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Horizon Zero Dawn: how Guerrilla made open world content that doesn’t feel like checklists and chores

25 Feb

Horizon Zero Dawn is a pleasure to play to 100% completion, every step of the way. How did Guerrilla achieve this remarkable feat?

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Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the few open world game to respect the player’s time and energy.

As touched on in our Horizon Zero Dawn review, side content is carefully laid out around hubs to reduce backtracking; optional quests take you on tours of environments you might otherwise miss; and when you do step off the beaten path, it’s usually rewarding in some way – narratively or mechanically or both.

“Either we’re going to spend another couple of months and really try to get this up here, or we’ll just cut it. We don’t want something to be in there that’s mediocre.”

This makes Horizon Zero Dawn a refreshing antidote to open world fatigue, and according to senior producer Joel Eschler, Guerrilla Games made a conscious effort to avoid checklist-style gameplay.

“It’s definitely something we were aware of,” he told me at a Horizon Zero Dawn pre-launch event in Sydney last week.

“When we were building our feature set for Horizon and we got to the point where we agreed we are going to polish this and we’re going to commit to this staying in the game, we wanted everything to be up to a certain quality level. We wanted everything to be really good.”

Eschler made a series of gestures indicating multiple levels of content. “We didn’t want to have this: amazing, really good, crappy,” he said, waving a hand well below the other levels.

“If we were working on something and it wasn’t working, we didn’t like it internally or it was going to be too expensive to make right or the playtests were saying that it wasn’t working, then we looked at it really hard and decided, okay, either we’re going to spend another couple of months and really try to get this up here, or we’ll just cut it. We don’t want something to be in there that’s mediocre.”

Even so, Horizon Zero Dawn makes clear distinctions between main and side content – and that’s one of the reasons Eschler believes it works so well.

“We have our varying tiers of quests. We have our main Aloy progression story which is our big main path that everyone who finishes the game will see. We have teams dedicated to that,” he said.

“And then we have other teams dedicated to the side activities like the Hunting Grounds, which are tests of skills. And they were really, really heavily designed between quest designers, artists, the designers that built the robots, to highlight the skills of the robots and to give you the chance to become really, really expert at hunting them.”

“We have teams dedicated to the side activities, and they were really, really heavily designed between quest designers, artists and the designers that built the robots.”

This particular side quest chain stands out in Horizon Zero Dawn as proving far more interesting than the usual timed twitch-reflex tests open worlds throw in for really hardcore players; the Hunting Grounds offer more tactical challenges that work as advanced tutorials for mastering the combat sandbox.

Also of note are the Cauldrons, which Eschler described as “pure gameplay” tests of both combat and traversal as well as a chance to understand more about the origins of the machines. Other open world content includes bandit camp take overs, a modest collection of viewpoints and collectibles – but Horizon Zero Dawn also features traditional narrative-driven side quests.

“Then we have other quests, which are kind of side quests and lower in tier than the main story, but we really tried to make these more personal by telling individual stories of people who live in the world,” Eschler said.

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“We spent a lot of time doing the world building and building up the lore, so we could have these side stories that don’t necessarily impact the big overarching narrative, but still impactful to these individuals. We wanted it to feel like a real, living world.”

These are also noteworthy, presenting an array of colourful characters that make Horizon Zero Dawn especially memorable. Eschler’s comments about making the stories fit into a “real, living world” aren’t just PR waffling, either: Guerrilla has worked hard to make good on this promise.

In one particularly noteworthy example, I elected to follow an NPC at the end of a quest to see whether they reverted to a generic face in the crowd, as in so many games – and instead discovered a permanent change in their behaviour and some unique ambient dialogue. Since the quest has completed and there’s no objective to find out what happens next, most players won’t even see this scene, but its existence makes the quest feel meaningful and consequential.

This sort of thing is possible because Guerrilla divided its forces on Horizon Zero Dawn, Eschler said.

“We have these multiple teams that are focused on making [one] particular part of it as awesome as possible rather than spreading the team thin spending time here and there and there,” he said.

Horizon Zero Dawn releases February 28 in the US and March 1 in Europe, exclusively for PS4.

Some Nier: Automata players are crying foul over NIN64 trash item found while fishing

24 Feb

Nier: Automata was released in Japan earlier this week, and some players have taken offense to an item considered trash in the game.

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According to a post on Japanese site jin115, Nier: Automata players took to Twitter to express their displeasure over an item called “NIN64” which is added to the character’s inventory as a trash item.

Nier has a fishing mechanic which can result in the player catching rare items, and in other instances trash – which is pretty standard for any game with a fishing feature. However, some players think the NIN64 item being called trash by the game is a slight to the Nintendo 64 console.

Apparently, enough people complained because the game’s producer, Yosuke Saito, said Square Enix plans to “change the name of an item you’ve all pointed out.” The name change will be included with the upcoming patch which also fixes some game bug.

As Siliconera points out, the game takes place 10,000 years into the future, and it’s more likely than not a fun little Easter egg paying homage to a popular gaming system that’s still floating around (no pun intended) 100 centuries later.

The site also notes not all players in Japan think it’s a play on the MIM-46 Mauler which was an anti-aircraft missile system used in the 1950s. We’re going with the former, as it makes a bit more sense, we guess.

Nier: Automata will be released in North America on March 7 and Europe on March 10 for PS4. It will also come to PC at a later date.

Horizon: Zero Dawn day one update fixes performance issues, crashes, progression, more – here’s the patch notes

24 Feb

Those who have Horizon: Zero Dawn in-hand can already download a patch for the game which fixes some performance issues and also applies the small, day-one patch which includes Performance Mode.

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According to PSX-Sense, the Horizon: Zero Dawn release notes for patch 1.01 and 1.02 are as follows:

Patch 1.01

  • Added options to switch graphics mode and HDR rendering
  • Multiple crash fixes and progression
  • Various performance improvements

Patch 1.02

  • Multiple crash fixes and progression
  • Various fixes to avoid getting player’s stuck
  • Updated visual settings
  • Performance improvements

Together, the patches are 227.3MB in size, and while there aren’t extra details available, the notes above should give you a general idea of what’s included. Guerrilla Games will likely post more information when the game releases.

Horizon: Zero Dawn releases next week on February 28 in North America and March 1 in Europe.

The Horizon: Zero Dawn launch trailer is totally worth three minutes of your time

24 Feb

You should really take a few minutes out of your day and watch the launch trailer for Horizon: Zero Dawn. It’s totally worth it, in our opinion.

In the video above, you’re given a look at the gorgeous landscapes in Horizon: Zero Dawn, combat situations, and a really cool tribal ritual involving cave art.

It’s a rather cool video, and that’s saying a lot considering there have been so very many released. All you have to do is look at our hub page for the game and see for yourself.

Considering the game has garnered positive reviews from critics, we enjoyed it as well, SuperData might be on to something with its sales prediction: it estimates the action-RPG will sell 4-6 million units by the end of 2017.

A couple of reports from Digital Foundry make note of how phenomenal the game looks on PS4, going so far as saying it’s the best 4K title yet for PS4 Pro. That said, an updated analysis of the game posted today called out a few issues with the quality of water rendering, instances of bad lip sync, and human enemies being rather dense at times. However, Digital Foundry said what works “far outweighs the more localized gripes” of what is wrong with it. Future updates could resolve some of the issues, according to the report.

That’s just something to keep in mind should you decide to pick it up. The game has a seamless world without loading screens, and it’s massive, so if you come across a few hiccups, hopefully it won’t break your immersion.

Those with either a PS4 or PS4 Pro should prepare themselves for a small day-one patch which adds a Performance Mode for smoother framerates, and higher visual fidelity for both 4K and 1080p displays.

Horizon: Zero Dawn releases next week on February 28 in North America and March 1 in Europe.

Horizon: Zero Dawn devs discuss lack of loading screens, creating high quality facial animation in new video

22 Feb

Horizon: Zero Dawn’s release isn’t far off, and a quick video released today by the developers discusses a couple of interesting points regarding the lovely action-RPG.

In the video for Horizon: Zero Dawn above, Guerrilla Games discusses how it had to rework the engine in order to render the open-world into a seamless experience without the need for loading screens. The team wanted this to be the case whether running around the landscape or going underground.

Guerrilla said in many RPG games, facial animation isn’t of the “highest quality”, so the team worked extra hard to improve in this area. In order to create characters which looked more realistic, and high quality, the team recorded over 15 hours of dialogue in the motion cap studio.

Horizon: Zero Dawn sure is lovely, and reviews for it have been positive. If you missed our review on the PS4 title, be sure and give it a read.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is out next week exclusively for PS4 on February 28 in North America and March 1 in Europe. The game will be forward compatible with PS4 Pro, allowing it to run up to 4K resolution.

Horizon: Zero Dawn devs discuss lack of loading screens, creating high quality facial animation in new video

22 Feb

Horizon: Zero Dawn’s release isn’t far off, and a quick video released today by the developers discusses a couple of interesting points regarding the lovely action-RPG.

In the video for Horizon: Zero Dawn above, Guerrilla Games discusses how it had to rework the engine in order to render the open-world into a seamless experience without the need for loading screens. The team wanted this to be the case whether running around the landscape or going underground.

Guerrilla said in many RPG games, facial animation isn’t of the “highest quality”, so the team worked extra hard to improve in this area. In order to create characters which looked more realistic, and high quality, the team recorded over 15 hours of dialogue in the motion cap studio.

Horizon: Zero Dawn sure is lovely, and reviews for it have been positive. If you missed our review on the PS4 title, be sure and give it a read.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is out next week exclusively for PS4 on February 28 in North America and March 1 in Europe. The game will be forward compatible with PS4 Pro, allowing it to run up to 4K resolution.

Get a PS4 Pro with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Dishonored 2 for $400

22 Feb

If you’re looking to pick up a PS4 Pro, why not get two free games along with it?

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Sony has yet to offer any official deals or discounts on PS4 Pro. This is why deals like today’s NewEgg offer are always exciting for those looking to get a better deal on the more powerful PS4.

This isn’t the first deal of this type, either, but they tend to go out of stock pretty quickly. Today’s offer gets you a PlayStation 4 Pro console, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and Dishonored 2 – all for the MSRP of $400. Both game are enhanced for PS4 Pro, too, so you’ll be playing the better versions.

This essentially means you get two of the best selling games of last year for free. You can see it for yourself at the link. The offer is available only through NewEgg’s eBay portal, while stocks last.

We should also note that the version of Infinite Warfare included is the standard edition, and does not come with Modern Warfare Remastered.

You can now play PlayStation VR title ‘Here They Lie’ without PS VR

22 Feb

Here They Lie, a PSVR launch title, no longer requires VR to play.

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The game, which garnered mixed reviews, is a psychological horror experience viewed from a first person perspective. It didn’t make a huge impact, but it’ll now be available to a wider audience.

As detailed on PlayStation Blog, the game is now playable on standard PS4s and PS4 Pros, complete with 4K support on the Pro.

“Many of you had really great requests for Here They Lie”, developer Cory Davis writes, “and we’ve implemented as many of them as we could. New additions include a controller configuration screen, the highly requested Chapter Select screen, subtitles (only for the Standard version), and a slew of visual upgrades — like improved anti-aliasing and lighting across the board.”

The VR version has also been updated with improved head-tracking and sharper visuals.

The updated version of Here They Lie is available now on PS4.

Resident Evil 7 players on PC, Xbox One can download Banned Footage Vol. 1-2 from today

21 Feb

Resident Evil 7 players on PC and Xbox One can now download Banned Footage Volumes 1 and 2.

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The DLC for Resident Evil 7 will also be made available for Windows 10 at a later date. When is not known at present, only that it’s “coming soon.”

Banned Footage Vol. 1 contains the episodes “Nightmare,” “Bedroom” and “Ethan Must Die”, while Vol.2 includes “Daughters”, “21,” and “Jack’s 55th Birthday”.

If you need help with the main content for each, we have guides on Vol 1: Nightmare and Bedroom along with Vol. 2’s Daughters.

Episodes 21 and Jack’s Birthday are bonus episodes and pretty straight forward.

If you need help with entire game itself, here is the main Resident Evil 7 guide.

Both volumes are available for those who purchased the Deluxe Edition or Season Pass. Each can also be purchased individually for $9.99/£7.99/€9.99 and $14.99/£11.99/€14.99, respectively.

The DLC is already available for download on PlayStation 4.

Spend $100 on the PlayStation Store in North America, get $15 back

20 Feb

Sony wants to help you afford all those great games released so far this year.

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Sony has announced a nice promotion for those looking to pick up a few digital games through the PlayStation Store in the next few days. The offer is only available on the North American store.

If you spend $100 or more on anything on the store, you’ll receive a $15 cashback as a PSN Wallet voucher. Here’s the catch: all purchases have to come out of your PSN Wallet balance, not through your credit card or other means.

This means you’ll have to pre-charge your wallet either through your card, or by getting codes at retail. The promotion applies to purchases made between February 21 and February 28. The event kicks off at 12:01am PT, 3:01am PT on February 21. You’ll have until midnight PT, 3am ET on February 28 to take advantage.

As for the $15 voucher code, Sony said it will be set on or before March 14 either through email or as a direct message. Codes must be redeemed before midnight PT, 3am ET on March 31.

Keep in mind that you can use this on pre-orders and items on sale, but do note that you won’t get more than a single voucher – so spending $300 still only gets you $15 back.

Final Fantasy 15 PS4 Pro patch makes for “wildly unstable” frame-rates that don’t hit 60fps

20 Feb

Wondering how the Final Fantasy 15 PS4 Pro patch is going down? Not brilliantly.

Final Fantasy 15‘s latest update has gone live and includes the PS4 Pro patch that introduces a Lite Mode that bumps up the frame-rate to 60fps.

Digital Foundry is on the case to test out how the PS4 Pro console Lite Mode performs, and ‘not well’ is the short answer.

The frame-rate is unlocked and “wildly unstable,” running between 30-50 fps, while the frame pacing issue present on the PS4 and the Pro is still an issue, exacerbated even more on the PS4 Pro with today’s update.

Digital Foundry’s verdict is that the PS4 Pro is now the least preferred platform to play the game on, followed by the PS4, with the Xbox One being the platform of choice.

What are your thoughts? Are you disappointed? Chime in below.

Horizon Zero Dawn day one patch adds Performance mode giving smoother framerates in 1080p and 4K

20 Feb

Horizon Zero Dawn is going to look even better thanks to a small day one patch.

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Horizon Zero Dawn is a PS4 exclusive that’s been tailored for the PS4 Pro and it’s reviewed rather well.

We saw a comparison between gameplay on the two consoles earlier today and it looked just marvellous.

While the game looks lovely on both the PS4 and the Pro, it seems we’re in for a day one patch that aims to jazz things up even more.

According to NeoGAF user thuway the day one patch was detailed in the review material.

It’ll be a “small day zero patch that will build upon PlayStation 4 Pro support, adding a Performance mode which will favor smoother framerates while delivering higher visual fidelity in the 1080p mode. This mode is available for both 4K and 1080p displays.”

So you don’t need a 4K TV to make the most of it.

Horizon Zero Dawn is out for the PS4 and PS4 Pro on February 28 in North America and March 1 in Europe.

Street Fighter 5 Character Introduction series shines the spotlight on newcomer Kolin

20 Feb

Here’s a sneak peek at some of Kolin’s moves before she makes her Street Fighter 5 debut next week.

Street Fighter 5‘s Kolin was revealed a couple of weeks ago and you can find out more about her in Capcom’s character introduction video.

Community manager Matt Edwards talks us through her history in the series, her V-Skill and V-Trigger, as well as telling us how and why to play Kolin. If you like mind games, she’s the girl for you.

Season 2 will see Street Fighter 5’s roster grow with the addition of six new characters, bringing the total to 28.

Kolin is making her debut on February 28, 2017.

Horizon Zero Dawn PS4 and PS4 Pro gameplay comparison will dazzle your eyeballs

20 Feb

Horizon Zero Dawn is a PS4 exclusive but if you have a PS4 Pro, there are a few treats in store.

Horizon Zero Dawn is out next week and if you haven’t checked out the reviews already, you can hop over to our review round-up or have a look at what Brenna thought about the game.

If you’re more interested in seeing some gameplay, then Alex has got you covered with his PS4 and PS4 Pro comparison video above.

Don’t forget to tinker with the settings on the video to give your eyeballs the full 4K 2160p experience.

Horizon Zero Dawn was developed with the PS4 Pro in mind, rather than getting scaled up from the PS4 version, so even if you’re not playing on an HDR-compatible 4K telly, there are still some differences that you’ll be benefiting from.

The PS4 Pro uses supersampling which is a high-quality anti-aliasing technique that renders the image at a high resolution, close to 4K, before shrinking it down to 1080p. Technical Director, Michiel van der Leeuw, goes into more detail on a PlayStation blog post from November last year.

That means that 1080p on the PS4 Pro will look somewhat better than 1080p on the PS4.

If you do have a 4K TV then you’ll be pleased to know that the game renders 2160p checkerboard, meaning that it’s pretty close to native 4K.

Essentially, if you have a PS4 Po, snatching up this game should be a priority.

Horizon Zero Dawn is out next week exclusively for the PS4 and PS4 Pro on February 28 in North America and March 1 in Europe.

Horizon Zero Dawn reviews round-up, all the scores

20 Feb

Horizon Zero Dawn is out next week and the verdicts are in. Check out the scores across the board.

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Horizon Zero Dawn is a new IP from Guerrilla Games that piqued our interest since it was announced at E3 2015.

It’s an action RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world that’s filled with robot dinosaurs and the people have reverted to a more primitive way of life after the electricity was buggered.

Reviews are finally out in the wild – including our take on it from Brenna – and you can check them out below.

As usual, scores are out of 10 unless stated otherwise.

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.

Dirt Rally’s PSVR upgrade is now available on the PlayStation Store

17 Feb

The PlayStation VR update for Dirt Rally is now available.

With this update, Dirt Rally in its entirety is now playable in VR and has been PS4 Pro optimized. Just the VR content, not the core game.

Every game mode is playable as the driver in VR including rallycross and hill climb. As with the core game, timing and accuracy are vital in order to complete stages in the best time possible.

It also introduces a new Co-Driver Mode where a second player can provide important calls using a controller and the social screen.

Codemasters is also running a limited time discount from today to February 27. During this period, you can pick up the PlayStation VR bundle which includes the game, the PS VR upgrade, and the Fully Loaded DLC add-on packs for $43.39/£39.99. Check here for local pricing in your region.

The Dirt Rally VR upgrade is available for existing players as a standalone DLC for $12.99/£9.99 or the regional equivalent.

These Horizon: Zero Dawn videos provide a visual recap of combat, exploration, more

17 Feb

Horizon: Zero Dawn releases in less than two weeks, and if you need something to scratch your itch in the meantime, Sony has you covered.

Four new videos for Horizon: Zero Dawn have been released, the first of which is a look at exploration. Aloy will be able to travel the various frontiers, find artifacts and discover ancient mysteries in the process.

The video above takes a look at some of the Machines players will come into contact with – some of which they will have to battle.

In this video, more combat is shown along with Aloy’s tracking ability.

The final video focuses on Aloy, both past and present, along with a look at some of the various NPCs.

While the majority of what’s shown in the videos have been revealed before, each are still a quick reminder of what Horizon: Zero Dawn has to offer come the end of the month.

If you want to catch up on everything we know about it, be sure to give our page hub a click.

The PS4 exclusive will be released on February 28 in North America and on March 1 in Europe for both the standard console and PS4 Pro.

Enjoy the short videos and look forward to more Horizon: Zero Dawn goodness from us closer to release.

Resident Evil 7 was the best-selling game of January 2017, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, other heavy-hitters play musical chairs

17 Feb

The NPD group has released hardware and software figures for January 2017 and it should come as no surprise that PlayStation 4 and Resident Evil 7 topped the respective sectors.

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January 2017 NPD at a glance

Resident Evil 7 tops software charts

PS4 was best-selling console

PC software spend declined 12% year-over-year

All categories – accessories, hardware, software – down 4% year-over-year

Compare month-on-month: December 2016

Compare year-over-year: January 2016

While hardware sales declined, software was up 14% to $313 million. NPD attributed the increase to Resident Evil 7’s release, especially when comparing the year-over-year (yoy) release slates.

It’s also worth noting Resident Evil 7 was only on the market for five days when the NPD reporting period ended.

“With only five days in the market, Resident Evil 7 was the best-selling game in January,” said NPD analyst Sam Naji. “The last time Capcom had the best-selling game of the month (in dollar sales) was in March 2009 with Resident Evil 5.”

First-person shooters Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Battlefield 1 were still two of the best-selling games for the month, and neither title has fallen off the chart since release in fall 2016.

Overwatch also returned after dropping off the NPD software list in October.

The rise in sales could possibly be attributed to various discount offers or the Overwatch Year of the Rooster event; however, that’s just conjecture on our part as NPD didn’t elaborate on why Overwatch was once again charting. It was, however, one of the best-selling games of 2016 per NPD’s yearly report in January.

Action titles Grand Theft Auto 5 and Watch Dogs 2 also remained on the chart, while sports titles Madden NFL 17 and FIFA 17 remained popular with US consumers as well.

PC software came in at $16 million, a 12% decline yoy from $18 million.

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NPD Software Top Ten January 2017

You’ll notice not much changed on the chart since December 2016, as the heavy hitters played musical chairs and that’s about it.

The biggest changes were the entry of new releases Resident Evil 7 and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue – the second best-selling PS4 title for the month.

Pokemon Sun and Moon and Final Fantasy 15 fell off the chart, and again, Overwatch reentered it.

The full NPD software chart is below, but keep in mind not all digital stores report sales data. Some publishers who sell through the PlayStation and Xbox Stores report data, but others do not. For example: Microsoft, Sony and Blizzard (Battle.net) do not report first-party sales.

  1. Resident Evil 7 (PS4, Xbox One)
  2. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
  3. Grand Theft Auto 5 (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
  4. Battlefield 1 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
  5. NBA 2K17 (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
  6. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (PS4)
  7. Madden NFL 17 (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
  8. Watch Dogs 2 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
  9. Overwatch (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
  10. FIFA 17 (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

This month, NPD also started reporting catalog sales of titles from the first six months of availability – starting with month seven (thanks, MCV). The winning publisher in the category for January 2017 was Take-Two and it was also the top publisher for 2016. NPD attributed this to continued sales of GTA 5.

NPD Hardware January 2017

Last week, the initial NPD report had PS4 topping hardware followed by Xbox One – which according to Microsoft enjoyed year-over-year (yoy) growth compared to January 2016.

PS4 sold the most units, with Xbox One coming in second place, and Nintendo’s Nintendo Classic Mini: NES in third.

“The PlayStation 4 was the best-selling hardware (in units sold) during January 2017,” said NPD analyst Sam Naji. “And for the fourth consecutive month, PlayStation 4 Slim System 500GB Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Bundle was the top-selling PS4 sku in terms of units sold.”

For the month of January 2017, hardware totaled $127 million, a decline of 19% yoy compared to $157 million in 2016.

Accessories declined 17% yoy to $155, with toys-to-life skus (ex: Skylanders, amiibo, Lego Dimensions) showing the biggest decline.

Total spent in the US on accessories, hardware and software for the month January hit $611 million. While that’s indeed as large figure, it’s 4% less compared to $637 million spent in 2016.

NPD said the lower figure was due to a decline in hardware sales and general lack of growth.

Ark: Survival Evolved has sold over 1 million copies on PS4, Tek Tier Phase One hits consoles today

16 Feb

Phase One of Ark: Survival Evolved’s Tek Tier rollout starts today on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Along with news of the rollout, Studio Wildcard also announced Ark: Survival Evolved has also sold over 1 million copies on PlayStation 4 since its release on December 6.

It was also the number one selling game on PlayStation Network in both December 2016 and January 2017.

To celebrate, the ArkK: Survival Evolved “Survivor’s Pack” is now on sale worldwide on PS4 for 20% off ($54.99/€49.99). It includes an up-to-date version of the game, previously released content, plus the Scorched Earth expansion pack.

It also comes with a Bionic Giganotosaurus skin plus an entire Manticore armor set for all male and female characters, exclusive to PS4.

Phase One of the Tek Tier is available for free through v254 from today on Xbox One and PS4, and as previously reported, comes with new weapons, armors, gear, and dinosaur mounted laser cannons.

Players can also tame four new creatures and take part in the Valentine’s Day Event, a limited-time feature which allows users to increase creature mating speed. They will also be able to find a box of chocolates that can be used to unlock new event-themed hairstyles and an emote.

To gain Tek Tier loot, players will need to gather the newly introduced Element resource, which is granted after successfully completing Boss Arenas. Each Boss now has three difficulty levels and after defeating them, the player is awarded unique TEK Knowledge engrams, element and other Boss Rewards.

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Here’s what you can expect to find in Tek Tier Phase One:

  • TEK Helmet – Contains a built-in oxygen tank and three different type of vision: Sonar, which identifies tribes, allies, enemies and creatures, Night (see in the dark) and a combined Sonar/Night mode.
  • TEK Boots – These boots let players scale vertical surfaces with ease, along with negating any falling damage.
  • TEK Pants – Enable a super run that lets players speed through solid objects. Combined with the TEK Shirt, the pants allow for faster flight and a cool superheroic stance.
  • TEK Shirt – Jet Pack! Ever wanted to be Iron Man? Don this item then rocket upwards into space or hover above your enemies to better view the devastation you have wrought!
  • TEK Gauntlets – Powerful super punch – dash-smash your foes across the map with this powered up fisticuffs feature.
  • TEK Rifle – Powered by Element, the rifle features a scope that can sync up with the TEK Helmet’s vision modes for double the death-dealing.
  • TEK Rex Saddle – Mount lasers on your T-Rex. Yes…lasers…on…a…T-Rex
  • TEK Replicator – Needed for crafting items from the TEK tier.
  • TEK Transmitter – This portable terminal functions similarly to an Obelisk, allowing players to transfer characters, creatures and items across the ARK.

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Ark’s creature list has also expanded with the release of the Ovis Aries, Baryonyx Aquafulgur, Basilosaurus Solatiumfecit, and the Purlovia Maxima. It brings the total up to 96.

Purlovia Maxima – Resembling a giant weasel, the Purlovia is a nasty sneak, burrowing underground so it can ambush unaware passers-by.

Basilosaurus Solatiumfecit – One of the stranger water creatures is Basilosaurus, a powerful swimmer that is so adapted to life in the shallows, it has problems surviving in deep water. This hasn’t kept tribes from taming these gentle creatures, as their warm-blooded nature means riders can be kept comfortable in both hot and cold climes. Its blubber is also valuable, as it can be processed into a highly efficient form of gasoline.

Baryonyx Aquafulgur – Baryonyx has the distinction of being on the small end of the large predator tier, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. It’s an extremely fast swimmer, and can threaten most creatures on land and sea, which makes it an efficient killer. Taming a Baryonyx makes it even more dangerous.

Ovis Aries – The Ovis has arrived in-game. This passive, stupid-tempered creature might be weak, but it’s definitely useful, with wool that can be repeatedly sheared and re-grown, and the ability to produce tasty, wonderful, lamb chops. Its also makes for a fun, albeit slow, mount.
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Other Features in today’s v254 update:

  • New Weapon – Lance: Saddle up and prepare for medieval mounted mayhem with the arrival of this, the Jurassic Jouster’s weapon of choice.
  • New Mechanic: Hairstyles, Facial Hair, Hair Colouring and styling with real-time growing. Customize your avatars with awesome new beards and then watch them grow! Cut, dye and trim your hair as you go all out with your character design.
  • 16 Additional Explorer Notes
  • A ton of improvements for official mod The Center, and general game fixes

All of the aforementioned content has been available through Steam since January 30.

Ark: Survival Evolved is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. The game also supports PS4 Pro.