Hardship transforms people, and none more so than the protagonist of Nomada Studio's new title Gris. The Switch/PC title coming in December chronicles a young girl's journey through the pains of life, her emotional growth transforming her own abilities and the world around her.
The game's a platformer filled with puzzles and skill-based challenges, but according to the Barcelona-based developer, does not include "danger, frustration, or death." Regardless, the protagonist's journey is also reflected in her dress, which gifts new abilities to her that lets her explore new areas in the world.
Gris will be playable this month at Gamescom and PAX West, so we'll let you know more about the title if we get our hands on it.
Despite its focus on death and the afterlife, Flipping Death is a charming and wholesome adventure. Its zany and often eccentric characters bring the well-paced story to life with fantastic voice acting and a gorgeous 2D art style. Despite some frustrating platforming elements, its campy humor and satisfying puzzle mechanics make it a delightful journey throughout.
Flipping Death puts you in the shoes of the recently departed Penny, a young girl who is accidentally thrown into the job of covering for Death. The role turns out to be rather elaborate, and you’re quickly tasked with helping ghosts resolve their unfinished business. In addition, you’ll have to help the wonderfully sassy Penny attempt to figure out how to return to the world of the living.
In order to give these dead folk a hand and solve various puzzles, you’ll be frequently switching between the worlds of the dead and living by using your trusty scythe to possess mortals and take advantage of their special abilities. Some actions need to happen in one world before the other and vice versa, such as using a person's extraordinarily long tongue in the world of living to paint the boat of a deceased captain, or using a doctor's set of defibrillators to bring a recently passed ghost back to life. You'll need to constantly flip between the two worlds and experiment with character abilities in order to find the right solutions.
Although a majority of solutions are distinct, the repetition of a few mechanics makes some puzzles predictable towards the end of the game. But at the same time, there are some that require a few too many flips in order to figure out the absurd logic behind the game’s ludicrous world. One such puzzle requires a young girl to fall down a chimney to be covered in ash, and in her new darkened state scare a fireman watching horror movies--literally to death--so he can then come to the afterlife and put out the fire on top of a ghost's head. There is a hint system which can help you when you hit a roadblock, but the clues aren’t very subtle and don’t leave much left for you to figure out. However, seeing these strange events play out is enjoyable for the spectacle alone.
The possession mechanic means it’s easy to get sidetracked, testing each ability on other characters and the environment to see what odd results occur--which is convenient because that’s exactly what you’ll need to do to complete the wacky side challenges in each chapter and unlock Ghost Cards. These collectible cards give a pleasant layer of insight into the lives of the ghosts you’re trying to help and mortals you’ve been manipulating.
And the interactions you have with each character, whether it be with the awkward police officer who lacks confidence or the local “superhero” whose power is to literally just poke people, are silly and humorous. It’s hard not to smile at all the bizarre situations they get themselves into. It helps that the voice acting is performed well, with every line delivered with a devotion and passion that makes sure there’s never a dull moment, as well as ensuring the humor lands. Some jokes can be overplayed, but for the most part, I was chuckling from beginning to end, and it was always a joy to meet a new set of characters.
Penny herself seemingly embodies the voice of every person who has played a point-and-click adventure game, as she's constantly questioning and being bewildered by each character's thoughts and actions. Acting as a foil to the many antics happening around her, she provides much of the humor and is a rather refreshing protagonist. She keeps the story engaging through each chapter with her smart quips and unyieldingly sassy personality.
The world of Flipping Death also feels lovingly crafted, filled with intricate details and diverse color palettes that bring each scene and character to life like a magnificent puppet show. The sprawling environments of Flatwood Peaks are occasionally reimagined to tell the story in interesting and unexpected ways, and a fast-travel system helps to make sure backtracking never feels like too much of a chore. A diverse instrumental soundtrack also accompanies your adventures, filling in the quieter moments but never intruding or distracting from conversations or puzzle solving.
The one area where Flipping Death really falls flat is when you’re forced into annoying platforming sections in order to collect wandering souls and other odd currencies required to possess each character. These sections feel as if they exist solely to pad out the story and act as a break from puzzles, but the game’s controls aren’t accurate or satisfying enough for them to be any fun. Platforming quickly becomes an annoying gatekeeper that stops you from continuing to enjoy the rest of the game.
Flipping Death's logic is sometimes too ridiculous for its own good, and frustrating platforming sections add some tarnish. But the game’s silly puzzles, self-aware humor, and crazy characters still make a wonderful experience filled with plenty of chuckles, which help to leave you satisfied as the credits roll.
A day after Doom Eternal's extensive gameplay reveal at QuakeCon, I sat down with id Software's Marty Stratton, who serves as the project's executive producer, and Hugo Martin, creative director, to talk about how the sequel will shake things up for the campaign, combat, multiplayer, and mod scene. Stratton and Martin wouldn't give away every secret, yet but did dive deep into what we can expect from certain aspects of this sequel.
Take me back to the conclusion of Doom. You finished it up and started thinking about the future. What was that aftermath like? What kind of discussions did you have? Marty Stratton: It was quick. We started planning and pre-production right away. We had post-mortem discussions about what we did right and wrong and what we wanted to do better. There was a lot of research on reviews, YouTube, everything. We took it all in, and tried to figure out where to go from there.
Hugo started with the creative team right away; trying to figure out where we would go next.
Hugo Martin: We also hoped to get the chance to make another one, so the story arc started in 2016. We laid the groundwork for the sequel. There was a ton of work to be done across the board, but in that regard, it was about continuing what we started.
At that point you were showing the world what a new Doom could look like. Now you say you are creating an entire Doom universe. That screams of extensive plans. Can you discuss what we can expect from the Doom universe?
HM: We're so excited. It's what we always wanted. It just means [Doom Eternal] has depth and a lot of substance. That's mostly it – that it's something that is worth your time.
MS: There's thought and depth behind every decision, visual, level, and weapon. We tried to build a lot of lore into the codex in Doom 2016. A portion of the audience dives into that. Some people don't even know it's there. We think people that do invest in it appreciate it. With Doom Eternal, we want to make sure it's within arm's reach if you want it. It's all there. There are answers to your burning questions.
A lot of people are affected by the game on a visceral level. They love killing the demons. None of that is changing. What is exciting for me are the conversations that happen around this stuff as we build it. They are so amazing and fun. The ideas and lore are thought through by really creative people. We haven't really put [the lore] out there where people can be a part of it. That's what I love about story games, stuff like Elder Scrolls. They put it out there where people can get it at varying levels. We want to bring people into that conversation a little bit more. We think what we have is exciting.
Is that lore mostly going to be off to the side in the codex again?
HM: It's not just lore or backstory. If you want to surf the main game, we have what we call the A story and B story. The A story is the main game, and what the average consumer is going to experience. The B story is context for everything, like who am I talking to, why did that guy interact with me in that way? The key thing when we say "universe" is we want to take the Doom player to places they've never been before. That serves the A story. It's not just about making juicy codex entries, it's about, as you saw with those locations, taking you to new places. As Marty said, Doom is about killing cool bad guys in amazing places with awesome guns. That's it. The amazing places part, and the cool demons part, and the awesome guns part fit into that stuff.
"The ballista is kind of an ancient looking weapon. Where does that come from? Do I get to go to that place?" We just want to make sure that Doom has some fantastic set pieces in it. We're swinging for the fences with this one. We're going to go to some cool places. Doom universe is just about making the game more awesome and fun.
Let's talk about the slayer himself. You guys gave him an upgrade...a few upgrades.
HM: It's the evolution of who he was in Doom 2016. He's still the same guy, but fictionally speaking, he is constantly modifying his armor. Many people call out: If he is this ancient warrior who has been in this eternal struggle between good and evil, why does his armor look modern? There's a good answer for that. He's changing his armor all of the time. He's upgrading it. Superheroes do it. That's a part of that genre. We think of him like a superhero. When he upgrades his stuff, he does it with efficiency in mind. From a gameplay perspective, we always think of that first.
The blade in particular is something we thought a lot about. It's hard for us to glory kill enemies with [the slayer's] bare hands. Some of the demons are the size of elephants. We would talk about the glory kills, and [the development team] would be like "I can't do this." They would put the slayer's hands on the baron's face, and they would look like baby hands. We had to give him a tool. He always had to pull parts off of enemies, which he still does, but now he has a utensil to take out large enemies more efficiently. The first glory kill he does in the demo is faster than any in Doom 2016. [The blade] is faster, it can take out big enemies, it looks cool, and adds variety.
MS: We really tried to maintain the dance, flow, and feel of combat. Everything we've added is centered around that same dance, just giving you new moves to use on the dance floor. That was always important that it was the same dance. We want it to be a tight game loop where the player is thinking of what to do next. The flamethrower, I don't know how much it got noticed, but when you shoot a guy who is on fire, there's a benefit – you get armor shards. It works a little like the chainsaw. It isn't just cool looking, you get gains from it.
HM: Destructible demons are the same. Is [the destruction] all cosmetic only? No. Some of it can be strategic. For example, you can shoot off the gun turret on the Arachnotron. That's his primary attack, and it can be pretty devastating. If you have good aim, and you want to nerf his abilities – he still has other attacks, though – you can take out that gun. As long as something feels like it is promoting the player to be aggressive, it's Doom. All of these things, the doom blade, equipment launcher, it's about being aggressive.
The thing that surprised me the most about the gameplay you showed was how open the spaces were.Are most areas that large?
HM: If the race car gets faster then the race track has to get bigger. That's basically it. Our race car can do a lot of things now, so the track he's on has to be bigger. Talking about our traversal combos, when you double jump to a dash into a monkey bar swing use the meat hook and then wall climb, it makes the ambient spaces more dynamic. Having the tools in place as game designers allows for some really interesting moments, and that includes combat.
MS: The stuff happening around you in these levels is crazy; whether you're experiencing hell on earth on the edge of collapsed buildings or fighting under the BFG 10,000 on Phobos. We're not just taking you to new places. The experiences you're getting in places you've been, like the UAC, you've never seen before in a Doom game. We've really taken that next step. The worlds were great in 2016, but the level of s--- going on around was never at 10. The sky box was never at 10. This time around, when you look around, you're going to see you're in the middle of something big going on.
Can the meat hook latch onto anything?
MS: Just demons.
It has to be made of meat then?
MS: Yup. Exactly.
The meat hook is attached to the super shotgun. Does that mean you need to have that weapon equipped to use the hook?
MS: Yup. The way works is when you have the super shotgun out, you hit the mod button and it shoots it out.
You didn't go into multiplayer, SnapMap, or mods during your presentation. Can you talk to me about your plans for those things? Todd Howard took Escalation Studios, the team that made SnapMap.
MS: Todd takes everyone. (laughs)
I'll start with SnapMap. We decided to move away from it. We loved it and thought it was great, but it didn't scratch the itch we thought maybe it could for people. We touched on the Invasion stuff. That's a whole part of game we think people are going to have fun with. That was a high-level goal for [Doom Eternal]. We're also working on a PvP component. We'll talk about it later. It's also very Doom, as we like to say. It isn't a sidecar experience. We are doing that internally. We've taken all of that in.
HM: (whispers) It's awesome.
MS: [The multiplayer] is new and different. We're also planning for probably the thing that was most requested, which is post-campaign content that we create, not through something like SnapMap.
HM: The campaign, Invasion, PvP, it all feels like Doom this time. There isn't kind of a separation there where you're like "I kind of like the MP, but it doesn't feel like Doom." We were aware of that. We're making it internally now. We're excited about what we have.
We already know Fallout 76 will be an online-oriented game, with a focus on inter-player interactions over branching dialogue trees with NPCs. But what does that mean when it comes to player-on-player confrontations? During today's Fallout 76 panel at Quakecon, project lead Jeff Gardiner, game director Todd Howard, and development director Chris Meyer gave us some elucidating details.
Since Fallout games have been mostly single-player affairs up to this point, multiplayer introduces some interesting problems. At the forefront of the team's mind was the question of how the world would deal with griefers - people who might wander the wasteland looking to ruin other people's games by relentlessly attacking them.
Howard's answer to this question was quick. "We turn ass***** into interesting content."
"We want this element of danger [in Fallout 76] without griefing," Howard said. After hitting level five, you'll begin to encounter other players as you explore the wasteland. One of the ways you can interact with them is to shoot them. Taking into the account the fact that players are likely going to shoot each other on the fly quite often (by accident or otherwise), early potshots won't deal much damage. But if one player is insistent on attacking another, that damage will begin to increase. You can, however, avoid accidental encounters completely by enabling a pacifist flag, which will prevent your bullets from harming other players.
If you do want to fight, the individual levels of each player will matter, but not as much as you might think. Players who've played for a while will obviously be stronger, but that doesn't mean lower-level players are entirely powerless. The power curve is more normalized in PvP than in PvE, making PvP encounters a bit more fair. "The guy in Power Armor with a minigun is obviously going to be harder [to kill], but if you get the drop on him with a knife, it does kind of work," Howard said.
How the defending player chooses to respond is up to them. If they reciprocate the attack, each player offers a cap reward based on their level, making it tempting to land a kill. VATS returns in Fallout 76, though it's been altered to accommodate the new online nature of the game. Targeting takes place in real time, and you can't target individual body parts at first. Instead you can target the whole body, with a hit chance based on your Perception attribute. You can also use VATS to find sneakier players. Early on VATS may not be as effective as simply shooting your opponent, but invest in Perception and that will likely change.
If you lose a scuffle and die, you'll not only drop your cap reward, but also any junk you might have had on you at the time. Junk is accumulated by searching the world and isn't worthless, either; you need it to build up your camps or craft armor, among other things.
The team didn't want to make death too punitive, but they wanted it to mean something, leading to a system where you do lose something when you die, but it's also not an all-or-nothing affair. So whenever a player encounters what they think might be a tough area or player, they may want to think twice about how much junk they're holding and whether to engage. To circumvent losing junk, you can store it in various stashes hidden around the world, any base camp you might have built up, or in Vault 76.
If someone does end up murdering you, have a chance to get revenge. Once you return to life, you'll be given the chance to seek out that specific player and retaliate. If you manage to win that round, the game will give you double the normal reward for killing them.
But perhaps the most interesting mechanic arises when one player doesn't want to fight. A player who kills someone who didn't fight back becomes a wanted murderer. There's no reward for murdering someone who doesn't fight back other than the brief satisfaction it might give a jerk, and the cost is high; being a wanted murderer marks that player on the map of everyone around them as a red star. That player also carries a new bounty that comes out of their own caps, incentivizing every other player in that instance of the world to kill them. Wanted players won't be able to spot anyone around them on their map, making it difficult for them to see attacking players coming.
Players also have camps they've built to worry about, but losing them won't be as heartbreaking as you might expect. Nukes are a big part of the Fallout experience according to Bethesda, and while getting your carefully-built camp nuked might sting, you can choose to "blueprint" individual structures, letting you recreate them entirely with a simple button press. Of course, you can also use this feature to quickly relocate your camps as well.
Communication is a major part of online games, and Fallout 76 is no different. Along with voice chat for players you join up with, you can also choose to toggle voice chat for nearby strangers on or off, letting you hear them coming or simply make it easier to create ad-hoc roving bands of survivors.
Hopefully, with these various methods of inter-player violence and communication, Fallout 76's decision to foregone bespoke storytelling for more lively player-told stories will pay off.
Although we have a general overview of what Fallout 76 is going to be (an online action-RPG where players replace NPCs and become the vehicle for storytelling), it was hard to get a good idea of how we'd be interacting with our characters over the course of several hours. Earlier today at a Fallout 76 panel for Quakecon, Bethesda revealed how character progression, character creations, and mutations work in their new game.
The best way to think about progression in Fallout 76 is by visualizing your character as a deck of Magic: The Gathering-style trading cards that gets stronger as you level. Starting out, you'll have one point invested into each of the seven attributes that make up Fallout's S.P.E.C.I.AL. system. Every perk has a point cost associated with it. An early perk called Gladiator, for example, offers a 10-percent boost to melee damage and costs one point in the Strength attribute to equip.
You can equip as many perks (which take the form of cards) as you want, provided you have enough points in that attribute to accommodate them. You can also combine copies of the same card into stronger versions of that card, which increase the potency of the card but also its cost. Cards can drop or be fused into each other up to a point cost of five. Bethesda pointed out during the panel that there are "hundreds" of perk cards to experiment with.
Tying into the trading card idea are card packs. When you level up, you can add one additional point into any attribute to let you expand which perk cards you can equip, and you will be able to choose one new perk, but every few levels (every two levels early on, then every five levels), you'll receive card packs, which will give you several cards to experiment with (as well as a joke and chewing gum that will temporarily reduce your hunger when you eat it). Because you start off with one point in every attribute, this allows you to experiment with perks you might otherwise ignore in favor of leveling one specific attribute. Some cool perk cards may drop that cost more points than you might have in a particular attribute, which incentive players to rethink their progression in order to equip a perk outside their expertise.
Once you reach level 50, you will no longer be able to invest additional points into any attribute, but you will still regularly receive perk cards, which will let you further customize your character.
As you explore the wasteland of West Virginia and level up, you'll likely wind up in some irradiated areas. If you happen to accumulate too many RADs, you'll become susceptible to mutations, which will alter your properties for both better and worse. One mutation Bethesda shared was one that turned the player into a marsupial, increase their jump height dramatically at the cost of reducing your carry potential and strength.
One important aspect of this new system is that, like trading cards you can swap them out any time depending on the situation. There's no cost for swapping out perks, so if you see a combat situation on the horizon, you may want to respec if you've been running a lockpicking "deck" while breaking into people's homes. Of course, with Fallout 76 being a live game, you'll want to swap cards out in safe spot.
The online, multiplayer focus of Fallout 76 may not seem to jive with the Charsima attribute, which in past games was where you could invest points and become a smooth-talking negotiator with NPCs. In Fallout 76, Charisma has been retooled to work as the sort of co-op attribute, allowing players to equip perks that benefit their entire team. Some Charisma perks are oriented towards solo players, but most will emphasize teamwork.
Another social aspect players can expect in Fallout 76 lies in character creation. Character creation is mostly similar to Fallout 4's with a close-up camera of your character within the world. However, this time you also create a snapshot of yourself, using different expressions and poses. You can also use these out in the world, where you can take a selfie at any time. As players take selfies in the world, it'll become populated with curated photos from the community, giving the map a more populated feel.
For more on Fallout 76, check out some of the details on the upcoming beta, your progress in which will carry over to the full game.
Just like the forcibly stretched grins of its inhabitants, the joy found in We Happy Few is a facade. The game's fascinating setting of a drug-fueled society wasting away in fake happiness is squandered on repetitive environments, poorly paced and downright boring quest designs, and a variety of confusing mechanics that never find harmony with each other. Its three individual tales of survival manage to deliver some surprisingly poignant moments, but We Happy Few does its best to dissuade you from wanting to play long enough to see them through.
We Happy Few takes place in a timeline where Germany reigned victorious after World War II and has England bowing to their whims. Children are sent to the German mainland without reason, and the quiet town of Wellington Wells is plunged into a drug-induced mirage of peaceful, happy co-existence. With pills called "Joy" helping citizens forget the atrocities of the past, uprising is far less likely. But this fake sense of tranquility brings about its own problems. Citizens refusing to live under Joy's medicinal spell are outcast to the borders of city, forced to live in decrepit, crumbling houses while they wait to starve to death. The citizens of Wellington Wells are always happy to see you, but only if you abide by their rules.
Enter Arthur, Sally and Ollie--the three characters you'll control throughout three acts that show all sides of this horrific society. Arthur suffers from post-traumatic stress, reliving the moments where he lost his brother to the German kidnappings. Sally hides a secret within the walls of Wellington Wells while also providing black market drugs to those who pay enough. Ollie is just a confused war veteran, disturbed by events of the past that have shaped his future. The more personal aspects of each character end up being more interesting than the mythos surrounding them. Each new perspective lends context to previously puzzling interactions to create clever "aha" moments, and the stories have powerful themes of abandonment, parental sacrifice, and overbearing guilt. Each finds a satisfying (if not always happy) end to their journey, despite the mechanics fighting actively against you reaching their climax.
In Early Access (where the game sat for nearly two years), We Happy Few was a survival game. That's mostly stayed the same, despite the structure of its design changing around it. As any character, you'll need to manage meters for hunger, thirst, tiredness, and more (Ollie actually needs to watch his blood sugar, of all things), which impose penalties and buffs on your fighting and movement abilities. Early on, managing these statuses is difficult, with a scarcity of resources while you're still coming to grips with We Happy Few's many rules. But they soon end up being just frustrating. The resources to replenish them aren't hard to find, but constantly having to tend to them when you're just wanting to get along with the story is arduous.
There is an unbelievable number of items to pick up and carry in We Happy Few, but only a small handful end up being useful. You’ll frequently be forced to pick up flowers to craft healing balms or bobby pins for lockpicks, for example. But vials of toxins that can knock out or kill enemies don't give you a reason to choose one or the other. The crafting menus for each character change based on their abilities, but the core items that are shared between all three are likely the only ones you'll actually utilize--the specialized items hardly necessitate their complex requirements. It feels like such a waste having a vast crafting system attached to a game that never puts you in a situation where it feels necessary. We Happy Few has many ideas strewn across its menus but nothing mechanically that requires their use.
This frustration is only exacerbated by the lack of interesting quests to undertake in We Happy Few's relatively large open world. Its inhabitants treat you as their delivery boy, never giving you anything more complex than walking to an area, picking something up, and walking all the way back. Quest design works counterintuitively to the idea of having to scrounge to survive. Even if you wanted to reach into the world's nooks and crannies to find something interesting, inquisitive eyes are rarely met with any rewards aside from the plethora of items you probably already have stashed in your inventory. There's a point in Arthur's story where he exclaims, after a multi-staged questline, "All that, just to reboot a bridge?" and it feels like he's crying out for help from you directly.
What attempts to break up this straightforward structure are the rules of Wellington Wells. Outside of its walls you'll be forced to don tattered clothing to fit in with the rest of the depressing crowd, as well as fighting off temptations to steal from their strewn-about dwellings. Inside is another story entirely. The inhabitants of Joy-infested cities will be quick to throw up arms should you do anything but walk. Haunting guards and eerie Joy-sniffing doctors pose a threat to your blending in, which can force you to pop some pills from time to time. Their effects keep you hidden for a time but have devastating withdrawal symptoms that prevent you from masking your depression, which can have an entire city on your tail in mere seconds.
The setting sounds intriguing on paper: a system where stealth is managed by social interactions and conformity. But its execution is lacking. Obeying the strictly imposed rules is trivial and only slows down your progress towards the next quest marker, negating any sense of tension they might have imposed. Outside, the rules are looser, but there's also far less to look at. You'll spend a lot of time simply sprinting through empty fields with no discernable landmarks, only to be greeted by another bridge into another strict state that brings progress to a crawl. It's a disappointing misuse of a system that might have otherwise been engrossing.
It feels like We Happy Few understands many of its mechanics are a chore to begin with.
The character progression system is even more underdeveloped. While each of the three characters has some unique characteristics, the abilities you're able to purchase are largely shared between them, and many give you ways to turn some of We Happy Few's rules off entirely. One allows you to sprint through cities without rousing alarm for example, while another lets you ignore annoying night curfews entirely. It feels like a concession--like We Happy Few understands many of its mechanics are a chore to begin with.
When rules aren't being (mercifully) stripped away, they often just don't work. The night curfew, for example, will have guards turn hostile should they spot you. But conceal yourself on a bench, and they inexplicably ignore you entirely. Melee combat is monotone and predictably boils down to you exhausting your stamina swinging your weapon and then simply blocking until it recharges. When you're not being forced to contend with that, you'll be sneaking around enemies with a barely functioning stealth system. Enemies are inconsistent in their ability to spot you, sometimes walking across your path without a whiff of suspicion. Their patrol lines are easy to spot and never deviate, making the reward of a successful infiltration feel remarkably hollow. Most times they're just far too predictable. They'll stare for extended periods at distractions you conjure and fail to search an area after spotting you briefly. We Happy Few's stealth is so transparently binary that it just feels like you're cheating the system most of the time.
It's a shame that so many of these systems never fit together in a cohesive way, especially when the world itself is overflowing with potential. There's some rich environmental storytelling in We Happy Few, even if its visual variety is shallow. It's striking to transition from dilapidated walls with mad ravings written across them to neatly structured hollows parallel with rainbow roads. The way We Happy Few mixes up its visual representation based on your character's mental states is clever, too. On Joy you'll witness double rainbows as far as the eye can see, with a shiny veneer encapsulating the overly cheery nature of your character. Withdrawal sours this into a dreary grey world where the sounds of flies and visions of decay replace usually unremarkable facets of the environment.
This blends well with We Happy Few's interpretation of the era. Monochrome television screens hang from awnings and play the propaganda-filled ravings of the enigmatic Uncle Jack swing towards you as you pass with a startling red hue. The stretched faces of Wellington Wells' most behaved citizens are off-putting in a brilliantly creepy way, even if there's such a lack of distinct character models that you'll find multiple identical faces hanging out on a single street corner. Cartoonish robotic contraptions mingle in more strictly secure areas and whistle off cheery tunes as they pass by. They also tend to mess about with the pathfinding for Wellington's human inhabitants, which is hilarious only the first few times. For everything that We Happy Few gets right in terms of world building, its gameplay leads it astray.
For everything that We Happy Few gets right in terms of world building, its gameplay leads it astray.
Technical issues plague We Happy Few too, ranging from mildly annoying to borderline game-breaking. Characters will often clip through the floor or disappear entirely as you approach. Shifts between night and day see characters appear and disappear from one second to the next. The framerate suffers on capable PC hardware. Quest logs will sometimes not refresh, while getting an item at the wrong time failed to trigger a quest milestone, forcing me to reload an older save. Audio can disappear from cutscenes entirely for long stretches of time. From numerous angles, We Happy Few is in rough shape.
But even if you are able to overlook its technical shortcomings or perhaps wait for more stable patches in the future, We Happy Few's biggest problems are ones that are hard to remedy. Its entire gameplay loop is underpinned by boring quests and long stretches of inaction. And even when it forces you to interact with its world beyond just walking to waypoints, combat, stealth, and otherwise fascinating societies fail to impose the right balance of challenge and tension. There's a clear lack of direction that We Happy Few is never able to shake, which wastes its intriguing setting. It does manage to weave each of its three stories cohesively into a larger tale, but it's also one that's never critical enough to earn the right to repeat "happiness is a choice" any chance it can. There are just too many hurdles to overcome to enjoy We Happy Few, and not enough Joy in the world to cast them aside.
One of the most bizarre announcements at Square Enix's E3 conference was The Quiet Man. In a trailer that blended live action with a few seconds of punching-filled gameplay, the game posed about four thousand questions and answered none of them. But in a surprise reveal, Square Enix showed off more than 40 minutes of the game and blew our cumulative minds.
The Quiet Man is being developed by Human Head studios, who are best known for 2006's Prey. It looks absolutely absurd. Here's some details we picked up from the demo and producer Kensei Fujinaga's commentary.
The game is roughly three hours long.
"However you look at it, it will never be an opulent and ornate treasure box, sparking with all the colors of the rainbow," Fujinaga says. "However, if this tiny, tiny stone that represents a frankly disproportionate level of challenge and experimentation from my modest team, can shine brightly like a diamond in the hearts of our players out there, I would safely say that there could be no greater joy for us than that."
It will be priced lower than a full retail release.
The narrative will follow Dane, a deaf young man who's attempting to find a kidnapped dancer. As implied in the reveal trailer, The Quiet Man mixes its gameplay with live-action cutscenes. In one scene, the screen turned blue and an FMV face covered some of the punching action.
Also, a gangster killed Dane's mom. This presumably fits into the story somehow. Most of the characters shown seem to be a Japanese interpretation of America's criminal underbelly, replete with racial stereotypes and over-the-top costuming.
In deadly silence, Dane martial-arts his way through several rooms of goons. Much of the combat seems to center on finishing moves that defy all laws of physics, such as flipping a dude 180 degrees before punching him in the mouth. In one scene, he seems to die, only to wake up to a real-life woman smiling at him. The checkpoint then reloads; it's incredibly jarring.
Sections of the game also place Dane in slower situations in which he walks around an environment and looks at objects.
The Quiet Man's appears to be following in the footsteps of Deadly Premonition; relentlessly weird and more than a little janky, but with an absolutely sincere charm. Although Dane's haircut looks like it wants to speak to a manager and the story embraces the most offputting parts of Quantum Break, the game has all the makings of a true cult classic.
Id Software’s new vision for Doom debuted at QuakeCon in 2014. As imps and demons were torn to shreds with bullets and chainsaws, the crowd roared in approval, and clearly wanted to see more.
Flash forward four years, and the bloodthirsty cry for more was answered: id once again gave QuakeCon attendees the first look at Doom Eternal, the next chapter in the studio's flagship series.
Id's Marty Stratton and Hugo Martin took to the stage with heavy metal blaring as loudly as the crowd's screams. Stratton was taken aback by the crowd's enthusiasm, giving them a, "F--- yeah. You guys are unbelievable. It's awesome to be back here."
The Doom Eternal presentation began with concept art that showed the Doom slayer’s new look, which includes armor tweaks and new tools. Stratton said id's focus was making this interpretation of the slayer the most powerful hero the studio has ever created.
As you can see, the slayer boasts modified armor with extendable blade, spikes on the gloves, an over-the-shoulder attachment (which can equip flamethrowers, missiles, and grenade launchers), and just as much green as he's always worn. His boots also grant him the ability to perform a new omnidirectional dash maneuver to give him a little burst of speed when he needs it.
While he looks like a formidable killing machine with nothing in his hands, id has developed plenty of new and updated weapons for him to wield. The return of the Super Shotgun was greeted with a cheer, which now has a Meat Hook below its barrels. The Meat Hook isn't just used to stab enemies in the face; it functions like a grapple that allows players to latch onto something at a great distance and pull the slayer closer to it. The momentum of that pull can propel him in different directions, allowing for vast amounts of space to be gained in the air.
Other new armaments include a handheld ballista, a redesigned rocket launcher, a plasma rifle, and something called the Crucible Sword. What will the Doom slayer use them against? Martin says this sequel boasts twice as many enemies as the previous game. Along with a host of demons we've never seen before, id is bringing back the Pain Elemental, Arachnotron, and Archvile, to name a few. One of the new beasts is named the Marauder, and Martin teased that he looks like the Doom slayer for a reason. The level of detail in each of these creatures is impressive, as are their death animations, which now unfold through new technology id calls "Destructible Demons." In a series of stills, we could see how taking bullets incrementally affects a demon's limbs, skin, and organs.
The new gameplay demo begins on a familiar note: With the slayer putting on his helmet. We then see him test out his blade by extending it for a second before retracting it. As he moves forward, it becomes quickly apparent we aren't in hell anymore. The fires are now on Earth tearing apart one of its cities. Skyscrapers lay in ruin, and demons are everywhere, even descending from the skies.
The first few minutes of action play out like a greatest hits reel from the previous game, showing the slayer unloading clips into slow-moving demons, and periodically rushing in to decapitate one or feed it its own heart as a meal. The fluidity of play is impressive, holding true to the 60 frames per second that id achieved in the original. The environment is wide open and vertical, allowing for the Meat Hook to be used to reach higher areas and stretch across fiery pits. We even see the slayer launch into the air, grab onto a yellow pipe for a split-second, and swing to another area. The gunplay seems rote at this point, but the slayer's range of mobility impresses, and he can even make new paths for himself by punching through walls or scurrying up them with his new gloves.
While the gunplay looks fun, the most interesting elements that occur during it are the little things, like the periodic flamethrower burst from his shoulder attachment, which stuns a couple of enemies, allowing for ammo to be sprayed at them safely. The glory kills are as violent as always, but none of the executions were radically different than stuff we saw in the last game. Heads go flying, bodies are split in two in a variety of ways, and a stern punch can splatter brains. The most interesting glory kills incorporated the slayer's new blade, which in one instance doubled as a skewer for a heart. You also don't seem to be rewarded with as much ammo or health for performing glory kills; the only pinata like effect we saw happened when the slayer ripped through an enemy with his chainsaw.
As fast-paced as the action was, id revealed that it was being played on a controller, and then showed what that same area and combat could look like when turned up a notch while being played on a keyboard and mouse. The heavy metal intensified and the bodies hit the floor at an almost hilarious speed.
This second playthrough also teased something new in an "Invasion" alert that appeared on the screen. Invasions allow you to enter another player's game as a demon. You can even invite a few of your friends to enter someone else's game together as a slayer hunting party.
Stratton said that the game won't just be set on Earth and Hell, and teased much more. "We're not just making a Doom game anymore. We're making a Doom universe," he said. One of these new destinations is Phobos, a technologically advanced place that houses a giant skyscraper-sized version of the BFG called the BFG 10,000.
When the slayer arrives on Phobos, the people running the station are in awe of him. They back away, murmuring how he shouldn't be there, and one guy is so speechless that he doesn't say anything when the slayer grabs the red keycard from around his neck and drags him in his wheeled chair to open a door. The slayer also silently takes a weapon out of the hands of a soldier. He apparently has quite the reputation here.
The Phobos area delivered more of the frenzied combat Doom is known for. The demonstration ends with a tease of a boss battle and the promise of a new weapon being used to tear this foe wide open – the Crucible Blade.
Doom Eternal doesn't have a release date or window yet, but is in development for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch. Let's hope this means the Switch version will launch alongside the others this time.
The crowd at QuakeCon ate up the violence again, but the cheers weren't as loud as in 2014. The shock factor just isn't there: id isn't reinventing the formula again. The roar of approval had more of a tone of "I can't wait to get my hands bloody in this world again,” and that's exactly what id is inviting players to do.
You can check out the extensive footage in the video below starting at 1:10:56.
During today's QuakeCon 2018 keynote, Avalanche and Bethesda showed off fresh gameplay for the upcoming first-person shooter Rage 2.
Set 30 years after the events of the first game, Earth is beginning to return to its previous state, springing back to life after the cataclysmic events that preceded the initial title. While the weapons, abilities, and wingsticks steal the show in the new gameplay trailer, we also get a look at the new Goon Squad faction, as well as our first glimpse of an intense convoy takedown. You can see the new gameplay for yourself below.
Rage 2 launches PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in spring 2019. For our recent hands-on impressions of Rage 2 from E3, watch our discussion here.