I didn’t become personally acquainted with the Gears of War franchise until late last year when I purchased an Xbox One along with a copy of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. Even though this game was nearly ten years old at the time, I had more fun playing it than I did with most of 2015’s releases. I eventually played through Gears of War 2 and 3 and thoroughly enjoyed those as well (though I will admit that the first game is my favorite out of the original trilogy). I arrived late to the party, but I was now a big fan of the series. Like many others out there, I eagerly anticipated the release of Gears of War 4.The game released yesterday (though some did get early access to it last Friday) and I managed to play through most of it. I already knew I was going to like Gears of War 4, but after playing all the way up to the beginning of the final act, I can now safely say that it is not only a strong entry in the franchise but easily the best Xbox game released this generation. Fans of Microsoft’s gaming division have had it relatively rough this generation, but they now have something to truly boast about. Gears of War 4 is a spectacular game that does the Xbox brand proud.Gears of War 4 takes place 25 years after Gears of War 3. Because of that, The Coalition had the chance to restart the series for a brand-new generation. We’re treated to an exciting prologue that lets players briefly play through two important historical events in the Gears universe. Right from the outset this title distinguishes itself from the others since none of them ever had an introduction like this. With that said, all of the mechanics we’ve come to know remained the same, just refined. The intro was letting us know that, while things are different, this was still very much a Gears of War game.The Gears of War series is generally regarded as being all about non-stop, over-the-top action. What people don’t often talk about is how the first game had a strong horror component. The original contained moments that were genuinely terrifying. This horror vibe is something Gears of War 4 resurrects. I won’t give anything away, but there is a thin but palpable undercurrent of terror that runs through the game. Even the environments’ admittedly narrower paths make one feel uncomfortable and scared of what may jump out from behind the corners.The Gears series always had big beefy men shooting equally big and beefy monsters. While Gears 4 still retains a lot of adrenaline-fueled action, the characters aren’t as stereotypically macho as the ones from the previous entries. Instead of feeling like Predator or Aliens, Gears of War 4 is a lot like a Buddy Cop film due to all of the witty banter and jokes from the main cast. While it is certainly serious, the tone is decidedly more lighthearted than other installments. I appreciated that Gears 4 wasn’t overtly dark and allowed itself to be funny when it was necessary.As far as gameplay goes, the biggest change comes from the dynamic environment. In Gears 4, the world is constantly under the threat of massive storms that make the tornadoes from Twister seem tame. While these storms and the accompanying lightning that comes with them can certainly harm or kill you, you can use the bad weather to your advantage. For example, the support that holds massive pipes in place can be shot off, causing the winds to send these pipes rolling over enemies. Besides serving a strategic function, the dynamic weather is just plain fun. I never got tired of shooting enemies dead and then seeing their lifeless bodies be violently carried away by the winds.I didn’t get to try out the series’ famous Horde mode since I focused my efforts on the campaign, but I still got to try out some of this mode’s new features. There are a few portions in the story where you have to secure your immediate surroundings from enemies. This is done thanks to a device called the Fabricator which can produce barriers, decoys, and turrets to help you defend your position. I felt that these sections halted the progress of the story, but from a pure gameplay standpoint, it was a lot of fun to hold back all of these nasty monsters with defenses I set up. I’m sure if I were doing these portions with friends it would be a pure blast. After I finish the story, I am most definitely going back to play Horde 3.0 with my buddies.Gears of War 4 is available on Xbox One, but it is also on PC. In fact, purchasing it digitally on one platform will give you access to it on the other thanks to Xbox Play Anywhere. I played the game on my computer which I recently upgraded with a GTX 1080 graphics card. The card is no lightweight, and I was able to run the game on Ultra settings at 60 frames per second with no issues. Gears 4 looks incredible on Xbox One but on PC it is quite a sight to behold. There were plenty of times where I just had to stop to let my eyes feast on the gorgeous visuals. The colors are vibrant; the textures were smooth, and the lighting and particle effects greatly enhanced the atmosphere. This game was meticulously optimized to run on PC, and it shows. Gears of War 4 is without a doubt one of the best-looking games out right now.I should be finished with the game by tomorrow, but I’m already preparing for my second playthrough and beyond. The Gears franchise has some of the most satisfying cover-based shooting mechanics out there, and Gears of War 4 fulfills a very specific need in that regard. From a gameplay standpoint, this game isn’t radically different from previous entries, but it doesn’t have to be. This is a title that is simply a blast to play and isn’t mired in a lot of the superfluous baggage that other games get bogged down with. Gears of War 4 knows exactly what type of game it is and isn’t trying to be anything more than a fun, bad-ass third person shooter.
Star Wars x Adidas Ultraboost Photos Have Leaked’Star Wars Pinball’ Has Your Favorite Brand in Ball Form Let’s get one thing out of the way. I don’t care about the multiplayer, arguably the biggest part, of Star Wars Battlefront II. I don’t really enjoy online shooters and the first game’s focus on multiplayer exclusively is what kept me from touching it, even if you could play as Emperor Sheev Palpatine. So if you’re looking for an exhaustive review of that part of the game, I can’t really give it to you. Plus, reviewing the performance of an online multiplayer game before the servers are live for everyone can only be so useful.That said, I did sample much of what Battlefront II has to offer. There’s an appreciable increase in the amount of modes and features and overall content. You can shoot Clone Troopers in the waves of Kamino, take down AT-ATs on Hoth, and fly above Maz Kanata’s cantina on Takodana. There are some cool offline multiplayer modes, too, like playing split-screen with a friend or tackling solo “Battle Scenarios” where you try to mow through hordes of soldiers as a famous Star Wars hero/villain.It’s too bad the whole experience is tainted by the specter of loot boxes, the idea that your initial $60 investment isn’t enough to give you the whole game in a timely fashion. Even forgetting fears that paying for new skills gives you a competitive advantage over folks who didn’t, I was almost ready to put the controller down when I saw how much grinding was required to unlock what felt like most of the multiplayer game. At launch EA now plans to drastically reduce the amount of in-game credits needed to unlock heroes, which would’ve been nice to have during this review period.As one of the few remaining T-rated shooters, and the biggest game based on the biggest brand this holiday, Star Wars Battlefront II is destined to sell an unfathomable amount of copies just like it’s predecessor. So it’s a shame EA and Lucasfilm view customers as wallets to be infinitely mined, not fans to be satisfied and entertained.All that said, there is a safe haven for Battlefront II owners like me who don’t want to mess around with loot boxes and massive, occasionally aimless, Battlefield-esque multiplayer matches. Unlike the first (third) Battlefront, there’s now a story-driven single-player mode that’s the closest thing you’ll find to a cinematic Star Wars experience before The Last Jedi hits.I already shared my initial thoughts on the campaign when I played the first few missions a few weeks ago. In that article you can also read my interview with lead actress Janina Gavankar. But now that I’ve played the whole thing I can confirm that despite a fresh start, like the new Star Wars films, Star Wars Battlefront II ultimately succumbs to nostalgia.Like most modern shooter campaigns, Star Wars Battlefront II’s single-player mode isn’t very long. And it leans more toward Call of Duty’s spectacle than EA’s own Titanfall II’s mind-bending mechanical creativity. But that’s okay. I enjoyed how exaggerated the shooting is, whether you’re charging a laser pistol or shooting rockets at an AT-ST. And the game does a good job of teaching all the different quirks of the playable characters. You can do things like stealthily shock far away foes with your droid, shoot through a smoke grenade cloud with thermal vision, or do a crazy Force leap and pull all enemies toward your twirling lightsaber.Managing these different skills gives you some amount of expression in how you play despite the missions themselves being quite linear. You can also equip different cards to buff various stats or grant temporary bonuses like MOBA abilities on cooldown. One mission basically places you in a huge multiplayer match in the streets of Naboo, and being able to quickly quadruple my health for a short time proved very useful indeed.I was surprised just how much space combat there is, too, and how it’s integrated with the on-foot gameplay. One of my favorite parts of the maligned Star Fox Zero (itself taking much inspiration from Star Wars) was seamlessly transitioning from a space battle to a shoot-out in a corridor. Battlefront II also occasionally let’s you do that. Going from not-quite Rogue Squadron in space to shooting panicking Stormtroopers in a hangar to storming the inside of the base was so cool it made me nearly forget how similar all the corridors look.So as a compact piece of Star Wars action, Battlefront II essentially delivers. Like Star Wars these days, the gameplay won’t surprise you, but it will give you what you want. Unfortunately, that pull towards the familiar also applies to the story itself, and in that context it is harder to forgive. Some spoilers ahead.The initial premise starts strong. The crumbling of the Empire following the end of Return of the Jedi is a cool narrative space to explore. And playing as ruthless Imperial soldier Iden Versio and her Inferno Squad is morally ambiguous in a tense and kind of fascinating way. It may appeal to some deplorable parts of gamer culture, but shooting through diverse rebels as a faceless, armored defender of the already dead Empire was a cool kind of uncomfortable, especially since the woman beneath that mask is a well-written and well-acted (and weirdly skin-lightened) woman of color.However, my first major groan (after earning an achievement called “ Dark Forces”) happened during an early mission when all of a sudden the camera revealed I would now be playing as Luke Skywalker. Lightsaber combat is an important part of the game, and the campaign was right to incorporate it. But knowing the campaign wouldn’t be that long, I worried over whether the story could afford to spend time on this fan service digression.It turns out the answer is no. The more I played the more the story cut away from ostensibly the main plot starring Versio and instead put me in control of folks like Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, and bearded Han Solo. While these tangents were fun in their own right, this left the main characters with too little room for their own plots to meaningfully develop. And it makes all of the familiar Star Wars story beats (an evil father, a turn toward the Light side, a big dogfight finale) seem that more cliche compared to the subversive opening. Even the Kylo Ren cliffhanger really only exists to tease a DLC follow-up tie-in to The Last Jedi.I get it. Folks who buy the shiny new Star Wars game are expecting to see the Star Wars stuff they already know and love. And that Star Wars stuff is gorgeously rendered thanks to the Frostbite engine being allowed to powerd the type of shooter game it was built for. But the shift toward the familiar just makes the initial pitch with the new Inferno Squad seem a bit deceptive.And it’s symptomatic of the larger modern Star Wars problem of leaning too heavily on what we’ve already seen. There’s no need whatsoever for a Han Solo spin-off movie. For Star Wars to move forward, we need to purge this obsession with nostalgia in every revisitation out of our shared cultural system, if that’s even possible. Help us, Rian Johnson. You’re our only hope!Disappointing story aside, if Battlefront II’s campaign is what we can reasonably expect from EA single-player Star Wars games from now on, it’s a pretty good start and a format I would like to see continue. So congratulations, EA. You fixed one part of Star Wars: Battlefront. Now ditch the paid loot boxes and crank up the Sheev.Buy Star Wars: Battlefront IIView as: One Page Slides1/51. Star Wars: Battlefront II is EA’s latest attempt at a modern AAA Star Wars shooter.2. Fight against tons of other players online in scenarios based on any and all Star Wars movies.3. Shooting happens both on-foot and in the sky thanks to vehicle combat.4. There’s also now a brief but action-packed single-player campaign featuring the morally ambiguous Imperial soldiers of Inferno Squad.5. But like the recent Star Wars films, Battlefront II’s new ideas eventually give way to the force of nostalgia.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target
I spent a few hours playing Ubisoft’s next marquee murder simulator Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (not to be confused with either Assassin’s Creed Origins or Super Mario Odyssey which both released last year on the same day). But before I detail the standout new features like the warring ancient Greece setting, upgraded RPG elements, and Gerard Butler fighting style, I just have to tell you about the way I ended my demo. It’s about sex, so you understand the urgency.Before the demo even began the team explained how, as part of Odyssey’s new Greek drama-inspired dialogue system and branching storylines, your Spartan mercenary character can now romance certain NPCs like in a Mass Effect game. They even made a Trojan condoms joke. And that playable character could either be a man or a woman. I chose the woman, Kassandra, to pretend this was a Wonder Woman game.While playing through the handful of main quests available on the islands of Delos and Mykonos, I had pledged my support for the more aggressive tactics of a male warrior, all while concealing my Spartan nature. Each of these choices had alternate options. When the fight was won, I expressed my interest in pleasure beyond combat, and my target invited me back to his place. Of course, in order to find it I had to use my bird drone (returning from Assassin’s Creed Origins) to track his trail of flower petal and sexy white smoke across the Mediterranean terrain.Once I arrived I thought we would just do the deed. But first this fool wanted to fight be because he guessed my true identity. He said something about how fighting is the best way to truly know someone “bone to bone.” Kinky. I peppered him with arrows until he fell and the camera cut away while we presumably boned each other’s brains out.Once I was back in control I could choose my response to this encounter and my eyes lit up at one of the options. After my lover told me how much he adored me, I said, savagely, “I can’t wait to forget you.” You now see why I haven’t bothered to name him. We were better off teaming up as fighters anyway. But I could practically pinpoint the moment where his heart ripped in half. And to top it all off, I then earned a nice 6900 experience points.So that’s a thing that can happen in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. But even if you’re not interested in learning whether or not love can bloom on a battlefield, there’s plenty more the game has to offer. What I played very much felt like more of last year’s Assassin’s Creed Origins, even down to the UI, which makes since given this game is only coming one year after that acclaimed Egyptian semi-reboot of the franchise.Odyssey continues Origins’ huge and colorful take on an ancient historical world. The open naval exploration system lets you sail all across the Aegean Sea sinking ships in your way. I climbed up the butts of marvelous marble statues to synchronize the map. A time period dripping with this much (European) culture is a perfect fit for the Ubisoft empire.Odyssey also builds on Origins’ heavier combat feel and customization options. In addition to the new weapons and perks you pick up, you can create a loadout of special moves that burn your energy meter. These moves include health boosts and waves of arrows. But it’s a pretty safe bet most folks will lean towards the 300-style Sparta kick. It breaks guards, pushes opponents far away from you, and is just teaming with dumb awesome power. I kicked a bear in the face and a guy off of his own boat.See you at E3! pic.twitter.com/03NTPhCkCf— Assassin’s Creed (@assassinscreed) May 31, 2018Odyssey even manages to one-up Origins in terms of being an Assassin’s Creed prequel. Set in 431 B.C. there are no assassins with iconic hoods and hidden blades, at least in this demo. Just mercenaries like the player trying to make a living during the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens. You take contracts to make new friends (or enemies). Killing high-profile targets weakens the political strength of certain regions and makes the 300-man battles swing more in your favor.Of course, all the nonsense Assassin’s Creed lore we surely know(?) and love (?) will still be here. You’re still playing as Templar defector Layla Hassan in the present day. Only this time you’re looking for more clues about the First Civilization itself, the cyber Adam and Eve folks, instead of the Assassin Order. The player characters are descendants of famous Spartan King Leonidas himself and have his magic spear. But justifications aside, ancient Greece is just a great Assassin’s Creed setting, especially now that God of War has moved up Norse. Plus, it’s one step closer to my dream game about what really happened at the Crucifixion.Assassin’s Creed Odyssey launches October 5, which is maybe a bummer for those of us who thought the franchise could benefit from longer development cycles. But if you’re looking for more Origins gameplay, more ancient Greece digital tourism, and more chances to shatter soldiers’ hearts, you won’t have to wait long.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Stay on target Simon Belmont, King K. Rool, and Dead Luigi Join Smash Bros. UltimateAn Interview with Jump Force Producer Koji Nakajima