world. While teams of programmers and artists beat their heads trying to come up with one “perfect idea,” Schwartz and Scott giggled in a corner and asked themselves, “How can we do worse?” The two developers had often joked about how they could reskin and clone their own games and flood the mobile marketplace. Now they were ready to actually do it. But first, they needed to make a game that was incredibly simple and easy to clone. Schwartz and Scott never intended to spend a lot of time or effort on a project like this. Cutting corners was not only encouraged, it was a mantra. Ultimately, the designers decided that they didn’t even need to make the game themselves – they could just download and repackage some prebuilt program off the Unity Asset Store. Reskinning and cloning a game they hadn’t even made felt like one gigantic corner to cut. It was perfect. Schwartz and Scott hopped online and bought a slot-machine game for $14.99. The duo didn’t know it yet, but they would eventually see a massive return on that investment. “Slot-machine games seemed like the perfect fit, because they have such a low barrier to entry,” Scott says. “There aren’t many games simpler than pressing a button that says good or bad. You can hardly abstract the concept of a game any further -than -that.” “Slot-machines are the one world where there is already an entire industry built around reskins, and no one gives a s---,” Schwartz adds. “Walking through Vegas, you see hundreds of different slot-machines. You walk past Cleopatra slots and then Wheel of Fortune slots, there are even Fruit Ninja slots. It’s such a weird world that we didn’t understand, but we knew that humans seem drawn to them in some way.” Once Schwartz and Scott had a working game, they set to work making copies. They added new background images, in-game “about” descriptions, and a custom theme song. Their slot games were of admittedly low quality, but they had taken less than an afternoon to cobble together. Future clones would take only a fraction of that time. Scott wrote a Unity editor script that automatically grabbed images off the web, swiped an about blurb from Wikipedia, and then used a text-to-speech program to generate new lyrics to their electronic theme song. At this point, all Schwartz and Scott had to do was type a theme into their Unity editor and the program would spit out a new slot-machine. Before long, they had dozens of slot games with titles as absurd as Lobster Slots, Richard III Slots, and Harlem Shake Slots. The designers then took the hundred-plus games they had made and published them onto the Google Play store. They marveled at the fact that a few people actually downloaded them and laughed over the smattering of bad reviews. At this point, Schwartz and Scott’s silly experiment seemed like a success. They didn’t know what it proved, but releasing a glut of low-quality games onto Google’s marketplace felt like a snarky middle finger to the industry and its rising tide of low-quality content that was drowning out premium mobile products dedicated developers had poured their blood, sweat, and tears into. Their curiosity satisfied, Schwartz and Scott walked away and forgot about their little experiment. Over the next several months, while quietly unobserved, their games continued to accrue downloads. DOUBLING DOWN After the Christmas break of 2013, Schwartz and Scott returned to check up on their slot-machine experiment. They were startled by their discovery. All of Schwartz and Scott’s games were free to download, but like most free games, these slot games featured integrated advertising. It was almost a joke. One of the most annoying aspects of the mobile market were the “gacha” free-to-play games that roped players into watching one ad after another for another spin at the wheel. Schwartz and Scott were trying to mock those types of games; they hardly expected to make money on the ads in their own crappy games. “A lot of times app stores have a bump over the holidays and we wondered what happened,” Schwartz says. “We saw that our downloads had gone way up, but then we checked our ad network backend and saw that in January and throughout the holidays we were making over $200 a day.” “It’s hard not to look at a few hundred bucks a day that took no work and not draw a line from $200 to millions twinkling in our eyes somewhere,” Scott says. Schwartz and Scott didn’t need any more encouragement to fire up their automated workshop again. But this time, they were ready to take things to the next level, so they incorporated under the name Signal to Noise. The pair even came up with a cutesy tagline, “We are the noise.” Making slot games was a snap, but there were a few speed bumps to Schwartz and Scott’s automated system. It took several minutes to fill out all the forms to submit a game for publishing on Google’s App store, and the pair still had to sit down and brainstorm new themes for future slot games. Sure, typing in a new theme took seconds, but they felt that even this process could be automated. To solve the first problem of submitting games for publishing, Scott used a web-automation tool that played back browser-based interactions. This allowed him to record the inputs for filling out the developer agreements needed to submit a game to Google’s Play Store. To solve the second problem of generating ideas, Schwartz and Scott had Google Trends feed their system relevant news and celebrity gossip, which resulted in games likes Deer Antler Spray Slots and John Boehner Slots. Next, they downloaded massive lists of words and coded a formula that took random adjectives and paired them with random nouns. This program spit out a stream of nonsensical slot-machine ideas like Stupid Pumpkin Slots, Tremendous Face Pain Slots, and Inexperienced Great Horned Owl Slots. “We had reduced the gap between conceiving a game to publishing it to market to typing a single word and hitting enter,” Scott says. After a few months of tinkering, Schwartz and Scott had developed an automated system that could be accessed via Wi-Fi from any country in the world. They had visions of sipping drinks on the beach while periodically checking in on their slot-machine empire. The duo nicknamed their system The Goose, as in the fabled bird that laid golden eggs. Before long, The Goose was churning out and publishing games at an insane clip. In fact, Schwartz and Scott were amassing more games than they could ever publish; Google actually restricts developers from publishing more than 15 games a day. But even with this artificial restriction, after its first year Signal to Noise had already submitted nearly 750 games to the Google Play Store. Most games only got a few hundred to a thousand downloads, but even the least successful slot-machines contributed to Signal to Noises’ overall downloads, and ultimately ad impressions. We had reduced the gap between conceiving a game to publishing it to market to typing a single word and hitting enter,” Scott says. “One month, we looked at the drip income of Owlchemy’s entire portfolio,” Schwartz says. “I remember that Slots, this low-effort garbage pile, was somehow bringing in more money than the past four years of my creative endeavors. That was a real laugh-while-crying kinda moment. I went, ‘What the f--- are we doing with our lives if this joke has started to supersede true effort?’ … I almost didn’t want it to make money, because it proved that it’s more effort to make games the right way. There was a feeling of it shouldn’t be this easy, because it proves that, as a society, people are not as discerning with quality as we had hoped.” Click image thumbnails to view larger version WALKING AWAY FROM A WINNING HAND On a good month, Schwartz and Scott wouldn’t even interact with The Goose and they could watch the ad revenue roll in. But eventually, The Goose always needed attention. Schwartz and Scott had built a fragile scaffolding with several points of failure. Their entire automated system relied on over a dozen different online services, from Google to Wikipedia to small web-based freeware. When Google Images caused problems for their automated system, they had to switch over to Bing’s image search. When Google Play required game submissions to include high-res images, they had to update their photo capture system. When Unity changed its privacy policy, a country altered its laws on gambling apps, or a checkbox on Google’s publishing forms shifted even 10 pixels to the left, The Goose would grind to a halt and the system had to be updated. Fixing these problems was rarely complicated, but The Goose needed the-occasional greasing. The bigger issue was that Signal to Noise had started as a joke, but it had grown into something larger – something unfulfilling. “I was constantly torn between pride and amusement and a sense that I should be doing something else,” Scott says. “There was a joke here, where if the mobile market was more sustainable for premium content, then we wouldn’t have had to lower ourselves to following through on this joke idea,” Schwartz adds. When Google started to implement systems that made it difficult for cloners like Signal to Noise, Schwartz and Scott ultimately decided to walk away from their project. On March 19, 2017, after more than four years, 1,500 slot-machine games, and over 1.6 million downloads, Signal to Noise published its last game: 3D Astronomer Slots – Free. To be clear, Schwartz and Scott didn’t shut down their automated system, they just stopped updating it and let The Goose die a slow death. They left the keys in the car and let it slowly roll into a ditch. Surprisingly, The Goose lived far longer than either Schwartz or Scott had expected. Today, Signal to Noise’s entire portfolio of games has been suspended by Google for failure to keep up with the latest updates. Even so, as of this printing, Schwartz and Scott are still scraping in a small amount of ad revenue from users who occasionally fire up the apps still lingering on their phones. BIG PAYOUT Fortunately, these days, Schwartz and Scott don’t have to play the slot game to make money, and both developers have found some of the indie development success they yearned for. In 2016, Scott used Fig to successfully crowdfund Make Sail, a physics-based construction adventure, and the game is currently in early access. Meanwhile, in 2017, Schwartz’s company Owlchemy Labs was purchased by Google, and Schwartz has spun off once again to form another, currently unnamed, indie game company. Both Schwartz and Scott say Google has made it more difficult for developers to flood the market with the types of automated clones that they released, but that doesn’t mean the mobile market has become more friendly to developers, or users for that matter. App stores are still brimming with clones and ad-driven shovelware that make it hard for premium titles to be discovered. This problem isn’t localized to the mobile space, either. As online stores like Steam continue to open up and make it easier for anyone with a computer to publish software to the platform, developers will continue to find ways to exploit those systems. “It’s interesting how this experiment tied into my ideas on curation,” Schwartz says. “This is the logical outcome to a completely open, uncurated platform. Quality goes down, people think of various schemes to flood the market, and consumers are left with a low-quality experience overall. I feel very passionately that consumers should have a curated experience. So this was us jumping over the tiniest of tiny fences to go muck around in an open ecosystem to show people how bad things are, and how bad they can be.” If Schwartz is to be believed, then maybe the problem isn’t with the kinds of developers who churn out endless clones and other low quality software. And the problem might not be the consumers who find themselves lost in a sea of likeminded apps that constantly demand their eyeballs. The problem is likely the systems platform holders have built that allow for this level of exploitation. Some developers are trying to stem this tide. Valve has taken a player-driven approach to discoverability, allowing user reviews and trends to drive many of Steam’s algorithms, but as more new games flood the market, developers continue to complain about getting lost in the sea. Online stores are full of garbage, but who’s cleaning up the trash? This was us jumping over the tiniest of tiny fences to go muck around in an open ecosystem to show people how bad things are..." If anything, experiments like Signal to Noise expose the inefficacies of our current online markets, and offer a peek into one potential future where automation spirals out of control. Today, the internet is crawling with automated bots that do everything from sending emails to leaving consumer reviews to responding to Twitter comments. It’s easy to get lost in the cacophony. Tomorrow, bots are already learning how to make, publish, and even promote games. What happens next is still up to us. This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Game Informer. View the full article
  19. Click here to watch embedded media Welcome back to The Game Informer Show! On this week's show, we talk about Wired's big reveal of even more information on the PlayStation 5. Then we unpack our full thoughts on Indivisible, John Wick Hex, and What the Golf. After some wonderful community emails, we dive in deep on Bungie's Destiny 2: Shadowkeep with Andy McNamara, Matt Miller, and Dan Tack. You can watch the video above, subscribe and listen to the audio on iTunes or Google Play, listen on SoundCloud, stream it on Spotify, or download the MP3 at the bottom of the page. Also, be sure to send your questions to [email protected] for a chance to have them answered on the show. Our thanks to the talented Super Marcato Bros. for The Game Informer Show's intro song. You can hear more of their original tunes and awesome video game music podcast at their website. To jump to a particular point in the discussion, check out the time stamps below. 2:25 - Ghost Recon Breakpoint 4:30 - PlayStation 5 news 20:00 - Indivisible 30:55 - John Wick Hex 36:15 - What the Golf? 38:00 - Untitled Goose Game 40:40 - Community emails 1:43:40 - Destiny 2: Shadowkeep View the full article
  20. Publisher: Bungie Developer: Bungie Release: October 1, 2019 Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 Also on: Xbox One, Stadia, PC In a living game like Destiny 2, it’s almost impossible to separate the content of an expansion from the changes to the core game that accompany release. In the case of Shadowkeep, the distinction is especially hazy. In terms of new content available during the first week, Bungie’s latest launch is comparatively modest in scope. It is focused mostly on enemies and locations that have been reimagined from earlier Destiny releases, and a story that does more to set the stage for the future than tell a meaningful plot on its own. This is still a strong release on its own merits, but the broader reworking of fundamental systems, presentation, and investment gameplay is profound, and sets the franchise on its best footing yet for a promising future. After a long absence, one of Destiny’s most enjoyable characters makes a return in Shadowkeep. Eris Morn’s plaintive and foreboding pronouncements are a good fit for the story, which sees our Guardian facing down nightmarish specters of the bosses we’ve fought for the last five years. The biggest treat is a return to the excellent Moon destination from the original game, now transformed by further cataclysmic upheaval. It’s fascinating to explore what has changed and what has stayed the same, even if it ultimately means that the “new” destination is mostly a rehash of somewhere we’ve already been. The campaign includes several riveting missions, but ends anticlimactically. Though it sets the stakes for future years of drama, it’s disappointing to have so much build-up and so little payoff. Even so, convincing narrative threads meld into a tapestry that loops in the Hive, the Vex, and the long-hinted menace of the Darkness. New nightmare hunts offer an escalating series of compelling battles, and the Vex offensive is an entertaining (but repetitive) new matchmade six-person event that includes some especially flashy firefights. I’m happy to see a couple of solid new strikes enter rotation, and the three additional PvP maps are always welcome, even if two of them are just the return of old favorites. New rotating PvP modes promise variety, and there’s now greater flexibility to select the specific game mode you want to play, which is a welcome change. I’ve come to expect a new raid to provide one of the most riveting sets of encounters available in FPS gaming, and that streak remains unbroken with Garden of Salvation, a rollicking crusade into the arcane mysteries of the Vex, demanding precision timing and ceaseless teamwork. Click here to watch embedded media More than ever before, Shadowkeep moves Destiny squarely toward MMO and RPG conventions. A thoughtfully constructed armor system works in tandem with the new unlockable artifact to dramatically expand playstyle customization. That leads to distinct loadouts and armor sets that can be tinkered to fit given activities. Lore engagement is closer to the surface of the player experience, and that fiction continues to blossom with complexity and imagination. Your XP across the season leads to desirable designated rewards. Across the board, there are more opportunities for long-tail engagement and progression. Perhaps most importantly, Shadowkeep doubles down on the strategy that led to success over the last year, with ever more weekly content drops that grow and expand your activities and the universe. Bungie has taken the idea of a living game world seriously, and it shows. A regularly updated schedule lets players know what to expect and when. My Guardians grow over time, and the world is changing alongside them. Shadowkeep is a strong release, but frustrations crop up. With the additional customization features, currency and terminology bloat is a real problem. Many features or modes are poorly explained or without tutorial. Knowing which bounties, quests, challenges, or activities to focus on is difficult – a problem only exacerbated for new or returning players. Moreover, the fixation on bounties to progress means that players are often forced into undesirable playstyles, like using weapons or subclasses they don’t enjoy. Much of the older armor has been invalidated by the new offerings, and it’s a shame that so many memorable rewards have been left behind. Shadowkeep and the new Season of the Undying content launches alongside Destiny 2’s free-to-play New Light, which welcomes an influx of players, but also comes with the commensurate focus on the in-game store, and cosmetic items that cost more than they should. That’s a trade-off that frustrates me, but the available free offering is stellar, and invites more players into a vibrant, and frequently helpful community of players. Many of those newcomers will undoubtedly take the deeper dive to buy and engage with the current season’s offerings, and that’s good news for everyone. With Shadowkeep, the Destiny series is well positioned in both narrative and gameplay frameworks for what lies ahead; the joy of seeing that shape come into focus is exactly why it’s worth logging in with each passing week. Click image thumbnails to view larger version Score: 9 Summary: Bungie's latest release is a good expansion on its own, but the way it sets the stage for the future of the Destiny franchise is its most impressive feat. Concept: Return to the moon for new adventures, and witness the continued evolution of the Destiny franchise toward MMO styling Graphics: From haunted corridors far beneath the lunar surface to teeming overgrown gardens, Bungie continues to meld fantasy inspirations into its sci-fi playground Sound: The orchestral scoring remains among the best in gaming, while the exaggerated personas of the lead characters are voiced with pathos and emotion Playability: Gunplay continues to set the industry standard. The game still needs to do a better job of guiding its players to needed information and tasks, especially over a shifting leveling curve Entertainment: Not as expansive in initial scope as previous expansions, Shadowkeep’s standout feature is instead the way it redefines the core loop and encourages week-to-week investment Replay: High Click to Purchase View the full article
  21. Publisher: Rockstar Games Developer: Rockstar Games Release: October 26, 2018 Rating: Mature Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One Despite releasing last year, Red Dead Redemption II has been in the news a lot lately, with new content in Red Dead Online and the announcement of a PC version scheduled to launch on November 5. On that latter point, Rockstar today revealed more information about what is going to be different about PC version compared to its console counterparts. Gamers can obviously expect some graphical improvements that take full advantage of the hardware, like increased draw distances, improved lighting, and better textures. But beyond that, the PC version will also have new content that wasn't in the previous release. That includes brand-new horses (and new variations of existing horses), three bounty hunter missions, two additional gang hideouts, two new treasure maps, and extra weapons for the story mode (some of which are already in Red Dead Online), and more. Players who pre-purchase the game via the Rockstar Games Launcher (until October 22) also get a bevy of other goodies, like a free upgrade to the premium edition, bonus cash for story mode and online, and a war horse for single-player. As another incentive, this deal also includes two free Rockstar PC games (selected from: Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Bully: Scholarship Edition, L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition, and Max Payne 3: The Complete Edition). You can get all the details at the official site. You probably knew this already, but the original console release of Red Dead Redemption II was excellent (we gave it a 10), and these improvements may give everyone a reason to jump back in with the new version. View the full article
  22. Click here to watch embedded media We're continuing to roll out exclusive content throughout the month for Pokémon Sword and Shield, and today's feature is all about the water starter Sobble. While visiting Game Freak, we sat down with the game's director Shigeru Ohmori, producer Junichi Masuda, and art director James Turner to learn about the new development process that led to Sobble's creation. In case you missed it, yesterday we debuted a video focusing on Scorbunny and on Monday we highlighted Grookey. Click on the banner below to enter our constantly updating hub of exclusive content. View the full article
  23. Washington D.C. is still under siege, and fans of The Division 2 are getting a huge content update sooner rather than later. Ubisoft announced today that the next wave of paid downloadable content for The Division 2 will be launching next week, October 15, for players who’ve purchased the Year 1 Pass. Title Update 6 includes two new story and Classified Assignments missions, a new character specialization, a player-versus-player mode and multiplayer map, along with other cosmetics and in-game fixes. The Division 2’s story mission, Pentagon: The Last Castle, centers around the agents' mission to take back the iconic building from Black Tusk terrorists and stop them from further spreading the lethal outbreak. On top of the story missions, pass holders can also delve into the exclusive Classified Assignments side missions to thwart the attempts of the Outcasts from gaining a greater foothold in the United States Capitol. Each piece of new content provides the perfect playground for players to test out the new Technician Specialization, which comes fully equipped with EMP Grenades, a new skill variant, the Maxim 9 sidearm, and the P-017 Launcher, which targets up to six enemies before blowing them away with a devastating missile barrage. Unfortunately, it’s not all good news for Division 2 fans, as it was also announced that the game’s second raid would be delayed, giving developers more time to polish the endgame event. As of now, Ubisoft has yet to announce when the raid will become available. If players are interested in the new content but don’t have the Year 1 Pass, fear not, as each piece of content will become available to everyone (outside of the Classified Assignments) a week later on October 22. And for players who haven’t yet picked up the game, Ubisoft also announced that it is hosting a free-to-play weekend across all platforms later this month, along with a sale of the game. View the full article
  24. Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment Developer: Mike Bithell Games Release: October 8, 2019 Rating: Mature Reviewed on: Mac Also on: PC John Wick walks into the room. Like a clockwork automaton, his movements are precise. His eyes effortlessly scan for danger. The gun in his hand snaps forward like the head of a serpent, spitting bullets like venom. Even more than most action heroes, John Wick exudes stone-cold confidence, and Bithell Games’ strategy adaptation perfectly captures that style. I’ve rarely felt like such a capable assassin than while playing John Wick Hex. Even after a few repetitive encounters and an aggressive enemy A.I. tried to cut my ego back down to size, they couldn’t diminish the overall high I felt playing Hex. The John Wick franchise is all about speed and nonstop action, so Hex’s choice to distill battles down to one-second chunks seems a bit odd. Fortunately, it works. In Hex, you navigate John Wick through a series of seedy underbellies as he takes down a seemingly endless stream of mob thugs. Each time a new enemy enters Wick’s field of view, the action stops and you have the opportunity to issue a new command. John Wick isn’t a turned-based strategy game, but it offers some of that slow-paced, contemplative action. Yet magically, these slow-mo firefights feel as tense and hyperkinetic as a real-time shooter. Most of my time with Hex was spent calculating the length of time it took for John Wick to complete each order. Firing a pistol takes a full 1.5 seconds, while shoving a nearby enemy takes 1.3 seconds, and parrying an attack takes only .5 seconds. Those time difference might sound relatively insignificant, but the difference between life and death is measured in nanoseconds. Some weapons also take longer to fire than others; lining up a shot with a shotgun consumes more time than the standard pistol, but it does significantly more damage. Fortunately, Hex does a fantastic job laying out the timeline for upcoming attacks, and I always knew what my foes were planning and how much time I had to retaliate. Wick is almost always faster than his enemies, but when three goons burst through a door, managing enemy timelines becomes an exciting juggling act. Click here to watch embedded media I regularly felt outmanned and outgunned, but overcoming the odds feels amazing. In the span of only a few seconds I could parry one attack, then – while one foe was stunned – initiate a grappling takedown of another enemy, which would place me behind cover and allow Wick to narrowly avoiding incoming gunfire. Finding a few seconds to squeeze off your own attack is often harrowing, but stepping over a room full of fallen foes is incredibly satisfying. Some of Wick’s best attacks and defensive moves cost focus. For example, the dodge roll makes Wick incredibly hard to hit and allows him to quickly traverse the length of a room. Every time I ran out of focus mid-battle, I felt handicapped; much like reloading, finding time to replenish Wick’s focus is tricky, but this adds a welcome wrinkle to the strategy. Wick begins the game as a highly capable assassin, which means he doesn’t have much room to grow. The tactics and strategies I used at the end of the game were the same ones I learned during the opening levels. Before each mission, you have the opportunity to purchase upgrades that improve your hit percentages or lower the focus cost for some moves, but these are temporary buffs and I often found it more useful to spend my coins on extra bandages and weapons instead. Click image thumbnails to view larger version Most of the challenge in the later levels comes from throwing more thugs your way or introducing more resilient enemies. When I did get overwhelmed, I was forced to start each level over from the beginning. Fortunately, these levels are relatively short, but I was frustrated to have to play through a level’s early encounters repeatedly when I kept getting hung up near the end. The narrative doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Hex is set in a period before the films, when John Wick still works for The High Table and recounts a mission where he must hunt down and kill the lieutenants of a villain named Hex. This plot largely serves only to introduce a number of marks for John Wick to hunt down, and doesn’t contribute much to the franchise’s wider lore. Despite those frustrations, I continually returned to John Wick Hex because the core mechanics are incredibly tight. Thanks to Hex’s clever time management systems I always felt one step ahead of my enemies and capable of constructing the kinds of sophisticated close-quarters gunfights that make the films so exciting. John Wick Hex might hit the same note over and over again, but it’s one incredible note. Score: 8 Summary: A few repetitive encounters and aggressive A.I. don't diminish the overall highs Hex offers. Concept: Slow down John Wick’s hyper-violent gunfights to create a series of tense strategic encounters Graphics: This dark, comic book aesthetic fits the tone of the universe. Sadly, a few jerky animations don’t do this hitman justice Sound: Actors Ian McShane and Lance Reddick reprise their characters from the films, which adds some authenticity to the experience. John Wick is played as a silent hero, so no Keanu Reeves Playability: Hex expertly breaks down John Wick-style fights into a series of puzzle-like encounters, but your combat options don’t expand much over the course of the game Entertainment: At its best, John Wick Hex makes you feel like a trained assassin, but those moments are interrupted by strings of repetitive action Replay: Moderate Click to Purchase View the full article
  25. Click here to watch embedded media We're continuing to roll out exclusive content throughout the month for Pokémon Sword and Shield, and today's feature is all about the new fire starter Scorbunny. While visiting Game Freak, we sat down with the game's director Shigeru Ohmori, producer Junichi Masuda, and art director James Turner to learn who's the right trainer for a Pokémon like Scorbunny and why there are bandaids on its face. In case you missed it, yesterday we debuted a video focusing on Grookey and on Wednesday we'll be airing one on Sobble. Click on the banner below to enter our constantly updating hub of exclusive content. View the full article

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