Tag Archive: co-op


Madden NFL 18 New MUT Squads

I had a chance to check out the new MUT Squads mode in Madden NFL 18, which adds 3-versus-3 gameplay and co-op gameplay back to the franchise for the first time in years. Madden NFL 18 is out now.

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When Knack launched alongside the PlayStation 4 back in 2013, it didn’t exactly take the world by storm. Although it was a pretty game that showed off some of the power of the system—with Knack being able to shrink and grow as he absorbed or lost relics over the course of a level—many found the gameplay severely lacking. So, when I had a chance recently to go hands-on with Knack 2—and have the game’s director, PlayStation 4 architect and legendary game developer Mark Cerny serve as my co-op buddy—I was curious to see firsthand what changes the series had undergone from its initial entry (and hear about them from the man himself).

Knack was a very different concept. I was focused on making a game that was accessible to people who had never played a video game before, and thought that would be an interesting part of the PlayStation 4 as a launch title,” explained Cerny as we loaded up the first level. “That ended up being a pretty heavy focus, which meant no platforming and a fairly small moveset. Knack 2 is very different title from that; the focus here is more squarely on gameplay.”

And Cerny wasn’t kidding about that. He ended up showing me seven sections of the game in our demo that highlighted not only a wide variety of different gameplay challenges, but also an expanded moveset for Knack punctuated by four skill trees. It should be noted that some moves are story based, and only by advancing so far in certain levels will Knack unlock them—like a super-strong punch that can shatter enemy shields. Collecting energy in each level can unlock many others, however, and then you can invest that energy into new moves or improve upon those you’ll obtain via progress.

Easily one of my favorite things I experienced in the demo was how expanded Knack’s moveset had become as a whole. Knack can now create a shield that, if timed properly, will deflect bolts and blasts back at enemies. He also has a bola-like projectile weapon that can ensnare foes, making them easy targets for a combo or removing them temporarily from a fight as you focus on other targets. Kicks, body slams, and yes, even more punches round out Knack’s repertoire. One of my favorites was a Fist of the North Star-style flurry of fists that sees Knack move super quick, rapidly punching an enemy several times.

Co-op also sees some combat improvements. Cerny mentioned in our conversation that something he and his team noticed amongst younger players is they’d often take a whack at each other as often as they would Goblins. So, a new move incorporated into co-op is if you hit your buddy, a single relic will fly off like a bullet at an enemy. This way, even if you’re simply messing around, movement isn’t wasted, and can still serve a purpose in gameplay and combat.

As great as it is to see the depth of combat now present in Knack 2, the biggest additions probably come with the breadth of gameplay now available to you. Entire sections of levels are dedicated just to true platforming, exploring, and puzzle solving. In fact, by changing sizes at will, I would have to shrink to Knack’s smallest from to fit into onto smaller ledges and platforms to reach certain areas, and then quickly switch back to a larger from for combat. Knack’s smallest from is all necessary to navigate tiny crevices in cliff sides or Goblin fortresses and discover energy for leveling up, or pieces of technology that can bestow Knack with even more in-game abilities.

There’s a bit of a lottery to the item pieces you’ll discover, however, so there’s even a social aspect added to discovering treasure. If friends of yours have received items you’d rather have from the same treasure chest in their playthrough of Knack 2, you can trade what you received to get the same item they snagged. And, if you don’t have a lot of friends playing Knack 2, don’t worry: there will be some computer explorers that can offer up some options, too.

Other levels, meanwhile, add a stealth element. For example, you’ll have to push crates around with Knack to avoid searchlights while hiding in the shadows to prevent alarms from being set off as you infiltrate a certain someone’s home. You’ll also have to use the size-changing ability—which now features the added bonus of always letting you know just how tall Knack is at a given moment thanks to a height counter in the game’s HUD (if visuals weren’t enough for you)—to shrink and hide under awnings or canopies to avoid robots on patrol.

Knack 2 even brings driving segments to the series. One section of our demo saw Knack get in a tank and drive around destroying enemies and encampments; when playing co-op, one player drives the tank while the other operates the turret. Some other levels also have turret emplacements scattered about, and Knack can climb into one to really whittle down Goblin forces with some green energy blasts.

As the demo was winding down, I admit I was sad to see my time with Knack 2 coming to an end. I hadn’t had this much fun with an action-platformer in a while; the variety of gameplay was stellar, everything handled very tightly, the game looked great, and the writing had me chuckling in my chair. Cerny was quick to point out that bringing on Marianne Krawczyk, writer of the God of War series, to write Knack 2 was a critical move. Although the game is still very much gameplay-driven, having her veteran hand come in for key narrative moments—like where an ally of Knack makes fun of him (and the first game) for only having three punches—was a big boost, and allowed Cerny to focus on directing the gameplay that has made such hugely evident strides.

Although it’s scheduled to release during what’s looking like a very busy second half of 2017, if you’re searching for a fun, high-quality action-adventure that the whole family can enjoy, don’t sleep on Knack 2. With its new depth of gameplay and tight controls, it’s like Knack has finally found all the pieces to turn itself from a pipsqueak PlayStation 4 exclusive into a game to be reckoned with—one that can hold its own with the big boys of the system.

Homefront2Header

Ahead of its Closed Beta stress tests that will be held over the next several weeks, Deep Silver allowed me to sit down with some members of Dambuster Studios to go hands-on with their newly announced 4-player “Resistance” co-op mode for the upcoming Homefront: The Revolution.

Whereas Revolution’s main campaign will follow Ethan Brady—one member of the underground opposition against the occupying Korean People’s Army—Resistance mode allows players to become a wholly unique foot soldier in the guerilla fighting force that challenges the KPA in 2029’s Philadelphia. In Resistance mode, players will be tasked with taking part in special missions with various objectives across several difficulty levels in an attempt to help remove the KPA from the City of Brotherly Love.

Upon first entering the mode, players will be able to customize how their soldier looks, along with what weapons they carry. You can even choose what job your character had before the invasion started, a decision which offers varying bonuses to skills. (For example, in a nod to the team’s own lot in life, video game developer gets a boost to hacking.)

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As you play, you’ll earn in-game currency that can be used to buy packages that vary in contents and cost, and which reward random gear and weapons. If you’re impatient, there are microtransactions that allow you to purchase more currency—but nothing is guaranteed. So, if you’re looking for a sniper rifle, you could pour a ton of money into the game and never get what you’re looking for, or play a mission or two and get it on your first package.

It may sound unfair, but part of this revolves around the idea that supplies are limited when you’re fighting a larger, more powerful occupying force and are resorting to hit-and-run tactics—in that world, beggers can’t be choosers. In fact, it even carries over into your missions. You’ll always have to scrounge for bullets mid-battle, because you’ll almost never have enough ammo to get through an entire mission, especially if you fight the KPA head-on.

Of course, this is where the idea of being a guerilla fighter becomes even more important. Communication between you and the other members of your cell—whether found through matchmaking or paired up with three buddies—is critical to winning the day, especially as missions get harder to handle. Scavenging for supplies on the outskirts of town is one thing; taking on a fully-stocked KPA outpost is another. Speed and stealth are critical to helping you even the odds, and learning the lay of the land may be the only advantage you can have over the KPA, as they’ll almost always outgun and outman you.

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In my first mission with the team, we had to hack satellite relay towers around town. To make matters easier, we found motorcycles at a resistance drop point that allowed us to whizz past patrols and get to our objectives before the enemy knew what hit them. The next mission was completely different, however, and had us trying to steal APCs from a KPA checkpoint. Using the shadows to our advantage, we first moved along the rooftops, knifing snipers along the way before then heading underground via sewers to come up on the other side of the gate. Admittedly, I spent most of my time following the devs because of my unfamiliarity with everything, but I was impressed by the tactics we were using. When we didn’t try to fight like genuine guerilla fighters, the odds became too much, especially for our low level characters.

As great as this occupied Philadelphia looked, and as well as the game handled as a first-person shooter—aside from some twitchiness with the motorcycles that I attribute to the sensitive keyboard and mouse controls—there are still a couple lingering questions surrounding Homefront: The Revolution and its brand new mode.

A lot of games try to do 4-player co-op, and while the two missions I played were a lot of fun (even with relative strangers), is there enough here to keep people coming back for more? We know the game is launching with 12 missions, but what might make the mode is that Dambuster and Deep Silver are releasing 20 more missions over the course of the game’s first year, for free, for everyone. That could offer a lot of replayability.

The other question, though, is whether or not Resistance mode will play into the story of the Homefront series. Will achieving a series of victories over the KPA influence the game, or future games, in any way? Will there be large-scale community events that bring all the 4-person cells around the world together to rise up and take Philadelphia back? It seems that only time will tell, since as fun as my play session was, it clearly only scratched the surface of something deeper that we’ll have to wait to explore when Homefront: The Revolution comes out for Xbox One, PS4, and PC on May 17.

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RainbowSixSiegeOctoberHeader

I had a chance to get my hands on a pair of new modes that have just been announced will be part of Rainbow Six Siege’s lineup.

The first mode is a single-player training mode code Situations. This mode allows players basically to play Terrohunt by themselves against a varying number of enemies. There are a multitude of game scenarios to cover, though, and so each one makes you play as a different operator. This means before you jump online you can have had some practice with the game’s 20 operators to find out who best fits your play style, as well as learn the game’s maps. Check out my time as Glaz and Kapkan in the video below.

For those who are looking forward to the possible eSports imprint Siege will have, the second new mode announced, Spectator, is perfect for up and coming shoutcasters. Spectator mode allows you to get an overview of an entire map to see where all 10 players are at once. You can also zoom in and switch between floors, or jump into the first-person perspective of any player on the fly to see the action. Check out the video below for the demo we were given of Spectator mode.

And finally, because it wouldn’t be a proper Rainbow Six Siege preview without showing off a bit more of the online modes, here are a couple of rounds of the 5v5 PvP that we snuck in between Situations.

Rainbow Six Siege will be available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC on December 1.

Ray needs remake…badly

While it hasn’t had nearly as many remakes as some of its arcade brethren over the years, Gauntlet still holds a special place in many gamers’ hearts. EGM even listed the beloved “needs food…badly” quip as the No. 3 greatest videogame line of all time back in 2002. Now, Warner Bros. has secured the rights from Midway after the latter went bankrupt (and after Midway acquired the rights from Atari in the same manner), and they’ve tapped Swedish developer Arrowhead Game Studios—best known for 2011’s Magicka—to bring the series back for a modern audience.

Obviously, tailoring Gauntlet for younger gamers means some changes. I’m going to brace myself, because this is where the old-school trolls start licking their chops. But there’s actually not that much of a difference here from what arcade junkies know and love. The most immediate change you’ll notice is that you don’t continuously lose health anymore. This forced “time limit” was originally designed as another way to suck down your stack of quarters, and it would probably just piss a lot of people off nowadays. This new Gauntlet isn’t a cakewalk by any means, though. While before you’d pump in more quarters in order to revive yourself, now you need to spend the gold you find in levels.

This works because a lot of modern games have put less of an emphasis on score. It also means this remake has its own skill-based life limit in line with the spirit of the original game. An extra nuance is that when playing cooperatively, all the gold is communal, so if you have a friend who really sucks, all that extra gold you risked your life for may not be there when it’s your turn to finally kick the bucket.

Another interesting thing about gold is that it’s not used to buy weapons like in later Gauntlet ports. Instead, you get new weapons and items by finding “relics” in levels, which then give you special powers like an ice blast or better speed. As you find more and more relics, you need to make some tough choices. You’ll keep them forever, but you can only carry two at a time into a level and can’t spam them because of a recharge meter.

Beyond this, the 4-player hack-n-slash co-op action you know and love still feels a lot like it did back in the day. The four classes—Warrior, Elf, Valkyrie, and Wizard—return, but you can only have one on each team (no clones). You can choose to turn friendly fire on in order to add some extra griefing potential, but because of the communal gold, the game feels less like a competition and more like a true co-op experience, kind of like the Gauntlet Legends spin-off for the N64.

The game also features some classic dungeon designs. I played a level with an Egyptian-tomb motif that was filled with hundreds of undead mummies, and at the end, I faced off against a boss that looked a lot like Death. The classic top-down view is still present, and everything just looks like it’s received a modern coat of paint. I can’t deny that it was tons of fun to swing my Warrior’s axe while surrounded by dozens of foes.

My only real disappointment is the fact that this is currently a PC/Steam exclusive. I miss games where you could sit around a couch and play with a bunch of friends—and I don’t think of that when I hear “PC.” This feels like it’d be perfect for the Xbox One and PS4 with four controllers, but we’ll have to wait and see if Warner Bros. reconsiders after seeing how well Gauntlet does when it hits this summer.

All four one

Nowadays, it seems that whenever a developer wants to make a shooter, they have to include four-player co-op. Some franchises simply make controllable clones that fade away whenever a cutscene or button-prompt event triggers. The better ones, like Borderlands or Gears of War, actually try to create unique individuals for each player. But rarely does the core experience ever deviate, whether playing alone or with friends.

With Fuse, Insomniac Games wanted to mix things up. Instead of giving us the same streamlined co-op experience in a shooter, the Resistance developer wanted to add elements that promoted co-op play as much as possible.

Fuse begins when a covert, four-person team working for an off-the-grid mercenary contractor named Overstrike takes on an assignment to destroy items left behind in a compromised military installation. These four agents quickly meet resistance from a rival gun-for-hire organization called Raven, which has been tasked with extracting the items. Only by tapping into some of the experimental weapons found at the bunker—powered by an alien substance called “Fuse”—can the Overstrike team hope to escape the now-botched operation with their lives.

Fuse’s story is as generic as they come. You’re given four characters who you learn about over the course of the game—but not enough to actually care about beyond the fact that if they die, your mission ends and you need to restart from the nearest checkpoint.

In fact, if you asked the three of us in the EGM office who played Fuse what the character names were, maybe through a combined effort, we could come up with all of them. Whenever we tried to use the actual character names, we just ended up confusing each other, especially with gender-neutral Izzy. It just became easier to call the protagonists “Shield Guy,” “Crossbow Guy,” “Stealth Girl,” and “Healer Girl,” because they were more defined by their weapons than the paltry character development Insomniac attempted here. Couple the forgettable characters with your standard “save the world” story, and Fuse won’t be winning any awards for its script, that’s for sure.

But where the story falters, the gameplay comes through. The best way to describe Fuse’s action is that it’s like a third-person bullet hell. Every weaponized projectile you can think of is constantly flung at your characters, filling the screen at times and making teamwork and cover a must—especially against the bullet-sponge bosses. This frantic, panicked pace gives the action an addictive quality I haven’t experienced in quite a while.

This gameplay doesn’t just permeate the campaign either. In order to wedge in some replayability and give you an alternate way to reach the game’s level cap, a Horde-like mode called Echelon is featured. Twelve waves of the campaign’s hardest enemies will come after you and your squad as you attempt to accomplish a variety of random objectives. It’s not exactly something we haven’t seen before, but the Fuse flare for fast paced action and the objective randomization is a nice touch.

The unique weapons Insomniac has crafted­–continuing to hone what many have called their forte for quite some time now—also complement the action. Dalton’s shield isn’t just a defensive barrier for the team, but it can also give boosts to friendly fire, and the shield can dissolve enemies if they get too close to it. Jacob’s crossbow can act like a sniper rifle, but should your shots miss or not kill, they can be strung together to envelop nearby enemies in liquid fire. Izzy has a special healing grenade that she can toss around the battlefield, and her assault rifle can encase enemies in crystal, stopping them in their tracks. Finally, Maya can create miniature black holes with her rifle and turn invisible to perform stealth kills. When you start finding ways to combine these powers, not only is it more effective at wiping away your enemies, but you also gather more experience.

Aside from the story, there’s one other huge flaw here: The action comes at one speed—no matter how many AI characters you have. This turns a 7-to-8-hour experience with friends into a 15-to-20 hour grind by yourself. It’s not that the AI is bad; it’s just that their priorities aren’t properly balanced. The AI is great at getting you back on your feet if you go down, but if you’re facing a room full of tough enemies or one of those bullet-sponge bosses, the fights become drawn-out and tiresome, as the AI will barely pull the trigger. Sure, you can bounce from character to character with just a press of a couple of buttons—but you’ll still only have one gun firing at the bad guys and actually hitting them, which seems like a torturous way to make you want to play with your friends.

Fuse has a fantastic foundation. The game looks and sounds great, while the RPG systems and frantic, arcade-like gameplay mechanics really pull you into the experience when playing with buddies. But I know how hard it is to get a crew of guys together to do most anything nowadays—never mind play games. Keeping that and the lackluster story in mind, Fuse makes a strong showing but falls short of being an elite shooter.

Developer: Insomniac Games • Publisher: EA • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 05.28.13
7.5
It’s a technically solid game, but Fuse lacks a soul; the story and character development are bland beyond belief. The gameplay is a saving grace, though, and the experience can get quite addictive when working with a few friends—but it can also become a tiresome grind when playing solo.
The Good Fun action sequences and one of the best four-player co-op games available.
The Bad Poor story and character development; not as well-balanced for single-player romps.
The Ugly Arguing with friends over who takes control of which character.
FUSE is available on Xbox 360 and PS3. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

Double Trouble

As frightening as the new Dead Space 3 may hope to be, the thing that most gamers feared from it was the new drop-in/drop-out co-op feature. Many were worried about what having a second person next to them would do for the survival horror aspects of the title. We had a chance to test out this new feature recently, however, and I can attest to the fact that if you thought Isaac Clarke was messed up in the head, just wait until you meet EarthGov Sergeant John Carver.

I was allowed to play as John while another journalist grabbed the reigns of Isaac and we went off trudging through the snow in an unspecified section of the game. The first, and most obvious, major advantage of having a partner popped up almost immediately as we were swarmed by some necromorphs and with two weapons unloading at the same time, we made short work of the twisted creatures. Once we moved inside and out of the cold though, the differences in our experiences started to come forward.

It seems that John Carver has some demons haunting him, much like Isaac, since as we entered the base the walls were adorned with Nutcracker inspired toy soldiers. At this time we were told to look at our partner’s screens and both myself and the person I was playing with were shocked that only my screen had the toy soldiers. A shared play experience with singular hallucinations was definitely an interesting twist as players who communicate well with one another could actually freak the other person out depending on what other surprises the Visceral team had in store for us. And indeed the toy soldiers were not the end of our different game play experiences.

After dispatching maybe a dozen more necromorphs who had crawled out of the vents, we approached a door that only Carver could open. As I laid my hands on the door though, Carver was transported to a world within his mind with children taunting him and shadows clawing at him from all directions, doing monumental amounts of damage. Meanwhile, my partner simply saw my character suddenly spasm and start freaking out as the Carver on his screen was screaming in agony with his hands over his temples. And necromophs love nothing more than screams of torture and torment as a swarm of them came out of the walls.

While I was fighting (mostly running) from John’s demons, Isaac had to make sure neither of our actual bodies got torn to shreds. If I escaped from my moment of insanity, I could help Isaac clear out the necromorphs, but should I have succumbed to my demons, the game would be over and we’d have to start a checkpoint just before my craziness started. I know this, because I did succumb several times before realizing it’s better to run from the demons than fight them.

After finishing our short hands-on time, I can say that the personalized hallucinations and detailed back-story that John begins to exhibit have definitely renewed my faith in the co-op mode for Dead Space 3. The fact that Visceral took the time to fully develop and craft a story for this character lets us know that there is a lot more going on with John Carver than what we’ve seen and what kind of a survival horror game would it be without a few surprises? Knowing that you can play a role possibly in scaring the other player just as much as the environment or enemies around you is a great idea and one that will make me want to play the game through a second time for sure. I only wonder now what special moments may be in store for Isaac that leave John wondering just what is going on inside his partner’s head.

Worst. Movie Game. EVER.

Most movie games are rushed projects that require developers to take an idea loosely based around the corresponding film, staple some play mechanics together, and hope it holds up enough to warrant even making the game at all. So, when I heard that a game based on The Expendables 2 was coming out just before the movie, I definitely didn’t think we’d be getting a masterpiece—but it’s been a while since I’ve seen a pile of slop this bad.

Understandably, the game took the twinstick-shooter route, since it’s easier to create a fully realized 3D world in a short amount of time in this genre (just look at all of the twinstick-shooter indie titles on XBLA). This also allows for 4-player drop-in, drop-out co-op, the one thing that actually works here. But on every other level, this game is a horrible waste of time. Oh, The Expendables 2 Videogame, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways…

The first—and most obvious—offense to your eyes comes with the graphics. The models lack any sort of detail whatsoever once you enter a story chapter, and the game only utilizes two colors, it seems: brown and gray. Not only does this have the effect of blending everything together so you can barely tell who or what is shooting at you, but it also means that most levels blend together as well.

And while we’re on the aesthetics, let’s get to the second point of hatred: the putrid voiceover work. I appreciate Dolph Lundgren and Terry Crews actually lending their voices to the game (not like they got a lot on their plate these days), but the Stallone impersonator is just awful, and the dialogue is horribly written. “What’s the plan, Barney?” “Same as always! Kill everything between us and the objective!” Are you kidding me?! I know elementary-school kids who have a better grasp of dialogue. At least the music’s somewhat enjoyable and gives the game an epic action-movie feel, even if nothing else about the game does.

And just think—I haven’t even gotten to my hatred of the actual gameplay yet! Twinstick shooters don’t usually allow for a lot of gameplay variety—you simply mow down the same two or three enemy types for however many levels the game entails—so I appreciate the fact that the game attempts to break up the monotony that can sometimes plague these titles with some on-rails shooter levels. But bizarrely, the one element the game insists on realism is the gun clips, which cause you to constantly reload and never let you get into any sort of pace when on foot, making you miss many targets during the on-rails levels.

Plus, making the player hold the right trigger in order to fire when on foot defeats the purpose of using both sticks for much of the combat. And since only the sniper character has a laser sight, unless you’re constantly firing—which you can’t, due to the clip sizes—you have no idea where your chosen character is aiming, making the combat feel choppy all around. Additionally, the glitchy hit mechanics mean that you don’t even get proper feedback half the time on whether or not your shot actually hit an enemy, leaving you guessing until they mercilessly fade away instantly after falling to the dirt.

Finally, I hate the story. The dialogue definitely doesn’t paint a vivid picture, but what’s worse is that the game offers no opening cinematic to explain anything and just throws you right to the wolves. This left me hating the experience even more, as your purpose is constantly and consistently murky.

And that sums up The Expendables 2 Videogame in a nutshell: This game has no purpose. It’s one of the worst wastes of time I’ve ever had to review. It has no direction, shoddy controls, an ugly look, and possibly the most absent plot in the modern console generation. It’s an embarrassment, even as movie games go. I implore you to steer clear of this title at all costs.

SUMMARY: Aside from the seamless drop-in, drop-out co-op, this is one of the worst videogames I’ve had the displeasure of playing in a long time. It looks awful, controls horribly, and the plot is nonexistent. 

  • THE GOOD: 4-player drop-in, drop-out co-op.
  • THE BAD: Everything else.
  • THE UGLY: The one-liners, the voice acting, the entire premise…

SCORE: 1.0

The Expendables 2 Videogame is available for XBLA, PSN, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on PSN.