Dead Space Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Dead Space RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network 12 Games That Helped Define My Xbox 360 Experience Tue, 10 May 2016 08:29:27 -0400 Joshua Handville

1) Bioshock

Considered a last-generation masterpiece, Bioshock generated an unexpected wave of universal acclaim when it released back in 2007. As a spiritual successor to System Shock 2, Bioshock plunged players into the mysterious underwater city of Rapture, and tasked them with surviving the relentless onslaught of the dystopia's genetically modified denizens. Assuming the role of dual-wielding extraordinaire Jack, players were offered a hefty arsenal of weaponry and genetically augmented superpowers – such as shooting electricity, fire or bees from your hand – to strategically eliminate their enemies with. By flawlessly intertwining this intelligent and empowering combat design with thought-provoking story progression, Bioshock provided unsuspecting shooter fans with a remarkably dynamic and memorable gaming experience.

2) Red Dead Redemption

Rockstar Games is renowned for creating some of the most massive and richly-detailed open world games on the market, and 2010’s Red Dead Redemption was no exception. Deemed a spiritual successor to Red Dead Revolver, this compelling cowboy fantasy starred players as John Marston, a deadeye ex-outlaw who’s unwillingly forced to face his criminal past and unleash swift justice on his old bandit gang. Aside from featuring a brilliantly-crafted story, Red Dead Redemption received both critical acclaim and commercial success thanks to its immersive world, which successfully peppered organic-feeling random events, addictive side activities and engrossing story missions into the game’s breath-taking recreation of the Wild West.

3) Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Arguably one of the most influential last-generation titles released, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare saw Infinity Ward's popular FPS series stray away from its World War II roots in favor of a new modern age setting. Exhibiting more than just an aesthetic upgrade, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare dazzled players with its restructured single-player campaign, which felt like a blockbuster film experience thanks to the implementation of cinematic set pieces, adrenaline-pumping on-rail sections, and an excellent perspective-switching narrative. This award-winning series' installment also featured a revolutionary approach to multiplayer, which injected player customization, game-changing perks and killstreaks, and experience-based player progression into the heart of Call of Duty's addictive online experience.

4) Dead Space

Drawing inspiration from Alien and Resident Evil 4, Dead Space threatened to push weak-minded players to the brink of insanity when it released back in 2008. As engineer-turned-desperate-survivor Issac Clarke, this deep-space survival horror tasked players with strategically dismembering nightmarish alien creatures and escaping the claustrophobic confines of an infected mining ship. With near-flawless execution, Dead Space injected fear-oozing atmospheric environments and frighteningly unpredictable enemy encounters into a well-paced and tension-filled experience.

5) Fallout 3

Longtime fans waited 10 years for the next installment in this post-apocalyptic RPG series, and Bethesda Game Studios did not disappoint. Set in the year 2277, Fallout 3 starred players as a customizable Vault 101 inhabitant who's forced to leave home and traverse the ruins of Washington, D.C. after the mysterious disappearance of their father. Aside from its intriguing main storyline, this well-crafted RPG featured an abundance of attention-grabbing side quests and numerous exploration opportunities that, more often than not, motivated players to pour hundreds of hours into the game. Though crashes and progression-hindering bugs did hurt the experience, Fallout 3 still became a critical darling due in part to its addictive open-ended gameplay and undeniably satisfying sense of player progression.

6) Gears of War 2

Exhibiting significant improvements over its widely popular 2006 predecessor, Gears of War 2 saw the return of hard-as-nails solider Marcus Felix as he and the rest of Delta Squad continued their mission to eradicate the nightmarish Locust horde once and for all. Like any well-crafted sequel worth its salt, this action-packed shooter displayed a fan-pleasing assortment of new features including button-mashing chainsaw battles, an emotionally engaging story campaign, intense new multiplayer modes, and an incredibly addictive Horde mode, which challenged a team of up to four players to cooperatively annihilate waves upon waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Although Gears of War 3 would later polish many of these features to a glimmering shine, Gears of War 2 is still recognized for its substantial contribution to the ground-breaking success of the series today.

7) Dead Rising

Before an over saturation of zombie-based video games ambushed the industry like a shambling plague, there was Dead Rising – one of the Xbox 360’s first exclusive titles. Released in 2006, Dead Rising placed players behind the camera lens of Frank West, a hard-edged photojournalist tasked with investigating the Willamette Parkview Mall for answers behind a zombie outbreak. Free to wreak havoc in an undead-infested sandbox of sorts, players were encouraged to scour the mall and utilize a plethora of makeshift weaponry – lawnmowers, electric guitars, battle axes, and more – to slaughter Willamette’s reanimated denizens in ridiculous fashion. Though brain-dead NPCs, an aged save system and semi-loose controls kept it from achieving greatness, Dead Rising still proved to be strangely addicting thanks to its semi-goofy attitude and mindlessly fun gameplay.

8) Batman: Arkham Asylum

As Rocksteady Studios’ triple-A love letter to the caped crusader, Batman: Arkham Asylum skyrocketed past the expectations of even the most skeptical comic book nerd to reach widespread critical acclaim back in 2009. Besides featuring one of the best narratives in a superhero game to date, this fine-crafted action-adventure title offered players a chance to utilize Batman’s combat and stealth abilities, genius-level detective skills, and high-tech gadgetry to deliver satisfying vigilante justice to Gotham City’s most infamous villains. Chock-full of fan-pleasing goodness and surprisingly fluid gameplay mechanics, Batman: Arkham Asylum continues to influence the video game industry to this day.

9) Grand Theft Auto 5

Exceeding the high expectations of longtime fans, Grand Theft Auto 5 allowed mischief-makers to run amok in the fictional LA-inspired city of Los Santos as not one but three different protagonists, which they could seamlessly switch between at nearly any point in the game. Dynamic story missions, intriguing random events and a plethora of entertaining activities – tennis, yoga, golf and more – kept the single-player experience consistently fresh and immersive. However, it was the implementation of GTA Online, Grand Theft Auto 5's robust online multiplayer component, that truly elevated Rockstar Games' best-selling open world series to ridiculous new heights.

10) Assassin's Creed 2

Considered the pinnacle of Ubisoft's long-running series, Assassin's Creed 2 addressed many of the criticisms directed at its flawed but successful predecessor. Set in an awe-inspiring recreation of Renaissance Italy, this heart-pounding action-adventure title placed players behind the hidden blades of Ezio Auditore, a newly recruited assassin determined to seek vengeance for the tragic deaths of his father and brothers. Though this engaging set-up motivated wannabe assassins to rapidly progress through the story, Assassin's Creed 2 truly excelled at delivering players an authentic-feeling open world filled with hidden secrets to uncover and numerous side quests to complete. Add in the fact that Assassin's Creed 2 exhibited noteworthy refinements to combat and parkour traversal, and it becomes readily apparent why this particular entry in the series received universal acclaim upon release.

11) Left 4 Dead 2

As the highly anticipated sequel to Valve's first-person zombie shooter, Left 4 Dead 2 effortlessly expanded and refined its predecessor's concepts to create an addictive cocktail of white-knuckle action and cooperation-dependent gameplay. Choosing from one of four desperate survivors, players were forced to thwart off relentless zombie hordes and inevitable special infected attacks utilizing a variety of weaponry ranging from limb-severing katanas to undead-decimating grenade launchers. Though its near unrivaled split-screen play made couch co-op sessions engaging, Left 4 Dead 2's most definitive experience came in the form of Versus, a competitive 4-vs-4 multiplayer mode which tasked a team of survivors to complete campaign levels while the opposing team hunted them down as special infected.

12) The Walking Dead: Season One

Narrative-driven episodic experiences might be Telltale Games' iconic trademark, but it wasn't until The Walking Dead: Season One released that the beloved studio became a household name. Set within Robert Kirkman's zombie-plagued universe, this emotionally-draining five-part series followed new Walking Dead characters Lee Everett and Clementine as the lovable duo – and their ragtag group of survivors – fought to survive in a harsh, apocalyptic world. With unwavering dedication to meaningful player choices and compelling narrative, Telltale Games' The Walking Dead: Season One kept gamers emotionally invested right up until the game's heart-gripping conclusion.


Sadly, last month Microsoft announced that console production for the Xbox 360 would be discontinued. To the relief of late Xbox One adopters, Xbox Live, Deals With Gold, and other services will still be supported on Xbox 360 consoles as planned – though for how long still remains unknown.
It's quite difficult to accept that this officially marks the beginning of the end for a console that helped redefine an entire generation of gaming. Heck, it seems like just yesterday iconic video game series such as Bioshock, Gears of War and Dead Rising were starting their worldwide success as exclusive titles for the Xbox 360.
That's why in remembrance of Microsoft's revolutionary console, I've constructed a personal list of 12 video games that helped define my Xbox 360 experience. Who knows, perhaps these praise-worthy titles might just be some of your all-time favorites as well. (Note: This list is numbered for reference not rank.)

Dead Space Review Mon, 25 Jan 2016 11:32:04 -0500 Elijah Beahm

Space may be is the final frontier, but what if there was something lurking out there on alien worlds? Something vile, evil, and inhuman. That's what Dead Space proposes, and at long last, I explain why I reference this game so darn much. Spoiler: Because it is darn good!

Game: Dead Space
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Mac, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Price: $4.99 - 19.99
Rating: 9.25/10

This game was reviewed using a commercial copy purchased by myself.

Top 5 horror game developers Sun, 06 Sep 2015 06:16:58 -0400 Review Yobo

It's a dark and rainy evening, there are a handful of people on the couch, a pizza on the table, and a great horror game on the big screen - that recipe spells one heck of a good night for anyone fond of scary games.

But what are the best horror games, and who are their makers? It can be difficult make your way through the minefield that is the market of modern horrors and find the true gems. But I'm here to help by putting forward my favorite developers and their best franchises.

These will not be games that operate solely on cheap jump scares. This list contains games that use more elaborate terror and deliver an intriguing and satisfying storyline.

5. Grasshopper Manufacture


This Japanese icon shows the Western players what they're missing. They're responsible for a series that has made top horror lists around the globe - Fatal Frame. This game takes you to some really dark and unsettling places, then makes you watch the approaching monstrosities as it snaps your anxious nerves - one frame at a time.

Grasshopper started with the PS2 game Killer7, but later ventured to make various games, including a game inspired by Franz Kafka - Shadows of The Damned. While they never made any games for the PC platform, they certainly make our list of top horror game developers, due to unique storyline ideas and level designs that make your skin crawl.

4. Visceral Games

I can't make a list of horror game developers if I don't mention the makers of Dead Space. Dead Space is a sci-fi shooter that will challenge your senses with a butt-load of dark atmosphere, intense in-game scenes, and goring monsters.

3. Red Barrels

Red Barrels is responsible for Outlast. This game takes you through the dark hallways of a mental care facility, where horrifying experiments have taken place. The terrifying level designs and stealth/run-for-your-life scenes make this game a prime choice for anyone looking to enjoy their weekend hiding under a bed.

2. Monolith Productions

If you have played F.E.A.R. already, you don't need an explanation for this entry. But Monolith Productions has worked on many more excellent games. They started out with a classic, for crying out loud. In 1997, they made Blood - Doom's creepy and disturbing cousin, if you can imagine such a thing. It was a hit - a bloody marvelous game.

They went on to make many other games, including an Aliens vs. Predators sequel. However, to me, the next piece of gold they struck was the F.E.A.R. series.

F.E.A.R. combines a fast-paced shooter with a horrifying exploration and puzzle game experience. However, the real reason people soil their living room leather while playing this game is a terrifying little girl named Alma. She is the protagonist of the series - a possessed child with supernatural powers and an ingenious evil character that will make you lose your breath a couple of times throughout the game.

The essence of F.E.A.R.'s excellence is this - it manages to be puzzling without being boring, and on top of that it manages to instantaneously switch the player from being the ultimate gun blasting hero to a trouser-soiling toddler, desperately looking for ESCape.

1. Frictional Games


This development team has been striking horror gold ever since they launched the Penumbra series. Their second brilliant idea was Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Its excellence was eye-watering and spawned a whole new series of games that Frictional Games is still working on today. All of their newest games are certainly well worth your time and will provide you with outstanding horror sensations.

But now let's briefly look back on our personal favorite, one of Frictional Games' originals - the Penumbra series. The first Penumbra was a knee-shaking puzzle game, where you get tormented by a crazy guy named Red. On top of that, some mutated rottweilers chase you through the dark tunnels of a secret underground base.

The second game enhanced your struggle by adding some disease-riddled scientists that haunt you with flashlight beams, while your character develops schizophrenia. It had fantastic level design, in-game scenes, and a thought-provoking and mysterious ending.


The third Penumbra game went away from the horror genre and focused primarily on physics puzzles and atmospheric level design. It was a kind of a letdown, but Frictional Games more than made up for it by putting you in the shoes of Daniel and setting you loose in the bewilderingly beautiful and horrendous chambers of Amnesia: The Dark Decent.

Frictional Games finishes off our list of five favorite developers. If you are looking for awesome horror games, this is where a majority of the magic happens.

Of course, there are other great developers not mentioned here, comment below with your suggestions and they will be sure to receive future praise. We hope you enjoy these games!

Star Wars has made EA cool again Sun, 19 Jul 2015 19:31:22 -0400 Bryan C. Tan

Electronic Arts: the worst company in America.

For two consecutive years, EA was bestowed with that unfortunate honor by Consumerist readers, citing rushed and broken games, petty nickel-and-diming, and lack of customer support. The two famous letters harbored legitimate hate from thousands of gamers who felt mistreated, abused, and scammed.

But although EA had hit a really rough patch with its customers, just one month after winning the worst honor for the second time, EA made what can now be arguably seen as the best customer decision it has ever made: team up with Star Wars.

On May 6th, 2013, EA announced that they had acquired the exclusive rights from The Walt Disney Company to develop and publish new core games based on the Star Wars universe for ten years, spanning consoles, PCs, tablets, mobile, and more.

While some were skeptical at first of the exclusive agreement, they didn't need to wait too long before their doubts were banished, as EA soon announced Star Wars Battlefront, and so far it has been all praise and excitement leading up to its November 17th release date this year.

While Battlefield developer DICE proceeded to be the first ones to utilize EA's Frostbite 3 game engine for Star WarsDead Space developer Visceral Games was rumored to be the first ones to create an open world Star Wars game, and they couldn't have made it more clear after they snatched up the brain behind all things Uncharted, Amy Hennig.

On April 3rd, 2014, then-general manager of Visceral Games, Steve Papoutsis, announced that the creative director of the Uncharted series would become the creative director of the latest Star Wars game. 

After leaving Uncharted developer Naughty Dog, what made one of the best writers in the business choose to go to a developer owned by one of the worst companies in the business? According to Papoutsis, "I could sense that what really excited her about this opportunity was Star Wars."

Being associated with the worst company in America isn't really at the top of anyone's wishlist, but being associated with Star Wars? That's what millions of people around the world dream about everyday.

No one wants to join a company that makes games no one cares about. People want to be part of something great, something celebrated, something cool, and what's cooler in popular culture than a galaxy far, far away?

Hennig's arrival at EA would only be the start, as just last week on July 13th, it was announced that the co-creator of the Assassin's Creed franchise and former president of Ubisoft Toronto, Jade Raymond, will be starting up a new EA studio called Motive in Montreal, and will oversee Visceral Games in California.

Motive will be a "creative-driven team incubating entirely new IP and developing incredible action experiences". But what's the first thing on the to-do list?

"I’m thrilled that the first big project that we will work on in Montreal will have Amy as Creative Director. An opportunity to work with her and the Visceral team, and to play in the Star Wars universe, is once-in-a-lifetime stuff."

 Jade Raymond is a once-in-a-lifetime video gaming professional: she's produced multiple gaming franchises, helped create numerous development groups, and dedicated herself to the advancement of women in the industry.

After leaving Ubisoft last year, there's no doubt that a plethora of opportunities were open to her, and many would have been akin to the work she's done before. But after such a successful twenty years in the industry, what else was there to do? What could be new, fresh, and altogether exciting?

The answer for Raymond was Star Wars, and EA were aptly the only ones that could cross that off the bucket list.

EA's major coup of Star Wars has only led to more major coups, with the revival of a beloved series, the arrival of a prominent writer, and the creation of an all-new studio by a leading executive.

After partnering with Disney, EA has risen from its dreadful status as an evil money-hogging corporation to a creative fan-loving enterprise. Hate has turned into excitement, and staleness has turned into creativity.

EA has become an inviting force for gamers and developers alike thanks to Star Wars, and it looks like it will be that way longer than it's tenure as the worst company in America.

That might only be an assumption, but just two years into the deal, and already Star Wars has made EA cool again.

Nine Things Next-Gen Multiplayer Needs to Succeed Sat, 18 Jul 2015 15:07:14 -0400 Elijah Beahm


Multiplayer has been a part of this industry from the start, and its impact can be felt across the spectrum of platforms we play on. Whether you like online gaming or not, we've come a long way, and have a even further journey ahead to travel. Here's hoping developers choose the right path for online gamers.


Encourage and Grow Your Communities


This last part is something only a few publishers and developers have done really well. For example, 2K Games managed what seemed almost impossible at the time, and bred a longstanding Bioshock 2 multiplayer community. Between offering assets for wikis, and porting the game out of pocket to Steamworks as Games for Windows Live began shutting down, 2K Games did good by their community.


They also repeatedly tried to do right by them in terms of DLC. When it seemed like Minerva's Den might not release, they gave out the Protector Trials for free on PC. When they found out they could port it over still, they did, and they kept the Trials DLC completely free regardless. They also gave Minerva's Den for free to anyone who had bought the original, Games for Windows Live version of the game. On top of that, they made all multiplayer DLC free for everyone, and decreased the grind in the progression system so members of the community could regain their ranks quickly in the new Steamworks version.


This is how you reward a loyal community. You don't treat them like EA did with Dead Space 2, where they never ported any of the DLC, and when it was found some was already on-disc, EA just quietly made a few items and armor sets unlocked for PC users. They never got the Severed DLC campaign (which reportedly never got past pre-Alpha on PC before being cancelled on that platform), nor did they get any of the multiplayer patches.


Publishers and developers both need to learn from these and other examples, and understand that you don't survive through game sales alone. You need that community who will stick it out years from now. Bioshock 2 is thriving and active on PC after five years. By contrast, no one is playing Dead Space 2 on PC anymore. Consider that fact.


Scoreboards Don't Count as Multiplayer


I would think this would go without saying, but judging by the number of games that have tried to use this as a placeholder for real multiplayer, it apparently does not. A scoreboard is fine on its own, but it does not make for great multiplayer. Most people don't care, and often times those who do are more interested in kill/death ratios in Call of Duty than how many Animus Fragments they've found in Assassin's Creed. Let's stop using this as a crutch.


We Need More User Generated Content


For a long time, it seemed like modifications were on the way out. Very few games supported mods during the last generation, save for a handful of shooters, and a number of strategy and RPG titles. That is changing though, thanks to a rebound in the focus on user generated content. Even if a game is a completely solo experience, you can play levels or experience new content made by other gamers.


User generated content is the lifeblood of many older games. Tron 2.0 and Skyrim both got fan expansion packs in the past three years, well after their publishers had moved on. Mods are free DLC that developers don't have to spend a dime on. Whether or not you think mods should be commercially released is another debate, but you can't deny the popularity of modding. Some developers even use mods as ways of finding the best new talent to hire for their next project.


As development tools become more user-friendly, and in-game toolsets get more powerful, it stands to reason that user generated content needs to be taken more seriously as a means of online content.




Let Cooperative and Competitive Multiplayer Blur


The fact cooperative and competitive multiplayer are beginning to blur is a great sign, but there are only a few games that have toyed with this. Dark Souls, DayZ and Watch_Dogs remain the only notable examples, and even this early on, they show promise. Dark Souls in particular has caused many anti-multiplayer gamers to reconsider their stance on the issue, because it put it in a new context.


Taking competitive play out of instanced matches and making it more like a boss fight puts it in clearer context for those who don't regularly go out and play Domination or Capture the Flag. With the addition of cooperative players helping each side during conflicts, Dark Souls lets the players define the battlefield.


Watch_Dogs took this a different direction by empowering players with a variety of play styles. Maybe you go and spy on someone or hack their phone in a one on one battle. If you prefer racing, you could take on mobile device users or enter street races. If you like team battles, those are available too. They aren't carted off in some alternate landscape, but instead are present in your game, and have tangible rewards for both offline and online play.


As we step forward, these types of integrated multiplayer could even tie into grander mechanics. Imagine a world where the Dark Souls invasion system and the Shadow of Mordor nemesis system are combined. The potential is tantalizing, to say the least.


Think Outside the Box For What Genres Can Have Multiplayer


A year doesn't go by when I don't hear someone say "[game] doesn't need multiplayer!" Except, did you ever ask yourself what kind of multiplayer that would be like? The XCOM: Enemy Unknown team asked themselves that, and what resulted is a surprisingly popular turn-based RPG style multiplayer that even got a wealth of new maps in the expansion pack Enemy Within.


The same happened with Mass Effect 3, and later Dragon Age: Inquisition. Perhaps its time we stop saying something shouldn't be done, and start more regularly asking "can this be done, and will it be fun?" Not only does this open the door to new multiplayer games, but it lets mechanics be handled in new ways. Assassin's Creed: Rogue's detection system wouldn't exist without Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood's multiplayer, and similar examples exist across many franchises.


So let's really push the envelope and see what works. If it fails, then go back to the drawing board; but if it succeeds, then help it grow.


Truly Dynamic Levels


Letting us level one building in Battlefield 4 was impressive back on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Now though, with the hardware available to developers, we should be seeing a lot more dynamic elements in levels, and not just in shooters. If anything, more games need to look to some of Sony's more recent games for inspiration.


Take the airstrip level in Uncharted 3. When the level opens, one team is a plane that is preparing to take off. Meanwhile, the other team is on a set of moving trucks, chasing after it, guns blazing. This leads to some hilarious and awesome moments that only happen because of the players and the level both being equal participants.


Similarly, PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royal built itself around levels that would blend between two games. One minute you're in Pappa Rappa, but within minutes, Killzone invades with giant mechs firing on players. Every level did this, and would significantly impact the approach players would take to battles. That isn't even counting smaller dynamic elements players could use to their advantage, like setting off traps or knocking opponents into hazards.


We need more levels like this. While making a level flood or have half of the map become full of poison gas might seem impressive to some players, we could do so much more. Destiny's raids have randomized, dynamic elements as much as they do scripted ones. Syndicate had different enemy spawns and behavior based on difficulty levels. These are the sorts of things we should aspire to in future multiplayer titles.


Understand What We Want From Online Co-op


When I reviewed Sunset Overdrive, the game had an excellent open world that was begging for two player campaign co-op. Instead, it had one of the blandest eight player horde modes ever created. Too many games just tack on online cooperative multiplayer without any consideration of what the mode needs. This weird misunderstanding of what we want in co-op is increasing in frequency, as more and more cooperative games are made.


First off, we want to play together with like-minded players. This really is what developers should consider first when going forward. Halo: Reach had one of the best matchmaking filters by asking you several general but important questions about how you liked to play Halo This helped like minded gamers to team up easily.


This should be a default feature in co-op, especially when the co-op is in the main story campaign. If someone is just there for the action, then pair them up with other people there for action. If someone cares about the story, get equally considerate players on board with them.


We also need goals worth playing for. The point of cooperative multiplayer is that you are working together, towards some end. This is why co-op in campaigns works so well, and why standalone co-op modes that are barely connected with the main game fall apart. Some games like Halo 5: Guardians have been making strides to close the gap and integrate co-op into their stories, but we still have a lot further to go.


Still, making players work for a narrative goal might get them through once or twice, but we need consistent, enjoyable reasons to bring friends along. We need new tactical options to open up in cooperative shooters. We need new dialogue choices in cooperative RPGs. We need incentive to play in co-op that offers a different experience, without cutting players out of every option. The benefits should be realistic to the player count.


Online co-op has been evolving at a fast rate, ever since Halo 3 and Borderlands popularized it. Hopefully that means these growing pains can be passed through just as quickly.










More Content, Not Bigger Battles


This is another thing that has continually been happening, and is a big issue for multiplayer. Sony was able to get over two hundred players playing together in its game MAG. It was also so dry and visually bland a game that it could have been a PlayStation 2 title in pre-Alpha.


Some developers have caught on to the idea that more content is better than grander scale, but still are struggling with it. Titanfall offered over twenty maps at launch, and released a bunch of free content updates, but also tried to charge ten dollars for three packs of three new maps. This was a terrible idea, and the game benefitted greatly by just letting everyone have the new maps for free.


This shouldn't even be news to developers. For years older games like No One Lives Forever and Unreal Tournament offered free map packs and new game modes as updates, not something you had to pay the right to use. Splintering communities with pay walls is one of the worst things you could do in multiplayer.


If developers want to charge for something, then they should actually take a note from Batman: Arkham Origins and charge for new gear, or better yet, Battlefield 4's shortcuts. I know what you're thinking "but that stuff is the worst!" except, it really isn't. Think about it.


Consider a world where all content updates are free, so you continually have more and more game to play. Except, since publishers will still want to make something off of the game, they offer new players the ability to catch up in the progression system. They'll still be new to the game and unsure of what gear to use, meaning balance is maintained. All the meanwhile, you've got a consistent stream of new modes and maps to play on.


As compromises go, this one pays off way more for the core player base than the current model. It'd be awesome if we could just get the content for free, but not all publishers and developers will go for that approach. Still, anything that takes us out of the age of Sanctum and Call of Duty-style paid for DLC is a welcome move towards benefiting the player base.




Local Co-op


Yes, this is still a thing, contrary to so many games dropping support for it. Whether it's a desperate bid to optimize (like Halo 5: Guardians) or just cut due to rushed schedule (like Killzone: Shadow Fall), local co-op has been getting the short end of the stick between now and the end years of last-gen. That needs to stop.


We need local co-op games, and not just 2D games and indie titles. Halo was born on local multiplayer matches, and Star Wars: Battlefront let console gamers play together online without a hitch. Friends could play games together both online and offline, but more and more that feature is excluded, and it hurts consoles in general.


The more games you can play alongside a friend and enjoy, the more you'd want to have them on your own. It's just not the same experience, swapping the controller back and forth. Yes, you might have over a hundred players on a massive battlefield with AI opponents and amazing scripted moments, but you're failing the oldest mode of multiplayer in existence. Give us a reason to buy a second Xbox One or PlayStation 4 controller.


Multiplayer has gone from the only means of play, to a standby feature, and somehow made a huge jump back into "novelty" territory before finally getting its footing again. In the modern gaming era, multiplayer is a huge money maker across consoles, mobile, and PC. Yet, despite years of innovations and experience, the industry seems to have forgotten or failed to realize several things multiplayer gaming needs to really do well.

Top 5 Comics Inspired by Video Games Sat, 06 Jun 2015 08:30:01 -0400 Pip Simon

Since very early on in video game history there have been comic books based on games and their characters. Comic books are able to tell stories that games and movies cannot, often because those stories are not central to the main plot. Printed fiction has the ability to tell those one-off stories and can further develop some of your favorite characters. Here is a round up of 5 must-read comic books based on beloved games.

Mass Effect: Homeworlds

Mass Effect: Homeworlds is a four-issue series published by Dark Horse from April to August 2012. It is written by the talented Mac Walters (Mass Effect 2 and 3 lead writer) as well as other character writers from BioWare. It is illustrated by various artists including Eduardo Francisco, Chris Straggs, Gary Brown, and Omar Francia. The TPB was released November 2012 and is available for purchase on Amazon.

Each of the four issues follows the story of a different Mass Effect character including James Vega, Tali'Zorah, Garrus Vakarian, and Liara T'soni. While issue #1, featuring James Vega, is widely considered fairly bland, it does develop his rocky relationship with his father and why it was so important to James to join the System Alliance. The other three issues are much more eventful, following Tali on her dangerous pilgrimage, Garrus as a C-Sec officer, and Liara as the new Shadow Broker.

Each of these stories are masterfully told, and the art is absolutely stunning. While I recommend all of the Mass Effect comic books, I really can't sing enough praises for Mass Effect Homeworlds. The series really stands out if you are someone who, like myself, appreciates character-driven storytelling.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is a graphic novel by manga artist Shotaro Isinomori. These comics were first serialized in the 90's by Nintendo Power magazine. This series had been out of print, but was recently rereleased by VIZ media in its completion. It's available here on Amazon.

This 196-page comic follows the game of the same name. While this comic does not tell the game's story in its completion, it does give the audience a beautifully illustrated, abridged version of the story. No matter if you have played the game or not, this comic is a wonderful read. From panel to panel the art is mind-blowing. It's definitely worth your time, even if you've played the game and are familiar with the story. The reprinted collection has remained faithful to the original work. The colors have been accurately reproduced, with only minor differences to saturation. This is absolutely a must have.


Uncharted was a six issue comic series published monthly by DC comics starting November 2011. The series was written by Joshua Williamson and penciled by Sergio Sandoval. The Uncharted comics did not aim to tie-in with any of the games, but were meant to tell a stand-alone adventure about Nathan Drake.

The legendary adventurer Nathan Drake journeys to the center of the earth to find the mysterious Amber Room. If that doesn't sound silly enough, enemies of Drake's ancestor, Sir Francis Drake, are out for revenge on our hero.

To put it plainly, this comic is just fun. While the art doesn't necessarily hold a candle to the beautiful concept art of the games, it's still very pleasing to look at. Nathan Drake, with all his wit, was meant to be a comic book hero. That's why this comic is a must-read for anyone looking for some of that Nathan Drake charm.

Dead Space: Extraction

Dead Space: Extraction was a 33-page comic published by Image Comics in September 2009. It is written by Anthony Johnston, who wrote Dead Space, and the art is by Ben Templesmith, who is best known for his work on 30 Days of Night.

Dead Space: Extraction takes place before the events of the first game, and it follows Isaac's girlfriend Nicole Brenan. While I highly suggest you play the game before reading this comic, because it makes events in the comic more poignant, I enjoyed reading this much more than I did playing the game. It really helps put Isaac and Nicole's relationship in perspective, and fleshes out Nicole's character more so than in the game. This comic also perfectly illustrates the horror of outbreak and quarantine. If you are at all into horror, I would pick this one up. It's available on various website, but your best bet is probably eBay.

The Last of Us: American Dreams

The Last of Us: American Dreams is a four-issue series published by Dark Horse Comics Lead writer on The Last of Us, Neil Druckmann, also penned the comic, and the art is by The Last of Us lead artist Faith Eren Hicks. The TPB is available on Amazon.

The Last of Us: American Dreams is a prequel to the game. It follows 13 year-old Ellie as she goes to middle school at meets a new friend and rebel, Riley, who you may remember from the Left Behind DLC. This is a great read in order to get to know more about the relationship between the two girls and their involvement with the Fireflies. While a bit on the short side at 100 pages, this comic is great. If you were a fan of Ellie in the games, I am certain you'll enjoy reading more about her and her tragic beginnings before meeting Joel.

What are your favorites?

I've given you my list, what's on yours? What video games do you thing would work really well as comics? Let us know in the comment section below.

Deep End Games Founder Bill Gardner Talks Perception, A New Horror Project Sun, 31 May 2015 13:30:01 -0400 Victor Ren

Perception is a new game whose trailer showcased an intriguing idea, one that contrasts with all the stale concepts in most horror games. The game follows the story of a blind girl moving through an abandoned house, while using echolocation to unravel its mysteries and escape the grasps of the monsters residing inside (called "The Presence").

The game is being crafted by an extraordinary team at Deep End Games. Its developers have previously worked on Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite, and Dead Space. With such talent, the potential is surely there, and we were lucky enough to get ahold of the founder and Creative Director of Deep End Games, Bill Gardner, for an interview.

How did you come up with the idea of a game like this, and what helped weave the story of Cassie in your head?

Bill: I always push to try and find ways to bring a new perspective to the games I work on.  That can be in the form of a character’s persuasion, the setting of a level – just something with a unique twist.  I’m a huge horror fan and am always thinking of ways to bring a fresh angle to the genre.  When you think about it, information is the enemy of horror.  And so, the notion of finding a way to strip away information and make that into an actual mechanic seemed like a natural fit.  It’s rare that you can find narrative, aesthetic and gameplay unite around one single idea.  A lot of Cassie came fairly easily for Amanda and me to write once we began to research blindness and tried to immerse ourselves in what that might be like.

Most people would not think of telling a horror story through a blind person because of the limitation of not being able to see what is scary. How will you guys scare the audience, and what effects are you hoping to achieve?

Bill: Ah, but not seeing something is usually far scarier in my opinion.  I may just quote [Stephen] King here:

"Nothing is so frightening as what's behind the closed door. The audience holds its breath along with the protagonist as she/he (more often she) approaches that door. The protagonist throws it open, and there is a ten-foot-tall bug. The audience screams, but this particular scream has an oddly relieved sound to it. 'A bug ten feet tall is pretty horrible', the audience thinks, 'but I can deal with a ten-foot-tall bug. I was afraid it might be a hundred feet tall'.

Recently there has been a lot of complaints about the horror genre in both movies and video games. How does Perception bring something different to the table compared to every other game that is meant to be a horror?

Bill:I believe we’re bringing a very bold and fresh perspective on horror.  Players will be experiencing the world in a completely new way – a way that enriches the gameplay, narrative, and horror.  When you think about how you get information, for a sighted person, that’s trivial, you usually just open your eyes.  Now imagine having to work for that information through something like echolocation.  Now, add to that the risk of being discovered by a relentless entity that is searching for you and wants to do awful things to you.  I think that’s a pretty darn good start to bringing a new kind of tension.  ;)

Since the development team has worked on so many past projects, will there be some styles from past games that we can see in this one? And if there, are how will you mix them together?

Bill: I can’t speak for everyone else, but I know I’m really proud of my experience.  I was lucky enough to help craft some of games that were really well-received.  I learned a tremendous amount over the years and I think you’ll see a lot of that craft come out in the moment-to-moment experience.  I’m also really excited to mix in the expertise of the entire Deep End team to create an entirely new experience.

What can you tell us about the walking nightmares called "The Presence", along with how they interact with Cassie in the game?

Bill: The Presence roams the halls, searching for Cassie.  It’s unclear what motivates it aside from wanting to do harm to Cassie.  And so your goal is to avoid it at all costs.  That can mean grabbing something to throw it down the hall to cause a distraction, or finding a spot to hide and pray that it passes you by. 

Why is Cassie fit to take on this challenge, and what about her character allows her to move through the house?

Bill: Cassie is an incredibly bright woman.  She is confident, clever and a scrapper.  Even though she only has her cane and her smartphone, if anyone is up for the task of solving the mysteries of Echo Bluff, it’s her.

Have there been any challenges in making the game?

Bill: There are always challenges in game development.  The most obvious one is finding a way to represent echolocation that works best for gameplay and narrative while still feeling believable enough.  It took countless hours of research, collaboration and iteration to get it right.  I was very lucky to work with the folks at FX Ville to hone in on that look.  It’s been an amazingly fun challenge and I'm very proud of our work thus far. 

Perception has not announced a release date yet, but how do you guys feel about the game? Thank you to Bill Gardner for the interview and go check out Deep End Game's Kickstarter page if you would like to show the project some love! 

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review (Xbox One) Sun, 31 May 2015 08:08:13 -0400 Elijah Beahm

Call of Duty's the name you hear when people say games aren't fresh anymore, but Advanced Warfare is looking to change that. A bold step forward for the franchise and the first major game by Sledgehammer Games, the gambit pays off. A solid mix of single-player and multiplayer shooting, tied around the new EXO suit mechanics, offers one of the best shooters available, regardless of your platform preference.

Game: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC, Mac
Price: $19.99-44.99
Rating: 7.5/10

This game was reviewed using a commercial copy of the game bought with my own money.

All materials not recorded by myself are used for the purpose of reviewing under fair-use. All music, voice overs, graphics, and, animation are owned by their original IP holders.

Seven Games That Should Have Multiplayer Sat, 16 May 2015 14:00:34 -0400 Elijah Beahm


BioShock: Infinite


Why do I specifically cite the E3 2011 version of Bioshock Infinite? Because a lot of what we see here could easily have worked as a multiplayer mode. Calling up tears that have to go on a recharge timer? Check. Using Vigors more like special grenades than as Plasmids? Check. Massive maps with numerous vantage points, skylines, and destructible pieces (such as the blimp)? Check, check, check.


Bioshock 2: Fall of Rapture had an outstanding multiplayer mode, which is why people still actively play it even though Bioshock 2 released in 2010. The fact the best Irrational Games could come up with for Infinite was a pinball-style tower defense mini-game and a co-op mode (both of which never made it in the final game) is depressing. Granted, I realize my suggested alternative isn't the farthest out of the box.


Really, the Fall of Rapture framework, other than specific mechanics like hacking turrets/vending machines, is just fine as a template here. Narrative provided through the player's apartment and audio diaries works as well in Columbia as it did in Rapture. Unlocking new weapons, vigors, gear, and weapon modifiers fits just fine as a progression system. Even maps with little winks and their own narrative touches is part of what made Fall of Rapture feel like a true Bioshock game, so include similar level design here.


Really, all you are doing is trading mechanics. Instead of hacking, include Skyhooks and skylines to ride. Instead of a Big Daddy suit, either have a random Heavy Hitter that can be triggered, or a one team can use the combat blimp like the Gunship in Call of Duty. Make the levels a bit less cramped and... ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Bioshock Infinite's multiplayer.


Much like with Fallout 4, it's just not that complicated to see a multiplayer mode working. I'm sure something more imaginative could be accomplished in a cooperative space, but that would be limited either in replayability or in the amount of content easily made. For Bioshock, competitive multiplayer works surprisingly well, so I'd say stick with what works.


Is there any game you wish would add multiplayer? Have an alternative idea for the ones mentioned above? Let us know in the comments below!


Alien: Isolation


Back when Alien: Isolation was leaked, it was listed as an Xbox Live game with up to four-player multiplayer. This was the original element that interested some gamers, as the potential there is quite intriguing. While we've seen plenty bombastic Alien Versus Predator multiplayer, we have yet to see a subdued, Damned-style Alien multiplayer experience.


In future Alien: Isolation games, Creative Assembly should really consider testing multiplayer. Co-op was apparently briefly tested, but promptly dropped. What if, instead of co-op, we took the game's highly praised survival mode, and take it to the furthest extreme. What if we make one to three players survivors, who have to achieve goals, whilst another player controls a xenomorph alien - perhaps a little bit similar to Evolve.


Players would need to remain stealthy, and extremely clever. This would be the ultimate test of skill for many players, and every death of a teammate would intensify each players' terror drastically. You could still use your flamethrower to deter the xenomorph, but it will do little more than require it retreat for a time before spawning in a new vent. Your resources, unlike its respawns, would also be limited and would require searching the level.


The best part of this is that the xenomorph would be genuinely unpredictable. Maybe the player controlling the xenomorph is overly aggressive and can be easily avoided due to lack of finesse on their part. Or the xenomorph player decides to toy with players, sneaking up on them when they least expect it, and leaving little hint of its presence.


So as a result, we get the cooperative experience that Alien: Isolation could have had, but also get a competitive multiplayer that touches directly on what makes Alien: Isolation such a great horror game. I, for one, hope we see something like that with whatever Alien: Isolation 2 turns out to be.


Dead Space 4


With word now that Visceral Games' developers are open to a new Dead Space game, it seems appropriate for the series to finally settle what kind of multiplayer it's going to have. The first game was single-player because co-op was proposed too late into development, and the game engine wasn't optimized yet. Later, Dead Space 2 had competitive multiplayer that was great fun, but had limited content and a few balancing issues. Dead Space 3 took the experience cooperative, but also unfortunately fumbled its gameplay by grafting in a weapon crafting system as well.


The next Dead Space game could go in any direction, but what it needs to do is pick one. If it's going to have co-op, then its cramp levels need to better support it. If it's going to have competitive multiplayer, then it either needs to seriously retool (or better yet, drop) the current weapon crafting system.


Either way, tightness of Dead Space 2's shooting will also need to return. Dead Space 3 put more emphasis on splash damage and cones of fire, and this took way too much away from the focus on precisely dismembering enemies.


The competitive multiplayer should still retain the narrative focus (a la Killzone 3's Operations mode) that the original Dead Space 2 multiplayer emulated. Except now, there should be more branching options, and flipped goals. Maybe the necromorphs go on the offensive instead of the humans. If humans fail an objective, why not give them an alternate last-ditch one to save the match and get them back on track? Variety is the key to any multiplayer mode, and it is what Dead Space 4 needs badly if it wants to outdo its predecessors.


A cooperative experience should both include a standard horde mode (seriously, why is it only the mobile Dead Space game that has this?) and a cooperative story mode. Except it shouldn't also be the main campaign, or in any way dramatically impact our single-player experience. No story content locked behind magic co-op doors, Visceral.


Lastly, if we really want to be ambitious and include all the above modes of play, then some kind of united upgrade system (a la Splinter Cell: Blacklist) should be considered. Nothing to the extent of Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker, where you'd have opponents with vastly better late-game gear. Instead, you'd merely be able to spend in-game currency and upgrades on the game's competitive, cooperative, and single-player unlocks.


So you'd play single-player to unlock extra suits with unique effects, play the competitive mode to grind for upgrade points, and chill with a friend in co-op to experience a cool side story. It all works in unison without stepping on anyone's feet. Here's hoping we see something like that in Dead Space 4.


Deus Ex: Mankind Divided


I remember playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution back in 2011, and remarking on how well the mechanics could work in a multiplayer setting if tweaked and rebalanced. Now that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided looks to be doing those very same rebalances and improvements, I really hope we see a multiplayer mode added to the game.


Once again, the game's setting offers perfect potential. With A.R.C., Task Force 29, the Illuminati, and the mysterious hacker group, there are four different factions at play. On top of this, the game has three combat-oriented playstyles that all could work well in a multiplayer setting: hacking, action, and stealth.


Imagine it like a mixture of Aliens Versus Predator, Bioshock 2: Fall of Rapture, and Watch_Dogs. Team One has a hacker who opens access to vents and turns on a remote controlled turret he/she can control from the console. Team Two has a stealthy player who uses the vents to sneak behind lines and take out the hacker. A combat focused player could shoot the stealthy hacker, but then be taken out by Team Two's hacker patching into Team One's turret. It's a perfect Rock-Paper-Scissors effect.


The controls and mechanics are also highly fluid and intuitive. Stealth takedowns could work great, but can only be done if you aren't in a player's line of sight (excluding if you're invisible). Combat takedowns can be done at any time, but leave you vulnerable to being shot -- just like hacking. Items could be looted from your opponents and the environment. The quick select wheel/bar lets you easily access your inventory on the fly. Energy bars keep everything balanced, and encourage using augmentation sparingly.


Levels could actually include lots of twists and turns, and the variety of locales available means each could be visually distinctive. Leveling up would unlock augmentations and other new gameplay options. Players would get at least one loadout for each playstyle, which they could swap between lives. You'd also be able to use any equipment found mid-match, regardless of whether you'd unlocked it yet or not.


The original Deus Ex had a popular multiplayer that even got a Human Revolution-themed mod way back. So let's bring it back in full force, even if some of the fanboys will cry "I NEVER ASKED FOR THIS".


Fallout 4


Co-op in the wasteland, Bethesda. We've made a mod for this in Fallout 3 (and partially in Fallout: New Vegas). It can be completely optional, and players can just let a friend tag along (like in Saints Row games). Seriously, this is even simpler than Assassin's Creed: Syndicate's ability to support multiplayer modes.


You could trade resources between each other, including better gear your partner may have unlocked, like in Borderlands. Also like Borderlands, the combat difficulty could scale for the increase in active players. It would be especially ideal for those who don't normally play hardcore RPGs like Fallout, as their more experienced friends could help them survive the Wasteland.


The most interesting potential, though, is if players have different faction allegiances, and they use these to make new quest branches that otherwise wouldn't be possible. Imagine you and a friend igniting a war, or preventing one, by using your various connections and allegiances. The potential in the game's sandbox is very enticing.


No one really wants a competitive Fallout game, and I honestly can understand that. The series has never been about competition, but survival and personal stories. So let us build stories together, Bethesda, and tear down the wall preventing friends from playing with each other.


Assassin's Creed: Syndicate


Yes, I've already spoken at length about how the exclusion of multiplayer makes very little sense when it comes to Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, but there's more to it than that. The game is just basically begging for a multiplayer of some kind, because of its entire meta-game in the story.


The Assassins and Templars are both running gangs, who are even color-coded. You face off against rival gang leaders in the main story, leading brawls against their goons and finally fighting them one-on-one. Meanwhile, your faction accrues power and influence, gaining new gear and resources. That doesn't sound like a single-player game, that sounds almost like one of those Facebook "strategy" games.


Now I am not saying Assassin's Creed: Syndicate should emulate Facebook -- far from it (please Ubisoft, of all things, do not emulate Facebook). All of the traditional multiplayer modes in past games make way more sense here. Almost every mode makes sense in these circumstances. Wanted, Assassinate, Manhunt, Artifacts, and Wolfpack in particular make way more sense. You need to steal from rival gangs and take out opposing gang leaders. A simpler set-up could not be handed to Ubisoft.


The multiplayer could be heavily integrated with the single-player, and better yet, they could finally make offline variants. Imagine having all the content of past multiplayer titles, but you could also play it against bots in-game. It could even increase mission variety. This is so obvious that it just makes the exclusion all the more disappointing.


Batman: Arkham Knight


The aversion Rocksteady has had with bringing multiplayer to the Batman: Arkham series will remain one of the most profoundly divisive decisions the franchise heads have ever made. Fans have begged to at least have co-op. Even at the end of the line, after Batman: Arkham Origins' Invisible Predator Online clearly proved that playing as the Dynamic Duo can be done right in an online experience. And yet here we all are, looking at another solo experience.


Don't get me wrong - the Arkham games are some of the finest single-player experiences from last-gen, and Arkham Knight will easily be one of the best next-gen games to come. Rocksteady has this formula down to a T. That's why it makes no sense to not try and do some sort of multiplayer. Whether it's a rebalanced and expanded version of the Batman: Arkham Origins multiplayer (which for some of us, was the only redeeming factor of Arkham Origins), or a cooperative experience, we want to see it. 


Imagine solving a Riddler house full of puzzles, combat, and exploration. Almost like a hybrid brawler/dungeon crawler, it would require two players (they could choose between the current cast of challenge mode characters and DLC additions) to navigate the mechanical hell-hole and make it to the other side intact. There could be alternate solutions based on what character you play as, and levels themselves could be randomized, like in Dragon Age: Inquisition.


Both Invisible Predator Online and a co-op mode could even tie into the game's Challenge Mode, which has been a staple of the series and kept many fans digging into the game's nuanced combat mechanics. It makes perfect sense, but it needs the developers to take it seriously.


While some developers might feel that staying away from multiplayer improves a product, there are always games that are solid material for experiences gamers can share. With so many new games coming out, and some promising IPs, there's never been so many divergent and unique multiplayer games and modes. So in the spirit of new frontiers, here are seven titles that should totally give multiplayer a try.

New EA Humble Bundle Offers Dragon Age Series and Raises Funds for Girls Who Code, The V Foundation, buildOn Wed, 15 Apr 2015 22:28:56 -0400 Elijah Beahm

It's that time again, boys and girls! EA has gathered together some great games to help raise funds for some fantastic charities. This time around, they're offering up Dragon Age: Origins, Dead Space 2, Peggle, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault: Warchest, and C&C: Generals. If you beat the average, you get Dragon Age II, Mass Effect 2, Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, Bejewelled 3, and more games that will be revealed later.

All in all, you are looking at a lot of solid gaming. Three Bioware games, one of the best third person survival shooters on PC, some great puzzlers, some great WW2 shooting, and even a kid-friendly shooter you can gift to any younger gamers you know. Though there is the notable fact that unlike last time, the titles on offer are all much older than the last Origin Bundle.

Considering the last bundle offered Battlefield 3, it would make sense to at least include the base Battlefield 4 game. This would have especially been apropos seeing as Battlefield: Hardline just released to generally positive reviews and solid sales numbers.

Potentially they could have something newer down the line as the bundle wraps up, but it feels odd all the same to not open with a bigger punch, especially given EA working with three charities now. As with their last bundle, no funds go to EA, but instead entirely to the Humble Tip and the three charities. The charities this time are:

Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 2012 to encourage more young women to complete a college-level computer science education and gain skills to further enhance their employability. Mobilizing leading executives, educators, and engineers, Girls Who Code has developed a new model of computer science education designed to inspire, educate, and equip girls of all experience levels and backgrounds with the skills to succeed in the field.

The V Foundation

Since 1994, The V Foundation for Cancer Research has awarded more than $115 million to more than 100 facilities nationwide. We fund research for all types of cancer. [...] The V Foundation awards 100 percent of all direct cash donations to cancer research and related programs. [...] The Foundation seeks to make a difference generating broad-based support for cancer research by creating an urgent awareness among all Americans of the importance of the war against cancer.


Two-thirds of the world's 785 million illiterate adults are female. Educating and empowering these women is a key first step to ending poverty in the developing world. When women are educated they lift up their entire communities by improving family health, developing sustainable businesses, and making greater contributions to society.

While EA gets a bad rep, for sometimes good reasons, their work with Humble Bundle has always been one to benefit others. So you might not be a huge fan of using Origin, but if you know someone who does, and have the money to donate to charity, then you can make it a win-win for everybody.

How do you feel about this Humble Bundle and EA's involvement? Is there a charity you think Humble Bundle should work with that they haven't already? Let us know in the comments below!

 [Video Credit: buildOn, the V Foundation, Girls Who code, Humble Bundle]

PS Now Has Mass Effect 2, Mirror's Edge, More Coming Soon for Streaming Wed, 12 Nov 2014 13:21:30 -0500 KieraB

The U.S. PlayStation blog dropped news about some popular titles making their way to the PlayStation Now network starting December 2, thanks to a new partnership collaboration with EA Games.

Among the games to now become available for streaming through the PS Store's service are some of the system's biggest hits, such as Mirror's Edge, Mass Effect 2, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, Bejeweled 3 and Dead Space 3. 

Each of these games will be made available for players who want to rent them for about $1 per day if they opt for a week, but it is noted that players can select from "a variety of options," depending on how long they would like to rent the game. 

PlayStation has made the purchases easier to access on PS Now, as well. As soon as the games of choice are rented, players can leap right into the action without having to wait for downloads, patches, or other time-consuming processes that tend to fill many with great impatience. Add in the feature of automatic cloud game saving, and the games can travel with you, too.

EA itself is the latest addition to the growing number of PlayStation's business partnerships, including but not limited to Square Enix, Sega, Konami, and Capcom. Blog author Peter Jamshidi also mentions that the company will "continue to add more."

Since the service's growth spanning five different platforms--select Sony TVs, as well as the PS3, PS4, PS Vita and PS TV--gamers who make use of the PS Now streaming have racked up a total of over 100 years worth of streamed gaming time.

With PS Now still in Beta, the staff are also reportedly working on subscription services for the PS Now, but those details have yet to come. Until then, happy 100 years of gaming!

EA To Unveil Star Wars: Battlefront And More At E3 Wed, 07 May 2014 08:24:42 -0400 Elijah Beahm

While we were all hoping and expecting it, EA's finally given the confirmation. DICE's reboot of the Star Wars: Battlefront franchise will be shown off at E3, along with five additional games. Last we heard, Battlefront was in a playable state at DICE's Los Angelos branch, although it's unclear if the press will be able to preview the game's current pre-Alpha/Alpha stage of development.

Additional speculation indicates that the new Mass Effect game, along with both the new IP and Star Wars title from Visceral Games. Still, those only account for four of the six titles. It seems unlikely we'll be hearing about Bioware's new Star Wars game, but perhaps we'll hear about their third original IP which has been in development for some time. We may or may not hear about DICE's Mirror's Edge reboot/sequel.

What's most intriguing is that one of the games shown will be available this year. Mass Effect and Battlefront are the most likely contenders, with anything by Visceral taking a close third place in likelihood. Either way, it won't be long until we have a new EA game to bug test--I'm sorry, I mean play.


Brand New Destiny Screenshots Show Off Their Shooty Goodness Tue, 29 Apr 2014 04:18:22 -0400 Elijah Beahm


"Can we keep him?"


"No, he tried to eat my banana gun!"


We interrupt this list of Destiny screenshots to give you Battletoads HD.


"Boba Fett!? Boba Fett!? Where!?"


*sigh* We interrupt this list of Destiny screenshots to give you Borderlands.



"Please stop calling us that..."


Pre-order now to unlock Deathstroke and two exclusive challenge maps.


This is the "Warlock Refinery" screenshot. In the world of Destiny, you refine warlocks with bullets, apparently.


Okay, you came up with levels that don't look like other games, right? Right?!


OOOVERRR 9000!!!!!!!!!


Oh come on, really? Okay... We interrupt this list of Destiny screenshots to give you Halo 4.


And now we interrupt this list of Destiny screenshots to give you Fallout: New Vegas.


Oh? Really? Already? Okay, um, we interrupt this list of Destiny screenshots to give you Spec Ops: The Line.


We interrupt this list of Destiny screenshots to give you Half-Life 2.


Coming from post-apocalyptic Milan, it's the latest fashion craze, Neo-Feudal Knightware, giving you both protection and style as you strut across the barren and hostile universe.


Luke! Don't forget to go to Tashi Station for some power convertors!


We interrupt this list of Destiny screenshots to give you Knights of the Old Republic.


The Hound! is now making guest appearances outside of Game of Thrones. Call 555-555-555, and he can be at your own Red Wedding or Bar Mitzvah.


"And as you can see the rent here is very cheap. While there's no central heating, the view through the hole in the wall is AMAAAZING!"


We interrupt this list of Destiny screenshots to give you Dead Space.


"You will respect the banana gun!"

Finding Religion in Dead Space Tue, 15 Apr 2014 21:12:27 -0400 Elijah Beahm

This article was previously posted, un-edited on my blog on Game Informer.

Spoilers for Dead Space 1-3 ahead!

To be clear, I am a professed Protestant Christian. While I subscribe to no particular sect, my religious belief is very important to me. Normally I've accepted that most developers retain a secular outlook for their games so as to not offend anyone, but in the process, I feel we're leaving a really important conversation out of the medium for fear of upsetting people.

We live in a world where religion is hotly debated as Atheists proclaim the end of religion as we know it while religious leaders become increasingly fundamentalist and conservative. Not addressing that conflict in games is a serious disservice to both secular and religious gamers. We want to hear about what's going on there, and if games are genuinely supposed to become art, they cannot always avoid controversy.

Dead Space manages to touch upon the majority of faith-related issues without even intending to.

Visceral Games (formerly EA Redwood) set out to make a game that had no overlay HUD and included dismemberment, stasis, and telekinesis in a horror setting. That's all they planned for, with a full description of the universe by the game's creator for the writers to take from as they would to develop an appropriate title. It became the survival shooter we've all come to know, spanning the twilight years of this console generation and even expanding onto mobile phones and the Wii. It was a success, all things considered, but most didn't really notice the potential underlying religious themes, save for one point. The anti-blind faith argument brought about by the game's main antagonistic agency The Church of Unitology.

The Church of Unitology is compared by many to the Church of Scientology. The organizations share similar traits, such as a more monetary focus for their organizations, secret society mentalities, suspicious conspiracies about what really goes on behind closed doors with suggestions of political and social manipulation. However, this is the tip of the iceberg with Unitology.

Unitology is one of the greatest examples of blind faith, especially believing without any understanding; a dangerous concept to say the least.

In Unitology, we see the cult-like mentality and the herding of sheep-like people that violates the core ideals of free will. Members of the Church willing kill themselves and others, and in the case of Dead Space mobile cause the entire outbreak on Titan Station in Dead Space 2. The fanaticism is presented through all its variations. In Dead Space, it's of desperation, trying to cling to beliefs in the face of danger. In Dead Space 2, it's a cold, borderline-psychotic calm and devotion mixed with frustration and rage at your insistence to refuse and never give in. By the finale, we're even presented the "scientific" angle of an arrogant leader in the Church who claims it is not faith but reason and science that drew him to believe in the notorious creators of all the havoc in the series, the alien Markers.

Unitology also fits for some Atheists as the example of all religion, viewing even the best members of the religious sect to be lemmings heading toward a cliff, such as the Unitologist crew member in the tie-in film Dead Space: Downfall. No matter the case though, Unitology is the extreme. It's the manipulation of church and state to the ends of but a few with the intentions of twisting the masses to their very goals until it's too late for those poor people to escape. It is the dark side of religion, the greatest evil that can happen with it. It unflinchingly hands you almost every aspect of its belief system with a cheery smile while it runs at you with a sharpened kitchen knife and your bank account in hand. It is terrifying, but if you do so much as breath a negative word about it in front of it's believers, you will have a hornets nest flying at you.

It makes you bitter, angry, and frustrated -- much like it does to protagonist Isaac Clarke. We learn through additional data logs earned by using New Game Plus in the original game that most of his family's wealth, which had been considerable, was spent by his mother when she became enraptured by the Church of Unitology. With Isaac's father far off on an EarthGov mission, he was forced him to work his way through schools far below his expertise. Before long he is alone in the cold world, disconnected from his missing father and zealot mother.

Despite this, we never hear of Isaac's beliefs beyond his understandable opposition to Unitology.

Interestingly enough, he is never confirmed an Atheistic or religious man, although he rarely uses God's name in vain, unlikely most protagonists. He's a blank slate in that respect, which makes him a good protagonist for such a divisive topic. We can apply our beliefs to his actions and for most religious groups, find him to behave honorably.

Isaac especially fits the Christian and secular ideal of a good man. He stands up against a threat no matter how big it is, willing to put his life on the line even if it only saves one other person. He repeatedly tries to negotiate and deal with his opponents in a non-violent manner, resorting to violence only when there is no other option and lives are at stake. He is understanding and considerate of other people's needs. Even in Dead Space 3, where we find our hero giving into fear, he realizes that he has to accept the responsibility handed to him, even if he detests having to be the "Marker Killer."

But all this is could just be some convenient lining up of parallels. How on earth is it an allegory? The core gameplay and necromorphs are where the full allegory exists, even without the context and story. In Dead Space, the necromorphs are a menace two-fold. They are a threat to the living, and to the dead. With both, they seek to convert them (notice that key word there?) into one of their one. Every necromorph is party of a hive mind directed by the Marker, which is even referred to in Dead Space: Martyr as "The Devil's Tail". They seek to drag everyone down to their level, like demons in the Bible; or from a secular perspective, Evangelists pressing pamphlets and agendas down everyone's throats.

The necromorphs represent everything that pulls away at your faith and beliefs, whatever they are.

They are the devil stirring doubt in your heart and they are the critic making you second-guess yourself. They are the hardships of this world and the constant pains it gives us. They are a concentrated dose of stress, torture, and frustration all in one. Even when we defeat such challenges in real life, just like Isaac, we are left with a little less certainty and standing until we can restore ourselves to our former state.

Similarly, we have to be strategic and smart if we are to defend our beliefs. Isaac cuts off his opponents before they come near, just as we cut off an opposing person's arguments at the source to unsettle their position and strengthen our own. It's a duel of wits and knowing where to hit. Most of the necromorphs even fit descriptions of various sinful and dangerous behaviors, such as gluttony, impatience, dangerous overparenting, rage, and ignorance.

Isaac's journeys even focus on universal religious themes. The first one deals with the unknown, questioning of faith, and the dangers of denial. The second covers guilt, trust, betrayal, and forgiveness both from others and the forgiveness we give ourselves. The finale deals with duty, past regrets, forgiveness again (this time for Carver), faith, and most importantly of all -- the value and purpose of sacrifice. Sacrifice, duty, and past regrets especially stand out in the finale, as every character confronts a situation where they may choose wrong or right in light of the past and what is to come, and that they will very likely die and be forgotten, even though they are all that stands in the way of the end of all human life.

So we have a universe that faces the harshest moments and the brightest spots of religious belief (and lack thereof), set around gameplay that is an allegory to the stresses and pains of regular life with a heroic yet flawed human protagonist who stands as an example to the failures and successes of faith-motivated actions.

Now some may argue I'm making something out of nothing here. I may be doing just that, but what if I am, what's wrong with that? Dead Space is a great series on its own, and adding more depth is in its favor, as far as I'm concerned. Also, we have far too few games that truly let us just be who we are while still feeling some escapism and fun. If anyone else out there feels this way about another game but hasn't said anything, I think they should be able to. I think their years of silent patience has earned them that.

"You Don't Count" -- How Multiplayer Fans Have Lost Their Voice In the Industry Fri, 11 Apr 2014 18:30:50 -0400 Elijah Beahm

Imagine any franchise that started with a single player story. Now think to whenever it got a sequel that added multiplayer. Tell me how many times there was outrage from fans and claims that it would take away from the single player experience, that it was unwanted. You'd have a longer list than you can count on your fingers, wouldn't you? Now tell me how many of these said games became horrid as soon as the multiplayer was added. Take your time.

Not a lot of them went wrong, did they? Dead Space 2, Bioshock 2, Orcs Must Die! 2, GTA IV, Rayman Origins, System Shock 2, Max Payne 3, XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within, Saints Row 2/3/4, Red Faction: Guerilla, Tomb Raider, Trine 2, Portal 2, and more did not suddenly up and die because multiplayer was added.

Even games that had more middling reception like Batman: Arkham Origins, Dead Space 3, Resident Evil 6, and Red Faction: Armageddon were not travesties in some gamers' eyes because they dared to add multiplayer. Except you can be sure there were those who would swear all these titles and more were lessened because, by golly, they dared to add multiplayer.

It's not easy being a fan of a new multiplayer spin-off or added multiplayer mode to franchises these days. On record, I've played almost every multiplayer mode included in any game I buy, the one exception being Mirror's Edge. I had a nearly maximum rank splicer in Bioshock 2's online mode with similar and moderate ranks in most other competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes.

I am not alone in this respect (in fact I've met players who have gotten hundreds if not thousands of hours out of these online components), and there are fairly strong communities for a large number of these games on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Some such as Dead Space 2 on PC have died out, but this is more to do with inadequate servers and lack of new content than disinterest in the games themselves.

We don't play these multiplayer modes because we need the achievements or just can't stand anything that lacks multiplayer. We aren't addicted to games such as Call of Duty or Battlefield, in fact often players from those games have never heard of Bioshock, and Halo may be the closest game to an indie title they'll ever play. We aren't mindless numbskulls trying to "lower the medium" or somehow hurt gaming. We play them because we enjoy them.

No really, there isn't some grand conspiracy here by game publishers. EA and Activision aren't paying me buckets of money to say this. The only reason I even am is because of just how much hate anyone of us can get if we dare to raise our heads and say we enjoyed a game's multiplayer. It's like saying you enjoyed Battlefield 4's single player campaign, your opinion is no longer valid because you differed from what is the agreed upon truth. Your enjoyment is invalid because it is not acceptable.

What's worse is that those who are critical of what multiplayer modes we enjoy will hold it against us and go into the experience expecting something bad. They will focus on the negatives, they will not try to play it as it was meant to be, and they will never enjoy it. I even found this happening again when I reviewed the Tomb Raider reboot. It doesn't matter what you say, how you say it, you are wrong, you do not count in the grand scheme of things, and how dare you have fun with something. Someone else didn't want it, so you shouldn't enjoy it.

If that last line above was true, half a dozen different games in existence would never exist because what people always say they want is either something they think they should want, or something incredibly familar. People do not want change, especially fans of any IP that previously was doing fine. They want it to just keep doing what it's doing until the next big thing comes rolling around, while still expecting it to have new ideas in the same old model. This is how we end up with something like Call of Duty. Forcing a change when it's unneeded is one thing, which is why something such as a gritty Bomberman reboot will never stop sounding like a bad idea, but refusing to change is another thing entirely.

What's most ignored most of all those is the simple fact that instead of making those who enjoy the experience feel bad, people against the inclusion can just ignore it. Really, you can just walk on by and never harass us in the comments or anywhere else online. Please feel free to leave us, think however high-mindedly you do of yourselves that we are but peasants who miss "the point" of a certain franchise or game design. If you just don't do well at it or for any other reason are not likely to enjoy it, okay, you are not required to. No one is holding a gun to your dog's head saying "PLAY IT DAMMIT! PLAY THE DAMN MULTIPLAYER OR MR. FLUFFLES GETS IT!"

It's just pathetic when I have to see someone post "hey, some of us actually enjoyed that you know!" The idea itself is presented as some sort of magic trick. This sheer level of disbelief in the agreed upon opinion even warranted Game Informer to have one of it's editors to finally stop and take a look, and *gasp* people are still playing a number of these games years after release and are having fun. Stop the presses, someone is actually having fun with a video game with friends and/or complete strangers? What is our world coming to.

If I sound bitter, there's a reason. I play games to have fun, to enjoy them for their strong points. For some of them it's the single player, for others it's the multiplayer. I shouldn't feel bad for enjoying Tomb Raider's competitive matches with their traps and triggerable level-shifting events. I shouldn't feel bad for finding that Bioshock 2's attempt at narrative focused multiplayer was actually arguably better in some ways than Titanfall's attempt and that it genuinely transferred most of the campaign mechanics into multiplayer without so much as a hitch. I shouldn't, yet I do.

I feel regret at experiencing positive emotion towards something, thanks to a barrage of hate and misinformed rage from so-called fans who seem to spend an endless amount of time online on the internet complaining about being offered just the opportunity to play online with other human beings. I guess if you behave like hate spewing person around other people who behave like that, the idea of interacting with them in a game wouldn't be very appealing at all then.

Tomb Raider (2013) -- Minimal Chance of Survival Thu, 03 Apr 2014 17:31:31 -0400 Elijah Beahm

The original Tomb Raider was one of the defining games of the PlayStation 1. It was a rare game combining a female protagonist, puzzles, platforming, exploring, and action all in one solid package.

However, since the flop that was Tomb Raider: Dark Angel, the series has struggled to regain its throne as the action-adventure king. With other franchises like Uncharted taking up the space it once held, Tomb Raider has gone through two different reboots to attempt to recapture its glory. This second reboot looks in a completely different direction, taking far more influences from Thief, Arkham City, and Dead Space 2. These great inspirations however don't coalesce into anything deeply worth playing.

Sorry, I'm just coming back from a Dragon Age cosplay and didn't get a chance to wash.

A Survivor is Conveniently Left Alive

Crystal Dynamics clearly knows what it wants from its game. They want an epic, action packed, harrowing, and deep experience, both mechanically and through storytelling. The problem is that they seem to have no idea how to do this and have instead run in five different directions at once, hoping it would all stick. The only parts that do work solely seem to do so because they already worked elsewhere. It's a macabre Frankenstein of gameplay ideas, simply placing them in without considering how it could it would upset another design decision. Whether it was lack of direction or too many cooks in the kitchen, this game is a veritable mess.

First off, the story. The full court press given tells us that the game is Lara growing from a scared young woman to a survivor. Instead, what we get is a B-movie action-thriller where stock archetype characters exist merely to die in order to further the plot somehow. The fact that not every person dies is astounding, as Lara is constantly having people die for her. Anyone going anywhere with her dies horribly while she always gets away, usually being beaten around by the environment or some brief moments of direct body injuries for shock value. It's all for show, never amounting to anything.

Lara just seems to go from constantly panting "You can do this" to "I'll kill you all you bastards!" at the flip of a coin. There's no discernible moment where things somehow get more intense as the game continually makes itself easier and easier with every upgrade and tool you receive. Every time an even more insane level traversal arrives Lara just passes through with a grenade to blow open a door here and a stab to the eye in a Solarii occultist guy there. She doesn't seem afraid, in fact she wields a tactical assault rifle better than most space marines. If she had experience with military grade weapons and fighting fully armed militant occultists, then it could be excused, but she doesn't. We hear how she worked in a bar, bars don't usually need the arm strength to withstand firing an entire assault rifle clip.

Inherently though, this is still a video game, so some concessions are made. However, the contradiction between the Lara we're told we are playing and the one we actually are is a deep divide until near the end. We're also told the crew is low on any sort of supplies and lost all their tools, yet Lara can craft together a compound bow just by breaking open a few dozen decade old crates on an island constantly drenched by torrential rain. Even the Solarii and their leader Mathias aren't believable. They are stupidly large in number, you easily kill hundreds of men all armed with rifles and climbing gear apparently from the island's sports equipment store. They constantly fail and fall into their own traps or injure each other but have reportedly been on this island for years. Their lack of competence would have killed within a week, which is true considering Lara effectively does that over the course of the game.

The worst element of the game though this is something that is a SPOILER (SO IF YOU DON'T LIKE BEING SPOILED THEN PLEASE SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH); they make a fake climax. No, really, they give you a grenade launcher and a massive stockpile of ammo, have you destroy the Solarii fortress, and then make the plot drag on for at least four more hours. Why? Because mystical mumbo-jumbo that is may be a metaphorical about women and feminism, that was so haphazardly put in that I am still not sure what the point even was. Was it about the dangers of old societal beliefs of the place of women? Was it a defiant act towards some matriarchical concept Lara stands against? Was it about a harsh world of bastardly misogynistic men and whiny emotional men manipulating women; even when said women are in high places of power?  We'll probably never know, as it seems to have been intentionally made vague just to make a bunch of discussions start on internet forums. Yay, the Inception style of answering without answer...

A thrilling sequence of pressing the W key until a cutscene plays...

Idea Raider: City of Better Games

Well, even if a story is a bust, that doesn't mean a game can't be salvaged by good gameplay, as Red Faction has proven. First, you've got the jump and shimmy from Uncharted. Now this style of platforming comes with some added button presses that attempt to bring depth to what is otherwise just pointing in the right direction and hitting the jump button every so often on a purely linear path. It doesn't really do much though, other than make you die if you don't hit a button quickly enough while clinging to some ledges. The rope arrow is a nice addition taking note from Thief, leaving me a bit disappointed it wasn't introduced sooner and focused on more. Overall, it's still just used to unlock certain paths and speed up backtracking around levels.

Backtracking and exploring from Metroidvania games also makes an appearance, but is now combined with the sheer excessive collecting of the Assassin's Creed games. There are so many collectibles that there is an upgrade for one ability that will not only highlight all collectibles for you to see in your line of sight, but reveals all of them in the area you are presently in, marking them on the mini-map. So instead of exploring the levels, you're just spamming the Arkham City Detective Mode rip-off Survival Instincts until you figure out how to collect the special fruit on a ledge that somehow gives you items to craft better weapons. You can also gain these gun upgrade points from animals as well. It is not explained how you can find parts for a shotgun inside a fruit or a rat.

Combat on the other hand fares better, if more due to resting on the laurels of Dead Space than it's own merits. You carry four fully upgradable guns that you can improve through looting and exploring optional tombs to find specific gun parts (don't ask how an AK-47 is in an ancient tomb, it's once again never given a context or reason). The four gun system in Dead Space was a favorite of mine, and it still works well enough here. You've got your primary weapon (Pistol), your secondary that might not be as immediately easy to use but is more effective once upgraded (Bow), your close range weapon (Shotgun), and the fourth weapon that sort of just sits there until you find the right upgrade to make it super useful (Assault Rifle).

The problem of Lara somehow being extremely proficient with all fire arms from the get go is still present, meaning even without upgrades you will be popping off headshots casually, especially on PC. Instead of making you sluggish or inaccurate at first, it gives you all the perks without any of the needed cons to keep you from becoming instantly overpowered. The only enemies made to compensate for this are bullet sponge enemies and kamikaze enemies that run head first at you to engage in mêlée combat. Melee combat is actually far better balanced, and seems to have had a lot of work put into it considering how infrequently I needed to use it in the game. If earlier sections of the game had focused on mêlée combat and left guns and ammo as rare rewards like in Red Steel 2, the combat might have remained a great deal more challenging than it is.

Puzzles don't fare any better than combat. A few are fairly pragmatic and realistic, especially one involving electric current in a pool of water blocking your path, but most of them are just timed platforming sequences in the various optional tombs. Yes the tombs in Tomb Raider are optional, and just to see how much they really mattered, ignored most of them in an alternate playthrough. The game didn't even seem to notice that I had avoided the tombs and it felt like the content existed in some parallel reality no one in the game cared about.

Did I mention there are lots of QTEs? There are a lot of QTEs.

Must Have Five Levels Work Experience to Apply

This overall lack of consistent design and coherent melding story and gameplay is most bluntly clear with what may actually be my favorite idea the game has on offer. Fire. You start out the game by lighting a torch as your first piece of gear. There are tons of things to burn and several collectibles demand you strategically light your torch between bodies of water to reach them. Even some of the first few puzzles in the game require you properly use the mechanics built into lighting things on fire, and it's surprisingly fun.

Except then the need to be careful with your torch is eliminated less than half way through the game thanks to an upgrade that lets you turn the torch on whenever. Not to long after that, the bow gets fire arrows (later napalm arrows with an upgrade), and the shotgun gets incendiary ammo. If these opened up new avenues of manipulating fire, that would be one thing, but instead they make the torch and the feeling of challenge when using it all but obsolete. It's a perfectly good idea, but it just is left to exist amongst a sea of side activities and gameplay ideas that are merely for the honor of earning experience points.

Crystal Dynamics must love grinding levels in role-playing games, as not only are there two different experience points to earn (Salvage for Weapons and regular Experience Points for Lara's skill tree), but they have skill upgrades to earn more experience from activities. Not just one or two, roughly a third of two skill trees each is nothing but upgrades to earn more experience for more upgrades. Other upgrades serve no purpose, such as an upgrade to speed up traversal and decrease fall damage that had no notable impact at all on the platforming. All meaningful gear you acquire is through the story, save for alternate fire modes for your three guns. Investing in upgrades just gets your stats increased, and it won't always pay off anyway; but you can earn more experience to unlock more stats once you upgrade to earn more experience to get more experience.

Don't worry Lara, you can just hide your copy of the game under a sofa cushion.

With Friends Like These Who Needs Nathan Drake?

The one saving grace I've found is in the feature most told me was absolutely worthless, the competitive multiplayer component. This is the one part of the game that feels like it's all working towards something cohesive, which is not surprising considering it was developed by Eidos while the single player was all Crystal Dynamics. It's not without some notable flaws (the PC control scheme is lacking, the console version is a bit laggy and could use a button layout tweak as well), but at least it feels genuinely entertaining.

Playing a match feels satisfying and the very low bar set for new players is nice. You can gain progress no matter how well you immediately play. If you have a rough start then the game compensates and gives you ironic awards while slipping you enough experience points to get you to the next unlock. It gives you a chance to have the same gear as your opponents without being as skillful as they are, as does the focus on environmental traps and hazards you can use to get kills even if your accuracy is off.

Some levels even have large-scale environmental shifts you can trigger or at least use to your advantage, akin to Battlefield 4's Levelution map shifts; but unlike that title, the changes feel a great deal more drastic thanks to the small-scale five on five and three on three fights the game's maps accommodate. Much like Killlzone: Mercenary, the focus is on tight, cohesive battles while you work as a team to tear down the enemy. Lonewolfing it is possible but not easy, and the limited HUD requires you constantly be observant of your line of sight like in Spec Ops: The Line's multiplayer. I've stealth killed several archers not paying attention and got torn apart during a sandstorm where my enemies were keeping track of our positions.

The traps do seem placed out-of-the-way in some maps, but this is likely to avoid their abuse. When you already have one level where you can blow out three bridges and cause wall panels to turn into ticking time bombs as the electricity goes on the blink, you've got enough controlled chaos in hand. Unfortunately the lag on consoles doesn't help in this chaos, sometimes leaving you fighting the sluggish controls as you try to escape death. The most notable problem on PC was weapon swapping and finding more players in matchmaking (presently the console version is far more active).

The upgrades to your guns also seem drastically more meaningful in multiplayer, although the differing selection of weapons for the asymmetric teams do limit your options at first if you invest mostly in one side. An added scope or alternate mode of fire changes a gun's strengths, and you can focus on both your primary two-handed weapon or secondary pistol as works best for you. On PC, I actually mainly fought with my pistol thanks to a fast trigger finger and better accuracy with it. I've heard and seen the players who reportedly just found it to be an assault rifle spamming affair. Most of those I played with who were like this seemed to ignore most of the unique aspects of the game, so the  community's indifference to accepting the multiplayer for its strong points is a problem you should keep in mind. Gather up some friends though, and you'll have a good time.

It's not going to be that traditional Gears or Call of Duty multiplayer, and you shouldn't expect it to. Playing it like any other game will disappoint you because you aren't looking for what the game is trying to give you. It wants to give a fierce survival multiplayer similar to The Last of Us, but with a faster pace and an emphasis on manipulating the environment to your ends instead of mid-battle upgrades through crafting.

This is does not excuse the game for the lag and control issues nor some of the more questionably designed levels. However, the fact I saw players actively ignoring the bright side of what's available just because the multiplayer dared to exist was incredibly petty. If you don't enjoy, you don't have to ever touch it, but if you're going to try it, you should keep an open mind. You'd be surprised what happens when you do, although I doubt you'll find this realization amongst the dissenters. It's a ponderous case, to say the least.

Her fire arrow power is over 9000!

Survival of the Meekest

Tomb Raider is a game you play when you can turn your brain off. If you don't think hard about the gameplay and story, you can at least have a decent time. However, if you start to connect the dots, what you're left with is a string of confusing decisions piled on top of a flimsy story set in a highly inconsistent universe. They could have aimed for it to just be fantastical, they could have aimed for gritty realism, they could have done anything and made a great game out of it. Instead, it stands as completely average with a sum of good ideas, enjoyable multiplayer, lacking online community, and mediocre execution for the single player. Here's hoping Lara's next adventure manages to hit its mark.



Thanks... Origin? Dead Space Completely Free Until May 8th Thu, 27 Mar 2014 15:46:06 -0400 Brian S

In a surprising move, EA has decided that survival-horror game Dead Space will be "On The House" until May 8th for those who use EA's digital distribution platform, Origin. This discount is likely a continuation of EA's attempt to improve its public image in light of gamers' negative reactions to the company, most notably, gamers voting EA the Worst Company in America on Consumerist two years in a row, though EA lost to Time Warner Cable this year in the first match.

Officially, the game hasn't been discounted for any particular reason.

Dead Space follows the story of Isaac Clarke, the then silent engineer, as he joins a repair mission to save his girlfriend aboard USG Ishimura, a mining ship in space that has apparently gone silent. The team's mission: discover the cause of the disturbance, repair the ship, and return to earth. Unfortunately, this isn't a simple rescue mission.

Very quickly, Isaac discovers that a horrific infection of some kind has changed nearly all of the former workers aboard the vessel into vicious, disturbing monsters that want nothing more than to kill anything in their way. Issac must use what few tools he can find as weapons, whether it be a plasma cutter, a buzz saw, or a military assault rifle, to decapitate the infected adversaries and save Nicole before the infection's victims turn him into one of them.

Dead Space received generally positive reviews, but was occasionally criticized for its poor PC port and heavy reliance on jump scares. Some gamers have created their own bug-fixes. The most common one being the game and its physics engine not working properly if the game runs at too high of a frame rate.

Those who wish to download Dead Space can do so here for free until May 8th, 2014.

The Five Best, Forgotten Games of 2013 Thu, 30 Jan 2014 12:55:12 -0500 Brian S

2013 was a year of fantastic games. Gamers returned to the streets of Los Santos, they raided some tombs, pillaged and plundered, fought infected with Troy Baker, and visited a floating city in the sky with Troy Baker. Unfortunately, many fantastic games of 2013 were missed, ignored, forgotten, or overshadowed by the big-league games of the year.

5. Saints Row IV

What do you get when you combine the stupidity of Grand Theft Auto, the gameplay of Prototype, and writing that varies between childish and brilliant in the best way possible? You get Saints Row IV.

In Saints Row IV, you, the leader of the 3rd Street Saints, have become President of the United States after literally falling into office. After surprisingly, successfully running the country for some time, the President finds him or herself in the midst of an alien invasion by the Zin Empire, run by a pompous alien named Zinyak. The President then finds themself in a virtual reality similar to The Matrix and is tasked with saving the human race from inside the simulation with the help of the rest of the Third Street saints and their newfound superpowers within the simulation.

Stupidity and fun combine into the funniest game of the year.

The game is as ridiculous and stupid as it sounds, but from hilarious DLC where players can save Santa Claus from the clutches of an evil doppelganger to a gun that literally fires dubstep music, Saints Row IV is the epitome of what it means for a game to be fun from beginning to end. Parents often find themselves decrying Grand Theft Auto for a multitude of things, but Saints Row IV revels in this criticism and not only embraces what Grand Theft Auto claims to do ironically (unsuccessfully), but it also delivers one of the most fun, entertaining, and hilarious video games of 2013.

4. Dead Space 3

Having dealt with enough aliens and death to last him several lifetimes, Isaac Clarke returns in Dead Space 3 to finally put an end to the necromorph threat once and for all and save humanity. Isaac has the help of a new crew of people and a familiar face and enters the frozen world of Tau Volantis, where he faces new foes both human and necromorph alike.

Dead Space 3 thrills from beginning to end.

Many gamers criticized Dead Space 3 straying further into action territory rather than horror, but with a new weapon crafting system that lets you create almost any combination of weapon imaginable, the frantic gameplay of desperately trying to reload in time remains and excels even further than in previous titles of the series. Dead Space 3 may not be the horror game the first Dead Space set out to be, but it thrills, scares, and excites like an action movie in all the best ways, making it one of the most entertaining games of 2013.

3. Resident Evil: Revelations

Resident Evil is, by default, pretty stupid. The series revolves around scientists using zombies for global power because that’s apparently a logical course of action. Nearly twenty years since the first Resident Evil launched on the original PlayStation, Resident Evil: Revelations tells an epic, over-the-top, downright stupid story of bioterrorism that we can only expect from Resident Evil. And every second is fantastic. Unfortunately, Revelations was largely ignored thanks to its initial release on the 3DS and its mostly forgotten HD release on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

Revelations is stupid, overly-serious, and over-the-top, but also somewhat self-aware in its stupidity.

Unlike Resident Evil 6’s split campaigns, Revelations tells stories in a style more similar to 24, where players control characters during important moments in the story. The main story centers around Jill Valentine from the first game, with Chris “the Boulder” Redfield showing up too. Revelations is like a good bad movie--it's pretty awful and stupid, but it does it so well that it's difficult to not enjoy it. Once players take off the rose-tinted glasses, they’ll find a fantastic third-person horror game in Resident Evil: Revelations that is similar in quality to Resident Evil 4, but with modern control fixes that make the zombies your enemy, not the controls.

2. Remember Me

Remember Me is arguably the best new IP of 2013.

Remember Me did everything right. It was a new IP, it had strong gameplay, it had a unique story, it had brilliant design, and it had a spectacular soundtrack. Ironically enough, Remember Me was quickly forgotten thanks to the game also receiving poor marketing. The game also created a bit of a stir when Capcom execs told the now bankrupt Dontnod, Remember Me’s developer to change the protagonist from a woman of mixed race to a guy because “You can’t have a female character.”

Despite the shortcomings, Remember Me was a fresh action-brawler that had clear inspiration from Tomb Raider, among other popular franchises. The game was unique, fun to play, and entertaining from beginning to end.

1. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Stealth has always been quickly ignored and forgotten except by the most dedicated fanatics in the video game world. The stealth games of old such as the original Thief and Deus Ex are almost entirely gone, and the sequels of those very games have fallen into modern conventions of fast-paced action that forces players to look for stealth portions.

Blacklist is the pinnacle of action-stealth.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist, however, manages to hold true to both the stealth mechanics of old and the action tropes of modern gaming and combine them in a way that makes Blacklist possibly the best game of the series. Blacklist follows the story of Sam Fisher as he and his team attempt to stop a terrorist group called the Engineers from completing a series of escalating attacks against the United States. Each mission is gripping, the gameplay is top-notch, the stealth is as tense as ever, and the production value is clear. Blacklist also features Perfectionist difficulty, which ups the ante by taking away the win button that Mark and Execute has become and also removing the ability to see through walls with sonar goggles, resulting in an homage to those dedicated fans of stealth games of old like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid that will test series veterans to their breaking point.

Blacklist didn't succeed as well as expected.

Sadly, Splinter Cell: Blacklist underperformed according to Ubisoft, which puts Splinter Cell’s future up in the air. Ubisoft also changed voice actors, opting for a younger voice actor instead of the refined Michael Ironside, which drove many series veterans away from the game. Despite these issues, Blacklist received almost universal praise, and managed to cater to both the action junkies of modern games and the stealth purists of days past. Action-gamers may not get everything they want in Blacklist, but more open-minded gamers and those who are faithful to the stealth genre will find a deep action-stealth game full of customization, a thrilling story, and intense gameplay.

Routine: "Amnesia in Space" Compatible With Oculus Rift Fri, 04 Oct 2013 21:45:51 -0400 Lui Galletto

Horror is a genre that has begun to slowly improve on the stagnation it has suffered over the past few years.

We have games like Dead Space and Amnesia, that despite all their flaws, manage to create terrifying and dark atmospheres that deliver reliable scares.

Like I've said in previous articles, the day we are finally able to have these first person horror games with native Oculus compatibility is the day that horror transcends mere vicarious enjoyment. And fortunately, we are in luck.

Routine is an in-development horror exploration game indie game by LunarSoftware which is set on an abandoned moon base. Your job is to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of everyone stationed on the base.

The art style is a retro take on an 80's era vision of the future, but the atmosphere is a combination of the  horror of Dead Space, and the unnerving chills of Amnesia. You can explore the randomly generated space station to your heart's content, but be aware that the game wants to make death seem like a tangible fear and implements a perma-death system. No HUD, no scoring system, no extra lives.

In another awesome marriage of the Dead Space and Amnesia series, players will be equipped with an upgradable weapon called th "CAT" ("Cosmonaut Assistance Tool") in order to make a feeble attempt at defending yourself on the station.

But did I mention the best part? This game will be Oculus compatible at launch! Yes, my dream of diving head first into fear has finally come to fruition. If I could combine this experience with an Omni, I would die a happy (but scared shitless) man.

There is no set release date for the game yet, but I have a strong feeling this game will only continue to push the horror genre forward.

EA Humble Bundle raises $10.5 million Sat, 31 Aug 2013 12:26:18 -0400 Chai Chien Liang

Closing on 28th of August, the EA Humble Origin bundle brought in a grand total of $10.5 million from the sale of more than 2.1 million bundles.

Humble Bundle announced on Twitter that the bundle had made Humble Bundle history with its sales. These staggering statistics make it the most successful Humble Bundle by far with more than double of the previous best-selling Humble Bundle.

Nearly all of the $10.5 million will go to charities such as the Human Rights Campaign, Watsi, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, American Cancer Society, and American Red Cross.

Gamers only had to pay a minimum of $1 for Dead Space 3Dead Space, Mirror's Edge, Crysis 2: Maximum Edition,Medal of Honor, and Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box.

Paying more than the average entitled gamers to Battlefield 3,The Sims 3: Starter Pack, as well as the standalone expansion pack for Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 - Uprising and the classic god game Populous.