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.
Since I first laid eyes on Injustice: Gods Among Us at last year’s E3 Expo, I have been unreasonably excited to get my grubby little mitts on the final copy of the game. Fast forward to nearly a year later, and my excitement hasn’t waned. Normally, I try not to enter into things with inflated expectations, because that’s the quickest road to disappointment, but I’m pleased to report that Warner Bros. Interactive and NetherRealm Studios have hit the nail on its super-powered head. Injustice: Gods Among Us is a surprisingly deep brawler with a robust cast of characters that should satisfy even the most fervent of fanboys. A few minor grumbles aside, this is the fighting game that DC fans have been waiting for, so grab a friend, grab an extra controller, and get ready to prove once and for all that Aquaman would totally kick Batman’s ass. (I didn’t believe it either until I was on the receiving end of a trident assault).
First and foremost, this is a game that won’t just appeal to fighting game fans, but to comic book fans too. With a comic book tie-in, this is a classic DCU Elseworlds set-up: in another universe, the Joker tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane and his unborn son, detonating a nuclear device that was wired to Lois’ heartbeat and destroying Metropolis in the process. Mad with grief, Superman murders the Joker in cold blood, then proceeds to transform Planet Earth into a metahuman police state, ruling with fear and a Kryptonian iron fist. With plenty of twists and turns, the story mode manages to make you care about what’s happening and the overarching plot, a feat which not many fighting games can replicate. Chalk it up to nostalgia or familiarity, but somehow the stakes just seem higher when our favorite superhumans are involved.
Although comment sections across the world will inevitably fill up with, “OMG WHY NO [INSERT HERO HERE]?!”-style posts, Injustice‘s roster is to be lauded for its diversity. Balancing heavy hitters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman with lesser known characters like Killer Frost, Ares and Black Adam, the game offers 24 fighters to choose from and early reports indicate that forthcoming DLCs will add 4 more powerful pugilists to the game’s ranks. That being said, I never found myself bored with the in-game selection, even though I did wish that I could control characters like Martian Manhunter or Atom Smasher, who I spotted lurking in the background of certain stages.
While the game boasts an equally impressive roster of voice talent, I found that one of Injustice‘s main issues comes from inconsistent voice acting. I might be alone in this complaint, but I found some of the line readings jarring or lackluster, to say the least. Overall though, there are some terrific performances and it’s nice to hear Kevin Conroy’s dulcet tones in any medium. It’s less of an outright gripe and more of an acquired taste, which is what I was told about Japanese plum wine, but that stuff is flavor poison, so take this with a grain of salt.
The arenas, however, are one of the game’s highlights. The interactive, multi-part stages are riddled with DCU references and subtle nods to the Universe’s history. At certain points on each stage, you can punch your opponent with such force that they’re launched into another part of the arena, triggering an awesome (and painful) transition sequence that deals damage to the unlucky punch recipient. One particularly memorable moment came when, playing as The Flash, I roundhouse-kicked Killer Frost into one of Superman’s fascist murderbots, who then threw her like a rag doll at 60 MPH towards Giganta and Atom Smasher, who were battling in front of the ravaged Hall of Justice. Catching Killer Frost like a gnat, Giganta then whipped her through a skyscraper until she landed on a nearby rooftop. I stopped for a moment to take it all in, but before I knew it, Killer Frost regained her composure and turned me into the Fastest Popsicle Alive. These moments happen all the time in Injustice, part and parcel of its giddy, childlike appeal. These are the moments I would envision as a child when I spent hours creating epic battle scenes with my action figures, so it gave me a true sense of nostalgic pleasure when I see them happening in real time (with much higher production value) on my TV.
Let me be perfectly honest: I like fighting games, but I have little patience for complex button inputs. Injustice, however, makes me feel like Alan Turing cracking a particularly crafty German cipher. While the combat system is surprisingly deep, the folks at NetherRealm made a point of making it accessible to laymen like myself. To launch into one of the epic super moves, all you need to do is hit both the shoulder buttons (L2 + R2 on the PS3 copy I reviewed) and once it connects, you’ll watch with mouth agape as The Flash revs up and runs around the world to deliver a haymaker at terminal velocity or Aquaman spears you with his trident, then serves you up to a man-eating shark like human hors d’oeuvres.
The combat system offers up relatively simple inputs for basic attacks, which you can combine together to create some seriously stunning combos. At times, I found the input response time to be a bit wonky, which made complex combos difficult to pull off. On the PS3, I found myself using the D-pad over the thumb sticks simply because they offered a greater degree of accuracy for the hyper-specific move sets. Despite the game’s attempt at accessibility, the A.I. is less forgiving, at times, which I learned the hard way, as characters like Killer Frost juggled me up in the air like a human hacky sack and spammed ground attacks on my lifeless corpse until my health meter was fully depleted. Instances like that were few and far between, but still frustrating. Alas, such is the life of a fighting game for a single player.
While I didn’t get to test out the online multiplayer, I can attest that the local Versus mode is damned fun. Much like the appeal of games like Super Smash Bros., Injustice is a title that a friend and I could play for hours on end, testing our mettle with every permutation the game’s roster has to offer. Also worth noting is the recently released free-to-play iOS app which offers up touch-based 3-on-3 combat and the ability to earn points and experience toward unlockables in the console version. The cross-platform nature of the game’s WBID system makes switching back and forth between the two relatively simple and incentives repeated play-throughs to help you unlock all manner of alternate costumes, concept art and more.
Further adding to the game’s replay value are the S.T.A.R. Labs mode and the aptly named Battle mode, which offer up plenty of reasons to while away the day in front of the TV long after you’ve completed the twelve-chapter Story mode. S.T.A.R. Labs offers up dozens of objective-based missions that put you in control of a specific character with unique parameters (e.g. use Superman to defeat Batman while executing a 5X combo and avoiding getting hit by a Batarang). Each mission is graded on a scale from 1-3 stars, so your inner perfectionist will find plenty to conquer therein. The aforementioned Battle mode is similar, but sticks to the game’s core mechanic: using superheroes to kick each other’s asses. With a variety of unlockable scenarios, you put a fighter through a ten-fight gauntlet in order to earn experience and unlock their “endings,” which contextualize what happens to each character at the end of the game’s main campaign. It’s a nice touch by NetherRealm, and an interesting way to reinvigorate players who find themselves longing for more than the Story mode’s twelve chapters.
Bottom line: Fans of fighting games, hypothetical bets and larger than life pop culture icons doing righteous battle with outrageous powers will find themselves hard-pressed to find a better offering than Injustice: Gods Among Us. Though not without its foibles, the fun factor is more than enough to make this title a must-have for anyone who’s ever wanted to punch Hal Jordan right in his handsome face.
The prospect of stealing sweetrolls from all across Tamriel with hordes of other player characters is pretty enticing, but if The Elder Scrolls Online looks half as good as this new trailer, then we’ll be there on Day 1 ready to punch a mudcrab in the face. The video showcases the three alliances in the game – the Aldmeri Dominion, Daggerfall Covenant, and Ebonheart Pact – who will be waging bloody war for control of the Imperial City. Can’t wait to dive headfirst into a civil war for the fate of Tamriel?
Nothing like the end of the year – it’s a time for looking back at all the awesome games we played and have lavish award shows to celebrate them. Over the weekend, Spike’s Video Game Awards and Machinima’s Inside Gaming Awards rewarded the games they (and their viewers) picked as their best games of the year. This weekend also gives us cause for celebration thanks to the new looks we get at the most anticipated games of next year. This year was no exception, as trailers were unveiled for Dark Souls II, The Last of Us, Bioshock: Infinite and Tomb Raider, just to name a few. So sit back, relax, and put on a bib to catch all of that drool, because here they are:
The Last of Us (PS3, Naughty Dog)
In case you’ve been living under a rock or actively ignoring any and all video gaming press, then you’ve probably heard of Naughty Dog’s gorgeous post-apocalyptic survival action game The Last of Us, which comes exclusively to PS3 on May 7th, 2013. A dystopian nightmare-future has never looked this good, and this Story Trailer from the VGA’s shows us that The Last of Us is more than just a pretty face. Don’t worry – there are no spoilers for those of you who like to experience your games fresh-faced and dewy-eyed. May has never seemed further away; we’re champing at the bit to try our hand at surviving in the ruins of the old world with Joel and Ellie.
Although there’s still no details on the multiplayer, Naughty Dog did confirm two pre-order bonus packs: the Sight & Sounds Pack will be available at select retailers and includes an official soundtrack of the game, a PS3 dynamic theme featuring the game’s cover art, and two avatars for your PlayStation Network profile – Winter Joel and Winter Ellie. The second pack, the Survival Pack, is a GameStop exclusive, which nets you the goodies in the Sights and Sounds Pack plus bonus experience points in multiplayer, a multiplayer melee attack booster, special customizable character items for multiplayer, bonus skins for Joel and Ellie, and extra in-game starting cash. Hey, when it comes to surviving the post-apocalypse, we need all the help we can get.
Oh, BioShock, how we’ve missed you. All this talk about Rapture and December 21st has kept us in a vicious cycle of excitement and immediate disappointment. Thanks for nothing, Mayans. Though we have to wait until March 26, 2013 to experience BioShock Infinite in all its much-delayed glory, this world premiere trailer from the VGAs will tide us over until then. Unlike the claustrophobic underwater environments of Rapture, this game finds our intrepid heroes – former Pinkerton Booker DeWitt and bad-ass damsel in distress Elizabeth – traversing the massive, open-air city of Columbia. We haven’t seen this many brutal high-speed murders since that dubstep Dishonored video made the rounds. And zip lines. So many zip lines.
Gears of War: Judgement(Xbox 360, Epic Games)
The last time I saw Gears of War: Judgement footage was in a small, overly air-conditioned room with former Epic Games guru Cliff Bleszinski and several other journalists and developers at a private showing during E3 2012. It looked good then, but it looks even better now. Set 30 days after Emergence Day, the game follows Kilo Squad, led by our ol’ pal Lt. Damon Baird, after they are accused of treason by Col. Ezra Loomis after stealing classified documents from the Coalition of Ordered Governments during a battle against the Locust at Halvo Bay. Featuring old favorites like Damon Baird and Cole Train as well as newcomers Garron Paduk and Sofia Hendrik, Gears of War: Judgement looks like it’s shaping up to be an exciting look at the downfall of the Coalition of Ordered Governments and may shed further insight onto Baird’s seemingly endless well of sarcastic remarks.
Tomb Raider (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Square Enix)
Lara Croft has seen many different incarnations since the halcyon days of booty short, locking your poor butler in the freezer, and hunting for fabled “nude codes” like a pubescent Ahab’s white whale. This latest version of Tomb Raider from Square Enix sees Ms. Croft as less of an eye-poppingly proportioned sex symbol and more of a survivalist-in-training. This isn’t the Lara Croft we’re used to; she’s younger, rawer, and less experienced. This is her origin story, and it’s never been more fun to play. Shipwrecked on an island? Check. Mysterious group of mercenaries trying to murder the survivors? Check. A heady blend of Lost, The Hunger Games and Uncharted? Dear lord, yes, please! After our hands-on time at San Diego Comic-Con, we are nervously whittling makeshift spears and carving arrowheads until March 5, 2013 when we can hop into Lara’s shoes once again.
Dark Souls II (PS3, Xbox 360, PC, FromSoftware)
If you’re anything like me, you only recently recovered from your routine of playing Dark Souls to the point of weeping, throwing your controller at the television, going to buy a new television, then rocking back and forth while crying in a cold shower. That’s how brutal of a game it was. But damn if it wasn’t addictive as hell. Now, Namco Bandai and FromSoftware are back with Dark Souls II, a sequel to the punishingly pleasurable action-RPG. The trailer, which debuted at the VGAs, shows off a new hero, a new world, and new multiplayer to deliver what Namco Bandai is calling “an unrelenting challenge.” Challenge (and tears) accepted.
Spike VGA Winners: The world got its surprise on when, for the first time ever, an episodic DLC-based game won Game of the Year. Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead won GOTY in addition to 3 other prizes.
GAME OF THE YEAR The Walking Dead: The Game (Telltale Games)
STUDIO OF THE YEAR
BEST XBOX 360 GAME Halo 4 (Microsoft Studios/343 Industries)
BEST PS3 GAME Journey (Sony Computer Entertainment/thatgamecompany)
BEST Wii / Wii-U GAME New Super Mario Bros. U (Nintendo)
BEST PC GAME XCOM: Enemy Unknown (2k Games / Firaxis Games)
BEST HANDHELD/MOBILE GAME Sound Shapes (Sony Computer Entertainment/ Queasy Games)
BEST SHOOTER Borderlands 2 (2k Games / Gearbox Software)
BEST ACTION ADVENTURE GAME Dishonored (Bethesda Softworks / Arkane Studios)
BEST RPG Mass Effect 3 (Electronic Arts / BioWare)
BEST MULTI-PLAYER Borderlands 2 (2k Games / Gearbox Software)
BEST INDIVIDUAL SPORTS GAME SSX (Electronic Arts/ EA Canada)
BEST TEAM SPORTS GAME NBA 2K13 (2k sports / visual concepts)
BEST DRIVING GAME Need For Speed: Most Wanted (Electronic Arts/ Criterion Games)
BEST FIGHTING GAME Persona 4 Arena (Atlus / ARC System Works / Atlus)
BEST INDEPENDENT GAME Journey (thatgamecompany)
BEST ADAPTED VIDEO GAME The Walking Dead: The Game (Telltale Games)
BEST SONG IN A GAME
“Cities” by Beck (Sound Shapes)
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE Journey (Sony Computer Entertainment/ thatgamecompany)
BEST GRAPHICS Halo 4 (Microsoft Studios/ 343 Industries)
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A HUMAN MALE
Dameon Clarke as Handsome Jack (Borderlands 2)
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A HUMAN FEMALE
Melissa Hutchinson as Clementine (The Walking Dead: The Game)
BEST DOWNLOADABLE GAME The Walking Dead: The Game (Telltale Games)
BEST SOCIAL GAME You Don’t Know Jack (Jellyvision Games)
BEST DLC Dawnguard – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Softworks / Bethesda Game Studios)
MOST ANTICIPATED GAME Grand Theft Auto V
CHARACTER OF THE YEAR
Claptrap (Borderlands 2)
BEST GAME OF THE DECADE Half-Life 2
Machinima IGA Winners:
Game of the Year Halo 4 (343 Industries)
Best Competitive Multiplayer Halo 4 (343 Industries)
Best Co-Operative Multiplayer Mass Effect 3 (BioWare)
Best Downloadable Game The Walking Dead: Season One (Telltale Games)
Best Narrative Spec Ops: The Line (Yager Development)
Best Animation Max Payne 3 (Rockstar Vancouver)
Best Environmental Design Dishonored (Arkane Studios)
Best Character Design
Lee Everett – The Walking Dead: Season One (Telltale Games)
Best Trailer The Last of Us Gamescom 2012 Trailer (Naughty Dog)
Best Original Score Fez (Polytron)
Most Original Game Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games)
Best Indie Game Fez (Polytron)
Best Additional Content World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (Blizzard Entertainment)
Best Game Cinematography Mass Effect 3 (BioWare)
Best Art Direction Journey (thatgamecompany)
Best Sound Design Halo 4 (343 Industries)
Gamers’ Choice Award Assassin’s Creed III (Ubisoft)
Do you agree with the awards? What game are you most excited to play? Quemment below and let us know!
There’s just something about Guild Wars 2 and giving away 1,000 free trials. We teamed up with the folks at ArenaNet/NCSOFT to give away 1,000 beta keys in advance of the game’s launch, and now, in celebration of their second major content update and newly-announced “Refer-a-Friend” program, we’re giving away 1,000 4-day free trials to the most important Tyrian citizens of all: you guys.
To enter, simply head on over to our contest page and enter your e-mail address (see that page for complete official rules). Then, if you win, you and 999 of your closest Nerdist friends will be able to take to the battlefields of Tyria from November 15th through November 18th. To sweeten the pot, this weekend marks the launch of the “Lost Shores” weekend event, a massive one-time event that promises big adventure, bigger loot, and the biggest monsters you’ve ever seen. So, go ahead, treat yo’ self to a weekend of massively multiplayer fun by entering our Guild Wars 2 giveaway and proving your PVP prowess.
If Halo is Combat Evolved, then Halo 4 truly is Halo Evolved. From the opening cinematic of the single player campaign to the completely fresh feeling multiplayer, everything about Halo 4 feels like a classic Halo experience, but also feels like something completely new. A lot of this growth is due to an updated look for the series and a much more cinematic and personal story for Master Chief.
When last we saw Master Chief, he had ended a galactic war, been presumed dead, and locked away in cryo-stasis with his AI life-mate Cortana on the damaged Forward Unto Dawn. Cut to 4 years later, and Master Chief is brought out of stasis when arriving into the orbit of a forerunner planet. Oh, and a covenant fleet is hanging out for shiggles as well, and apparently this is a fanatical religious sect of the covenant, because up until now we’ve only dealt with the well-meaning wanting to destroy the galaxy covenant. After that, you rather quickly get sucked into the Forerunner planet via a gravity well, meet a race of creatures called Prometheans that really don’t want you there, and then meet a big bad that upon first meeting you aren’t even sure Master Chief can take down, all while Cortana hangs in the balance as an AI’s life cycle isn’t meant to last 7 years. And this is all within the first few hours of gameplay.
I’m focusing a bit on the story because I feel like this is the first Halo game that really had a fully developed arc instead of a string of battle scenarios held together by a loose plot. There is even a certain amount of comparing that one could do with Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, as the game actually manages to deal with some of the same themes of where we come from and where we’re going, not the kind of thing Halo ever went for in the past. In Halo 1 & 2, Master Chief is saving the world because he’s a soldier and it’s his job. In Halo 4, Master Chief is fighting to save Cortana and, through plot points I won’t spoil, he has to go against orders to save humanity once again. The storytelling component of the series is so improved that it is the highlight of the game for me. I care about what happens to Master Chief. That’s not what I expected from a Halo game. I go to Mass Effect for my feels, not Halo. But I’ll be damned if Halo 4 doesn’t draw an emotional response from me. I don’t want to just beat the game for once, I want to see how the story ends.
Visually, this Halo is far superior, as it feels more theatrical than previous iterations of the franchise. The game does rely on cinematics a lot more than in the past, but they’re well-timed breathers from the action for the most part, and, as I said previously, the story is enthralling enough that you want to see them. Cortana and Master Chief both have updated looks for the first Halo from 343 and Master Chief definitely got the better redesign. Just when you think he can’t look more bad-ass, they go and do it. The game is stunning to play. It’s a more vivid and colorful gameplay experience than in the past, and if you don’t understand my meaning, play ODST again. Dark Grey, Dark Grey Everywhere.
It’s impossible to write a review of Halo and not mention the multiplayer. For once, the single player campaign is strong enough that I could avoid it, but the truth is that Halo 4‘s multiplayer is good again, and I didn’t realize Halo multiplayer had gone bad. The variety of games and the point-based scoring instead of straight kill count in infinity slayer make multiplayer a worth while experience, even if you’re not the best player around. Adding in the ability to unlock loadouts and armor, a multiplayer mechanic in other shooters that are almost solely multiplayer in design, gives players an investment in continuing to play, and even gives a slight advantage to people who vary their play styles.
Halo 4 is the best Halo game so far, and if this is the direction they’re going with the next few games, then I’m all for it. A cohesive and engaging storyline, compelling characters and incredible visuals make Halo 4 one of the best games of the year. It’s a return to form for an amazing franchise that didn’t feel dull until it reinvented itself and made you realize how much more it could have been.
For more details on Spartan Ops, check out Dan Casey’s demo from Comic-Con. You can also enter to win a sold out Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Master Chief vs. Hunter Statue now based on scenes from Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn on Machinima Prime (highly recommended viewing on the YouTube app on your Xbox instead of on a cramped computer monitor).
Welcome to another exciting edition of Beta’d, dear reader. L.A.’s Culver City Fire Station was home to a media preview event for the finalists of IndieCade 2012, the independent gaming expo that invades Los Angeles this weekend. All work and no play makes Dan a dull boy, so I will cut to the chase and present you with the five best games I got my hands on.
Developed in 8 weeks by MIT’s GAMBIT Game Lab, the JRPG-esque A Closed Worldis a unique adventure RPG that, according to developer Todd Harper, is “inspired by games like Earthbound.” The game follows a teenager who is so fed up with her surroundings that she up and leaves, winding up in a mysterious village adjacent to a demon-filled forest from which no one can escape. Determined to reach the other side of the forest – a feat which has never been accomplished before – the hero sallies forth and does righteous combat with the forest’s many denizens. Eschewing traditional RPG staples like melee attacks, spells and items, ACW‘s combat system uses the power of conversation – namely Logic, Passion and Ethics – to outwit and out-reason the Studio Ghibli-meets-pixel-art monsters. Fans of oddball RPGs and gameplay elements like L.A. Noir‘s interrogations or Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s conversation battles will find plenty to like from this free-to-play offering.
Developed by DigiPen’s David Scamehorn and Alexander Baard, the confusingly-named Super Space ____ (pronounced “Super Space Blank”) is a “a couch co-op arcade shooter about competition, cooperation, communication and the democracy of physics.” If that description didn’t hook you, then the frantic competitive but team-based co-op multiplayer will. Each player controls a turret on a spaceship whose steering is based on recoil from shooting, and you all compete for points and power-ups. The rub, however, is that you must work together to destroy asteroids aplenty and escape from other environmental hazards. Thus, the team is put into a prisoner’s dilemma: do you screw over your teammates for immediate gain and risk everyone’s death in the cold, unforgiving vacuum of space? Or do you take one for the team and sacrifice your high score so you can bank the ship starboard to avoid a fiery death? Either way, it’s addictive and we’re coming back for more.
Don’t let the title fool you; this is a surprisingly deep racing management simulator that would give FIFA’s Manager mode a run for its money. Currently available for iOS (and soon for Android), UK developer Playniac’s International Racing Squirrels puts you in the shoes of a manager/breeder in the high-stakes world of, well, squirrel racing. From training your squirrels to increase their stats to upgrading their digs to micromanaging the race itself through judicious use of power-ups, this management simulator is fun, flashy and proves to be a more compelling play than its title would suggest. Fans of titles like Monster Rancher, Pokemon, and sports games’ manager modes will definitely find something to love here.
With lush graphics and a stellar soundtrack, Cipher Prime’s Spliceis entrancing to watch, let alone play. The puzzle game puts you in a microbial microverse in which you must sequence, mutate and shift cell structures to fit a predetermined pattern. With a limited number of moves – or “splices” – to complete the sequence, Splice puts your brain to the test, often surprising the player with the way in which the binary cell structures react to their poking and prodding. Add in the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack in the background and you have the building blocks for one incredibly fun-filled organism.
First things first: stop reading this and go play Guacamelee. You will thank me later. The inventive co-op platformer from Drinkbox Studios is equal parts Castlevania, Metroid, and Nacho Libre. Drawing from traditional Mexican culture, the action-platformer puts you in the shoes of musclebound luchador Juan Aguacate, who is tasked with saving the world when El Presidente’s Daughter is kidnapped by evil skeletons. What follows is a case study in classic gameplay that has you battling all manner of colorful baddies, running from Chupacabras and shifting through alternate dimensions like “The World of the Dead” and “The World of Nightmares.”
Even more exciting is the cross-play functionality between the PS Vita and PS3 versions. Not only can you play co-op simultaneously across both systems, but if you prefer to go the single-player route, your saved game is preserved on both systems, so you can pick up and play exactly where you left off on the gaming device of your choice. Indie game? Hell, there are plenty of “mainstream” games that can’t pull that feat off. Whatever you do this IndieCade, just make sure to suplex, pile drive, and/or give a little sweet chin music to any and all who stand between you and the chance to play Guacamelee. NOTE: Please don’t actually engage in physical combat with other IndieCade attendees unless you’re both hooked up to some weird virtual reality device.
Will you be at IndieCade this weekend? What games are you excited for? Quemment below and let us know.
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...