Croteam has revealed a teaser trailer for its upcoming Serious Sam 4: Planet Badass, which shows the titular character and a bunch of his closest friends.
There's not too much to the clip, but it's fun to see Sam again, as well as one of those creepy headless guys with bombs for hands. We won't have to wait too long for additional information – Croteam says more information, including the official announcement for the game, will be coming at E3, during Devolver Digital's press conference.
With numerous survival and battle royale titles swarming the video game market, developer Gamepires aims to stand on top using realism with their upcoming Steam Early Access game, SCUM.
As a prisoner on a TV show, the ultimate objective is to win their freedom by surviving against zombie-like creatures with or against up to 64 other contestants on a 12 kilometer island. The focus to achieving that goal is mastering the human body and its complexities through the “most advanced human body simulation in the world,” creative director Tomislav Pongrac claims. The inspiration for the simulation comes from the team’s research while playing myriad survival titles. They realized that, aside from weapons players discover, differences were merely cosmetic. “You can’t call yourself a survival game if you don’t simulate the real world in some way,” says Gamespire CTO Andrej Levenski.
A chip on the back of your character’s head tracks numerous physical stats, from respiratory rate to blood volume and calorie consumption, all of which are determined by attributes customized during character creation. Exercising and watching what and how much you eat are the king factors in your success – much like real life. In turn, poor choices result in stat reductions. For example, if you charge into battle and lose a tooth, that hole in your mouth can affect your ability to eat, which causes a domino effect in stat reductions due to starvation. Hunger depletes attributes such as strength, which governs things like hand-to-hand blows as well as steadiness with a rifle. Players can also get sick if they loiter in the rain too long and don’t have water-resistant gear, and contract diseases from fighting animals.
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“In real life, we are all slightly different depending on what we have learned and what we are capable to perform,” says Pongrac. “In SCUM, all players will be different, regarding their knowledge and capabilities, and we found it much better and more realistic than classes which can be found in some games. In those games, you can create a sniper, a heavy guy, a medic, etc. while in SCUM you will be able to create a character who was a medic before he has been cast on the island, but they also can have a knowledge of using rifles, martial arts, or any other skill you find important. It provides players with almost endless possibilities.”
Upon death, players respawn as a clone of their character, who is created by the TEC1 corporation, the runners of the TV show. Your character maintains all of their attributes thanks to the chip tracking their stats, but the equipment you respawn with depends on a fame system determined by points with different tiers. The more renowned you are, the more equipment you can respawn with, at the cost of spending more points. Pongrac describes it as “in-game monetization.” Respawning, however, subtracts points and makes you less popular with viewers. “We wanted to create a system that will allow players to continuously upgrade their characters and not to go mad when hundreds of hours invested in gameplay go to waste,” says Pongrac. “There will be no permadeath in the game, but we will make sure that players who try to survive are rewarded while all others who play recklessly are punished in a certain way. There are more things related to the fame system, from sponsor gifts, optional coupons for healing, food, and gear, along with how fame will be distributed within teams, but we will save that for later.”
Despite these numerous systems, Gamepires says SCUM also appeals. A randomized character option that assigns sporadic stats allows players to quickly jump into multiplayer modes that range from team deathmatch to battle royale. “[These types of events are great] because players can rotate faster and try some top gear from the game,” says Levenski. “You can do your regular survival things like hunting, crafting, and cooking, and when events are ready just join in … Your character stats and abilities from survival mode still count in those type of events, so you better join when your character is in good shape.”
If players want to focus on surviving without narrative intrusion, they can ignore plot points and discover the secrets of the show at will. “SCUM provides different gameplay mechanics depending on what players want to do,” says Pongrac. “We like to compare it to the onion. You can peel it layer by layer, or just take a big bite, whatever makes you happy.”
Though SCUM is ambitious in scope, these factors seem to meld well for what looks like a distinction the survival genre desperately needs. You’ll have the chance to try SCUM when it hits Steam Early Access in the second quarter this year. For more on survival games, check out our hands-on thoughts on SCUM, the latest trailer for State of Decay 2, and our Subnautica review.
It's rare that a prequel truly works, where a story can captivate despite the audience knowing what's coming and where the path will lead. Life Is Strange: Before The Storm is one of those exceptional stories because it draws you in on its own terms. The only problem: You know it's building you up just to break your heart.
As we know, the original Life Is Strange is steeped in tragedy. Maxine Caulfield's estranged friend Chloe Price comes riding back into her hometown, hoping to find her missing friend, Rachel Amber. The search brings Chloe and Max close again after years apart, but it also illustrates a vast gulf in their life experience, which never fully closes. Max's life is defined by good fortune and privilege. Chloe, as seen through Before The Storm, is defined by loss.
When Episode 1 starts, Chloe is forced to finagle her way into an underground metal concert with nothing but street smarts and her own awkward sense of sass. She's not yet as sharp and hardened as the girl we meet in the original game, but she has it in her to become stronger as life gets tough. That girl's outlook on life is everywhere in Before The Storm: the greyer, evocative, post-rock soundtrack compared to the sunny lilt of the original game, the sneering commentary of the information in the menus. The Backtalk system—a stand-in for Life Is Strange's time travel mechanic—gives you even more control over the flow of a conversation to get what you want. It's a way to portray Chloe's very human strengths that sadly doesn't get implemented often enough in the latter two episodes.
Whoever you choose to make Chloe become, meeting Rachel shifts her focus. In the original game, Rachel is to Arcadia Bay what Laura Palmer is to Twin Peaks: a bonafide popular girl whose absence seems to mean everything to everyone, but who no one seems to really know on a personal level. Chloe Price, however, did know her, and Before The Storm gives you the chance to find out what was so special about Rachel in Chloe's eyes.
On the surface, the answer seems to be nothing. Episode 1 has Chloe and Rachel playing hooky, and trying to suss each other out, which doesn't tell you anything you couldn't guess on your own. It's only after Rachel catches her District Attorney father in a compromising act that she metaphorically bares everything, revealing she and Chloe aren't as different as they seem.
Before The Storm's three episodes are roughly two hours each, depending on how compulsive you are about exploring every nook and cranny. Compared to the original game, which leaned heavy on the implications of Max's time travel, Before the Storm has no real supernatural crutch to lean on to solve the world's problems. What few flights of fancy there are--aside from a heartwarming impromptu Shakespeare performance in Episode 2--manifest as occasional dream sequences, more for Chloe to sort through her own grief than to affect the world around her. The real world around Chloe continues to crumble, and your choices tend to fall on the side of figuring out how to sort the remains. It's choices like figuring out how best to deal with being kicked out of school, whether it's worth upsetting Chloe's mother to clap back at her trashy gun-nut stepfather, or parse out how much basic respect to give the gossip girls on Blackwell Academy's campus.
The heart of it all remains Chloe's relationship with Rachel. It's a textbook case of two people finding someone worth clinging to, and taking it on good will that their faith in each other isn't misplaced at best or going to get them killed at worst. Episode 3 veers ever slightly off into low-grade cable-TV drama, but even that's played earnestly, with Chloe and Rachel's mistakes having tangible, believable consequences, and choosing how Chloe deals with her failings is endlessly captivating to play through.
That captivation is, of course, the problem, if you can call it that. It's a game that so admirably and genuinely builds a relationship between two girls who absolutely need and deserve each other; when it gets to the ugly business of reminding you where it ends, it sours and saddens every moment. You could use your choices to keep Rachel at a bit of distance, but even that distance feels unfair, because why wouldn't both girls deserve their momentary bliss?
Still, Before The Storm's main three episodes largely play out as though the future isn't set in stone, allowing you to craft something resembling a momentary win for an ill-fated relationship, entertaining the notions of coping and vulnerability in ways very few games typically have time or inclination to. The bittersweet cherry on top, however, is contained in the game's Deluxe Edition, a final episode that allows you to play through Max and Chloe's last beautiful day together before Max leaves for Seattle. It's light, whimsical, often funny, and bathed in a gentle golden nostalgia. And once again, its final moments bring truth rushing in, and it's a stab in the heart.
This, apparently, is the heartbreaking joy that is Life Is Strange: the inevitability that life will do terrible, unexpected things to people whose presence we love, and people who absolutely deserve better. Developer Deck Nine's contribution through Before the Storm posits that the pain is still worth it; just to have the time at all is enough. A storm is still coming to Arcadia Bay, and Rachel will still disappear one day, and it doesn't matter. Being able to spend time with Chloe when her heart is at its lightest, and putting in the work to keep it going, is powerful and worthwhile.
The rise to the top always starts with a first step, and for those aiming for number one in the rankings in Tennis World Tour, you're going to have to methodically work your way through tournaments across the globe.
Developer Breakpoint (who worked on the Top Spin series) has released a new video for the game (coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC on May 22) outlining how players construct their schedule in the game's career mode.
Your player's schedule is more than just a menu of dates, however, as managing it well is crucial to maximizing your earnings, avoiding fatigue, and growing as a player.
A new Kingdom Hearts III trailer dropped today showing off some of the minigames that will be playable in the game, specifically focusing on a bizarre handheld system in Sora's possession that recalls the old days of LCD games.
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The trailer dropped during then KINGDOM HEARTS Union χ Dandelion Meeting in Anaheim, a fan event for the Kingdom Hearts mobile game, Kingdom Hearts Union χ (read as Cross). The short trailer really only gives a small look at the game's minigames, but it is interesting to see any more of the decidedly elusive game.
Kingdom Hearts III was first announced in 2013 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Nexon has announced its long-awaited MMO sequel, MapleStory 2, is finally headed to the West.
Originally released in Korea in 2015 and in China last year, MapleStory 2 improves on the original's 2D sprites and playing field by turning them 3D. You can split your time between dungeon-crawling and facing monsters, or idly build up your house after exploring the world.
Though Nexon did not announce a release date, players can sign up for a closed beta until May 6. The beta will run from May 9-16.
Penny-Punching Princess opens by declaring that, in the age of capitalism, money is where real power comes from. This is a game about a princess who needs to accumulate wealth to get revenge on the Dragaloan Family, who sent her father into poverty and death with their harsh interest rates. It's an intriguing, startling note for a cutesy beat-em-up game to open on. This isn't a 'message' game--don't go in expecting a searing critique of capitalism, as it's largely played for laughs--but this framing device immediately makes it clear that this brawler is going to be different. It might not be in the top-tier of its genre, but at the very least Penny-Punching Princess is unique.
The game is an isometric beat-em-up, in which fighting is your main form of interaction with the world. There are no puzzles to solve, and the level design is extremely simple, to the point of being universally uninteresting, designed just to funnel you between fights--the extent of permissive exploration is simply a matter of going left when your compass is telling you to go right. When a fight starts, the Princess (or Isabella, a zombified second playable character that you unlock a few hours in) can perform quick punches, use a stronger charge attack, or roll to safety. It's not the deepest system, and your defensive options are limited.
Most fights involve a few waves of enemies, usually of increasing danger, and generally, there will be traps, like buzzsaws, giant rolling balls, and fields of poison, to avoid too. The Princess and Isabella play very differently, although most players will likely attach themselves to a favourite rather than swapping between them--I stopped using the Princess almost entirely after unlocking Isabella. Unfortunately, there's not much variety in the game beyond this choice between the two. The arenas you fight in throw more and more traps at you as the difficulty ramps up towards the end of a chapter, but no specific encounter every really stands out.
When you beat enemies to a certain point, the word 'break' appears over them, and if you rotate the right stick, coins will spill out of them. Coins are important during a fight, as they can be used to bribe both enemies and traps. Enemies vary in price depending on their power, but if you bribe an enemy not only will it disappear from the battlefield, but you'll be able to summon it to fight for you. You can bribe traps too, meaning that they'll stop hurting you and can be turned onto enemies. Traps are more cost-effective--they're cheaper and tend to do a lot of damage--but using them properly also means that you need to lure your enemies into range. Leading a powerful enemy right into a trap and doing massive damage is extremely satisfying, even if most of the game's boss fights come down to you leading a huge enemy from trap to trap. During hectic battles, it's hard to know exactly what you're about to bribe--the Princess can be more exact, but in the heat of the moment you're more likely to just nab whatever is directly in front of you--which can get frustrating.
Every enemy and object you bribe gets added to your collection, which can be cashed in to build new armour and Zenigami Statues (which are effectively the currency used for stat upgrades). A piece of armour, for instance, might require you to have previously bribed five of a specific minor enemy, two of a stronger, more expensive enemy, and two buzzsaw traps. Each piece carries a price like this, and if you're missing something the level select screen handily highlights four enemies and traps you'll encounter in each individual level. Upgrading your armour is essential--occasionally you'll hit enormous difficulty spikes and realise that you're under-equipped, at which point you'll typically need to jump back into earlier levels and grind to collect specific bribe targets (and search for treasure chests, many of which contain additional Zenigami statues).
The grind is rarely too severe if you're being mindful and upgrading as you go, but the difficulty spikes can hit hard. It's frustrating when you reach the end of a level only to find that the final boss is far too powerful for you to take on, and the checkpointing, which can be somewhat capricious, means that you'll often have to redo easier fights just to reach the more difficult ones again. My frustration only occasionally boiled over to the point where I had to step away for a moment, but there was also rarely a real sense of reward for having beaten a difficult level, because you know the next level is just going to involve doing the same thing again.
All of this is presented without too much flourish. The sprite-based character designs are occasionally charming (Sebastian, a stag-beetle who acts as the princess' butler and appears in pre-and-post-level interstitials, is pretty funny), and the weird script plays up the game's irreverence to good effect, but it's difficult to really get invested in Penny-Punching Princess' cycle of punching and spending. While the game is moderately entertaining and has its moments it just doesn't offer lasting satisfaction. Penny-Punching Princess doesn't set its sights particularly high, and while it feels like it's achieving what it intended, it's hard not to wish there was a little more to it.
Underworld Ascendant is a game that, for better or worse, has the chains of history shackled to it. The new immersive sim from OtherSide Entertainment is a spiritual successor to Ultima Underworld, a 1992 game by many of the same developers who were more than happy to explain that it is often considered the first ever first-person action game. With that kind of precedent, the kind of pressure Underworld Ascendant is under starts to take form, though the game definitely seems willing and able to hold that weight.
To say the gameplay in Underworld Ascendant is player-authored might be selling it short. When we talked to OtherSide Entertainment cofounder and immersive sim luminary Paul Neurath earlier this year, he emphasized a desire to take the immersive sim genre further beyond its limitations. Circumventing limitations is the underlying foundation of the genre, after all.
In Underworld Ascendant, players have free reign to seek out solutions however they see fit using whatever is at their disposal. Using what is appropriately titled the Improvisation Engine, players can use and manipulate their environment to solve puzzles, cross gaps, defeat enemies, and generally just tackle any issue in front of them they may need or want to overcome.
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One example in the first dungeon is using water to put out fire. The game imparts the knowledge of this mechanic early on by simply telling you that water, in any of its forms, can be used to put out the various bits of fire around you, from candles to torches to objects set ablaze. It is up to the player to figure out how to apply this knowledge to progress. An immediate option to use water arrows to douse hanging lanterns around an enemy skeleton, befuddling them before sneaking in for the kill. Another might be to set fire to a nearby wooden block as a distraction and then put it out to sneak past. Or the player could just not engage with the mechanic at all until they absolutely need to use it.
The game's narrative is similarly influenced by player behavior. Rival factions vie for your attention and are offended by a lack of it. The player's actions have consequences that ripple across the land and choosing how best to navigate between often contrary options can drastically affect the world.
Still, experimentation sits at the heart of the game and courses through all aspects. The overall structure of Underworld Ascendant has players taking quests, gaining skills, and having helpful eureka moments that can't be quantified within a skill tree. You only need to learn that wooden doors are flammable once before it becomes a core part of your mental toolset for solving puzzles.
The immersive sim genre is one that trades in the currency of stories and experiences, acting as a playground for experimentation for players to tell each other how they overcame various obstacles using unlikely tools. Underworld Ascendant seems to be seeking to do more with its world than merely telling players to have at it, however, and is trying to be a game that uses its variety and openness to encourage repalyability. OtherSide wants players to find their stories of creative puzzle solving and then try to create more stories on top of that.
Underworld Ascendant has a lot of history to live up to, but the far more interesting question is whether the game will live up to its own potential. While we'll know for sure when the game releases later this year on PC, it is making a strong argument for meeting that lofty goal already.
Soulcalibur VI is marching towards a release this year (PS4, Xbox One, and PC), and Bandai Namco has just announced another combatant for its roster – Siegfried, who wields his massive zweihander Requiem in this gameplay trailer.
While you don't get to see the game's destructible armor in the trailer below, you can witness Siegfried's super in action.
The God of War series has, until now, stuck very close to the standards set in the original 2005 game. More than a decade (and many games) later, it makes sense that Sony would want to mix things up for the aged hack-and-slash series. Like so many popular franchises that have reinvented themselves in recent years, the new God of War dips into the well of open-world RPG tropes. It also shifts its focus to Norse mythology, casting off the iconic Greek gods and legends that provided the basis for every previous game.
These major shifts don't signal the end of God of War as we know it, rather they allow the series' DNA to express itself in new ways. There are many reasons why the structural transformations are a good thing, but it's what's become of Kratos, the hulking death machine, that leaves a lasting impression. A furious, bloodthirsty icon has transformed into a sensitive father figure. Part of him retains the old violent tendencies that made him a star long ago. However, with his young son Atreus to protect and guide, we also see Kratos take a deep breath and bury his savage instincts in order to set a positive example.
Watching Kratos take care in nurturing his child's sensibilities does feel a bit jarring at the start, but thanks to the natural writing, fitting voice actors, and flawless animation, it's easy to get sucked into the duo's journey and buy into their mutual growth. Though he is a teacher, Kratos carries a mountain of grief and self pity that only the innocence of his son can help him overcome. And Atreus experiences his own ups and downs that might have set him down a very different path if not for Kratos' guiding hand.
Atreus was raised in isolation from the dangers of the wild world around him, and rightfully fails to grasp his place in it when confronted with the realities of a land protected by and under siege from gods. It's the death of his mother prior to the start of the game that thrusts Atreus and Kratos outward; her dying wish was to have her ashes spread atop the highest peak in the land. As if wild predators and ghastly fiends weren't obstacles enough, representatives from the pantheon of Norse mythology arise in an attempt to disrupt their mission, establishing the amplified stakes and the clash of impressive forces that you expect from God of War.
And like its predecessors, God of War is a technical and artistic showcase. It is without a doubt one of the best-looking console games ever released, with every breathtaking environment and mythical character exhibiting impressive attention to detail and beautifying flourishes aplenty. The vision behind all of this is evident in Kratos' meticulously grizzled physique and weathered equipment, in the atmospheric effects that transform believably rustic environments into the stuff of dreams, and in the overall design and structure of the world itself.
The majority of the journey is set in the realm of Midgard. At its heart lies a wide lake that you can explore by canoe, with a coastline dotted by optional puzzles, formidable opponents, and entrances to the map's primary regions. Your mission will carry you through to most of these places, and along the way you'll likely take note of inaccessible pathways and glimpses of sealed treasures. There's always ample room to explore off the main path and good reasons to give into curiosity regardless, but these teases in particular spur you to re-examine previously visited areas as your capabilities expand.
With the boy fighting by your side, firing arrows or choking unsuspecting enemies, you will team up against corrupted cave trolls, face towering beasts, and fight hundreds of intelligent supernatural warriors during your travels. Kratos prefers to use an axe these days, which functions very differently than the chained Blades of Chaos he's known for. This comes with the very satisfying and cool ability to magically summon your weapon to your hand (like Thor and his hammer), a move that never gets old.
And really, neither does combat in general. The new over-the-shoulder camera brings you directly into the fray, and consequently limits your view. You can't see enemies from all angles at once and must be on guard at all times. By default the game provides proximity icons to alert you of incoming attacks, but it's worth tinkering with the UI for a more immersive experience as you get the hang of how fights flow.
It's rare that you can actually spam combos without putting yourself at risk, and this emphasis on mindfulness solidifies God of War's graduation from the traditional hack-and-slash doldrums. The realities of fighting with an axe also makes skirting away from harm an exacting process. But when variables align and you get to lay into an enemy, Kratos' dexterous axe handling allow him to hit hard, and give you the opportunity to flex his might with a bit of style.
The basic set of close-range combos and weapon behaviors can be expanded by pouring experience points into a skill tree and by activating magical rune abilities that bind to your two attack inputs. There are a lot of options to consider and tactics to learn, including skill trees for fighting empty-handed. There's a wonderful rhythm to be found when switching from axe to fists, and then into Kratos' satisfyingly brutal execution moves, all the while ducking and rolling out of harm's way.
God of War's combat is already great at the start, but it gets better as it steadily introduces one new layer after another. You can absolutely stumble into incredibly punishing enemies that are made easier with adept timing and mastery of every available skill, but you can also succeed at any level so long as you've mastered the art of parrying and dodging incoming attacks.
Atreus can't be configured to the same extent that Kratos can, but there are still a lot of ways to tailor his capabilities to your liking. The arrows he fires can be laced with different types of magic, with multiple elemental and functionality upgrades, and he eventually gains the ability to summon spectral animals that can harm and distract enemies, or collect items. Thanks to the smart button layout, it's actually very easy to both attack and defend as Kratos while also commanding Atreus. God of War gives you plenty to do in any given moment and makes you feel like an experienced warrior in the process.
The armor that Kratos and Atreus wear can influence a range of character stats, elemental affinities, and may include slots for enchantments that grant further bonuses. Armor can be purchased or crafted using the few resources scattered about the world, and can be upgraded by the game's two blacksmiths: two dwarven brothers constantly at odds with each other. There's Brok, the foul-mouthed blue dwarf, and Sindri, a far more gentle yet tragically germophobic fellow--a gag that is usually funny, though occasionally pushed a bit too hard.
As enjoyable as those two can be, it's Mimir that ultimately steals the show. The horned, one-eyed sage accompanies you and Atreus for the majority of the game, serving as your guide to Midgard, and an inside source into the ins and outs of Norse politics. Mimir and the blacksmiths have strong individual personalities, as with every other character you meet during the course of the game. We're keeping other identities vague in general to avoid spoilers, but regardless of who you bump into, God of War's cast is strong, convincing, and oddly enchanting. But the real accomplishment is how, even though there are just a handful of characters to interact with, their big personalities color your adventure with tantalizing anecdotes that draw you into the world and imbue the land with a tangible sense of history.
If there's any piece of the overarching mission that feels like a letdown, it's the final battle against the primary antagonist. He's great from a narrative standpoint, unraveling in a manner that changes your perspective, but it's the fight itself that leaves you wanting. There are plenty of big boss battles and tests of skill throughout the course of the game, yet this fight doesn't reach the same heights, and feels like it was played a little safe. It could be an effect of configuring Kratos and Atreus just so, or it may just be too easy to begin with. Thankfully, that's not all the game has up its sleeve.
Two optional areas in particular seem designed with the endgame in mind. The first, Muspelheim, offers a series of battles in arenas surrounded by lava flows and scorched earth. Some trials are merely fights against strong enemies, while others require you to defeat waves in quick succession--if even one enemy remains alive, it only takes a few seconds for others to resurrect automatically. The other realm, Niflheim, is randomly generated every time you visit, but it's always filled with poisonous gas. The goal there is to survive for as long as possible while racking up kills and collecting treasure, and escape before the poison takes hold. Both locations offer tense and rewarding pursuits that are only accessible if you play at your best.
And odds are that you'll be so hooked by the story's pacing and procession of events that there will be plenty of other side activities left in Midgard after the credits roll. God of War isn't set in a massive open world, but it is stuffed with secrets and quests. Where most games with long and diverse quest opportunities tend to run a bit stale by the end, God of War has the opposite effect. It's far longer than it needs to be, though you hope you never run out of things to do.
In many ways God of War is what the series has always been. It's a spectacular action game with epic set pieces, big-budget production values, and hard-hitting combat that grows more feverish and impressive as you progress. What may surprise you is how mature its storytelling has become. Like Kratos, God of War recalls the past while acknowledging the need to improve. Everything new it does is for the better, and everything it holds onto benefits as a result. Kratos is no longer a predictable brute. God of War is no longer an old-fashioned action series. With this reboot, it confidently walks a new path that will hopefully lead to more exciting adventures to come.