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The Power Of The Lost: Why Xcom 2 Has Only Gotten Better

The Power Of The Lost: Why Xcom 2 Has Only Gotten Better

Sneaking in behind a glut of release, Xcom 2 quietly deployed its first expansion pack. War of The Chosen isn’t merely a fresh offering of a few new tricks, but a clear injection of ideas and mechanics that elevate the game to a whole new level. While the new menacing Chosen Advent enemies may grab the headlines, it’s the curious new enemy faction that truly changes things up.   Lost & Found  The initial eye rolling that accompanies The Lost’s debut is both to be expected and respected. They may not share the same name, but The Lost are essentially zombies. Those slow walking, rotting bags of flesh, that have bogged down popular media for nearly a decade now. We’ve seen them at pretty much every turn since the zombie revival burst open with 2004′s Dawn of the Dead. Video games thrive on the undead masses, constantly deploying them into post apocalyptic settings or making them the core focus of a so so experience. Xcom 2 falls victim to similar ideas, The Lost have all the traits of zombies all the way down their shambling movements. But there’s a catch. Instead of being a tired trope that offers little, The Lost add a whole new dimension to the core gameplay. More than just a gimmick, their presence creates more choices and outcomes. They force the player to adapt and manage unforeseen situations. At times, all you can do is endure. Alone, The Lost are merely cannon fodder. Low hit points and the inability to think tactically result in them becoming free kills, at least for a time. A series of clever mechanics around them create a set of unofficial rules of engagement. Aim for the head, keep your distance and never use explosives. For every echoing thunder of a grenade or a near by car exploding, a new horde is ushered. The Lost will pour into the battlefield, heading directly for the source of the sound. No longer a singular token enemy, but a wall of fleshy undead dread. Quantity over quality has never been so intimidating.   Aim For The Head   The once delicate balancing act of dealing with the Alien threat has officially been skewered. The Lost hold no allegiances beyond the need to kill. Be it Xcom or Advent, they’ll take a chunk out of either. Where most developers would leave this as it is, Firaxis Games have gone the extra mile. The Lost can be seen as both an enemy and an asset. Their blind devotion to the kill can be utilized by the plucky commander to the benefit of Xcom. Creating explosions in the heart of Advent squads draws The Lost’s attention. Before you know it, the once deadly incoming horde has not become a valuable tool. But what if it all goes wrong? Accumulation of failures has always been at the heart of Xcom. A few missed shots, a mistaken attempt to lure the enemy. A single slip up and spell the end for an Xcom operator, or even an entire squad. A single miss placed shot, even with the handy free action gained by killing a Lost, generates immense pressure. They move closer and closer with each turn, one after another. Smothering a single operator, refusing to let them escape. Battling between dice rolls and diminishing reloads, the tide of Lost become unstoppable. Overrun Those brief seconds of judgment between turns allow for the doubts to sink. Repeating murmurs of ‘what if’ plague each choice. Dealing with Advent is one thing, you can predict their need for self-preservation, The Lost is a different foe. Slamming round after round into their advance, struggling to keep your head above the tide. It’s truly exhilarating. These are the moments in which heroes are born. Pvt. Sammy Forgotten, Cpl.Pete Peterson, your backup squad you never cared very much. Suddenly they’re providing fire that’s taking out the incoming Lost War of Chosen does a fantastic job of making the best use of forgotten operatives. Be in the off-screen missions found in the Resistance Ring, or an Xcom member of any rank taking down Lost. Everyone and everything fit into the overall movement of the game. It’s a nice twist that an enemy called The Lost can truly make every member of your squad feel useful. A simple threat that creates an extra layer of depth that scales beyond something else to kill. Xcom 2′s The Lost truly is an improvement to a game that was already excelling....

Overwatch’s Christmas Content Is More Of What Makes Overwatch Great

Overwatch’s Christmas Content Is More Of What Makes Overwatch Great

It’s the Christmas season, Overwatch is in full festive cheer. The latest content drop is filled with Santa hats, elf ears and snowball fights. Aside from all the new skins, sprays and poses, the latest content provides a great example of why Overwatch works so well, and I’m not talking about the gameplay. Blizzard have masterfully built worlds for years now. Their ability to create new various universes, filling them with characters and lore, is arguably their greatest asset. Much like World of Warcraft and Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch is filled with little details that breathe life into the world.   At this point, we’ve all fallen in-love with the characters, even with their limited back story. Their traits and personalities allow them to become more than just a role within the game. Tracer could have just been ‘the fast one’, Reinhardt left as nothing but ‘the shield guy’, but they’re more than that. Each character doesn’t just feel unique, they act it. Their one liners when they take down a enemy, their remarks when someone gives them a heal. It’s a collection of little touches that give the game, as well as the heroes, some personality. Interactions between the characters is something Overwatch does wonderfully. Various bits of backstory and lore are exposed in these interactions, supplying some level of humanity to a game about heroes.   Blizzard could have messed it up, they really could. Forcing interactions and overdoing one liners is a problem a lot of games suffer from. Blizzard does it in such a organic way that it becomes second nature. Throughout the game, players can find little touches that link heroes together. The recent Christmas content provides a great example of this, focusing in on two characters. Roadhog and Junkrat are partners in crime, popping up throughout Overwatch’s lore. Those with a keen eye would have noticed Roadhog’s latest festive skin features a neat detail on his gun. Tucked away on the side of Roadhog’s scrap cannon is a short message reading ‘From Junkrat’. It’s a tiny touch that would normally go untouched, but its just another reason why Overwatch works so well. Everything feels connected, creating a sense of a genuine world with history and current events. The Christmas event is just another step in Overwatch’s growth, both as a game and a world. The quirks and mannerism of each character, mixed with the interlinking nature of the world, that’s what makes Overwatch flourish....

Battlefield 1′s Four Most Annoying Traits

Battlefield 1′s Four Most Annoying Traits

Battlefield 1 is currently storming the charts, as well as earning high praise from consumer and critics alike. With amazing visuals, intense multiplayer action, and a campaign that’s not too shabby. There’s plenty to enjoy, but it’s not perfect. Frustrations and annoyances float around very aspects of the game, not all of them are exactly DICE’s fault however. These are three worst things about Battlefield 1 -     Scaled Back Destruction - For a game set during a time where the power of explosives and artillery was stunning the masses, not much can really be blown up. A number of walls will remain standing unless hit by certain weapons or vehicles. Dynamite will have little affect on some structures, resulting a look of confusion on the player’s face. Bombs and tanks rip through the map, but field guns not so much. It’s not a major problem, but does take away some aspects of realism and strategy. Past Battlefield games would allow players to blow up would be sniper potions, Battlefield 1 is a little less accommodating. In general, it would have been nice to see more of the map rip and tear under the pressures of war. But hey, at least the Zeppelins look amazing as they crash to earth.     Team Work Makes The Dream Work - Players who join the game in a party will automatically form a squad in-game, awesome. The catch comes in the shape of those squads being set to private by default. It results in most games being filled with random two-three man private squads, making the game feel less of a team experience. Unfortunately it also has an influence on a team’s performance. Squad spawns can change the tide of a match. Effective squads can flank enemies, allowing team mates and push onto objectives. The bigger the squad, the more effective squad spawns are.   Working as a team is not only hugely helpful, but it’s a core principle of Battlefield on the whole. Spot enemies, supply allies, hold positions. It all makes for a successful team. It’s just a shame that so many people stay in their small private squads. Just set them to open by default, please DICE.   Tanks, Snipers And The Pains Of Life - Everyone single Battlefield game ever has had issues with snipers. Those players who will sit at the back of the map, refusing to do anything but snipe. Battlefield 1 is jam packed with these people. Each of the sniper rifles are pretty simple to use, almost to simple. Bullet drop and damage reduction isn’t all that harsh, allowing even the most novice sharpshooter to succeed. You could easily argue that sniping within the game is too easy. The design of the maps allows for players to hide away with relative ease, rarely fearing attack. Counter-sniping is a option, but that only leads to more snipers. It’s not rare to see a game devolve to snipers on top of snipers with even more snipers. Tanks provide their own issues. In short, it’s far too easy to repair them and remain safe. Open maps like the Sinai Desert are often dominated by one or two armoured units. The only real counter to tanks is the fairly short ranged anti-tank grenade, dynamite and mines. They all require the player to get up close however, which is near impossible on maps lacking cover. Projectile anti-tank weapons do very little, forcing players to use the before mentioned tools.   Not Another Pistol - You finally get a Battle Pack and it’s another pistol....

No Man’s Sky Backlash Represents A Possible Consumer Turning Point

No Man’s Sky Backlash Represents A Possible Consumer Turning Point

No Man’s Sky may be Steam’s most poorly reviewed game, but that doesn’t reflect the game itself. If Hello Game’s product was merely disappointing, maybe even bad, no one would have been talking about the game this late after release. Reaction to the game speaks volumes about the state of the modern industry, at least from the consumers point of view. Some critics and publications may have went into overdrive trying to defend the game, but the consumers had no time for it. No Man’s Sky was sold on lies, not just a few white ones either. From features being promised then revoked only to be subsequently hidden under stickers on printed copies, there’s a lot to be infuriated about. Sean Murray had teased, promised and dazzled the masses with his showcasing of No Man’s Sky. Flashy buzz terms married with veiled answers to questions along with simple bright eyed charm, it was hard to resist the hype. His beguiling nature helped paper over the cracks in most of No Man’s Sky presence across various expos. When you market a game on hype and charm, people become invested. At the end of the day, your’re still asking for a full price entry fee from the customer. This forms a strong connection between the game and the player, which sounds good…assuming the game is what was promised. The sheer backlash towards No Man’s Sky is justified. Consumers didn’t feel underwhelmed with the game, they felt lied to. It’s not a nice feeling, sparking instant bitterness within the victim. Comparing what was promised, to what was delivered, leaves some truly mind blowing realisations. How could a game be sold on that many lies? A game worked on by the ‘indie’ scene we were told to love and cherish so much. Why did only a handful of well known critics try to ask the hard questions prior to release? Steam’s user review system is infamously brutal. The boiling pot of hobbyist reviewers, dank meme addicts and trolls, no game is safe from its taint. No Man’s Sky undoubtedly has a number of troll reviews on its store page, like any other game. The primary factor in this store page’s review is just how many reviews consist of concise critiques on the game, rather than blunt ‘F**K DIS GAME’. No Man’s Sky represents the very worst of modern video games. It’s not rare for games to be marketed and hyped on lies, just ask Bethseda’s Todd Howard or Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford. No Man’s Sky is the folk in the road, perhaps even the enlightenment the video game consumer has needed. In the age of social media and blogging, consumer reactions/impression carry much more weight. It’s why the days of sites like IGN and Gametrailers dictating popular opinion are over. Streamers, Youtubers and those with large social media followings are the new frontier. Those same people are often consumers who have happened to fallen into their own place of power. Could Sean Murray’s little bundle of lies turn out to be an important game for reasons he didn’t plan? Hello Games have since closed down the Reddit for No Man’s Sky, all while they rarely seem to comment on the game itself. Robotic statements that never answer anything, silence from Murray himself. It’s been a disaster for a game that was seen as the darling of the industry not that long ago. Consumers have expressed their displeasure with a product they bought in good faith. Could the industry learn from the follies Hello Games? You’d hope so....

We Happy Few Is Nothing Like Bioshock, Avoid Disappointment

We Happy Few Is Nothing Like Bioshock, Avoid Disappointment

We happy Few has seemingly got many people confused. When ever you see a gameplay video or Early Access lets play, you’ll be sure to see someone mention Bioshock. The unfortunate thing, at least for them, is We Happy Few has little to no shared Bioshock vibes. Gameplay is based purely on survival, this is not a simple case of shooting your way through. The player is vulnerable, struggling to keep their head above water. Areas are open, allowing the player to explore and discover. Yes, We Happy Few is played in the first person, but that’s one of the few similarities the two games share. The tone of the game is totally different from the underwater dystopia rife with social issues and political intrigue. We Happy Few is much closer to the likes of The Twilight Zone and 60s/70s BBC news coverage. It’s all very polite and clean, regardless of the subject matter. It’s how We Happy Few creates its creepy and unnerving atmosphere. Forced smiles, blocking out the dark past, ignorance is bliss…even if it comes at the cost of your mental state. Bioshock was much more direct experience. The world was already falling apart by the time you arrived. You, as the player, weren’t part of Rapture’s population, you were merely a visitor. We Happy Few is from the point of view of someone who has lived within the culture. They’re part of the system, a system which is breaking them down. It’s a pretty major difference between how the two games frame their stories and approach. Most importantly, We Happy Few simply plays differently. As mentioned before, the game is focused mostly on survival elements. People expecting a straight laced shooter may be underwhelmed to find that combat makes up very little of the game, at least initially. It almost feels that We Happy Few and Bioshock are being lumped in together through it being ‘the easy option’. In all fairness, it could be association through the imagery. Both games are set in the early 60s, resulting in the two games sharing similar culture traits. Clothing, language and music are both heavily defined by their time period. Beyond that, any connection made between the two is questionable at best. Do yourself a favour, don’t go into We Happy Few expecting anything like Bioshock. Survival mechanics and rogue-like elements will be the only thing you’ll find, not a story driven shooter with minor RPG elements....

Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide Console Release Officially Dated

Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide Console Release Officially Dated

The console release date for Wahammer: End Times – Vermintide has finally been announced.   Coming this October 4th, consoles players will be able to get in on the Skavern slaying fun, complete with all the DLC. Last Stand, Drachenfels and Sigmar’s Blessing are all included as standard.  Vermintide was one of last year’s surprise hits, replicating the Left4Dead formula while adding onto it. Although the game had its initial gripes and annoyances, the console version will be free of that.   Fatshark’s regular updates and new content allowed the game to thrive, carving out a nice spot for itself in the market. Even if Warhamemr isn’t your thing, Vermintide is brilliantly chaotic co-op action that rarely fails to entertain.  ...

New Map, Operators, Game Modes, Features and Attachments Coming to Rainbow Six: Siege

New Map, Operators, Game Modes, Features and Attachments Coming to Rainbow Six: Siege

The next update for Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Siege is set to add a whole bunch of new content to the game.   Known as Operation Skull Rain, the update will add two new operators along with a new weapon attachments, map and game mode. Set in Brazil, the two new Operators are boasting some interesting abilities -   “Caveira is the defensive Operator of the two,” says Ubisoft. “As such, she possesses the “Silent Step” skill that enables her to sneak up on enemies to immobilize and then interrogate them to reveal their teammates’ location. Her arsenal includes an M12 and SPAS-15 for primary weapons, a PRB92 as a secondary, and Nitro Cell C4 and Barbed Wire for gadgets. It’ll be interesting to see how Silent Step works within the content of the game’s existing mechanics. There’s plenty of abilities that kill enemy players on impact, as well immobillize them. Given players tend to stay in groups, just how many opportunities will Caveira get to pull off her ability? Even when she does, what’s to stop enemy players from gunning her down while she interrogates?   “As the attacker, Capitão carries a tactical crossbow that can fire asphyxiating bolts that burn oxygen within a certain radius, as well as micro smoke grenades that can mask positions and team movements. Capitão also has an M-249 and PARA-308 for primary weapon options, a PRB92 for secondary, and frag and stun grenades rounding her available arsenal.” Capitao’s ability could prove to be one of the most useful in the game. Given the tight and narrow nature of many maps, the crossbow could cause some series damage. There’s the risk of taking out the hostage however, so be prepared to see some innocent flesh burn. Ubisoft will also be adding the angled grip weapon attachment to improve hip fire, along with a surrender options for ranked matches. Tactical Realism Mode will also be added, removing the HUD, player spotting, hit markers and kill confirmations from the game. The only catch is this mode can only be played in custom matches. The new map is being touted as ‘the most destructible’ in the game. It’ll be set in the Brazilian favela, so expect narrow spaces and plenty of shotgun action.   Operation Skull Rain is set for release July 30th....

How Well Does Ana Fit Into Overwatch?

How Well Does Ana Fit Into Overwatch?

Ana, Overwatch’s newest hero, has been around for a few days now, but how does she fit in? She’s one of the more curious heroes that doesn’t directly compare to her peers. It’s not a bad thing, even though it has left a number of players seemingly playing her incorrectly. At her core, Ana is more of a secondary healer and crowd controller. Her primary attack heals a fair amount, but nothing that till carry a team. She thrives on situations in which she can stay out of the action. Distance and positioning is key to getting the best out of Ana, even if that means feeling a little left out. The range at which she can heal is both impressive and intimidating. Supporting her part from afar, helping to control the pace via her abilities, is a great asset to the team. Given how she works, some heroes are easier to healer than others. Mobile heroes such a Genji and Tracer require solid aiming to heal. What else can Ana offer beyond ranged heals? Her sleep dart and biotic grenade provide some solid methods to control the pace of the game. Sleep dart can shutdown most heroes performing their ultimate, allowing Ana to save her team often. The biotic grenade works effectively both defending and pushing forward. A healthy splash radius makes the grenade a great tool for quickly healing a group of players. Obviously Ana’s ultimate is what has most people excited. This, in the right hands, can be a huge game changer. Nano boosts increases a players speed and damage, allowing them to destroy enemy players. When used correctly, nano boosts can change the tide of any given game. Heroes like Genji and Reinhardt excel when boosted, bursting through enemy defence. Some have augured it could be considered over powered, but this is debatable. Nano boost gives more legitimacy to crowd control, encouraging choices like Mei and McRee. In the grand scheme of things, Ana fits in pretty damn well. Her damage output is fairly low, but not useless. Primary attacks tick away at enemies health. It won’t kill most heroes with under three hits, but it does force them to seek recovery. She may not have the ability to carry a team, but her usefulness is undeniable. Ana can dictate the pace of a game. In her current state, the best point of comparison is pre-patch Zenyatta. Both heroes acted as additional supports, rather than carriers. Blizzard have created a hero that fits straight into the Overwatch’s meta, offering plenty of options and variations. Depending on public reaction and experimental play, she could quite possibly see some tweeks in the future.    ...

Console Version Of Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide Will Be Playable At Gamescom

Console Version Of Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide Will Be Playable At Gamescom

One of last year’s better games, Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide, has been on a very long journey to consoles. The four player co-op title charmed users and critics alike, garnering praise for its gameplay mechanics and chaotic nature. In simple terms, it’s the closet anyone has come  to successfully replicating Left 4 Dead’s formula. After a number of patches, free content and paid DLC, Vermintide is finally ever closer to a console release. It will be playable at this year’s Gamescom, at least behind closed doors. Members of the press will be able to get hands-on time with the console build. There’s still no solid release date for the console version, but this is a promising sign that it’ll see a late 2016 release....

Curious Challenge Limited By Design – Furi Review (PC)

Curious Challenge Limited By Design – Furi Review (PC)

Difficulty in video games has garnered a love/gate relationship. By their very nature, difficult games spilt people down the middle between those able to play and those who crumble. Furi does not care about those people who crumble, it revels in their failings. At the heart of the game, Furi is the accumulation of various old school elements fused with 80s synth music and anime. The results are a odd buffet of success and failures, but undeniable charm. Furi focuses of the game is 1-on-1 combat, complete with their own dramatic build ups. It knows what it wants to be, it’s confident in its approach, even when things don’t turn out for the best. The main problem with Furi is its combat. It’s the main mechanic at play yet it feels the least developed. There’s no real strategy and ability to be creative, it all boils down to reactions and pattern recognition. With only two attacks, Furi leaves a lot to be desired early on. Switching between ranged and melee does create a interesting dynamic, but it’s not enough to carry long play sessions. Each of the nine bosses offer their own attacks and patterns. The various phases can be thrilling at first, but they soon highlight the lack of depth in the combat. Blocking enemy melee attacks opens up the ability to lay down hefty combos. This is about as in-depth as the melee combat gets. It may look and sound flashy in motion, but it also feels restricted. Ranged combo isn’t much better, acting more like a shoot em up hybrid than anything else. Most bosses tend to overwhelm the player with projectiles, causing the player to engage at range. At times, Furi could easily be misidentified as a bullet hell shooter. The sheer volume of projectiles filling the screen supplies a true thrill, even if these phases do go on a little too long. In between phases, bosses will engage up close, restraining the player into a much smaller area. These sections are fast, intense and hugely satisfying. Bosses will display more varied attacks, forcing the player to stay vigilant. A single wrong step can lead to taking massive damage. This is where Furi shows off its best traits, it’s just a shame they don’t play a larger part in the game. Challenge may be the order of the day, but the final boss phases come off as a little over the top. It’s not rare that a boss will suddenly bust out some kind of Dragon Ball Z like super move, engulfing the map a single attack. It leads to cheap deaths, prolonging the already lengthy battles. Some final phases feel more like a case of luck than skill, which makes little sense given the selling point of the game. With all the annoyances and frustrations, it’s still hard to not enjoy Furi. There’s a strange sense of enjoyment that creeps around, even when things are at their worst. Perhaps it’s how close each fight can be. It could be the music that swells the ears, resulting in toe tapping and head bobbing. Furi certainly has character. Furi does have a story to tell, but it’s all very cryptic. Plot is hinted at between boss battles, as the player slowly walks to the next area. Initially, it’s a great way to show off the art style and set the tone of the game. The further the game goes on, the less bearable the walking sections become. Thankfully, there’s an option to auto-walk option to soften the blow. Beyond the nine bosses in the main game, there’s remixed versions of the fight and a speed run mode to unlock. Both options offer a fair amount of replay value, but nothing too significant. On the whole, Furi is a true love/hate game. The challenge on offer titters from mouth watering to cheap. Boss battles tend to drag on but still supply a fair amount of thrills. Combat is meek, but satisfying enough to encourage continued play. Furi looks and sounds great, with a truly fantastic soundtrack breathing life into the game. Depending on how much value you place in challenging, if not repetitive, gameplay, Furi may have enough to offer. It feels like there’s more to be done with concept and ideas on display. The curious mix of shoot em up bullet hell and old school boss design makes Furi more interesting than most other games on the market.   Interesting in concept, solid in execution, Furi is a solid taste of old school themes held back by the limitations of its design.  ...

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