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2013-11-14
I've heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I cannot conceive of the beholder that wouldn't appreciate the beauty of Flower. Apart from its merits as a game, Flower is breathtaking, perching you atop a flowing breeze so that you may spread the vibrant colors of nature across the land. On the PlayStation 4, Flower is as lovely as ever thanks to a higher resolution, which allows the vividness to shine. Yet Flower's significance is tied not just to its visual elegance, but also to its use of music and motion to carry you across pastoral lands on a powerful emotional arc. In Flower, you ride the wind. You enter the first level to see a single hovering flower petal; you press a button to surge forward and carry the petal with you, and tilt the controller to steer, as if you're the pilot of a blissful breeze. As you rush through the grass and natural growth, you pass through clusters of flowers, each bud blooming and adding a petal to the ever-growing bouquet that sails through the air. Each time you glide through a batch of flowers, petals emit notes that complement the bucolic soundtrack. In this way, you aren't just a player but a musical collaborator, composing your own countermelody as you rush ahead. Flowers are arranged in rows, circles, and other patterns, and following those patterns enhances the musical effect by allowing each tone to flow into the next.   This is the kind of experience some dismiss for not being a game, much as they might dismiss Journey, Gone Home, or Proteus. There is no score to achieve and no time limit obstructing progress. While there are levels that allow you some destructive powers and require you to maneuver with some care, there is no combat and no death. Reaching the end of each level is your ultimate goal, but the dividend is not place on a leaderboard; rather, your gift is the joy of watching gentle foliage radiate across the land after collecting the prescribed petals. Playing Flower is its own reward, following its narrative journey from easy existence, to conflict, to harmonious resolution. Developer thatgamecompany carefully crafted Flower's tempo so that its lowest emotional point would be followed by an enormous sense of uplift. Like a snowy mountain ridge or a tranquil river valley, Flower invites introspection and inner calm. You could reduce the journey's message to a simple environmentalist one, but Flower doesn't argue that humanity is at war with Mother Nature, instead suggests that the two can coexist. Two opposing forces collide, then merge, and that story emerges purely through gameplay and level design, putting an end to any doubt that Flower is less a game than any other systems-driven experience. The power, however, comes not from accomplishing tasks but in the very act of moving and existing. In this sense, you can see how Flower, originally released on the PlayStation 3 in 2009, planted the seeds that led to the developer's follow-up, Journey. Like Flower, Journey leads you to an emotional nadir before thrusting you into a glorious awakening, and like Journey, Flower herds you back into its levels' confines if you try to venture outside of them, though it does so with some awkwardness, in contrast to Journey's subtle nudges. Just as you might improperly dismiss Flower as "not a game," you might also improperly dismiss it for its brevity: You could easily finish in an hour, and that hour progresses at a relaxed pace, lulling you into security rather than pumping adrenaline into your nerves. But value is more than a simple price-to-minutes ratio, and I'd sooner revisit Flower's serenity than countless 50-hour grindfests. Like a snowy mountain ridge or a tranquil river valley, Flower invites introspection and inner calm, and that kind of interactive experience is almost as rare now as it was when I first surfed these winds. Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
Nintendo has confirmed a fifth playable character for upcoming Mario romp Super Mario 3D World. Showcased in a new trailer for the game is Super Mario Galaxy star Rosalina as a hidden unlockable. She has the power to use the spin attack from the Mario Galaxy games, and joins Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Peach in the upcoming four-player platformer. Nintendo's latest trailer also shows off the game's touch screen and microphone features, as well as Captain Toad levels. Super Mario 3D World is being developed by Nintendo EAD Tokyo Group 2, who previously developed Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS and Super Mario Galaxy 2 on the Wii. Super Mario 3D World will be released for Wii U on November 22.     Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
Mercy is not part of Knack's vocabulary. He happily uppercuts a defeated enemy into a steaming lake of molten lava and flings an aircraft by its tail into the unforgiving ground. And don't believe for a second that he sheds a single tear for the pilot engulfed in the flaming wreckage; Knack doesn't let sentimentality distract him from a good fight. The only thing he desires more than brutal destruction is finding creative ways to exterminate his many foes. At least that's how the cutscenes play out. When you're given control, Knack mindlessly punches his way through corridor after corridor of enemies, and you're left wondering why Knack gets to have so much more fun than you do. Oppression is the theme that binds Knack's overarching narrative together. Goblins have been forced from their lands by the imperialistic humans, and after surviving in the wastelands for generations, they finally have the power to mount a rebellion. Goblins aren't the only creatures who have to deal with oppression. Knack was created by a benevolent doctor who has found a way to turn ancient relics into a sentient being. The philosophical implications of this discovery flip the very notion of life on its head. As Knack muses about the nature of love during a quiet cutscene, you realize that, like Frankenstein's monster, he is capable of self-reflection and poignant observations. And yet, he is treated like a weapon. Does he deserve to be viewed as an equal even though he was birthed through alchemical experimentation? Such ruminations are glossed over. Instead of realizing his humanity, Knack usually acts like a meathead, cracking his knuckles while he waits for his next fight. Instead of realizing his humanity, Knack usually acts like a meathead, cracking his knuckles while he waits for his next fight. Relying exclusively on combat isn't inherently bad. There are plenty of games that slowly build on their fighting mechanics and provide enough twists and detours to keep you riveted. However, Knack's combat lacks the necessary depth to captivate your senses. The core problems stem from your meager repertoire. Knack has only five ways to attack the many enemies who confront him, and you learn every one of these moves in the opening tutorial. Three of these attacks--a whirlwind, a projectile blast, and a shock wave--serve as special powers that can be activated only when you collect enough sunstones. Another, your jump attack, propels you toward your enemy as a wrecking ball. But because both you and your enemy recoil when contact is made, you can't use this as the setup for your combos. Which leaves you with the standard punch. So you punch, and punch, and punch some more, for that is how victory is achieved in Knack. There is weight behind your attacks that makes you understand the pain you're causing, and slow-motion finishers hammer home just how strong Knack is. But solid mechanics mean nothing alone. Because there is such little variance between fights, you're quickly lulled into the bored stupor of predictability. Knack absorbs relics into his body, which allows him to grow from a pint-size pet into a hulking monstrosity. Remember when a mere goblin took three hits to kill? Well laugh at those miniscule fools as you plow through them without breaking a sweat. Behold Knack, destroyer of goblins, devourer of worlds! Sounds pretty amazing, no? No is right. As you get bigger, so too do your enemies, so there's no difference in how fights play out. You still just punch your way to success and perform the weakest double jump known to games, only now you're fighting tanks instead of men. During a moment of enlightenment, Knack realizes that his ever-changing body can be composed of more diverse parts than just relics. Ice, wood, and other materials automatically get pulled into the vacuum of your body in certain levels, shifting your appearance from runic golem to elemental beast. But said changes are only skin deep. Sure, a flaming arrow may melt your icy heart, so you can lose your outer shell that serves as a shield, but there's no mechanical difference between normal Knack and his earthy counterpart. Still, Knack does occassionally introduce ideas that hint at a real evolution. For instance, in some levels, you have a crystalline body, which initializes Stealth Knack. It's finally time for some real variety, right? Not quite. With the tap of a button, Knack can walk through the laser beams that serve as a high-tech security system. But enemies can still see you, even though you're invisible. It's hard to stifle a laugh when the doctor says, "No more sneaking around" after an enemy shoots at you, as if sneaking was ever an option. So you punch, and punch, and punch some more, for that is how victory is achieved in Knack. There are 13 chapters in Knack, and every one of them plays out in the same tired manner. You start out small, gradually build your size until you're huge, and then arbitrarily shrink back down when the chapter wraps up. There's always a convenient excuse for this transformation. How else could Knack fit in a biplane if he doesn't lose his precious relics? And then you start the whole cycle all over again. In the beginning of the eighth chapter, the doctor plainly states that you must grow as large as possible, as if we somehow missed the pattern that has been cemented from the onset. If you're craving exploration, there are opportunities to veer slightly off the main path if you have sharp eyes. Weak walls can be knocked down to find extra relics and sunstones, along with collectible treasures that imbue Knack with new abilities. There are tons of collectibles strewn throughout Knack's expansive worlds, but these pieces are worthless on their own. If you're lucky enough to complete a set, you get a perk that gives you a passive ability. It wasn't until I reached the ninth chapter that I completed my first gadget, more than eight hours into my adventure. And what did I receive after all that effort? Enemies released a small amount of sunstone power when defeated. Don't expect these collectibles to inject the diversity Knack so desperately needs. Just look at that Knack punch. It's hard to stifle a laugh when the doctor says, "No more sneaking around" after an enemy shoots at you, as if sneaking was ever an option. The most baffling part of Knack is its surprisingly high difficulty. Considering the cartoony artistic design and simple mechanics, you might assume that this game would be a cakewalk. But after you die a half-dozen times in the tutorial, that belief will be banished from your mind. When Knack is in his smallest form, he dies from just one or two attacks, and can stand only a couple more when he's bigger. So death comes frequently. If you're vigilant, you can avoid enemy advances by performing well-timed rolls, but even these should be used with caution. You're not invincible when rolling, so you can't abuse this maneuver. Now I love a good challenge, but dying is an annoyance in Knack because the combat sequences aren't interesting enough to play through once, let alone multiple times. There is a cooperative mode if you need a helping hand or want to offer one. Knack is as vulnerable as ever, but the second player controls Robo Knack who respawns after dying. Sadly, the action isn't any more fun when you're dragging a friend along for the ride. Knack's downfall is that it focuses entirely on combat, but doesn't offer enough variety or depth within its system to compel you onward. Any early thoughts you may have that there must be more to the punch-punch-repeat action than meets the eye are banished once you plow through hours of the same basic sequences. And even Knack's few attempts at diversity are merely competent. The occasional platforming scenario lacks the joy of movement so necessary for jumping to be engaging, and the platform placement doesn't require any cleverness to surpass. There's not one element of Knack to rally around, to excite you. And without that special something, Knack crumbles just like its piecemeal protagonist. Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
  If you've pre-ordered a PS4 and want to be completely ready to go as soon as the console is out of the box, the day-one patch for the system is available to download right now at the official Sony PlayStation site. The site lists the complete instructions for downloading and installing the patch, but all you need to get started is a computer with an Internet connection and 1GB USB stick. On the USB, make a folder name PS4, then another labeled UPDATE. You'll download the patch 1.5 file into that "update" folder. While the console will function without the update, here are the features that get opened up: Remote play (make sure your PS Vita is up-to-date)Second screen -- an application that works with PS Vita and and the PlayStation app on iOS and Android.Share functionality for video recording and taking screenshotsBroadcasting (and spectating) gameplay streamsAbility to play while you downloadParty voice chatFace recognition and voice commandsBackground music playerOnline multiplayerBlu-ray and DVD playback functionality The PlayStation 4 launches this Friday, November 15, in the US. Be sure to bookmark our livestream of the event where the GameSpot crew will be playing PS4 games and answering all your questions.   Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
Resogun is a supercharged reimagining of the classic 1980 arcade game Defender. From a presentation standpoint, the unorthodox use of voxels makes it a bit of a curiosity, too. These tiny building blocks allow the environment to crumble when enemies crash and explode nearby, culminating in the total destruction of every stage. It's destructible environments taken to the extreme, and an impressive display of next-gen technology to boot, but Resogun isn't a game that relies on visual gimmicks.   Comparing Resogun to Defender gives you a basic understanding of the game's structure. Both are side-scrolling spaceship shooters that let you freely move left or right and encourage you to rescue stranded humans sprinkled throughout each stage. However, Resogun is a bit different from its muse, with the playing field wrapped around a large cylinder, rather than represented as a looping 2D map, and most importantly, your ship has far greater firepower and maneuverability than your the meager ship in Defender. With these modern trappings, whether you're zipping through waves of enemies, luring them into a trap, or decimating entire phalanxes in a flash, there's rarely a lull in the action. The calm before the storm. The near nonstop assault on your ship comes from a variety of enemies, some small and some large, with different flight patterns and behaviors. There are swarms of gnat-like vessels that track your movement, free-floating laser cannons that can block your path, and other ships that divide into smaller but equally deadly units upon impact. Quite often, you can fly to a less-populated section of a stage and catch your breath when things get too frantic, but at some point, you have to face the enemies you left behind.   On top of your battle for self-preservation, there are other lives worth fighting for. Throughout each stage, 10 or so human captives await rescue, which comes only when you shoot down green "keeper" ships. These enemies fly solo or in groups, appearing for brief windows of time before slipping out of sight for good. Felling these wardens-in-flight frees a particular captive, who aimlessly wander around the level, waiting for a ride home before they're recaptured. If you're shot down while the humans are on the ground, or if you ignore them for too long and lose sight of the keeper ships, it's the end of the road for the unfortunate humans. But should you manage to scoop them up and deliver them to one of two tractor beams at the top of the stage, you collect a reward in the form of points or equipment upgrades.   It's challenging to focus on keepers and humans when you've got problems of your own, but shield and weapon upgrades are vital to your continued success. They allow you to absorb an extra hit and extend the strength and reach of your weapons. You constantly need to balance the associated risks and rewards of trying to be a hero. Making the most of a situation and getting out alive requires quick reflexes. Thankfully, Resogun's controls are tight, and you've got three abilities to exploit along the way. Each of your three ships comes equipped with a trio of tools: boost, overdrive, and bombs. Bombs in Resogun do what any good bomb should: blow up everything in sight. There's a trade-off to consider when chasing high scores, though. With no enemies to shoot, it's next to impossible to continue chaining kills quickly enough to build up your score multiplier, which is the key to hitting the top of the leaderboard.   When enemies die, be it from a standard cannon or a bomb, they leave behind a collection of green voxels that you can collect to fill your ship's overdrive meter. Once your meter's at capacity, activating overdrive expends this energy as an enormous jet for a limited amount of time. Boost might not sound like an ability that feeds into your ship's destructive tendencies, but this evasive maneuver ends with a bang, killing anything in close proximity. Unlike with overdrive, you have control over the duration of boosting, allowing you to strategically conserve resources, or plow into enemy ranks, destroying them from within.   Live long enough to see the end of a stage, and you're rewarded by a meeting with one of Resogun's five gigantic bosses. Unlike typical ships, most bosses come in complex and unusual forms. You can attack some of these juggernauts freely, but other bosses require pinpoint marksmanship. The first stage boss, for example, is a giant two-tiered ring with laser cannons floating in the space between each ring. You have to shoot your way through the first ring and navigate the laser-filled void to reach the boss's weak spot in the middle. It's not a ground-breaking boss design, but it does change up the pace of Resogun's core gameplay between stages.   Bosses are also relentlessly strong. In the game's later stages, surviving a boss's onslaught is next to impossible without enough extra lives and bombs to turn the tide in your favor. In these cases, the biggest challenge is the fight leading up to the boss. Fail to play your best, and it's easy to end up at a boss with little hope for success, though even if you have a healthy stash of extra lives and bombs, you can't brute-force your way through a fight. These unforgiving confrontations motivate you to perform at your best, making victory that much sweeter when it comes. Resogun's controls, presentation, and rapid-fire enemy assaults make for an exciting experience. You're constantly under pressure, practically suffocating behind swarms of enemies, but you're never without the means for survival. In this way, playing Resogun is an exercise in twitch gameplay and decision making, triggering a rush of adrenaline and testing the limits of your ability. It helps that the accompanying beat of the techno-laden soundtrack and the constant trickle of voxels are mesmerizing, pulling you into the moment every step of the way.   The only downside to Resogun is the short-stack of levels you get to explore. There are four difficulties to choose from, which provides a bit of variety, but the game's five stages don't stay fresh forever. Having three ships helps, but it doesn't take long for the flow of surprises to dry up and the race for high scores to take over. That said, Resogun remains fun to play even when the joy of discovery fades away. It's classic arcade action imbued with hard-hitting artistic and gameplay elements. Falling in love with Resogun is easy, and mastering it is challenging, and the combination of these two qualities makes Resogun almost impossible to put down.   Editor's note: Resogun's online coop mode was not available when this review was published. As such, it will be updated accordingly once the feature goes live. Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
  Ubisoft is looking into reports of multiplayer connectivity issues for the recently released open-world game Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, the developer said on Twitter today. "We've seen reports about connection issues and [are] actively investigating this with members of the community and internally," Ubisoft said. It is unclear which platforms are being affected by the connectivity issues. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, and Wii U. Though it remains to be seen when Ubisoft will deliver a patch to fix the reported connectivity issues, the developer added that a new title update featuring around 275 general gameplay fixes is currently with Microsoft and Sony now for certification. The update will bring changes to Wolfpack balancing and tweaks for scoring, as well as fixes for crashes and exploits, among other things. A release date for this patch was not announced. Versions of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were released yesterday, ahead of both next-generation platforms' public release dates.   Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Grand Theft Auto parent publisher Take-Two Interactive, will sleep outdoors in New York City on November 21 to support child homelessness charity Covenant House. Temperatures are expected to be in the 30s overnight. The city saw snowfall earlier in the week. Strauss Zelnick   "I am sleeping out on November 21 so that homeless youth don't have to. It will be dark. It will be tough. But for one night, I can give up the comforts of home knowing it can bring warmth and hope to young people who need it most," reads a statement on Zelnick's page. Zelnick is one of many executives and celebrities who are taking part in the Sleep Out: Executive Edition to raise money to support Covenant House. Joining him will be New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and New York Red Bulls general manager Jerome de Bontin, among others. All participants must raise at least $5,000. Zelnick has raised over $8,000. The entire New York City campaign, however, remains short of its $1,234,000 goal, with $733,000 raised so far. Covenant House provides help for homeless children, giving food, shelter, crisis care, and other essential services to homeless and runaway children. The charity also strives to assist these children achieve an independent adulthood. The group helped over 60,000 young people in 2012 alone. Zelnick's own Zelnick Media is a sponsor of the 2013 Sleep Out.   Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
After booting up the PlayStation 4 this Friday, the first thing users will notice about the next-generation console is its new user interface and dashboard. Both the UI and dashboard have been overhauled from the PlayStation 3, though the changes are not altogether radical.   In a new video, GameSpot editors Peter Brown and Carolyn Petit walk you through the changes Sony has made to the UI and dashboard, as well as provide a demonstration of how the PlayStation Network looks and operates on the PS4 GameSpot's video coverage of the PS4 also includes a demonstration on how to install a new hard drive, how PlayStation Vita Remote Play works, and a general hardware overview. The PS4 will be officially released on Friday, November 15 in North America for $400. GameSpot will have continuing video and written coverage of the system leading up to and following launch.   Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
How far can you take the PS Vita from your PlayStation 4 while using Remote Play? We tested it out during a Battlefield 4 demo at the GameSpot office today and were able to get about about 50 feet before the handheld stopped responding. In the video below, editor Danny O’Dwyer explains that the game quality on Vita does not get progressively worse the further you get from the console; the distance between where the system works and when it stops is a quick cut-off. The pro there is that there’s no degradation in quality or gameplay responsiveness. However that also means you lose connectivity with no warning. After losing your connection, the system kicks you out of the game and asks you to reconnect your controller. When you bring the Vita back into the PS4’s range, you can immediately jump back into the game without having to restart the Vita system or manually resyncing. As a caveat, GameSpot has more concrete walls than most normal homes and also more large, open areas -- you can see in the video that O'Dwyer explores two sides of the office to test this. Also, our offices wired and wi-fi connection uses a faster than T3 connection, so results may vary significantly on slower networks. GameSpot's video coverage of the PS4 also includes a demonstration on how to install a new hard drive, an in-depth look at the new UI and dashboard, and a general hardware overview. The PS4 releases this Friday, November 15 in North America for $400. Keep checking GameSpot for continuing coverage of the system leading up to and following launch. Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
[UPDATE] All service has been restored, EA confirmed this afternoon. "This issue was fixed and services were restored as of this morning. We apologize for the downtime," EA said. The original story is below. Electronic Arts' entire online functionality for all games is currently offline, the publisher said today on its support website. "Our systems that handle online gameplay, matchmaking, and login are offline for all of our titles," EA said. "This means that you may unable to play online or may get dropped from multiplayer matches, and will not be able to login to EA sites." "We are aware of this problem are we are working hard to fix things as quickly as possible. We apologize for the interruption and thank you for your patience while we fix the problem," the statement continues. It is not clear what is causing the issue or when the problem will be resolved. GameSpot will update this story as more details become available. Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
The flames are maracas. Listen to their rhythmic shakes, but don't dwell for too long; the composition is just getting started. Roll toward the notes that lie flush against the nearby buildings. One, two, and then three drum beats layer on top, and your foot starts to tap. Missiles provide bass, pounding out a catchy riff as they fly across the screen, while the smokestack twangs a guitar melody. As the world awakens, the music begins to swell. Cities is a song that has stayed with me for more than a year, and whenever I revisit it, I'm transported once more by the infectious rhythm. The beat is so enthralling that I sit idly on rooftops, just letting it soak in. But it's the lyrics that cement this as one of my favorite stages. A platform hovers in the sky, flashing words such as "move," "twist," "hurt," and "lose" while Beck belts out the accompanying lyrics. I could listen to this for hours. I often feel hesitant to revisit a beloved game. How could reality possibly live up to the memories I have constructed? And yet, returning to Sound Shapes so long after reviewing it for the PlayStation 3 and Vita was like curling up in my cozy bed, free from the worries that dominate my waking hours. There's a cohesion to this experience that's uncommon in games. The music is everywhere. Trees chime, saw blades tick, and janitors sigh. Such sounds aren't music on their own, merely a backdrop beat, and it reminds me of how melodic life can be. Listen to the white noise of distant conversations while sitting in a park; hear the birds chirping overhead while the waves from a nearby lake roll in. It's the music of life--the rhythm that provides the foundation of every moment--that's always around if your ears are open. Sound Shapes harnesses this energy, and the results are magnificent. Worlds are alive. They breathe like sentient organisms, ignoring your existence as they let time carry on. But you're not just a bystander. As an amorphous blob, your abstraction allows you to blend into any environment. From the brisk outdoors to a bustling office and a bursting volcano, the environments feel like home to your nondescript character no matter how strange they become. And there are notes to collect, a way for you to contribute to the building score. So you roll along the ground, up walls and across ceilings, listening to the environment sing as you add instruments of your own. A piano is slowly added to the mix, along with a drum beat that wouldn't be out of place in a dance hall. In another land, a harp adds an ethereal quality that conjures images of angels smiling from above. The notes are all optional. You could skip them all if you merely want to reach the end. But why would you hinder your enjoyment? Every note further enriches the soundtrack, and it's a reward in itself to hear the songs evolve as you venture forth. Listen to the white noise of distant conversations while sitting in a park; hear the birds chirping overhead while the waves from a nearby pond roll in.   Music is everywhere--everything--but the beauty of Sound Shapes goes beyond the auditory pleasures. You scout the two-dimensional environments for notes, not only because you want to add color to the songs, but because there is joy in movement. Your blob sticks to some surfaces, is repelled by others, and dies from anything that glows red. And as you learn your limitations, you appreciate how intricately designed the levels are. Maybe you ride across the treacherous pit on the tail of a missile, dropping onto an alien creature before you meet your end on a spiky trap. When you venture through D-Cade--an album whose music was created by Deadmau5--you dodge lasers being shot from the eyes of robots, moving quickly and precisely to clear each room before you vanish in a puff of smoke. By ensuring the action is every bit as fascinating as the music, Sound Shapes reaches you on both an emotional and a physical level. All of your senses tingle as you discover what lies ahead. When I first reviewed Sound Shapes in August of 2012, I evaluated the creation tools based on how accessible and robust they were. Laying down tracks and shaping environments is so easy that even I, an admittedly unimaginative designer, could craft something that at least approached competency. But I could only guess at how a talented community would handle those tools. Revisiting Sound Shapes gave me a chance to see how the user-created library has grown, and it has cemented this game as something truly exceptional. The core levels of Sound Shapes use a combination of music and difficulty to steer emotions. My sense of discovery was piqued in Corporeal as I chased cats to trigger platforms while viewing the corporate world through an abstract lens. Beyonder removes the shackles of gravity by placing me in a spacecraft, whereas D-Cade's amped-up challenge makes my heart race. The wide spectrum that the albums encompass is riveting, so much so that I have played through these tracks a half-dozen times just to feel those emotions again. But it's in the user-made levels that I now understand how much can be communicated through these simple tools. Melancholia stands out from other stages in the greatest hits library of user-created stages. A crying child serves as the thumbnail, and there's a puddle of blood near his feet. The first section is ominous, making my breath catch in my throat. Half of the screen is filled with a red, pulsing gravestone. Etched on the face of it are the words "In Memory of My Beloved Son, Tom, 2009-2012" and "My Dear Wife, Liz, 1980-2012." Tombs dot the rest of your view, with white crosses marking each burial plot. Tom passed away when he was only 3 years old, and Liz was only a year older than me. How utterly heartbreaking. As you move onward, you learn the horrible events that have defined the last year for user jool2306: a lonely hospital room, a woman perched on a rooftop, and the depressing thoughts that must swirl in the mind of anyone who has suffered such losses. Was it possible that Sound Shapes provided an outlet for a grieving father and husband? Revisiting Sound Shapes gave me a chance to see how the user-created library has grown, and it has cemented this game as something truly exceptional. Community-made levels encompass a vast array of emotions, and many stand proud next to the developer levels. In A Walk in the Park, I rolled past snapshots of the quiet moments that I too often take for granted. A mother duck and her duckling ignore those around them as the mother passes on the secrets to survival to her hungry kin. In another scene, someone happily flies a kite, content to be alone in nature doing an activity that he loves. A couple walks hand in hand, off the beaten path into the trees where serenity thrives. In another level, Bastion, two robots wait for you to move, and they fire crisscrossing lasers if you try to sneak by them. These are just three of many incredible stages I discovered, and the range of emotions they deliver and the quality of the construction were impressive. So many games have amazing creation tools that are interesting to use but rarely result in anything worthwhile to play, but in Sound Shapes, you experience excitement or grief or any other of a wide range of emotions that makes you eager to see what else is out there. Sound Shapes is a remarkable convergence of music and platforming. Because I've played through the main albums so many times, the levels didn't hit me as powerfully as they once did. But the community levels hammered home just how singular and enthralling this game is. There is so much personality infused in these stages that I felt as if I understood the people who designed them, at least a little. And that's what great tools, and a great community, can do. Sound Shapes is a transcendent experience in so many ways. Maybe its most important contribution is giving a voice to the world through music and action. Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
The Killzone series has often been lauded for its technological merits, but its artistic merits go too often unheralded. To define these games through terms like "IBL sampling" and "particle vertices" diminishes their striking beauty. Like its predecessors, Killzone: Shadow Fall is likely to be described through a technical lens, and the game certainly deserves praise for how many polygons it packs into its most expansive landscapes. Its buttery-smooth performance is also bound to earn kudos: Shadow Fall smooths away the frame rate hitches and texture pop-in we've become so accustomed to in even the most visually impressive console shooters. More wonderful, however, is the art the software's ones and zeroes convey. Shadow Fall brings the ongoing conflict between the series' warring races to planet Vekta, which provides a stark contrast to the hazy Helghan environs we explored in the previous two games. Vekta's gleaming blue seas and futuristic cityscapes have supplanted Helghan's reddened skies and intimidating dust storms. Where the Helghast were at the mercy of their harsh climate, the Vektans have made peace with nature. Their capital city may reach into the clouds and spread across the terrain, but birds still fly freely between skyscrapers, and massive mountains provide a sweeping backdrop. This is a beautiful setting for a first-person shooter, and a fine showcase for the visual possibilities new consoles introduce. At first you might think that Shadow Fall doesn't represent a giant graphical leap forward, but it isn't displaying the typical shooter's limited spaces. You traverse a fair share of corridors, but you also float through the vastness of space and engage Helghast soldiers on stretches of rocky, open land. Shadow Fall's levels more closely resemble Crysis 2 and Crysis 3's areas than any prior Killzone game's, yet the game displays such expanses with more clarity than Killzone 3 displayed its tighter zones. It's too bad that where Killzone 3 packed its maps with exciting action sequences, Shadow Fall's campaign forgot to bring the thrills. Killzone: Shadow Fall uses its downtime to remind you of how pretty it is, but not in service of any particular narrative effect. The basics are perfectly sound, at least. Shadow Fall's sense of weight doesn't match Killzone 2's, but its shooting and movement are exceptionally fluid. Each gun is enjoyable to shoot--the shotgun in particular, which blasts enemies backwards with satisfying oomph. Shadow Fall also makes a go at diversification. Zero-G sequences have you floating towards airlocks and you avoid the watchful eyes of patrolling Helghast in a stealth mission. You move from firing at soldiers while avoiding high-speed commuter trains to hacking spider drones and initiating their self-destruct sequence. The visual variety is commendable. The rain pelts metal walkways during a nighttime sojourn through an industrial installation, in contrast to the sunlit cliffs that play home to your early shootouts. Who turned the light on? The problem is that none of these activities are particularly interesting. Helghast soldiers roam the larger areas, but they are too few in number, and don't offer much challenge. There are precious few large-scale shootouts; instead, you typically face a small handful of foes who take your bullets and collapse into a heap of ragdoll limbs without too much trouble. More troublesome is how much time you spend doing relatively little but moving through the game's admittedly gorgeous spaces. Granted, many shooters take time to breathe between shootouts, building their worlds and developing their characters by way of slower-paced exploration and dramatic cutscenes. Killzone: Shadow Fall uses its downtime to remind you of how pretty it is, but not in service of any particular narrative effect. In one of several weightless sequences, you accompany a sluggish space capsule as it meanders towards its destination, blasting the buzzing drones that appear like clockwork and hinder your progress. The sequence wears out its welcome long before you arrive at the airlock. It doesn't build tension, deepen your understanding of the conflict, or stimulate you with great action. It's simply boring--one more insubstantial graphical set piece. Elsewhere, you join a checkpoint queue that recalls Half-Life 2's opening, but where Valve's masterpiece used overheard dialogue and televised broadcasts to introduce you to the oppressive City 17, this noninteractive wait provides few thematic details you don't already know, making its length seem unnecessary and self-indulgent. Finally... some Helghast to shoot! Shadow Fall announces its potential in later levels, where you shoot explosive canisters and joyfully ride the resulting billows of energy to higher ground. In this tense chapter, you must consider positioning and cover opportunities lest a colossal security contraption liquidate your physical assets. When facing the nameless Helghast grunts, it was the battles against shielded troopers that I most enjoyed. These meanies give you a reason to make use of the little flying gadget that accompanies you on your journey. Typically, I used it as an offensive distraction, commanding it to draw enemies' attention by firing at them, which allowed me time to execute them with a deadly blast from my rifle, or with a mighty knife stab. Your attack drone is most handy because it weakens and stuns shielded enemies, giving you a chance to strike them down as they stumble. Guerrilla Games remembered what drew me and many others to the front lines of online war, and it's here that Shadow Fall emerges from the rubble and flies into the electric skies. The drone also serves as a rappel device, allowing you to slide to lower levels, though the game makes little use of this mechanic, and it's surprisingly easy to plummet to your death if you don't carefully select where to attach the hook. I rarely used the drone's shielding capabilities given how easy Shadow Fall is on its default difficulty level, and in fact, I was surprised once I'd finished to see how many full chapters I completed without once succumbing to death. The exception to this rule was a chapter that has you zigzagging between collapsing superstructures in a frustrating freefall sequence that prizes its action-film theatrics over proper playability. It's difficult to admire wanton destruction when the rules aren't well established. One element of Killzone: Shadow Fall that's clearly superior to its predecessors is its story, which explores an aspect of the Vektan-versus-Helghast conflict that had gone curiously underscrutinized. The red-eyed Helghast are hardly moral lighthouses, but the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance's righteousness has never been called into question. Now, as Shadow Marshal Lucas Kellan, you face the atrocities your own faction has committed. The surviving Helghast have been offered a new home on Vekta, where the two races are physically separated by a security wall and engage in an uneasy cold war. Lucas's initial loyalties are established in the opening chapter, which gives Shadow Fall an intimate touch Killzone has always lacked, and Kellan ultimately finds himself torn between his fiery father figure and the mandates of his own conscience. The story beats a predictable drum, and Lucas is an underdeveloped hero who is only remarkable for what he does as opposed to who he is, but at no point did I look back longingly on Rico and Garza's meathead chatter. Why hello there, mysterious cloaked woman. Where Shadow Fall's campaign eases back on the action, its class-based multiplayer options front-load the thrills, and as always, the Warzone is at the center. Warzone isn't a mode so much as a template. It allows you to mix and match various modes such as Team Deathmatch, Capture and Hold, and many others. Classic Warzone randomizes these modes and is an instant thrill. Guerrilla Games is a master of map design, and Killzone: Shadow Fall maintains the series' high bar. The Remains map recalls Killzone 2's finest online moments. Crumbling buildings and massive blast holes disrupt your line of sight and keep you looking up and down as well as all around, listening for the telltale footsteps and rat-a-tat-tats that betray nearby soldiers. Combatants weave through corridors and converge in the courtyards and open streets that shape the most frenzied battles. Penthouse is another treasure among the 10 maps, featuring a rotating core that causes its four entryways to open and close, bringing an extra tactical concern to the firefight. An attempt to be clever and wait for one entrance to become accessible could end with a knife in your back when the entrance behind you clears instead. Players taking alternate routes are guaranteed to clash as they circle the surrounding hallways, and the victor in a surprise one-on-one encounter is typically the one who hits the trigger--or who pulls out a knife--first. Cloaked teams slinked through a forest armed only with sniper rifles, desperate to stay alive. On these maps and others, varying objectives pull you into action hotspots, where a dozen or more combatants vie for control. A well-placed spawn generator (which allows teammates to spawn outside of your base) can turn a calm theater into an unstable battlezone where a sudden glut of Helghast soldiers descend upon a group of defending Vektan security agents. The rotating modes keep you on your toes, but it isn't just the mad dash to the next capture point that lights my fire. After one leg of the battle ends, there's a restless pause while teams await instructions, giving me a chance to gun down unfocused fighters who let down their guard. Shadow Fall features three classes--scout, assault, and support--in contrast to Killzone 3's five, though classes possess more than just two special abilities. While I dabbled as a scout, I'm not one to snipe from the shadows or cloak myself from view. I gravitated to the support class, in part because I love the shotgun's potency, but also because I enjoyed earning points each time a teammate used a spawn beacon I'd placed. I also enjoyed coming to the rescue of fallen comrades in need of revival, in part because I could summon a healing drone to the battlefield. What a nice change from using a defibrillator to shock a friend back to life. That guy's shoulder has been killed to death. Warzones let you arrange match types as you see fit, but you aren't limited to the default versions. You can customize matches in significant ways, and if you're worried about how well they'll play out online, you can always populate the match with bots. (The scarcity of bot support in other online shooters continues to exasperate me.) You can mess with the number of capture beacons, change time limits, and limit players to specific classes and weapons. Or try creating asymmetrical teams, forcing one to use pistols and allowing the opposing team to cloak themselves. You can significantly alter the pace of a multiplayer match by altering the parameters. I'm excited to see what anarchy results in a match with everyone armed with electrical squad cannons and carrying maximum ammo, and the personalized warzones I did play were notably different from each other. In one creation, cloaked teams slinked through a forest armed only with sniper rifles, desperate to stay alive, knowing that this match type didn't support respawning. In another match type, pump-action shotguns ruled the day. Each player possessed a special ability that allowed for hurried sprinting, turning a Capture and Hold match into a bloody close-range tug of war. As much as I enjoyed my online time with Killzone: Shadow Fall--and as much as I will enjoy lots more time with it, unlocking perks that allow me to personalize my weapons--I missed Killzone 3's jump pack, which brought a nifty nimbleness to the battlegrounds. I missed it in Shadow Fall's disappointing single-player campaign, too, which sorely needed a shot of adrenaline. Where I look back fondly on Killzone 2's finest single-player moments, the moments I recall here are those in which I wandered through corridors and rocky meadows wondering where the bad guys were. Luckily, Guerrilla Games remembered what drew me and many others to the front lines of online war, and it's here that Shadow Fall emerges from the rubble and flies into the electric skies. Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
The PlayStation 4 may be an impressive piece of kit, but a games console lives and dies by the quality of its games. So how does the PlayStation 4's launch line-up fare? What are the standout titles that you simply must have? And which ones are best avoided? Check out all of GameSpot's reviews of the PlayStation 4's launch line-up below. We'll be updating our PlayStation 4 coverage as the launch rolls on (including adding even more reviews), so make sure to head to our PS4 hub page for all of the latest information. Killzone Shadow Fall: Read our review   Knack: Read our review   Resogun: Read our review   Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag: Read our review   Call of Duty: Ghosts: Read our review     Battlefield 4: Read our review   Sound Shapes: Read our review Contrast: Read our review   Flower: Read our review Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
The Battlefield series' main competitor is not the Call of Duty series, DICE LA general manager Frederik Loving has said, (as reported by gamesindustry). Loving presented at the Montreal International Game Summit which took place on November 11-12. The general manager stated that while he acknowledged Activision's Call of Duty franchise as a direct competitor, he did not class it as Battlefield's main competitor. Loving stated that time, not money, had become the main factor for the Battlefield fanbase. He cited HBO and Spotify as examples of main competitors to the franchise. Loving went on to describe his own use of Facebook as an example of something which he had invested a lot of time into, acting as a powerful motivator to continue using the same service if a new competitor were to arise. Battlefield 4 launched earlier this month for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. The game was praised in GameSpot's review for its map design and interesting game modes. Battlefield 4 will be available for both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 at launch.   Info from Gamespot.com
2013-11-14
Contrast is a game concerned with intangible ideas: the substance of a shadow, and the makeup of a child's broken heart. As a mysterious figure named Dawn, you aid a young girl named Didi in her efforts to prevent her family from falling apart. You don't exist fully in Didi's reality; rather, she is the only person you can see and who can see you. Everyone else appears as a mere shadow projected on the wall, and you yourself have the ability to shift between a corporeal, three-dimensional existence and a silhouetted, two-dimensional one. Contrast conjures up a captivating and surreal mid-20th century European atmosphere of jazz clubs and cabaret singers, and its use of shadows is sometimes striking. But Contrast's puzzles and platforming rarely call for you to do more than go through the motions, and far too often, the roughness of its physics shatters the elegant ambiance of its world. Didi's parents are on the rocks, and as you follow the intrepid Didi through town on her quest to keep her family together, the story of their troubled romance plays out in shadow vignettes. Noir-flavored dialogue gives the interactions of the troubled lovers a smoky edge; when Kat tells Johnny that he's "a carousel of broken dreams," you might feel like you're in the midst of an intoxicating, Casablanca-esque love story. And indeed, the game makes a few explicit references to that classic film. Kat and Johnny's relationship has seen better days. But these enticing glimpses of a rocky relationship between two strong-willed people aren't just for show. As the characters' large shadows play out their parts in these scenes, you can shift into a shadow yourself, leaping on their outstretched arms or their shoulders and using their movements to help you reach places you otherwise couldn't. You can leap onto just about any shadow on any wall, and a few basic puzzles require you to manipulate light sources so that objects cast shadows that you can use to your advantage. And in one elaborate and especially enjoyable sequence, you fill in for a princess puppet in a story about a brave, knight-rescuing princess that Didi's father cooks up to entertain his daughter. The imagery and dialogue of these shadow vignettes make Contrast a distinctive and intermittently seductive experience. As you progress through the game, you earn a few new abilities that you must put to use to advance, including a dash move that lets you pass through thin shadows, and the ability to pick up boxes or spheres and shift them into shadow form. This latter ability factors into the occasional puzzle that offers a satisfying "aha!" moment as the pieces fall into place and you realize what you need to do to get the box to its destination. Shifting into shadows is a neat trick. It's too bad Contrast doesn't do more with it. But for the most part, what you need to do is plain as day, and once the pleasure of being in Contrast’s world has worn off, the act of carrying boxes around and pushing switches to make machinery do its thing becomes routine. The ability to shift objects in and out of shadow form also leads to frustration, because it's extremely common for Dawn to become stuck in the environment when snapping out of shadow form with an item in hand. You can usually get Dawn unstuck by leaping or dashing or just wobbling around for a bit, but the prevalence of this problem pulls you out of the mood Contrast's atmosphere and story strive to foster. There are collectibles throughout Contrast that shed a bit of light on the narrative, but the ultimate explanation of Dawn's existence is cursory and unrewarding. And despite a few strong moments, the game more often flounders in its efforts to mix substance and shadow into an enjoyable cocktail. The alchemy of Contrast doesn't quite pay off, and in the end, the game feels as insubstantial as the shadows that populate its world. Info from Gamespot.com


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