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When Forza Horizon first launched four years ago as a spin-off of Forza, many of us were pleasantly surprised by how it was able to tone down the seriousness of the main series while still making an extremely competent racing game. As time has gone on and we’ve fallen into an annual cycle of Forza followed by Forza Horizon, what once was a spin-off has now turned into a series all its own—one that now rivals its parent in every way. And, with the release of Forza Horizon 3, it may even surpass the mainline series in key areas.

For those who might be unaware, the Forza Horizon games are set up around a traveling fictional festival called Horizon that’s like a cross between Woodstock and Top Gear, and this year’s game is headed to a land down under. Whereas the original saw you rise up the ranks to dominate the event, and the second one had you as king of Horizon from the start, Forza Horizon 3 basically just makes you the festival’s God this go around.

From what radio stations can be heard at the festival’s hubs throughout Australia, to what part of Australia Horizon will expand to next, all the decisions are yours. You can even customize your license plate and what your assistant will call you via a list of names. Yes, I admit I enjoyed the fact that my assistant actually called me Ray and all my cars’ license plates said “Carsillo” on the back—it’s a little thing, but that added hint of personalization was a nice touch. Unfortunately, it also made the fact that you can then only choose from a dozen or so generic, hipster-looking avatars to represent your “face” just as disappointing as the license plate customization was fun.


These are only minor details, however. The heart of Forza has always been the cars, and Horizon 3 does not disappoint. Over 350 cars are available at the game’s launch—the most in Forza Horizon history—and, as always, plenty of car packs will be coming in the future. The game also maintains the series’ high standard of stunning car models that contrast terrifically against the picturesque backdrops inspired by an amalgamation of Australia’s coasts, forests, and deserts. The big additions this time around aside from the usual list of new supercars are dune buggies. Since a quarter of Horizon 3’s mashed-up rendition of Australia is the Outback, dune buggies are great for crossing the desert terrain at high speeds and pulling off crazy stunts to fill up your score meter.

At first, the buggies took some time to get used to, because they handle completely differently from any other car in Forza’s long lineage. By the time I was done with the game, though, I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough races inside these off-road masters, bobbing up and down through the countryside, and was actually disappointed when I was placed back in a luxury car or sporty speedster depending on what race I was doing.

Speaking of racing, it remains at the core of what you’ll be doing in Horizon 3. There are 63 tracks set up across the game for you to unlock and play through, with more unlocked by expanding and growing the festival. This is done by earning fans, which you can do through winnings races, completing one-off special objectives in 30 brand-new bucket list courses, winning showcase events against unusual race opponents like speed boats and fighter jets, and completing “PR stunts” like daredevil jumps and burning rubber through drift and speed zones.


Each individual race location not only has the standard single race, but later you can also unlock three-to-five race championships with new themes for each course. For example, a single exhibition race in the Outback might have you racing off-road trucks like the Ford F-150 Raptor, but the same course’s championship might be themed around rally legends like the Suburu Impreza, giving each track more replayability as you race different vehicles.

If that wasn’t enough, Forza Horizon 3 also introduces the new Blueprint feature to both racecourses and bucket list events, which allows you to set your own stipulations that you can then share with the Forza community. You could create a perfect storm of racing nothing but high-end supercars like the Lamborghini Centenario along the curving coastline, or punish people by sticking those same sports cars on an off-road track in the rainforest and see if they can’t maintain their traction. The same goes for the bucket list Blueprints, but like most other games where you can create your own courses, you have to be able to beat your own challenges before uploading for others to play. In theory, you could have an endless stream of fresh content coming into Forza Horizon 3 long after this initial launch window.

Another major addition to Forza Horizon 3 comes in the form of its online multiplayer. You’ve always been able to take on friends head-to-head, but Horizon 3 adds it so that you can now experience the construction of a Horizon festival from the ground-up together. Campaign co-op, which is also available in cross-platform play, allows you to join a friend’s game or vice versa in order to help each other complete objectives or find hidden bonuses like landmarks or barn finds to fill out your worlds. Any progress made in each other’s games carries over to your single-player game as well, so there’s no need to do something twice if you don’t want to.


The emphasis on co-op doesn’t end there, however. Even if your friend isn’t online, the new Convoy feature means their Drivatar can ride with you and help you, too. By winning street races against specifically marked Drivatars, you can add up to three Drivatars to your Convoy. And if you want to replace someone in your lineup, simply street race another person and fire one of the old drivers. Having and riding with a full Convoy means not only a better chance for you to find hidden secrets and earn more credits, but your friends will be earning credits even while offline.

Of course, more online-driven endeavors has meant more server strain that normal in the Forza community. Even a week after launching, there are still occasional connection issues in regards to things like leaderboards, some of the Blueprints, and finding strangers online to race with or against. Groove Music—Microsoft’s digital music streaming service that has been added to the game to allow players a chance to finally have custom music playing while driving—works only about half the time, too. I’m driving a million dollar car, and the damn radio is broken.

These online hiccups aside, Forza Horizon 3 is a racing lover’s dream. The insane stunts and off-the-wall challenges remain hugely entertaining, and being able to incorporate your friends more into that has only added a new wrinkle of replayability to the game. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more complete racing experience than this one, and in many ways has possibly eclipsed the mainline Forza series in terms of fun and enjoyability.


Publisher: Microsoft Studios • Developer: Playground Games • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 09.27.16
Forza Horizon 3 pulls out all the stops to provide one of most fluid and enjoyable racing experiences out there. A must have for casual car fans and hardcore gearheads alike, Forza Horizon 3 may even surpass the mainline series in terms of fun with this effort.
The Good Gorgeous looking, excellent handling, and more content than ever before in one package.
The Bad Occasional issues with connecting to people and features online.
The Ugly Constantly forgetting that Australians drive on the other side of the road and getting into lots of head-on collisions because of it.
Forza Horizon 3 is available on Xbox One and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Microsoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

With the 2016-17 NHL season ready to start next Wednesday, October 12, EA Sports used NHL 17 to simulate the entirety of the season and predict major awards, including who will in it all.

Starting in the Eastern Conference, six of last year’s eight playoff teams return, including the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins after a second place Metropolitan Division finish. Only the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings are predicted to miss the playoffs. It’s the first time the Red Wings would miss the playoffs in a quarter century. NHL 17 also says the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs will take their place. The Tampa Bay Lightning get the number one seed in the east, but their Atlantic Division rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, will win the conference.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, seven of eight teams return to the playoffs, with only the Anaheim Ducks missing out this year after a slow start. They are replaced by the Edmonton Oilers. The Nashville Predators are expected to take the one seed in the west, along with the franchise’s first ever Presidents’ Trophy with 110 points, and also the conference championship.

This means EA Sports is calling the Montreal Canadiens versus the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final, marking a match-up between two teams that conducted one of the most head-scratching off-season trades we’ve seen in some time, when Montreal exchanged PK Subban for Nashville’s Shea Weber. Even more surprising, though, is the prediction that Nashville will win the Cup in six games, with Filip Forsberg taking home the Conn Smythe trophy.

Other notable predictions is Carey Price of Montreal getting the Vezina for best goaltender, and Vladimir Tarasenko of St. Louis getting the Rocket Richard trophy for most goals from an individual over the season.

While those individual awards are definitely possible, and you never know what can happen in the playoffs, Nashville over Montreal in the Final sounds ridiculous in my mind. I think EA Sports needs to go back to the drawing board with these simulations.

NHL 17 is available now for Xbox One and PS4.

When I beat Gears of War 3 a couple of days after it came out five years ago, a thought dawned on me: Gears of War has some interesting parallels to another series I adore: Star Wars. Just like Star Wars, the original trilogy is amazing, with the second game being the best (just like Empire Strikes Back) because of its victory at the end coming only after numerous sacrifices. Since then, Judgment was released, and it wasn’t as bad a prequel as what Star Wars received, but it was definitely forgettable and weak by comparison to the main trilogy. And now we have Gears 4—which, in many ways, is similar to Episode VII. It retreads a lot of old ground, but it does so in a way that fans of the series should love, while setting up repercussions and implications for future games, paving the way for even better stories to come.

Gears of War 4 takes place 25 years after the Imulsion Countermeasure. Sera has slowly begun to rebuild with the Locust being wiped out, but as humanity’s numbers stand at less than a million, the COG have taken it upon themselves to wall off huge segments of the population while they continues to bounce back. Not everyone agrees with the COG way of life, though, and they live outside the walls as aptly named “Outsiders”. Such is the life JD Fenix, war hero Marcus Fenix’s son, has chosen for himself. Of course, when JD and his friends Del and Kait stumble upon a conflict between the COG and an unknown group of bodysnatchers, we shouldn’t be surprised that a Fenix suddenly finds himself caught in the middle of a much larger plot that could have humanity on the brink of extinction once again.

Gears 4’s campaign will be nothing new to series veterans. With finding just over half of the story’s collectibles, I beat all five acts on Hardcore in 9-10 hours. While actively trying to avoid spoiling anything, let me say the story succeeded in getting me to care about all the new characters it introduces in that time, making the emotional ups and downs Gears games always have that much more poignant. It also carefully used familiar faces from the original trilogy, who are all much older (but not necessarily wiser) now, fleshing out and grounding me in a world very different from the one I became accustomed to in the original games. Admittedly, the pacing hits a couple of snags along the way, and there’s a few plot holes that a Corpser could crawl through, but a lot of the missing information feels deliberate—especially as certain revelations by game’s end open up entirely new possibilities for future entries in the series.

While some of Gears 4’s characters have been around before, its enemies are totally new. The Swarm may have some units that look similar to those seen with the Locust, but Carriers (with their one-hit kill strength), Pouncers (with their incredible range), and Snatchers (enemies able to cut off areas of the field with their acid spray) each bring something fresh to the series, requiring a drastic shift in tactics when they enter the fray. The same can be said for the DeeBee robots; trackers might remind you of Tickers, and the soldiers can be broken down similarly to the Swarm and Locust, but the flying, shielded Guardian DeeBee or the rocket launcher helicopter drones change any fight they are a part of.

In terms of gameplay, Gears 4’s campaign might be the best yet. Never have we had such a diversity of action sequences in a Gears game before, and it helped keep me going during those moments when the plot pacing started to slow a bit too much. Unlike Kryll or Razorhail from previous games, Windflares—Sera’s newest natural disaster phenomenon courtesy of fallout from the Imulsion Countermeasure and that are basically giant fire and lightning tornados—are a constant threat almost every time the game steps outdoors. They make even moving around the field a struggle, but finding different ways to overcome my slowed mobility was exciting. Interacting with the environment and shooting collapsible construction set ups, watching as brick and mortar or giant piping came crashing down on the Swarm—sending them all up into the Windflare’s maelstrom in a mix of blood and metal—never got old. And, dancing around the Windflares’ chain lightning always kept me on my toes.

Besides these larger set pieces providing variety, there’s also the brand new CQC mechanics introduced. By positioning yourself behind cover opposite from an enemy, if the cover is small enough to reach over, you can now perform a “yank-and-shank”. Honestly, it drastically changed how I approached several game situations. For example, if a Swarm or DeeBee robot was entrenched behind cover and I couldn’t get a good shot easily, I’d break into a roadie run almost every time, reach over with the X button, and quickly mash the Y button to get a combat knife execution. Or, if I wanted to keep my momentum up, I’d swiftly jump over the cover with a kick, and mash Y again to do a similar execution. It seems like such a minor thing, but it helped with the pace of combat tremendously, and can be just as effective in multiplayer as in single player. Just be careful, however, as the moves can be countered with a well-timed melee attack or shotgun blast, giving the move a risk-reward flavor to it that makes it all the more satisfying when pulled off successfully.

Speaking of multiplayer, much like how the campaign didn’t re-invent the wheel, but instead refined and improved in several key areas, the multiplayer suite for Gears 4 did much the same thing. Added to the multiplayer playlist alongside the Ranked and Social options is now a Competitive selection. If you’re thinking of wanting to possibly make a run at being a professional Gears player, that’s the tab you’re going to want to head for due to very specific weapon tuning there, bringing an even heavier focus on skill than other modes where a power weapon in the right hands can change the tides more quickly.

In terms of what you’ll be playing in multiplayer, there are still classic modes like Team Deathmatch and Warzone to choose from, but there are also three new offerings called Escalation, Arms Race, and Dodgeball. Dodgeball has that one-life-to-live stipulation you’ll see in Execution or Warzone, with the added caveat that if someone on a team gets a kill, one of their dead teammates gets to respawn. It leads to a very interesting back and forth, as a single person can single-handedly turn the tides of a battle back in their team’s favor.


Meanwhile, Arms Race feels like it channels the spirit of Call of Duty’s Gun Game, just with a team-oriented twist. Each team is equipped with a weapon, and when that team reaches three kills as a collective, their weapon changes to something else in the Gears of War armory, with the team to move through all the guns first winning. The problem I had with this mode (in my limited time playing it) was it felt like if a team got a big lead, it was very difficult to come back from—unlike Dodgeball and other modes. With only three kills needed, if there’s a weak link on either team, they can be exploited very easily to advance through the weapons.

Escalation is exclusive to the Competitive playlist and is the next evolution of Annex. Players must try to win rounds by either capturing all three points on a map, or by holding two points for the longest amount of time. Respawn time is increased with each successive round, and more power weapons enter the fray as time goes on (with each team only starting with Lancers and Gnashers). Escalation is nothing short of intense, but also a huge time commitment. If players are thinking about Gears esports, though, this will be a must play.

If playing with others and not against them is your cup of tea, then Gears 4 still has you covered there. Two-player online and local co-op is available for the story, and stepping away from the four-player co-op campaign of the past not only makes it easier to play with just your best buddy, but also gave the team more flexibility in terms of the storytelling and what characters are with your group and when. There’s also Co-op versus mode that pits you and some friends against bots, which is a great way to learn the multiplayer maps and test out new strategies. And, of course, Horde mode also returns, putting you once again in a team of up to five people against 50 CPU-controlled waves of Swarm and DeeBees.

There’s a lot more to Horde 3.0 this go around than just new enemies and maps, though, starting with a new device introduced in the campaign called the Fabricator. Essentially a glorified 3D-printer, if the Fabricator has power, it can make almost anything: guns, fortifications, turrets, etc. While this mechanic is used in several campaign sections, it really shines in Horde 3.0, and serves as the focal point of wherever you decide to make your stand against the oncoming waves. Defeating enemies in Horde mode will reward you with the power you need to make the Fabricator work, and therefore stand a better chance against each subsequent wave. The Fabricator will also revive a player mid-wave—for a price—if a buddy can grab your COG tags.

Horde 3.0 - Turret

While tying something from the story into Horde mode and vice versa was a great idea, not everything added to Horde 3.0 makes sense to me: specifically, the inclusion of a class-based system. There are five classes to choose from in Horde mode, and while multiple players can choose one class, it clearly makes more sense for everyone to take a defined role. Each class has specific bonuses and weapons tied to them, and can earn greater bonuses the more you level up a class. For instance, the Engineer gets bonuses to constructing fortifications, while the Soldier gets better guns and more ammo. My issue with this is that the system feels limiting in a lot of ways. While Horde has always been about working as a team, this feels like it forces you into a role with very little wiggle room. It also means you’ll have to rely on certain roles depending on the situation—and if one person dies, your team might have a harder time coming back than they already would with a man down.

I should also take this time to point out that I put several hours into both multiplayer and Horde, but of course, the Gears 4 servers were in a pre-launch state. While there were a couple of lag hiccups, nothing too major occurred during my time online with the game. Considering there was probably never more than a few dozen people on at once, though, it’s hard to judge how things will shake out once the servers are properly bombarded by thousands of people trying to get on at the same time.

Customization was another huge focus for Gears 4, and in many regards it works great. A new card system shows off dozens of skins for your characters and weapons available at the game’s launch for you to acquire. There are also Bounty cards in both Horde and Multiplayer, where you can try to meet certain requirements on a card for XP boosts. I love the idea of adding personal objectives to your online experience, and you can get the cards by buying special crates with coins you earn in-game or with real world money. Although I feel you can more easily grind here than in other titles when it comes to getting what you want, I’d be remiss to not mention the microtransactions. Of course, spending money doesn’t guarantee you’ll get what you’re after, just that you’ll get more crates. You can also craft certain cards with scrap, which you earn when destroying duplicate cards. So, there are definitely options that get you around dropping more money down and praying the crates give you what you want.

Gears of War 4 looked at what the series did in the original trilogy and decided to give its fans more on every front. In most cases, this was a resounding success, providing a complete experience that perfectly channels the spirit of the originals. New characters, mechanics, and plot twists distance it enough to make us appreciate the homage it pays even more, though, while giving us new lore and a new adventure to enjoy. If you enjoyed the original trilogy as much as I did, Gears of War 4 is the continuation we’ve all been waiting for.


Publisher: Microsoft Studios • Developer: The Coalition • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 10.11.16
Gears of War 4 looked at the series’ core formula and figured that if it wasn’t broken, don’t fix it. Most of the additions The Coalition put onto that core simply helped enhance and refine something that was already great. A couple of missteps were made, but this is still a great overall entry in the franchise.
The Good Handles just as good as the old games, while the new “yank-and-shank” and other fresh CQC mechanics add a lot to combat. Local co-op!
The Bad Class system in Horde mode.
The Ugly I think Marcus Fenix is my spirit animal. R.I.P. Marcus’s tomatoes.
Gears of War 4 is available on Xbox One and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Microsoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Earlier this afternoon, EGM was able to confirm new details about the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection.

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood added a key feature to the series: being able to replay story missions. Revelations and later games in the series continued this trend, but it was absent from Assassin’s Creed II. Wondering if Ubisoft would go back and add this feature into The Ezio Collection to provide some uniformity across the trilogy, we asked Ubisoft if this would be an extra addition to the collection and if they could clarify.

In an on the record statement from a representative, Ubisoft told us “Assassin’s Creed II will not feature replayable missions. All games will have the same features that they had when they initially launched, but will have enhanced graphics.”

While it’s not unexpected that The Ezio Collection will do little more than bundle three games into one package add a graphical facelift, it’s disappointing to hear. Making that small change wouldn’t have been ridiculous, given that Ubisoft is already tweaking the games by removing features—namely all multiplayer modes.

Either way, if you want to replay a mission in Assassin’s Creed II in The Ezio Collection, it sounds like you’ll still have to start the entire game over from the beginning and work your way back to the point in question.

Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection will be available from November 15th on Xbox One and PS4.

Like most annual sports games, EA Sports’ NHL franchise has gone through some growing pains over the past couple of years as it transitioned onto new hardware. With each new iteration, however, the series has taken huge strides forward—and this year is no different. With EA Canada looking to their sports game cousins over at EA Tiburon and Madden for a little extra inspiration, NHL 17 adds a ton of new features, and by continuing to iterate on their own systems, EA Canada has produced the most authentic on-ice experience to date.

The most obvious element taken directly from the gridiron guys at EA Tiburon is the fact that NHL 17 now boasts its own version of Draft Champions. Instead of picking coaches and schemes, though, your first major decision here involves selecting a general pool of players. Do you want perennial all-stars? Or maybe only players that were born north of the border? How about just Stanley Cup winners? Each choice will net you an impressive base team no matter what, but will also dictate the players and legends available to you according to the theme. For example, no one would argue picking Hall of Famer Mike Modano early on to center your first line—but if you choose the Canadian-born player pool, you’ll never see him come up.

The actual draft part of the mode is shorter—down to 12 rounds instead of 15—due to the fact that there’s far less players on a hockey team than a football team, but it’s still enough that every gamer should have an outstanding group. There are also four player choices each round instead of three, making each pick more painful as you get deeper and deeper into the draft.

I found myself enjoying NHL 17’s version of the mode more than Madden’s. Here, each team is chock full of superstars, unlike the Madden side where each team has myriad scrubs filling holes at too many positions. My only issue with the mode lies in the fact that Madden allows you to have both an offline gauntlet against the computer for practice and an online one against other players going on at the same time. With NHL 17, you can only pick one or the other, which sucks if, say, you were playing online and your internet goes out. You either have to re-draft and forfeit the remaining gauntlet, or wait until you get back online.


The other new mode NHL 17 touts this year is World Cup of Hockey. Replacing the old tournament mode, the World Cup of Hockey pits the eight authentic teams from this year’s international tournament against each other in round robin, and then elimination play. It’s not the longest or most intense mode, but it’s a nice way to try out players you might not normally use in other modes. For those of us who live and breathe the sport, you can’t help but try to take your home team all the way—and, yes, I took Team USA to the final where I swept Team Sweden.

New modes are always fun to mess around with, but the core four pre-existing modes—Franchise, Be a Pro, Hockey Ultimate Team, and EA Sports Hockey League—have seen such major renovations that you’d almost think they were brand new, too.

EASHL has added a plethora of customization options for building your own arena and team in order to give yourself the truest home ice advantage possible online. As your arena evolves and levels up over five different tiers, you’ll unlock everything from being able to mix up what color seats you have on each bowl level, to customized scoreboard and entrance effects when your team takes the ice for the first time. In terms of gameplay, the mode also adds new player classes for your skater, like hitting sniper and jumbo forward, so you can have a more refined role when you actually do take the ice.

Hockey Ultimate Team has seen more drastic changes than just some customization features. When you start, no longer will you be saddled with a team full of scrubs. They won’t be superstars either, to be clear, but you don’t have to worry about minor leaguers from the OHL mixing with pros at the NHL level anymore, as you’ll be given a roster full of NHL-level talent. You can always improve your squad through skill boosts or finding better players in packs or the auction house, but you’ll be competitive as soon as you start now, which is great if you’re like me and don’t consider grinding for online currency part of a quality play experience.


HUT also boosts several new systems borrowed from the Madden franchise. A new metagame for you to focus on in NHL 17 is the completion of sets. Collecting every player from a team and placing them in a HUT set will net you one of that franchise’s legendary players. There’s also a new Synergy system borrowed from Madden, which replaces the old Chemistry meter. This means you no longer have to hope for finding a “change team” card when opening packs so you can get all of one team on a line. Instead, each player will fall into certain categories, and when a team has enough of those players, they’ll all receive a boost. As one example, Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash of the New York Rangers have the “Wicked Wristers” ability; put them on a team with two others with that ability, and all four will have a plus-three rating to their wrist shot. It’s a big boost, and trying to mix and match Synergies adds a welcome level of strategy to putting your ideal online team together.

If online play isn’t your cup of tea, Franchise has you covered. This year’s Franchise mode not only allows players to control every facet of the team, but also the front office. I’m not just talking about contract negotiations like in previous years, but also having to meet certain owner goals to keep your job. You’ll have to decide on a marketing budget (who wants a Derek Stepan bobblehead the first time the Penguins come to MSG on November 23rd?) and stadium upgrades (hell yes we need more ice cream stands at the Garden). These moves permeate the mode so much that even the commentary from the returning Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and Ray Ferraro reflects these changes to the arena (those three guys do another fantastic job calling the games as part of possibly the best presentation package in sports games, by the way). It’s not the first time we’ve seen this level of team management detail in a sports game, but how it affects you staying in control of your favorite team is a nice added detail if you love to micromanage your team like I do.

If the idea of actually playing on an NHL team is your dream, Be a Pro mode also returns. There are two major changes here, with the first being that there are now three timing options to speed up the process of being a pro. Whereas it used to take upwards of 30 real-world minutes to play each game with authentic 20-minute periods (that’s with skipping to your next shift), the new 10-minute and 5-minute period options speeds up each game experience considerably—but come at the sacrifice of playing time for your pro. This double-edged sword really came back to haunt me, because your coach—who offers points on how he wants you to play between shifts—is also a lot more harsh this year.

While I appreciate the solution to speed the game up, I really felt my player was screwed when he didn’t make the team, and was sent down to the AHL to start the season. My rookie had eight points—three goals, five assists, and a plus-five rating to boot—in seven games and you couldn’t even stick me on the fourth line? It’s called Be a Pro, not Be a Minor Leaguer. With that kind of production and that end result to my pre-season, it still seems this mode is very unclear on what exactly it wants from you to be successful, leaving this still as one of the series’ weaker modes.


Of course, these new bells and whistles in the modes are all well and good (mostly), but the thing that brings it all together is the gameplay. Some major changes to the all-around AI make this experience more realistic than ever before, and yet it feels completely different from years past. As impressive as puck physics and player movement always were, there were always moves and soft spots in the defense that you could find and take advantage of. Whether it was skating in a large circle from behind the net, taking slapshot bombs from the point with defensemen, or even just camping at the top of the slot, these strategies always worked because the AI players and goalies didn’t react in a way that actual NHL players do.

That’s changed, starting with the goaltenders. AI goalies will now more realistically play the puck, with shoulder shrugs and smaller, more nuanced movements. They’ll deflect a puck purposefully into the corner, headbutt it out of the sky, and scramble like never before if a puck starts to slowly trickle in behind them. They are also more susceptible to screens, deflections, and dekes on breakaways, though, to give them that sense of realism. Of course, should you decide to play as one of them in exhibition, Be a Pro, or EASHL, it’s still near impossible to be effective. I feel there needs to be a deep goalie tutorial mode, because as great as the visual trainer is—especially after this year’s upgrades will now teach skaters more pro-level moves like windmill dekes and spin-o-ramas—it doesn’t do enough for goaltenders. I often feel lost in the crease, that movement is sluggish, and that I’m always out of position.

The AI improvements also extend outward from the goalie, with defensemen now getting into battles with forwards in front of the net, and forwards moving into positions to better get rebounds and score those critical ugly goals down low, or block passing lanes on defense. Those soft spots I mentioned before are now gone for the most part; while they will occasionally pop up because a blown coverage will always happen here or there and a goalie will have to bail out his team, they are a rarity. The AI takes better angles and covers passes more aggressively now—instead of every AI player just blindly chasing the puck, often pulling themselves out of position.

This change, more than anything, has made NHL 17 feel like a brand new game. While it may be frustrating at first for long time players who have gotten used to how the game used to handle (admittedly, myself included), know that it’s better for the authenticity of the game in the long haul. And, if it really bothers you that much that you’re not scoring half-a-dozen goals every single game, you can always dumb down your opponents via the options menu.


NHL 17 is another step forward in the hockey sim’s ever-continuing evolution. Better gameplay serves as a shining star in this year’s product, bolstered by new modes and important tweaks to existing ones. And, even if some of those are borrowed from other EA Sports games, NHL makes them all its own. Not every change was for the better, and there are still a few snags that hold it back, but overall it’s harder to get a better hockey experience than this outside of lacing up a pair of skates and gliding across a frozen pond.

Publisher: EA Sports • Developer: EA Canada • ESRB Date: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 09.13.16
NHL 17 takes a step forward with the series in terms of more authentic gameplay, but has lost its edge in a couple of its long-standing modes.
The Good New goalie and defensive AI makes the on-ice product feel more realistic than ever before.
The Bad Playing as the goalie is still a nightmare. Be a Pro mode needs to be sent down to the minors.
The Ugly It was a bad idea to put my controller in the freezer overnight to “enhance my simulation experience” the next day.
NHL 17 is available on Xbox One and PS4. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by EA Sports for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

As I walked around the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center during PAX East this year, I saw a great many games. From small titles made by developers I had never heard of, to the bombastic fanfare and excitement surrounding projects by the usual powerhouse publishers, there was something for everyone. One of my surprises of the show was called Livelock, with publisher Perfect World taking a crack at their first non-free-to-play game. My demo back then was enough to pique my interest, compelling me to give the final product a look when it finally released last week. Unfortunately, Livelock fell far short of the excitement it instilled in me back in April.

Livelock takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. When a global extinction event became imminent, humanity found a way to upload people’s consciousness into robot bodies in the hopes of protecting what makes them human. With not enough time to upload every person into their own personal chassis, humanity’s population was transferred into three cores in New York, Tokyo, and Moscow. When the event hit Earth, however, it was far stronger than anticipated, decimating the failsafes that were put in place and causing many minds that had already been uploaded into robots to go mad. However, one failsafe not on Earth—an AI-driven satellite orbiting the planet—is still intact, and has taken it upon itself to find the Capital Intellects, three long-dormant prototype robots that served as the blueprints for the transference process. With players assuming the role of one of these Intellects, they must now travel to the remnants of each core city and collect pieces of a key to a last bastion called Eden in order to salvage what’s left of humanity.

Honestly, folks, these are the reviews I dread the most. Livelock isn’t necessarily a bad game or a broken one—it’s just boring. Bland beyond belief, Livelock doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before, and never really became fun as I grinded my way across its two dozen stages. It’s a top-down shooter with RPG elements, and what’s most painful to see is the potential it held before ending up as something so vanilla.


A prime example of this was the story. Sure, the post-apocalyptic scene isn’t terribly original, but it can be entertaining when done well. The problem here is that the game focuses so hard on throwing more and more robots at you—filling the screen to the point the game painfully lags in some instances—that it never properly fleshes out the details on how the world came to be as it is (or as it was). The only glimmer of character development we get in-game is the occasional quip from each of the three Capital Intellects, and audio logs scattered around the world that simply don’t provide enough background or go into enough detail.

Speaking of the world, levels also fail to capture the imagination. Considering the three cities the game takes place in, the game could’ve done so much more to make it feel like we were actually traipsing through their ruins, instead of just generic streets, fields, tunnels, or tundra. Yes, Russia has snow—but how about the Kremlin? Show us the Empire State Building in New York. Give us something to connect us to these places.

At least there are glimmers of creativity on display with the enemy types. Each has built new homes in the ruins of humanity that have unique themes to them, ones which are based around the enemies themselves. In Russia, the humanoid-like robots have built a village; in Tokyo, an insect hive houses bug-looking bots; and vermin-esque foes have carved out a rat’s nest in what remains of New York. A particular bright spot comes from many of the end level bosses, as they all aren’t just beefed-up versions of lesser enemies. Instead, they show some personality and attack with unique tactics, providing a welcome level of satisfaction upon defeating them.


The only time it feels like the developers behind Livelock were truly inspired, though, were in the Capital Intellects themselves. There’s the tank in Vanguard, the damage-per-second specialist in Hex, and the support in Catalyst. The trio have distinct personalities that you catch glimpses of in beautifully animated cutscenes that, again, had me wanting to see more of this world. Combat-wise, each one has a half-dozen weapons to choose from (you can take any three into battle at once) along with special powers that grow stronger as you level up (until you hit the level-30 cap). There are even some modest customization options, including colors, robot heads, and capes that you can mix and match.

Livelock also falls short in the challenge department. A single playthrough on normal difficulty clocks in at about four hours, and will put you right up against the edge of the level cap. There’s no penalty for dying beyond resetting your multiplier, which only really affects you if you’re going for high scores in each level’s online leaderboards. The high score feature does at least offer a nice arcade-like touch, giving Livelock some much-needed replayability beyond three-player campaign co-op with friends. Finally, there’s an endless mode where you take on wave after wave of enemies, but it’s as generic as every other Horde clone we’ve seen over the years.

Livelock works as a top-down shooter—you fire away at enemies and they blow up and you can do this endlessly to your heart’s content. The three Capital Intellects you play with feel satisfying to use, and carry enough personality to make you grow ever so slightly attached to them. With such a lackluster world, uninspired story, and severe lack of challenge, however, you’d have to be an absolute top-down shooter fanatic—or desperate for something cheap to play—to add this to your collection.


Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment • Developer: Tuque Games • ESRB Date: T – Teen • Release Date: 08.30.16
Livelock is as generic a top-down shooter as you can get. The locations you find yourself fighting through, the enemies you take on, and the story itself come together in a package that works, but one which fails to inspire any semblance of fun.
The Good Single-player leaderboards and three-player co-op offer a modicum of replayability.
The Bad The story, gameplay, and challenge never quite reached their potential. Lots of lag.
The Ugly You can figure out who the “surprise” bad guy is just from the voice acting in the opening scene.
Livelock is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Perfect World Entertainment for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

I missed the boat when the original Metroid released on the NES—mostly because I was still wearing diapers. Near the height of my childhood gaming in 1994, when I only got games on Christmas or my birthday, I had a choice between Super Metroid and other SNES games; I admittedly passed on Samus Aran. It wouldn’t be until I was older and got a summer job, and therefore had some disposable income, that I would take a chance on Metroid in the form of Metroid Prime. It was there where I fell in love with the series. I’ve since gone back and played the classics, but the Prime trilogy continues to have a special place in my heart as my entryway to the franchise. So, when the Big N announced that they were releasing a Metroid Prime game for the 3DS that would follow the Federation and not everyone’s favorite gold-armored heroine, I (like many) was concerned—and Metroid Prime: Federation Force has gone on to prove those concerns were well founded.

Players take on the role of a generic Marine in the Galactic Federation, the governing body and beacon of order in the Metroid universe which often hires Samus Aran when things get dicey. Looking to become more self-sufficient and rely less on bounty hunters, the Federation has built new mechanized units that Marines can use on the frontlines of the Federation’s militaristic endeavors. One of these new fronts happens to be in the Bermuda system. What starts as standard mech suit training soon becomes a full-blown combat scenario against the Space Pirates, along with a search for answers as to why the pirates have established themselves around Bermuda’s three planets—Bion, Excelcion, and Talvania.

From the second I started playing Federation Force I knew I was in for a rough time. Quite simply, this is one of the worst-looking games I’ve seen on the 3DS. The first-person perspective does no favors in trying to hide the three dull, lifeless planets you have to explore: Bion, a desert world; Excelcion, an ice planet; and Talvania, your industrialized world. Basically, that means you’re constantly surrounded by different shades of orange/brown, blue/white, and gray/poison gas green, with little respite whenever you pick from the game’s nearly two-dozen missions in those settings.


The chibi-like big head/little body design of the Federation’s forces—including Samus during her cameos—was also off-putting. It may be more of a personal preference against this art style, but it felt cheap and cartoony for a branch of the franchise whose character and world design used to be one of its strengths. I understand the 3DS isn’t a graphical powerhouse, but it should’ve been able to do more than this.

Beauty can be more than skin deep, however, and so I was hoping the game might be salvaged via its gameplay. Unfortunately, I quickly saw that Federation Force is ugly to its core. Although it utilizes the first-person perspective of the Prime trilogy, Federation Force does not play nearly as smooth as those games. The mechs are slow and plodding, and it’s almost impossible to avoid attacks from more difficult enemies, with many battles becoming a race to see how fast you can whittle down the enemy’s lifebar. The use of the 3DS’s gimmicky gyroscope for more precision aiming also quickly becomes tiresome when trying to line up a killing shot against armored foes with few visible weak points.

The worst of it all may be the balancing of the game, thanks in part to one of Federation Force’s primary selling points being its four-player co-op feature—which somewhat spits in the face of Metroid’s traditional single-player experience with Samus against the world, alone and often stranded in a hostile environment. Each stage you play on is balanced for a four-player fighting force. This means that even if you wanted to play alone, the game punishes you for it, and I am adamant that most players will be unable to finish later stages by themselves. If you are racing against the clock to defeat a dozen or so Space Pirates, but the timer and enemy count remains the same in single player versus four-player co-op, you can see where the better odds are. The Space Pirates may still be pushovers, but there’s only so much any of us can do against time.


Oh, and good luck trying to assemble a squad to take on those later missions. Part of the reason why my review took so long to get done is it took me forever to find people just to play the game with—even after launch. If I created an invite myself, fewer and fewer players were available for the later missions; if I went to join someone else’s team, many were still middling around during the first half of the game. Throw in the obvious issues that come from not being able to communicate via the 3DS except for a handful of preset phrases on the d-pad (“Hello!” “Help!” “Hurry Up” etc.), and progressing through Federation Force was nothing short of being a chore—especially when you stumble upon someone who cared more about lone wolfing it than working as a team. You can obviously get around some of this by having four friends join together locally, but I couldn’t find three other people interested in picking up their own copies of the game.

It also needs to be said that there is the 3v3 multiplayer mode, Blast Ball, which can be played via download play on the 3DS from just one copy of the game. Because of many of the aforementioned reasons, like the slow movement of the mechs and the difficulty in precision aiming, you’re better off just going back to Rocket League instead of dealing with this rather obvious knock-off. I made the EGM crew try it out here in the office, and I think everyone is still mad at me.

The sad thing is, despite all my complaining, in those rare instances where everything seemed to come together—I found people to play a mission I wanted to play and we were all driven to finish the level as a team and move the story forward—Metroid Prime Federation Force actually worked. The story wasn’t spectacular, but it fit well into the Metroid universe. When four players worked together, there was a challenge, but it felt great to come together as a unit and accomplish the goals laid before you. Even the game’s idea of a more arcade-like experience—with each mission being short and sweet (rare was the mission that took more than 15-20 minutes), but there being a lot of them—could’ve lent itself nicely to experiencing the game in bite-sized bits. The shooting felt satisfying, at least until I ran out of the sparse special ammo or was forced to really take aim at something. Missions actually provided some interesting gameplay variety ranging from exploration to escort, from puzzle solving to shootouts against bosses, and the ability to customize the precise loadout of special weapons and buffs pre-mission meant a well-coordinated team could cover each other’s backs extremely well. The problem was simply that these stars aligned far too infrequently for the experience to ever be truly enjoyable.


And, that’s Metroid Prime: Federation Force in a nutshell. There was a core idea here that wasn’t actually bad, just horribly executed. The lack of balance between one and four players, the ugly worlds and character design, the gimmicky controls, the plodding movement, Blast Ball—they all muddled what could’ve been a decent adventure that freshened up the Metroid Prime storyline and paved the way for a future, more realized entry. As is, though, Federation Force is a black eye on the series that stands alongside Other M as another failed experiment.

Publisher: Nintendo • Developer: Next Level Games • ESRB Date: T – Teen • Release Date: 08.19.16
There is a core idea here that could’ve worked, but Metroid Prime: Federation Force is nothing short of a disaster due to horribly thought out implementation and shoddy execution.
The Good Decent mission variety, and if playing with friends locally, four-player co-op has its fun moments.
The Bad Game is completely unbalanced for solo play. Movement is plodding to the point of almost being painful. Trying to communicate during online play is near impossible.
The Ugly Is the future of multiplayer just everyone kicking a giant ball around?
Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive. Review code was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Madden NFL 16 saw the incremental changes of the several previous titles finally culminate in probably the best year-over-year improvements the series had seen to date. Therefore, it was only natural to assume that this might prove to be a down year. After all, how could they top the effort that changed the passing game and saw the addition of Draft Champions? Well, there may not be anything as flashy as brand new modes added this year, but Madden NFL 17 amazingly builds upon what last year’s game did, and may be the most polished entry I’ve played from the annual series in a very long time.

For me, Madden’s greatest mode has always been Franchise mode. Since I first started playing the series 21 years ago—don’t mind me as I take a moment and remember how old I am now, shedding a single tear at the thought of my own mortality—the idea of taking your favorite team to the Super Bowl was what drove you in the days before the advent of online play. When Franchise was introduced and I could then take my team repeatedly to the Super Bowl, I was hooked forever.

The mode has been tweaked countlessly over the years, but never before have we had so much control over our team I think. The addition of practice squad players and being able to focus experience points towards developing draft picks shows a better commitment to how an actual NFL team prepares for the future. Combine this with the returning college scouting system, where you spend points each week to see where potential picks should really fall in the draft, and if you’re likely to play at least several seasons worth of Franchise mode, then building up your team has never felt easier or more natural.


Franchise isn’t just about building towards the future, though. In the here and now, new coach goals and predictions can determine your future with a team—as in if you don’t win now, you might not have that future to build towards. There’s the ability to practice and gameplan each week before your next opponent, and doing so successfully provides in-game bonuses to key player stats. For example, practicing Flood patterns on offense and Cover 2 on defense will boost your players when calling plays that fall in those categories in the game that week. Making legitimate game prep an actual part of Madden surprised me—first for being there, and then for being as enjoyable as it is.

The hardest part of turning any team into a dynasty, though, is keeping them together. New mid-year contract negotiations help make that a breeze, as you see how much a player could want before even getting to the off-season and potentially extend their contract right there. (It’s especially effective with those players who want to negotiate earlier in the year.) Sometimes you’ll realize it’s better to trade away a player who wants too much money, and you can get some sort of return before it’s too late. Sorry middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley; the Ray Carsillo-run New York Giants organization appreciates your service with the team, but we’ve traded you and a draft-pick to the Packers for Jake Ryan, someone just as good as you, who comes at a cheaper price tag, and is seven years younger than you. Welcome to the National Football League, folks.

It’s not just managing a team that has been beefed up, though. Once you take the field, several noticeable changes have made Madden NFL 17 feel like the most realistic game the series has produced yet, starting with the look. A new presentation package gives us more realistic camera angles on replays, and to my delight, the fewest animation bugs I’ve seen in Madden in years. There’s still the occasional hiccup, but the days of players glitching in and out of existence or running off the field and into a replay booth headfirst seem to be gone.


Also, thank goodness the commentary team has been changed. Phil Simms and Jim Nantz sounded so repetitive and canned (just like in real life!) that I played the game on mute most times. Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis sound like they’re actually enjoying the game, making the recording sound fresh and inspired. Even little touches, like Gaudin taking note when you decide to skip the Larry Ridley halftime show and get back into the action, makes the product feel more alive and far more enjoyable.

In terms of gameplay, since last year had a focus on the passing attack, Madden NFL 17 turned its attention to the ground game. First up is how players will fight for extra yards. In certain one-on-one situations, a button prompt will appear on a defender or runner. If you’re the runner, it means you’ll most likely shed a would-be tackler, leading to a bigger gain; if you’re a defender, you’ll emphatically slam the runner down, halting their forward momentum. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it can be a game-changer, keeping you on the lookout for those shining moments.

Another tweak to the running game has been special moves. They’ve long been a part of Madden, but even after all these years, getting the timing down for spins, jukes, and stiff arms has never been an exact science. So, sort of taking a page out of the NHL series’ tutorial overlap, Madden now tells you exactly what button to press—and when—to help you learn the moves you’ll need to turn average runs into game-breaking touchdown scampers.


As a heads-up, though, this feature is set to automatic as the default setting. I found after only a couple games that I needed to turn it off, because as much as it was great when my receiver or back would juke a defender out of his shoes and go for a big gain, it was frustrating when they would try to do a spin move around a wall of defenders. I’d rather just run forward at that point and try to churn my legs for an extra yard or two, instead of being spun down in the spot I’m standing. Besides, by then I had rediscovered my personal timing anyway. So, just as a word of advice: you might need to tweak the settings on this for it to fit your play style the best.

As great as this has been to help balance the running and passing game, the biggest gameplay changes may have surprisingly come from special teams. The third phase of football has long been overlooked by Madden, but this year they’re getting their due, starting with kicking. Borrowing the three-input system from the PGA Tour series, kicking field goals and punting now requires you to press a button three times before sending the ball (hopefully) sailing. The first press starts your power meter, the second sets power and starts to swing the meter back down for accuracy, and the third sets that. It finally adds challenge to what is an integral part of football, and one that had surprisingly become relatively automatic in Madden.

There are two sides to every kick, however, and defending kicks has changed as well—in that you can actually block kicks now. Jumping snap counts and actually being able to run around defenders makes it so that playing the other side of the ball on field goals and punts isn’t automatic anymore. More realistic blocking AI means mistakes can happen, and there are few things in football more exciting than a blocked kick. I’d blocked one kick in my entire Madden career—Madden 2004 with Osi Umenyiora of the Giants in a Super Bowl against the Bengals in franchise mode—up until this point. I’ve already blocked three field goals, and had one of my own field goals and punts blocked in only a couple dozen games in Madden NFL 17.


Of course, this could use some better balancing, especially in online modes like Madden Ultimate Team and Draft Champions. In Franchise, it’s still hard enough to block a kick and it happens about as often as it does in real life, to say not very. In these online modes, since you start with lesser players—and, in the case of Draft Champions, may not fill all the holes you need to in the fantasy draft—it’s much easier for high-level corners to work around low-level linemen. This turns Madden NFL 17 almost into Madden 97 when it comes to playing against others—no one wants to kick the ball.

Speaking of these online modes, Madden’s online suite remains as vibrant as ever. Ultimate Team brings the “Chemistry” feature back (which I’m thrilled about), with clear markings on each card you earn telling you what system those players will best fit. Fill up your chemistry meter with enough players of a particular style (west coast offense, run defense, balanced offense, etc.) and gain bonuses for them in matches. This makes it easier to focus on how you want to build your team and how best to counter your rivals. New solo challenges—now with instant win conditions—expedite the team building process. Last year’s new mode, Draft Champions, also returns with new legends to bolster your roster. As of writing this review, servers appear stable and it’s been quick and easy to get into Draft Champion and head-to-head matchups.

Madden NFL 17 bucks a trend for annual franchises by showing that it can not only find new ways to continue to innovate, but maintain a high-level of consistent quality. Some new features may require more balancing for online play, and there will always be the occasional graphical or audio glitch, but considering where Madden was even just a few years ago, it has come a long way towards showing off its sports dominance and is much more than just a roster update like titles from its past. If you love football, Madden NFL 17 may be the best football game yet.


Publisher: EA Sports • Developer: EA Tiburon • Release Date: 08.23.16 • ESRB Rating: E – Everyone
New features may need a little more balancing to be effective online, but overall, Madden NFL 17 is the most polished and enjoyable Madden yet, magnificently avoiding a potential regression after the successes of the year prior.
The Good Special teams, Franchise mode, and ground game tweaks make it feel like the most authentic football sim yet.
The Bad The occasional graphical glitch. The online balancing of the new features needs some work.
The Ugly That opening LA Rams vs Washington simulation. You really think that’s going to be a Wild Card Round playoff matchup EA Sports?
Madden NFL 17 is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, and PS3. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by EA Sports for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

I had a chance to sit down and capture in 4K on PC some of my matches in the newly revealed Duels mode in Ubisoft’s For Honor. Duels mode is a one-on-one, best-of-five series of bouts that truly test your skills against another player. For Honor will drop on February 14, 2017, on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

At Call of Duty XP, I had a chance to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered. It felt weird after so many years (and so many different Call of Duty), but it also felt oddly comfortable. The nostalgia is strong with this one.