Tag Archive: Feature


It’s very hard to whittle down a year’s worth of games to a list of merely five. EGM had almost 120 games up for best of the year voting this time around, of which I personally beat 87 at the moment of my writing this. (Who needs a family anyway? So overrated.) Nevertheless, some games took weeks, almost months to get through; some barely took more than a lunch break. But at the end of a grueling and arduous processing period that would have broken lesser men, I emerged with a list of my personal top five from 2016. I give these games my highest recommendation, and hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

#5
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: The Coalition
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Gears of War 4
I was cautiously optimistic when it came to Gears 4 prior to release. The original trilogy had wrapped everything up so nicely, and the prequel was so lackluster, that I really wasn’t sure if an adventure that followed Marcus’ son could capture the magic of the original three. But, thankfully, my fears were quickly assuaged. New enemies, a Sera wracked by new natural disasters as a result of Gears 3’s ending, and a new cast was just what the doctor ordered to put Gears of War back on top. Along with the thrilling campaign, the multiplayer was a return to form, too. New weapons, maps, and modes, plus the card system to reward players for playing certain ways, gave it a much-needed shot in the arm. If I ever find the time, this is the one multiplayer I’m returning to.

#4
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Playground Games, Turn 10 Studios
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Forza Horizon 3
As much as I love racing games,—and the Forza series in particular—it’s hard to believe it made my top five. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m saying it snuck in here. On the contrary, I just can’t believe how much I loved it. Sports and racing games sometimes get forgotten, or left in a category all their own (or weirdly mashed into one category). When it comes time for Game of the Year, for me anyway, everything is on the table. And hands down, no doubt, Forza Horizon 3 is one of the best all-around experiences I’ve had in 2016. If it wasn’t for the fact that my job requires me to play dozens of games a year, my tires would still be warm on my precious dune buggy as I bound over the hills of the Outback. With tons of championships still to be won, I can’t wait to dive back into this one over winter break.

#3
Publisher: The Pokémon Company
Developer: Game Freak
Platforms: 3DS
Pokémon Sun/Moon
I’ve said it a hundred times I think at this point, but I’ve been playing Pokémon since it first hit these shores almost 20 years ago, and I don’t think since that original entry has a game in the series made me so happy. Pokémon Sun/Moon’s removal of traditional gym battles, reimagining of friends and rivals, integration of legendary Pokémon into the story, and multitude of side activities to do blows away every previous entry. The fully-realized 3D world and movement make a huge difference when roaming around the islands of Alola, and the removal of HMs and adding ride Pokémon to get from point A to point B quickly make the chore of traversal a thing of the past. Almost every issue we’ve had with previous Pokémon games has been addressed, and the game still has all the great battle strategy and training we’ve come to expect over the years. I can’t wait to see where Pokémon goes next.

#2
Publisher: EA
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Titanfall 2
If you want to see a master course in level design in action, play Titanfall 2. Rectifying one of the major gaffs of the first game by including a campaign this go around, Respawn Entertainment turned my world on its head and inside out, and I loved every second of it. If you told me I was going to cherish the relationship between a pilot and his robot at this start of this, I’d have laughed you out of the office. Now, though, I think it’s one of the strongest bonds conveyed in a game. It’s not the best written, since gameplay definitely still takes the reigns most of the time here, but if you want a non-stop, adrenaline-fueled roller coaster ride with giant robots, then you need to play this game. Plus, the multiplayer is just as tight this go around as in the first one. It almost doesn’t get better than this.

#1
Publisher: Playdead
Developer: Playdead
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Inside
I’m just as shocked as anyone that I picked indies as my game of the year in back-to-back years now, but the truth of the matter is that I absolutely adored Inside. There was no other game that I was talking about well after I beat it more than this near-perfect little puzzle platformer. The adventure of trying to escape a world making its best attempt to crush you in every way imaginable surely has more metaphors buried in it than I can uncover here in this blurb, but throw that in with an insane ending that you’ll never see coming, and I’m still excited about it even just writing this. I did not know how Playdead would be able to top their first amazing effort with Limbo, but they did, and if anyone believes in the sophomore slump, they clearly never played Inside.
The 6th Annual “The Colors, Duke! The Colors!” Award for Most Colorful Game presented by Popsicle (not really)
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Continuing my annual tradition, for as many great looking games as were out there this year, none looked as good to me as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. From the animation for all the characters to the remote locales that Drake explored, the game was simply gorgeous. Driving my jeep through the mud, boating on crystal clear waters, and climbing through overgrown jungles are all things we’ve seen in games before, but I don’t think any game has ever done them better. So, it may not have made my Top 5, but I needed to at least shine a small light on the beauty of this visual gem.
The Michelle Obama Award for Battling Obesity
Pokémon Go
Although strides have been made with motion controls and virtual reality, gaming has always been, and really remains, a pretty sedentary activity. Then Niantic released Pokémon Go this summer, and millions of people got up out of their chairs and started walking around—including yours truly. Heck, even to this day it affects my lunch habits, as I’ll walk places now in order to hatch eggs and get candy in the game. I met new people, found new places in and around Los Angeles, and spent more time outdoors than I had in a very long time. I’d still love to see battling and trading implemented at some point, but for now, kudos to Niantic for doing what almost nothing could for me for a long time: giving me a reason to get up and go outside.
The “Reality Sucks, Let’s Go Somewhere Else” Award
Robinson: The Journey
2016 will be remembered as the year VR really hit mass-market, and so it seemed fitting to shine a light on one of the best games out there for it. While many games successfully brought the sensation of piloting mechs or planes to life, my favorite experience was when I got to explore a strange new world on foot. Robinson: The Journey revolves around a spacefaring boy lost on a strange planet filled with dinosaurs. Avoiding Velociraptors, T-Rexs, and Pterodactyls was invigorating, and got me using my PS VR headset probably more than any other game out there. This experience, more than any, other has sold me on the future of VR.
EGM’s Best of 2016 Coverage
We’re taking a look at the best games of 2016 all week, from Christmas day through December 30th. Check back every day for our Top 25 Games of 2016, as well as our personal lists for the games we loved most this year. Check here for everything that’s been posted so far.
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Sony’s flagship racing franchise, Gran Turismo, has been a staple for video game gearheads for almost two decades now. The series is known for the great lengths it will go to in order to try to deliver the highest-quality racing experiences possible while keeping its finger on the pulse of today’s gaming culture. Because of this, it’s no wonder that the series’ next secondary release, Gran Turismo Sport (due out on November 15 as a PS4 exclusive) will again look to push racing in several ways. Here are the top five things you should be looking forward to in the new Gran Turismo Sport.

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#1: The game will center on eSports and competitive racing

Everyone is trying to get a piece of that eSports pie nowadays, and Gran Turismo looks to take pole position in the racing genre’s competitive scene. Teaming up with FIA—Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body for Formula One and World Rally Championship racing—Gran Turismo Sport looks to usher in the first-ever FIA Gran Turismo Online Championships, with players actually being recognized and licensed by the racing group as they compete for one of two cups. The Manufacturers Cup will see racers represent their favorite car brands over the course of the year, whereas the Nations Cup will have them represent their home country, with the winners honored at FIA’s annual prize-giving ceremony in Paris. There will also be live competition components to each cup season, and various online events and components similar to GT Academy being held on a regular basis.

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#2: Brand new tracks keep the experience fresh

Although the number of tracks is only a fraction of what we see in full GT entries, the 19 tracks and 27 layouts present in Gran Turismo Sport are the most in a secondary title yet. The best part, though, is that Polyphony Digital continues to create new courses and layouts for the series. So, while there are already old real-world favorites in the six tracks revealed thus far like Nurburgring and Willow Springs (each rescanned to capture even the slightest detail on PS4), new tracks include an oval called Northern Isle Speedway (I hope you like left turns), and a high-speed urban track full of narrow corridors called Tokyo Expressway (based on the actual highways of Japan’s capital city).

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#3: Most realistic and detailed car models yet

Even with GT6 serving as somewhat of a swan song for the PS3, the series continued to push the limits on creating the most realistic and detailed car models available at the time. Gran Turismo Sport plans on continuing that tradition both by utilizing the power of the PS4 and by performing brand-new scans of the most powerful cars from every car manufacturer. GT Sport touts 140 fully remodeled cars, and although that number pales in comparison to what is available in the mainline titles of the series, it is by far the most cars from a GT secondary title—not including the PSP Gran Turismo.

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#4: New braking and driving assists are being introduced

Gran Turismo has long had the reputation as the most true-to-life racing game series out there, with minimal assists for players in order to help them better grasp just what it takes to race on the most famous tracks in the world at the fastest speeds possible. In an attempt to help expand its audience and make the game more fun for less-intense racing fans, new driving and braking assist options have been introduced to help you get into a groove before you start trying to see if you have what it takes to truly become a racing legend. While you’ll need to not use these assists if you ever want to have a hope of competing on the world stage of GT Sport, they should help lower the barrier of entry for the franchise like never before.

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#5: Sport is the deepest secondary title in Gran Turismo history

Gran Turismo Sport will feature the deepest suite of modes yet for a secondary title in the series, making an argument for being more of a full standalone title—unlike the GT Prologue games. Sport touts a time trials mode, local races against the AI, and online races with up to 20 drivers at a time. There’s also a fully fleshed-out Campaign for those simulation-loving drivers who prefer playing alone, and a Sports Mode that takes advantage of the competitive racing scene Gran Turismo naturally lends itself to. Gran Turismo Sport will also be fully compatible with the PlayStation VR headset when released, meaning you can truly feel what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a Formula One car (or the like) for the first time ever.

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As part of today’s livestream and presentation, EA DICE revealed that the future of Battlefield is going back to the advent of what we might consider modernized warfare with a World War I setting. Besides a single-player campaign with multiple protagonists, Battlefield 1 is looking to provided the most robust multiplayer suite the series has ever seen.

The first aspect of this is the largest maps yet. Arabia, the Italian Alps, and the muddy fields of France from the western front have already been confirmed and are just as destructible as anything we’ve seen before. Massive battleships can pepper coastlines and reduce them to clusters of smoldering craters, while tanks can rolls through narrow alleyways in urban France, leaving buildings in heaps of rubble behind them. One unique vehicle, though, will be cavalry horses. Riding horses can provide speed in multiplayer, while also giving players access to places normal vehicles cannot get to.

The battle for air supremacy has also taken a distinct turn in Battlefield 1. You can try to channel your inner Red Baron (the pilot, not the pizza) by hopping into biplanes. Some of these old-school aircraft will also offer players a chance to dominate with friends, as they’ll seat two people, meaning one person will pilot while the other will man the guns. Whether or not you can accidentally shoot your own plane like in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is yet to be seen.

The core of Battlefield 1‘s multiplayer, though, will remain with the troops on the ground. Players will be able to choose from one of four classes: Assault, Medic, Scout, and Support. Assault is great for taking out enemy vehicles, Medics are the healing experts, Scouts specialize in picking off single targets with sniper rifles or the like, and Support uses heavy guns to mow down infantry that cross their path. There are also vehicle-specific classes being introduced for the first time, like tank drivers and biplane pilots. While anyone can drive vehicles in multiplayer just like in previous games, these special classes will get boosts if piloting their vehicle of expertise.

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Personal weaponry is also a massive aspect of the new Battlefield. While flamethrowers, mustard gas, and zeppelins were teased in the presentation, we can confirm era-accurate ordnance of all kinds. Pistols, rifles (bolt-action, semi-auto, and fully-auto), and machine guns will be usable by players. You can also call in artillery strikes. Your melee weapon may be just as important as your gun, however, for the first time in the series.

In true World War I fashion, getting your hands dirty in the trenches and getting up close and personal with your enemies is going to be a large part of the gameplay. Knives, sabers, shovels, and trench clubs all offer up distinctive advantages and kill scenarios for players, while a special power called the bayonet charge will also be available for some particularly gruesome close-up kills.

One final change Battlefield 1‘s multiplayer is introducing is a heavier emphasis on team play. Lone wolves beware as charging blindly into battle should spell certain doom as EA DICE has admitted to trying to reward more strategic, team-oriented gameplay. How exactly this will manifest itself is yet to be seen.

And due to EA DICE failing to offer hands-on opportunities before EA Play in June, it’s difficult to tell just how all these changes will actually feel in Battlefield 1. The grounded, reality-based scenario definitely has me excited again, and the potential for even more varied locations not yet announced—like Prussia on the eastern front, maybe—has me wanting to know more. At the very least, it appears like Battlefield is taking a step forward by going back in time.

Battlefield 1 will launch on October 21st for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

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The hit is on

The Hitman series has been a beloved staple in the action-stealth genre for a decade and a half now, and continues to force players to think outside the box when carrying out their objectives. Now, on the verge of the sixth mainline release for the series, we sat down with Io Interactive Studio Head Hannes Seifert to talk about how this latest adventure looks to reinvent Agent 47 and turn the series on its head by going episodic while still trying to stay true to the franchise’s gameplay roots.

EGM: Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Why make Hitman episodic?

Hannes Seifert: We had the vision of doing this very soon after finishing Hitman: Absolution. We didn’t call it episodic then, but we had this vision of our games having longer lives, and of being able to update and change the game post-launch. We had two epiphanies that led to that.

The first came when we had released Absolution in 2012, and we had done a few things new in that. One was we actually thought about what it meant for Hitman to have multiplayer, and multiplayer was something that, when we talked about it to fans and players, they didn’t want us to do it, usually talking about Hitman’s single-player nature. And if we were to do something PvP, that’d have been a fair assessment.

But that was also the time when YouTube was becoming big for gaming, and when we looked at what people did with older Hitman games, especially Blood Money. They had created these YouTube channels where they would make their own hits. They’d go through a level and say this is my target and I must kill him with a knife while disguised as a plumber, or something like that. They’d post the video, and then challenge their friends and viewers to do it better, faster, smarter—and post a competing video that led to them escalating the challenge.

And that inspired Contracts. It was basically those YouTube videos, but properly gamified. And we thought it was a nice gimmick, but it ended up being a runaway success. When it launched, we had server issues because so many people picked it up. Forty-percent of people who ever played Absolution played Contracts, and put at least one contract online. We now have 30 million contracts from Absolution, and that was a game where we didn’t have any DLC, we didn’t update with new features, yet 400,000 people are still playing it every month. That was when we saw the long life capabilities of the game, and wanted to do something that better catered to the fans.

So, when looking at Contracts, we asked ourselves if there was an opportunity to do some DLC that focused on that mode. We realized it really wouldn’t fit with the narrative nature of Absolution, though, to just do new maps. Looking back, we realized it made the most sense when compared to Blood Money, and that’s when the idea for a non-linear  episodic unfolding of our vision really came to be—which led to our World of Assassination. That was the ultimate vision for it. We wanted to have something we could ship, but then react to and grow the game while our players are playing, and learn what they like and don’t like more easily.

The second thing was when we patched Absolution post-release with a balance update to the disguise gameplay after seeing what the fanbase was saying. It was the first time Io Interactive had used a post-launch patch to not fix a bug, but change balancing according to feedback. And, to be honest, Absolution wasn’t made for that. It wasn’t easy, it was a classic AAA-release, and old technology was really more about shipping and less about modifying—so that also heavily influenced our mindset about how the next game should run. Really, just scratching the surface of what we wanted to do. So, having Contracts that come from us, and also from the community, plus some new features as well, and it’s all about catering towards the community playing it, because Hitman is not meant to be a game you play once on a weekend—it’s a game meant for you to keep coming back to.

So, those two things are what inspired us to go episodic with Hitman. It was a long journey—convincing ourselves that it could work—because we needed to plan and think differently as a development team for this, and have the technology change enough to better accommodate this. But, I’m actually very proud we’re still the first to do it with a such a big title, even if that might leave us open to being scrutinized a bit more, and looked at from more angles. When you do something new with something that people are so passionate about, you also need to be respectful with that. Now, we just have to prove this is the best possible way to make a Hitman game.

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EGM: With the episodic release schedule of maps, though, are you worried it could hurt the life cycle of each location? What will you do to keep interest up in older content?

HS: We didn’t see that in Absolution, even though you could see some people did have their favorites. I think Absolution’s linearity really worked in its favor. I do expect when we ship Italy in April, America in May, etc., that people will focus on those for a while. But, we also are growing features overall in the game, polishing them and tweaking them, adding content to all locations over time in the ever-growing World of Assassination to give you those reasons to travel back and forth. One of these features is Elusive Targets. It’s a hardcore feature for the online community, where a target is available for only 48 hours. So, imagine Thailand just came out, and you are playing that, and then an elusive target is spotted in Paris. You don’t want to miss out on that, so you spend that weekend going back to Paris and getting that elusive target before heading back to Thailand.

We also have a large chunk of players who care about the story, and the way we structured this is like a modern thriller. So, we have an overarching storyline that weaves through the missions like a TV show, and a lot of the story is told in the actual level. There are cutscenes that carry the narrative forward, but when you are in the level and listening to conversations and seeing what people are doing, you can get a better understanding of what’s going on in the overall plot. So, once you have played a few episodes, you may realize that a character you may have interacted with earlier on plays a specific role in the story. As things unfold, I expect some people will go back and play those early levels again just to get the different perspective and context they now have.

So, yes, the new stuff is obviously going to be the exciting stuff that garner attention, but Elusive Targets will keep coming, Power Escalation targets will keep coming, Contracts will keep coming from us, and then there’s the idea of fully understanding everything that’s happening.

Of course, I’m also curious to see how it all actually plays out, because that’s what we can do with data. We can see what the majority of the people are playing, and how they are playing, and tailor content more towards what players want. And, we also know that one-percent of the people are the most vocal and 99-percent will rarely say anything, so we also need to look at both and balance that, too.

EGM: You show Agent 47 meeting Diana Burnwood for the first time in the very beginning of the game. Why go back to his early day as an assassin and what does this do for the story of the game? Are you rebooting the universe?

HS: Well, first off, it’s not a reboot. Nothing in the game is a reboot. It’s a compliment to the lore and universe of Hitman. I think why people see this as a reboot is because of the name. There was never any Hitman game called simply “Hitman”. You had Codename 47, Silent Assassin, Blood Money, etc. And we did that to emphasize the start of this World of Assassination. It’s setting up a foundation for more games to come. It’s the first time in Io’s history that we are thinking of this multi-season storyline. In the past we weren’t very good at that. It was six years between Blood Money and Absolution, right? And the most interesting characters we introduced in each game we killed off. [Laughs]

So, all we have to carry forward is Diana and Agent 47. But that’s what we want to emphasize: this is the start of a new generation. The game will take you back 20 years to when Diana and 47 first meet, because that is a pivotal moment. But, in the timeline it fits into all the previous games. The main story takes place after Absolution, except that Prologue, which focuses on this meeting between Diana and 47. Absolution was more like a road movie, and now Hitman is a modern thriller. Agent 47 is back at his peak after hitting his low in Absolution.

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EGM: Given we see the first meeting between Agent 47 and Diana, do you think this is a good time for new fans to get into Hitman, considering it does have such lore and history behind it?

HS: We are always trying to cater to both new players and our longtime fans, but that doesn’t always align 100-percent, because we have a reputation of being a difficult game. Absolution was the exception I would say, but a lot of longtime fans disliked that because it made it feel more like a third-person action game, and not necessarily the best Hitman game there ever was. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve now.

You could play Absolution like a Hitman game, mind you, but you couldn’t kill every target, as you might have wanted, with some characters dying in cutscenes. It was a deliberate decision, but we learned it’s not necessary to cater to everyone. We are a game for gamers, and want to make sure our fans are happy with it.

Of course, the advantage of doing this episodic model now, though, is that if you are new to the series and have heard how hard it is and are not sure if it’ll be for you, you can try it for a few dollars and see if it’s the game for you. I think many people will take that step and find out.

The other thing is that we took the controls to a new level. I admit they were perhaps a bit clunky in the past, and Absolution was the first that felt really right on the sticks. So, we built on that with this game, so it feels right. That should make it easier not only for gamers, but also newcomers to the series, to jump right in.

Lastly, we have the opportunities feature now that gives you hints on how to take our your target. We know from the beta already that our fans don’t use this.  New people use it a lot, though, and it’s great seeing the statistical distribution. Of course, some are more popular than others based on who saw the trailer or previews and wanted to replicate what they saw, but there isn’t one that dominated the statistics. No assassination opportunity even hit 30-percent according to our data. So, everyone is getting completely different experiences when playing the game, and it’s very evenly distributed. Some fans just want to find everything themselves and take pride in that, but when new to the franchise, I think it’s important you understand the buffet of opportunities you have in a true Hitman level. I think this is where we have to teach players, and we try with the tutorial to show that this is how you get the maximum enjoyment out of a Hitman game.

You can still play it how you want, though. If you want to go full action, you can; it’s not the easiest shooter, but you can try it out. If you like pure stealth, go for it. If you like adventure, it’s like solving puzzles when trying to get the most impressive kills. And that’s what we have to teach new players. I sincerely think we found the right balance now, because Absolution alienated some of our hardcore fans who felt we were taking them by the hand. It’s much more open now, and you can only be taken by the hand if you want to.

The game will even ask you after showing you everything if you want waypoints and opportunities and notifications, or nothing at all. It’s our new take on difficulty. All the notifications being on is super easy, and going pure with no notifications is super hard, where even the producer like me can’t finish it, because it is so hardcore.

EGM: The freedom or illusion of choice in games has come up in a lot of topics of discussion lately. Hitman is one of many games where everyone has the same start and the same end, but the choice is in how you get there. How difficult is it to work in a system like that, and how do you keep every choice entertaining?

HS: There are a lot of games where you do work exactly like that. You give people subtle guidance. For example, in level design you’ll often use light. People always follow light, and follow the position that will lead them along that path. That is a very valid design approach, giving people a sense of choice where choices are really limited.

In Hitman, we approach things differently in that we don’t necessarily approach every path with the idea of making it enjoyable. When we look at our opportunities for example, we have plans to have 10, maybe 15 per level, and hope they are memorable more than enjoyable. Like in the tutorial level with the ejector seat, or crashing the light rig in Paris—we have a few of these in each level, because they are funny or impressive moments. But when you look at the statistics, the maturity of players leads them on their own path, and they find their own way to kill the target. This is because we do our levels systemically.

The game design is actually very simple. There are two characters, you kill them, and you get away with it. Go in. Kill. Get out. There are so many ways of doing that, and the game environment is made for you to try them all out. I saw this in the beta: One guy actually killed the target by burying him under the bodies he stacked on top of him. It was so crazy when I saw the video. He lured the target to a morgue, blocked the target with body bags, and then killed him by dropping bodies on top of the target. And that is not enjoyable. That takes hours and is a chore, but people find ways like that all the time. And the game allows this kind of choice. So, that’s what I mean when I say we don’t make everything enjoyable. You simply use the tools that we provide, and they are systemic.

Sure, some scripted things always take place. There’s always a fashion show in Paris. The show will start, climax, and finish. But, say you just stand around the entrance at the start of the mission and wait two hours. Eventually the show will end and it will go into an after party and you’ll never again have the stage kill opportunity because he only does his speech once. So there are certain scripted elements in how the level is directed, but the moment you step into the level, you’ve changed the outcome. It’s a butterfly effect. Say you have a favorite sniper spot. Getting to that spot unobstructed the same exact way twice is really difficult because you need the right timing and mustn’t interact with anything else. The second you distract someone, or someone sees you, it might send guards on a different patrol pattern or delays timing by just a second so your gap is now non-existent. And that could affect other characters who are set to interact with that NPC—and it just multiplies. It’s a butterfly effect. If you kill all the waiters, who can serve the poisoned food?

That is something that happens when you interact with the level and that’s why it’s so unpredictable—and I think that’s what people really like.  Everyone having different experiences excites me because it means we succeeded.

 The first episode of the new Hitman drops on March 11 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

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With movies, TV, comics, and video games all being highlighted at the same time, New York ComicCon can easily bombard and even overload your senses. Even so, I was able to maintain my focus for just long enough to elbow my way through the massive crowds and get my hands on some awesome games—and here are my top five picks from this year’s show.

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Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
Developer: EA DICE • Publisher: EA

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original Mirror’s Edge, and I think part of the reason was that while it had a lot of great ideas, some of them fell flat on their execution. My first time getting hands on with its reboot, however, has me as excited as fans who were head over heels for the original. While I only got 15-minutes of playtime, I’ve never felt more free while running through an open world as I did when controlling Faith. Dare I say, it even felt natural sliding through ventilation shafts, running up walls, and climbing over ledges in fluid, seamless motions that never took away my momentum?

The most telling part of how far the series has come since its original iteration, however, was combat. Having a full head of steam allowed me to pull off some insane one-hit takedowns on armed guards. The only time I had trouble was when I messed up a jump and slowed down my momentum. While I still closed the distance quickly between myself and my assailant—and proceeded to use punches and a spin kick finish to take them down—it took precious time that, had the individual not been alone, would’ve left me as a sitting duck. Situations like those further drive home the point that stopping likely means death in this new Mirror’s Edge, and flight is almost always a better option than fight.

 

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Unravel
Developer: Coldwood Interactive • Publisher: EA

My penchant for puzzle-platformers means that Unravel and its unlikely protagonist Yarny have jumped towards the top of my most anticipated games list. It’s heart-warming story retelling an old woman’s life, and those she’s lost touch with, is your only motivation to guide Yarny through a world wrought with peril around every corner.  Taking advantage of the fact that Yarny is made of—well, yarn—you can build makeshift bridges, lasso up to grapple points, and find inventive ways to traverse the wide-open world set before you.

In the demo I got to play, Yarny had to find its way through a forest and then past the ocean. The forest required careful precision as I leapt between small branches before finally tying Yarny to the end of a kite, using his weight to guide my unlikely vehicle down to the shoreline. There, the tide was my greatest foe, as timing momentum-driven jumps between the oncoming waves was far more difficult than it may sound. It was only a taste, but the more demos I play of Unravel, the more excited I become to see what other obstacles can be thrown in my path—and how I can overcome. If what we’ve so far is any indicator, Unravel will be a can’t-miss platformer next year.

 

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Indivisible
Developer: Lab Zero Games • Publisher: 505 Games

I didn’t play Lab Zero’s first game, Skullgirls, choosing instead to appreciate its beautiful art-style from afar. Hearing how much fun folks in the office had with it, though, I resigned myself not to make that mistake twice when the studio recently announced its latest game, Indivisible. This adventure sees a young girl named Ajna seeking revenge on local warlords who have ravaged her rural country town. When she decides to go on this classic quest, however, Ajna finds she can absorb certain individuals into her being, and let them out to help her battle when she needs to (thus comprising your four-person party with Ajna always at the front).

I was able to play Indivisible up through its first major boss fight, and it reminded me in many ways of newer titles like Dust: An Elysian Tail and Child of Light. Its side-scrolling exploration and art design aren’t anything new to gaming, but require tight platforming from the beautifully drawn characters. And, should you contact an enemy, the world seamlessly transitions into combat, where Ajna and her crew have to each wait for their individual time meters to fill before they could attack—and, while doing so, also possibly interrupt the time meter of their opponents. Depending on the direction you’re holding when you attack, as well as how much meter you let accumulate, your characters can do a variety of different moves. Some focus on singular opponents, while other moves perform area of attack damage, which are great for crowd control.

Even with only having played Indivisible for a half-hour, I could see the depth the combat had, and I couldn’t put my controller down. If Ajna’s story is even half as compelling, it looks like Lab Zero has another hit on their hands—should they hit their Indiegogo target, that is.

 

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The Guest
Developer: Team Gotham • Publisher: 505 Games

We’ve seen a lot of first-person exploration games recently, but Team Gotham’s The Guest creates a terrifying atmosphere that gets your heart racing and makes you question how much further you want to go from almost the very first puzzle. I was only able to explore a couple of rooms in my short demo, but hallucinations, ominous warnings, and evidence that your character isn’t the first person to become trapped in this foreboding hotel in the middle of nowhere were enough for my curiosity to power through my fear.

Relying on your wits, you’ll have to solve a slew of riddles on the way to piecing together the bigger picture of what is keeping you there. While those I saw in the demo were nothing more than finding the broken pieces of an item and putting them back together, or combining items to make something new, promises of more complex conundrums down the line have me excited to see what The Guest can do when finished. The only question now will be whether to experience The Guest in virtual reality, or with a keyboard and a mouse.

 

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Rise of the Tomb Raider
Developer: Crystal Dynamics • Publisher: Square Enix

With only weeks until Rise of the Tomb Raider releases on Xbox One, I still had yet to experience any of my dear Lara Croft’s newest adventure for myself. Demos and events had always seemed to conflict with other appointments, so I’ve been relatively in the dark when it comes to how Lara has changed since her recent reboot on the last-gen consoles. But, at NYCC, I was finally given a chance to play a small snippet of the game in a segment called “The Prophet’s Tomb.” Much like riding a bicycle, the new mechanics from the last game—and the familiar gameplay the series has long been known for—came flooding back to me.

Leaping away from collapsing floors, shooting out spike traps, and using levers to raise or lower the water level to obtain my encrypted prize has not only never felt so good, but also never looked better. The dynamic lighting of torches flickering against stones covered with a thin slime caused by the humid conditions of Lara’s environment was a sight to behold, and the slight nuances her expression would convey made her more lifelike than ever. My only disappointment was that, like many of the games I experienced at NYCC, my time with Rise of the Tomb Raider was short.

If you’d like more of a chance to experience Rise of the Tomb Raider, however, be sure to check out our own Emma Schaefer’s preview from a couple weeks ago, where she played an extended demo of the hands-on I got, as we all wait patiently for what is shaping up to be the best Tomb Raider game yet.

Here is the best cosplay I saw at New York ComicCon 2015 and in only 90 seconds!

One of the most thrilling things about an Assassin’s Creed release is seeing how the world builders behind the game not only re-create iconic landmarks from the cities and regions they choose, but do so in a way that feels accurate for the time frame. With London’s tremendous history and potential, I give you the top five places I want to see and explore in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’s Victorian England.

Get more info on how to get your own copy of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate here: http://bit.ly/1AUbKEl


Tower of London

Easily one of the oldest structures in London, this near millennium-old castle sits on the northern bank of the River Thames, and has had numerous uses over the centuries. Originally used as a key fortification on one of the main bridges into the city, the Tower of London has also served as a residence for the royal family, a menagerie, and continues to this day to house the Crown Jewels. With all the stories of ghosts roaming the Tower’s halls, and with its diverse history, one can only imagine that Syndicate would take advantage of this landmark—using its interior as the setting for at least some side missions, with the outside providing some perfect synchronization points.

Buckingham Palace

A perfect tie-in to Syndicate, Buckingham Palace did not become the official home of Britain’s royal family until Queen Victoria in 1837—who was of course in her ruling prime around the events of the game. Originally just a townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham, the Palace was built in 1703, and has had numerous additions made over the following three centuries. Besides being the current residence of the royal family, Buckingham Palace is world renowned for its gardens, the largest private ones in all of London. I’m sure they’d make a wonderful approach to sneak through if need be.

Palace of Westminster

Located on the Middlesex bank of the River Thames, the Palace of Westminster—where the Houses of Parliament meet, and whose clock tower houses good old Big Ben—may be the most recognizable of London’s landmarks. While it also once served as a royal residence, it is best known now for where all of England’s most important government decisions are made. What’s most fascinating is that the time period Syndicate takes place in coincides with the Palace still in the process of being rebuilt after an 1834 fire. While close to completion at that point (repairs were officially deemed done in 1870), there is still the potential for Jacob and Evie to work their way through half-completed corridors and hidden rooms, all while Parliament is in session. Not to mention that clock tower would make one heck of a climb.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

We couldn’t be talking Assassin’s Creed landmarks if we didn’t list at least one church, and few are as special as St. Paul’s. Sitting atop Ludgate Hill, the cathedral is at the highest point of all of London, looking down from above on all the people. At 365 feet tall, it was the tallest building in all of London until 1962—meaning it should be your most challenging climb in Syndicate. It’s dome remains one of London’s most recognizable sights, due to its domination of the skyline for over three centuries now. Often the site of many special and celebratory occasions in English history, it’d be surprising if Jacob and Evie didn’t have to infiltrate this structure at least once.

Piccadilly Circus

No, it’s not a circus in the traditional sense. In the case of Piccadilly, circus means “circle”, as in a round open space at a street junction, like a town square. Its location in London has made it a tourist attraction in and of itself due to its proximity to the shopping and entertainment centers in London’s West End. It’s this ideal location that means Jacob and Evie will likely be running through Piccadilly more often than not, in order to get to key areas in the game. And, although London’s Underground was open by the time Syndicate starts, I’m going to have to disappoint people by mentioning that Piccadilly’s own Underground station wasn’t constructed until the turn of the 20th century—meaning there shouldn’t be official tube station entrances near here in the game.

We ask fans about their impressions of the new Star Wars: Battlefront trailer from Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim.

It’s crazy to think that’s it already been 10 years since the last Star Wars: Battlefront game came to home consoles. But when EA DICE’s relaunch of the series drops this holiday season, that’s exactly how long it will have been since Battlefront II released on the PS2, Xbox, PC, and PSP. In honor of the new Battlefront’s reveal at this year’s Star Wars Celebration convention, we decided to take a look back at the history of this beloved gaming brand.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Back in 2004, Star Wars’ popularity was still riding high. We were mere months away from the release of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in theaters, and although Star Wars games had long been loved on PC (X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Jedi Knight), they were going through something of an upswing on consoles courtesy of three successful Rogue Squadron games on Nintendo systems and the Xbox/PC RPG Knights of the Old Republic.

LucasArts looked to continue its success on consoles, and they tapped a then-little-known developer named Pandemic to play around with the brand. The studio blended first- and third-person shooting with some standard conquest gameplay, which brought a whole new dimension to a Star Wars video game. Players were allowed to jump into different conflicts from the movie universe, while choosing from one of five classes within four factions. And thus, Star Wars: Battlefront was born for PS2, Xbox, and PC. Although the single-player component was a rather bare-bones experience—and poor AI held the title back at times—Pandemic was on to the start of something special when it came to Star Wars and multiplayer gaming.

Return of the Jedi

Only a year after the massive success of Star Wars: Battlefront, Pandemic took the criticism it had received to heart and not only fixed many of the issues that plagued the first game, but also built new modes on top of them that would come to define the series in 2005’s Battlefront II. The first of these was the addition of a revamped single-player campaign. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith had released earlier that year, and Pandemic crafted a narrative around a single, anonymous stormtrooper who served in the legendary 501st division, Vader’s Fist, and followed his exploits from the Clone Wars up to the infamous assault on Hoth that opened up The Empire Strikes Back.

While vehicles had been a part of the first game, Battlefront II added space battles to the mix, allowing for many of the iconic firefights that played out across the movies to be re-created on TV screens. It also featured seamless transitions where players could fly a ship into the hangar bay of an enemy vessel, deboard, and wreak havoc from the inside out. Playable characters received a big boost in the game as well—not only was a sixth class added to each faction, but iconic heroes, such as Luke Skywalker, could be utilized in battle if certain criteria were achieved. These “Hero” characters were featured as NPCs in the first entry, but here, they had specific game modes built around them, and they could often change the tide of any battle if implemented properly by a smart player.

In only a year’s time, Pandemic had crafted what many still point to as the premier Star Wars experience in video games, thanks to the freedom it offered players during conflicts and its wide range of scenarios taken from the films.

Size matters not

With Battlefront II dominating on the home-console front, LucasArts decided to focus more on making the franchise portable, so they tapped PSP development experts Rebellion to make Renegade Squadron, which released in late 2007 as a PSP exclusive. Similar in many regards to its console brethren, Renegade Squadron limited itself to the original trilogy of Star Wars movies, following a group of ex-criminals turned Rebel operatives through some of the most harrowing black-ops missions during the battles of Yavin, Hoth, and Endor. While the single-player component lacked the depth of Battlefront II, it did introduce customizable characters to the series for the first time.

The mixed fan reaction to Renegade Squadron wouldn’t deter the mobile movement for the franchise. Star Wars Battlefront: Mobile Squadrons was developed by THQ Wireless and released in the beginning of 2009, but it met with minimal success—most likely due to the fact that it was an on-rails shooter that featured none of the gameplay Battlefront had come to represent.

Battlefront again returned to the PSP in 2009 with Elite Squadron—but this time it also hit the Nintendo DS, making it the first (and so far only) time a Battlefront game was released on a Nintendo system. N-Space, the folks behind the DS ports of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and World at War, handled the DS version, and Rebellion was again tasked with making the PSP iteration (which had a longer single-player campaign and more customization features). Elite Squadron saw a movement away from some of the multiplayer aspects that defined the series, but it also provided perhaps the deepest story mode to date, as players took control of a clone trooper who attempted to atone for the infamous Order 66.

A great disturbance in the Force

While LucasArts had seemingly shifted its focus with the franchise toward the mobile arena, this wasn’t actually the case. Free Radical Design, known for the TimeSplitters games, was actually hard at work on Star Wars: Battlefront III. Sometime in 2008, however, the plug was pulled. Several years later, Free Radical co-founder Steve Ellis put the blame on LucasArts for the project’s demise, while anonymous sources from LucasArts pointed the finger right back at Free Radical, claiming they’d regularly missed deadlines. During those squabbles, leaked videos and screens showcased what the project could’ve been, including footage of a ship taking off from a planet and joining a battle in space. At this point, LucasArts supposedly had begun working internally on Battlefront III themselves, but the studio went defunct before it could finish what it started.

While Battlefront III remained in limbo for years, former secondary SOCOM developer Slant Six Games was also reportedly working on another chapter in the series, Battlefront Online, with a scheduled 2011 release. The game was intended to feature only the online multiplayer components that made Battlefront so popular in the first place, but this project, too, was nixed once Slant Six missed its target release date. Many speculated that some of the purported Battlefront III leaks could actually have come from this game instead.

A new hope

It’s now been six years since we’ve seen a new Battlefront, and it’s fast approaching 10 since we’ve had one on a home console. After Disney purchased Star Wars and its related properties for $4 billion more than two years ago, however, new hope was instilled in this beloved series—and, more importantly, its fanbase. EA DICE, the multiplayer masterminds behind the Battlefield series, have been hard at work on the next Star Wars: Battlefront, and we know for sure that it’s a full-fledged reboot of the franchise.

Few solid details are currently available, but we do know the game will tie into Episode VII, and Hoth and Endor are playable maps. Rumors, however, have swirled for months. Some say the Hero system from Battlefront II will return; others claim the planetside-to-space battles we saw in leaked footage from Battlefront III will be incorporated. There’s speculation that we’ll see 64 people in multiplayer (32-on-32) and that the single-player campaign will span the entire Star Wars saga. Whatever the case, we know for sure that EA will separate fact from conjecture over the weekend at Star Wars Celebration, and we’ll have more reason than ever to believe that a new Battlefront is finally ready to redefine what had become a rather bleak timeline in the Star Wars universe.

With today’s teaser announcement basically confirming Call of Duty: Black Ops III being Treyarch’s entry this year in Activision’s billion-dollar franchise (sorry World at War fans), I got to thinking about what exactly we want to see from this newest installment in the Black Ops series.  With a three-year development cycle this go around, I imagine Treyarch has had plenty of time to mess with some new ideas, or—more than likely—refine some older ones. So, here are the top five things I’d like to see from Call of Duty: Black Ops III.

Editor’s Note: There will be references made to the endings and plot twists of the previous Black Ops games in the following piece. Consider this your only warning. 

1. Returning Characters

So the teaser trailer features a number of echoes from the past Black Ops games. The ones that stood out the most to me is Black Ops II villain Raul Menendez saying “Your life will be consumed by absolute loss” and Sgt. Frank Woods mentioning “You’ll always need men like us.” Now, there were four different endings in Black Ops II, and we don’t know which one will be considered canon to pick up the storyline—but the hope is that it will be one where it allows both of these characters to return in some form or another. Menendez made a great villain, and Woods has been a fan-favorite since the first Black Ops. It’d make a lot of sense if we saw some returning faces for the series’ third installment, and that’s especially true for these two guys—and using those particular lines from them in the teaser makes me think it’s not that far-fetched.

2. Parallel Storylines

Something that kept Black Ops II’s narrative feeling so fresh was the constant shift in perspective from the 1980s to 2025. And, again, depending on what becomes canonical for the series going forward, the return of Alex Mason in certain endings leaves a lot more questions on the table than answers. Why tell players where he was during all those years he was missing from his son David’s life, when instead you can show them? If Black Ops III goes with the ending where Alex lived in the end, then you can very easily have the game go back and forth between explaining where he was in the 1990s and dealing with the inevitable ripples caused by Menendez in the late 2020s—and still have it all tie together in an over-arcing plot line.

3. Remove Strike Force; add campaign co-op

The RTS element introduced via the special Strike Force chapters of Black Ops II was an inventive and interesting idea that just didn’t pan out as well as it could have. Often your ally AI would leave you to “super soldier” through missions, and considering how much of the plot relied on the outcomes of said missions, it ended up being more trouble than it was worth. The idea of special “metagame” operations with larger teams affecting the outcome of the plot wasn’t the worst idea in the world, though. When you also consider how much of Black Ops II saw you weaving your way through each level with an AI buddy, the obvious addition that needs to be implemented instead in Black Ops III is campaign co-op. Whether it’s Mason and Woods at it again in a flashback, David and a nameless squad member in 2025, or a pair of guys protecting key interests around the world with a small army of drones instead of a group of incompetent AI to replace the Strike Force missions, I think co-op could easily be doable as an option here.

4. Return to form in multiplayer

We know multiplayer is a bigger draw than the single-player narrative when it comes to Call of Duty. To me, Black Ops II remains the best multiplayer experience of the last generation of the franchise, and I’ll always go back to it over Ghosts or Advanced Warfare any day of the week. After all, Treyarch is the one who came up with the Pick-10 system, and it was at its best in terms of balance and implementation when in this team’s capable hands. I’d love for them to go back to it, especially with three years to tweak things. Plus, the power of new-gen consoles has me really pumped up for the future of multiplayer with Call of Duty—even if they do nothing but fix the Pick-10 system after Infinity Ward bumbled what Treyarch did the first time around.

5. Deepest Zombies mode ever

It’s Treyarch’s turn to shine, and that means one thing when it comes to Call of Duty: Zombies mode. After Black Ops II’s Zombies actually started to piece together a few elements from previous games, and paid homage to many of the theories put forth by the mode’s ravenous fanbase, you have to think that Black Ops III will offer not only a bigger and more robust experience with the mode, but maybe even finally provide players with that definitive narrative within itself. Since the constant speculation amongst players has helped turn this into one of Call of Duty’s most popular features, it feels like it’s time to finally be rewarded.