Tag Archives: upcoming games

Gears of War: Judgment’s Campaign Will Break You

The heavy chord at the end of a Gears of War battle used to be congratulatory. Your chainsaw roared, corpses crumpled, and a thundering hum warned the world what you’d done. In Gears of War Judgment, the sound that used to celebrate success is a comforting signal to unclench your teeth and start breathing again. You probably won’t make it out next time.

Judgment starts 30 days after Emergence Day, just as humanity goes to war with the Locust. The COG doesn’t know its enemy just yet, which leaves them exposed to the grubs’ fearless aggression. Locust spawn by the dozen, popping out of the ground, crawling out of emergence holes, and knocking down doors in the largest, scariest groups you’ve seen in a Gears game. They are lethal individually, seemingly unstoppable in mixed groups of enemies new and old, and utterly terrifying for even the most grizzled Gears vet. At first, this challenge defines Judgment. Before long, that gives way to an impressive level of newfound complexity.

The common thread between difficulty and depth is variety – each enemy encounter is unique, both by design and thanks to the new semi-random spawning system, which generates different opponents each time you retry an encounter. If a group of Bloodmounts takes you down, don’t expect to see them a second time – Maulers and Grenadiers may replace them, perhaps with a half-dozen Wretches in tow.

Judgment doesn’t ever dial back because you’ll always have the tools necessary to scrape by. This is Gears at its quickest and most aggressive. I swapped between guns as opposed to relying on my Lancer, typically because I’d thrown it to the ground after running out of ammo. Early in the story, when Damon Baird’s Kilo Squad makes its way through the Onyx Guard’s home city of Halvo Bay, you’ll hunker down to defend the Museum of Military Glory using sentry turrets. The tower defense-influence works as effectively in a campaign context as it did in Gears of War 3’s Horde 2.0. It’s a stark change of pace from the push-push-push mission structure preceding it.



Baird, Cole, Paduk and Hendrick – Kilo’s key members – previously swapped Gnasher shotguns and close-quarters combat for the ranged superiority of the new Markza semi-auto sniper-rifle. They chainsawed grubs beneath the burning surface of Halvo Bay’s Old Town district, where they’d later mount turrets to chew through the horde. With Mauler, Boomer, Kantus, Cyclops, and Dark Wretch corpses behind them, Kilo should have earned a leisurely rest while turrets took down Locust inside the museum. Judgment never gives them that chance. I died three times trying to hold off incoming forces. Later, I’d die nearly 10 during a futile stab at the punishing Hardcore difficulty.

Moment to moment, Judgment always has something new and interesting for you to do, but it also presents the opportunity to add an interesting variable to each and every enemy encounter. Activating glowing crimson omens heralds not a hidden COG tag but instead unlocks the “declassified” version of an upcoming fight. Typically, these opt-in objectives limit your weapon usage to, say, Hammerbursts or a Gnasher/Sawed-Off combo. Others give the enemy an advantage. You may come up against Cyclopes with Lancers, grubs who attack from behind, or One-Shots with high-ground positioning. But why on Sera would you willingly make a tough shooter harder for yourself? What good could possibly come from wandering into a claustrophobic cloud of dense, blinding smoke when it’s unnecessary?

Two things.


The common thread between difficulty and depth is variety.

First, declassifications present narrative conceits that fits Judgment well. The story begins with Kilo Squad in a military court, and each mission we play representing a testimony of the events leading up to their trial. The testimony Kilo Squad delivers will change as you activate omens, revealing information you may not have known about the characters and world. Sometimes it relates to military rules, characters’ origins, or simply the COG discovering the intelligence of the Locust.

Secondly, declassified objectives tie into Judgment’s scoring system – and before you run off, it’s not as awful as it sounds. Earning stars for performing well adds substance to the combat without trivializing it. Fighting is more tactical and engaging than ever when you’re rewarded for speed, style, and efficiency. You’re always rewarded for headshots, executions, gib-splosions and other decidedly Gears of War kills, but playing with optional variables adds a multiplier to your score tracker. Earning more stars for kill combos feels even better when the pot’s sweetened. In turn, the way you think about Gears of War’s combat changes – not only because the actual flow of battle is different, but because you’re actively trying to do better than usual. Suddenly Gears of War feels smarter, even if it has more video game-y elements in the mix.

All of this plays hand-in-hand with multiplayer. Free-for-All remains an aggressive departure from the norm, particularly on the smaller-scale street map, while OverRun encourages a different kind of cooperative experience than fans are used to. Epic told IGN that completing challenges and goals across all modes contributes to character unlocks; each character can be customized in a way that’s comparable to past Gears’ weapon skins.

Really, the only way Gears of War Judgment is the same as previous games – core mechanics aside – is in the way its cast interacts. There’s some smart, funny writing behind the characters in Kilo Squad, and it comes through in the way they tease, mock, or outright dislike each other. The witty banter between these characters is exactly what you’d expect out of Marcus and Dom, which speaks volumes about how well this cast – whether they’re old friends or new – will carry its story.


The Last of Us: The Sights and Sounds

After actually playing The Last of Us, it’s not the beautiful graphics, the brutal violence, or the approachable crafting system that stands out to me. It’s the sound. The Last of Us isn’t Uncharted, with its happy score wafting over every moment of gameplay. It’s a slow, suspenseful crawl through a world that can kill you at any moment. As such, it’s quiet – eerily quiet. You have time to listen to the rain pitter patter on windows and each breath of the infected you’re creeping up on to shiv in the neck.

But that’s just part of the 20 minutes I played through. If you’re the visual sort, my quick fire impressions are available in a PlayStation Conversation below — as well as in theinterview with developer Naughty Dog Creative Director Neil Druckmann — but if you like these here written words, let’s hit the highlights.


Sounds Like Trouble


I don’t know if I’ve had a demo where sound was as crucial to the experience as this go with The Last of Us. Like I said at the start, this is a game about survival. You creep into rooms and listen for trouble — it’s how you survive and progress. The little music found here is for mood. Naughty Dog clearly thinks it’s more important to use sound effects — or the lack of them — to set players on edge, to keep them engrossed.

It works. Every time Ellie, Tess (Joel’s smuggling partner) and I entered a new area, I stopped and listened. Part of this is “Listen Mode,” an amplified ability of Joel’s. Holding down a shoulder button puts the world in this black and white state and outlines enemies that are making noise through walls. It’s an at a glance way to get the lay of the land, to see what you’re up against.

It’s key to fighting off the infected – two types of which I’m now very familiar with.


Meet the Runners and the Clickers


There were two types of infected in my demo. If you’re just joining us, a fungal virus is infecting humans. It grows through their eye sockets, takes over their minds, and makes them into distorted monsters.

Type one is an early stage of infection – the Runner. This monster still has a sense of its humanity. It knows that what it’s doing is wrong, but it can’t stop. Just like the ants in the original teaser video for The Last of Us, the Runners body language almost shows an internal struggle between the virus and the person – one of them pulling back while the other pushes forward. The Runner travels in packs and (not surprisingly) runs.

The second stage of the infection is the one we saw in the debut trailer. These guys are called Clickers. The virus has taken over, and it’s grown into massive structures through the eye sockets. This blinds the Clicker, but that disability gives them hyper-sensitive hearing. As such, the Clickers make a clicking noise with their mouths and see via echolocation. The sound bounces off objects, comes back to the Clicker, and creates an image.

These two types made for an intense play session. For starters, and I’m sure I sound like a broken record, there’s sound. When I’d enter an area with these guys, they’d let me know they were there. The Runners – losing their human selves by the second – wander around moaning these guttural cries. Meanwhile, there’s constant clicking as the Clickers try and figure out what’s going on.

It’s screwed up to be on one side of a table, hiding for your life, and have a Clicker on the other side spinning about trying to find you. Meanwhile, sneaking up on a wiggling, moaning Runner is just as messed up – to the point that shiving them in the neck or choking them out seems humane rather than necessary.

But it was never a choice in my demo. I needed to take these things down to keep the group safe. My favorite part came when Joel went to scout ahead and dropped into a room with three or four Runners and one Clicker. I loved it because I kept dying. I kept making a bit of progress and then getting hung up on the next part. I’d choke out the Runner, but the Clicker would see me. I’d time my shiving of the first Runner to miss the Clicker, but then get seen by this other Runner wandering from room to room.

Sure, I could try and shoot the monsters rushing me, but I only had a few bullets and nailing headshots on the bobbing and weaving animals isn’t easy. The Last of Us rewards planning and patience – and that’s what I love about it.

In fact, later in the game, I came into a room filled with creatures and was given a shotgun. I threw a bottle at the floor, the baddies rushed me, but the shotgun gave me a big ol’ radius for the headshot. I killed the three coming at me, picked up ammo off their corpses, and then killed the next batch that came my way. It was nowhere near as fun as the strategizing and scrounging from before.

I talked to Naughty Dog developers about this, and they said my first experience was more what they were going for – that the shotgun and ample ammo drops I found toward the end were just for this demo, to give the press an idea of later in the game.

I certainly hope that’s the case.


Crafting FTW


Naughty Dog’s been talking about this crafting system for quite a while now, and I haven’t known what to make of it. How complicated will it be? How plentiful are resources? Turns out: 1) It’s not complicated. 2) They’re all over the place, but they’re not all equal.

So, typically, Tess will get out in front of you and go toward the objective you guys are looking for – a door, some stairs, etc. This is your cue to go anywhere but there. See, staying off the beaten path will lead you to drawers with scissors in them, duct tape at a dead end, and so on. When you pick these items up, you’ll see that item’s icon with a pie chart. That shows you how much the item is worth in that item category. Fill in one of the pies, and you have a whole item. Then, you need to look at the recipes you’ve collected thus far – stuff like a med kit, moltov, or board with scissors in it. If you have the needed pieces, a button tap makes it for you.

It’s a breeze – a lot like Dead Rising 2’s crafting with a bit of ZombiU tossed in. (When you craft, you’re digging through your backpack and vulnerable to attack.)


Miscellaneous The Last of Us Facts You Should Know


  • You start in a Quarantine Zone in Boston, then move into the unprotected city, which was bombed in an effort to stop the infection. (It didn’t work.)
  • Joel and Tess are trying to take Ellie to a group known as Firefly.
  • Notes found in the game are three-dimension objects that feature handwriting. They’re not text that pops on your screen.
  • Collectables listed in this demo include: Notes, Comics, Firefly Logs, and Training Manuals. Your menu shows you how many are in a level and how many you’ve collected thus far.
  • Crafting materials listed in this demo include: battery, blade, binding, rag, alcohol, explosive, sugar, and melee weapon.

Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag: what we know right now

Swashbuckling adventures haven’t exactly featured in a glut of high-quality games over the years. Sid Meiers’ Pirates! did a decent enough job of satisfying buccaneering urges from a strategic point-of-view, but realistically, the über-niche pirate gaming segment peaked in the early-90s with the first two Monkey Island titles. However, high-seas hustling now looks set to enter the 21st century in earnest – and in style – after Ubisoft officially broke cover with the next instalment of its Assassin’s Creed series. Centred around the golden age of piracy in the 1700s, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag was announced on 4 March and is understandably arousing the interest of casual and enthusiast gamers alike, so let’s take a look at the most salient points regarding the forthcoming title.

The protagonist

Fans of Assassin’s Creed reacted lukewarmly to the ambivalent emo brooding of half-Brit/half-Native American Connor Kenway, the Assassin’s Creed 3 lead. With Assassin’s Creed 4 slotting in as a prequel to the 2012 title, the series’ new protagonist will also derive from the Kenway lineage – though it looks like the family tree will be receiving a fairly radical makeover. Taking the reins in Black Flag is Edward Kenway, a privateer-turned-pirate noted as much for his heavy drinking and womanising as he is for his charisma and intelligence. He’s a dab hand at stealthily knifing targets in the back, of course, and while we’re not quite sure how Edward will find himself mixed up in the Templar conspiracy, we do know that his journey will see him cavorting with a number of unsavoury types including Edward “Blackbeard” Teach and Calico Jack.


Ubisoft has obviously listened closely to user feedback. In addition to ostensibly bestowing Assassin’s Creed 4 with a more interesting protagonist, naval gameplay – one of Assassin’s Creed 3’s big successes – is set to play a major role in Black Flag. Gamers can look forward to customising, upgrading, and repairing Kenway’s flagship vessel, the Jackdaw, whilst attempting to navigate treacherous weather across a vast open-world comprised of some Caribbean different 50 settings.  As well as creeping your way around busy cities like Kingston, Jamaica and Havana, Cuba with a view to covert enemy takedowns, you’ll be able to broadside and board rival ships out on the high seas, or opt for a more discreet route by diving into the water and sneaking aboard other vessels to assassinate the captain. The new diving and underwater exploration mode will also be utilised in side quests, and despite protest groups like PETA getting their sabres in a twist, players will be empowered with the ability to harpoon whales in the traditional 18th century manner.

Elsewhere, Ubisoft has promised that the pace of gameplay on Assassin’s Creed 4 will be noticably quicker than that of its predecessor, which took a good few hours of engagement to get you stuck into main storyline. The rather tiresome modern-day Animus inhabited by the even more tiresome Desmond Miles will be on the receiving end of a significant kick in the pants, we understand, with the latter expected to be shuttered entirely. There’s no word yet on exactly how the next Assassin’s Creed will tie together past and present, but it can surely only represent an improvement on the current set-up.


Assassin’s Creed 4 is scheduled to release on 1 November for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. PS gamers will be privileged to an extra 60 minutes of gameplay via the PlayStation Network, but those on PCs will no doubt be frustrated to discover that – once again – they are second-class citizens in the game release sweepstakes and will have to wait for a taste of the new title.

Assassin’s Creed 4 has also been confirmed as coming to next-generation consoles – that’s the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720, in case you didn’t know. Given the popularity of Assassin’s Creed 3-fronted PlayStation 3 bundles, we’d fully expect Assassin’s Creed 4 to arrive as a PS4 launch title in Q4.

Those content with current-gen hardware, however, can pre-order Assassin’s Creed 4 via Amazon right now, where the going-rate at time of publication is £42.

For a further glimpse of Ubisoft’s upcoming pirate epic, check out the official Assassin’s Creed 4 trailer below.

Dark Developer Demo

Kalypso’s vampire inspired, stealth-action title Dark has made several improvements since the developers showed us an early build of the game back in November. You play as a newly turned vampire out to uncover the mysteries of the supernatural underworld, but you won’t be attacking enemies in plain sight like a Blade wannabe–Dark is all about stealth. Since the last time we saw the game, the visuals have improved, now giving the game a graphic novel-like aesthetic, and we got to see some of the new environments in the near finished game. Check out the game for yourself in the video below.

Dark will be available for Xbox 360 and PC on June 4.





Relive the glory of conquest with remastered ‘Age of Empires II’, available on Steam April 9th


Age of Empires II HD

Age of Empires II is a monument to the glory days of sprites, battlefield evangelism, and real-time strategy, and you’ll be able to get another shot at spreading your influence around the world when an HD version of the game arrives next month. Age of Empires II: HD Edition is based on Age of Empires II: Age of Kings, released in 1999, and has been visually remastered with new textures, effects, and support for 1080p displays and multiple monitors. Eurogamer reports that the reworked version will feature the entire single-player campaign through the Conquerors expansion, and support for Steam’s social features: including achievements, leaderboards, and matchmaking. Age of Empires II: HD Edition will be sold for $20 exclusively on Steam starting April 9th.


Richard Garriott on launching new RPG series Shroud Of The Avatar

Richard Garriott, creator of Ultima and Ultima Online, has launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new RPG series called Shroud Of The Avatar. While it’s not set in the world Ultima, it builds on the key tenets of the pioneering series – it is, in every sense, a spiritual successor to Garriott’s previous work. We spoke to the Portalarium founder about the underwhelming state of fantasy RPGs today, the future of online multiplayer and why grinding should be a thing of the past.

Why is now the right time for you to return to fantasy RPGs?
It’s been 15 years since I wrote a medieval fantasy RPG, and if I look at what I still think is the state of the art of most genre offerings, while there are a few examples of greatness, on the whole we’re still retreading the same ground – especially with MMOGs. There’s tons of great MMOGs that have been released, but there have been a few of enormous flops in the last couple of years, too. But whether they failed or not, these are games that people spent three to seven years creating and upwards of $100 million.

And if you look at how they play, the first thing you have to do is still decide on what your character class and race is before you play – and it’s a permanent decision – then you have to develop the look of your avatar, then when you finally get dropped in the world, you go, “Okay, well here I am in a nice looking town, and sure enough there’s the weapon shop, and the magic shop and whatever else, and oh look, there’s the explanation point over the quest-giver’s head, and if I click through all the obvious answers in his conversation tree everything’s now in my quest log, and now there’s an arrow on the map that takes me out of town to go and start farming my level one monsters”.

And then you just repeat. And that’s still basically all MMOGs and solo-player ones are often worse where you’re really just unleashed into a world to go kill the bad guy and you min/max your way to become powerful, often in a morally ambiguous way. So I think the time is right to really push a strong story-telling RPG out there, as well as to reestablish what multiplayer can be like – to make multiplayer compelling instead of just obligatory.

So how do you intend to do that?
We have a fresh interpretation of multiplayer that I believe can set the stage for what RPGs can be in the next ten years or so, which is automatic, ad-hoc multiplayer. So as you’re traveling around the landscape the game is always searching for people to bring into your play space. If a friend of yours happens to be online and playing nearby, you’ll see them. And we’ll try to match people who are at a common point in the game arc, to give you some reason that you might want to adventure together. But we might also look for people who are on opposing points in the story arc. And if that all fails, we’ll still bring strangers into your purview to give you a richer world. Which is very different to MMOGs which try to manage the problem of 1000 people all entering the same space at the same time. We think our take makes it a better play experience, as well as a more manageable piece of technology.

Have Journey or Dark Souls influenced your design?
I’ve never played Dark Souls, but I really like the descriptions I’ve heard. Dark Soul’s approach, at least as I understand it, is a little bit different, but it’s kind of fascinating, and it’s a game I now want to go find and play! But I think both Dark Soul’s and SOTA are tackling the same problem. And I think the next generation of games needs to solve that.

How does the game world work with these ideas?
The first episode is called Forsaken Virtues, and we have a two-scale world. You’ll walk around in our world map, and then when you come to a point of interest, be that a town, a roving band of monsters, or a gypsy wagon, you can zoom in to a scenario scale and a thirdperson view. Each of those scenarios is encapsulated in five to 30 minutes of gameplay where you can explore, discover and adventure, while interacting with a highly detailed world.

As you’re playing, whether you’re in the outdoor map or a scenario, if you and I are friends I’ll see you walking around the map. If I watch you go into a gypsy wagon encounter, I can walk over behind you and enter, say, two or three minutes afterwards, and I’ll see you in that scenario however it’s unfolding for you. You don’t need to party, or do any other activities; we’re trying to really streamline how much you have to tell the game before you’re allowed to go in and start having fun.

The Forsaken Virtues map represents about ten per cent of what we think the total play space will be when we finish the currently planned five episodes. And we think we can release one approximately every year.

You’ve promised to minimalise griefing in the game’s PvP. How have you approached that problem?
We don’t want to make it fully open, nor do we want to make it segregated and opt-in. And so the initial proposal we’re working on right now that we /hope/ serves the player community, is that nominally, PvP is turned off: you can’t just walk up to somebody and attack them. However, throughout the story we’re building in activities where the game encourages you to participate, and if you do it changes the nature of the potential activities between you and other people.

Can you give an example of how these kind of encounters will work?
Let’s suppose you’re down on your luck and you need some money. We purposely present you with the opportunity to start working for an organized crime syndicate. So these guys say look, we’ll pay you a ton of money, but what you have to do for us is take this contraband from the east coast of the world to the west coast. If you accept, it forewarns you that by the way if you do this, once you’re running this contraband, you’re operating outside the law, and other players will be able to attack you.

Not only are you now vulnerable, but we’re also going to immediately kick off an announcement to half a dozen people that we know are on, or along, your obvious path saying, “By the way, there’s a rumour that the syndicate has a courier running contraband across the world – keep your eye out for them”. So now you want to be as sneaky as possible – you know there’s going to be six people along the path who know who you are, but you have no idea if they’re going to be higher or lower level. So do you stick to the roads, or risk more monster encounters by venturing into the forests and over mountains?

How deeply will player choice, and their associated consequences, be integrated into the game?
The effect of your gameplay on your own future is similar to what I did in the middle of the previous series of games where the game is largely playing big brother to observe your behaviour. So unlike most RPGs where you check things off in your quest log, in this game not only do we not intend to have a quest log, but even the definition of a quest is much looser. We’re constantly presenting you with options to show your mettle, so to speak. For example, at one point you can save this young woman from some attacking wolves and in thanks she offers you her wedding ring as she has nothing else of value. You can take it or not, and there’s no apparent judgement on you. The game just keeps a statistical record of your pattern of behaviour and based upon that, other individuals and factions in the game slowly change their attitude towards you.

In the persistent world, there’s both your contribution to it – which is the housing, shops, farms or taverns players build which are visible to everyone else in the world – but also the concept of control points , which I explored we Tabula Rasa. There are key pinch-points around the world where fortresses have been built, and if those fortresses are ever overrun by the ‘dark side’, so to speak, then that is their status to everyone until a player or a group of players go in and clear that space.

The Kickstarter campaign promises a crafting system that “avoids busywork” – could you go into more detail?
This is also a plan right now, so it’s important to point out that this could change with player feedback. But there are a handful of possible approaches to crafting, and one interesting one we can reflect on is what we did in Ultima Online. The more times you wove cloth, the better you became at weaving, and the same would be true for basically every other skill. The thing we liked about that system is that the game is largely classless – you don’t have to decide up front that you’re going to be a fighter or blacksmith or magician.

You can learn all those skills in time if you wish, and you’re free to play the game in whatever way that you want. That being said, as opposed to having to sit there and repeatedly weave over and over again – which became a mind-numbing level of effort to raise your skill in a particular category – we’re making it so skill is something that comes directly out of your broader experience. You can apply that general experience to whatever category of skills you wish, and that way we think that we can allow people to migrate their style of play more pleasurably than the busywork of old.

And encourage players to take more risks with their play styles?
Absolutely – if you spend you’re first ten days pursuing sword play, you’ll be that many days skillful as wielding a sword. If you spend the next ten days worth of experience on advancing your crafting ability, now you’re level ten in sword activities and crafting activities. We’re perfectly fine with that.


It was announced today that Nano Assault EX would be coming to the 3DS eShop on March 7 in North America. Nano Assault EX is an update to the well-received Nano Assault and brings with it an all-new survivor mode, online rankings, improved gameplay and updated graphics in addition to much-desired Circle Pad Pro support. A price has not been announced, but the European version set to release the same day will run £12.49, so expect the game to cost $14.99 upon release. While the price may seem a tad high at first, the price is understandable given the original version of the game was a retail release.