Fresh off of their critically acclaimed, Game Of The Year award-winning triumphant outing with The Walking Dead last year, Telltale Games is back with their next episodic adventure, The Wolf Among Us. Based on Bill Willingham’s edgy comic book series, Fables, Telltale looks to compel gamers as they did with their previous blockbuster, by delivering a ruthless plot filled with bizarre twists and an extreme layer of shock value. Will they be able to recreate or exceed that level of magic this time around? Episode one of the five part series suggests that they are well on their way to doing so.
Bigby Wolf, formerly known as the Big Bad Wolf, has given up his life of Little Red Riding Hood stalking and huffing-and-puffing to take a more righteous path… justice. As the sheriff of Fabletown, it is Bigby’s duty to maintain peace amongst the Fables and to keep their whereabouts concealed from the non-Fables (often referred to as “Mundys”) of New York City. Now the lead investigator in a strange unsolved murder case, you must take to the streets to solve the first Fable homicide to hit your town in years. Your reputation precedes you, however, so getting the information you need from folks isn’t going to be easy.
Unlike Lee Everett, who was a new character introduced in The Walking Dead game, Bigby Wolf is an established character in the Fables series. Fans familiar with Willingham’s comics can choose to make choices that they believe are canonical to Wolf’s comic book persona, or put themselves in his shoes and play the game entirely from their own perspective. I found myself choosing the high road most of the time, going against that “Big Bad” reputation of which Wolf is trying to cleanse himself. Of course, you can choose to be a complete asshole the entire time to everyone, if that’s what you prefer.
At first glance, I noticed that the similarities between The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us are rather conspicuous. Both star protagonists with troubled histories that continue to plague them into the present day of their lives. Both start off with their protagonists sitting in the back of a moving vehicle, with a seemingly perturbed look on their face. Both games make you feel apprehensive about every word that you say and every action that you choose to make. Telltale Games has mastered the art of choice and consequence, and every time you see “So-and-so will remember that” flash at the top left of the screen, there is still that eerie reminder that the button you decided to mash will have repercussions, be they good or bad.
As usual with any Telltale Games title, the highlight of the experience is the compelling plot and the extreme twist that it takes. This is how The Wolf Among Us differentiates itself from The Walking Dead, taking the world of the Fables comic series and constructing an insanely gritty thrill ride from within. You quickly learn within the first twenty minutes of the game that this story is destined to be heartless and unpredictable. You learn not to get attached to any characters unless you want to be heartbroken and not to trust other characters unless you want to feel betrayed. The Wolf Among Us is yet another emotional free-for-all from Telltale Games, and you better believe that no one is safe.
The writing in games like these is the lifeline that can make or break the experience. There is no shortage of engaging dialogue in episode one, perfectly delivered by the game’s stellar voice acting cast. Adam Harrington’s terrific portrayal of Bigby Wolf sits perfectly between that of an extreme douchebag and a misunderstood nice guy. The game’s writers didn’t hesitate to use the cruelest of obscenities to set the tone for The Wolf Among Us’ unforgiving atmosphere. The pacing is also very well done, getting us accustomed to the game’s setting and the rules of the source material, while humoring us with a sense of raw comic relief during the game’s less frantic moments, just to keep things fresh and interesting.
The cel-shaded art style that has come to define Telltale’s games is the most refined that it’s ever been. Substantially more polished than their previous games, the game graphically excels in delivering those “living comic book” visuals that are pleasing to the eye. It may be a bit different from what fans of the source material are used to, but it’s an outstanding adaptation nonetheless.
If you’ve played The Walking Dead on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, you’ll be familiar with the point-and-click control scheme in which the left analog stick moves the character and the right analog stick moves the game’s cursor (WASD and mouse on a PC, respectively). You’ll also be familiar with the abrupt quick time event action sequences which call for your immediate placing of the cursor on a certain area of the screen, combined with a press of a button. The interactive dialogue is back as well, with players having to quickly skim through the answers before pressing a button while a timer winds down. You are allowed to let the timer run empty and be silent if you please, though that has its own repercussions as well.
Upon finishing the episode, you are given a preview of the next (which will be different based on your choices made during episode one), followed by a recap of the choices you made throughout your playthrough. I fell into the vast minority in every choice except for one, but I’m sure once the game officially releases this Friday, the numbers will even out a bit. This is yet another one of the excellent features Telltale includes in their titles, and an interesting way for folks to gauge their thought process with the rest of the game’s player base. If there are two things the folks at Telltale Games know how to do, they are coercing you into questioning your morality and making you explore the lofty extremes of your conscious, just to see the outcome of your wild decisions.
There are a slew of similarities between The Walking Dead game and The Wolf Among Us. From a technical standpoint, I’d even go as far as saying they’re close to identical, mechanics-wise. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the characters, environment, music and plot are all unique and extremely entertaining. With an abundance of choices to be made throughout the first episode, the replay value and justification to go back an make different choices is extremely high. I even found myself backtracking to scavenge every inch of the playable area Bigby was allowed to explore, searching for anything that might change the story’s outcome.
At the conclusion of my four-and-a-half hour playthrough on the Xbox 360, I was left at a rather nightmarish-yet-mind-blowing cliffhanger, a fine ending to the first installment of what is looking to be another masterpiece by the folks at Telltale Games. They’ve not only managed to put their unique touch on the Fables comic series, but they’ve remained true to form in regards to the source material. If you are a fan of Fables or you enjoyed The Walking Dead games from last year, this is definitely a game that you do not want to miss.
Are you excited for Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us? Let us know in the comments below!
Mortal Kombat: Legacy premiered its second season today on Machinima. It tells the continuing, and hyper-violent, journey of your favorite characters from the classic video game franchise. The man behind all of it, the creator of the video game, is Ed Boon, who, along with John Tobias, brought some of the most colorful and singular characters in all of gaming to life. We spoke to Mr. Boon back at Comic-Con about the new season, about taking the Mortal Kombat formula to Injustice, and about the legacy that led to Legacy.
NERDIST: So, what’s it like having created a game that was so well-known for digitizing actors, and then seeing them fully realized by actors? How has that been from your perspective?
ED BOON:Well, the evolution, I guess, has been very gradual. We went from 2D kind of sprites to pretty awesome technology, so it’s been great in that it’s endured as long as it has. I just saw the episode with Johnny Cage. And the spirit of Johnny Cage is that he was our comedic change in the whole story. He’s the guy with the smart-ass lines with that kind of twist on it. Raiden’s the serious god who came through, and the spirit of those characters has maintained throughout all those renditions of it.
N: How do you feel having created all this and knowing that there are people out there, like the creators of the show, who love these characters so much that when they see that it’s not in the public eye, they say “We need to do this”? What’s that like, having people not just love it, but want to support it and want to make it big?
EB: It’s overwhelming, I guess? It’s weird to think that one little idea you had is now represented in so many different forms of media. You see the guy in Legacy 2, the Liu Kang guy, he throws a fireball and that was an original idea we had represented in sprites, and now it’s presented in a much more sophisticated way. That’s so cool to see that as technology evolves, different mediums adapt Mortal Kombat in a much more sophisticated way than we originally did with sprites. I’m still in awe.
N: So with the games evolving, you moved into 3D graphics, and continuing to follow things, you’re still involved with the series, correct?
N: And to have it move beyond just Mortal Kombat, where DC is saying, “Okay, now we need a fighting game that feels natural and real.” NetherRealm, your company, helped create Injustice, and it doesn’t feel exactly like Mortal Kombat, necessarily, and it’s so interesting that Mortal Kombat has a flavor but it’s so amiable. How do you feel about the interpretations people are bringing to it?
ED: I guess to your point about “Injustice feels like Mortal Kombat but it’s not” is that we did try to separate it, but you know, the DNA of us and stuff is there.
N: It is the best pick up and play game of the year, by the way.
EB: Oh, thanks.
N: If I have a friend who I say, “I want you to come over and play video games” and he says, “I don’t play video games,” I can say, “It’s fine, I have Injustice”. We’ll be able to play and you’ll be able to beat me a few times. It’s such a good game; sorry, a little aside there.
EB: Thank you. But, yeah I think the DNA of our studio, of our people, some of that just has to get into Injustice. You know, that’s a very superhero over-the-top game. Mortal Kombat is a little bit more, I don’t want to use the word tongue in cheek, but we don’t like to take ourselves too seriously, like we have elements of humor and stuff like that that we introduce.
N: With Legacy, it is very popular, people know it, and it is a part of Mortal Kombat now. Do you feel at some point you might take these people and go back and do the Mortal Kombat game based on Legacy? Is that something you want to look at as DLC for another game?
EB: I think that could happen. I think, like you said, like the DLC of Legacy Johnny Cage would be a hit. I don’t know about the entire game being around it; that might be a different interpretation.
N: But a cast-portrayed DLC of Johnny Cage.
EB: Exactly. I think that would be cool.
N: I would download the Legacy DLC if it all came together in a heartbeat.
EB: Exactly, and with Injustice we had Arkham City versions of Batman, we had just different renditions of….
N: Oh, you’ve gotten a lot of my money sir.
EB: So, I think it’s great that, like those comics, they have these different universes, these different interpretations of it, and that’s what I consider Legacy to be. It’s just a great contemporary model.
N: It’s interesting to me that you have this DLC coming out and everybody’s moving into DLC, and some DLC is better than others. I mean, people that are doing the multiplayer maps, things like that. You guys went in and you’re not just unlocking skins with your DLC; you’re getting a fully formed character that’s balanced. Lobo has completely different traits than the Martian Manhunter, and nothing feels farm-produced, and you guys are doing it right. As a company realizing that DLC is what going to be pushing people forward, how do you get people that might even be skeptical on your own team; how do you get people jazzed and going, “guys, people are going to embrace it, we just need to go with it for now.”?
EB: Honestly, with our team, I didn’t have to convince anybody, everybody was like “I wanna see Darkest Knight skin, I wanna see Flashpoint skin, I wanna see New 52”.
N: And you gave us so many skins in the regular game, I don’t feel cheated when I’m being asked for a whole new character.
EB: Exactly, but the level that it has been embraced has exceeded our expectations and it’s been ridiculous. I was always a little bit wondering for the skins, like Hal Jordan skin vs. John Stewart skin, and “are people really gonna care?,” but they’re all over it.
N: Everybody has his or her favorite version.
EB: That’s exactly it. Everybody has something that resonates with them and it’s cool, it’s nostalgic, there’s a novelty to seeing it in the front game and just like you were saying with the Legacy thing, people dig seeing something like a Johnny Cage character.
N: This is the last question on the games, and then we’ll focus back on Legacy: With the DLC and the Xbox One and PS4 coming out, one of my favorite moments in games of all times is Metal Gear Solid when Psycho Mantis reads my card. Do you feel that DLC is moving in such a way where, say, someone buys one NetherRealms game and then a few months later they buy the next game, do you think reading games of all you own is going to start becoming an unlockable thing with the way Xbox One is integrating?
EB: Absolutely. Especially, studios like us really like to have a relationship with the players. A lot of people identify us with “they’re still doing DLC” and other stuff. So it’s almost like talking with the play, like, “we know you got Mortal Kombat 9 so here’s a free thing to give you for that,” just as like a loyalty thing.
N: It’s just got to feel good to have the publishers reinvigorating by some of the things that have happened. For a while there I felt like we were just getting a bunch of ultimate editions and things like that, and in the last few years with Warner Brothers and everything it feels like people are reinvigorated. And it did seem for a little while it was starting to feel like Mortal Kombat was starting to eclipse and find its end, but between this and Warner Brothers and everything, it’s really like it’s back.
EB: Warner Brothers is absolutely great. Every conversation I’ve had with the higher-ups and stuff like that is that they are absolutely committed to Mortal Kombat. This Legacy 1, Legacy 2, my fingers are still crossed for a third movie; I’d love to see these guys to do a full-length feature film. That would be a great thing as well. And you know I wouldn’t be surprised if we never did a Mortal Kombat game again. So I really think that they are committed to it, and they are showing all the support in the world.
N: As far as Mortal Kombat: Legacy goes, how soon did they get you involved? Because that original teaser, that was just a proof of concept video that you guys weren’t involved in.
EB: You know what’s so funny is, we were one day away from releasing our own trailer for Mortal Kombat 9, the Mortal Kombat game that came out in 2011. The day before we released ours, Kevin’s trailer came out, and everybody thought it was us somehow showing, “hey, this is what Mortal Kombat is”. And it wasn’t and I was in front of my computer screen like everybody else going, “What the hell is this?” New interpretations of Baraka and Reptile and all these characters so it couldn’t have been better timing because people just started talking about Mortal Kombat. And then ours came out and they kind of played off of each other.
N: I think from the word “go” everybody just thought “OK, make it now”.
EB: Exactly, it was just a fantastic, like you said, proof of concept that just laid the groundwork, established the vision, everybody saw the third movie and the Legacy series just from watching that.
N: When they sat down with you, what were you happy to bring to the table for Legacy? What contributions have you been able to point at and go, “I’m happy that this is in there and it’s in there because of me,” aside from just the general whole thing?
EB: They sent us scripts really early on, and we were just the gatekeepers in terms of keeping the characters consistent. What’s great about the series is they have diverged, like their interpretation of Raiden was pretty way off, but I kept thinking this is an alternate universe like Red Zone Superman or something like that. It’s something that has the spirit of the character, but it’s in a completely different context and so when you think about it in that way I was cool with them taking some risks and taking some tangents. But the spirit of the character is what our conversations maintained.
N: And just to wrap up, what are you playing right now?
EB: I’m playing The Last Of Us, which is the main thing I’m trying to consume. And the smaller games and stuff like that. And I’m trying to go back to trying to some of the games that I missed just ’cause I was in the middle of finishing a game or something like that.
N: I’m going back way further than you should normally have to, but I’m playing Beyond Good and Evil for the first time.
EB: Are you really? (laughs)
N: I’m playing it on my Gamecube. I didn’t get it downloaded on my Xbox so I’m like “No, I’ll play it on my Gamecube, I’ve had it.”
EB: One of the games that I’ve seen people play, appreciate and I’ve got an idea for but never played was Resident Evil 5 or something like that, so I really want to get those.
N: So Street Fighter vs. Tekken happened and there was that kind of synergy. Warner Brothers seems open to that kind of conversation sometimes. What’s the likelihood that we might ever see a Capcom/Mortal Kombat brawler? Like the game where everybody’s jaw would drop if you ever did that because DC vs. Mortal Kombat paid off.
EB: What I tell people is, the obstacle isn’t our desire to do it. To me, the obstacle is Capcom and NetherRealm to Warner Brothers are competitors, and it’s like, who would control it?
N: Pure fanboy question, I will make sure it’s worded (so) that it doesn’t sound like you’re bad, but if you had your choice of which franchise Mortal Kombat would square off against in a Vs. game like that…
EB: Oh, Street Fighter.
N: Street Fighter?
EB: Yeah, without even blinking. That would be great, that would be my number one choice. I mean, I would love to do Marvel Vs. DC as well, but Disney owns Marvel.
N: Yeah, but there are certain things, like Kingdom Hearts is that example I like to put out there, where everybody would make so much money it’s just, whatever.
EB: Oh, yeah. (laughs)
And if you haven’t seen Mortal Kombat: Legacy‘s first season, you can catch up on the whole thing by clicking here.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag turned out to be the bad kid that got straight A’s at PAX Prime this year. Ubisoft Montreal has taken the naval battles from Assassin’s Creed III and went on to build what is appearing to be an incredibly refreshing addition to the series. Forget anything that Disney’s Peter Pan has taught you about pirates. Black Flag is the real deal and is aiming at landing the most authentic and engaging depiction of the Golden Age of Piracy in a video game to date. Also, as an added bonus to all of that, the game is actually shaping up to be the funnest Assassin’s Creed title in the series thus far.
On this adventure you take control of Edward Kenway, the grandfather of the previous game’s protagonist Connor. You’re the swashbuckling captain of the avian-themed pirate ship, the Jackdaw. Managing the Jackdaw’s crew and it’s upgrades are a focal point for players throughout the game. There are a plethora of different ways to accrue currency to improve the Jackdaw and every action you take will have an effect on your ship so that it may hold it’s own over Black Flag’s harsh waters.
Right off the bat, I noticed that Black Flag feels a lot more open than the previous “Creed” installments. You want to sail across the ocean to uncharted territory while hijacking other ships along the way? How about using a diving bell to deep sea dive and find treasure or spelunking through caves that can only be accessed from down below? These are just a few of the side-missions that you find yourself being sucked into. How and when you choose to engage in these activities is completely up to you, but succeeding in them feels extremely rewarding since the earnings can be used to grow your pirate empire on the Jackdaw. The motivation to make your ship the best it can be makes the sidequests feel a lot less chore-ish and serve as a stern distraction from the game’s main storyline.
I got extremely absorbed into one particular activity while demoing the game and I’m sure it may have made some folks question my stance on animal cruelty. Hunting sea animals with harpoons is indomitably fun. At first I mistook the activity as a simple, quickly packaged mini-game, but soon learned that there was a learning curve to the activity that required precision and timing to succeed. Not to mention the bull shark I was hunting actually fought back and rammed the boat in anger and desperation if I failed to kill it fast enough. There was an odd-yet-extreme look of pleasure on my face as I penetrated the poor shark with harpoons until it stopped moving. It was a gratifying challenge ; especially when considering how the successful hunting outing would benefit the Jackdaw.
It wouldn’t be an Assassin’s Creed game, however, without extreme human-on-human combat. I was able to check out a bit of the game’s fighting sequences and can say that the combat system feels as smooth as ever. Edward is an expert swordsman and can switch between his main weapon and handguns just like his grandson Connor. As usual with any Assasin’s Creed game, you can choose whether to take out enemies full on or with a quiet, more stealthy approach. Movement around the environment feels the same as before also, so veteran Assassin’s Creed players will have no trouble adapting in Black Flag.
Since I was demoing the PlayStation 4 version of the game, I noticed several nice features made possible with the Dual Shock 4’s touch pad. The ability to view the game’s map with the touchpad was a nice addition and feels about as intuitive as using google maps on a smartphone does. All of your normal swipe and “pinch to zoom” motions that have become second nature are present and setting waypoints is as easy as tapping the touchpad. The possibilities the PS4 touchpad offers have become more evident thanks to it’s solid implementation.
If you’re curious to see just how open Black Flag is shaping up to be, have a look at this thirteen minute gameplay video.
I’ve always been fairly disinterested in anything pirate-themed that doesn’t include Jack Sparrow and Assassin’s Creed III encouraged ample table flipping by me with it’s redundancy and lack of gameplay direction. With that said, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was well on it’s way to sailing into the Bermuda Triangle of my gaming radar before PAX. But a couple of pirate ship battles and an awesome shark harpooning session later, I’m totally onboard with the direction Black Flag is heading in; all puns intended. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is due out October 31, on PS3, 360 and Wii U; PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on their respective launch dates.
Are you having difficulty wasting immense amounts of time when you should be working? Are you looking for a new, extremely well designed game on which to wile away your waking hours? Well, look no further than Superhot, a new FPS in which time moves only when you do, from a small team lead by Piotr Iwanecki at Blue Brick Software. Originally created for 7DFPS, a week-long competition in which programming teams were invited to create an FPS from scratch, Superhot is now up for voting on Steam Greenlight, Valve’s built-in system which allows fans to vote on which indie games they’d like to see sold on Steam’s digital store.
While games that play around with time mechanics aren’t necessarily new, Superhot flips the script on bullet time. As I mentioned, time only moves when you do, so every step you take means that bullet whizzing towards your face gets a centimeter closer. Combine this with limited ammunition and an unforgiving one-hit kill policy and the game plays out more like a puzzle game than a straightforward shooter. The result is an easy-to-learn, but hard-to-master FPS that will test your tactical thinking, timing and spatial relations in unique and deadly ways.
Looks pretty rad and vaguely dystopian, huh? Try out a free demo version of the game for yourself on the official website. It runs remarkably well on the integrated Unity web player, so I’m eager to see how it would run when installed directly to the hard drive. Watch out for that hallway level though; it’s a doozy.
What do you think of Superhot? Let us know in the comments below, hit me up on Twitter or let the community know by voting for it on Steam Greenlight.
One of the standout games at PAX this year was Wildstar, a new MMORPG from NCSOFT. In the world of Wildstar, there is a galaxy wide land rush for the planet of Nexus. According to legend, Nexus is home to some of the most beautiful places imaginable, as well as the lost technology of an ancient civilization. The Exiles just want to settle the planet and live out their days making a home, while the Dominion seeks to add the power and secrets of Nexus to its empire.
Between the Exiles and Dominion, the game has eight races to choose from. On the Exile side, there are the rebellious Humans, mercenary stone giant Granok, the forest-dwelling Aurin, and the space zombie Mordesh. Each race has a history with the Dominion and rebelled, putting down on Nexus to stop the Dominion colonization. The Dominion’s four races include the human zealot Cassian, the savage Draken, the insane yet brilliant Chua and the technological assassins the Mechari.
The four classes are familiar yet bring subtle touches that make them wholly part of the Wildstar mythos. The Warriors are your standard MMO class, who have brute strength and big weapons on their side. Spellslingers use magic-infused firepower to even the odds; they make great healers and ranged fighters. Stalkers are light fighters that can take a hit and set a trap thanks to their tech prowess. The Esper uses psychic attacks that allow for ranged combat in addition to healing your party. For our hands-on demo of the game we created an Aurin Esper. Psychic blades? Check.
On the surface of Nexus, our first quest involves helping some of the diabolically genius Chua disarm landmines placed across a landing zone. The humor and tone of the game are almost immediately infectious. The opening tasks of disarming mines and killing giant scorpions feel challenging but achievable, and it’s incredibly easy to fall into this game. The game leaves you to your own approach and doesn’t force any specific tactic on you in defeating your opponent. After figuring out that you can set a landmine to disarm and draw a scorpion toward you through the blast radius, I’ve figured out what works for my lightly-armored, psychic Esper. With the style of play I’m choosing, though, I wonder if a Stalker might not have been a better course of action. Within 20 minutes I was at a level 3 Esper and completed a couple of the demo’s goals.
The game will support four paths, Explorer, Scientist, Settler and Soldier. This helpful video breaks it down for us:
Wildstar is one of the most appealing MMOs I’ve seen in recent memory. The bright colors, over-the-top characters, and fun play mechanics make this game incredibly immersive. If you’re more sci-fi than sorcery and want to adjust your gaming experience accordingly, jump on board Wildstar now. The Wildstar Beta has launched and is adding players, so jump in while you still can.
Warning: This review may contain minor spoilers, so please read on at your own peril. Or, better yet, go buy the game, play it, then read this review.
The short review: A powerful experiment in storytelling, Gone Home is a hauntingly real, emotionally charged adventure that is over all too soon but continues to resonate with the player long after the credits roll.
The long review: Every once and a while, a game comes along that is such a palate cleanser, such a shock to the system in all the right ways that it gets you genuinely excited to be a gamer again. I’ve been fortunate enough to feel that several times over the past year or two in titles like The Walking Dead, Heavy Rain, and Mass Effect, and now again in The Fullbright Company’s Gone Home. As I get older, I’m finding that I’m putting a premium on immersive storytelling, compelling characters, and the degree to which player choice affects gameplay. Obviously, I’m aware that player choice is something of a cipher, a means to give us a sense of agency over our actions while still guiding us along a generally pre-programmed path, but certain titles manage to make the player feel as though they have a tangible effect on how the story plays out, and Gone Home is no exception.
Set in the Pacific Northwest in 1995, Gone Home is a single-player adventure game about a young woman, Kaitlin Greenbriar, that returns home from traveling abroad in Europe to find that her family is nowhere to be found. Not her sister, Samantha. Not her parents. No one. You know how when you get home at night and you’re the only one home in a dark, empty house, how you get that simultaneous mixture of relief to be home and terror at what unknown horrors might lurk in the dark? Gone Home captures this all too familiar sensation beautifully and manages to sustain it for the game’s duration. Even as you turn on a light switch or close a closet door, you’re never quite sure what could happen next and it keeps the player on edge.
The core gameplay revolves around exploring your giant empty house and trying to piece together just where the heck your family went. As you poke around the house, opening drawers and finding Clue-like secret passages in the massive old place, you find letters from your sister Samantha in the form of journal entries detailing her difficulties fitting in at school after moving into “The Psycho House,” correspondences between your father Terry – a struggling author – and his publisher, and notes between your mother – a forest service ranger – and her longtime friend. Have you ever read someone else’s diary or a letter written to them? It feels like a violation of privacy, but it’s also compelling stuff, and thankfully the game does not judge you for looking. Through these fragments, you start to build relationships with these characters and trace the arc of what happened to each family member in the time that you’ve been gone. What you find is a profoundly real portrayal of the Greenbriar family and their trials and travails.
Most compelling of all the story arcs though is the tale of Samantha, who had a tough time of it at school in your absence, and Lonnie, the cool punk rocker in an army uniform that she meets at school. The game beautifully captures the sensations of youth, the sort of deific power we attribute to music in our formative years, and chronicles a friendship so intense it seems destined to burn out and explode like a dying star. It is worth noting that Sam is the only character apart from Kaitlin whose actual voice we hear. As you search around the house, you find Sam’s diary entries, which play out in the form of audio logs, which are alternately sweet and heartwrenching. The game’s writers really tapped into a sort of primal quality in the teenage experience that draws you in and compels you to keep searching. Without giving too much away – it’s best if you go into the experience with as little knowledge as possible – it is their story that drives the majority of the action and keeps the tension level at a fever pitch.
My biggest complaint about Gone Home is its price point, which I realize is somewhat petty of me, but it’s for a good reason. Gone Home was one of the most enjoyable, intense and immersive gameplay experiences I’ve had in a while, but when all was said and done, it was only about a four hour experience for $17.99. While that may be on par with your average movie ticket, it is still a bit higher than I’d expected to pay for an indie game, especially one that isn’t exactly bursting with replay value. Compared to Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which charges $5 a pop for roughly 2.5 hours of content, it seems like highway robbery. If they lowered the price to $10-12, I think many potential customers complaints would be assuaged, and it wouldn’t deter your average consumer who might see that figure as being too high.
At the end of the day, though, the folks at the Fullbright Company have pulled off something of a coup with Gone Home, creating a tactile, intensely personal and eerily realistic experience that is not to be missed. Hell, I’m an only child, and I was drawn into the human dramas and tragedies of the Greenbriar family. This is the kind of game that reminds me why I love the medium as a tool for storytelling, and, if you’re not deterred by the price, I cannot recommend it enough.
For an in-depth discussion with the Fullbright Company, listen to the most recent Indoor Kids podcast. Have you played the game? What did you think? Do you have your own theories about what happened? Lord knows I have an awful lot to say about Terry and Oscar, Terry and his father, Sarah and Lonnie, you name it. Let us know in the comments below, but please be so kind as to use spoiler tags so as not to ruin it for your uninitiated fellow gamers.
Note: there may be some minor spoilers in this description, but major plot points have been omitted because who wants a mystery ruined for them right off the bat, huh?
Murder. Intrigue. Scotch-swilling pigs. That’s right, America, Telltale’s latest offering, The Wolf Among Us, has all of this and more. As I mentioned last week when the teaser trailer dropped, the Fables-inspired adventure game is one of the titles I am most excited to play this fall. Last week, in an alternately tony and tacky suite at the W Hotel in L.A.’s Westwood neighborhood, I sat down with members of Telltale’s development team, including the game’s lead writer Pierre Shorette, for an in-depth gameplay presentation that covered roughly half of the game’s first episode.
Notice how I said first episode? Much like their terrific The Walking Dead series, The Wolf Among Us is following an episodic release plan, 5 in total for $5 a pop, giving you roughly 10-15 hours of gameplay for $25 when all’s said and done, although if its anything like its zombie-filled predecessor – and it is – those 10 to 15 hours will be so engrossing that they’ll feel like a lot longer. Judging by the gameplay I saw during the demo, it’s entirely possible to blast through the chapter in a couple hours, but if you approach these games like I do, combing every inch of the environment and exploring every nook and cranny for clues, you’ll get your five dollars’ worth and then some.
Whether they intended to do so or not, one of the telltale signs that you’re playing a Telltale game is that it opens on the protagonist looking moody in the back of a car. With The Walking Dead, it was Lee Everett sitting in the back of a police cruiser. With 400 Days, we saw Vince shackled in the back of a prison bus. And now, The Wolf Among Us continues that proud tradition by opening on Bigby Wolf, the one-time Big Bad Wolf who is now the resident sheriff of Fabletown, glowering at the world outside the window of his taxi. The buildings pass by in a blur before pulling into focus as the cab comes to a halt in front of a dingy tenement lit by the burning fluorescent glow of neon signs aplenty.
This doesn’t look like modern day New York; the signage and posters on bus stations for fake movies like Mongoose, an action picture with a protagonist that looks suspiciously like Snake Plissken, give the suggestion that this is the 1980s or Taxi Driver-era New York City. In other words, this takes place before the Fables we’ve come to know and love, which for my money is a smart call, narratively speaking. Shorette confirms that this is a prequel, so this isn’t the gruff family man that we’ve come to know and love in the comics; this is a Bigby who is still struggling to find himself and prove to the residents of Fabletown that he’s not just a violent sociopath, he’s a violent sociopath that cares about the community’s well-being. But that’ll come later; first Bigby has to deal with the sounds of domestic violence and a very irate Mr. Toad (of The Wind in the Willows fame).
Toad, it seems, is the landlord of this fine bit of public housing, but first the player has the option to dress him down for looking like a 3 foot tall anthropomorphic toad. It’s moments like these where the game wisely doffs its cap to series lore, explaining that non-human Fables must purchase glamors, spells that make them look like a human to onlookers, particularly mundies (the series’ term for “humans” or “mundanes”). The Wolf Among Us is unique in that Bigby is already an established character. Equal parts Wolverine and Sherlock Holmes, players can choose to roleplay the character they know and love from the comics or they can strike out on their own, using Bigby as a cipher, a tabula rasa on which to project themselves. It was a dichotomy that Shorette struggled with, but one he’s ultimately intrigued by, since it puts the choice firmly in the player’s court.
After putting Toad in his place or leaving him to his own crotchety devices, Bigby heads upstairs to an apartment where The Woodsman, looking like a drunk, less handsome version of the Brawny man, is smacking around a call girl, who we quickly learn is another Fable herself. Like most violent creeps, The Woodsman doesn’t take kindly to being called on his shit, and comes after Bigby with a vengeance. As in The Walking Dead, the action has more of a cinematic quality to it, with on-screen prompts that are more in line with Heavy Rain‘s style of gameplay than the frantic, infuriating Quick Time Events of Resident Evil infamy. The bedroom brawl is a brutal affair that presents the players with multiple mid-combat options. Do you try to slam him into the sink or bash his head on the counter? The choice, grisly though it may be, is yours, and that is the prevailing gameplay mechanic of the series. The experience is shaped and molded by the player rather than a completely linear, preprogrammed route. Granted, in many instances, this is but the illusion of choice, but it’s an illusion that works.
The dev controlling the demo threw our assailant towards the sink, but he managed to brace himself and grab a knife in the process. Bad move. He comes at us with a quickness, causing us to frantically mash our action button until we have a chance to pry him off of us. Eventually, we crack him in the jaw, breaking it in two. At least that’s what the Woodsman told us through a mouthful of blood and broken bone. The call girl Fable isn’t exactly forthcoming, and before we can interrogate her too much, we’re tackled by the Woodsman through the window, sending us both hurtling down to the street below and giving Mr. Toad’s car insurance agent a mountain of paperwork in the process. The donnybrook continues on the streets below, and the tide turns against our hero as the Woodsman chokes the life from his practically immortal eyes against a nearby bus stop when suddenly the sickening sound of an axe penetrating flesh and bone rings out. It’s the call girl. She just buried the Woodsman’s iconic weapon deep inside his cerebellum. He’s not dead, though. It’s tough to kill a Fable. Case in point: The Woodsman’s body is missing shortly after Bigby questions the femme fatale. Leave it to Bigby to leave a crime scene with more questions than he came into it with.
The frenetic, frantic pace of the previous location gives way to a more relaxed, contemplative vibe once Bigby returns to The Woodlands, the luxury apartment complex that houses many of the New York Fables. Fables fans will find many familiar faces throughout – in our trip to the mayor’s office alone, we ran into Ichabod Crane, the Man in the Mirror (voiced by Gavin Hammon, who also portrayed Kenny in The Walking Dead), Snow White, Colin (one of the Three Little Pigs), and everyone’s fan-favorite flying monkey, Bufkin. Unfortunately, it’s not all fun and games where Fabletown is concerned. After a particularly depressing, existential conversation with Colin the Pig, Bigby is awoken with a rapping on his door. It’s Snow White, and there’s something he needs to see. Out front, beneath a lily white sheet, is a severed head. Not just any head though – it’s a Fable. A dead one, which is a feat unto itself where Fables are concerned. Now, the mystery is well and truly afoot. Or a head, I suppose. Either way, the adventure is just beginning….
Graphically, the game is a comic book fan’s dream come true, as the visual aesthetic brings Bill Willingham’s creations to glorious HD life and maintains the heavily outlined comic book style. It doesn’t look clunky or drab like other cel-shaded titles - The Wolf Among Us has a vivid color palette that contrasts the bright pinks and blues of Fabletown/New York’s neon signs with the grime and squalor of a Bronx tenement building. The result is a bit reminiscent of Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive in how it seamlessly blends the glitz and glamor with the gritty underbelly of the city in a supremely stylized fashion.
In terms of gameplay, it looks and feels remarkably similar to The Walking Dead, which is not a bad thing. Telltale has managed to modernize the point-and-click adventure game model that served companies like Lucasarts so well in the past. Crafting a well-rounded, emotional and interactive narrative is no easy feat, but Shorette and company make it look easy. Choice is still paramount, and I’ve learned that the passage of time will have an effect on the gameplay experience too. You can’t be everywhere at once. This is a lesson that was driven home by one of the game’s major choices towards the end of the demo: do you go to interrogate a key witness before something happens to him, or do you go to help Mr. Toad, who seems to be in danger himself. Telltale knows how to pull its players in multiple directions and push our emotional buttons; the very fact that I can’t interrogate the witness and protect Toad is evidence of that fact, and ultimately it makes for a more memorable gameplay experience.
In terms of faithfulness to the source material, The Wolf Among Us knocks it out of the park. The voice acting is predictably terrific. Even though many of the voices don’t sound as I had imagined them in my head, I found them to be well acted and strong fits for the characters, aesthetically speaking. Of particular note is Adam Harrington’s Bigby Wolf, who manages to strike that balance between Wolverine and Raylan Givens that really brings the Big Bad Wolf to life and shows off an impressive range (as well as plenty of different ways to drop an F-bomb). It’s one of those instantly comforting and relatable voices like Joel in The Last of Us or Lee in The Walking Dead that draws you in deeper into the game world in all the right ways.
If you’re looking for a firm release date, then you’re out of luck. Even with Bigby’s overpowered olfactory senses, I couldn’t sniff out anything firmer than a release window from late September to early October. As I mentioned earlier, the episode will retail for $4.99 on a variety of platforms, including Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC/Mac. No word on iOS or Android versions at the moment, but it doesn’t take a mythical detective to figure out they’re likely candidates for support down the line.
Final thoughts: In case you couldn’t tell, I am awfully excited to play this game and what I saw in person did not disappoint. Although the build wasn’t quite finished, the skeleton of a truly great game is there, and it looks like that at long last we’ll finally have the Fables adaptation that we always wanted to see on our screens.
What do you think of the game so far? Are you going to pick it up? What would you like to see? Let us know in the comments below!
When I was invited to attend the Call of Duty: Ghosts Multiplayer Reveal Event in downtown Los Angeles, I was expecting a subdued affair with developers and select press being treated to a carefully curated presentation and hands-on time in a small office space. When I arrived, I was greeted by the site of a mammoth black rooftop tent with an army of black t-shirt-clad promotional models, security, and PR flacks, running around to prepare for the worldwide reveal that was being livestreamed across the Internet. Honestly, I don’t know why I was expecting anything less from a Call of Duty event. After all, few franchises love to celebrate themselves more than Call of Duty, which makes for a particularly rabid fan base. And, after several hours, plenty of dubstep, a brand new song from Eminem, and watching the frenetic, high speed gameplay in action, all the glitz and spectacle becomes understandable.
Gigantic screens flashing Call of Duty statistics informed us via handy infographic that over 25 billion hours of playtime have been sunk into the franchise worldwide, the equivalent of 2.85 million years, which is longer than the entirety of human existence. Let that sink in for just a moment and unlock an existential achievement. Whether you find that statistic profoundly depressing or simply staggering, it’s difficult to deny Call of Duty‘s impact on pop culture. And with 100 million players worldwide (40 million playing each month, 10 million each day) and an ever-increasing e-sports scene, it’s a certifiable phenomenon. Yet, when you’re putting out a new game each year – as Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg said, “November is Call of Duty time” - the challenge of innovation becomes paramount, and with Call of Duty: Ghosts, Infinity Ward is trying to bring the perennial best-seller to the next generation.
So, is it next-gen?
For all its bluster about its new engine, Infinity Ward is putting its money where its mouth is, as the game looks markedly better than previous Call of Duty titles. With that being said, it still doesn’t look particularly groundbreaking, especially when compared to titles coming out in the same year, like Battlefield 4, which is powered by DICE’s Frostbite 3 engine. The textures are still a little washed out, and every now and then characters still sort of move around in that Uncanny Valley sort of way that doesn’t look quite right, but overall, the fluidity of the experience has been greatly improved. From destructible environments to the physics of vaulting over obstacles, the game continues to strive towards realism and immersion, a feat towards which it takes serious steps in Ghosts.
Motion and inertia weighed heavily on Infinity Ward’s mind as they developed Ghosts. To make you feel more in control of your avatar, they added a contextual leaning system, which allows you to aim and peer around corners without holding down a complex button input. The addition of a knee slide, which lets players move seamlessly from running to a prone or crouched position, is another smart call on the dev team’s part, as it lends a sense of momentum and inertia to the run-and-gun gameplay style that was missing. Plus, there’s nothing cooler than vaulting over a barrier, sprinting through hails of gunfire while your team lays down surpressing fire, and kneesliding behind a parked car to flank the enemy that’s pinning down your teammate.
Most impressive of all is the audio design in the game, which has been upgraded to react to ambient events in the environment. Explosions don’t happen in a vacuum; there’s a shockwave and bits and pieces of rubble go flying. During the presentation, a grenade that detonated on the second level of a building not only sent chunks of the wall crumbling below, but sent out a shockwave which rattled the chain link fence behind the player. It may seem inconsequential, but it’s precisely these kinds of details that elevate the level of design beyond your typical shooter fare.
The AI has been vastly improved as well, with its intelligence improving to the point where they can share location-specific intel with you. During the course of one of my multiplayer matches, a teammate and I were fanning out and running across a snowfield towards a cluster of buildings. My human teammate said nothing, but suddenly the in-game AI thought I should know there was a sniper on the second floor, and the radio crackled to life, allowing me to change my course instead of transforming into a fine red mist. All in all, it’s yet another feather in Infinity Ward’s immersion cap, and it makes for a significantly more enjoyable gameplay experience.
What’s all this about customization options?
While much of the hubbub around Call of Duty: Ghost‘s reveal at E3 revolved around Riley, the adorably deadly military dog that accompanies you on several single player campaign missions, the multiplayer event brought us plenty of robust customization options to make each Ghosts account feel like a personalized representation of the player. Rather than its regimented class-based gameplay in previous outings, Ghosts allows players to create a squad with 10 separate slots to let you experiment and play around with different loadouts, class combinations and skillsets. All in all, there are over 20,000 possible combinations and with 30 new weapons, an 80% overhaul from Modern Warfare 3 that includes the exciting new Marksman-class rifles that bridge the gap between sniper and assault rifles, there are more than enough permutations to keep players entertained.
In addition to the new options, there were a few other points of pride from Infinity Ward executive producer Mark Rubin:
- Deathstreaks are gone, so you’ll no longer be rewarded for continual failure. Those of us who have lost more than a few lives to grenades left behind by those with the Martyrdom perk will be pleased to see this feature get phased out.
- There are over 20 new killstreaks, including the ability to call in Riley as a guard dog. As an added bonus, he’ll bark when enemies are nearby, functioning as a makeshift UAV of sorts. It should be noted that Riley is insanely difficult to kill, as I watched that pup take more bullets than Al Pacino at the end of Scarface without breaking a sweat.
- Immersion is being enhanced in many ways, but one of the most noticeable ones is the addition of dual-render scopes, which grant the player the gift of peripheral vision. When you’re looking through your scope, the zoomed in region will be rendered crystal clear while the events happening on the periphery will be out of focus but still visible. It’s small touches like these that will add up to make a difference between a current gen and truly next gen experience.
- The perk system is now based on points. Players can spend up to 8 points on different perks with varying point totals to mix and match until they have their ideal loadout. You can even ditch your secondary weapon and equipment to get up to 11 points if you’re particularly passionate about perks.
Last, but not least, the multiplayer trailer revealed a smirking female face behind the still-smoking barrel of a sniper rifle. At long last, players can finally create female avatars. It’s a tad bit silly that it’s taken this long to introduce female skins to the game, especially since they added playable dogs first, but better late than never, I suppose. Plus, it was a total blast to deck myself out in arctic camo and pretend to be Metal Gear Solid‘s Sniper Wolf, so at least there’s that.
How are the new modes?
In addition to the classic modes like Team Deathmatch and Domination, Ghosts will add two new multiplayer modes, Cranked and Search & Rescue, to bring its total game types up to seven. If the term “Cranked” immediately conjured visions of Jason Statham as Chev Chelios wreaking bloody havoc and keeping his heart rate up through fits and bursts of batshit crazy violence, you’re on the right track. Cranked is a high speed team deathmatch mode in which players become “Cranked” upon killing an opponent, causing a 30 second timer to appear on your screen. You have thirty seconds to kill another opponent or you will explode and die, simple as that. Cranked takes the already amped up pace of the Call of Duty multiplayer experience and dials it up to eleven, creating a chaotic, fun fragfest geared towards pro players in particular. Casual gamers may find it to be too much of a meat grinder, but I found it to be more of a baptism by fire with the occasional bout of spontaneous combustion.
Search & Rescue, on the other hand, hearkens back to the halcyon days of Counter-Strike, pitting the two teams against each other in tense, objective-based missions, usually involving planting a bomb at one of two sites. The catch is – unlike your standard deathmatch mode – you don’t automatically respawn after dying. Rather, you drop a set of dog tags, which float above your sad, lifeless body until either your teammate grabs them, reviving you in the process, or the enemy grabs them, preventing you from reentering the game until the next round. It drastically slows down the pace in this usually hectic shooter, forcing players to communicate and work together to outsmart the opposing team. If you run and gun, you’re about to win the superlative for ”Most Likely to Have an Untimely Death” in the class yearbook. This is a concerted effort to raise the intelligence of the gameplay and encourage players to rely on sound teamwork and tactics rather than spraying bullets like a dropped firehose.
The new Squad Mode is another innovation that seeks to bridge the gap between casual and pro gamers while still affording both parties the luxury of the multiplayer experience. In an interview with Penny Arcade Report, Activision’s vice president of production Daniel Suarez explained the impetus behind the mode: “The idea of building my squad, and updating my squad with gear, and different looks, has an appeal that we didn’t have before that I think has a lot of opportunity to it. There are going to be different skilled players that maybe don’t want to play MP, they come in and say it’s too hard, and they matchmade against [a pro gamer], so allowing you to find players to play with in a more balance play field? That’s what squads is going to be.”
Squad mode will let players build out and customize a squadron of up to 6 characters, who will either be played by real people or computer-controlled A.I., depending on the player’s preference. Then, players can either go head to head with their computer-controlled squads, play against a computer-controlled opponent, or go head to head with squads populated by real members of their own choosing. It’s an exciting move that will hopefully help rope in those players who feel intimidated or put off by the often preposterously high skill levels exhibited by some players immediately after launch.
Yeah, yeah, but what was the overall gameplay experience like?
Playing a new Call of Duty is always a bit like riding a bike. You remember the basic control scheme and how it’s supposed to feel, but there’s a bit of a readjustment period. Playing the game on the Xbox One – at least with an XB1 controller – felt familiar and foreign at the same time. After accidentally tossing a grenade prematurely and blinding myself, I felt right at home – this was the Call of Duty I remembered. My biggest complaint about the experience was that I couldn’t adjust the controller sensitivity, as the options menu was locked out for the purposes of the demo, so it’s a relative drop in the bucket.
Journalists, industry guests and fans sat down at different stations where we were able to play the various game modes, including Search & Rescue and Cranked, in six on six matches. After playing a variety of game modes over the course of a few hours, I can affirm that Cranked is a total blast in the way that only an unmitigated, lead-filled clusterfuck can be, and that you’re going to need some solid backup if you want to stand a fighting chance at Search & Rescue. Did they reinvent the wheel with Call of Duty: Ghosts? No, not quite, but they did a lot more than just slap on a new coat of paint and rotate the tires. Ghosts may not be a game changer as far as the genre is concerned, but it is a changed game, to be certain, and one which first-person shooter fans will be eager to get their hands on come this November.
Are you excited for Call of Duty: Ghosts? What kind of features would you like to see? Let us know in the comments below.
Utter this phrase to anyone over the age of 20 and you’ll most likely illicit a smile and a new friend for life. Ducktales – the animated adventures of Scrooge McDuck and gang- is one of the most beloved animated shows of the last few decades and has become a go-to reference for anyone waxing nostalgically about a ’90s childhood (pog/slap bracelet/Boy Meets World references will also suffice). Ducktales was the feather-covered centerpiece at the heart of the Disney Afternoon empire, and like many of the other shows on the slate (Tailspin, Darkwing Duck, etc.), it was no stranger to the world of tie-in merchandise: toys, movies, dolls, and most importantly, one of the best side scrolling platform video games of the late ’80s/early ’90s.
Ducktales, originally released on the NES in 1989, was a colorful, fast paced romp through Duckburg and the world of Scrooge, and like all things DuckTales, it inspired a legion of loyal devotees (Duckotees?). Over the two decades since its release, it remained one of the better-received games released on the NES (and certainly one of the best licensed property games), and fans had been asking, if not begging, for more Tales ever since. The evil and awesome geniuses at Capcom have heard the pleas, and at the PAX East expo, they announced that an HD, remastered version of the much-loved game would see a release in the summer of 2013.
Not content with just making the game prettier (which it is), Capcom and developer Wayforward Technologies have added brand new levels to DuckTales Remastered, and have also changed the AI patterns on the boss battles, making for a brand new duck experience. The makers have also added new story elements to the game to more fully flesh out the whole piece.
I got a chance to play a bit of the game, and I can happily report that they’ve nailed it. All the fun of the original title (and NES sidescrollers in general), mixed in with sharp new graphics, a fun musical score and the above mentioned new elements, make for a delightful retro gaming experience that doesn’t require hunting down AV cables. Though it had been a long time since I’d played the game, I remembered the basics of it very quickly, and within minutes, I was having a blast pogo-sticking down memory lane. While it’s nowhere near what we’d expect from a modern video game, that’s a good thing; DuckTales has always been about one thing, fun (and I guess piles of gold AND talking ducks).
The game will be released sometime late summer, on Ps3, Xbox360, Wii U, and PCs, so you’ve really got no excuse to not go for a dive into the ol’ money bin one more time. You might solve a mystery, or re-write history. (I’m the worst)
Can’t wait to get your beaks on DuckTales Remastered? What other games would you like to see get the HD treatment? Leave a comment, email me or hit me up on the Twitter machine.
Nerdist is a place where we nerds come together and share the nerdery that we find. It's also my home to various elements of the Nerdist Empire. You might recognize me from TV. You don't realize that's where you know me from, but it is. You think you went to college with me or I look like your cousin's friend, but that is not the case. At one time or another you stumbled upon me on your moving picture box in such cerebral gems as MTV's "Singled Out" and Noam Chomsky's "Shipmates." and so much more...