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3DS | Absent a Movie License, Lego City Undercover Still Has Charm to Spare E-mail
Written by Munk   

Why TT Games doesn't need an official movie tie-in to have fun with Hollywood.

 

When it comes to modern games, the appearance of anything Lego has become synonymous with pop culture silliness thanks to the creative efforts of TT Games. Since releasing Lego Star Wars in 2005, the England-based developer has unleashed a torrent of whimsical Lego adventures set in every fictional universe from Batman to Harry Potter to Pirates of the Caribbean. So what happens, then, when a developer so known for working with official movie licenses creates an original Lego story?

The answer to that question is Lego City Undercover, a Wii U and 3DS exclusive due out early next year. If there's one thing that can be said about Lego City Undercover, it's that TT Games doesn't need an official movie license to have fun with Hollywood. Lego City Undercover is one great, big homage to '60s and '70s crime movies, from a San Francisco-inspired setting ripe for car chases to a main character who bears the most police-y of all police officer names: Chase McCain.

McCain is an exiled detective sent away after he successfully locked up the city's most notorious criminal mastermind. Why would that be cause for exile? Well, when your slimy superior officer decides to steal the credit for your arrest, you can see why he wouldn't want word getting out that it wasn't, in fact, his own handiwork. But now that criminal mastermind is back on the streets, and McCain has been called back to Lego City to see if he can't work his magic for a second time.

McCain's journey plays out in an open-world setting not unlike a family-friendly version of Grand Theft Auto. You can run around and "commandeer" vehicles from hapless citizens, explore the city to perform optional side quests, and generally take your time between story missions.

But it's in those story missions where you can see the way that TT Games is casting an especially broad net of pop culture references and irreverent humor. At one point McCain must infiltrate Albatross Prison (an island compound with more than a passing resemblance to Alcatraz) and speak with a character named Blue. When you meet this guy, you can't help but notice a striking similarity to a certain esteemed actor from The Shawshank Redemption. Eventually you finish your conversation, and another character walks up to Blue and asks something to the effect of, "I need some help! Are you free, man?" To which Blue responds, "No! I am not Freeman! His lawyers might be watching!"

Snappy dialogue like that pervades Lego City Undercover's in-game storytelling. There's a mile-a-minute pace of pop culture in-jokes and references that seems capable of pleasing adults with their cleverness and children with their silliness. You really get the sense that TT Games is taking advantage of this game's lack of any official movie connection to forge decidedly unofficial connections to lots of different movies.

Where Lego City Undercover feels more like classic Lego fare is in the way the game plays. Missions tend to be a combination of platforming, puzzle-solving, and very light combat. It's the sort of low-barrier gameplay where challenge doesn't come so much from the missions themselves, but from how much of the huge amount of side content you want to tackle. The open-world format looks like it will add a bit more freedom to the way you take on that content, but the gameplay itself seems like standard Lego stuff.

There are some novelties that come with the Wii U hardware, however. You can use the screen on your GamePad as a sort of mini-map/GPS, dropping a waypoint on the touch screen that will create a trail of green Lego studs on your TV so that you can more easily drive to a particular destination. You can also use the GamePad as a sort of augmented-reality scanner to look around the environment and easily distinguish criminals from ordinary citizens. (Yes, cute little Lego police officers aren't afraid to use Big Brother technology.)

Whether or not TT Games is playing it safe with the way Lego City Undercover plays, it's clear that the developer doesn't need an official movie license to make a game that's every bit as charming and humorous with its pop culture sensibilities as those other Lego titles. Wii U owners will want to keep an eye out for this one when it's released in early 2013.

Read and Post Comments | Get the full article at GameSpot


"3DS | Absent a Movie License, Lego City Undercover Still Has Charm to Spare" was posted by Shaun McInnis on Fri, 14 Dec 2012 10:00:00 -0800
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Xbox 360 | Gears of War: Judgment Fights Redundancy Through Innovation E-mail
Written by Munk   

Epic retools the series' familiar structure with a slew of features that extend the life of the game and potentially the series as well.

 

With some thoughtful changes to the traditional formula, and a dash of inspiration from their peers, People Can Fly and Epic's Gears of War: Judgment could be the most progressive entry in the series to date. Its narrative is communicated in an entirely new way, and surprisingly, this inventive approach also affects the flow of gameplay. These modifications to the Gears formula may even extend the series' endgame beyond Judgment.

The plot centers around Kilo Squad, which is composed of familiar faces Damon Baird and Augustus Cole, and two newcomers, Sofia Hendrik and Garron Paduk. All four stand trial for treasonous actions taken during the battle at Halvo Bay--specifically, their procurement of secret technology belonging to the Coalition of Ordered Government. Their fate lies in the hands of the staunch COG Colonel Ezra Loomis. He proclaims, "The charges will be defined as I hear your testimony," and one by one, each Gear delivers his or her own account of the events that took place that fateful day at Halvo Bay.

As the Gears testify, you relive the events of that day from their perspectives. Your individual reenactment of the testimony plays a pivotal role in the outcome of the trial and the fate of the Kilo Squad--potentially. There's no way to definitively say how the conclusion of Judgment can be influenced at this point, but it's confirmed that the testimonies themselves may be altered by your actions in-game. Trials, especially this military tribunal, live and die by testimony, so it's not a stretch to imagine this one will impact the progression of Judgment's story.

Each map contains COG tags in the environment that, when approached, give you the opportunity to hear declassified testimonies relating to the events at hand. Generally, opting to hear declassified information will alter environmental variables that in turn will complicate your current mission. They may reveal, for example, that Kilo Squad had to fight in the midst of dense fog, or that it came equipped with a severely limited arsenal. Masochists will appreciate the added challenge, but beyond that, the revelation of these extended testimonials could also influence Loomis' verdict at the end of the trial. If that's true, it introduces the possibility of multiple endings--a first for the series.

Choosing to hear declassified testimonies also rewards you a score multiplier. Gears of War: Judgment introduces a ranking system that gauges your performance in each mission using stars. Epic sees this as a way to fuel the obsessive desires of completionists, but it also noted that consistently acquiring perfect star ratings will unlock "significant" content, though what that may entail remains a mystery.

Declassified testimonies and multiple outcomes definitely bolster replayability, and in that regard, Judgment has one more trick up its sleeve. A new dynamic system varies spawn points and enemy types based on weapon loadouts and unit positions on the battlefield. It's the perfect analog to The Director, the AI responsible for dynamically summoning the undead based on an array of conditions in the Left 4 Dead games.

The ruins of Sera's fallen civilizations work quite well in this regard, featuring elements that can be manipulated by specific enemy types. Certain hulking locusts may, for example, hurl dilapidated cars aside as they charge headlong into the Kilo Squad's ranks. The same scenario approached with a different arsenal may spawn smaller enemies that snake around said cars, or perhaps use them as cover. With such rampant unpredictability, you'll never know what to expect while waging war among Sera's ruins.

Despite the reliable success of the first three Gears of War games, Epic has decided to veer slightly off the beaten path for Judgment. By adding to, rather than replacing, elements that made the series a success in the first place, it may have found the best way to extend the series' life span. Judgment is neither stale nor a departure from the now-classic cover-based gameplay, and though our experience barely touched the bulk of the game's narrative, the testimonial-based delivery is a sound fit for a prequel that is itself a testimony to the events leading up to the original Gears of War. Epic currently plans to release Gears of War: Judgment on March 19, 2013.

Read and Post Comments | Get the full article at GameSpot


"Xbox 360 | Gears of War: Judgment Fights Redundancy Through Innovation" was posted by Peter Brown on Wed, 12 Dec 2012 15:41:58 -0800
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Xbox 360 | Bioshock Infinite Proves There's More to the Series Than Just Rapture E-mail
Written by Munk   

It retains series' trademark combat and emphasis on theme, but Bioshock Infinite handles world design and storytelling in an entirely new way,

 

Say goodbye to the confined, melancholy remnants of Rapture, and hello to the unbounded beauty of Columbia. The “heavenly,“ strictly American society, sequestered from the unworthy foreigners below, exists thanks to Father Comstock, the prophet who, amidst the darkness of uncertainty and external pressure, lit the path towards a brighter future for Americans. In his vision of the future, they are the chosen, and they are the deserved.

[ Watch Video ]

Creative Director Ken Levine discusses Bioshock Infinite's new direction and the difficulties involved creating a companion as complex as Elizabeth.

Bioshock Infinite opens with you, Booker DeWitt, en route to Columbia on a mission to either rescue or kidnap a girl in exchange for the forgiveness of past debts. A chest of your personal belongings is revealed: a pistol, a key featuring an etched birdcage, and a note containing symbols. When your boat arrives at a lighthouse in the middle of an angry, stormy sea, your porters depart.

Inside the lighthouse, Booker sits down in a conspicuously lonely chair. The floor opens beneath your feet, and whirring, powerful machines begins to stir. The lighthouse comes alive, bellowing and flashing an ominous red light. Gyrations cause your gun to slip away into the chaos below. Without further warning, the lighthouse skyrockets. The ocean disappears from view and turbulence increases as the lighthouse passes through the rain and clouds. The cocky Booker is shaken, and uncertainty overcomes any remaining shreds of confidence until suddenly, a serene blue light washes over the lighthouse interior. Columbia“s fabled airships and monuments come into view. Despite its idyllic appearance, Booker knows there“s more beneath its glossy veneer. If his mission is worth the forgiveness of his debt, and requires a pistol, there“s a fair chance Columbia isn“t as peaceful as it appears to be.

The lighthouse docks, and the door opens. Booker find himself in what appears to be a flooded chapel. Robed men with blank stares and clasped hands line the halls. After a set of stairs leads you past religious iconography and architecture, you enter the chapel hall. More men in robes tread through knee deep water towards a congregation lead by a priest. You work your way to the front of the line, and he sees that you are burdened under the weight of past sins; sins which must be cleansed prior to your acceptance into Columbia. Once, twice, are you baptized in the holy waters of Columbia“s chapel. Initiation complete, your entrance to the city is finally granted.

The opening to Bioshock Infinite is heavy, foreboding, and a clever introduction to Booker and his past. You“re given just enough of his backstory to understand his motivation and personality. Columbia, too, is presented in such a way that paints a picture rife with hints and clues of its origins. You see that it“s a utopia, you“re told that it“s lead by the prophet Comstock, and you observe that his sheep are utterly devoted to his vision for America. Citizens figuratively refer to it as a heavenly place, or simply, as heaven. As the player, it“s easy to want to connect the dots that are given, but inferences only tell so much of the story.

Upon arrival into the heart of Columbia, Booker finds himself wandering into the middle of a carnival. Men, women, and children are enjoying attractions, games litter the boardwalk, and the city is bustling with anticipation for the upcoming raffle drawing. Your first objective is to obtain a ticket, but the vending machine refuses your request. After exploring the area, you happen upon a woman selling Vigors, tonics crafted from technology that grant the consumer with new abilities. She offers you the Possession Vigor, giving Booker the ability to control machines and robotic contraptions. After a quick zap with your newfound possession power, the raffle machine dispenses a ticket, and it“s off to the drawing. Before you arrive, you notice a billboard warning people of the beast that bears the mark, “A.D.“, the same mark that appears on the top of Booker“s right hand.

Up until this point, Columbia“s darker tendencies have yet to reveal themselves. Once you arrive at the drawing however, it becomes clear that Columbia is built on a foundation of exclusion, religious persecution, xenophobia, and racism. While it“s immediately shocking to hear a character utter lines such as “Have you ever seen such a pretty white girl?“ as she presents the basket of raffle drawings, it's even more unsettling to learn that the winner earns the ticket holder the “privilege“ of publically stoning an African American. This spectacle definitely drives home the notion that Columbia is unwelcome to anyone who defies their ideals. That is, anyone like Booker.

Of course, Booker wins the raffle. The host of the drawing offers you a basket of baseballs intended to be thrown at the bound, mixed race couple who are pleading for your mercy. As you wind up, prepared to lodge the ball into the hateful mouth of the host, a policeman notices the mark on your hand and grabs your wrist. In that moment, your cover is shattered, and the game truly begins. You wrench a hook from the hand of an officer and gouge the face of his partner in order to make your getaway.

Leaving with the hook, your search for an escape route and come upon the skyline: a series of tracks in the sky connecting the numerous islands that make up Columbia. An in-game prompt encourages you to leap toward a coupling on the line, and a magnetic force draws your hook to the tracks. Booker is whisked along as he circles around his pursuers below. The track stops above a platform, and a new prompt instructs to dismount the skyline. An unwitting enemy patrols nearby, and a swift blow to the head renders him a non-threat. Booker acquires the man“s pistol and continues his escape.

[ Watch Video ]

Some debts can only be repaid through bloodshed.

At this point, Bioshock Infinite has introduced its setting, theme, and gameplay mechanics, and it“s up to you to avoid capture while searching for your target. The girl in question is held captive atop the statue of Columbia, America“s “goddess,“ in the middle of Monument Island. At first, Columbia looks like a completely open world, but it“s fairly linear at this point in the game. In true Bioshock fashion, there are plenty of alternate paths to explore, but they never take Booker far off the beaten path. Ultimately, your curiosity is rewarded with missing links to the story and occasional coinage or health pickups.

Eventually, you find your way to the tower, and gain access by entering the symbols from the note found inside your chest of belongings. Along the way, Booker is introduced to Elizabeth by way of two-way mirrors. When you finally meet in person, she“s startled by your unfamiliar presence and tries to fend you off. Even after you reveal that you“re there to free her, she doubts you and your intentions, until you show her the key with the bird cage etching. Only then does she accept that the time to flee has finally come, but no sooner than you unlatch the door to freedom, the tower shakes, and a harrowing shriek resonates through its steel walls. Elizabeth knows this is her keeper, the giant mechanized Song Bird, and as you two sprint for the ground floor, it begins to tear away at the tower in a desperate attempt to prevent her escape.

As the Song Bird rips a staircase, you tumble from the height of the tower only to catch your hook on a skyline momentarily before plummeting into the waters below. The Song Bird dives headlong after you, but seems to give up as Booker loses consciousness. Everything fades to black.

You comes to in a dreamlike state. You“re in an office, and someone is banging at the door, demanding you repay your debt. Answering the door brings you back to life as you see Elizabeth trying to resuscitate you. You“ve washed ashore, and though you“re worse for the wear, you“ve escaped for the time being.

For the first time in her life, Elizabeth experiences freedom. A ragtime cover of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun“ plays in the background as she dances around the beach, taking in the sights and sounds of a world she“s only experienced from a distance. She“ll generally follow Booker, but she“s always up to something, usually out of frame. Sometimes, she“s captivated by an unusual sight in the environment, swaying to the sound of music coming for a nearby radio, or perhaps she“s searching for loose change under an armoire. She“s every bit a living, breathing part of the world, and not a typical video game companion tucked away in a robotic NPC with minimal AI.

As the rest of the demo plays out, Booker and Elizabeth continue their journey, all the while confronted by Comstock and his hordes as they try to recapture Elizabeth and do away with Booker. Elizabeth doesn“t possess offensive capabilities, but she can control tears, rifts in time space that allow her to access alternate realities and dimensions. Through these tears, she“ll reveal secrets and items to aid your mission. Sometimes, she can open rifts that alter the world of Columbia, influencing battle sequences and environmental puzzles.

Though you can occasionally direct her use of tears, she usually has an agenda all her own. When she discovers items in the environment, she“ll call out for you attention. A quick button press will turn your focus to her so she can flick a coin or underhand toss a health item your way. As much as you are her protector, she“s your trusty sidekick.

Our demo concluded shortly after this extended, multi-hour introduction. Like the first Bioshock, the opening draws you into the game“s world, revealing just enough to captivate your curiosity and send you on your mission“s path. The heart of the gameplay is again focused on finding creative solutions through the use of varying super powers, but the open environments of Columbia and implementation of skylines in Infinite dwarf the relatively restrictive confines of Rapture from Bioshock and Bioshock 2.

What“s most intriguing about Infinite's evolution is the introduction of Booker and Elizabeth as conduits for the narrative. As you learn about Elizabeth and Columbia, you also learn about Booker. Infinite feels like a Bioshock game, yet it expands upon the elements that made the first game so successful years ago, rather than simply adding to them. Columbia still conceals many mysteries, and uncovering them should make for a truly engaging experience. After another brief delay, Bioshock Infinite“s newly scheduled release is now set for March 26, 2013.

Read and Post Comments | Get the full article at GameSpot


"Xbox 360 | Bioshock Infinite Proves There's More to the Series Than Just Rapture" was posted by Peter Brown on Fri, 07 Dec 2012 18:10:10 -0800
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Xbox 360 | It's Hard to Believe in the New Lara Croft E-mail
Written by Munk   

With all the talk of a more vulnerable, realistic Lara Croft, we delve into the first 2.5 hours of the game to find out just how human this heroine is.

 

Video games often struggle to produce believable characters. Striking the right balance between fiction and reality is hard for any medium, let alone one whose drive to entertain frequently overrides its capacity to comment on the human condition. This is why we generally commend video games that succeed in creating convincing virtual worlds, but abstain from criticizing the ones that don't.

Of course, any game that explicitly promises players a glimpse of this elusive verisimilitude is exempt from the rule.

The upcoming Tomb Raider reboot from Crystal Dynamics has made a point of emphasizing the believability of its protagonist Lara Croft. We are led to believe the much-loved gaming heroine has been reworked into a younger, more vulnerable creature without her trademark impishness and overt sex appeal. We are told the game will pay more attention to Lara as a person, giving her a more complex set of feelings and capturing the not-so-glamorous side of a human being coming to terms with her own mortality; a necessary reminder that heroes are made, not born.

But if the first 2.5 hours of the game are any indication of what's to come, then Tomb Raider might not live up to these promises.

Your introduction to Lara Croft is a taste of what to expect in this first part of the game: a series of injuries and narrow escapes so incredulous that they could almost be mistaken as a deliberate comment on the absurd damage that befalls video game protagonists of this genre. Not even the somber context of the opening act--the underground labyrinth of some kind of psychopathic island-dweller--is enough to lift it towards an honest representation of a vulnerable woman left to fend for herself in an inhospitable environment.

Much the same can be said for Lara's first human kill. Crystal Dynamics has invested a lot of time and energy in reiterating the importance of this moment: how you would feel a connection to Lara, how the moment would define her character, how it would feel genuinely shocking, disturbing, and exhilarating. Instead, you are presented with a quick-time event much like any other quick-time event before it. It's hard to believe it was this scene which caused so much controversy earlier this year. Had sexual assault actually been a theme here, you might have been forced to question the very nature of human behavior, or at least to think about why humans act the way they do; that would have at least been something.

Instead, the scene shows us Lara, captured by a group of armed men, forced to defend herself and pull the trigger on one of her captors. She looks distressed, sure. But from this point on until the end of the 2.5-hour playable demo, Lara shows no signs of fighting with herself over the moral consequences of killing another human being. She adapts to her new role with what appears to be the mindset of an experienced killer, leaving a trail of dead bodies in her wake.

While past glimpses of the game hinted heavily at survival--something that could undoubtedly help set this new Tomb Raider apart from previous entries in the franchise--the first few hours of the game are mostly free of survival elements. The one exception is Lara hunting and skinning a deer after remarking that she's hungry. (But at no other point in the first 2.5 hours of the game after this moment does Lara mention food again, despite the impression that a lot of time has elapsed since that first meal.)

The integration of story and gameplay is also problematic in the first few hours of the game. You discover much of the game's story through scripted cutscenes presented as home-made videos made by Lara and her fellow crew members prior to the shipwreck that brought them to the island. It's not quite as obvious as flashback sequences, but not much more original either. However, there are also diary entries and documents scattered throughout the island for you to discover, which provide insight into Lara and her crew, the details of their expedition, and the island's secrets, and give you an incentive to explore.

This leads to one of the most promising things about this game so far, a stark contrast to the otherwise lacking survival elements and linear platforming-to-combat sequences. The ability to upgrade Lara's abilities through experience points is presented in a neat RPG-like upgrade system that rewards you for taking the time to explore the environment, collecting bits and pieces that translate into more points.

This feature helps match Lara's personal growth as a character to what is actually happening in the game--her combat skills, weapons, tools, and survival skills can all be upgraded to make her a stronger, more confident warrior--while allowing you an element of freedom in dictating what kind of person Lara will be when she emerges from her ordeal.

That, at least, gives us something to hope for.

Read and Post Comments | Get the full article at GameSpot


"Xbox 360 | It's Hard to Believe in the New Lara Croft" was posted by Laura Parker on Wed, 05 Dec 2012 13:14:49 -0800
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3DS | Bravely Default: Flying Fairy Does A Better Job At Being Final Fantasy Than Current FFs E-mail
Written by Munk   

We check out the first few hours of this not-very-subtle nod to Final Fantasy's golden years.

 

It's apparent from the few hours poured onto Bravely Default that the Flying Fairy subtitle isn't fooling wary gamers. The recent JRPG with the rather silly name is the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light in tone, spirit, and gameplay mechanic. And believe us when we say that it's a sight for sore eyes, especially when creator Square Enix is bending over backward to make its mothership RPG series relevant again.

Players control four heroes who are on a quest to purify the game world's elemental crystals, while also shaking off an elite group called the Eternian Air Force Jobmasters. The heroes you control aren't blank slates in the personality department. You've got the straight man do-gooder, Tiz; the amnesiac casanova, Ringabell, the demure Wind Crystal keeper, Agnes; and tomboy, Edea. While not the most original of all typecasts, they're still endearing to listen to and watch as they play off each other during the main story quest.

Then again, BD:FF's story isn't the main draw. To get the leg up in turn-based combat, players can switch each party member's classes at any time--except during combat. These classes, or jobs as the game calls them, range from melee specializations like the Knight and Monk, to ranged and magic-using roles such as the Summoner and Time Mage. Abilities you learn from one particular class can be used on a different class as long as you fill up the required job points from the previous class.

In essence, the game takes the best portions of the job class system from Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy V, and has amped it up further so that there's plenty of room for customization. For example, you can use a White Mage's self auto-healing ability (you recover from ailments after a fight) while you're using a pirate class.

The list of combinations go on: you can use a ninja's dual-wielding ability on a Dark Knight, making them even more dangerous up-close, or even take a Summoner's mana point-siphoning ability on a magic swordsman class where the majority of your attacks take up a lot of mana. To say that you'll be taking a few hours building up the perfect party of four is underselling its simple-yet-complex nature.

The other feature that sets this one apart from its predecessors is the Brave and Default modes. Players can choose to either use up Brave points to take extra turns performing actions, or go into default mode to defend and gain more Brave points. If you just start off using Brave points until your character's points drop to the negatives, you'll be inactive and vulnerable as your enemies receive extra turns in a row; they'll most likely use it to punish you or buff themselves up tenfold.

The trick to the combat here is to save up as many points as possible so that you can unleash the most damage within a single span before your opponent can react. Conversely, you can just go all-out and spend Brave points until you're in the negative zone, if you think you can take down your encounters in one fell swoop.

We had to learn this through the very first major battle against a rogue White Mage and Monk. As the former can heal both herself, and the monk pretty quick, we had no choice but to play defensively until we unleashed hell upon them with enough Brave points. The system introduces a risk/reward system for players: they can either play it safe and defensively or throw caution in the wind and hope for the best with an all-out assault. We suspect that future boss battles will require us to exploit the system if they have abilities that can wipe out a party with just two attacks.

Just like any 3DS game, BD:FF uses the Streetpass functions of the system it's on; specifically for the "friend summon" system and the Nolende village-rebuilding minigame. For the former, getting Streetpass data from friends and strangers allow you to summon their avatars for a special attack not unlike FF VII's Cloud summoning a giant fat yellow bird to kill his foes.

As for the minigame, players can use Streetpass to recruit people to help rebuild Tiz's village that was totally wrecked from the events of the game's intro. The big incentive for players to invest time in this is that they can buy items and weapons not found anywhere else in the game, provided that the village population is huge. So if you want an uber-weapon for your ninjas and hunters, or if you want to customize a party member's deathblow move (the game's limit break that's weapon-dependant), you'll want to start mingling with civilization and collecting Streetpass data.

BD:FF is not only a throwback to the old days of Final Fantasy, but it also keeps up with the times by adding in nuances from modern game design. These include the options to skip cutscenes, as well as fast-forwarding battle actions. During our playthrough, we got fair challenges, though the game showed that ample party preparation (items, job setups) is key in taking down the multitude of dungeons in the main story mode.

While there is currently no official word from Square Enix on having it localized for the Western market, we feel that it would be a missed opportunity if it wasn't on the company's mind to do so. We strongly feel that BD: FF could be the RPG to bring the company back to good graces with former fans who may be feeling betrayed by the recent changes its Final Fantasy brand has been through.

Read and Post Comments | Get the full article at GameSpot


"3DS | Bravely Default: Flying Fairy Does A Better Job At Being Final Fantasy Than Current FFs" was posted by Jonathan Toyad on Wed, 21 Nov 2012 23:17:08 -0800
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Xbox 360 | The Vulnerable Side of Crysis 3 E-mail
Written by Munk   

How a series long dominated by alien-killing machismo flashes a slightly different side.

 

For a series that lets you throw people by their necks and knock steel doors off their hinges with your bare hands, there's something oddly vulnerable about Crysis 3. Sure, in many ways this is the same sci-fi first-person shooter you've seen in previous installments--right on down to the part where you pick up enemies by their necks and throw them from cliffs, buildings, or buildings sitting atop tall cliffs. But there's this other side of Crysis 3 that hasn't been explored in previous games, a side where all that machismo recedes for a moment or two and you get to look at the game's setting and central characters in an altogether different light.

Remember Psycho? He of the cockney accent and with a penchant for British vulgarities? Psycho was one of the nanosuited supersoldiers from the original Crysis, and he went on to star in the series' lone expansion, Crysis Warhead. Psycho returns as a player companion in Crysis 3, but he's a different man now.

No longer equipped with a nanosuit, Psycho now belongs to a sort of underground resistance network fighting the CELL private security forces responsible for erecting a massive dome around New York City after the events of the last game. Decked out in plainclothes and looking a little pudgy, Psycho comes off a bit timid and shell-shocked after what has happened in the past. He feels like a veteran battling post-traumatic stress disorder, only he never got to come home from his war. He's still fighting it.

In one memorable scene, Psycho and Prophet (Crysis 3's main character) approach a gate leading up to an elevated subway line. Psycho attempts to knock down the door, but just winds up hurting himself and falling to the ground. It's then up to you, the player, to finish the job as Psycho looks on in what can only be described as abject embarrassment.

That sense of vulnerability is reflected in the environment, as well. New York has long been portrayed as the type of city that is able to overcome any tragedy or disaster that comes its way, a place where people are simply too proud and stubborn to see their home devolve into anything less than one of the greatest cities in the world.

In Crysis 3, though, there's a certain loss of identity that's hard to ignore in those moments you're allowed to take a look around you outside of combat. After aliens invaded New York in Crysis 2 and effectively demolished the city, Manhattan is now covered in a giant dome designed to quarantine the lingering threat. The result is a city that has returned to nature, with dense foliage and greenery overtaking the buildings and concrete.

You see a bit of New York in those glimpses at its iconic skyline, but often you're so surrounded by jungle that it's hard to tell you're in the city at all. Are you on 7th or 5th Avenue? Is this Central Park or some new jungle? So much of the city's defining characteristics have been smoothed over by destruction and overgrowth that it becomes that much harder to pinpoint where you are. It feels like a different New York, one that wasn't--for once in history--able to rebuild itself.

Will Crysis 3 take all of this and turn it into a first-person shooter that's a little less aggressive and a little more contemplative? Who knows. It might very well become the same sort of alien invasion story we've seen twice before. But for a few moments here and there, Crysis 3 does let you look at its characters and settings in a somewhat different light. For a series three games and one expansion deep, that change of pace--however fleeting--is nice to see.

Read and Post Comments | Get the full article at GameSpot


"Xbox 360 | The Vulnerable Side of Crysis 3" was posted by Shaun McInnis on Wed, 14 Nov 2012 09:04:57 -0800
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PC | Dungeon Striker may be Korea's new answer to Diablo III E-mail
Written by Munk   

We check out Eyedentity's latest action RPG and find the perfect class against the G-Star 2012 gauntlet demo.

 

If you thought the graphics on Diablo III and Torchlight II weren't colorful enough, developer Eyedentity upped the ante with Dungeon Striker. This action RPG has a lot of googly-eyes and big-heads that may turn off some gamers, but its front masks a chaotic-filled battleground of co-operative levels that can give the aforementioned top action RPGs a run for its money. An ironic statement, given its free-to-play nature.

We took a run on the recent G-Star 2012 demo showcasing eight classes -14 in the upcoming open beta and full version - and in a sense, they're what you expect from a game of this calibre. The warrior and berserker are your standard melee perps; go up close to a horde and swing hard and fast. The former can shield bash enemies so that they get stunned, while the latter can go in a rage state and attack faster than usual while dishing out improved damage. We got more kills during the demo's gauntlet stage (kill as many enemies as possible until time runs out) with a combination of the berserker's rage and his plethora of area-of-effect attacks with pretty low cooldowns.

The cannon blazer and wizard also deserve mention for their varying playstyles. The former is a ranged attacker who can buff himself up for turbo-charged shots, as well as summon turrets for suppressing fire. The latter can summon a sigil onto the ground; whenever she's on it, her spells have additional properties and projectiles, as well as shoot out faster than usual.

The sigil spell has an average cooldown, so it's imperative that you exploit it as much as possible during combat. Preferably, we played defensively by moving out as far away from the horde of enemies as possible, plopped down our sigil, and fired spells that had a higher chance for knockbacks.

Our favorite classes by far are the ranger and the assassin. The ranger can set up bamboo traps and evasive moves that have offensive capabilities. She can burrow underground to one end of an area and then leap out to fire arrows, as well as backdash to fire more arrows. Her spread shot fires at a good crowd-controlling arc while also having near-zero cooldown time.

The assassin can not only inflict poison temporarily, but can also jump away from crowds and do a dash slash and an aerial ground pound that comes out swiftly. His area-of-effect knife throw move has little to no cooldown time, so we made that our priority attack. While fast, we were careful not to make him get pounded on by enemies for too long as he's frail as a kitten.

After much class-experimenting and gauntlet-clearing, were happy with what Eyedentity did with the action RPG formula. The game is definitely not a cakewalk, especially when dealing with larger mobs, thus removing the stigma of it being child's play. You can't fault the controls if you die though; they're responsive, well-mapped, and even have joypad support.

The game will be in open beta in 2013 in Korea. There isn't any news on a Western version of this. However, if the growing fanfare of the company's last game, Dragon Nest, is of any indication, there's still a market for saccharine-riddled fares, particularly if it's as frenetic and arcade action-heavy as this game.

For our recap of G-Star 2012, head here.

Read and Post Comments | Get the full article at GameSpot


"PC | Dungeon Striker may be Korea's new answer to Diablo III" was posted by Jonathan Toyad on Thu, 08 Nov 2012 08:15:46 -0800
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PlayStation 3 | Ninja Theory's five big ideas for the new DmC E-mail
Written by Munk   

The finishing touches are currently being made to next year“s Devil May Cry reboot, so Ninja Theory came in to show us what we can expect when it arrives next year.

 

2013 is now very much on the horizon, which means that we're starting to think about what we'll be playing in the new year. The first big release, on January 15 in Europe and North America, is DmC: Devil May Cry, which sees British developer Ninja Theory taking the reigns on one of Capcom's most beloved franchises. We were lucky enough to check out a nearly finished build of the game and speak to the developer to see how it's shaping up. The developer is making some bold and exciting changes to the franchise while keeping other key tenets--here are the five key things you need to know about the game.

[ Watch Video ]

Take a look at DmC's nightclub level in action in our video preview.

A modern evil

DmC takes the series' gothic horror inspiration and updates it with a more modern take on evil. This means that the Demonic forces utilise corporations, advertisers and banks as a way for the Demon King Mundus to control the human world. In the nightclub level we were shown, celebrities are lured in for drink, drugs and girls, and are brainwashed by Lilith, the club's demonic manager.

Limbo

The human world of DmC is drab and uninteresting, which is in stark contrast to the bright and colourful demon-inhabitied limbo world. The architecture was inspired by modern European stylings--the nightclub, for example, takes inspiration from a club that the developer visited in Germany. If you take a look at our video preview above, you can see how these different elements come together in visually in a way that's completely new for the series.

Dante's new threads

The most vocal feedback from fans of the series has been about Dante's general appearance, whic h has changed quite dramatically over previous games. According to Ninja Theory, the original character designs they submitted were similar to the Dante of old, but Capcom sent them back, saying that if it wanted the same old Dante, it would have made the new Devil May Cry game itself. Ninja Theory says it will satirise the fan reaction to the new brunette Dante at the beginning of the game with jokes about his hair colour, while the blonde hair and red coat will still make an appearance when Dante performs angel combos.

Skill rewards

One element of DmC that remains true to the roots of the series is the combat, which rewards skill and aims to make you feel cool as cool as possible at all times. According to Ninja Theory, this is the area where Capcom's expertise was invaluable, given the Japanese company's decades of experience refining combat across numerous genres. The aim is still to earn a triple-S ranking on each level by chaining together cool combos, and you're rewarded with concept art and new moves for Dante as you progress. You can reassign your library of moves during the game as the situation demands, but it'll take multiple playthroughs to unlock everything. In fact, just with previous games in the series, new difficulty levels such as Son of Sparda, Dante Must Die! and Heaven or Hell reward many, many playthroughs of the game.

New collaborators

Ninja Theory's last game, Enslaved, was famed for its collaboration between scriptwriter Alex Garland, actor Andy Serkis, and musician Nitin Sawhney. For DmC, Garland has given feedback on scripts from Ninja Theory's chief designer Tameem Antoniades, while Giant Studios in Los Angeles, who worked Avatar, was used for motion capture. The team also contacted street artists to incorporate their work into the game to give the outdoor locations an authentic urban feel. And while Sawhney may not be on the audio this time around, Norwegian aggrotech band CombiChrist and Dutch electronic group Noisia have both provided new music for the game, with music that is very much in keeping with the visuals.

Overall, we're excited about DmC's combination of a bold new visual direction and solidly satisfying combat mechanics. But are you excited about what Ninja Theory has done with the franchise? Let us know in the comments, and watch out for the game on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on January 15th in Europe and North America, with a PC version to follow.

Read and Post Comments | Get the full article at GameSpot


"PlayStation 3 | Ninja Theory's five big ideas for the new DmC" was posted by Guy Cocker on Thu, 08 Nov 2012 03:06:01 -0800
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PC | Earthquakes, Crossbows, and Rhinos in Battlefield 3: Aftermath E-mail
Written by Munk   

Battlefield 3: Aftermath is the next piece of premium downloadable content for fans of the year-old shooter to experience, and we got to play it early.

 

Battlefield 3: Aftermath is the next piece of premium downloadable content for Dice's incredibly popular shooter. However, working out when you can actually play the thing isn't all that simple. Here's how it breaks down:

November 27 on PlayStation 3 Premium members December 4 Xbox 360 and PC Premium members December 11 for non-premium PlayStation 3 owners December 18 for non-premium Xbox 360 and PC owners

Got all that!? Good! We were lucky enough to play the expansion ahead of its launch, and we can happily report we had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Here's what you need to know.

There are earthquakes!
Remember that bit early on in Battlefield 3's campaign in Iran, where an earthquake brings down a building right in front of you? Well, Aftermath's four new maps take place right after that earthquake--so everything is a wreck, the character models are bruised and bloodied, but you'll feel aftershocks during your matches as well.

New maps
The two maps we got to play were named Epicenter and Markaz Monolith, which demonstrated how red propane tanks open doors to tunnels that can be used to sneak around, creating new routes through the map as you progress.

Of course there's a crossbow
Not to be outdone by fellow EA shooter Crysis 3 and its crossbow, Battlefield 3 now has one too thanks to Aftermath. There are four different tips--standard, scan bolt (proximity), explosive (C4) and balanced bolt, the latter of which is a sniper-like dart that can travel on a straight line farther than the standard bolt.

Three new vehicles
Aftermath's earthquake-stricken maps can be navigated in three new vehicles--the Barsuk, Rhino and Phoenix. These vehicles have been modded in a Road Warrior-esque fashion by the survivors of the “quake, so they have a more rough-and-ready appearance than the rather pristine vehicles seen in other maps.

New game mode
Scavenger is a new game mode just for Aftermath. Everyone has lost their guns, so you start the match searching around for weapons. When you find one, you only get the ammo that's in it, so you need to keep moving around to find new sidearms. This also means that BF3's class system is redundant, so everyone“s on the same level, making Scavenger perhaps BF3's purest deathmatch experience yet.

Are you looking forward to Battlefield 3's penultimate piece of DLC? What are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comments!

Read and Post Comments | Get the full article at GameSpot


"PC | Earthquakes, Crossbows, and Rhinos in Battlefield 3: Aftermath" was posted by Guy Cocker on Tue, 23 Oct 2012 05:37:08 -0700
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PlayStation Vita | Recovering lost memory in Ys: Foliage Ocean in Celceta E-mail
Written by Munk   

We spent five hours on Falcom's definitive reiteration of Ys IV.

 

The past few weeks have been a joyous one for connoisseurs of the action RPG genre thanks to Torchlight 2 and Borderlands 2. Gamers who don't mind one more name on their action RPG list would do well to consider Ys: Foliage Ocean in Celceta for the PS Vita, a re-imagining of the fourth Ys game.

A brief history lesson: in 1993, Ys creators Falcom left development of the fourth game to Hudson Soft and Tonkin House for reasons unknown. This resulted in two different iterations of Ys IV--one for the PC Engine (Turbografx-16) and one for the SNES in Japan. As this would naturally confuse a lot of people, Falcom has opted to create their own canon version of Ys IV--20 years later. While we don't know why it took them this long to rectify the oversight, it's better late than never.

Players control main character Adol as he explores the huge forest continent of Celceta to try to recover his lost memory. Accompanying him are thief Dulen, tribe warrior Carna, and a host of other Celceta denizens, each with their own skills and story. Players control a party of three characters: you control one person from the group, while the AI handles the duties for the other two.

Switching between party members is a must, as certain enemies can only be damaged by the type of weapons they carry. Fleshy and soft-skin enemies can only be damaged by slash attacks, which Adol has, while heavily-armoured foes can only be hurt by bludgeoning attacks, which Dulen inflicts from his fists of fury.

Switching party members also help in non-combat portions of the game. Dulen can unlock special chests, which contain sweet loot or quest items, through unconventional means, while Carna can use her glaive to cut down hard-to-reach tethers, like spider webs and thick branches.

As with most action-oriented RPGs, the controls appear easy to master. The circle button is to attack enemies, while holding the R button and pushing another face button activates an SP attack. This move requires SP energy (the blue frilly meter on the bottom right), which fills up by attacking and killing foes. Every character has a ton of special moves catered to their fighting style, which and can be upgraded further, provided you use them frequently.

Adol has a dash-slash attack and a quick uppercut slash that knocks lighter foes into the air, while Carna has ailment-afflicting knives (poison, paralyse, the works) and a charge shot that hits multiple foes, at the cost of more meter and a slight delay in the attack. For more oomph against enemies with bigger health bars, you can pull off an ultimate attack by pressing the L button when your ultimate attack meter (the yellow circle, next to the special attack meter) is full.

To avoid attacks, players just need to press the X button to dodge, and the triangle button to do a quick block. The kicker is that dodging at the last possible frame of the attack will trigger flash roll, where time slows down for a few seconds so that players can amass a quick counterattack to punish enemies. Blocking at the last second will not only nullify damage, but also gets you back a good chunk of SP energy to pull off more moves.

Depending on the scenario, these moves help add a lot of strategy in playing style. For example, we went all out with Adol and Dulin, while also playing the range with Carna when fighting things like poison-spitting bugs, stone-chucking gorillas, and leap-frogging mermen.

When we came across the slightly-larger foes like a mutant bull and a giant gorilla pack leader, we had to be a bit defensive. Some bosses, like Glucarius the "Great Squilla of Extermination" require you to do a flash dodge when it attacks so that you can attack its temporarily-exposed weak spot to kill it faster. Unless you like getting steamrolled constantly by its continuous charge attack, we suggest practicing flash dodge and flash block beforehand.

This game being on the Vita, some touchscreen nuances had to be added and thankfully, it all appears to be for the better. Players can access menu and item screens with a touch of the icons at the bottom right of the screen. If the current view is too close to the party characters, you can zoom in and out by dragging both of your fingers inwards or outwards on the touchscreen.

Accessing the full map of the area only requires you to touch the top right map, while scanning the floors is as easy as dragging the touchscreen slider on the right part of the screen. Falcom resisted the temptation to implement touchscreen controls for combat, and instead used it for menus. Frankly, we think it was a good move.

At the end of the day, killing enemies and earning materials to make better loot is the key point of Ys: FOC, and it seemed to deliver on that point well enough during our playthrough. The game's flashy combat appears to have a lot of meat to it, resulting in really frenetic battles with enemy hordes that can be managed with a lot of skill. Boss fights so far have been challenging and require you to make use of the game's new dodging techniques. While the game's canon takes place before the third game, players can get into the story quick without much of Ys' backlog in mind, provided they can read Japanese.

We hope these qualities can justify Xseed Games (who previously localized Ys Seven) to push out a North American-translated version of this reiteration, even if they haven't officially announced any plans to bring it over. In the meantime, fans of action RPGs can check it out from their friendly neighborhood parallel import store.

Read and Post Comments | Get the full article at GameSpot


"PlayStation Vita | Recovering lost memory in Ys: Foliage Ocean in Celceta" was posted by Jonathan Toyad on Sun, 14 Oct 2012 20:58:12 -0700
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