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Zak Wojnar

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  1. Whether you loved it or hated it, World War Z, based on the novel by Max Brooks, was one of the biggest box office hits of 2013. A sequel, to be directed by David Fincher, has been languishing in development limbo for a stint but is expected to finally begin shooting in 2019. In the meantime, Saber Interactive is deep in development on a video game adaptation of the franchise. I got a chance to sit down and take an extended look at the E3 demo, and I came away feeling incredibly optimistic. Saber Interactive cut their teeth on some cult favorite shooters, including Inversion and – one of my personal all-time favorites – TimeShift. Their pedigree shows with World War Z, a high-octane co-op shooter with gravitas, atmosphere, and some truly incredible visuals. Game designer Oliver Hollis supervised the demo and would serve as my guide through the bombed-out streets of New York City. For the purposes of the demo, all four characters felt similar, but Hollis promises that the final game will include multiple classes, each with their own unique skill trees on which to spend hard-earned XP. Surprisingly, he also stresses the importance of storytelling to the Saber team, suggesting that the game will have moments for players to learn about their characters' backstories and motivations. Still, the story of WWZ remains a big question mark at this point. All we know is that the game unfolds over three episodes, each consisting of three chapters. Each episode is set in a distinct metropolitan setting – New York, Jerusalem, and Moscow – and features a unique cast, though upgrades will be tied to the player, not their avatar. While Hollis intimates that story context would be key in making this version of the zombie apocalypse believable for players, he also clearly takes pride in selling World War Z as a straightforward arcade-style shooter. Based on my impressions of the game thus far, Hollis and the Saber crew are well on their way towards succeeding. Fast, frantic gunplay permeates my demo, and weapons deliver a satisfying impact; a stream of automatic rifle fire or a close-range shotgun blast would send zombies flying across the room, often in multiple pieces. Unlike the film, which had a surprisingly tame PG-13 rating, the game is definitely shooting for a hard M for Mature. The demo begins in an office building. My group fights our way through the corridors, mowing down the undead with ruthless efficiency. The zombies behave like their motion picture counterparts, running and jumping like rabid animals, a far cry from the slow shamblers of most zombie media. This creative decision pays off when the party goes to an elevator which takes us to the lobby of the massive building. As fun as the corridor shooting has been, it's far from the main draw of WWZ. As we emerge into the second floor of a wide open foyer, we can see the ground level, covered with what looks to be hundreds of zombies. According to Oliver Hollis, WWZ can feature up to five hundred enemies on screen at once. Our objective made clear, I can't help but flash a wicked grin as I read the words, "Kill all the zombies in the atrium." My team and I happily oblige. One of the biggest "wow" moments of the demo came when the zombie horde reacted to our peppering of their numbers with large caliber potshots. Just like in the movie, they scramble across each other, building insect-like walls out of their own bodies. A giant mass of flesh rapidly makes its way up the wall, creating a visual sight unlike anything I'd ever seen, especially as gunfire knocks individual zombies from the pile and tumbling to the ground below. I toss my entire cache of grenades at the base of the 'zombie pyramid,' and the whole horde collapses, though some stragglers make it up to the second floor. Instead of shooting them, I dispatch them with quick melee swings, triggered with the right bumper on the Xbox controller. Fast, powerful, and satisfying, the melee combat nonetheless remains simple and easy to implement. It takes but a single hit to defeat a zombie, and follow-up swings are nigh-instantaneous. The sheer number of enemies keeps it from being a viable tactic, but it's certainly a useful tool at players' disposal. After killing off every single zombie in the area, we tasked with shoring up defenses for a looming undead counterattack, so we start placing turret guns and barbed wire fences. According to Hollis, these defensive tools are generated based on our performance in the level; if players steamroll the opposition, they get fewer defenses, but if they're barely holding on, survivors receive more destructive tools to wreak havoc and scrape back a measure of control. We also have access to ammo caches which provide a free refill on supplies, as well as the opportunity to switch guns and even pick up some limited-use power weapons. These all-powerful harbingers of bloody death include rocket launchers, automatic shotguns with massive destructive potential, and sniper rifles which fire explosive bullets. The demo continues on for a bit, bringing the action out onto the street and then into a New York City subway station, which looks decently authentic, if more spacious than the real thing. The next segment tasks us with a bit of exploration, recovering items for a survivor who has taken over a subway car. After some more corridor shooting and teamwork, we must defend the subway car from a zombie attack. Huddling together in the middle of the train, shooting through the windows at the horde has a distinctly claustrophobic feel, different from corridor shooting or the comparatively wide open atrium. After surviving a set amount of time, the train departs and the demo ends. Hopefully, the other levels will maintain the demo's full-tilt momentum and constant variety. Comparisons to Left 4 Dead are inevitable, but such a reductive comparison downplays the sense of power, satisfying action, and unmatched animation work present in the zombie hordes created by Saber Interactive. While WWZ should scratch the itch of anyone who has been waiting for a third chapter in Valve's zombie shooter series, it definitely feels like a whole other beast from L4D. The build we played ran on PC hardware at a smooth 60 FPS. Console players will only receive a 30 FPS experience, but hopefully that's the only compromise in bringing this game to Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Overall, World War Z is shaping up be the next truly great co-op shooting experience, and it was easily one of the best games I played at E3. It may lack the survival mechanics which are all the rage these days, but WWZ more than makes up for it with non-stop kinetic action, atmospheric locales, and finely-tuned pacing thanks to its linear level design. World War Z is a passion project for Saber. According to Oliver Hollis, Paramount Pictures did not approach Saber with the World War Z brand; the developer wanted to make a WWZ game, so they asked for the rights, and got permission to use the license. WWZ is self-published, and therefore a product of Saber's vision, unadulterated by external publisher demands and the type of executive meddling which so often sinks licensed games. We'll know for sure if World War Z becomes the next smash hit movie tie-in video game when it releases sometime in 2019 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  2. Whether you loved it or hated it, World War Z, based on the novel by Max Brooks, was one of the biggest box office hits of 2013. A sequel, to be directed by David Fincher, has been languishing in development limbo for a stint but is expected to finally begin shooting in 2019. In the meantime, Saber Interactive is deep in development on a video game adaptation of the franchise. I got a chance to sit down and take an extended look at the E3 demo, and I came away feeling incredibly optimistic. Saber Interactive cut their teeth on some cult favorite shooters, including Inversion and – one of my personal all-time favorites – TimeShift. Their pedigree shows with World War Z, a high-octane co-op shooter with gravitas, atmosphere, and some truly incredible visuals. Game designer Oliver Hollis supervised the demo and would serve as my guide through the bombed-out streets of New York City. For the purposes of the demo, all four characters felt similar, but Hollis promises that the final game will include multiple classes, each with their own unique skill trees on which to spend hard-earned XP. Surprisingly, he also stresses the importance of storytelling to the Saber team, suggesting that the game will have moments for players to learn about their characters' backstories and motivations. Still, the story of WWZ remains a big question mark at this point. All we know is that the game unfolds over three episodes, each consisting of three chapters. Each episode is set in a distinct metropolitan setting – New York, Jerusalem, and Moscow – and features a unique cast, though upgrades will be tied to the player, not their avatar. While Hollis intimates that story context would be key in making this version of the zombie apocalypse believable for players, he also clearly takes pride in selling World War Z as a straightforward arcade-style shooter. Based on my impressions of the game thus far, Hollis and the Saber crew are well on their way towards succeeding. Fast, frantic gunplay permeates my demo, and weapons deliver a satisfying impact; a stream of automatic rifle fire or a close-range shotgun blast would send zombies flying across the room, often in multiple pieces. Unlike the film, which had a surprisingly tame PG-13 rating, the game is definitely shooting for a hard M for Mature. The demo begins in an office building. My group fights our way through the corridors, mowing down the undead with ruthless efficiency. The zombies behave like their motion picture counterparts, running and jumping like rabid animals, a far cry from the slow shamblers of most zombie media. This creative decision pays off when the party goes to an elevator which takes us to the lobby of the massive building. As fun as the corridor shooting has been, it's far from the main draw of WWZ. As we emerge into the second floor of a wide open foyer, we can see the ground level, covered with what looks to be hundreds of zombies. According to Oliver Hollis, WWZ can feature up to five hundred enemies on screen at once. Our objective made clear, I can't help but flash a wicked grin as I read the words, "Kill all the zombies in the atrium." My team and I happily oblige. One of the biggest "wow" moments of the demo came when the zombie horde reacted to our peppering of their numbers with large caliber potshots. Just like in the movie, they scramble across each other, building insect-like walls out of their own bodies. A giant mass of flesh rapidly makes its way up the wall, creating a visual sight unlike anything I'd ever seen, especially as gunfire knocks individual zombies from the pile and tumbling to the ground below. I toss my entire cache of grenades at the base of the 'zombie pyramid,' and the whole horde collapses, though some stragglers make it up to the second floor. Instead of shooting them, I dispatch them with quick melee swings, triggered with the right bumper on the Xbox controller. Fast, powerful, and satisfying, the melee combat nonetheless remains simple and easy to implement. It takes but a single hit to defeat a zombie, and follow-up swings are nigh-instantaneous. The sheer number of enemies keeps it from being a viable tactic, but it's certainly a useful tool at players' disposal. After killing off every single zombie in the area, we tasked with shoring up defenses for a looming undead counterattack, so we start placing turret guns and barbed wire fences. According to Hollis, these defensive tools are generated based on our performance in the level; if players steamroll the opposition, they get fewer defenses, but if they're barely holding on, survivors receive more destructive tools to wreak havoc and scrape back a measure of control. We also have access to ammo caches which provide a free refill on supplies, as well as the opportunity to switch guns and even pick up some limited-use power weapons. These all-powerful harbingers of bloody death include rocket launchers, automatic shotguns with massive destructive potential, and sniper rifles which fire explosive bullets. The demo continues on for a bit, bringing the action out onto the street and then into a New York City subway station, which looks decently authentic, if more spacious than the real thing. The next segment tasks us with a bit of exploration, recovering items for a survivor who has taken over a subway car. After some more corridor shooting and teamwork, we must defend the subway car from a zombie attack. Huddling together in the middle of the train, shooting through the windows at the horde has a distinctly claustrophobic feel, different from corridor shooting or the comparatively wide open atrium. After surviving a set amount of time, the train departs and the demo ends. Hopefully, the other levels will maintain the demo's full-tilt momentum and constant variety. Comparisons to Left 4 Dead are inevitable, but such a reductive comparison downplays the sense of power, satisfying action, and unmatched animation work present in the zombie hordes created by Saber Interactive. While WWZ should scratch the itch of anyone who has been waiting for a third chapter in Valve's zombie shooter series, it definitely feels like a whole other beast from L4D. The build we played ran on PC hardware at a smooth 60 FPS. Console players will only receive a 30 FPS experience, but hopefully that's the only compromise in bringing this game to Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Overall, World War Z is shaping up be the next truly great co-op shooting experience, and it was easily one of the best games I played at E3. It may lack the survival mechanics which are all the rage these days, but WWZ more than makes up for it with non-stop kinetic action, atmospheric locales, and finely-tuned pacing thanks to its linear level design. World War Z is a passion project for Saber. According to Oliver Hollis, Paramount Pictures did not approach Saber with the World War Z brand; the developer wanted to make a WWZ game, so they asked for the rights, and got permission to use the license. WWZ is self-published, and therefore a product of Saber's vision, unadulterated by external publisher demands and the type of executive meddling which so often sinks licensed games. We'll know for sure if World War Z becomes the next smash hit movie tie-in video game when it releases sometime in 2019 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  3. One of the biggest surprises of E3 2018 was the long-awaited formal reveal of the remake of Resident Evil 2. Twenty years after the launch of the original game back in 1998, and the time has come to rebuild one of the most legendary games of all time, from the ground up. In addition to a cinematic in-engine trailer, the game was also playable on the show floor. There are still a lot of questions about the game, how it feels, how it plays, and from which entries in the series' past it takes the most inspiration. After spending significant hands-on time with the game, I have some answers. Obviously, the first and most immediately apparent inspiration for this remake is the original Resident Evil 2. The E3 demo begins with Leon Kennedy in the lobby of the Raccoon City Police Station, early in the game, but after the original's explosive opening sequence on the streets of Raccoon City. Presumably, that chaotic scene will be represented in the remake, but it was not present at E3. Visually, I was surprised at how easily I recognized the iconic locations from the original game. Everything, from the lobby's maiden statue, to the white and green walls of the station's hallways, and individual rooms within the station, were all distinctly recognizable. However, rather than resting on nostalgia and being a copy-paste HD remaster of the original, the remake shifts the perspective to behind Leon's camera, as seen in Resident Evil 4, 5, 6, and the Revelations games. Don't be fooled, though: the feeling is nothing like those titles. To casual observers, RE2 looks like a slower version of Resident Evil 6, or even akin to Revelations 2, but it feels totally different, more akin to a much more recent entry in the long-running saga. In terms of tone and gameplay, this remake borrows the most from the latest entry in the series, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. From the looks of things, RE2 is going for a full-on horror experience; even the HUD is taken straight out of RE7. While the environments are recognizable from the original game, the remake runs on the RE Engine created for RE7, and thus supports its filmic, photorealistic style. The police station is no longer well-lit; it's almost pitch black at times, meaning Leon has to make use of his flashlight to see anything more than two feet away from his face. This creates a palpable tension and an overwhelming – but welcome – sense of dread. After a section of deliberately-paced exploration, I finally came face-to-face with a zombie, and was not disappointed. My immediate, visceral reaction was one of fear, and I was surprised and how I welcomed the terror. Much has been made of Resident Evil's infamous straying from its survival horror roots. After RE7 brought things back to basics with a straightforward horror title, many fans were skeptical that RE2 would be a step backwards due to its over-the-shoulder camera lending it a superficial resemblance to Resident Evil 5 and 6. Fortunately, this is not the case. The controversial over-the-shoulder, third-person camera from the series' most divisive era returns, but it's not here to facilitate high-octane shooting action and breakneck pacing; instead, it's here to offer a cinematic perspective with kinetic movements and dynamic zooms. At first, I chose to stand my ground and fight the zombie, and was surprised by just how intense the encounter truly was. Leon's Matilda sidearm has a slow rate of fire, the undead take a ton of bullets to bring down, and Leon lacks the martial arts prowess he exhibits in later titles. Lining up headshots isn't easy, but it's certainly rewarding, even if they're not an instant kill as they often are in zombie-focused media. Zombies are an irrepressible bunch, and I ultimately wind up opting to flee, rather than fight, which brings us to another significant change from the original game: since the environments are all interconnected, rather than separated by loading screens, zombies can follow Leon throughout the police station, although it seems the main lobby area is a safe space... During the demo, at least. The slow, deliberate pacing is akin to RE7, and the combat truly feels like every bullet has value. The final game will have an ammo crafting component, though I didn't get the chance to fiddle with it during my time with the game. I did, however, get to use the combat knife. While it's unclear whether the weapon has limited durability or if there are multiple knives to collect throughout the game, this new feature combines the defensive weapons from the 2002 Resident Evil remake with the classic combat knife fans have known and loved since the beginning. The knife can be used to open objects locked with heavy duty tape, from doors to cabinets. It can also be used in combat, either RE4-style or as a defensive item. Upon being grabbed by a zombie, Leon can counter their bite by plunging the knife into his attacker's head, which looks fantastic, but leaves Leon without a knife. Fortunately, it can be recovered by killing off the zombie and retrieving the blade from their corpse. One change which some fans have not enjoyed is the new faces and voice actors for the entire cast. While Leon sports his trademark "beautiful boy bangs" hairstyle, his face is noticeably different from what we've seen in the past, although it's certainly not as drastic a change as Chris Redfield's unexpectedly svelte appearance in RE7 and its "Not a Hero" DLC. Likewise, Marvin Branagh, who had only a minor role in the original game, seems to behave more like an ill-fated mentor here, giving Leon his combat knife, dispensing advice, and acting as something of a guide during the early stages of a game... Still, he's already bitten by the time Leon finds him, and he knows he's not long for this world. A few other changes include the reworking of famous "moments" from the original game, at least for the demo. In my time with RE2, I didn't encounter a single Licker enemy, though I did see its giant claw marks, and I also crossed paths with at least two of its unlucky victims, who had been violently torn apart. There's no doubt this game will earn the decidedly family-unfriendly M for Mature rating. There's also a new item, "Wooden Boards," which Leon can use to block enemies from breaking in through the police station's windows. Likewise, the game seems to be riddled with all new puzzles, as well as new twists on familiar tasks, offering new challenges to RE2 fans who think they'll be able to breeze through the new game just because they've spent 20 years mastering the original. This new take on Resident Evil 2 is not the game you knew. To call it a remaster would be extremely reductive, but it's not a straightforward remake, either. The 2002 Gamecube version of Resident Evil added new scenarios, characters, enemies, and twists to the classic Mansion incident of the original 1996 game, but it still retained the fixed camera angles, tank controls, 2D backgrounds, and most of the basic gameplay of the original. By comparison, RE2 is aiming to be an even more radical departure from its source material than the previous Resident Evil remake. Resident Evil 2 isn't a stop-gap release meant to hold over fans until the next game. It isn't an extended piece of obligatory fan service to act as counterprogramming to RE7. No, Resident Evil 2, despite being a remake which returns to an established place on the timeline, is the next Resident Evil game. RE2 is the next evolution for the series, combining the jaw-dropping terror of RE7 with the established story of RE2, creating a whole new beast. There's certainly an element of nostalgia at play here, but RE2 is clearly aiming to an unrelenting horror masterpiece without peer. It's not "Resident Evil for a new generation," but the latest evolution for a series which is constantly growing, changing, looking back, and moving forward. We'll find out for sure when Resident Evil 2 launches, on January 29, 2019, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  4. One of the biggest surprises of E3 2018 was the long-awaited formal reveal of the remake of Resident Evil 2. Twenty years after the launch of the original game back in 1998, and the time has come to rebuild one of the most legendary games of all time, from the ground up. In addition to a cinematic in-engine trailer, the game was also playable on the show floor. There are still a lot of questions about the game, how it feels, how it plays, and from which entries in the series' past it takes the most inspiration. After spending significant hands-on time with the game, I have some answers. Obviously, the first and most immediately apparent inspiration for this remake is the original Resident Evil 2. The E3 demo begins with Leon Kennedy in the lobby of the Raccoon City Police Station, early in the game, but after the original's explosive opening sequence on the streets of Raccoon City. Presumably, that chaotic scene will be represented in the remake, but it was not present at E3. Visually, I was surprised at how easily I recognized the iconic locations from the original game. Everything, from the lobby's maiden statue, to the white and green walls of the station's hallways, and individual rooms within the station, were all distinctly recognizable. However, rather than resting on nostalgia and being a copy-paste HD remaster of the original, the remake shifts the perspective to behind Leon's camera, as seen in Resident Evil 4, 5, 6, and the Revelations games. Don't be fooled, though: the feeling is nothing like those titles. To casual observers, RE2 looks like a slower version of Resident Evil 6, or even akin to Revelations 2, but it feels totally different, more akin to a much more recent entry in the long-running saga. In terms of tone and gameplay, this remake borrows the most from the latest entry in the series, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. From the looks of things, RE2 is going for a full-on horror experience; even the HUD is taken straight out of RE7. While the environments are recognizable from the original game, the remake runs on the RE Engine created for RE7, and thus supports its filmic, photorealistic style. The police station is no longer well-lit; it's almost pitch black at times, meaning Leon has to make use of his flashlight to see anything more than two feet away from his face. This creates a palpable tension and an overwhelming – but welcome – sense of dread. After a section of deliberately-paced exploration, I finally came face-to-face with a zombie, and was not disappointed. My immediate, visceral reaction was one of fear, and I was surprised and how I welcomed the terror. Much has been made of Resident Evil's infamous straying from its survival horror roots. After RE7 brought things back to basics with a straightforward horror title, many fans were skeptical that RE2 would be a step backwards due to its over-the-shoulder camera lending it a superficial resemblance to Resident Evil 5 and 6. Fortunately, this is not the case. The controversial over-the-shoulder, third-person camera from the series' most divisive era returns, but it's not here to facilitate high-octane shooting action and breakneck pacing; instead, it's here to offer a cinematic perspective with kinetic movements and dynamic zooms. At first, I chose to stand my ground and fight the zombie, and was surprised by just how intense the encounter truly was. Leon's Matilda sidearm has a slow rate of fire, the undead take a ton of bullets to bring down, and Leon lacks the martial arts prowess he exhibits in later titles. Lining up headshots isn't easy, but it's certainly rewarding, even if they're not an instant kill as they often are in zombie-focused media. Zombies are an irrepressible bunch, and I ultimately wind up opting to flee, rather than fight, which brings us to another significant change from the original game: since the environments are all interconnected, rather than separated by loading screens, zombies can follow Leon throughout the police station, although it seems the main lobby area is a safe space... During the demo, at least. The slow, deliberate pacing is akin to RE7, and the combat truly feels like every bullet has value. The final game will have an ammo crafting component, though I didn't get the chance to fiddle with it during my time with the game. I did, however, get to use the combat knife. While it's unclear whether the weapon has limited durability or if there are multiple knives to collect throughout the game, this new feature combines the defensive weapons from the 2002 Resident Evil remake with the classic combat knife fans have known and loved since the beginning. The knife can be used to open objects locked with heavy duty tape, from doors to cabinets. It can also be used in combat, either RE4-style or as a defensive item. Upon being grabbed by a zombie, Leon can counter their bite by plunging the knife into his attacker's head, which looks fantastic, but leaves Leon without a knife. Fortunately, it can be recovered by killing off the zombie and retrieving the blade from their corpse. One change which some fans have not enjoyed is the new faces and voice actors for the entire cast. While Leon sports his trademark "beautiful boy bangs" hairstyle, his face is noticeably different from what we've seen in the past, although it's certainly not as drastic a change as Chris Redfield's unexpectedly svelte appearance in RE7 and its "Not a Hero" DLC. Likewise, Marvin Branagh, who had only a minor role in the original game, seems to behave more like an ill-fated mentor here, giving Leon his combat knife, dispensing advice, and acting as something of a guide during the early stages of a game... Still, he's already bitten by the time Leon finds him, and he knows he's not long for this world. A few other changes include the reworking of famous "moments" from the original game, at least for the demo. In my time with RE2, I didn't encounter a single Licker enemy, though I did see its giant claw marks, and I also crossed paths with at least two of its unlucky victims, who had been violently torn apart. There's no doubt this game will earn the decidedly family-unfriendly M for Mature rating. There's also a new item, "Wooden Boards," which Leon can use to block enemies from breaking in through the police station's windows. Likewise, the game seems to be riddled with all new puzzles, as well as new twists on familiar tasks, offering new challenges to RE2 fans who think they'll be able to breeze through the new game just because they've spent 20 years mastering the original. This new take on Resident Evil 2 is not the game you knew. To call it a remaster would be extremely reductive, but it's not a straightforward remake, either. The 2002 Gamecube version of Resident Evil added new scenarios, characters, enemies, and twists to the classic Mansion incident of the original 1996 game, but it still retained the fixed camera angles, tank controls, 2D backgrounds, and most of the basic gameplay of the original. By comparison, RE2 is aiming to be an even more radical departure from its source material than the previous Resident Evil remake. Resident Evil 2 isn't a stop-gap release meant to hold over fans until the next game. It isn't an extended piece of obligatory fan service to act as counterprogramming to RE7. No, Resident Evil 2, despite being a remake which returns to an established place on the timeline, is the next Resident Evil game. RE2 is the next evolution for the series, combining the jaw-dropping terror of RE7 with the established story of RE2, creating a whole new beast. There's certainly an element of nostalgia at play here, but RE2 is clearly aiming to an unrelenting horror masterpiece without peer. It's not "Resident Evil for a new generation," but the latest evolution for a series which is constantly growing, changing, looking back, and moving forward. We'll find out for sure when Resident Evil 2 launches, on January 29, 2019, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  5. One year ago, publisher Activision released the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, a remake of the original three PlayStation classics with next-gen graphics. Gameplay-wise, the Crash Trilogy attempted to perfectly replicate the original games, and it came extremely close, but ultimately fell short of making the PlayStation 1 originals completely obsolete. A few seemingly minor changes – such as adjustments to enemy hitboxes and the ill-advised choice to use the jump physics from Crash 3 in all three games – kept the remake from fully living up to its potential. Still, developer Vicarious Visions put in a ton of work to make the game feel authentic to the hardcore fans, and for the most part, they succeeded. Sony's other big 1990s franchise was Spyro the Dragon. Like Crash, Spyro starred in a trilogy of universally acclaimed PlayStation games (Spyro, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon) before fading into obscurity during the PS2 era. In the long run, the little purple dragon is arguably more successful than Crash; while the plucky marsupial had been largely absent from the gaming scene following the failure of 2008's Crash: Mind over Mutant, Spyro managed to eke out a measure of success in the cult favorite Legend of Spyro trilogy and as a key player in the best-selling Skylanders series. Now, Activision is wisely bringing the character back to his roots with a remake of Insomniac's original titles, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, developed by Skylanders developer Toys for Bob. Like with Crash, old-school fans have significant questions about the gameplay of this new take on Spyro's classic adventures. Will it feel absolutely perfect to the PS1 originals? At E3 2018, I got extensive hands-on time with two levels from the original 1998 title, remade for PS4, and came away with some distinct impressions which may be surprising to longtime fans of the franchise. As a lifelong fan of Spyro's original adventures by Insomniac (I can proudly say I never played anything after 2000's Year of the Dragon, the third and final game on this collection), I knew that I would notice if everything wasn't absolutely perfect, just like how I noticed when the Crash Bandicoot trilogy was good, or even great, but not quite perfect compared to its progenitor. Upon getting my hands on the controller and booting up Toasty, the first boss level from Spyro's original adventure, the first thing I noticed was how gorgeous it all looked. Spyro's character model, in particular, is a sight to behold. Stylishly angular and youthfully emotive, the pint-sized dragon, simply put, has never looked better. Similarly, the environments, while apparently geometrically identical to their PS1 counterparts, are full of tiny visual details which add up to a fully believable environment. With a tap of the circle button, Spyro shoots a short geyser of fire from his mouth. The flames, while still as cartoonishly stylized as the rest of the revamped visuals, have a deviously visceral impact; they light the environment in a way which was simply impossible back in 1998, and they even scorch the grass in front of Spyro, to say nothing of what a plume of flame can do to his numerous and dangerous enemies. Of course, Spyro's newfound visual flair doesn't mean much if the gameplay doesn't stack up to the original. In that respect, unlike Crash Bandicoot, Spyro Reignited Trilogy doesn't attempt to play exactly like the original. Back in the PS1 days, Spyro felt very heavy, a bit slow, and had a noticeably wide arc when it came to turning, making sudden changes in direction a bit difficult. It wasn't insurmountable, and shouldn't even be described as a fault; it was just the way Spyro moved. He was different from Crash, from Mario, from Banjo, and all the other 1990s platforming heroes, who each had their own respective and distinct "feel." Immediately upon nudging the analog stick forward, I noticed how different Spyro feels from his heyday. At first, it was a bit distracting, being able to turn on a dime and run circles around enemies, but I quickly realized a shocking truth: Spyro Reignited doesn't play like the original game; it plays better. Back in the day, camera control was mapped to the shoulder buttons, which was the standard, but would be downright archaic today. Now, the camera is controlled with the right analog stick, which lets the player see more of the environment, and see it more quickly than ever before. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and I could sense my enhanced control as I tackled the enemies in the Toasty stage. As I looked around me, I saw other E3 attendees getting mauled by the big grey dogs who populate the levels. I don't blame them, since those enemies are notoriously pesky, especially to untrained players who haven't yet realized that it takes two bursts of flame to bring them down, and they always counterattack after the first hit. On the PS1, it took a while to figure out the rhythm of the movement, and it was always tough to get out of range of their counter. Here, it was as easy as pulling back on the left analog stick. Spyro's movement is stunningly smooth and I was weaving through the level with a newfound fluidity and speed which is entirely different from the much heavier motion of the original. It's a bold change, but having played it myself, I must admit, it was the right move. After making short work of Toasty, I moved on to Tree Tops, one of the more infamous levels in the first game, due to its supercharge ramps and tough-to-reach secret areas. In this level, the visual acuity of this next-gen remastering is even more apparent than in Toasty. The dark, earthy palette of the level, which left much to the imagination in the original, really comes alive in this remake. In particular, the enemies, originally rendered as somewhat nondescript blobs of polygons, look like actual creatures this time around. Testing out the supercharge ramps, it only took me a couple of tries to make it to the secret area on top of the final island, and I was pleased by how smooth the controls felt... Although I had a bit of trouble knowing when to transition from the jump to a glide, leading to a couple of deaths before I found the precise moment to get the most distance out of the supercharge jump. The main collectable in the game is trapped Elder Dragons. Trapped in cages of green crystal, Spyro breaks them out of their prison, at which point they give him a brief word of advice before disappearing. While the original game had a degree of variety in dragon designs, assigning different body types to each of the first five worlds (the sixth, Gnasty's World, features a mixture from the previous settings), Reignited appears to be taking things a step further, making every single dragon unique and full of character. In the original, some of the dragons lacked fun dialogue, instead offering a simple "Thank you for releasing me!" It's unclear if that will be retained in this remake, or if any new interactions will be written for those dragons. At this point, I'm happy to report that Spyro Reignited Trilogy feels good, and I can't wait to get my hands on the complete game. I'm eager to embark on an odyssey through the worlds of Spyro, Ripto's Rage, and Year of the Dragon, combining my nostalgic memories of classic settings and enemies with the remake's significantly revamped gameplay mechanics. Of course, there are still questions remaining to be answered. Will Year of the Dragon's additional playable characters be as smooth to play as Spyro? Agent 9's first person shooter levels, notably, haven't aged very well. What about the numerous minigames from parts two and three, like Ice Hockey, boxing with Bentley the Yeti, and the numerous attractions in Dragon Shores, the bonus level from Ripto's Rage? Will these all be preserved/remastered for this new release? Spyro 2 opened and closed each level with a brief cutscene. Will they be remastered here? Year of the Dragon suffered from lacking these fun vignettes. Will developer Toys for Bob be bold enough to unify the sequels by creating brand new cutscenes for Year of the Dragon? One can only hope. One final question involves Year of the Dragon's main collectable, Dragon Eggs, which would hatch upon being rescued. While they each possessed unique names, many designs and animations were frequently repeated, robbing the baby dragons of their individuality. Will this HD remake go the extra mile and make sure every baby dragon feels like a unique character with their own custom animations? So far, all of Spyro Reignited Trilogy's marketing has focused on the original game, with only brief, fleeting glimpses of the sequels. Hopefully, they'll peel back the curtain soon. They have to; after all, the game is slated for release on September 21 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  6. One year ago, publisher Activision released the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, a remake of the original three PlayStation classics with next-gen graphics. Gameplay-wise, the Crash Trilogy attempted to perfectly replicate the original games, and it came extremely close, but ultimately fell short of making the PlayStation 1 originals completely obsolete. A few seemingly minor changes – such as adjustments to enemy hitboxes and the ill-advised choice to use the jump physics from Crash 3 in all three games – kept the remake from fully living up to its potential. Still, developer Vicarious Visions put in a ton of work to make the game feel authentic to the hardcore fans, and for the most part, they succeeded. Sony's other big 1990s franchise was Spyro the Dragon. Like Crash, Spyro starred in a trilogy of universally acclaimed PlayStation games (Spyro, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon) before fading into obscurity during the PS2 era. In the long run, the little purple dragon is arguably more successful than Crash; while the plucky marsupial had been largely absent from the gaming scene following the failure of 2008's Crash: Mind over Mutant, Spyro managed to eke out a measure of success in the cult favorite Legend of Spyro trilogy and as a key player in the best-selling Skylanders series. Now, Activision is wisely bringing the character back to his roots with a remake of Insomniac's original titles, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, developed by Skylanders developer Toys for Bob. Like with Crash, old-school fans have significant questions about the gameplay of this new take on Spyro's classic adventures. Will it feel absolutely perfect to the PS1 originals? At E3 2018, I got extensive hands-on time with two levels from the original 1998 title, remade for PS4, and came away with some distinct impressions which may be surprising to longtime fans of the franchise. As a lifelong fan of Spyro's original adventures by Insomniac (I can proudly say I never played anything after 2000's Year of the Dragon, the third and final game on this collection), I knew that I would notice if everything wasn't absolutely perfect, just like how I noticed when the Crash Bandicoot trilogy was good, or even great, but not quite perfect compared to its progenitor. Upon getting my hands on the controller and booting up Toasty, the first boss level from Spyro's original adventure, the first thing I noticed was how gorgeous it all looked. Spyro's character model, in particular, is a sight to behold. Stylishly angular and youthfully emotive, the pint-sized dragon, simply put, has never looked better. Similarly, the environments, while apparently geometrically identical to their PS1 counterparts, are full of tiny visual details which add up to a fully believable environment. With a tap of the circle button, Spyro shoots a short geyser of fire from his mouth. The flames, while still as cartoonishly stylized as the rest of the revamped visuals, have a deviously visceral impact; they light the environment in a way which was simply impossible back in 1998, and they even scorch the grass in front of Spyro, to say nothing of what a plume of flame can do to his numerous and dangerous enemies. Of course, Spyro's newfound visual flair doesn't mean much if the gameplay doesn't stack up to the original. In that respect, unlike Crash Bandicoot, Spyro Reignited Trilogy doesn't attempt to play exactly like the original. Back in the PS1 days, Spyro felt very heavy, a bit slow, and had a noticeably wide arc when it came to turning, making sudden changes in direction a bit difficult. It wasn't insurmountable, and shouldn't even be described as a fault; it was just the way Spyro moved. He was different from Crash, from Mario, from Banjo, and all the other 1990s platforming heroes, who each had their own respective and distinct "feel." Immediately upon nudging the analog stick forward, I noticed how different Spyro feels from his heyday. At first, it was a bit distracting, being able to turn on a dime and run circles around enemies, but I quickly realized a shocking truth: Spyro Reignited doesn't play like the original game; it plays better. Back in the day, camera control was mapped to the shoulder buttons, which was the standard, but would be downright archaic today. Now, the camera is controlled with the right analog stick, which lets the player see more of the environment, and see it more quickly than ever before. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and I could sense my enhanced control as I tackled the enemies in the Toasty stage. As I looked around me, I saw other E3 attendees getting mauled by the big grey dogs who populate the levels. I don't blame them, since those enemies are notoriously pesky, especially to untrained players who haven't yet realized that it takes two bursts of flame to bring them down, and they always counterattack after the first hit. On the PS1, it took a while to figure out the rhythm of the movement, and it was always tough to get out of range of their counter. Here, it was as easy as pulling back on the left analog stick. Spyro's movement is stunningly smooth and I was weaving through the level with a newfound fluidity and speed which is entirely different from the much heavier motion of the original. It's a bold change, but having played it myself, I must admit, it was the right move. After making short work of Toasty, I moved on to Tree Tops, one of the more infamous levels in the first game, due to its supercharge ramps and tough-to-reach secret areas. In this level, the visual acuity of this next-gen remastering is even more apparent than in Toasty. The dark, earthy palette of the level, which left much to the imagination in the original, really comes alive in this remake. In particular, the enemies, originally rendered as somewhat nondescript blobs of polygons, look like actual creatures this time around. Testing out the supercharge ramps, it only took me a couple of tries to make it to the secret area on top of the final island, and I was pleased by how smooth the controls felt... Although I had a bit of trouble knowing when to transition from the jump to a glide, leading to a couple of deaths before I found the precise moment to get the most distance out of the supercharge jump. The main collectable in the game is trapped Elder Dragons. Trapped in cages of green crystal, Spyro breaks them out of their prison, at which point they give him a brief word of advice before disappearing. While the original game had a degree of variety in dragon designs, assigning different body types to each of the first five worlds (the sixth, Gnasty's World, features a mixture from the previous settings), Reignited appears to be taking things a step further, making every single dragon unique and full of character. In the original, some of the dragons lacked fun dialogue, instead offering a simple "Thank you for releasing me!" It's unclear if that will be retained in this remake, or if any new interactions will be written for those dragons. At this point, I'm happy to report that Spyro Reignited Trilogy feels good, and I can't wait to get my hands on the complete game. I'm eager to embark on an odyssey through the worlds of Spyro, Ripto's Rage, and Year of the Dragon, combining my nostalgic memories of classic settings and enemies with the remake's significantly revamped gameplay mechanics. Of course, there are still questions remaining to be answered. Will Year of the Dragon's additional playable characters be as smooth to play as Spyro? Agent 9's first person shooter levels, notably, haven't aged very well. What about the numerous minigames from parts two and three, like Ice Hockey, boxing with Bentley the Yeti, and the numerous attractions in Dragon Shores, the bonus level from Ripto's Rage? Will these all be preserved/remastered for this new release? Spyro 2 opened and closed each level with a brief cutscene. Will they be remastered here? Year of the Dragon suffered from lacking these fun vignettes. Will developer Toys for Bob be bold enough to unify the sequels by creating brand new cutscenes for Year of the Dragon? One can only hope. One final question involves Year of the Dragon's main collectable, Dragon Eggs, which would hatch upon being rescued. While they each possessed unique names, many designs and animations were frequently repeated, robbing the baby dragons of their individuality. Will this HD remake go the extra mile and make sure every baby dragon feels like a unique character with their own custom animations? So far, all of Spyro Reignited Trilogy's marketing has focused on the original game, with only brief, fleeting glimpses of the sequels. Hopefully, they'll peel back the curtain soon. They have to; after all, the game is slated for release on September 21 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  7. The last time Square Enix held an E3 press conference was in 2015. When it was announced they'd be returning after a three-year absence, fans got excited... Perhaps unreasonably so. After all, the much-anticipated Final Fantasy VII remake was recently announced to be essentially rebooting its development cycle, so it was arguably unfair to expect that game to appear. Similarly, it proved to be way too early for a look at the upcoming Crystal Dynamics-developed Avengers title. Regardless, many were taken aback by the surprisingly short run time (only half an hour) of Square Enix's Nintendo Direct-style video presentation. Despite this, there were still some great nuggets of information and surprise announcements tucked away in the brief press briefing. Shadow of the Tomb Raider It's always tough to nail the ending of a trilogy, but we have faith that Crystal Dynamics can provide a satisfying conclusion to the origin story of Lara Croft, at least in terms of visuals and gameplay. While the story of the re-rebooted Tomb Raider games has proven divisive among lifelong fans of the franchise, few can complain about the winning mix of platforming, puzzle-solving, and engaging, cinematic combat offered by the new titles. And, of course, Camilla Luddington (Grey's Anatomy) is perfect as this version of Lara. In addition to the return of Jonah from the previous two games in the form of some cutscene footage, the main hook of the Shadow of the Tomb Raider presentation was an extended gameplay demonstration which showed off the breathtaking graphics and enhanced stealth gameplay of the title. A closing sizzle reel featured all the high-adrenaline moments fans expect, including surprises like Lara battling a moray eel, swimming freely in underwater 3D environments, and – naturally – exploring tombs filled with ancient relics and priceless treasures. Octopath Traveler Square Enix's gorgeous Switch exclusive, Octopath Traveler, is nearing release. Described as an HD-2D game, Octopath Traveler combines the sprite-based work of SNES classics like Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI and combines it with more realistically-styled backgrounds and distinctly modern post-processing and lighting effects. The final result is nothing less than striking, and it's easily one of the most distinct-looking games in recent memory. Hopefully it plays as well as it looks and offers deep RPG mechanics for all eight of its protagonists. We'll find out for sure when the title releases on July 13. Final Fantasy XIV It's been nearly five years since the disastrous launch of Final Fantasy XIV was completely rectified with the game-changing release of A Realm Reborn. To this day, FFXIV is celebrated as a veritable phoenix which rose from the ashes of its own hubris as one of the hottest, most addictive MMORPGs on the market, and Square Enix is continuing to support the profitable powerhouse with a continuous outpour of new content for Eorzean explorers to devour. They showed off two significant additions, the first of which is Patch 4.3, "Under the Moonlight," which offers a ton of new quests, a new raid, and assorted quality of life improvements. All in all, it's a pretty standard update, if still satisfying for ravenous XIV fans. The other new event is far more provocative: a crossover with Monster Hunter World. Level 70 players who have completed the Stormblood quest will be able to take on the task of hunting one of Monster Hunter's signature creatures, the fearsome Rathalos. Meanwhile, Monster Hunter World players will gain access to exclusive armor sets courtesy of a new hunt: Final Fantasy's signature recurring powerhouse summon, Bahamut. The crossover is expected to launch sometime this summer, but no dates have been announced yet. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit Dontnod have been keeping busy. Between the recently-launched Vampyr and their upcoming Life is Strange Season 2 and the mysterious Twin Mirror, they are juggling a great many high-profile projects. While Life is Strange 2 was a no-show at E3, they instead offered an adjacent spin-off, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, which expands the Life is Strange universe. The new game stars Chris, a young boy with a vivid imagination, being raised by a single, widower father in Oregon. The trailer promises Life is Strange's signature mix of youthful whimsy and intimate characterization, though with perhaps a more childlike sense of wonder thanks to its ten-year-old protagonist. The biggest surprise about Captain Spirit is that it will be completely free when it launches on June 26. Dragon Quest XI Japanese players have had their hands on Dragon Quest XI since last Summer, but the epic RPG adventure is finally jumping shores and gearing up to debut in the West. While the game initially released on both Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation 4, it seems only the PS4 version is making the leap to American and European shores, in addition to a PC port. Nevertheless, the localization of DQXI is a huge win for JRPG fans. Worldwide, Dragon Quest is second only to Final Fantasy in terms of role-playing prestige, and the game has already sold over three million copies in Japan alone. Hopefully, the Western release, due out September 4, will be the breakthrough hit the series has long been seeking. Nier: Automata and Yakuza 0 proved to be surprise hits in the United States, so why shouldn't Dragon Quest XI follow in their illustrious footsteps? Oh, and by the way, the Nier sequel is making the jump to Xbox One X in the form of the "Become as Gods Edition," which includes the DLC and offers 4K enhancements. Babylon's Fall Platinum Games are always working on something new and different, and their latest project, Babylon's Fall, looks to be right in their wheelhouse... And by that, we mean it looks bonkers, full of dense lore, and impossibly kinetic action. Unfortunately, the trailer was purely CG and didn't appear to show anything from the actual game engine, so actual gameplay details are still unknown, but it's Platinum Games, so anything less than insane, over-the-top action spectacle would be way out of character for them. Still, the brief clip's focus on a historical timeline of lore suggests to us that Platinum are aiming to compete with the likes of Game of Thrones with their next game, which is due out on PS4 and Steam in 2019. Kingdom Hearts III The appearance of Kingdom Hearts III was hardly surprising during Square's press conference. However, its presence would have been more exciting if they hadn't announced the release date earlier in the week, and also released a nearly-identical trailer at the Microsoft Xbox press conference the day before. Basically, the Square Enix trailer was a rehash of the Xbox trailer, but with a couple of extra shots here and there, including the reveal of Remy from Pixar's Ratatouille, presumably as a summon character. Just Cause 4 There are few things more rewarding than causing ungodly levels or mayhem and destruction in a Just Cause game. Rico Rodriguez is back for Just Cause 4, which aims to be the most over-the-top entry yet. Boasting a new graphics engine and the most diverse setting yet seen in the acclaimed series, JC4 is aiming, like its predecessors, to be the open-world action game by which all others are judged. Our first reactions to the JC4 trailer can be found here. The Quiet Man Not much is known about The Quiet Man, other than the player character is more gorgeous than Cloud Strife and Squall Leonheart combined, and he has some sick hand-to-hand combat skills. The trailer incorporated live-action footage in addition to brief snippets of gameplay, but it's unclear if the New York City-based title will embrace a new-age FMV style, or if that was just a specially-shot sequence for the trailer. Square Enix, devilish teases as they are, promise more info is coming in August. -- Overall, Square Enix's show was short, but sweet. They brought some cool surprises like Captain Spirit and the Final Fantasy XIV/Monster Hunter World crossover, as well as fleshed-out looks at big-budget action/adventure titles like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Just Cause 4. Like any good presser, they also teased us with brief, provocative glimpses at unknown titles like The Quiet Man and Babylon's Fall. And, of course, there's a significant group of people who are beyond thrilled now that Dragon Quest XI has a Western release date... And we don't need to explain that any look at Kingdom Hearts III automatically puts this squarely in the "win" column. How do you think Square Enix did with its E3 2018 showing? Let us know in the comments! You can watch the full press conference for yourself below. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  8. The last time Square Enix held an E3 press conference was in 2015. When it was announced they'd be returning after a three-year absence, fans got excited... Perhaps unreasonably so. After all, the much-anticipated Final Fantasy VII remake was recently announced to be essentially rebooting its development cycle, so it was arguably unfair to expect that game to appear. Similarly, it proved to be way too early for a look at the upcoming Crystal Dynamics-developed Avengers title. Regardless, many were taken aback by the surprisingly short run time (only half an hour) of Square Enix's Nintendo Direct-style video presentation. Despite this, there were still some great nuggets of information and surprise announcements tucked away in the brief press briefing. Shadow of the Tomb Raider It's always tough to nail the ending of a trilogy, but we have faith that Crystal Dynamics can provide a satisfying conclusion to the origin story of Lara Croft, at least in terms of visuals and gameplay. While the story of the re-rebooted Tomb Raider games has proven divisive among lifelong fans of the franchise, few can complain about the winning mix of platforming, puzzle-solving, and engaging, cinematic combat offered by the new titles. And, of course, Camilla Luddington (Grey's Anatomy) is perfect as this version of Lara. In addition to the return of Jonah from the previous two games in the form of some cutscene footage, the main hook of the Shadow of the Tomb Raider presentation was an extended gameplay demonstration which showed off the breathtaking graphics and enhanced stealth gameplay of the title. A closing sizzle reel featured all the high-adrenaline moments fans expect, including surprises like Lara battling a moray eel, swimming freely in underwater 3D environments, and – naturally – exploring tombs filled with ancient relics and priceless treasures. Octopath Traveler Square Enix's gorgeous Switch exclusive, Octopath Traveler, is nearing release. Described as an HD-2D game, Octopath Traveler combines the sprite-based work of SNES classics like Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI and combines it with more realistically-styled backgrounds and distinctly modern post-processing and lighting effects. The final result is nothing less than striking, and it's easily one of the most distinct-looking games in recent memory. Hopefully it plays as well as it looks and offers deep RPG mechanics for all eight of its protagonists. We'll find out for sure when the title releases on July 13. Final Fantasy XIV It's been nearly five years since the disastrous launch of Final Fantasy XIV was completely rectified with the game-changing release of A Realm Reborn. To this day, FFXIV is celebrated as a veritable phoenix which rose from the ashes of its own hubris as one of the hottest, most addictive MMORPGs on the market, and Square Enix is continuing to support the profitable powerhouse with a continuous outpour of new content for Eorzean explorers to devour. They showed off two significant additions, the first of which is Patch 4.3, "Under the Moonlight," which offers a ton of new quests, a new raid, and assorted quality of life improvements. All in all, it's a pretty standard update, if still satisfying for ravenous XIV fans. The other new event is far more provocative: a crossover with Monster Hunter World. Level 70 players who have completed the Stormblood quest will be able to take on the task of hunting one of Monster Hunter's signature creatures, the fearsome Rathalos. Meanwhile, Monster Hunter World players will gain access to exclusive armor sets courtesy of a new hunt: Final Fantasy's signature recurring powerhouse summon, Bahamut. The crossover is expected to launch sometime this summer, but no dates have been announced yet. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit Dontnod have been keeping busy. Between the recently-launched Vampyr and their upcoming Life is Strange Season 2 and the mysterious Twin Mirror, they are juggling a great many high-profile projects. While Life is Strange 2 was a no-show at E3, they instead offered an adjacent spin-off, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, which expands the Life is Strange universe. The new game stars Chris, a young boy with a vivid imagination, being raised by a single, widower father in Oregon. The trailer promises Life is Strange's signature mix of youthful whimsy and intimate characterization, though with perhaps a more childlike sense of wonder thanks to its ten-year-old protagonist. The biggest surprise about Captain Spirit is that it will be completely free when it launches on June 26. Dragon Quest XI Japanese players have had their hands on Dragon Quest XI since last Summer, but the epic RPG adventure is finally jumping shores and gearing up to debut in the West. While the game initially released on both Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation 4, it seems only the PS4 version is making the leap to American and European shores, in addition to a PC port. Nevertheless, the localization of DQXI is a huge win for JRPG fans. Worldwide, Dragon Quest is second only to Final Fantasy in terms of role-playing prestige, and the game has already sold over three million copies in Japan alone. Hopefully, the Western release, due out September 4, will be the breakthrough hit the series has long been seeking. Nier: Automata and Yakuza 0 proved to be surprise hits in the United States, so why shouldn't Dragon Quest XI follow in their illustrious footsteps? Oh, and by the way, the Nier sequel is making the jump to Xbox One X in the form of the "Become as Gods Edition," which includes the DLC and offers 4K enhancements. Babylon's Fall Platinum Games are always working on something new and different, and their latest project, Babylon's Fall, looks to be right in their wheelhouse... And by that, we mean it looks bonkers, full of dense lore, and impossibly kinetic action. Unfortunately, the trailer was purely CG and didn't appear to show anything from the actual game engine, so actual gameplay details are still unknown, but it's Platinum Games, so anything less than insane, over-the-top action spectacle would be way out of character for them. Still, the brief clip's focus on a historical timeline of lore suggests to us that Platinum are aiming to compete with the likes of Game of Thrones with their next game, which is due out on PS4 and Steam in 2019. Kingdom Hearts III The appearance of Kingdom Hearts III was hardly surprising during Square's press conference. However, its presence would have been more exciting if they hadn't announced the release date earlier in the week, and also released a nearly-identical trailer at the Microsoft Xbox press conference the day before. Basically, the Square Enix trailer was a rehash of the Xbox trailer, but with a couple of extra shots here and there, including the reveal of Remy from Pixar's Ratatouille, presumably as a summon character. Just Cause 4 There are few things more rewarding than causing ungodly levels or mayhem and destruction in a Just Cause game. Rico Rodriguez is back for Just Cause 4, which aims to be the most over-the-top entry yet. Boasting a new graphics engine and the most diverse setting yet seen in the acclaimed series, JC4 is aiming, like its predecessors, to be the open-world action game by which all others are judged. Our first reactions to the JC4 trailer can be found here. The Quiet Man Not much is known about The Quiet Man, other than the player character is more gorgeous than Cloud Strife and Squall Leonheart combined, and he has some sick hand-to-hand combat skills. The trailer incorporated live-action footage in addition to brief snippets of gameplay, but it's unclear if the New York City-based title will embrace a new-age FMV style, or if that was just a specially-shot sequence for the trailer. Square Enix, devilish teases as they are, promise more info is coming in August. -- Overall, Square Enix's show was short, but sweet. They brought some cool surprises like Captain Spirit and the Final Fantasy XIV/Monster Hunter World crossover, as well as fleshed-out looks at big-budget action/adventure titles like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Just Cause 4. Like any good presser, they also teased us with brief, provocative glimpses at unknown titles like The Quiet Man and Babylon's Fall. And, of course, there's a significant group of people who are beyond thrilled now that Dragon Quest XI has a Western release date... And we don't need to explain that any look at Kingdom Hearts III automatically puts this squarely in the "win" column. How do you think Square Enix did with its E3 2018 showing? Let us know in the comments! You can watch the full press conference for yourself below. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  9. Nintendo showed off a handful of new projects during their annual E3 Nintendo Direct, though many were upset at the absence of expected franchises like Animal Crossing, Metroid Prime, and the rumored Star Fox racing game from Retro Studios. Basically, Nintendo in 2018 is all about one game, and it's a real big one: Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. As the title suggests, this fifth entry in the series aims to be the ultimate Smash experience for the ages, bringing together literally every single character from the entire history of the franchise, from N64 fighters like Mario and Kirby to guest combatants we never thought would be returning to the Smash stage, like Solid Snake, Mega Man, and Cloud Strife, and even a few characters we reckoned Nintendo had completely forgotten about, like Pichu and Ice Climbers. In addition to these returning champions, there are also new characters joining the fray, though series creator Masahiro Sakurai suggested there would be fewer new fighters this time around. In addition to the previously-confirmed Inklings from Splatoon, confirmed newcomers include Princess Daisy and Samus' arch-nemesis, Ridley. One character who won't be making their playable debut is Waluigi, who is relegated to Assist Trophy status, much to the chagrin of his inexplicable internet fandom. As for stages, Nintendo is hinting that "most" battle arenas will be represented, and they will feature both "Omega" variations (returning from the Wii U and 3DS iterations) and "Battlefield" versions, which include floating platforms, a long-requested addition for vertically-oriented characters; we all remember the whole "Little Mac is OP" controversy from the launch of the Wii U version! Other Stuff Oh, right. Not that they really needed to, but Nintendo did, in fact, show off other games aside from Super Smash Brothers. In fact, the whole first half of the show was dedicated to upcoming non-Smash titles, and the Direct opened with a first look at the visually unique mech combat game, Daemon x Machina. The bold color choices and minimalist use of textures reminds us of Killer 7's distinct art style, and the title is being produced by Kenichiro Tsukuda, one of the masterminds behind the cult mech combat simulator, Armored Core. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is getting new story content in the form of Torna: The Golden Country, a DLC set before the events of the main game. Dragon Ball Fighter Z will make the leap from PS4 and Xbox to the Switch sometime in 2018, but it wasn't the most significant Switch port announced during the video. That honor goes to Fortnite: Battle Royale, the internet sensation which has been sweeping the globe for months. Offering cross-play with the Xbox version (but not PS4), Fortnite for Switch suffers from a handful of visual downgrades, like a drop from 60 to 30 fps and a significantly lower resolution, but the same great gameplay as the other versions. Aside from Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, the three biggest first-party titles for Switch were Super Mario Party, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and the dual games, Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee. Super Mario Party is the first proper Mario Party title since 2015's Mario Party 10, and – calm down, everyone – Waluigi will be a playable character, but Birdo will not. #JusticeForBirdo. Fire Emblem: Three Houses looks like the true successor to Fire Emblem: Awakening, offering a provocative, cinematic art style and other visual enhancements which represent a true next-generation leap for the series. Meanwhile, the two Pokémon titles look like brand new takes on the classic Red and Blue region, only with some new twists inspired by the enormously popular Pokémon Go! Finally, Nintendo announced a trio of indie titles coming to Switch, including the cult hit, Hollow Knight (with previously-released DLC bundled in, natch), the pixel-art side-scrolling arcade combat game Killer Queen Black, and the highly-anticipated Overcooked 2. Due out on August 7, Overcooked 2 looks to be offering more of the same frantic multiplayer cooking action, but with an extra coat of visual polish and the new addition of online multiplayer, a feature which was absent from all versions of the original title. -- Depending on how much one adores Super Smash Brothers, this year's E3 Nintendo Direct was either a smashing success (no pun intended) or a dismal disappointment. If the prospect of Every. Fighter. Ever. is enough to make you buy a Switch, then that's fantastic! If you were hoping for news on Metroid Prime 4, Animal Crossing, or potential new DLC Kingdoms for Super Mario Odyssey, then the presentation probably left you feeling cold. How do you think Nintendo did with its E3 2018 showing? Let us know in the comments! You can watch the full briefing for yourself below. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  10. Nintendo showed off a handful of new projects during their annual E3 Nintendo Direct, though many were upset at the absence of expected franchises like Animal Crossing, Metroid Prime, and the rumored Star Fox racing game from Retro Studios. Basically, Nintendo in 2018 is all about one game, and it's a real big one: Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. As the title suggests, this fifth entry in the series aims to be the ultimate Smash experience for the ages, bringing together literally every single character from the entire history of the franchise, from N64 fighters like Mario and Kirby to guest combatants we never thought would be returning to the Smash stage, like Solid Snake, Mega Man, and Cloud Strife, and even a few characters we reckoned Nintendo had completely forgotten about, like Pichu and Ice Climbers. In addition to these returning champions, there are also new characters joining the fray, though series creator Masahiro Sakurai suggested there would be fewer new fighters this time around. In addition to the previously-confirmed Inklings from Splatoon, confirmed newcomers include Princess Daisy and Samus' arch-nemesis, Ridley. One character who won't be making their playable debut is Waluigi, who is relegated to Assist Trophy status, much to the chagrin of his inexplicable internet fandom. As for stages, Nintendo is hinting that "most" battle arenas will be represented, and they will feature both "Omega" variations (returning from the Wii U and 3DS iterations) and "Battlefield" versions, which include floating platforms, a long-requested addition for vertically-oriented characters; we all remember the whole "Little Mac is OP" controversy from the launch of the Wii U version! Other Stuff Oh, right. Not that they really needed to, but Nintendo did, in fact, show off other games aside from Super Smash Brothers. In fact, the whole first half of the show was dedicated to upcoming non-Smash titles, and the Direct opened with a first look at the visually unique mech combat game, Daemon x Machina. The bold color choices and minimalist use of textures reminds us of Killer 7's distinct art style, and the title is being produced by Kenichiro Tsukuda, one of the masterminds behind the cult mech combat simulator, Armored Core. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is getting new story content in the form of Torna: The Golden Country, a DLC set before the events of the main game. Dragon Ball Fighter Z will make the leap from PS4 and Xbox to the Switch sometime in 2018, but it wasn't the most significant Switch port announced during the video. That honor goes to Fortnite: Battle Royale, the internet sensation which has been sweeping the globe for months. Offering cross-play with the Xbox version (but not PS4), Fortnite for Switch suffers from a handful of visual downgrades, like a drop from 60 to 30 fps and a significantly lower resolution, but the same great gameplay as the other versions. Aside from Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, the three biggest first-party titles for Switch were Super Mario Party, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and the dual games, Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee. Super Mario Party is the first proper Mario Party title since 2015's Mario Party 10, and – calm down, everyone – Waluigi will be a playable character, but Birdo will not. #JusticeForBirdo. Fire Emblem: Three Houses looks like the true successor to Fire Emblem: Awakening, offering a provocative, cinematic art style and other visual enhancements which represent a true next-generation leap for the series. Meanwhile, the two Pokémon titles look like brand new takes on the classic Red and Blue region, only with some new twists inspired by the enormously popular Pokémon Go! Finally, Nintendo announced a trio of indie titles coming to Switch, including the cult hit, Hollow Knight (with previously-released DLC bundled in, natch), the pixel-art side-scrolling arcade combat game Killer Queen Black, and the highly-anticipated Overcooked 2. Due out on August 7, Overcooked 2 looks to be offering more of the same frantic multiplayer cooking action, but with an extra coat of visual polish and the new addition of online multiplayer, a feature which was absent from all versions of the original title. -- Depending on how much one adores Super Smash Brothers, this year's E3 Nintendo Direct was either a smashing success (no pun intended) or a dismal disappointment. If the prospect of Every. Fighter. Ever. is enough to make you buy a Switch, then that's fantastic! If you were hoping for news on Metroid Prime 4, Animal Crossing, or potential new DLC Kingdoms for Super Mario Odyssey, then the presentation probably left you feeling cold. How do you think Nintendo did with its E3 2018 showing? Let us know in the comments! You can watch the full briefing for yourself below. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  11. One of the biggest surprises at Square Enix's E3 showcase was a provocative new IP called The Quiet Man (presumably with no connection to the 1952 John Wayne romantic drama). The trailer opened with a live-action segment showing off the picturesque scenery of Lower Manhattan, the heart of New York CIty. A lone, hooded figure carrying a paper bag walks into a dark alley where he encounters a trio of gaudily-dressed gang members. After they mouth off to him, he points to his ear, suggesting he is deaf and possiblly mute. As the two men approach the unnamed protagonist, the scene seamlessly transitions to what appears to be in-engine footage, and he beats them up while the tagline, Silence Rings Loudest. Square Enix is promising more from The Quiet Man in August, and there's evidence to suggest that this trailer is heavily edited, a tease of a greater reveal yet to come. The Quiet Man confronts three men in the alley, but only fights two of them in the brief CGI sequence. However, the third figure can be briefly seen sprawled on the ground behind the silent hero when the camera first pans around to his feet. Perhaps, when the game is fully revealed later on, an extended version of this trailer will present itself. The Quiet Man is a mysterious new game, and little is known about it. It appears to feature hand-to-hand combat it's set in New York City, and the lead character has beautiful hair, but it's too early to say anything more than that. Will the game feature live-action segments? Will it seamlessly switch between live-action cutscenes and high-adrenaline fighting gameplay? It's too early to say with any degree of certainty. Regardless, we're hyped to learn more about Square Enix's newest project. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  12. One of the biggest surprises at Square Enix's E3 showcase was a provocative new IP called The Quiet Man (presumably with no connection to the 1952 John Wayne romantic drama). The trailer opened with a live-action segment showing off the picturesque scenery of Lower Manhattan, the heart of New York CIty. A lone, hooded figure carrying a paper bag walks into a dark alley where he encounters a trio of gaudily-dressed gang members. After they mouth off to him, he points to his ear, suggesting he is deaf and possiblly mute. As the two men approach the unnamed protagonist, the scene seamlessly transitions to what appears to be in-engine footage, and he beats them up while the tagline, Silence Rings Loudest. Square Enix is promising more from The Quiet Man in August, and there's evidence to suggest that this trailer is heavily edited, a tease of a greater reveal yet to come. The Quiet Man confronts three men in the alley, but only fights two of them in the brief CGI sequence. However, the third figure can be briefly seen sprawled on the ground behind the silent hero when the camera first pans around to his feet. Perhaps, when the game is fully revealed later on, an extended version of this trailer will present itself. The Quiet Man is a mysterious new game, and little is known about it. It appears to feature hand-to-hand combat it's set in New York City, and the lead character has beautiful hair, but it's too early to say anything more than that. Will the game feature live-action segments? Will it seamlessly switch between live-action cutscenes and high-adrenaline fighting gameplay? It's too early to say with any degree of certainty. Regardless, we're hyped to learn more about Square Enix's newest project. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  13. One of the biggest surprises at Microsoft's E3 conference was Dying Light 2. The big surprise wasn't just that it appeared and was showcased in a lengthy gameplay demo, but that it was presented by legendary game designer Chris Avellone, who is serving as Narrative Designer for Techland's zombie apocalypse sequel. Avellone is a veteran of choice-driven RPG epics like Fallout 2 and New Vegas, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, and the underrated cult classic, Alpha Protocol. Having him be the face of Dying Light 2 is a statement that the story is taking a greater importance this time around. Not that the story was bad or anything in the original Dying Light, but it's clear that Techland is focusing on integrating narrative importance into every aspect of this follow-up. By the looks of things, the gameplay looks like its iterating on the parkour and melee action of the original, making everything smoother, faster, and more responsive, and adding cool with new moves like swinging on a pipe to kick an unlucky enemy off a ledge to his doom. If all goes according to plan, Dying Light 2 will play just like the original, but even better. The real innovation here comes with the core theme of "choice." According to Chris Avellone, everything you do as a player will have an effect on the world. The example on display in the stage demo gives the player the choice of securing a cache of water from a pair of gangsters who are planning to sell it on the black market. The player can secure the water for the Peace Keepers, who distribute it to the local population, but their militaristic and fascistic rule over the area is strengthened. On the other hand, the player can betray the Peace Keepers and side with the gangsters, opening up trade opportunities with them but attracting the real dregs of society. As in most of Avellone's games, these decisions won't have plain, black & white consequences, but may have unforeseen ripple effects which can drastically change the game world. Avellone promises that there are "hundreds" of these types of decisions which will go a long way towards individualizing each person's odyssey through the world of Dying Light. Dying Light 2 is currently in development. View full article
  14. Zak Wojnar

    Dying Light 2 Is All About Choice

    One of the biggest surprises at Microsoft's E3 conference was Dying Light 2. The big surprise wasn't just that it appeared and was showcased in a lengthy gameplay demo, but that it was presented by legendary game designer Chris Avellone, who is serving as Narrative Designer for Techland's zombie apocalypse sequel. Avellone is a veteran of choice-driven RPG epics like Fallout 2 and New Vegas, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, and the underrated cult classic, Alpha Protocol. Having him be the face of Dying Light 2 is a statement that the story is taking a greater importance this time around. Not that the story was bad or anything in the original Dying Light, but it's clear that Techland is focusing on integrating narrative importance into every aspect of this follow-up. By the looks of things, the gameplay looks like its iterating on the parkour and melee action of the original, making everything smoother, faster, and more responsive, and adding cool with new moves like swinging on a pipe to kick an unlucky enemy off a ledge to his doom. If all goes according to plan, Dying Light 2 will play just like the original, but even better. The real innovation here comes with the core theme of "choice." According to Chris Avellone, everything you do as a player will have an effect on the world. The example on display in the stage demo gives the player the choice of securing a cache of water from a pair of gangsters who are planning to sell it on the black market. The player can secure the water for the Peace Keepers, who distribute it to the local population, but their militaristic and fascistic rule over the area is strengthened. On the other hand, the player can betray the Peace Keepers and side with the gangsters, opening up trade opportunities with them but attracting the real dregs of society. As in most of Avellone's games, these decisions won't have plain, black & white consequences, but may have unforeseen ripple effects which can drastically change the game world. Avellone promises that there are "hundreds" of these types of decisions which will go a long way towards individualizing each person's odyssey through the world of Dying Light. Dying Light 2 is currently in development.
  15. Rico Rodriguez is one of gaming's most bombastic heroes. Each game in the series puts Rico in a new territory taken over by some bad guys. his job is to take it back, by any means necessary. Usually, that involves making everything explode using his iconic grappling hook and parachute, his crack driving skills, and a whole lot of explosive ordinance. As revealed in Microsoft's E3 press conference, Rico is back to cause more explosions in Just Cause 4. This time around, Rico has been dispatched to Solis, a region with a wide variety of geographic diversity, from arctic tundra to sandy desert and everything in between. Here, he will do battle with the Black Hand, a mercenary organization which appeared way back in the original 2006 game, as well as 2015's Just Cause 3. For the most part, Just Cause 4 looks like it's aiming to be more of the same, but bigger and better in every way. The game's E3 trailer showed off an insane level of destruction and over-the-top stunts that would make James Bond blush, like flying a jet fighter into a glass dome, crashing a motorbike into a flying helicopter, and, craziest of all, driving a muscle car into a whirling tornado. Indeed, Just Cause 4 features dynamic weather events such as tornadoes, thunderstorms, and more. A brief snippet of gameplay shows Rico driving a snowmobile across a snowy winter wonderland. Could avalanches pop up as an extreme environmental disruption? Considering the game is developed by Avalanche Games, it should be a no-brainer, right? The Just Cause series is an unmatched playground of blockbuster action. In terms of environmental destructibility, nothing else comes close to matching the grand scale of Just Cause's explosive gameplay. If all goes well, Just Cause 4 will be the biggest and best entry yet. We'll know for sure when the game launches on December 4. View full article
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