Category Archives: Previews

Early Access: Night Shift

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In a world where the sun has gone missing, you are a lone driver in a custom muscle car that can illuminate the mystery. This is the concept of Night Shift, a new game in Steam’s early access program from Brandon Brizzi, an artist on Skull Girls and the developer of 1000 amps.

Puzzles in Night Shift take many forms.

Puzzles in Night Shift take many forms.

One of the major appeals to the game is the art style and music. The game uses a 3d sprite render akin to the original Doom exe.  With the lower resolution sprites, Night Shift visually has an interesting retro appeal with a touch of TRON-glow for flavor. On the audio side, Brizzi has gone to Dance With The Dead’s 80’s-esque electronic rock sound for the game soundtrack. It’s an excellent fit for the game. So much so, the soundtrack lifts the game out from being mediocre and something to keep an eye on as it progresses.

At the core of Night Shift’s gameplay is a solid concept for a puzzle game based on interactions between the car you drive and other objects in the world. When entering a new section of the game, you are not specifically you need what to do but given hints to it. For example, one of the first hints you get is “Space Illuminates”. This may refer to how to use your head lights. It might also refer to a few other things as well. I am being a bit vague here on this example because one of the charms of the game right now is figuring out these messages through exploration and experimentation.

All of the puzzles have hints from these ghosts.

All of the puzzles have hints from these ghosts.

As this is an early access game a good amount of content and polish has yet to be done. One thing that is solid already is how the car moves and turns. However, One area of concern is how precise one has to line up on an object in order to interact with it. Another issue is a complete story has not been added to the game yet. Both are things known by the developer that needs work. In spite of these short comings, the game already feels solid and is something to look forward to when it is completed.

 

Title: Night Shift
Developer: Brandon Brizzi
Publisher: Brandon Brizzi
ESRB Rating:  N/A
Released: June 17, 2014 – Steam Early Access
Available For: Early Access on Steam for $4.99
Steam Store: http://store.steampowered.com/app/301050/

Review Statement: The author of this review purchased a copy of the game. 

Preview: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II

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The first Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing was a pleasant surprise. Releasing just after the disappointing launch of Diablo III, Neocore Games had the opportunity to capitalise on the fans angry at Blizzard for their decisions by bringing a different spin on the genre. The pretty cool aesthetic of steampunk and Victorian coupled with a slight twist on gameplay and snarky dialogue made it a surprising hit and was pretty popular upon release.

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Preview: Toukiden: The Age of Demons

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toukiden-screenshot-23The Monster Hunter craze is very hard to replicate. The Nintendo exclusive games have been nothing short of massive in Japan as well as a growing following in the US. That does mean there’s no Monster Hunter on the PlayStation Vita, despite it being a better fit possibly on Sony’s handheld. There have been some games on PlayStation Vita that aimed to be system’s Monster Hunter including Ragnarok Odyssey and Sony’s own Souls Sacrifice even though it changed some things up a bit. Toukiden: The Age of Demons is more traditional in terms of comparisons to Monster Hunter but with a nice art-style and ancient Japanese lore and music, Toukiden is one you should definitely keep your eye on.

In Toukiden: The Age of Demons, you visit a village which has been battling evil creatures that have been attacking the area for the last eight years since they made their way through a portal in an event known as “The Awakening.” The story is interesting to say the least and are sometimes advanced through great looking CG cut-scenes.

But it’s not in the premise and story that will keep you interested. The gameplay of Toukiden is what will keep you invested. In the game, you will choose your weapons from swords, knives, spears, gauntlets, chain and sickle, and a bow. Not only can you upgrade them, you can also create new ones with the materials you pick up in the battleground. This isn’t anything new to those who play much of the genre but it has an accessible but deep feeling to the mechanic.

While there is nothing massively different about the game that makes instantly unique, it’s actually in the execution of everything together that keeps you going back and playing the same missions over and over again. There is a lengthy demo available to download for everyone and it’ll last a few hours. When I reached the end of the demo, I just kept going, replaying the missions and completing the questions.

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The jobs you must do is broken into two: missions and quests. Missions are your standard quests that send you to do tasks in each map. Quests mostly require you to collect a certain number of materials. While they may sound like a grind, it’s the type of game that is all about the slow progression; although don’t take that as a negative.

Battling is fast and responsive. Depending on the mission, you can either take three AI controlled companions or go online and play with up to three other players online. Combat is fast and rather simple with each face button being all you really need. Should you want to pull of special abilities, you can hold the R button to unleash your mitama abilities.

Mitama are cards you will find on the battlefield by defeating enemies. They are as a buffer to help boost your stats as well as allow you to unleash four separate abilities. Each Mitama can be levelled up by using them on the battlefield or by spending your currency. As your mitama levels up, it will give you other boosts to help you when in combat.

Toukiden: The Age of Demons is coming to PlayStation Vita on February 14th.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier beta impressions

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It’s been almost five years since the last time we walked a mile in Ghost Recon’s shoes and after numerous delays, the next game in the franchise titled: “Ghost Recon: Future Soldier” is almost here. Ubisoft launched a multiplayer beta for people on Xbox 360 who bought Splinter Cell: Conviction two years ago or for those who have PlayStation Plus on the PS3. What was on offer was slim but it gave a great indication of what the full multiplayer suite has in store for us when the game launches on May 25th.

The beta featured two maps and two game modes. The two maps featured were titled mill and pipeline. Both maps offered different feeling environments that required different tactics to really succeed within. Pipeline is a big map, however the areas were broken off into smaller sections for more close range action and tactical placement. Utilising the engineer’s equipment right could result in you creating a great choke-point which is really important as the two game modes in the Future Soldier beta were objective based.

Mill on the other hand was more open and featured more natural terrain which resulted in a map that felt really fresh. Both maps were fun but I noticed myself voting for the mill map all the time after just a few matches. It’s open for more mid to long range players but also using the drone for the engineer can map out all the enemies.

Tactics play a major role in multiplayer matches and work extremely well. Working together as a team of different classes can really be an unstoppable force. A good scout and engineer team on the mills map could easily be a force to be reckoned with.

But the real force to be reckoned with is the other competitive multiplayer shooters out there. Does Ghost Recon Future Soldier stand a chance? Honestly, if enough people take the time to get to grips with the different feel and experience Future Soldier offers, it could easily be in the top 10 played games online within a few weeks. One feature that is sure to get gun-nuts drooling over is the gunsmith feature.

As you level up your class you earn tokens. This tokens can be used to unlock new parts for your gun. That may all sound like simple upgrading but its nothing like that. Every part you have and unlock have pros and cons and depending on what way you want to approach the battlefield, different attachment variations will be needed. To make the feature more impressive is just how much you can tweak on your gun. There are nearly a dozen different parts of an assault rifle yo can customise. This means that not many players’ assault rifles will look or shoot the same, making your player more catered to yourself as a player, and that’s something that could easily keep people invested in. The changes are not just cosmetic.

In the time the beta lasted, I had a real blast playing the multiplayer component. So much in fact that I noticed myself naturally choosing that game over all my other typical shooters I play online so I could throw a few rounds of saboteur on the mill map. Ghost Recon Future Soldier certainly has the potential to bring a lot of people to the future battlefield when the game launches on May 25th on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Hands-On Preview: Battlefield 3 Close Quarters

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Battlefield 3 went head to head against the juggernaut Modern Warfare 3 last year and honestly held up really well. The game has sold over 13 million copies to date and in Ireland especially is remaining in the top 10 selling games each week while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is now holding on dearly to stay in the top 20. It seems as though the open battlefields with infantry and vehicles has grabbed more and more people in. So when DICE and EA announced that its upcoming DLC will rid the game of the main aspect that separated the game from its competitors, people questioned their decision. After spending some time with Battlefield 3′s Close Quarters DLC, I can safely say that it still feels like Battlefield 3 and at the same time brings a whole new feel for the multiplayer. It’s safe to say I really liked it.

It was a couple of weeks since I had jumped on Battlefield 3′s multiplayer component. This was the longest gap of not playing the game since launch. I can safely say that playing Close Quarters has definitely got me right back into playing Battlefield 3. The maps on Close Quarters is are small and are for infantry only. Although this may feel like its just like its competitors but it really feels like a middle-ground. The maps aren’t too small, and all feature an amazing amount of destruction to further enhance the chaos.

The map that I played on was call Donya Fortress, a middle-eastern looking building complex set on multiple levels. The mode I played on was conquest and the game was only available on PlayStation 3, probably because the pack comes to the PS3 a week early.

The map featured some small, but open areas but also had a few closed corridors that were perfect for choke points. The open areas mostly feature multiple areas so open areas can’t always be uncontested. As firefights raged on, walls, pillars and most other things were torn asunder and honestly it made the fights more intense and fun to be a part of.

The game may have felt chaotic at times but it really was some of the most fun I’ve had in multiplayer in some time. The games that I played were closely contested, even one coming down to each team just having one token on each side. It was thrilling and witnessing “your team won” was just so satisfying.

The map pack will feature four maps, although two have yet to be announced. The pack will be available to download in June, with it arriving on PlayStation 3 a week early.

Hands-off Preview: Crysis 3

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It’s safe to say that I’m quite a big fan of Crysis. I remember playing the original game on my laptop chugging along at 13 FPS but I still completed it. It’s one of the only game franchises that make me feel like I’m playing more than just another shooter. You can imagine my anticipation then when I got to see Crysis 3 in action a couple of weeks ago in London. Here’s what I thought:

Crysis 3 sees you take the role of Phophet once again, the protagonist of the first game that killed himself in the second, or at least we thought he did. More than twenty years has passed since Crysis 2 and with that the setting, while a familiar place, has changed quite a bit. The game is once again set in New York City. However, thanks to the new domes spread around the city to contain the seph virus, nature has claimed the city. The developers right off the bat said that they didn’t want to do New York with a small aesthetic change and from the 10-15 minute demo presentation I witness, it definitely doesn’t look or feel that way.

Crytek mentioned that this time they want to make you feel like the hunter. Your newest toy, the bow, definitely goes some way to make you feel like one, picking one enemy off at a time. Crytek producer, Rasmus Højengaard, said after the presentation that they are not sure whether the bow will be an always equippable weapon or something you may pick up from time to time. Either way, it does bring more of a hunter feel the that game. On top of that, at one point when he shot the bow, it followed the arrow through the air and it was one of those “damn” moments just because of how good it looked.

That feeling was felt throughout the demo as the playing stuck to the high grass and utilising the stealth power of the nanosuit. Speaking of the nanosuit, it has changed in a few new ways. The first notable one is that you can now hack turrets to turn them on your enemies. There are no mini-games and other things that could slow down the pace so its nice and streamlined. You can now use a power punch when things get hairy but the up close executions with the knife should be the way to go. The last thing, and possibly the biggest edition is that the suit is able to use alien weaponry that can certainly change the flow of combat.

This was seen when the player used the alien mortar gun that sent blue explosions everywhere that just looked glorious. There is new human weaponry though too in the form of a gun that can shoot 500 rounds a second. No that’s not a typo, five hundred rounds a second and it sounds amazing, like rolling thunder.

It wouldn’t be right to talk about Crysis without mentioning the CryEngine 3. Yes simply put, its the best looking game I’ve seen to date. Although the demo was being played with an Xbox 360 controller, it was on PC and it just looked phenomenal. The demo level was set in a swampy area and bugs were flying around and when the player stopped for a moment you could see frogs hopping about in the swampland. It’s attention to detail that no one else does in shooters like Crytek.

Although the game is at early days I did feel slight reservations. A part of me can’t shake the feeling that it might play too much like Crysis 2. Don’t get me wrong because Crysis 2 played amazingly well but the fact that you are still in New York, I just hope that the environments are diverse enough and there are enough set-pieces that really keep players invested. For now, colour me very interested as Crysis 3 launches next Spring on Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, and PC.

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