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Battlefield 1 – this is our first look at They Shall Not Pass DLC weapons in-game

22 Feb

Take a look at renders for all the new weapons coming to Battlefield 1 with the They Shall Not Pass expansion.

DICE recently confirmed that the Battlefield 1 CTE will be getting content from the upcoming They Shall Not Pass expansion. This update should be rolling out now to CTE players.

Until new footage is captured, let’s take a look at the full list of weapon renders for all of the new toys coming with the expansion. In his video above, Westie shows off the in-game renders for all of them, putting to bed some of the speculation about which version of some of them DICE would go with.

In addition, the video also lists the requirements for unlocking these weapons, including the new melee options. We also get a look at the in-game, official stats for each of the new weapons, giving us a better idea of where each of them falls in the game’s meta.

They Shall Not Pass is out sometime next month.

Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers will let you palette-swap every character

22 Feb

The increasingly curious Ultra Street Fighter 2 will let you alter each fighter’s colours when it hits the Switch this year.

ultra-street-fighter-2-colour

Image credit for the screen above goes to Gamer, a Japanese website that seems to have the exclusive look at several different palette-swap choices you’ll be offered in the latest iteration of Street Fighter 2.

As far as gimmicks go it’s a neat one, although we’re more excited about how bafflingly terrible the first-person mode looks.

According to some translations made by Perfectly Nintendo, you’ll be able to save ten different variations for each character and use them online. The cart for Ultra Street Fighter 2 will also contain over 1400 pieces of artwork to browse.

Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers is a Switch exclusive. A release date has not been nailed down.

Overwatch season 3 has just ended, with season 4 opening in a week

22 Feb

The third competitive season of Overwatch has drawn to a close.

overwatch

With the season now over, it’s a good time to jump on and collect the spoils of your work, although you’ll have needed a top 500 rank to get the really good sprays and icons.

Season 4 is due to begin in a week, on February 28. Blizzard has not talked about whether they have new plans for this season, after seasons 2 and 3 saw fairly significant shake-ups to the ranking system. It’ll be interesting to see if the same thing happens again or if Blizzard feels that they have settled into a groove.

We’re also wondering if we’ll see a new hero for season 4. Blizzard just dropped an interview with a fictional scientist within the Overwatch world that may contain some hints, who we’re told probably isn’t going to be Doomfist.

One popular theory at the moment, based on an unverified ‘leak’, is that the next hero will be an omnic tank named Anchora.

In any case, hopefully we can get our rankings up in Overwatch’s fourth competitive season next week.

Prominent World of Tanks streamer Poshybrid dies after lengthy stream

22 Feb

Brian “Poshybrid” Vigneault, a Twitch streamer known for his World of Tanks streams, has died after streaming the game for 22 hours straight.

world of tanks xbox one 2

Poshybrid was 22 hours into a stream in which he was collecting money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, when he got up to take a smoke break and never returned. His death didn’t become known until the next day.

As Kotaku has reported, detectives from the Virgina Beach police department are investigating the incident.

Poshybrid had 7852 subscribers on Twitch, and regularly hosted long streams on little sleep.

This is a strong reminder of the importance of employing safe practices if you’re a streamer – try to avoid sleep deprivation, keep hydrated, and don’t be afraid to pull the plug on a stream if necessary.

Our thoughts are with his friends, family, and fans.

Rocket League’s PS4 Pro update and Hot Wheels DLC are now live

21 Feb

With its v1.29 update, Rocket League adds a few new features, upgrading the game for both standard PS4 and PS4 Pro users.

rocket_league_hot_wheels (2)

PS4 Pro players will now be able to play the game in 4K and at 60FPS, while the standard PS4 version will now run at 1080p and 60FPS in split-screen multiplayer, which is great news for anyone with upcoming games nights planned.

Rocket League has had a few performance upgrades since release, but the jump to 4K is pretty substantial.

The Hot Wheels DLC announced earlier this month is also now available. You can pay for 12 new decals or two new wheel sets, but some cosmetic items – two new antennas and two new toppers – will be available to all users for free. This DLC is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Overwatch in-universe “interview” with robotics genius Efi Oladele may provide hints to next hero

21 Feb

If Doomfist isn’t the next Overwatch hero, maybe 11-year-old robotics prodigy Efi Oladele can provide us with some sort of hint.

overwatch_efi

In the latest blog entry on the Overwatch website, an in-universe interview with Numbani native Efi Oladele has been posted.

According to the post (thanks PC Gamer), Efi Oladele won a genius grant from the Adawe Foundation for her work in artificial intelligence and robotics.

In the interview, Efi discusses how she became obsessed with creating small drones after receiving her first robotics kit. In the future, her goal is to “build something that can keep us safe, like the new OR15,” and as far as how she’s going to use the grant money, “it’s secret for now,” but she is “taking a trip to celebrate” her achievement first. And it will be her first time flying. We can only assume she will fly somewhere outside if the current Numbani locations in the game, but you never know with Blizzard.

Also, what is the OR15? Speculation is running all over the place on that end, but one interesting theory pointed out by reddit user andygb4 is rather intriguing.

As he points out, the third Doomfist in the poster which was shown in the original Overwatch cinematic has Omnic text underneath instead of the normal font on the other two.

“Maybe she builds a robot that eventually becomes Doomfist?,” he suggests.

doomfist_overwatch

If you aren’t familiar with Overwtach lore, an Omnic is a type of robot with artificial intelligence – both are subjects Efi seems to have plenty of knowledge on. Omnics were “originally designed and built by humans,” mostly notably the Omnica Corporation, to serve the economy. Eventually, the Omnic Crisis occurred when the machines became infected by God Programs, developed militarized Omnics of themselves and started attacking humans (see Overwatch wiki link above).

Numbani, where Efi lives, is one of the few places in the Overwatch universe where omnics and humans live in harmony and equality. Formed after the Omnic Crisis, it’s “one of the world’s greatest and most technologically advanced cities.” This is also where as part the Unity Day festivities, the gauntlet of Doomfist is exhibited at the Numbani Heritage Museum.

So. Even though the 24th hero coming to Overwatch is apparently not Doomfist, unless Blizzard is messing with us, it’s quite possible Efi may have something to do with his story, or will possibly introduce some sort of new Omnic hero into the game. Or, she could transform into a hero or even be the hero. Only Blizzard knows.

We’re just speculating on all of this obviously. Hopefully, we’ll know more soon.

For Honor character guide: the Valkyrie has great range and trip attacks, best used offensively

21 Feb

The Valkyrie in For Honor is a bit of a badass, but only if you use her right.

The Valkyrie in For Honor will receive a few changes with the next update, but until then, you are free to go nuts with her.

Some of the changes coming to the Valkyrie in For Honor are buffs to some of her moves and a reduction in recovery time on others. Once the For Honor update drops, the following changes will be made to the Valkyrie:

  • Light attacks: reduced recovery time
  • Light chains: reduced time between attacks
  • Pouncing Thrust & Hunter’s Strike: increased damage and link options after those moves
  • Shield Crush: add link to Light Attack chains
  • Hunter’s Rush: reduced recovery time

There are also game wide changes coming to all Guard Breaks to make the countering mechanic more inline with the beta, but until then, here’s a quick guide on how to play the hybrid hero as she currently stands.

As Arekkz notes in his video, the Valkyrie is a complex class to play despite her versatility, so hopefully this guide will help you make the most of what she has to offer.

Also, please note the controller buttons mentioned below (X, RB etc) are for Xbox One, so it goes without saying PlayStation 4 and PC players will have different configurations. We included these for explanation purposes only.

First up is her Superior Block Light Attacks. During the start of any Light Attack, a block property is in place. This can be used to counter incoming attacks if properly times. Her shield will flash orange at the start of any light attack and if your Light Attack matches the direction if an opponents incoming move, you will counter it – similar to parry but slightly easier. Once the attack is countered, the Valkyrie can follow up with her own attack. While the light attack obviously does less damage, it opens the door for attack chains.

One of the chain combos is called Boar Hunter, which is a chain of three Light Attacks (RB, RB, RB). To pull it off, the first attack must not have been blocked by the opponent. If the first two attacks land, the third one will stun the enemy, leaving it vulnerable to any other attack you wish to use. You can also use Spear Sweep (unblockable) as the third move in the chain to knock down your enemy.

Thrust and Slash is another chain which consists of two Light Attacks and one Heavy Attack (RB, RB, RT). As with Boar Hunter, use Spear Sweep as the third move in the chain to knock down your enemy. If you choose the Heavy attack instead, it will pull a sweep anyway, knocking the opponent down and ripe for a follow-up.

The Third chain, Harrier’s Fury starts with a Heavy Attack followed by two Light Attacks (RT, RB, RB). Again, the third attack can be replaced with Spear Sweep.

One of the Valkyrie’s moves is called Hunter’s Rush. It’s a good chase move in which the player will sprint toward the target, press RT for a Heavy Attack which has a rather large reach. This makes it so you can go into attack mode before your opponent is even in range. You can open with this, or chase them down as already mentioned. Make sure you aren’t locked in guard mode or this won’t work.

Pouncing Thrust is another move which you dodge forward and perform a Light Attack (forward, A, RB). Here, the Valkyrie will leap toward their opponent, and it has some rather nice range. This move can also be followed up by a chain attack such as Boar Hunter or Thrust and Slash or even one of the Guard Break options.

Similar to Pouncing Thrust is Hunter’s Strike only instead of going forward, you’ll go left or right when dodging then performing a Light Attack. A chain combo can be used as the first attack as well.

Guard matches the direction of the Valkyrie’s dodge, so if you dodge in the same direction as the incoming attack, it will be blocked. If followed with a Heavy attack, the player can then go into Shoulder Pin which adds a bleed effect.

The Valkyrie also has two shield moves, one called Shield Crush. This is a Heavy Attack followed up by Guard Break (RT, X). This pushes the enemy back providing an opportunity to use chains. The other is Shield Tackle (down, A, Guard Break [X]). You you hold guard break, you will assume a stance which allows you to block without having to match the incoming attack. That said, it will drain stamina quickly, so don’t rely on it too much. Once you let off Guard Break when in this stance, you will then go into a Shield Tackle or press RB to go into a Pouncing Thrust.

for_honor_valkyrie_3

She can also make use of a move called Ram’s Headbutt where if you go into Guard Break (X) and press and hold the button again (X,X) you will headbutt your enemy. The longer you hold Guard Break the farther the opponent will be knocked back. If you don’t hold Guard Break, it will just headbutt them resulting in a push back. If you do it with the hold (X,X) it will push them back and stun the enemy.

This can then be followed by by the unblockable move Spear Sweep which is a double Guard Break move used with down and Heavy Attack (X,X, down, RB). You can also go from Shield Crush into Spear Sweep by using Heavy Attack, Guard Break, down, then Heavy Attack again (RB, X, down, RB). Again, Spear Sweep cannot be blocked, but it can be evaded or interrupted by other players. Be sure to mix things up if relying on Spear Sweep as your opponent could catch on if you continue to use the same moveset. Also, continuous Speak Sweep combos will drain stamina.

Arekkz also notes you can use a Zone Attack to clear enemies out of the way without fear of interruption. While it clears the way while applying moderate damage, it will use half of the player’s stamina, so it’s best to use in sticky situations only. Players can also cancel a second attack should they need to by pressing the corresponding button (Xbox One users would normally press B).

The Valkyrie’s shield and ability to trip players is a core part of the class’s strategy. Some attacks are slow to set up and easy to read, so it’s best to wait for the opponent to attack first, and attempt to counter it. This especially true to due the class having strong guard skills and waiting on the opponent is easier than trying to go on the offensive.

Of course you can jump in with Hunter’s Strike or Pouncing Thrust but should you get countered, you don’t have a lot of health. Therefore, it’s best not to get caught off guard. And always try to use a Heavy Attack after performing Spear Sweep as the opponent will be down on the ground.

In short: play the Valkyrie offensively, react to the enemy, take advantage of the character’s range, sneak in trip wherever you can, and hopefully you’ll take your opponents down in no time.

There’s a few more suggestions on how to use the Valkyrie in Arekkz’s video – so be sure to give it a watch.

For Honor video shows how frustrating peer-to-peer can be

21 Feb

Peer-to-peer in a game with such a high skill ceiling like For Honor can be really frustrating if you’re on the receiving end of some abuse.

For Honor is the latest gaming sensation among players. Everyone’s talking about it, but sometimes, it’s not for the right reasons.

As you’ve no doubt seen yourself if you’re playing the game, or in the countless videos and forum posts online complaining about the state of online play, For Honor relies on peer-to-peer as its networking solution. Although this is usually the case with fighting games – and For Honor certainly has much in common with Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, the game’s 4v4 modes suffer the most from this.

The downsides of using peer-to-peer are plenty. Lag switches and host advantage come mind, as do a myriad of NAT issues that are sometimes hard to solve. For its part, developer Ubisoft Montreal confirmed prior to the game’s launch that For Honor’s networking model doesn’t rely on the connection of a single player to host a game.

Instead, matches are hosted using the connections of all players. While this may seem impressive, the result is the same: constant disconnects from players and other problems typical of peer-to-peer games such as teleporting opponents. If you know anything about how For Honor plays, you’ll know any of these issues can be a death sentence to a skill and timing-based game like this.

This issue is exacerbated further because the game does not offer any early quit penalties. Sometimes, you’re not sure if your opponent rage-quit or simply suffered a connection problem. You won’t have to look far to see comments calling for the game to adopt a dedicated server model.

While dedicated servers are almost always a better solution, running a large number of servers across the various regions would cost Ubisoft a lot of money, certainly more than it’s spending now on the game’s peer-to-peer solution. There’s also the fact that Ubisoft Montreal will need to rewrite large parts of the game’s networking code for the game to transfer over flawlessly to the new system, which is not an easy task.

The video above from CrowbCat reflects what a large portion of those affected by these issues feel at the moment. For some, these issues come up at least once every five games.

[image] via The Jimquisition.

The Division patch 1.6: Tenebrae exotic marksman rifle review

21 Feb

The Tenebrae is a solid marksman rifle for skill-focused builds.

The Division‘s patch 1.6 is currently being tested by players in the PTS. The list of changes 1.6 has made to the game is massive, and you can bet weapon balancing is included in the notes.

Tenebrae, an exotic marksman rifle, has received a balance pass, and in the video above, Arekkz reviews the current version and how much has changed since the weapon first launched.

Being a SCAR-H variant means this weapon has some of the highest damage potential in PvE, to compensate for its relatively small magazine size (20 by default). The Tenebrae has 149% headshot damage, and an RPM of 275.

Lights Out is the main new addition here. This Talent resets skill cooldowns for you and nearby group members every time you destroy an enemy weak point. This can happen once every ten seconds, and is a great asset for skill-focused builds.

Though this works great in Incursions and similar team-oriented activities, this particular skill cooldown effect is situational, given that you need to always be on the lookout for those weak points.

Even not including the Talent in the assessment, Tenebrae is still a decent options for high-accuracy players who want to get rewarded for landing headshots.

Battlefield 1: how to unlock the hidden dog tag A Beginning

21 Feb

The very first Battlefield 1 Easter egg has been unearthed, and solving it nets you a unique dog tag.

A Beginning is the name of a Battlefield 1 Easter egg the community recently uncovered. This hunt is not dissimilar to the ones we’ve seen before in Battlefield 4 like the Phantom Program, though this one is a lot more complicated.

In the video, Westie outlines the process of figuring out the first part of the Easter egg, and how to get the free dog tag. This is the same headphone Easter egg the community identified around the game’s launch, it’s only now that the first part – A Beginning – has been solved.

First, you’ll need to a find a pair of headphones on one of the maps. Only one pair of headphones will spawn at any one time, so you’ll need to join empty servers until you locate a pair and pick it up. All possible locations can be found here, to make the hunt a little easier.

Then you’ll need to find a hidden MCOM station on the map, and approach it. The MCOM will play Morse Code, so you’ll need to record what you’re hearing. Capturing footage will do, too, so long as you can hear the audio.

Once the video has been captured, you’ll need to extract the audio track from it using editing software such as Adobe Premiere or Vegas. This should give you a sound file, free of all the noise, which you’re going to need. Now, take this sound file and export it into an audio editor like Audacity.

The reason for this is that through Audacity’s visualiser, you’re going to isolate just the Morse Code parts to be able to understand the message. To do this, you’ll need to change the Waveform view to Spectrogram, apply a Split Stereo to Mono effect, and finally Normalise the audio through the Effect menu.

This will make it easier to see a few orange blips in the visualiser, which is what we’re looking for. Now, it’ll be easy to type out the dots, dashes, and spaces into a notepad, as this will help you decode the message later. Decrypting the Morse Code requires a translator, and you can use this one to do it. Simply copy what you typed into the notepad and pay attention to the translation.

The message will be different for each person, and you could be directed to any one of these locations to continue the hunt. Once you arrive at the place, you’ll see an arrow pointing right and left, and looking it at it will play some music, letting you know you’re in the right place.

From there, you’ll need to go to pick up a new set of headphones and return to the MCOM station to receive the next message, record it, and decipher. If you did everything right on the previous trip, the lights on the MCOM station will change colour.

If the second code is jumbled, you can reverse the order of the letters on the message to receive the next set of instructions. The sign you see at the correct location will help you decipher the next clue.

In Westie’s case, the symbol was a triangle. This means his next code would need an Atbash Cipher to be cracked. Repeat the same process until a you reach another location, with another symbol.

An arrow pointing to the right means you’ll need a Caesar cipher to decrypt it. A fence icon means you need a Fence cipher. A set of dots and dashes will require the use of a Baconian cipher to crack, after you’ve switched the letters over to As and Bs.

In cases where you’re required to use the Baconian cipher, the resulting code will need to be decoded again using the Atbash Cipher. When getting the word Edward as a clue, you’ll need to use the Vingenere cipher using Edward as a passphrase. George is another clue you can come across, which requires the use of an Autokey cipher to decrypt.

Use George as a passphrase with Z as a key. If you get London as a clue, you’ll get the same MCOM Morse Code message as everyone else. To solve this final riddle, you’ll need to reverse the converted Morse Code message, then use Autokey cipher with Z as a key and London as a passphrase.

Finally, after reversing the resulting message, you’ll need to load up the Giant’s Shadow map and spawn as a German soldier. Now, all that’s left to do is climb the top of the windmill behind the German spawn, keep looking up at the pigeons in the sky until one of them flies over your head. When that happens, you’ll hear the same success music you’ve heard before, which brings this part to an end.

You should now have the A Beginning dog tag in your collection. You’re also now ready for the next part, which has yet to be uncovered.

Incoming search terms:

Battlefield 1: how to unlock the hidden dog tag A Beginning

21 Feb

The very first Battlefield 1 Easter egg has been unearthed, and solving it nets you a unique dog tag.

A Beginning is the name of a Battlefield 1 Easter egg the community recently uncovered. This hunt is not dissimilar to the ones we’ve seen before in Battlefield 4 like the Phantom Program, though this one is a lot more complicated.

In the video, Westie outlines the process of figuring out the first part of the Easter egg, and how to get the free dog tag. This is the same headphone Easter egg the community identified around the game’s launch, it’s only now that the first part – A Beginning – has been solved.

First, you’ll need to a find a pair of headphones on one of the maps. Only one pair of headphones will spawn at any one time, so you’ll need to join empty servers until you locate a pair and pick it up. All possible locations can be found here, to make the hunt a little easier.

Then you’ll need to find a hidden MCOM station on the map, and approach it. The MCOM will play Morse Code, so you’ll need to record what you’re hearing. Capturing footage will do, too, so long as you can hear the audio.

Once the video has been captured, you’ll need to extract the audio track from it using editing software such as Adobe Premiere or Vegas. This should give you a sound file, free of all the noise, which you’re going to need. Now, take this sound file and export it into an audio editor like Audacity.

The reason for this is that through Audacity’s visualiser, you’re going to isolate just the Morse Code parts to be able to understand the message. To do this, you’ll need to change the Waveform view to Spectrogram, apply a Split Stereo to Mono effect, and finally Normalise the audio through the Effect menu.

This will make it easier to see a few orange blips in the visualiser, which is what we’re looking for. Now, it’ll be easy to type out the dots, dashes, and spaces into a notepad, as this will help you decode the message later. Decrypting the Morse Code requires a translator, and you can use this one to do it. Simply copy what you typed into the notepad and pay attention to the translation.

The message will be different for each person, and you could be directed to any one of these locations to continue the hunt. Once you arrive at the place, you’ll see an arrow pointing right and left, and looking it at it will play some music, letting you know you’re in the right place.

From there, you’ll need to go to pick up a new set of headphones and return to the MCOM station to receive the next message, record it, and decipher. If you did everything right on the previous trip, the lights on the MCOM station will change colour.

If the second code is jumbled, you can reverse the order of the letters on the message to receive the next set of instructions. The sign you see at the correct location will help you decipher the next clue.

In Westie’s case, the symbol was a triangle. This means his next code would need an Atbash Cipher to be cracked. Repeat the same process until a you reach another location, with another symbol.

An arrow pointing to the right means you’ll need a Caesar cipher to decrypt it. A fence icon means you need a Fence cipher. A set of dots and dashes will require the use of a Baconian cipher to crack, after you’ve switched the letters over to As and Bs.

In cases where you’re required to use the Baconian cipher, the resulting code will need to be decoded again using the Atbash Cipher. When getting the word Edward as a clue, you’ll need to use the Vingenere cipher using Edward as a passphrase. George is another clue you can come across, which requires the use of an Autokey cipher to decrypt.

Use George as a passphrase with Z as a key. If you get London as a clue, you’ll get the same MCOM Morse Code message as everyone else. To solve this final riddle, you’ll need to reverse the converted Morse Code message, then use Autokey cipher with Z as a key and London as a passphrase.

Finally, after reversing the resulting message, you’ll need to load up the Giant’s Shadow map and spawn as a German soldier. Now, all that’s left to do is climb the top of the windmill behind the German spawn, keep looking up at the pigeons in the sky until one of them flies over your head. When that happens, you’ll hear the same success music you’ve heard before, which brings this part to an end.

You should now have the A Beginning dog tag in your collection. You’re also now ready for the next part, which has yet to be uncovered.

Play around in this Ghost Recon: Wildlands interactive map, get in-game rewards

21 Feb

This Ghost Recon: Wildlands minigame is entertaining, and it’ll net you some free items for playing it.

ghost_recon_wildlands_stealth_takedown_mission_shot_1

Similar to the For Honor interactive website, Ubisoft has created a minigame for Ghost Recon: Wildlands that lets you explore the game’s vast open world.

The minigame is called A World With No Heroes, and it’s basically an interactive version of the Wildlands’ map. Security cameras survey multiple interesting spots around the map, and you’re asked to view their feed to learn more about the world, and find out what goes on when no one’s looking.

Every few seconds, your drone, which is deployed at the start of the mission, will alert you to an active chase or firefight. If you click though, you’ll be tasked with playing a minigame of identifying or spotting targets. It takes minimal effort, and you’re only asked to achieve 50% completion to gain the rewards.

The rewards are four unique emblems, and a 2-hour XP boost. The boost gives you a 50% increase to earned XP, and 25% for your teammates.

In other Wildlands news, the open beta kicks off this Thursday, and is even available now to pre-load on all platforms. The open beta includes two of the game’s 21.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands is out March 7 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Destiny weekly reset for February 21 – Nightfall, Crucible, raid challenge changes detailed

21 Feb

Another Tuesday means another Destiny server rest, here are all the relevant changes.

destiny_rise_of_iron_crucible_pvp_icarus_ps4_exclusive_1

This week’s Destiny reset is here, bringing changes to the usual suspects. You’ll find a new Nightfall strike, a reshuffle of Prison of Elders modifiers and bosses, a new raid challenge, new vendor inventory, and more.

Here’s what’s happening:

Weekly Nightfall

It’s been a while, but we’ll return to The Abomination Heist strike this week with Arc Burn, and modifiers Specialist, Juggler, and Exposure.

Specialist grants bonus damage when using special weapons. Juggler prevents ammo drops for your currently equipped weapon. Exposure increases your shields but they do not replenish.

Heroic playlist modifiers

Arc Burn, Brawler, Ironclad.

Crucible playlists

Mayhem Clash, Rumble Supremacy.

Wrath of the Machine raid challenge

Vosik takes a turn at hosting this week’s challenge in the raid. Those who dare venture forth are welcome to consult our guide, things will only get better from there.

Halo Wars 2 PC review: the spirit of Command & Conquer trapped in a dilapidated husk

21 Feb

Loving or hating Halo Wars 2 largely depends on what you look for in an RTS.

halo_wars_2_campaign_cinematic_screen_2

“Being designed for a controller has evidently been to the detriment of the overall experience.”

Before Halo Wars 2 was announced, I never expected I’d be talking about a triple-A RTS that isn’t Dawn of War or Company of Heroes anytime soon. The RTS genre is more or less dead, and has been for a while. It gave way to off-shoots like the many MOBAs and other tower-defence variants, but the good ol’ game where you build your base, round up your troops and make a mess of your enemies is all but gone.

Games like Dawn of War 3 are trying new things; a mix of hero battles typical of MOBAs and a traditional RTS structure. Whatever approach new RTS games take, nothing has quite been able to replicate the Command & Conquer games. There’s either too many resources, distinctly asymmetrical factions, or some weird gimmick added in to “push the genre forward”. Although I enjoy them, nothing comes close to the brand of fun found in Westwood’s classic games.

Halo Wars 2 does come close, but after finishing the campaign and playing a few Skirmish and Blitz matches, I am hesitant to call it a spiritual successor to Command & Conquer, even if it plays a lot like it. Being designed for a controller has evidently been to the detriment of the overall experience.

halo_wars_2_campaign_gameplay_launch_screen_1

There’s a lot to like in Halo Wars 2, though. It’s a game built on a philosophy of providing accessible, mostly autonomous RTS battles. It’s also a game that offers a campaign with a surprisingly decent story and excellent cut-scenes. It even tries to introduce new ideas with Blitz mode.

Unfortunately, every one of those aspects eventually devolves into a lesser version of itself, leaving you to wonder if the initial lustre is what kept you going in the first place. The game’s campaign starts off with the introduction of a formidable villain, and sets up a struggle with poor odds. Characters are one-dimensional for the most part, but that’s because they’re mostly here to tell you stuff over the radio.

The first few missions introduce new mechanics, units, and create scenarios for you to fight your way out of at a steady pace. But then it just stops doing that, and starts going through the motions, undermining the opening salvo of good missions you were greeted with. Having recently played the remaster of the original game on PC, I was surprised to find a returning, near identical design for a particular mission.

That mission was to get long-range artillery units into firing positions, fighting enemies along the way before eventually securing the points and protecting them from enemy retaliation. Though the mission wasn’t particularly difficult or interesting, it wasn’t impressive either. And this is the sentiment that underlines the entire experience, not just in terms of what the game lets you do, but in the way some of its best moments are offered up.

halo_wars_2_campaign_gameplay_launch_screen_2

The PC version is a great example of this misdirection. Though not quite the nightmare I feared it would be, it was lacking to a sometimes frustrating degree. The menus and UI are identical across PC and Xbox to the point of hampering mouse and keyboard play.

Halo Wars 2’s menus are an unorganised mess, among the worst I’ve ever seen. The key bindings menu in particular is a case study of how not to make a menu for anything ever. Made of some 15 pages, and using up only 50 percent of screen real estate like there’s a law against utilising the full available space, this menu’s existence in its current state is itself an achievement.

I didn’t know how I could remove a key binding to remap it to another function because the game doesn’t follow the universal ‘hold escape or backspace to remove bindings’ rule, and it won’t bother telling you how to do it either. I later found out how to do this by accident, but after I had nearly finished the game.

Control issues would not have been much of a hassle had the game itself offered other basic RTS staples. There’s no concept of an attack move, or halt. Your units are always attacking, and you never know if they’re going to chase their targets forever or just drive them away.

The only way the game knows how to talk to you is through radial menus. They’re inefficient, and a waste of space a lot of the time, but more importantly, a hassle on PC. Said menus also mean you can’t queue up units remotely. You have to be at your base, clicking the particular building you want and training units there.

It’s perplexing how Creative Assembly, an expert developer of much more complex PC-only strategy games, somehow could not come up with a PC-specific UI. Anything else would’ve done it really, since it’s hard for me to imagine Creative Assembly staff playing the game with this UI on a PC and thinking it was fine.

Though in fairness, that’s exactly what it is: it’s fine. It didn’t stop me from playing, but I dreaded its shortcomings every time I was reminded of them, and that was often.

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It’s a shame, because removed from these problems, Halo Wars 2’s core gameplay loop is really fun. It’s a game that encourages scouting and taking action over everything else, a C&C principle. Unit roles are easy to understand, and the game even spills out the hard counters for you in the tutorial. The focus is on your ability to create a sizeable force and win skirmishes until you’re strong enough to take out an entire base.

It looks amazing, with beautifully-designed environments and animations that look great on the smallest and the largest units alike. Even building construction animations, something I usually analyse in these games, are very good, especially considering all buildings get air dropped. The intricate ways units navigate around each other and what they do while idling are all well thought-out.

It sounds good, too, and much like the mainline Halo games, you can easily tell the units apart by the sound of their weapons and the type of chatter they get into. Projectile weapons are crisp-sounding and energy weapons deliver a lot of oomph and thump.

Being very familiar with Halo units and vehicles, I often felt like a kid playing with his action figures on the floor. Only the toys here are high-polygon, and brimming with life. The zoom and follow cameras can seriously produce a lot of amazing moments, even when you’re on the receiving end of a bombardment.

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“Whether or not you’re going to have fun with Halo Wars 2 relies heavily on your tolerance levels for UI issues, and a core loop that’s not very advanced. If you’re looking for a StarCraft clone with Halo units, this is not it.”

Even Blitz, at its most basic level, is a mode designed to get people to like RTS games. It strips down all the base building and resource gathering parts of the genre for – quite literally – an instant action approach. Unfortunately, like I had suspected after playing the beta, the microtransactions side of it will end up ruining it.

You can spend $50 on day one and go in with a considerably higher-level, more powerful deck than what most other players would have starting out. And although matchmaking could theoretically account for this, and you obviously still need to play your cards right, it’s still an advantage. As for matchmaking, I don’t think the game will have anywhere near enough players – at least on PC – to support this split.

Sure, you earn card packs for free at a steady rate, and you can just ignore competitive Blitz and only play the Firefight variant with a friend. But why compromise the mode with a system like that in the first place? Halo Wars 2 is already fighting an uphill battle on both the platforms it’s on, wouldn’t it make more sense to appear player-friendly now to win the audience over rather than cut and run as early as possible?

Ultimately, whether or not you’re going to have fun with Halo Wars 2 relies heavily on your tolerance levels for UI issues, and a core loop that’s not very advanced. If you’re looking for a StarCraft clone with Halo units, this is not it. I was actively looking for the exact opposite, and that’s what I found. After more or less getting used to its bizarre quirks, I found a casual RTS that lets me build big armies and crush opponents that looks and sounds like it was made in 2017.

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.

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.