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Found 19 results

  1. This tease seemed to come out of nowhere. Russian developer Mundfish announced a very slick looking game called Atomic Heart earlier this week. Players will explore a research lab/military base (that might also double as a theme park?) during the height of the Soviet Union. Dr. Stockhausen has been conducting unholy experiments in the heart of the facility that have had an effect on both machines and the bodies of the dead that they have left in their wake. What exactly the nature of those experiments might have been remains a mystery for players to uncover as they delve into the secrets of Atomic Heart. The name seems to reference a bit of lore teased by the team back in March - a picture of two human hearts hooked to machines and a cryptic message about the love of two employees in Facility #3826. Players get drawn into this alternate history version of the Soviet Union as investigator P-3 who has been dispatched to investigate 3826. They find the facility in a state of decay and chaos as a wide variety of machines run amok alongside resurrected soldiers, some of whom have been creepily painted as clowns. As players explore, they'll find a variety of insane, mind-bending experiments still in progress, like people made of blood or strange, seemingly sentient pockets of air under water. Beware of making too much of a scene, though. Drawing the attention of the rampaging machines by running afoul of their patrol drones can lead to a quick, messy death. Atomic Heart seems to have an in-depth crafting system for weapons that will allow players to gear up as they progress and make weapons that suit their playstyle. While the trailer doesn't hint at an official release date, Mundfish expects to release Atomic Heart sometime this year for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
  2. This tease seemed to come out of nowhere. Russian developer Mundfish announced a very slick looking game called Atomic Heart earlier this week. Players will explore a research lab/military base (that might also double as a theme park?) during the height of the Soviet Union. Dr. Stockhausen has been conducting unholy experiments in the heart of the facility that have had an effect on both machines and the bodies of the dead that they have left in their wake. What exactly the nature of those experiments might have been remains a mystery for players to uncover as they delve into the secrets of Atomic Heart. The name seems to reference a bit of lore teased by the team back in March - a picture of two human hearts hooked to machines and a cryptic message about the love of two employees in Facility #3826. Players get drawn into this alternate history version of the Soviet Union as investigator P-3 who has been dispatched to investigate 3826. They find the facility in a state of decay and chaos as a wide variety of machines run amok alongside resurrected soldiers, some of whom have been creepily painted as clowns. As players explore, they'll find a variety of insane, mind-bending experiments still in progress, like people made of blood or strange, seemingly sentient pockets of air under water. Beware of making too much of a scene, though. Drawing the attention of the rampaging machines by running afoul of their patrol drones can lead to a quick, messy death. Atomic Heart seems to have an in-depth crafting system for weapons that will allow players to gear up as they progress and make weapons that suit their playstyle. While the trailer doesn't hint at an official release date, Mundfish expects to release Atomic Heart sometime this year for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. View full article
  3. Dead Alliance is a game in search of an identity. Equal parts Call of Duty, horde mode, and MOBA all in the same breath, the competitive undead shooter banks its success on finding a player base with a love of all three genres and then some. Not only do you have to worry about a team of enemy players firing bullets at you, you also have to contend with the ravenous horde of zombies roaming around each map. But have no fear, for the combatants of Dead Alliance aren't running in without some nifty tools to turn the undead into your buddies. I recently got the chance to play a preview build of Dead Alliance; more specifically the game’s team deathmatch and capture-the-flag modes. At a glance the game might appear little more than another competitive shooter, replete with armored dudes toting heavy machine guns and more body armor than a presidential meet-and-greet. There’s also the maps, which range from an uninteresting warehouse to a seaside port town, that all look as dilapidated and overgrown as you might expect. Thankfully, the developers at Psyop have injected this melting pot with enough variety in terms of gameplay and strategic options to warrant at least a chance. In Dead Alliance’s multiplayer modes (including team deathmatch, CTF, free-for-all, and king of the hill), players are outfitted with a standard variety of weapons (assault rifles, machine guns of the bulky and sub variety), but are also given special tools called “Zmods” that influence the zombies found on every map. If you’re losing sight of your enemies, throwing the P.A.M. grenade at a group of zombies will force them to run for the nearest competitors, giving you ample room to hose them down while they’re fleeing from the horde. The L.R.A.D. attracts nearby zombies to a single point, allying them to your team, while the Trailer flare lets you string along a group of zombies while it’s in your hands. Those tools, coupled with a few that repelled zombies, made for chaotic firefights and a few tense retreats as zombies swarmed my team. At times, the game can feel like a well-measured bit of chaos. Hunting down enemy players through MOBA-like lanes of traffic is frantic, and often the team on the receiving end of the horde has little time to react. Dead Alliance’s overall pacing also plays a role, as players only move at a fraction of the speed you might in a game like Call of Duty or Titanfall. This means a dead sprint will only keep zombies off your back for as long as you keep running, but it also means that evading enemy fire is more a matter of getting the drop on someone than actual mechanical skill. During our demo, it often felt like our victories were due to easy manipulation of choke points more than anything else. It’s difficult to tell from two rounds if the game will have much depth, but at this rate, Dead Alliance risks players losing interest more quickly than most. Dead Alliance is out August 29 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC for $39.99. View full article
  4. Dead Alliance is a game in search of an identity. Equal parts Call of Duty, horde mode, and MOBA all in the same breath, the competitive undead shooter banks its success on finding a player base with a love of all three genres and then some. Not only do you have to worry about a team of enemy players firing bullets at you, you also have to contend with the ravenous horde of zombies roaming around each map. But have no fear, for the combatants of Dead Alliance aren't running in without some nifty tools to turn the undead into your buddies. I recently got the chance to play a preview build of Dead Alliance; more specifically the game’s team deathmatch and capture-the-flag modes. At a glance the game might appear little more than another competitive shooter, replete with armored dudes toting heavy machine guns and more body armor than a presidential meet-and-greet. There’s also the maps, which range from an uninteresting warehouse to a seaside port town, that all look as dilapidated and overgrown as you might expect. Thankfully, the developers at Psyop have injected this melting pot with enough variety in terms of gameplay and strategic options to warrant at least a chance. In Dead Alliance’s multiplayer modes (including team deathmatch, CTF, free-for-all, and king of the hill), players are outfitted with a standard variety of weapons (assault rifles, machine guns of the bulky and sub variety), but are also given special tools called “Zmods” that influence the zombies found on every map. If you’re losing sight of your enemies, throwing the P.A.M. grenade at a group of zombies will force them to run for the nearest competitors, giving you ample room to hose them down while they’re fleeing from the horde. The L.R.A.D. attracts nearby zombies to a single point, allying them to your team, while the Trailer flare lets you string along a group of zombies while it’s in your hands. Those tools, coupled with a few that repelled zombies, made for chaotic firefights and a few tense retreats as zombies swarmed my team. At times, the game can feel like a well-measured bit of chaos. Hunting down enemy players through MOBA-like lanes of traffic is frantic, and often the team on the receiving end of the horde has little time to react. Dead Alliance’s overall pacing also plays a role, as players only move at a fraction of the speed you might in a game like Call of Duty or Titanfall. This means a dead sprint will only keep zombies off your back for as long as you keep running, but it also means that evading enemy fire is more a matter of getting the drop on someone than actual mechanical skill. During our demo, it often felt like our victories were due to easy manipulation of choke points more than anything else. It’s difficult to tell from two rounds if the game will have much depth, but at this rate, Dead Alliance risks players losing interest more quickly than most. Dead Alliance is out August 29 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC for $39.99.
  5. Call of Duty has a live-action tradition when it comes to trailers and commercials leading up to a new release. These ad campaigns typically include some serious star power alongside what the advertisement considers normal people. We've seen Emminem, Robert Downey Jr., and many more take center stage to get people hyped for an upcoming Call of Duty game in commercials that usually have some kind of weird twist. All of these campaigns have been masterminded by ad agency 72andSunny, and the latest advertisement displays the same strategies of thrusting celebrities into strange situations. Titled, "Screw It, Let's Go To Space," the ad plays off of the complete mess current US and world events have been and presents Infinite Warfare as an escapist fantasy everyone can enjoy. "If ever there was a year when people could use a break from the headlines for a little good-old-fashioned escapist entertainment, 2016 is it," said Tim Ellis, Activision's CMO. "‘Screw It, Let's Go To Space' captures this feeling on a global scale and transports you into the epic gameplay and settings of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. It's a thrill ride like no other, and it's coming November 4th." The new live-action launch trailer has been helmed by director Peter Berg of Pony Show Entertainment, his third collaboration with Call of Duty. "Screw It, Let's Go To Space" features cameos from world record holding, 23 time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps and actor Danny McBride who many might recognize from Eastbound & Down and Tropic Thunder. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will be the first game in the series to take place in the cold vacuum of space beyond Earth's confines. Players can expect to take part in space dog-fighting, zero gravity action, and smooth transitions between gameplay and cutscenes. Sticking with tradition, Infinite Warfare will also have a zombies co-op mode set in the 1980s called "Zombies in Spaceland." Developed by Infinity Ward, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare launches worldwide on November 4 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Those who want to play the revamped classic Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, retitled Modern Warfare Remastered, will have to purchase either the Digital Deluxe or Legacy editions of Infinite Warfare as Activision has said that Modern Warfare Remastered will not be available any other way. View full article
  6. Call of Duty has a live-action tradition when it comes to trailers and commercials leading up to a new release. These ad campaigns typically include some serious star power alongside what the advertisement considers normal people. We've seen Emminem, Robert Downey Jr., and many more take center stage to get people hyped for an upcoming Call of Duty game in commercials that usually have some kind of weird twist. All of these campaigns have been masterminded by ad agency 72andSunny, and the latest advertisement displays the same strategies of thrusting celebrities into strange situations. Titled, "Screw It, Let's Go To Space," the ad plays off of the complete mess current US and world events have been and presents Infinite Warfare as an escapist fantasy everyone can enjoy. "If ever there was a year when people could use a break from the headlines for a little good-old-fashioned escapist entertainment, 2016 is it," said Tim Ellis, Activision's CMO. "‘Screw It, Let's Go To Space' captures this feeling on a global scale and transports you into the epic gameplay and settings of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. It's a thrill ride like no other, and it's coming November 4th." The new live-action launch trailer has been helmed by director Peter Berg of Pony Show Entertainment, his third collaboration with Call of Duty. "Screw It, Let's Go To Space" features cameos from world record holding, 23 time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps and actor Danny McBride who many might recognize from Eastbound & Down and Tropic Thunder. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will be the first game in the series to take place in the cold vacuum of space beyond Earth's confines. Players can expect to take part in space dog-fighting, zero gravity action, and smooth transitions between gameplay and cutscenes. Sticking with tradition, Infinite Warfare will also have a zombies co-op mode set in the 1980s called "Zombies in Spaceland." Developed by Infinity Ward, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare launches worldwide on November 4 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Those who want to play the revamped classic Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, retitled Modern Warfare Remastered, will have to purchase either the Digital Deluxe or Legacy editions of Infinite Warfare as Activision has said that Modern Warfare Remastered will not be available any other way.
  7. until
    Learn the real science behind science fiction at our First Fridays events! Each month has a different theme, features free hands-on activities and culminates with a free 10pm screening of a classic science fiction move in the OMNIMAX® Theater. First Friday favorites like public telescope viewings, scifi trivia and special prices for OMNIMAX® films are a staple at every event. Tickets for the free 10pm show are available starting at 6pm on the evening of the First Friday event and are distributed on a first come, first served basis. First Friday activities such as our presentations, sci-fi trivia, 10pm sci-fi film, etc. are primarily designed for adults and recommended for audiences 16 years and older. Our public telescope viewings and free 7pm Planetarium show are recommended for all ages. - See more at: http://www.slsc.org/first-fridays#sthash.7jXgsNcM.dpuf November's theme will be "The Walking Dead", and we will be there to offer games for visitors to play while we encourage them to sign up to participate in Extra Life.
  8. Jack Gardner

    Feature: Review: Dying Light

    With Dying Light, Techland really knew what they were doing on a technical level. Environments brim with the detritus of humanity exuding the sense of recent occupation. Character models are lovingly rendered, while zombies are appropriately freaky and grotesque. The gameplay ranges from frantic first-person parkour traversal to stealthy infiltration accompanied by satisfying melee combat and functional gunplay. If that’s all you are looking for, Dying Light will no doubt satisfy you. However, if you are looking for anything else, an intriguing or thought-provoking story, context that validates the gameplay, memorable music, fleshed out characters, anything, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. Credit where credit is due, Techland designed Dying Light incredibly well. The open world is full of things to climb onto, slide under, jump over, swim through, etc. Players can tackle the problem of going from Point A to Point B in just about whatever manner they choose. The parkour style of movement feels smooth and natural. Dying Light provides the basic mechanics of movement from the start, instead of restricting core abilities behind level progression. Traversal feels complete and powerful from the beginning, but becomes even more empowering and fun after unlocking abilities like ground slides or jumping onto and over enemies. The heart of Dying Light lies in open and unrestricted freerunning through the playground Techland created. It feels like a next-gen experience. On top of the exhilaration of sprinting through zombie hordes, the combat system feels great. Dying Light takes some pains to remind players that they are only human by beginning at feasible levels of strength. Stamina will only allow for four or five swings of standard weapons, though that number increases as players level by simply doing things like fighting or running or completing quests. Leveling will also open up new skills that can be used in combat like a heavy attack or a spin attack. Combat itself is fairly simple, only becoming more complex as more abilities become available. Fighting mostly consists of whacking zombies or people with pipes, table legs, whatever happens to be on hand. Before settling into a comfortable groove, scavenging and creating better weapons will be a top priority for most players. Sure, by the time players see the credits roll they’ll be a zombie hunter with potent abilities and gear, but the road to get to that advanced point is long. There are also guns in Dying Light, though the game generally frowns on their use. Guns tend to be very powerful, but have the significant drawback of being very loud, attracting more zombies. The clunky targeting system also discourages the use of firearms. Only when confronted with other gun wielding humans did I feel compelled to use my frugal ammo supply. Otherwise, Molotov cocktails solved almost every seemingly insurmountable enemy I encountered. Melee and improvised weapons were clearly intended to be the core of Dying Light’s combat, so don’t go into Dying Light expecting a lot of running and gunning. Techland layered a day-night cycle over the traversal and combat to spice up the experience and keep players on their toes. During the night, significantly stronger zombies stalk the streets. These monsters call for either a stealthy approach or a non-stop sprint to the nearest safe house. During the night, players connected to the internet might be invaded by another player as a zombie and matched up with three others as survivors to compete against each other. The mode seems to be designed in the 4v1 mindset popular these days. Unfortunately, I had a pretty terrible experience with this game mode. As I was about to turn in a quest, I was refused access to a safe zone and informed that I had been invaded. Cool! Unfortunately, I was not matched up with any other survivors. Invading zombies are made vulnerable with a UV light and only then can they be killed. Invaders seem to be generally faster than a normal player unless made vulnerable. They can also insta-kill normal players. This session resulted in me dying repeatedly for about ten minutes until I figured out how to quit the match. I then turned off the multiplayer aspect and never went back. All of this takes place within a world into which teams of artists clearly poured thousands of hours. Abandoned apartments feel lived in, only recently abandoned in a panic. Flies buzz wildly over rotting corpses. Fish swim lazily in the water, gaping aquatically as players pass them by. Lighting changes drastically from day to night, dynamically changing the aesthetic of the world. For a game titled Dying LIGHT, I am glad they nailed lighting. As for the character models, Every important character has a distinct look, although it is very easy for anyone not involved in the main plot to just blend together after a while (that isn’t entirely on the artists, but we’ll get more into that later). The zombies deserve a nod as well. The average roving dead looks incredibly creepy up close. The effect becomes especially unnerving in dark, confined spaces. The special zombies are a different matter. When these variant types of zombies come into play, it appears bizarre that they all hold the same weapons or are outfitted with the same armor. Why is every single slightly larger zombie armed with a piece of rebar and concrete? Despite the technical proficiency apparent in much of its design, Dying Light demonstrates why video games can’t just rely on entertaining gameplay and lovingly rendered environments. The story is an unwieldy mess of clichés and action-dude-isms. Most of the characters exist only as bare sketches of what could be considered functional. In fact, almost every single idea in Dying Light that might be interesting is quietly brushed aside to get to the next pretext that sends the player moving throughout the quarantined city of Harran. *Spoilers follow* In fact, let’s start with Harran. Where is it? That might seem like a simple question, but the reality is that we are never given a reference point. As a fictional city, that’s kind of the point, but without knowing where it is supposed to be we’re left with this strange, context-less city. I actually looked it up on the game’s Wikipedia page to make sure Dying Light actually took place on Earth rather than a different planet or reality. It appears that it is a city-state on the coast of the Mediterranean somewhere near Turkey. Why is this important or why might we care about this in the context of the game? Because the political ramifications of a major city like Harran becoming the epicenter of a potentially apocalyptic zombie outbreak would be important and interesting. However, in-game Harran seems to be completely isolated from the outside world, aside from airdrops of supplies and a miracle drug that stops infected survivors from becoming biters. The opening cinematic tells us that no one knows if people are even still alive in the city. This is the setting for the entire game and it begs so many questions: How was Harran so easily quarantined? Did it involve some sort of unethical application of military force? Why does that quarantine appear to be run by an organization unaffiliated with Harran’s political leadership? Who is in charge? Why can no one confirm that there are still survivors? Why aren’t survivors being airlifted out of the quarantine if they have a medicine that indefinitely keeps people from becoming zombies? Why does it seem to have an airforce that is willing to destroy the city-state? Attempting to answer any of these questions could have provided some great insight into the situation in which Kyle Crane finds himself. Enter our protagonist, Kyle Crane, another one of those faceless, blank slates onto which players are supposed to project themselves. Nebulously described as an “operative,” Crane works for the Global Relief Effort (GRE), the organization that airdrops food and medicine into Harran. He apparently enters Dying Light with no past or connections to the outside world. At no point do we hear him talk about a family or friends or why he accepted a mission to go into a zombie infested city alone. He makes no decisions for himself, instead allowing himself and the plot to be propelled by the people giving him orders. Crane’s mission is to infiltrate the groups of survivors in Harran (groups that GRE apparently knows about, despite the opening cinematic’s words to the contrary) and discover who holds a file that contains information which could destroy the world in the wrong hands. None of the survivors who rescue him question why he airdropped into the city, who he is, where he came from, or any other circumstance of his existence. He seems to win everyone over after sharing his name, lying about being a tourist, and doing helpful chores. Crane’s value to everyone around him stems from what he can do physically, not from any virtue he may or may not possess. He offers no insight into events other than enabling other characters to dump exposition to the player. Crane’s sole character trait seems to be making frustrated quips and remarks after people tell him to go do something unpleasant. We get almost no information about the Global Relief Effort. From the name, it presumably operates globally. Dying Light describes GRE as a humanitarian organization at some point. That’s about all we have to go on, but so much is left strangely unexplained. Why does a single humanitarian organization handle the entire operation of supplying food and medicine to a massive city? It seems to me that having an entire city quarantined would at least summon three or four, maybe some human rights groups to oversee that nothing fishy was going on, possibly a UN envoy. Why does a humanitarian organization have or even need secret operatives? I’d be fine with this if it ever satisfyingly tied into the plot at all, but it doesn’t. Why would they expect one operative to be fine in the middle of a city overrun with zombies? No, seriously why would GRE expect this? Kyle Crane might be the most competent person in the universe, but he is one guy in a city with a population in the hundreds of thousands, almost all of which are now walking dead. What reasonable person would think that he’d be able to get the job done? In fact, at one point it seemed like GRE was both willing and able to bomb the entire city into ash. How on earth are they able to keep up the façade of being a humanitarian organization if they are able to call in massive airstrikes to level the city that they alone seem to control? Am I on crazy pills? Jade Aldemir plays a prominent role in Dying Light as a super competent former kickboxing champion-turned-survivor. Contrasting nicely with Crane’s never-addressed past, we learn quite a bit about Jade. She has a strong sense of family, probably resulting from the loss of her parents at the beginning of the outbreak, which causes her to be very protective of her younger brother, Rahim. That bit of information alone makes Jade more compelling than our protagonist, but there’s more! Crane’s arrival results in the death of one of her friends among the survivors, adding additional traumas on top of what it must be like to lose your entire city. She was already a great fighter before the outbreak, hence her great survival skills and respect she receives from the group. As a bonus, she has emotions other than irritation and yelling, which seem to be the only two our protagonist knows (yelling counts as an emotion for Crane). Looking back over the events of Dying Light, It seems clear to me that Jade should have been the protagonist, dealing with life in the quarantine zone as the outbreak occurred and later contacted by the GRE to carry out the world saving mission. Instead, Dying Light gradually disempowers Jade by the slowly killing off everyone she holds dear before Rais, our main antagonist, finally kidnaps and kills her. Her final act heroically saves Crane’s worthless life at the cost of her own. Her character was a fantastic opportunity for a compelling protagonist. Instead, she is ultimately made into an object for the player to retrieve from Rais as part of an ego struggle between protagonist and antagonist. Oh, Rais. This was the character that was supposed to present an ideological counterpoint to Kyle Crane, the man almost with no idea, let alone an ideology. Rais apparently worked with the GRE at one point, but went crazy after his brother was killed and became a weird, violent warlord in Harran. He justifies this life choice by spouting philosophical musings that may or may not pertain to the given scenario and taking up a vicious rivalry with Crane. I think Techland meant for Rais to lend the rest of the game an intellectual core that it otherwise lacks. He has a few good lines about how Crane has no agency and just does what he’s told, but those glimpses of the writers saying something true never amount to anything remotely substantial. They feel like moments of clarity in the midst of a fever dream. By extension, Rais comes off as a violent, verbose buffoon, rather than anything remotely memorable. I can honestly say that if I wasn’t writing a review of Dying Light right now that I would have almost completely forgotten about everything in the story. It left no impression on me other than one of crushing boredom and irritation. Sitting through hours of this game’s plot tainted the fun I had during the gameplay portions, eventually killing all desire to attempt side quests. Minor setbacks that normally wouldn’t have bothered me became agonizing. The map system sometimes doesn’t work properly or is otherwise unhelpful. The lack of fast travel during the campaign proved to be incredibly irritating (I get why, I was just very ready to see the credits roll). Also, accidentally brushing the PS4 touchpad brings up the menu screen for some reason. All of my frustration with Dying Light’s narrative finally culminated and almost broke me during the home stretch when I kept missing a critical jump and repeatedly respawned at a checkpoint where I had to “calm down” a zombie child, an in-game euphemism for the deeply disturbing act of killing a zombie child. This unscripted gameplay moment affected me more strongly than any portion of the central narrative and as I repeated it over and over, I felt sick. I questioned why the profoundly disquieting nature of dealing with the undead wasn’t dealt with more, why none of the characters encountered in the main campaign seemed to think of the living dead as anything other than an obstacle. There were so many moral quandaries with the act I was forced to repeat, and yet not even quipping, irritated Crane seemed to give it a second thought. It was a moment that could have meant or said something insightful and instead it was ignored like all the other narrative opportunities presented in Dying Light. It was a potent moment of horror at what I was doing to progress, so casually and thoughtlessly invoked for shock value. A game that so insensitively and nonchalantly raised something so powerful for shock value without reaching for a deeper meaning felt almost like a narrative betrayal. As I finally made that tenuous jump and crossed the threshold of a new checkpoint, I realized that I had come to loath almost everything about the context provided for Dying Light’s gameplay and visuals. Conclusion: There is so much to love about Dying Light, so much potential for zombie-infested stories. It presents a world full of danger and provides a wide array of abilities with which to players can fight or flee. Gorgeous visions of human decay permeate Harran, interspersed with pockets of hope within surviving communities. Large scale systems work together to move and motivate vast hordes of biters. These elements all function smoothly and provide a solid core experience. While the gameplay, visuals, and overall game design can more than pull their own weight, the tepid, vapid, torrid narrative drags those positive elements down into the muck. I highly respect Techland as a developer for their work on the criminally underrated Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. However, their writing team managed to almost single-handedly kill my enthusiasm for the experience. If you’re still on the fence about Dying Light, wait until it inevitably goes on sale for $20-$30. The gameplay will entertain you, but you'll suffer through the story. Dying Light is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. View full article
  9. Jack Gardner

    Review: Dying Light

    With Dying Light, Techland really knew what they were doing on a technical level. Environments brim with the detritus of humanity exuding the sense of recent occupation. Character models are lovingly rendered, while zombies are appropriately freaky and grotesque. The gameplay ranges from frantic first-person parkour traversal to stealthy infiltration accompanied by satisfying melee combat and functional gunplay. If that’s all you are looking for, Dying Light will no doubt satisfy you. However, if you are looking for anything else, an intriguing or thought-provoking story, context that validates the gameplay, memorable music, fleshed out characters, anything, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. Credit where credit is due, Techland designed Dying Light incredibly well. The open world is full of things to climb onto, slide under, jump over, swim through, etc. Players can tackle the problem of going from Point A to Point B in just about whatever manner they choose. The parkour style of movement feels smooth and natural. Dying Light provides the basic mechanics of movement from the start, instead of restricting core abilities behind level progression. Traversal feels complete and powerful from the beginning, but becomes even more empowering and fun after unlocking abilities like ground slides or jumping onto and over enemies. The heart of Dying Light lies in open and unrestricted freerunning through the playground Techland created. It feels like a next-gen experience. On top of the exhilaration of sprinting through zombie hordes, the combat system feels great. Dying Light takes some pains to remind players that they are only human by beginning at feasible levels of strength. Stamina will only allow for four or five swings of standard weapons, though that number increases as players level by simply doing things like fighting or running or completing quests. Leveling will also open up new skills that can be used in combat like a heavy attack or a spin attack. Combat itself is fairly simple, only becoming more complex as more abilities become available. Fighting mostly consists of whacking zombies or people with pipes, table legs, whatever happens to be on hand. Before settling into a comfortable groove, scavenging and creating better weapons will be a top priority for most players. Sure, by the time players see the credits roll they’ll be a zombie hunter with potent abilities and gear, but the road to get to that advanced point is long. There are also guns in Dying Light, though the game generally frowns on their use. Guns tend to be very powerful, but have the significant drawback of being very loud, attracting more zombies. The clunky targeting system also discourages the use of firearms. Only when confronted with other gun wielding humans did I feel compelled to use my frugal ammo supply. Otherwise, Molotov cocktails solved almost every seemingly insurmountable enemy I encountered. Melee and improvised weapons were clearly intended to be the core of Dying Light’s combat, so don’t go into Dying Light expecting a lot of running and gunning. Techland layered a day-night cycle over the traversal and combat to spice up the experience and keep players on their toes. During the night, significantly stronger zombies stalk the streets. These monsters call for either a stealthy approach or a non-stop sprint to the nearest safe house. During the night, players connected to the internet might be invaded by another player as a zombie and matched up with three others as survivors to compete against each other. The mode seems to be designed in the 4v1 mindset popular these days. Unfortunately, I had a pretty terrible experience with this game mode. As I was about to turn in a quest, I was refused access to a safe zone and informed that I had been invaded. Cool! Unfortunately, I was not matched up with any other survivors. Invading zombies are made vulnerable with a UV light and only then can they be killed. Invaders seem to be generally faster than a normal player unless made vulnerable. They can also insta-kill normal players. This session resulted in me dying repeatedly for about ten minutes until I figured out how to quit the match. I then turned off the multiplayer aspect and never went back. All of this takes place within a world into which teams of artists clearly poured thousands of hours. Abandoned apartments feel lived in, only recently abandoned in a panic. Flies buzz wildly over rotting corpses. Fish swim lazily in the water, gaping aquatically as players pass them by. Lighting changes drastically from day to night, dynamically changing the aesthetic of the world. For a game titled Dying LIGHT, I am glad they nailed lighting. As for the character models, Every important character has a distinct look, although it is very easy for anyone not involved in the main plot to just blend together after a while (that isn’t entirely on the artists, but we’ll get more into that later). The zombies deserve a nod as well. The average roving dead looks incredibly creepy up close. The effect becomes especially unnerving in dark, confined spaces. The special zombies are a different matter. When these variant types of zombies come into play, it appears bizarre that they all hold the same weapons or are outfitted with the same armor. Why is every single slightly larger zombie armed with a piece of rebar and concrete? Despite the technical proficiency apparent in much of its design, Dying Light demonstrates why video games can’t just rely on entertaining gameplay and lovingly rendered environments. The story is an unwieldy mess of clichés and action-dude-isms. Most of the characters exist only as bare sketches of what could be considered functional. In fact, almost every single idea in Dying Light that might be interesting is quietly brushed aside to get to the next pretext that sends the player moving throughout the quarantined city of Harran. *Spoilers follow* In fact, let’s start with Harran. Where is it? That might seem like a simple question, but the reality is that we are never given a reference point. As a fictional city, that’s kind of the point, but without knowing where it is supposed to be we’re left with this strange, context-less city. I actually looked it up on the game’s Wikipedia page to make sure Dying Light actually took place on Earth rather than a different planet or reality. It appears that it is a city-state on the coast of the Mediterranean somewhere near Turkey. Why is this important or why might we care about this in the context of the game? Because the political ramifications of a major city like Harran becoming the epicenter of a potentially apocalyptic zombie outbreak would be important and interesting. However, in-game Harran seems to be completely isolated from the outside world, aside from airdrops of supplies and a miracle drug that stops infected survivors from becoming biters. The opening cinematic tells us that no one knows if people are even still alive in the city. This is the setting for the entire game and it begs so many questions: How was Harran so easily quarantined? Did it involve some sort of unethical application of military force? Why does that quarantine appear to be run by an organization unaffiliated with Harran’s political leadership? Who is in charge? Why can no one confirm that there are still survivors? Why aren’t survivors being airlifted out of the quarantine if they have a medicine that indefinitely keeps people from becoming zombies? Why does it seem to have an airforce that is willing to destroy the city-state? Attempting to answer any of these questions could have provided some great insight into the situation in which Kyle Crane finds himself. Enter our protagonist, Kyle Crane, another one of those faceless, blank slates onto which players are supposed to project themselves. Nebulously described as an “operative,” Crane works for the Global Relief Effort (GRE), the organization that airdrops food and medicine into Harran. He apparently enters Dying Light with no past or connections to the outside world. At no point do we hear him talk about a family or friends or why he accepted a mission to go into a zombie infested city alone. He makes no decisions for himself, instead allowing himself and the plot to be propelled by the people giving him orders. Crane’s mission is to infiltrate the groups of survivors in Harran (groups that GRE apparently knows about, despite the opening cinematic’s words to the contrary) and discover who holds a file that contains information which could destroy the world in the wrong hands. None of the survivors who rescue him question why he airdropped into the city, who he is, where he came from, or any other circumstance of his existence. He seems to win everyone over after sharing his name, lying about being a tourist, and doing helpful chores. Crane’s value to everyone around him stems from what he can do physically, not from any virtue he may or may not possess. He offers no insight into events other than enabling other characters to dump exposition to the player. Crane’s sole character trait seems to be making frustrated quips and remarks after people tell him to go do something unpleasant. We get almost no information about the Global Relief Effort. From the name, it presumably operates globally. Dying Light describes GRE as a humanitarian organization at some point. That’s about all we have to go on, but so much is left strangely unexplained. Why does a single humanitarian organization handle the entire operation of supplying food and medicine to a massive city? It seems to me that having an entire city quarantined would at least summon three or four, maybe some human rights groups to oversee that nothing fishy was going on, possibly a UN envoy. Why does a humanitarian organization have or even need secret operatives? I’d be fine with this if it ever satisfyingly tied into the plot at all, but it doesn’t. Why would they expect one operative to be fine in the middle of a city overrun with zombies? No, seriously why would GRE expect this? Kyle Crane might be the most competent person in the universe, but he is one guy in a city with a population in the hundreds of thousands, almost all of which are now walking dead. What reasonable person would think that he’d be able to get the job done? In fact, at one point it seemed like GRE was both willing and able to bomb the entire city into ash. How on earth are they able to keep up the façade of being a humanitarian organization if they are able to call in massive airstrikes to level the city that they alone seem to control? Am I on crazy pills? Jade Aldemir plays a prominent role in Dying Light as a super competent former kickboxing champion-turned-survivor. Contrasting nicely with Crane’s never-addressed past, we learn quite a bit about Jade. She has a strong sense of family, probably resulting from the loss of her parents at the beginning of the outbreak, which causes her to be very protective of her younger brother, Rahim. That bit of information alone makes Jade more compelling than our protagonist, but there’s more! Crane’s arrival results in the death of one of her friends among the survivors, adding additional traumas on top of what it must be like to lose your entire city. She was already a great fighter before the outbreak, hence her great survival skills and respect she receives from the group. As a bonus, she has emotions other than irritation and yelling, which seem to be the only two our protagonist knows (yelling counts as an emotion for Crane). Looking back over the events of Dying Light, It seems clear to me that Jade should have been the protagonist, dealing with life in the quarantine zone as the outbreak occurred and later contacted by the GRE to carry out the world saving mission. Instead, Dying Light gradually disempowers Jade by the slowly killing off everyone she holds dear before Rais, our main antagonist, finally kidnaps and kills her. Her final act heroically saves Crane’s worthless life at the cost of her own. Her character was a fantastic opportunity for a compelling protagonist. Instead, she is ultimately made into an object for the player to retrieve from Rais as part of an ego struggle between protagonist and antagonist. Oh, Rais. This was the character that was supposed to present an ideological counterpoint to Kyle Crane, the man almost with no idea, let alone an ideology. Rais apparently worked with the GRE at one point, but went crazy after his brother was killed and became a weird, violent warlord in Harran. He justifies this life choice by spouting philosophical musings that may or may not pertain to the given scenario and taking up a vicious rivalry with Crane. I think Techland meant for Rais to lend the rest of the game an intellectual core that it otherwise lacks. He has a few good lines about how Crane has no agency and just does what he’s told, but those glimpses of the writers saying something true never amount to anything remotely substantial. They feel like moments of clarity in the midst of a fever dream. By extension, Rais comes off as a violent, verbose buffoon, rather than anything remotely memorable. I can honestly say that if I wasn’t writing a review of Dying Light right now that I would have almost completely forgotten about everything in the story. It left no impression on me other than one of crushing boredom and irritation. Sitting through hours of this game’s plot tainted the fun I had during the gameplay portions, eventually killing all desire to attempt side quests. Minor setbacks that normally wouldn’t have bothered me became agonizing. The map system sometimes doesn’t work properly or is otherwise unhelpful. The lack of fast travel during the campaign proved to be incredibly irritating (I get why, I was just very ready to see the credits roll). Also, accidentally brushing the PS4 touchpad brings up the menu screen for some reason. All of my frustration with Dying Light’s narrative finally culminated and almost broke me during the home stretch when I kept missing a critical jump and repeatedly respawned at a checkpoint where I had to “calm down” a zombie child, an in-game euphemism for the deeply disturbing act of killing a zombie child. This unscripted gameplay moment affected me more strongly than any portion of the central narrative and as I repeated it over and over, I felt sick. I questioned why the profoundly disquieting nature of dealing with the undead wasn’t dealt with more, why none of the characters encountered in the main campaign seemed to think of the living dead as anything other than an obstacle. There were so many moral quandaries with the act I was forced to repeat, and yet not even quipping, irritated Crane seemed to give it a second thought. It was a moment that could have meant or said something insightful and instead it was ignored like all the other narrative opportunities presented in Dying Light. It was a potent moment of horror at what I was doing to progress, so casually and thoughtlessly invoked for shock value. A game that so insensitively and nonchalantly raised something so powerful for shock value without reaching for a deeper meaning felt almost like a narrative betrayal. As I finally made that tenuous jump and crossed the threshold of a new checkpoint, I realized that I had come to loath almost everything about the context provided for Dying Light’s gameplay and visuals. Conclusion: There is so much to love about Dying Light, so much potential for zombie-infested stories. It presents a world full of danger and provides a wide array of abilities with which to players can fight or flee. Gorgeous visions of human decay permeate Harran, interspersed with pockets of hope within surviving communities. Large scale systems work together to move and motivate vast hordes of biters. These elements all function smoothly and provide a solid core experience. While the gameplay, visuals, and overall game design can more than pull their own weight, the tepid, vapid, torrid narrative drags those positive elements down into the muck. I highly respect Techland as a developer for their work on the criminally underrated Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. However, their writing team managed to almost single-handedly kill my enthusiasm for the experience. If you’re still on the fence about Dying Light, wait until it inevitably goes on sale for $20-$30. The gameplay will entertain you, but you'll suffer through the story. Dying Light is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
  10. Jack Gardner

    Review: The Walking Dead - Season Two

    The second season of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead is a harsh slog through death, violence, and zombies. Which makes it all the more incredible that Season Two manages to be masterfully, achingly human. I’ll be attempting to keep this review spoiler-free since the main draw of the Telltale adventure games has always been experiencing the story. The Walking Dead Season Two places players in the shoes of Clementine, the young girl who was a staple character of the previous season. Soon after the second season begins, Clementine becomes separated from her friends and meets a new group of survivors. Players follow her trials and tribulations with the new group and the people they meet as they go through their ordeals. At its core, The Walking Dead Season Two knows how to construct drama. That mastery immediately sets it apart from many other blockbuster video games that rely on set piece spectacle, graphical horsepower, and marketing. Those bigger titles forget that effective drama relies on the audience empathizing and understanding the motivations of the characters. In this area, The Walking Dead Season Two excels. We understand the motivations of the characters, usually within the first few minutes of being introduced to them. Each character, even the bit players, have their own wants and needs, their own motivations. When we see those needs and wants clash, we can genuinely empathize with the situation, even if that situation is full of zombies. If any game makes a compelling case for more diverse video game casts, it is the second season of The Walking Dead. The most interesting characters of the second season are mostly women. There are several non-white characters. There is even a great moment involving a male character who is in a relationship with another man. All of this comes together to create a more interesting narrative. Seeing different views and ideologies collide is fascinating, especially when you can understand their viewpoints. As the season progresses, the player comes to an understanding of the level of violence permissible in the world of The Walking Dead and that understanding elevates the drama. When characters that we care about are threatened by intense, graphic violence we don’t want that to happen on a very fundamental level. When I say that the violence is some of the most graphic I have seen in a video game, I am not being hyperbolic. In particular, one scene stands out. There is a segment that involves a character being beaten into an unrecognizable, bloody mess with a crowbar. It is nauseatingly awful to witness and that is precisely the point. The Walking Dead’s second season makes a statement about how easily we accept horrific acts in our video games and how those acts are almost always treated casually or loosely justified with statements like, “It was war,” or even more simply, “they were the bad guys.” The brilliance of The Walking Dead Season 2 is that instances of violence, even in the most extreme cases, are never cheap and there is always an underlying point to their existence. I’m currently playing through Wolfenstein: The New Order, so it is hard for me not to compare how violence works in each title. Don’t get me wrong, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a great game, but it falls into a category that I like to call, “well executed dumb.” It is trying to take players on a violence fueled romp through the ranks of Nazi’s who have taken over the world. The core mechanics all revolve around killing. I’d argue that violence is the end goal of Wolfenstein. If you take away the violent interactions there is no game left. You are never meant to think about the Nazi soldiers you kill in Wolfenstein as human beings. You are meant to think of them as monsters. There is nothing wrong with violence for its own sake, sometimes it can be very cathartic. However, violence by itself is empty excitement. When you compare the violence of The Walking Dead Season Two with that of Wolfenstein, you find that The Walking Dead uses violence with a purpose. For Telltale, violence is the means to an end. Let’s return to the crowbar scene that I mentioned earlier. What end does the incident serve? On a purely base level for the player it provides a certain amount of catharsis seeing an “evil” character get some form of retribution. On a character level it is a statement about what kind of a person Clementine is becoming. It is a pivotal moment where she, and by extension the player, is given multiple opportunities to leave and let the event go unwitnessed. Whether the player decides to stay or leave says something about what Clementine has learned in her time surviving the apocalypse. Then the scene drags on and on. It becomes grotesque. It is not pleasant to sit through, nor was it intended to be. Why does such an occurrence of violence feel so strange and unique in the gaming world? In fact, it is remarkable how often games create similar scenes or situations and treat them casually. How many soldiers have we mowed down in Call of Duty without giving it a second thought? How about Grand Theft Auto? In real life the acts we see performed in most video games would be utterly awful. In that way, despite its cel-shaded graphics and preposterous setting, The Walking Dead Season Two feels like one of the most honest depictions of violence that video games have to offer. It is enough that it makes one question; should violence be so easily digested? Midway through episode two Clementine is asked what she thinks is the most important thing in the world. No matter what response the player chooses the answer, Telltale’s writers tell us, is family. Where growing up was the central idea of the first season, family is the theme of the second season. We see Clementine through the struggles of surviving alone and then through the struggles of surviving with the people with whom fate has stuck her, much like how we are all stuck with our own families. In fact, there are a lot of different topics that are brought up over the course of playing the Walking Dead Season Two. A lot of people die, causing many characters to question the meaning of life and whether living is worth the trouble. Some find it hard to go on, others soldier on because it is the only thing they know how to do. How important is friendship and family in the face of life or death? Do children belong in such a world? Are the zombies or the humans the real monsters? Often Telltale forces players to make split second decisions; choices made in the heat of the moment that perhaps reflect a truth about how the player views the world. All of this serious talk might make it seem like The Walking Dead Season Two is doom and gloom all the way through, but that would be a misrepresentation. There is real joy and laughter nestled amongst the sadness and loss. I laughed out loud at several moments and smiled through others. A lot of the humor derives from Clementine being a young girl who is treated out of necessity as an adult. Most of the time she rises to the occasion admirably, but sometimes she can’t help but show how in many ways she is still a kid. Maybe those moments taken out of context weren’t hilarious, but any levity serves such a contrast against the dismal backdrop of the world that a good guffaw isn’t too far away when the comedy hits. You’ve probably noticed by now that I haven’t said much about the gameplay. That’s because there isn’t much to say about it. It is the least interesting aspect of Telltale’s recent adventure games and The Walking Dead Season Two isn’t an exception. Between the decisions that players will make are action segments comprised of quick time events. They’re not interesting by themselves, but the context of what players view on the screen makes them bearable. Tapping the Q key is not an interesting way to interact with a game. Often, interactivity is limited even during the moments when players are allowed to search an environment. However, I am more than happy to put up with the annoyance of quick time events and limited interactivity if I can experience more narratives of the quality produced by Telltale Games. The third season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead has been confirmed which leads me to wonder how the next season will work. The ending of the second season diverges wildly after a certain point of decision the player makes as Clementine, resulting in three different core endings, two of which have several different ways they can play out. This would make it very difficult to start the third season with Clementine remaining as the main character. Perhaps Telltale’s writers will perform some complicated word jiu-jitsu and make it work, but I think it is more likely that next season will have a different protagonist and Clementine will make an appearance as one of the side characters. Only time will tell for certain, though. Conclusion: The Walking Dead Season Two is one of the best narrative-focused games to be released this year. The writing is excellent, the performances are compelling, and the emotions it evokes are potent. The lack of variety in the interactions with the game world is overshadowed by the powerful narrative. Anything that might distract from the core experience with the story has been stripped away, revealing a journey with characters that will break your heart, mend it, and then shatter it all over again. The Walking Dead Season Two is available on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.
  11. The second season of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead is a harsh slog through death, violence, and zombies. Which makes it all the more incredible that Season Two manages to be masterfully, achingly human. I’ll be attempting to keep this review spoiler-free since the main draw of the Telltale adventure games has always been experiencing the story. The Walking Dead Season Two places players in the shoes of Clementine, the young girl who was a staple character of the previous season. Soon after the second season begins, Clementine becomes separated from her friends and meets a new group of survivors. Players follow her trials and tribulations with the new group and the people they meet as they go through their ordeals. At its core, The Walking Dead Season Two knows how to construct drama. That mastery immediately sets it apart from many other blockbuster video games that rely on set piece spectacle, graphical horsepower, and marketing. Those bigger titles forget that effective drama relies on the audience empathizing and understanding the motivations of the characters. In this area, The Walking Dead Season Two excels. We understand the motivations of the characters, usually within the first few minutes of being introduced to them. Each character, even the bit players, have their own wants and needs, their own motivations. When we see those needs and wants clash, we can genuinely empathize with the situation, even if that situation is full of zombies. If any game makes a compelling case for more diverse video game casts, it is the second season of The Walking Dead. The most interesting characters of the second season are mostly women. There are several non-white characters. There is even a great moment involving a male character who is in a relationship with another man. All of this comes together to create a more interesting narrative. Seeing different views and ideologies collide is fascinating, especially when you can understand their viewpoints. As the season progresses, the player comes to an understanding of the level of violence permissible in the world of The Walking Dead and that understanding elevates the drama. When characters that we care about are threatened by intense, graphic violence we don’t want that to happen on a very fundamental level. When I say that the violence is some of the most graphic I have seen in a video game, I am not being hyperbolic. In particular, one scene stands out. There is a segment that involves a character being beaten into an unrecognizable, bloody mess with a crowbar. It is nauseatingly awful to witness and that is precisely the point. The Walking Dead’s second season makes a statement about how easily we accept horrific acts in our video games and how those acts are almost always treated casually or loosely justified with statements like, “It was war,” or even more simply, “they were the bad guys.” The brilliance of The Walking Dead Season 2 is that instances of violence, even in the most extreme cases, are never cheap and there is always an underlying point to their existence. I’m currently playing through Wolfenstein: The New Order, so it is hard for me not to compare how violence works in each title. Don’t get me wrong, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a great game, but it falls into a category that I like to call, “well executed dumb.” It is trying to take players on a violence fueled romp through the ranks of Nazi’s who have taken over the world. The core mechanics all revolve around killing. I’d argue that violence is the end goal of Wolfenstein. If you take away the violent interactions there is no game left. You are never meant to think about the Nazi soldiers you kill in Wolfenstein as human beings. You are meant to think of them as monsters. There is nothing wrong with violence for its own sake, sometimes it can be very cathartic. However, violence by itself is empty excitement. When you compare the violence of The Walking Dead Season Two with that of Wolfenstein, you find that The Walking Dead uses violence with a purpose. For Telltale, violence is the means to an end. Let’s return to the crowbar scene that I mentioned earlier. What end does the incident serve? On a purely base level for the player it provides a certain amount of catharsis seeing an “evil” character get some form of retribution. On a character level it is a statement about what kind of a person Clementine is becoming. It is a pivotal moment where she, and by extension the player, is given multiple opportunities to leave and let the event go unwitnessed. Whether the player decides to stay or leave says something about what Clementine has learned in her time surviving the apocalypse. Then the scene drags on and on. It becomes grotesque. It is not pleasant to sit through, nor was it intended to be. Why does such an occurrence of violence feel so strange and unique in the gaming world? In fact, it is remarkable how often games create similar scenes or situations and treat them casually. How many soldiers have we mowed down in Call of Duty without giving it a second thought? How about Grand Theft Auto? In real life the acts we see performed in most video games would be utterly awful. In that way, despite its cel-shaded graphics and preposterous setting, The Walking Dead Season Two feels like one of the most honest depictions of violence that video games have to offer. It is enough that it makes one question; should violence be so easily digested? Midway through episode two Clementine is asked what she thinks is the most important thing in the world. No matter what response the player chooses the answer, Telltale’s writers tell us, is family. Where growing up was the central idea of the first season, family is the theme of the second season. We see Clementine through the struggles of surviving alone and then through the struggles of surviving with the people with whom fate has stuck her, much like how we are all stuck with our own families. In fact, there are a lot of different topics that are brought up over the course of playing the Walking Dead Season Two. A lot of people die, causing many characters to question the meaning of life and whether living is worth the trouble. Some find it hard to go on, others soldier on because it is the only thing they know how to do. How important is friendship and family in the face of life or death? Do children belong in such a world? Are the zombies or the humans the real monsters? Often Telltale forces players to make split second decisions; choices made in the heat of the moment that perhaps reflect a truth about how the player views the world. All of this serious talk might make it seem like The Walking Dead Season Two is doom and gloom all the way through, but that would be a misrepresentation. There is real joy and laughter nestled amongst the sadness and loss. I laughed out loud at several moments and smiled through others. A lot of the humor derives from Clementine being a young girl who is treated out of necessity as an adult. Most of the time she rises to the occasion admirably, but sometimes she can’t help but show how in many ways she is still a kid. Maybe those moments taken out of context weren’t hilarious, but any levity serves such a contrast against the dismal backdrop of the world that a good guffaw isn’t too far away when the comedy hits. You’ve probably noticed by now that I haven’t said much about the gameplay. That’s because there isn’t much to say about it. It is the least interesting aspect of Telltale’s recent adventure games and The Walking Dead Season Two isn’t an exception. Between the decisions that players will make are action segments comprised of quick time events. They’re not interesting by themselves, but the context of what players view on the screen makes them bearable. Tapping the Q key is not an interesting way to interact with a game. Often, interactivity is limited even during the moments when players are allowed to search an environment. However, I am more than happy to put up with the annoyance of quick time events and limited interactivity if I can experience more narratives of the quality produced by Telltale Games. The third season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead has been confirmed which leads me to wonder how the next season will work. The ending of the second season diverges wildly after a certain point of decision the player makes as Clementine, resulting in three different core endings, two of which have several different ways they can play out. This would make it very difficult to start the third season with Clementine remaining as the main character. Perhaps Telltale’s writers will perform some complicated word jiu-jitsu and make it work, but I think it is more likely that next season will have a different protagonist and Clementine will make an appearance as one of the side characters. Only time will tell for certain, though. Conclusion: The Walking Dead Season Two is one of the best narrative-focused games to be released this year. The writing is excellent, the performances are compelling, and the emotions it evokes are potent. The lack of variety in the interactions with the game world is overshadowed by the powerful narrative. Anything that might distract from the core experience with the story has been stripped away, revealing a journey with characters that will break your heart, mend it, and then shatter it all over again. The Walking Dead Season Two is available on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. View full article
  12. The fifth and final installment of the second season of Telltale's zombie adventure is coming next week. Titled 'No Going Back,' a new, spoiler-filled trailer teases players with what to expect from the conclusion of season two. The Walking Dead Season Two will come to a close on the following release dates: August 26th Episode Five will be accessible on the PC and Mac via Steam and other digital distribution services, as well as on the PlayStation Store for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita owners. August 27th will mark the finale's release on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for Xbox 360 owners. Additionally, the iOS version of Episode Five hits the App Store on August 28th. More release dates for various other platforms will be announced in the future. As for the trailer, it brings players up to speed on the key events of the series, as well as containing a scene created exclusively for the trailer. Warning: The trailer below contains major spoilers for both seasons one and two of Telltale's Walking Dead series. Watch at your own risk. View full article
  13. The fifth and final installment of the second season of Telltale's zombie adventure is coming next week. Titled 'No Going Back,' a new, spoiler-filled trailer teases players with what to expect from the conclusion of season two. The Walking Dead Season Two will come to a close on the following release dates: August 26th Episode Five will be accessible on the PC and Mac via Steam and other digital distribution services, as well as on the PlayStation Store for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita owners. August 27th will mark the finale's release on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for Xbox 360 owners. Additionally, the iOS version of Episode Five hits the App Store on August 28th. More release dates for various other platforms will be announced in the future. As for the trailer, it brings players up to speed on the key events of the series, as well as containing a scene created exclusively for the trailer. Warning: The trailer below contains major spoilers for both seasons one and two of Telltale's Walking Dead series. Watch at your own risk.
  14. Marking the end of Call of Duty: Black Ops II’s season pass, this fourth and final segment of DLC brings new multiplayer maps as well as a new Zombies mode. The maps cover a nice range of interesting and strange locales including: a failed utopian community from the 70’s outside of Taiwan, a frozen, canaled city in Europe, a remote launch site in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and the return of the Courtyard map from Call of Duty: World at War that takes place across two archaeological dig sites in Afghanistan. The addition to zombies is called Origins, which brings back the four characters from the original Zombies mode in Call of Duty: World at War. Set within a dieselpunk World War I-era France, players will take on the undead hordes and maybe uncover some of the mystery surrounding the necro-plague. To clarify, this DLC will be making its way to other platforms at later dates, but for now it is available only on Xbox Live. For those of you who haven’t purchased a season pass, Apocalypse will ring you up a cool $15. View full article
  15. Marking the end of Call of Duty: Black Ops II’s season pass, this fourth and final segment of DLC brings new multiplayer maps as well as a new Zombies mode. The maps cover a nice range of interesting and strange locales including: a failed utopian community from the 70’s outside of Taiwan, a frozen, canaled city in Europe, a remote launch site in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and the return of the Courtyard map from Call of Duty: World at War that takes place across two archaeological dig sites in Afghanistan. The addition to zombies is called Origins, which brings back the four characters from the original Zombies mode in Call of Duty: World at War. Set within a dieselpunk World War I-era France, players will take on the undead hordes and maybe uncover some of the mystery surrounding the necro-plague. To clarify, this DLC will be making its way to other platforms at later dates, but for now it is available only on Xbox Live. For those of you who haven’t purchased a season pass, Apocalypse will ring you up a cool $15.
  16. Treyarch announced today that new DLC for Call of Duty: Black Ops II titled Vengeance will be available on Xbox Live beginning July 2. This will be the third multiplayer DLC pack for the popular first-person shooter. The map pack will include four new places to compete against fellow gamers: Cove, Detour, Rush, and Uplink. Cove takes place on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean on which a smuggling plane has crash landed. Covering a destroyed suspension bridge, Detour pits players head to head in confined, close-quarters combat. The Rush map actually takes place on a paintball course, while Uplink is a remake of the much loved Summit map from Call of Duty: Black Ops. Vengeance will also include a new zombie map called Buried that takes place in an subterranean mining town from the Old West. Players will meet up with old characters from previous zombie modes and have access to a new weapon called the Ray Gun Mark II. Who else is ready to blast some zombies and celebrate freedom? View full article
  17. Treyarch announced today that new DLC for Call of Duty: Black Ops II titled Vengeance will be available on Xbox Live beginning July 2. This will be the third multiplayer DLC pack for the popular first-person shooter. The map pack will include four new places to compete against fellow gamers: Cove, Detour, Rush, and Uplink. Cove takes place on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean on which a smuggling plane has crash landed. Covering a destroyed suspension bridge, Detour pits players head to head in confined, close-quarters combat. The Rush map actually takes place on a paintball course, while Uplink is a remake of the much loved Summit map from Call of Duty: Black Ops. Vengeance will also include a new zombie map called Buried that takes place in an subterranean mining town from the Old West. Players will meet up with old characters from previous zombie modes and have access to a new weapon called the Ray Gun Mark II. Who else is ready to blast some zombies and celebrate freedom?
  18. During E3, I stopped by the independent developer portion of the Sony booth to see the titles that the publisher has been attracting to the PS4. One of the titles on display was Ray’s the Dead, a humorous take on the zombie apocalypse. Like any zombie-loving individual, I felt the tug of intrigue and went in for a closer look. One of the first things that struck me about Ray’s The Dead was the art style, which is vaguely reminiscent of Plants vs. Zombies, but with its own flair and a 3D- background with which the 2D character models contrast nicely separating it from anything else that I've played before. The game is set during the 80s and little touches can be seen throughout the demo like the Pac-Man ghosts and the Double Deuce bar from the ’89 film Road House. I played through the first level of the game which began with Ray, the titular zombie character, arising from the grave. After scaring some of the local hillbilly inhabitants, Ray learns that he can raise and command zombies by using the light bulb that is inexplicably implanted into his skull. After raising a few of the dead in the graveyard, Ray and his friends encountered a number of farmers who yelled things like “ERHMERGERD!” at the sight of a pack of approaching zombies. This was when I learned that I could give the zombies orders to attack specific locations and targets, much like the gameplay found in Nintendo's Pikmin titles. After killing a human, you can resurrect them to become part of your growing zombie army. In the final area of the graveyard, I encountered a fist-fighting redneck and engaged him in one-on-one combat (which ended with Ray cartoonishly devouring his brains). Ray can perform finishing moves on stunned opponents that increase his health by 25% in addition to his normal melee attacks. After the graveyard, I led my burgeoning zombie apocalypse into the town proper where it just so happened to be Halloween. With the kids walking around in costumes, the pack of zombies didn’t look out of place and no one was any the wiser. I was told by the developers that there would be a recurring theme throughout the game of people being unable to recognize the zombies as a real threat or writing them off for various (and possibly ridiculous) reasons. This part of the level relied on being sneaky, not killing anyone, and avoiding police dogs who could sniff out the decaying flesh of the undead. After making it through the sniffing dog section (which is a phrase I would have never expected to write), I encountered a wall that needed ten zombies to knock over, but only had seven following me. The solution? Hide zombies in bushes to gnaw on random pedestrians! After welcoming the new brainless to the flock, I pushed forward to the next part of our journey. In the next segment, Ray encountered zombie dogs. The devs told us that these were just one of many different types of zombies that would have special effects. While ordering a normal zombie to attack results in the zombie shambling over to the target, zombie dogs will dash towards their enemies and stun them briefly, giving you a safe opening to send in the rest of your zombie army. After mastering these handy tools of the zombie trade, the zombie army made its way toward the final confrontation with the now alerted local law enforcement of the sleepy southern town. The final area was the main street of the town where cops had converged to stop the zombie menace from spreading. This section of the demo proved particularly challenging and, much to my chagrin, I was unable to complete it. The build I saw was in pre-Alpha, so not all of the kinks were worked out, but this game shows a lot of potential. Keep an eye out for it in early 2014 when it releases on PC, Mac, Linux, and PS4. View full article
  19. During E3, I stopped by the independent developer portion of the Sony booth to see the titles that the publisher has been attracting to the PS4. One of the titles on display was Ray’s the Dead, a humorous take on the zombie apocalypse. Like any zombie-loving individual, I felt the tug of intrigue and went in for a closer look. One of the first things that struck me about Ray’s The Dead was the art style, which is vaguely reminiscent of Plants vs. Zombies, but with its own flair and a 3D- background with which the 2D character models contrast nicely separating it from anything else that I've played before. The game is set during the 80s and little touches can be seen throughout the demo like the Pac-Man ghosts and the Double Deuce bar from the ’89 film Road House. I played through the first level of the game which began with Ray, the titular zombie character, arising from the grave. After scaring some of the local hillbilly inhabitants, Ray learns that he can raise and command zombies by using the light bulb that is inexplicably implanted into his skull. After raising a few of the dead in the graveyard, Ray and his friends encountered a number of farmers who yelled things like “ERHMERGERD!” at the sight of a pack of approaching zombies. This was when I learned that I could give the zombies orders to attack specific locations and targets, much like the gameplay found in Nintendo's Pikmin titles. After killing a human, you can resurrect them to become part of your growing zombie army. In the final area of the graveyard, I encountered a fist-fighting redneck and engaged him in one-on-one combat (which ended with Ray cartoonishly devouring his brains). Ray can perform finishing moves on stunned opponents that increase his health by 25% in addition to his normal melee attacks. After the graveyard, I led my burgeoning zombie apocalypse into the town proper where it just so happened to be Halloween. With the kids walking around in costumes, the pack of zombies didn’t look out of place and no one was any the wiser. I was told by the developers that there would be a recurring theme throughout the game of people being unable to recognize the zombies as a real threat or writing them off for various (and possibly ridiculous) reasons. This part of the level relied on being sneaky, not killing anyone, and avoiding police dogs who could sniff out the decaying flesh of the undead. After making it through the sniffing dog section (which is a phrase I would have never expected to write), I encountered a wall that needed ten zombies to knock over, but only had seven following me. The solution? Hide zombies in bushes to gnaw on random pedestrians! After welcoming the new brainless to the flock, I pushed forward to the next part of our journey. In the next segment, Ray encountered zombie dogs. The devs told us that these were just one of many different types of zombies that would have special effects. While ordering a normal zombie to attack results in the zombie shambling over to the target, zombie dogs will dash towards their enemies and stun them briefly, giving you a safe opening to send in the rest of your zombie army. After mastering these handy tools of the zombie trade, the zombie army made its way toward the final confrontation with the now alerted local law enforcement of the sleepy southern town. The final area was the main street of the town where cops had converged to stop the zombie menace from spreading. This section of the demo proved particularly challenging and, much to my chagrin, I was unable to complete it. The build I saw was in pre-Alpha, so not all of the kinks were worked out, but this game shows a lot of potential. Keep an eye out for it in early 2014 when it releases on PC, Mac, Linux, and PS4.
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