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Buying a Switch? Reserve your Nintendo Account ID now, before someone legs it with all the good names

21 Feb

Switch owners-to-be should secure their desired usernames now, before somebody else does it.

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Switch introduces a new suite of Nintendo online services called, uh, Nintendo Online Service, and it doesn’t use the same old Nintendo Network ID as you’ve been using on 3DS or Wii U. No, it’s Nintendo Account now.

Destructoid reports Nintendo has added some new features to the Nintendo Accounts home page in advance of the Switch release next week, so hurry on over and sign in. Just go to the User ID section and click Edit to reserve your ID.

If you don’t yet have a Nintendo Account, you can set one up now. Log in with your existing Nintendo Network ID, a range of social network IDs, or email; complete the two-factor authentication process; and bob’s your uncle. You’ll be all set up in advance of Switch and Nintendo Online Service, and you can choose your online name.

There are some decent benefits to getting a Nintendo Account set up, not least that you’ll need one of these IDs to use the Switch eShop and use Nintendo Online Service. In a notable improvement over the old Nintendo Network ID system, purchases made via your Nintendo Account for Switch are locked to that ID, not to the hardware they were made on – a great change from the 3DS and Wii U days.

Although Nintendo Accounts are free, you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription for Nintendo Online Service, like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live. It’ll be free at launch, though – probably because several key features will be missing. Probably sensible of Nintendo to soft-launch, though.

Nintendo Account launched in March 2016 and is platform-agnostic, allowing users to make purchases and set them to auto-download via websites and app as well as on Nintendo hardware. It’s also the platform for My Nintendo, the new loyalty program.

Someone finished Nioh in 96 mins, hats off to this new world record holder

21 Feb

Nioh is tough, but some people are just tougher.

A new Nioh speedrun record has been established.

Twitch streamer Distortion2 made an all main missions Nioh run in 1:36:51, a feat he describes as “a decent run”.

He died about six times during the attempt, so he believes he can shave the time down to below 90 mins. Nioh has pretty quick respawn times, thankfully. You can watch the full run via the YouTube embed above.

It’s kind of funny how for some of us Nioh is much tougher than Souls games, but for others it seems to be a walk in the park. Team Ninja’s action legacy means there’s less opportunity to over-level or cheese your way through encounters, but some people really thrive on that nerve-edge of precise action gaming – like this person who just walks all over one of Dark Souls 3’s toughest bosses.

Those of us who can’t do that and prefer to leverage RPG systems will find Nioh tougher than Souls. Nioh is slightly less forgiving in that you can’t co-op your way through it, too. Alas!

How are you finding Nioh’s difficulty? Do you think you could knock it over in an hour and a half once you knew your way around and how to defeat each major boss?

Thanks, Joab!

Nier Automata’s Souls-like Android system detailed, PC version almost certainly delayed

21 Feb

Nier Automata has online elements, but PC players are gonna have to wait to experience them.

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Nier Automata developer Platinum Games has been deliberately quiet about the action RPG’s online elements, but a recent livestream has made it a bit less mysterious.

As Alex reported from a recent interview and hands-on, Nier Automata features an Android system where players can return to the scene of their deaths to recruit their corpse as a time-limited NPC or retrieve lost items like plug-in chips..

According to Gematsu‘s recap of the livestream, you’ll lose that chance if you die again before reaching your corpse – or if you take too long to get there. In that way, Nier Automata puts a little spin on a system seen in like Dark Souls, Lords of the Fallen and Nioh.

As in these other games, your corpse in Nier Automata may be visible in other players’ worlds if you’re both playing online, and the livestream confirmed that you can also resurrect strangers’ corpses to fight alongside you.

The livestream deliberately glossed over what happens if you try to retrieve lost items from another player’s corpse instead, and there’s still no word on the haiku you can leave beside your corpse – another Nier Automata spin on the increasingly popular messaging system of Souls-like games.

Elsewhere in the livestream, the development team confirmed Square Enix had agreed to fund Nier Automata DLC, but it’s not yet decided what form it will take – costumes, maybe. Also, a couple of Nier Automata PS4 themes will be released for free on the Japanese PSN from February 22. let’s hope they come west, too.

The livestream also gave an update on the PC port of Nier Automata, which does not have a release date. According to DSO Gaming, producer Yosuke Saito said it won’t be long before Nier Automata is released on Steam, but that Square Enix and Platinum games are still thinking about what to do about piracy.

Since Saito made a reference to recent games being pirated early in their release window, it looks like the companies had originally planned to use Denuvo for Nier Automata. The DRM solution, once considered nigh on uncrackable, seems to have succumbed to pirates at last, with Resident Evil 7 being cracked in a matter of days.

Nier Automata releases in early March for PS4 (no Xbox One port, sorry; the console’s just not popular enough in Japan, Nier Automata’s primary market). It releases this week in Japan, and since the Japanese version of Nier Automata has English language support and the PS4 is region-free, importing is an option.

Nier Automata is the sequel to a cult-favourite last-gen game, itself a spin-off of the Drakengard series.

Final Fantasy 15 sidescroller originally exclusive to GameStop will be free for everyone next week

21 Feb

A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy 15 can be yours, very soon.

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Final Fantasy 15 pre-orders from GameStop and its international partners came with a sidescrolling action game called A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy 15.

Those of you who missed out on this exclusive are in luck: Square Enix has elected to make A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy 15 available to everyone – for free.

Gematsu reports A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy 15 will be free on the PSN and Xbox Live from March 1 in Europe. No word yet on the US release date, but it’s almost certainly going to be February 28 or at least within the week.

A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy 15 is just one of a number of transmedia offerings that can aid your understanding of the core RPG’s story; there’s also the Brotherhood anime series, and most essentially the Kingsglaive movie, which really should have been a pack-in.

Final Fantasy 15 drew criticism for its narrative, which didn’t work as well as it could have if players hadn’t taken in Kingsglaive at least. Director Hajime Tabata stands by the weirdness of the final third, but upcoming patches will address some Final Fantasy 15 story threads that go nowhere, among other narrative issues.

Final Fantasy 15 is available for PS4 and Xbox One.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands GDC teaser shows off its incredible landscapes and hints at how they were built

20 Feb

Ghost Recon: Wildlands boasts dramatic and expansive scenery.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands isn’t out yet, so we don’t know how well it works as a game – but we do know the tech behind it is impressive, and it certainly looks very pretty as a result.

Ubisoft is justifiably very proud of the work it has put into the landscapes of Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and, generously, will be sharing its experiences with other developers at GDC 2017 next month.

To hype everyone up and get bums on seats for this presentation, GDC has released a teaser trailer showing off some of the scenery in Ghost Recon: Wildlands, including a bit of a peek at how they are created and fine tuned. While the full show probably won’t be of much interest to those of us who aren’t developers, it’s still pretty cool to take a little look at it.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands releases in early March on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, but if you can’t wait, you can download the Ghost Recon: Wildlands open beta client now.

Ubisoft has a number of big open world games now (Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Watch Dogs, The Division, Steep) and as one of the first publishers to fully embrace the genre and multi-studio development it has a wealth of experience in creating these enormous sandboxes. Ghost Recon: Wildlands oviously benefits from that legacy – but can it live up to it?

Nioh is getting even harder next month, PvP and first DLC coming in April

20 Feb

Nioh has plenty more content to offer, free and paid alike.

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Nioh developer Team Ninja has outlined its immediate post-release support plans.

Drawing on a Japanese livestream, Gematsu reports Nioh players can expect two free updates across the next two months, followed by three DLC packs. Here’s the schedule:

  • In late March, Team Ninja will release a free Nioh update with 10 high difficulty missions, including boss rush-style missions.
  • In late April, another free update will add a PvP update to Nioh.
  • The first Nioh DLC, Dragon of Tohoku, also arrives in late April. It includes new weapons, scenarios, characters, guardian spirits, yokai and stages.
  • The second Nioh DLC is called Japan’s Best Warrior and has not been dated.
  • The third Nioh DLC is called Peaceful and Tranquil and has not been dated.

Nioh seems to be pretty popular at the moment; it definitely owes a lot to the Souls series but get past that first hour and hit the second boss to see just how much it differs; Team Ninja’s fabled action skills take the game in a pretty different direction.

Anyway, the fervent, growing Nioh fanbase ought to be pretty pleased with these updates; let’s hope there’ll be more free missions later on, too.

Watch Dogs 2’s latest patch added a strange new quest players are trying to solve right now

20 Feb

Watch Dogs 2 players have discovered something very mysterious after the latest update.

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Watch Dogs 2 was patched last week, but Ubisoft failed to mention everything it added to the game when it released official patch notes.

Oh, we know the ending of Watch Dogs 2 was extended slightly, but we think that’s probably just a nod to the first Watch Dogs 2 DLC. No, something altogether weirder is going on.

As elegantly summarised by Kotaku, Watch Dogs 2 subreddit members first noticed something was different in patch 1.1 when NPC dialogue started referencing four missing teenagers.

Confirming the community’s suspicions that something weird was happening, the official Watch Dogs 2 Tumblr began feeding them clues. Shortly afterwards, players began to find new graffiti scattered around Oakland, and in these locations they could hear strange noises. Viewing the graffiti on in-game phones turned up extra clues.

I won’t spoil the good investigative work of the Watch Dogs 2 community (and perhaps your own enjoyment of the emerging story) by giving you the full details, but the new quest seems to involve a Slenderman-style urban legend.

It’s not clear whether the next step in the quest chain is to be found in Watch Dogs 2 itself or whether we’ll have to wait for Ubisoft’s social team to drop some clues, AR style. It is clear that now is a good time to return to Watch Dogs 2 and follow along, though.

It’s Nioh time again: come watch us apply lessons learned as we dive back into battle with the yokai

20 Feb

Nioh is tough, and it never stops demanding more of the player. Will we conquer?

Watch live video from vg247 on www.twitch.tv

Nioh players have a lot of gameplay choices. Even before we get into gear and abilities, there’s the whole stance thing – and perhaps even more fundamentally, the moment to moment decision to block or dodge incoming attacks.

If you come at Nioh from a Souls background you may favour dodging over rolling, but for all the similarities Nioh is not a Souls game, and there comes a point where the game just says “look, you have to learn to block, or you’re going to be stuck here forever”.

Of course, it isn’t so kind as to say this explicitly; it just throws enemies you can’t dodge at you and expects you to figure it out. In a recent Nioh stream, Shabana went through this learning process – and now she’s ready to kick butt, or limb, or head, or whatever surface is presented to her – be it flesh or carapace or what.

Tune in above to see what challenges are in store in our continuing Nioh adventures. We don’t know what’s out there, but we do know we’re going to beat it the heck up.

Horizon Zero Dawn review: Sony and The Witcher 3 had a baby, and it deserves to win your heart

20 Feb

Horizon Zero Dawn is going to make other open-world developers sick with envy.

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Before I played Horizon Zero Dawn I spoke with a senior producer at Guerrilla Games. He told me fans of RPGs from the last few years would really enjoy it.

I didn’t understand this at the time, but about two hours into Horizon Zero Dawn the comment fell into place. This game owes a great deal to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – and that’s not something we complain about hereabouts.

It is The Witcher 3 of post-post-apocalyptic robo-dino adventures; it is the sort of thing Ubisoft will wish you had never seen if it dares to release another time-sucking, glitch-filled Assassin’s Creed.

The similarities between The Witcher 3 and Horizon Zero Dawn are too numerous to waste space on, but you could also find a lot of comparables in, say, Rise of the Tomb Raider. If you have played either of those games, you already know what to expect from Horizon Zero Dawn: a bristling combat toolbox, customisation through skill choices and gear, a large map studded with distractions and narrative-driven missions to take you from zone to zone.

You also know whether you like that style of game or not – but not whether you have room in your life for another one. Suffering open world fatigue as I am (even very good 40, 60 and 100 hour games are a penance to games writers), I myself went into Horizon Zero Dawn wondering what it had to set it above or even alongside magnificent efforts from CD Projekt RED and Crystal Dynamics.

Some people are going to say it’s the beauty of Horizon Zero Dawn’s world, which stands amongst the best the medium has ever produced, and possibly bypasses them for sheer technical achievement.

Others are going to say the story of Aloy and the post-post-apocalyptic setting; certainly the narrative is compelling enough and falls into a better rhythm after the awkward Assassins Creed 2-style tutorial opening, and the key characters are varied and distinct.

For my money, it’s two things: the combat and the perfection of the package.

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Combat in Horizon Zero Dawn is more forgiving than The Witcher 3, but on normal difficulty most fights ask more of you than to just run in swinging your spear about and hoping for the best.

Though neither human foes nor individual machines are a real problem, enemies attack in numbers and combinations, which prevent you relying on any one tool and can rapidly overwhelm you. While you can duel single opponents action-style with rolls and well-timed heavy and light swings, in almost every single encounter you’ll be bashed off your feet by its pals before you can get more than a couple of hits in.

Fights ask more of you than to just run in swinging your spear about and hoping for the best.

This never changes even as you acquire better gear and a larger health pool: 15 levels above the recommended range on one side quest, and with gear far beyond what I ought to have had at that stage in the game, a single error against a boss ate most of my health bar and I had to leg it for breathing room to spam potions.

Rather than being a matter of raw level numbers, success is all about knowing what you’re getting into and approaching the encounter with a strategy. Will you take out the smaller beasts by stealth before diving into the fray? Would it be better to go in scattering bombs around, or to and rope the larger foes down while you clean up? What if you start by knocking off the component that gives the big baddie an advantage here – or blows nearby baddies up? Can you turn some of these baddies against each other? Are you wearing the right armour? Wouldn’t it be better just to go around?

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Getting it right is extremely satisfying, as you cut down foes with maximum efficiency, dismantle bullet sponges piece by piece to turn them into soft squeakers, and control the battlefield with status effects – and, when necessary, with rope.

When you get good – and y’all will get far better than I, an individual with all the hand-eye co-ordination of a decomposing possum – you’ll dive into battle against even the mightiest arrangements of foes with barely a flutter of an eyelid and maybe a quick glance through your Focus or check in with the machine encyclopedia.

Getting it right is extremely satisfying, as you cut down foes with maximum efficiency, dismantle bullet sponges piece by piece to turn them into soft squeakers, and control the battlefield with status effects

The Focus is the Detective Mode of Horizon Zero Dawn, and worth a special mention because Guerrilla has sensibly restricted Aloy to a slow walk when using it. You’re not tempted to spend the whole game looking at the world through a purple haze, instead using it to tag enemies and prepare for combat in advance – in turn reducing the amount of time you’ll spend changing equipment in the menu mid-battle.

The first time you encounter a machine its information goes into the encyclopedia, which is the most usable example of its kind I’ve ever seen. The variety of beasts in Horizon Zero Dawn isn’t so enormous that you can’t remember which one is which, but if it’s been a while since you’ve seen a particular kind of enemy it’s really easy to quickly locate the relevant info, rather than having to poke through a half dozen screens to see how many bits can be knocked off (your Focus can also supply this intel on the fly, but it’s hard to use in the middle of a fight if you’re surprised by something).

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Once you’re armed with knowledge, you arm yourself with actual arms, and Horizon Zero Dawn has at least 17 different types of ranged attack spread across seven weapons, in addition to melee capabilities. Juggling your weapon options to match the situation at hand is key. You can only equip four at once, and it’s impossible to cover all possibilities with one load out.

Some of the ranged attacks seem to double up in effect at first, but I came to appreciate the subtle differences between them. A very small number of these options fall flat, like the component harvesting arrow in a game where resources rain upon you from all angles. With this much variety it’s not surprising some elements of the sandbox are less compelling, though.

Incidentally, the combat challenge side missions in Horizon Zero Dawn are actually very good. Rather than being twitch-based tests of skill, which so often puts 100% completion out of my reach in open world games, they’re more like puzzles – if you find the right gear and adopt the right tactics you’ll ace them. This teaches you skills useful for everywhere else, most notably the capacity to think creatively about your tools and how to combine them with each other and the environment. The tutorial quests for each weapon, which offer generous XP rewards and don’t force themselves on you, are another excellent touch.

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The combat and preparing for it make up the core gameplay loop of Horizon Zero Dawn, and until you’ve seen and defeated every type of baddie in every combination, not to mention their more powerful Corrupted forms, you won’t be sick of it – and that should take you tens of hours at least, even if you’re checking off all the major missions you come to.

This is very probably the most flawless open world game ever made.

As for the rest of it: wow. This is a supremely polished game, and very probably the most flawless open world game ever made. Every complaint I have about Horizon Zero Dawn is a trivial niggle (Aloy’s hair behaves strangely in elevators, ambient dialogue is sometimes out of whack with story progress) or a criticism you could aim at pretty much the whole medium (swimming transitions are a chore, the uncanny valley is wide and deep).

Performance on a standard PS4 was smooth and slick as a lawyer’s grin, and glitches were so few and far between – even after playing for a whole day without reset – that they’re just not worth cataloguing.

Every design choice feels measured and makes sense in context, like the loot boxes that allow you to keep all your quest rewards even if your inventory is full, or the medicine bag motivating you to explore rather than fast travel so you can refill it.

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Even the old standbys of open world gameplay have been treated with care and elevated above the pack. For starters, non-climbing sequence traversal is extremely forgiving, so you can hop your way up most mountains and slide down the other side if you take a wrong turn and don’t want to go back around.

Almost all side content is laid out in such a way that you can complete it as you advance through the main plot without huge amounts of backtracking (pro tip: don’t go out of your way chasing icons until you’ve checked in at the quest hub along the main story route). Most of it is worthwhile, because it’s either fun and interesting in itself or rewarding in a material way, and even the collectibles are good – there are relatively few, none are stuck behind painful traversal barriers and you can buy collectible maps as soon as you finish the opening sequence.

Oh, and Photo Mode is sensational. I don’t know why every game boasting a large and good-looking world doesn’t ship with a photo mode, but this one is feature-rich and easy to use.

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There are only a few things I would gently suggest could use improvement for (the possible) Horizon 2 that don’t also apply to all video games, ever. Load times after fast travel on a standard PS4 are appalling; it is generally quicker to hoof it. There should be more indication of the suggested order of main quests, which occasionally seem to deviate from the general geographical and difficulty flow in puzzling, immersion-disturbing ways. That’s it.

Horizon Zero Dawn is a meaty but player-friendly open world epic with a solid action combat heart, unique setting and ravishing scenery. It is The Witcher 3 of post-post-apocalyptic robo-dino adventures; it is the sort of thing Ubisoft will wish you had never seen if it dares to release another time-sucking, glitch-filled Assassin’s Creed. It is the promise of open world games gloriously fulfilled. I don’t know what else to tell you.

Nintendo says early sale Switch units were stolen, and everyone involved has been fired

20 Feb

Switch units in the wild may result in criminal charges for those who helped them run free.

Switch fever peaked last week when some dodgy shakycam footage showing the Switch setup menu and UI as well as a Switch unboxing video made some corners of the Internet wild with envy.

Hiphoptherobot said at the time that a retailer had supplied the Switch unit early, presumably by mistake; they even said several times that they wouldn’t be talking about the matter if they had done anything shady. Unfortunately it looks like they were taken in by someone else, as the Switch was stolen.

“Earlier this week, individuals claimed to prematurely purchase a small number of Nintendo Switch systems from an unspecified retailer,” Nintendo told IGN.

“Nintendo has determined these units were stolen in an isolated incident by employees of a US distributor, with one system being illegally resold. The individuals involved have been identified, terminated from their place of employment and are under investigation by local law enforcement authorities on criminal charges.”

The original poster of last week’s Switch videos has confirmed this includes their Switch unit. “Nintendo has the console back and I am personally not in any trouble,” they said in an update posted on posted on NeoGAF.

They also said they’d unknowingly bought a stolen Switch, and that everyone has “been very nice and reasonable” throughout the return process – but that they don’t expect to get their money back. The full thread is worth a read, although it’s light on details as the OP is understandably a bit wary of sharing too much.

Switch launches March 3. Buy it from a shop on or after that date. Anybody who offers you an early one is probably doing something dodgy.

A full Switch interface Nintendo Direct is expected this week, if the videos are pulled in the meantime and you’re dying to take a peek.

Fallout 4 VR: “You can play it start to finish right now,” says Howard

20 Feb

Fallout 4 in virtual reality is coming along nicely. A release date? Ha ha, don’t be funny.

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Fallout 4 VR is “going great”, according to Bethesda Softworks studio boss Todd Howard.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s super exciting. We are doing the whole game,” he told Glixel of Fallout 4 VR.

“You can play it start to finish right now, and the whole thing really works in terms of interface and everything.”

Howard made some further comments about how well Fallout 4 works in VR, especially the Pip-Boy interface and V.A.T.S., which Howard decribed as “awesome” in VR.

He also said that Fallout 4’s less-twitchy gunplay works better in VR than more frantic action shooters, but the reason you can’t have Fallout 4 right now despite it being fully playable is that Bethesda is still tinkering with some of VR’s problems – notably player movement.

“Locomotion is definitely the hard part, I will admit. Given the size of the world and the amount that you’re moving in Fallout 4 that part is tricky because you’re doing it a lot,” he said.

“Right now we’re doing the teleport warp thing and that’s fine, but we’re experimenting with a few others.”

Some of these “others” will be available when Fallout 4 VR releases; you’ll have your choice of movement methods. Good news for the motion-sensitive among us, who can select the least nauseating one, while those with stronger stomachs won’t be held to the slower options.

“It’s going great. It’s definitely the right game for us to do,” Howard concluded. Do hi the link above for the full interview as there’s a lot more to unpack than the brief snippets quoated here.

Fallout 4 VR was announced at E3 2016 and was expected to release within 12 months of announce. Given Bethesda’s recent fondness for very short PR cycles I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it pulled a Fallout Shelter on us and released Fallout 4 VR during E3 2017.

Last time Howard spoke about the Fallout 4 VR project he said Bethesda believes the VR market will sort itself out. It’s kind of funny that the publisher is apparently so enthusiastic now; the narrative painted when John Carmack left id Software was that Zenimax wasn’t interested in VR. (That all ended in tears though, so who knows what the real deal is.)

Anyway. Fallout 4 VR: still a thing, again.

Battlefield 1 video gives a look at the new Frontlines mode coming next month

20 Feb

Battlefield 1’s new mode is a mix of Conquest and Rush.

Battlefield 1‘s upcoming DLC pack They Shall Not Pass delivers a new game mode called Frontlines.

As you’ll see in the video above, Frontlines brings a sort of tug-of-war mechanic to Battlefield 1. The maps is broken up by a linear series of objectives, only one of which is active at any time, starting in the middle. In order to advance through this phase, one side needs to capture all the objectives on the way to the enemy base.

When one side reaches the other’s base, their objective changes: they need to destroy two telegraph posts inside the base. Unfortunately for them, during this phase the defending team can use the telegraphs to summon artillery strikes.

This second phase ends when the telegraph posts are destroyed or the attacking side runs out of reinforcements. In the latter scenario, the game reverts to the first phase, and players start fighting for objectives again. The round ends after a successful attack on both telegraph posts or when time runs out.

They Shall Not Pass brings new maps as well as a class, vehicle and stationary weapon to Battlefield 1. It’s expected sometime in March on all platforms.

To prepare yourself for the DLC, make sure you have the Winter Update which dropped last week, buffing, nerfing and adding new features and progression systems. Check out the Battlefield 1 Winter Update patch notes, or opt for a more concise rundown of Battlefield 1 Winter Update major changes and features.

Battlefield 1 is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

For Honor trailer reminds you it’s pretty good, in case you’ve been under a rock with your fingers in your ears

20 Feb

For Honor: it’s good. But don’t trust us, trust this promotional video.

For Honor has been generating a huge amount of buzz since its popular beta tests, and there doesn’t seem to have been any die off now that it’s actually out.

The video above is littered with accolades for the multiplayer factional brawler, which Ubisoft apparently thinks is what will convince you to invest in For Honor.

If you’re only just getting onboard now or want an edge on the competition, check out our growing For Honor guide. We’re collecting detailed character guides, with video, in addition to basic and more advanced tips.

For Honor may have a very different aesthetic to Overwatch but like Rainbow Six Siege it seems positioned to occupy a similar sort of hero-driven space, where character choice and knowing how to counter the abilities of the whole roster is an important part of high level play.

This design seems to have crept over from the MOBA space, but the immediacy of the action in games like For Honor and Overwatch mean everyone can get in and have a good time without immediately hitting a steep learning curve. It’s an interesting trend.

Feast your eyes on this Switch unboxing video, courtesy of the same early shipping mistake as before

17 Feb

Switch is in the wild. One can only imagine the conversation between Nintendo and its retail partners tomorrow.

Switch hopefuls can torment themselves with a further tantalising glimpse of the hardware as it will appear in their very own homes when Switch launches in a few weeks.

This video comes courtesy of the same source as the Switch start up UI and OS overview video from earlier today, which was provided exclusively to FloKo. Unfortunately the site is being hammered, and we weren’t able to get the page to load – hence the YouTube mirror above.

The unboxing itself is pretty standard fare – all the bits are in there, enfolded in that mysteriously labyrinthine packaging digital devices favour – but stay right to the end for an additional look at the Switch menus, for those of you wanting to pore over the hardware settings immediately.

This Switch was reportedly shipped to the lucky new owner by a retailer, which has not been named, rather than leaked or otherwise acquired from the distribution chain. If that’s true, someone’s going to have answer some pointed questions tomorrow. I’d hate to be the poor schmoe who put this in the post, even if the order came down from on high.

Pokemon Go’s big update is rolling out now, so you can get your hands on over 80 new Gen 2 ‘mon

17 Feb

Pokemon Go developer Niantic produces a heck of a lasso and ropes you right back in.

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A Pokemon Go update is rolling out now on Android (0.57.2) and iOS (1.27.2), so check Google Play and the App Store to see if your region is ready to rock the new content, which includes more than 80 new Pokemon.

This is the big Pokemon Go update Niantic revealed earlier this week, and represents the first major expansion of catchable Pokemon since the app launched in July 2016.

The new Pokemon are Generation 2 beasties, first found in the Johto region. Some of them come in gender variations, so be sure to grab them all.

There are some other cool changes to Pokemon Go in this update, including increased rewards when catching evolved Pokemon and new night mode map and music.

Here are the full patch notes for the Pokemon Go Gen 2 update:

  • Over 80 additional Pokémon originally discovered in the Johto region can be caught.
  • Gender-specific variations of select Pokémon can be caught.
  • Added new encounter mechanics.
  • Added Poké Ball and Berry selection carousels to the encounter screen.
  • Added two new Berries.
  • Added new avatar outfit and accessory options.
  • Added new night-mode map and encounter music.
  • Added bonus Candies for catching Evolved Pokémon.
  • Implemented Apple Watch connection stability improvement.
  • Various bug fixes.
  • Minor text fixes.

New Vampire: The Masquerade and Mage: The Ascension games show White Wolf, World of Darkness are officially out of hibernation

16 Feb

Two new World of Darkness games out right now within a month of Werewolf: The Apocalypse’s announce? Every 90’s kid RPG nerd in the building is getting misty-eyed.

Vampire: The Masquerade is a brand legendary among video games for classic, broken Troika RPG Bloodlines, but for those whose hobbies include tabletop gaming it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

World of Darkness, the huge family of pen-and-paper RPGS to which Vampire: The Masquerade belongs, is back in action all of sudden and a bunch of us nerds are falling over ourselves in excitement as a result.

Today’s update is the release of two new World of Darkness games. Vampire: Prelude (that’s its app name; the full title its Vampire The Masquerade: We Eat Blood and All Our Friends Are Dead) and Mage the Ascension: Refuge are both described as interactive fiction, and are presented in messaging format, suggesting World of Darkness has fully embraced the modern technological era.

You can buy these two games individually on both Google Play and the App Store, or grab them bundled as World of Darkness Preludes: Vampire and Mage on Steam. You can do it right now.

The two new releases follow on from the announcement of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, a game which seems to be as much about punching nazis as anything else, after more than a decade without a single World of Darkness video game release.

This is presumably all thanks to Paradox Interactive’s acquisition of World of Darkness studio White Wolf after CCP gave up on its eight year attempt to build a World of Darkness MMO.

It’s all really happening, pals. World of Darkness video games are coming out. Before you know it we’ll be painting our fingernails black again.

Payday 3 development has kicked off, but don’t hold your breath for it: “you simply don’t rush” Starbreeze’s most important brand

16 Feb

Payday 3 is the “most important” thing on Starbreeze’s radar, so expect it to go slow and careful.

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Payday 3 development has formally kicked off, Starbreeze told investors in its most recent financial releases.

“It is with great satisfaction that we also can announce that Payday 3 production is officially initiated and at a full design stage,” CEO Bo Andersson Klint said.

Klint stressed that Starbreeze isn’t setting any timeframe right now and Payday 3 will be in the works for “as much time as we deem needed” and “will be done when it’s done”.

“This is our single most important brand today and the cornerstone of our business and we will treat it accordingly. Updates in the near future might be scares and far between. You simply don’t rush Payday 3,” he emphasised.

Payday 2 has been an enormous success for Starbreeze and its Overkill studio. Continuous content and support from the team has overcome stumbling blocks like hugely unpopular microtransactions and abandoned console ports, enabling a lively community – which obviously coughs up money in huge dripping wads given Starbreeze’s description of the IP as its cornerstone brand.

Starbreeze gave some figures regarding the Payday franchise’s earnings this quarter, but as it wasn’t immediately clear which was GAAP (the one we care about) and which was non-GAAP (useless to us), we’d better not randomly regurgitate them.

We did get an update on the 505 Games situation, though. Since Starbreeze regained the rights early last year 505 Games is not providing any extra funding, but is still taking console revenues as it hasn’t yet received the $5 million it is entitled to.

“We expect 505 to have reached their $5 million recoup in Q1 2017 as we see impressive Payday performance through digital distribution on consoles following the latest update,” Klint added.

Starbreeze receives 100% of all PC revenue on the Payday franchise, and describes this revenue source as “healthy”.

Someone got a Switch two weeks early so let’s watch its startup sequence and critique the OS UI

16 Feb

Switch isn’t supposed to be in consumer hands yet, but there: what’s a hardware launch without a few egregious leaks?

Switch launches March 3 but for whatever reason NeoGAF user hiphoptherobot got their Switch retail pre-order a few weeks early.

Elsewhere in the thread the lucky new Switch owner says multiple times he won’t be selling the early Switch unit, tempting as the offers have been, because he doesn’t want to risk legal trouble from Nintendo.

Unfortunately the retailer in question apparently managed to stick to game release dates despite failing to lock down the Switch hardware, so all the lucky owner can do is look through menus. This gives us a good look at the user interface of the operating system though, which is nice.

Switch has 32GB of internal memory, but looking at the video above it seems it has about 25.9 GB left after the initial firmware. You’ll be able to expand Switch’s capacity up to 2TB of storage via memory cards – not that 2TB cards exist yet, unfortunately. Let’s all hope you’ll be able to hot swap cards without resetting the console, as the Vita requires.

So what do you think of the Switch UI? PS4 and especially Xbox One have refined their UIs since launch, and we can expect Nintendo to iterate on this design as the console ages, too. Start giving your feedback now and kickstart the firmware cycle.

Less surreal, more cyberpunk – but Prey’s first hour will get inside your head

15 Feb

Prey isn’t as weird as those early trailers suggested, but it is extremely cool.

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“In its opening minutes, Prey looks and feels very much like the modern Deus Ex series, with a similar sort of streamlined cyberpunk aesthetic.”

Prey is not as weird as I’d hoped based on its E3 2016 reveal trailer, but after playing through the first hour or so, I’m gagging to see more.

A lot of talk about Prey is going to focus on its lineage; it comes to us from the same sprawling family as Thief, Deus Ex, System Shock, BioShock and Deus Ex. Arkane is home to some of the people who worked on those games, and if you had any doubts about its affection for and connection to the grandaddy of the immersive sim genre after Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic and Dishonored, the in-game Looking Glass technology ought to tip you off.

The more surface phenotypical features of this DNA are all there. For example, you can pick stuff up and throw it around if you want to, flush all the toilets you fancy, and even leave little damage decals on monitors if you press the attack key rather than the interact one when trying to check your email.

The demo is too limited to judge whether the systemic and emergent goodies of this family come through intact, but there are clues. The Gloo gun hints at an interesting combat sandbox which also doubles as environmental and traversal puzzle toolkit, and my discovery of a Nerf crossbow – useless in terms of damage, but a silent method of acting on interactive objects at a distance – suggests there’ll be opportunities for interesting stealth gameplay, too.

The opening sequence is a soft tutorial and largely linear, branching just once very slightly as you choose how to bypass a closed door, where a popup message informs you that later in the game you’ll encounter obstacles with multiple possible solutions and can choose your own path. This explicit promise of the old Looking Glass approach is more subtly echoed in the branching of the skill trees as well as the the many terminals, puzzles and routes Morgan cannot investigate in the opening sequence but must return to later in the game.

These familiar elements will almost certainly please genre fans, but flushing toilets, a crowded combat sandbox and freedom of playstyle are not enough to shift units. In its opening minutes, Prey looks and feels very much like the modern Deus Ex series, with a similar sort of streamlined cyberpunk aesthetic – although it’s tempered by Arkane’s distinctive character design. I couldn’t help but suppress a sigh as I realised the environments were full of heavy objects I’d be able to move once I bought a leg augmentation – sorry, spent Neuromods in the appropriate tree. Your mileage will vary on that, but as Deus Ex: Mankind Divided so recently demonstrated, mass appetite for that kind of experience has diminished.

Prey gets more interesting when Morgan moves into the main environment – the Transtar space station is clearly part of the same universe but lacks the pretty, frictionless future-urban look of Morgan’s apartment. The decor here instead favours corpses, combat damage and warren-like layouts that loop and interconnect, each packed with props, resources, story hooks and alien ambushes.

The first main objective is to reach the hub at the centre of the station, almost overwhelmingly riddled with doors over four levels. Most of these were closed off, but it was easy to see that players would be wandering back and forth between locations throughout the game, gradually exploring and unlocking the whole station; the maps found in most areas are going to be a lifesaver. This freedom of moment means there’s no need to hoover up all the crafting materials Morgan finds around the place, which rapidly gum up her inventory, and a Metroidvania-style element means puzzles and secrets will reward those who return to past scenes.

As an example of this last point, there’s a combination safe in one of the earliest rooms Morgan can access. Fresh from Dishonored 2’s safe combinations, I dutifully scoured the room for clues, eventually putting together a grand conspiracy theory about the solution involving emails found on various terminals nearby – and then giving it up in disgust when I couldn’t make the numbers work out for me. Later I asked a PR rep about it, and she laughed: nobody in the office had been able to solve it, and an email from Arkane confirmed the solution was not available in the demo. Well, then.

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The upshot of everything I’ve said so far is that Prey seems like a decent enough game of the immersive sim lineage, promising a wealth of exploration, combat and throwing-things-at-other-things-to-see-what-happens in the finest traditions of the genre. (In case you were wondering, hitting an explosive gas canister with a wrench results in you being blown up. I checked. If anybody asks, it was on purpose. For science.) Without seeing more of the gameplay, the differentiating feature at this stage has to be the setting and plot.

Without spoiling the story, Prey presents a more straightforward narrative in the first hour than I had expected based on the initial reveal. Looking back on E3 2016, I think I made too much of director Raphael Colantonio’s promise of an immersive sim with a “psychological twist”. I should have paid more attention to the fact that the “secrets” hidden in the reveal trailer were pretty obvious, and to Bethesda’s more matter-of-fact description of Prey as a game about being “the first human enhanced with alien powers aboard a desolate space station under assault”.

There is a nice twist right there in that first hour, but it was resolved by the end of the demo; I was disappointed by how every question I had was answered almost immediately. By the time I was finished I felt like I knew exactly what had happened on the station, identified an antagonist, and had an overall purpose. All very admirable in terms of video game storytelling goals, and even from the start it feels more cohesive than Dishonored (which for all its truly glorious lore does feel like a story stitched together from excellent level design). But not necessarily super compelling stuff to anybody versed in literate sci-fi, even with all the aliens and eyeball stabbing.

This is often the case in the first hour of a game, and the fact that Prey didn’t leave me with a boatload of questions does not mean things won’t get super weird later on. I can’t help comparing it to BioShock Infinite, though; I remember spotting the glitching Lutece statue in those opening few minutes and feeling a building sense of excitement that here was something I didn’t understand at all. I hope Prey can offer that same sense of mystery for all of us, and to satisfy my personal tastes I hope it goes off the rails so hard it ends up upside down, in another country and on fire.

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“Prey seems like a decent enough game of the immersive sim lineage, promising a wealth of exploration, combat and throwing-things-at-other-things-to-see-what-happens in the finest traditions of the genre.”

Straight forward narrative and familiar immersive sim gameplay: a solid package but not mind-blowing. So what I’m having trouble working out is why Prey has been nagging at my mind for the past week, while its close cousin Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has been gathering dust since about 20 minutes after release.

Partly I think it’s a product of the nature of the demo; we got a tantalising glimpse of the game’s possibilities without the opportunity to get to grips with them. The enemies through the demo were all the same type of grunt, for example, with another, more interesting type shown only very briefly and never engaged. The crafting and upgrade systems were available, but without enough resources on hand to put them to significant use. The story stood up and shook itself, and although the hairs settled back down straight away, there’s the chance it could do it again – or perhaps stand up and savage the cat.

I guess I want to play more Prey to find out if all these things, combined with the obviously solid bones it is built on, turn out to be as much fun as they could be. That’s a stickier start than most games manage.

For Honor character guide: get to know Shugoki, the powerful but slow Samurai disruptor tank

14 Feb

For Honor offers a range of heroes. Which one is right for you? Maybe it’s the big guy.

For Honor beginners should consider trying out Shugoki, a relatively easy hero classified as a disruptor tank.

Although Shugoki won’t help you against For Honor veterans and is weak against more agile foes, he’s powerful and straightforward, making him a good place to get started. His high health pool, powerful attacks and array of stunning or knock back moves make up for his slow speed.

Shugoki not your thing? Check out our For Honor character guide: Peacekeeper.

In the For Honor video above, Arekkz goes over each of Shugoki’s moves in detail. First up is his passive ability, Uninterruptible Stance, which prevent interruption from one attack before needing to recharge. This allows players to take a blow as they wind up a slow but heavy attack, but be wary – subsequent attacks will interrupt Shugoki, and also deal more damage. This ability recharges after a few seconds, but more slowly if Shugoki is blocking, taking damage or out of stamina.

Shugoki’s Charging Heavy Attack is slow and uses a lot of stamina, making it one of For Honor’s riskier moves, but it also does a lot of damage, is unblockable and has a lot of synergy with Shugoki’s passive. Hold down heavy attack in guard mode to perform this move.

Bash & Smash is a simple light attack, heavy attack combo but what makes it unique is Shugoki isn’t interrupted when his light attacks are blocked, making this one of the easiest combos to land in For Honor.

Bonecrusher is a really straight forward combo – just two heavy attacks. It does a lot of damage.

More interesting is Crashing Thunder. A great opener, especially when For Honor throws multiple enemies at you at once, it charges into enemies and ends with a wide-reaching swing. Simply sprint and press heavy attack while not in guard mode to perform this.

Charge of the Oni is an unblockable charge which knocks enemies down and back. You can use it to get through enemies and back to your allies, or cancel out of the charge to follow up with an attack on your downed target.

Demon’s Embrace is a real game changer: it usually deals damage while healing Shugoki, but if you’re in critical mode (that is, close to death), it’s a guaranteed kill even if your enemy is at full health. It can be tricky to land this grab as most For Honor players can read it easily, but you can cancel into it from a heavy attack, which can trick your foe.

Demon Bull is a heavy attack performed after a guard break, which sends enemies flying away. If they’re near a ledge or pit they’ll regret it, and you’ll gain some breathing room.

As well as knocking enemies back using the moves described above, Shugoki can Headbutt foes after light or heavy attacks, and this attack will briefly disorient enemies.

Finally, Shugoki’s zone attack, performed by pressing both light and heavy attacks, is a big double swing with huge reach. You can cancel out of it after the first swing, too.