The Masterplan is like a top-down Payday in many ways. The Early Access version of Shark Punch's hold 'em up is just a smattering of levels at this point, but already there's something glorious about the whole affair. Much like Starbreeze's criminal FPS, you're given a location, some intel, and it's your job to get and get out with the swag, hopefully before anyone calls the police.
Here's the official blurb:
Drawing inspiration from both legendary tactical turn-based games and classic heist movies alike, the goal of The Masterplan is to put together the right crew, get the right equipment, and finally plan and execute the biggest heist ever.
Set in the early 1970s, the game features beautiful hand-drawn 2D art and an authentic soundtrack recorded by a real band. The gameplay blends a physics-based world and a clever AI system with an easy to approach "real time with pause" user interface.
The user interface is lovely, keeping things simple and allowing players to better survey the area, identify obstacles and issues quickly, and try to plan out the perfect heist. Left-click to select, right-click to move and aim and interact, and there are a selection of useful hotkeys for brandishing weapons and (this is easy to forget at first) concealing them once more. Simple stuff, but when applied to an intricate tapestry of guard patrols, security cameras, a steady stream of potential witnesses, and obstinately locked doors, The Masterplan really comes alive. I have to talk about the music as well, because it's simply superb. The band recordings conducted for this game have brought an aural "crime caper" soundscape into the mix, with the dizzying horns rising and falling as the drama in the level unfolds and is dealt with. It's brilliant stuff.
It's early days indeed on the content side of things, but the core gameplay works very nicely indeed as it stands. I rather hope that the toolset of your goons expands as you progress, and I'm eager to see what other systems can be brought it to further deepen the options available to players. There's some serious potential here, but it hinges on building upon the solid foundation with some scope and ambition. One of the best things about Payday 2 was the manner in which you could specialise, and the persistent nature of progression. Borrowing those systems wholesale for this wouldn't work, but it'd be nice to see a simple continuity in your goons much like Cannon Fodder or XCOM -- improved efficiency in certain areas through use, perhaps, and (hopefully) the ability to name them ourselves. It's a simple device, but it fosters a surprisingly strong connection.Click here to read more...
Some say that Real Time Strategy is a dying genre, but Eugen Systems are having none of it. After shifting a million copies of Wargame, the passionate PC studio plans to bring the RTS back to its roots.
Act Of Aggression may be the spiritual successor to 2005's Act Of War, but judging by what Eugen co-founder Alexis Le Dressay showed me at Gamescom 2014, it's also set to be a spiritual revival of the classic fast-paced, over-the-top and brutal RTS action we once adored in the Command & Conquer days.
Set in the 2020s, Act Of Aggression sees three factions fighting over real-world locations in the strategic equivalent of a Clancy-esque techno thriller. The US' conventional military might faces off against the shadowy Cartel: a high-tech criminal syndicate who tacitly fund a vast number of PMCs, bringing sleek and futuristic tech to the table. Like the Brotherhood of NOD, perhaps, only eschewing religion for big business and bigger tanks. Finally, the United Nations rely on the Chimera; a hardbitten Private Military contractor empowered to act on their behalf.
The stage is set for epic showdowns on asymmetrical maps, with the time-honoured gameplay pillars of resource collection, base-building, tech trees and high-octane combat between dozens of powerful units and aircraft. However, despite its old-school pretensions, Act Of Aggression is loaded with cutting-edge new features that make real strategy the key to victory.Click here to read more...
Who do I want to be?
It's the question that plagued me at the start of every Infinity Engine RPG -- the plethora of choices, the breadth of meaningful combinations, I found them to be paralysing in some ways, often stuck for well over an hour in indecision. Of course, back in those days, the game usually came with an instruction manual of such thickness that the Bible might have seemed a pamphlet next to it, a manual that made for the best toilet reading ever. So I'd go off and to my business, catch up on some lore, immerse myself within the game world, and attempt to make a decision from a position of greater understanding.
So it is that I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time reading every bit of character description for the Pillars of Eternity Backer Beta, swotting up on the little twists that Obsidian have made to the more traditional classes, and deliberating over the geographical history of my character -- a feature that makes no real difference in the game itself on a mechanical level, but simply further envelopes you in the game's lore.
It was far too difficult. In the end I went for a Fire Godlike Cipher because he looked utterly badass, and because the psionic class is one of the most unconventional I've seen in some time. Typical.
To have spent so much time (none of it felt even remotely wasted) building a character for a slice of standalone gameplay with a party of template strangers and a bunch of powers and abilities that I didn't choose might seem odd, but actually I feel the Backer Beta has been somewhat perfectly balanced. That mix of the familiar and the utterly new, plonking you down in the game world without a lick of context, was probably the only way Obsidian could have made a working beta that manages to show off a great deal of the character of this game without spoiling things too much. Dyrford is a sleepy little village that's home to a fair bit of ruckus of late, and although there's nothing here affiliated with the main story in the game whatsoever, the settlement does a nice job of introducing quest types, gleefully throwing you into the middle of disagreements and disappearances and danger.Click here to read more...
The last time we left our heroes, they'd emerged from a vicious street fight and secured a new base of operations. The Division's first gameplay trailer gave us a look at how players will cooperate to take back New York from the deranged survivors of a chemical attack; using both gunplay, strategy and RPG-esque skills to outmanoeuvre and outsmart their foes.
It's all right here in this E3 video. Watch it, else nothing that follows will seem wondrous. Or make any sense.
Ubisoft brought the next chapter to Gamescom 2014, or perhaps more accurately, the prequel. After showing us the daytime section again, running on Xbox One and iPad, they whisked us off to a new section of the game set during the previous night. Manhattan feels like a totally different place after sundown, an eerie and haunting environment that feels preternaturally wrong as you carefully pick your way through the ruined streets. A once bustling city now silent and deserted, save for the packs of hard-edged operators stalking through the rubble.
However, the day/night cycle is more than just a stylistic choice. New threats come out to play once the sun sets, and you'll need to work together in order to survive until dawn.Click here to read more...
With four Super Mirrors available in Bayonetta 2 (although only one that we can talk about currently), there's a fair bit of opportunity to play dress-up in Platinum's madcap action bonanza. To give you an idea of what to expect, hit the jump for a bunch of gameplay footage of Bayonetta in action, dressed in a variety of costumes and outfits from Super Mirror 64-2.
The Super Mirror's are all available at different intervals via Rodin's shop -- The Gates of Hell -- and the Mirrors themselves all cost 100,000 in currency. Unfortunately, you only get one costume included in that price (for 64-2 it's Fox's outfit), and every other costume costs another hundred grand as well. Cosplaying is an expensive pastime when you're an Umbra Witch.
The effects that the costumes have on the game itself are fairly minimal -- this is pure bonkers fan service, and there's nothing wrong with that. Most of the little changes are cosmetic, but there's something undeniably grin-inducing about rolling a Morphball about the place, or kicking the butts off of angels and demons with a set of tiny Arwings.Click here to read more...
I have a confession to make. Despite being Dealspwn's Grand Strategy Guy, the reviewer who always dives headfirst into the likes of Crusader Kings II, March Of The Eagles, Sengoku and loving every single beardy minute of them, I've never been able to get into Hearts Of Iron. There's just too much tedious micromanagement for me to handle in Paradox' World War-themed series, and I'm not alone.
Paradox Development Studio freely admit it, and they're trying to make the experience more engaging for us filthy fence sitters without killing the depth; cutting out the fiddly fluff to focus on the big bloody picture. While also addressing some of the fan feedback from Hearts Of Iron III. From what I saw at Gamescom 2014, as the lead designer showed me around the latest production build, it looks like they're on the right track... by turning boring micromanagement into awesome accessible historically-flavoured micromanagement.Click here to read more...
Magicka was an absolute blast on PC, but its sequel feels right at home on a big screen and a DualShock 4. Preferably accompanied by three pals and an irresponsibly large pizza.
In case you don't know, the original Magicka actively shattered every videogame wizard cliché in the book, apart from the floppy robes. As opposed to demure back-line damage dealers, its protagonists were incompetent yet fearsomely powerful screwups who could combine numerous elemental forces into ridiculous situational spells. Think Rincewind, only with Vivi's skillset and an appetite for uninhibited destruction. Loosed into combat against hordes of foes, we'd translate arcane death beams, fireballs, shields, water, life and ice directly into pain.
Often "accidentally" aimed at our comrades, because why not.
It was the perfect opportunity for a hectic, silly and surprisingly deep cooperative experience, and a tradition that Magicka 2 plans to continue. Having played a very early build at Gamescom 2014, I can attest that it's shaping up to be an utter riot that's going to be best enjoyed by a team of friends in the same room. Partly because Paradox have tweaked the experience to work brilliantly on a console, but also because you'll want to be within easy high five/punching distance once the griefing starts.
To put this in perspective: within three minutes I'd set the developer on fire and pushed a fellow correspondent off a cliff with a water jet. Before they teamed up and evaporated me. Friendly fire is best shared with friends, no?Click here to read more...
You probably already know that Far Cry 4 will throw us into a massive Himalayan sandbox full of guns, elephants and deeply flammable
people scenery. Having played the slightly buggy (but admittedly not yet optimised) latest build at Gamescom 2014, I can report that the sandbox is indeed massive, the guns fire bullets and everything really does burn rather nicely.
What you might not know, however, is that we'll also be able to cross into a bizarre spirit dimension where we'll hunt demons with a slow-motion bow and mystical pet tiger.
Let's call it 'Fluffykins.' Or 'Mister Bloodwhiskers.'
Between wrangling elephants, swooping through breathtaking ravines in wingsuits and setting things on fire, our protagonist Ajay Ghale can optionally find time to meditate, whereupon he unlocks the memories of the legendary hero Kalinag. Reliving the fables through his eyes, we'll enter the mythical land of Shangri-La to protect it from a demonic invasion, which completely switches up the pace of the game in the process.Click here to read more...
There are a number of reasons to get a current/new-gen console right now. Destiny is almost here, The Master Chief Collection is just over the horizon, and there is a now a decent backlog of launch titles to pick through. The thing is, as good as all as those games may be I haven’t had the feeling of “OH DEAR GOD I NEED IT RIGHT NOW” like I have done in previous generations. At this year’s Gamescom that all changed, and it’s all down to the hands-on session I had with Arkham Knight.
Actually, I’ll be most specific – it was the Batmobile.
I was given the opportunity to sit down with a small section that take place near the start, as Batman is sent into the ACE Chemicals Plant to rescue some hostages and see who’s up to no good. Unfortunately this meant I didn’t get a sense of how big the city of Gotham is this time around – one of my biggest queries about the game – but I did get to see how the Batmobile can be an asset to the Caped Crusader when face to face with the bad guys. The short of it is that’s incredibly satisfying, but I’m guessing you more want details so let me tell you story all about how Batman & the Batmobile kicked some ass.Click here to read more...
Words can't quite explain just how utterly bonkers Bayonetta 2 actually is, so here's a little video showcasing five of the most crazy happenings I've encountered thus far in the game. We can only talk about the game up to chapter five currently, but already I've unleashed a Hellish unicorn, surfed the tunnel of a tsunami on the steeple of a cathedral, stopped a Lumen Sage with an epic fistbump, and seen Black Santa wall-ride a department store in a Cadillac.
I can only apologise for the number of times words fail me in this video and I'm reduced to shouting "WHAT?!" in delighted confusion, but you'll hopefully understand why by the end.
Just in case I haven't told you yet, because I've got a sneaky suspicion that there are still some people out there who don't own a Wii U and therefore either haven't heard or fully understood the seriousness of what I'm about to say, I bought a Wii U for Bayonetta 2.
I've already waxed lyrical about the game's dual control systems in a previous preview so I won't repeat myself in that sense here. Having now played a large chunk of the game, I have to say that I'm not particularly fond of the touchscreen input for long periods of play (or indeed at all for that matter), but that's because I adore the way the game handles when you're playing it as you would have the original. The swipe and tap inputs essentially turn Bayonetta 2 into the most bonkers smartphone experience you ever laid eyes on, and although it's perfectly poised in that respect to bring in a new audience who want to enjoy the absurd spectacle, it's not really for me.
But that's the joy of choice. Finally, with the difficulty raised above the Easy setting that they must have been flouting months back at the preview event, the standard control system really comes into its own once more. Pirouetting about the place, cartwheeling out of danger before spinning back in for a flurry of attacks is beautifully balletic and gloriously responsive. It's a near perfect setup, the controller really just an extension of your mind. Everything is so fast and fluid that you're just stepping into combos on the fly, mixing and matching button combinations to see what happens, always with a finger delicately poised over the dodge button to take you out of harm's way.Click here to read more...
Being a Templar has its perks.
Sure, the Assassins have a noble cause to fight for and a trillion useless collectibles in the vault, but a life on the run wasn't enough for Shay Patrick Cormac. Thankfully the Templars are equal opportunities employers, meaning that even former enemies get immediate access to the latest military technology (including psychotropic drugs and air rifles) subversive experimental gear and insanely generous expense accounts... on the proviso that they agree to track down and murder all their former associates.
And hang out with Haytham Kenway -- who we've already identified as the coolest character in the entire series bar none -- as a bonus. Frankly you'd be mad not to.
Assassin's Creed Unity may be jumping time periods and console generations this Christmas, but for those who haven't yet invested in a PS4, Xbox One or gaming rig, there's still some unfinished business to take care of.Click here to read more...
Slightly Mad Studios are a little busy these days. Made up of developers responsible for bringing some of the better racing tiles of recent memory, the team is currently working of Project CARS for current-gen consoles, but that is not all they’re cooking up. They also happen to be working on World of Speed – an online team-based racing title for PC that will be completely free, and I got hands-on with it at this year’s Gamescom.
Unlike most racing games where being the first across the finish line is the main aim, WoS introduces objectives into each race to mix things up. These range from hitting several long drifts, to achieving perfect corners, to slip-streaming another car for a specific period of time, all over the course of the race. The thing is, the developers were quick to point out that no one racer could effectively complete all the objectives in a single competitive race, and so this is where the team aspect comes into play.Click here to read more...
I really wanted to like the first Dead Island. I really did. It hit all the right boxes in terms on concept – 4-player co-op with a huge world to explore, customisable weapons to find and upgrade, varied enemies to kill – but it was all undone by a hugely inconsistent tone and some of the worst voice acting in recent years. As such I didn’t get very far into the game despite multiple tries to play through it, and I made sure to give Riptide a wide birth as well.
So it came as a welcome surprise when the Dead Island 2 announcement trailer caught my attention with a new, less serious tone that looked to inject some fun into the series. “This is exactly what happened last time, Carl, and the game didn’t live up to the hype,” I told myself, but after getting hands on with the game at this year’s Gamescom I’m far more optimistic that the handover of development from Techland to Yager Development (makers of the criminally underrated Spec Ops: The Line… if we ignore that multiplayer) will make it a win-win situation for both Deep Silver and consumers.Click here to read more...
How come Claptrap can navigate stairs in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel? Why the hell does he need oxygen? What's the most badass, awesome thing in a game overflowing with badassery and awesomesauce?
Carl catches up with Gearbox's James Lopez and 2K Australia's Joel Eschler at this year's Gamescom to find out, and get the lowdown on the latest addition to the playable roster for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.
Galahad's Thermite Rifle might be one of my favourite virtual weapons of all time.
Rather than firing boring old bullets, this steampunk boomstick throws out hundreds of fragile iron oxide and aluminium shells, which shatter on impact and flood the stage with thick clouds of choking gas. However, secondary fire lobs in a magnesium flare, which sets off a chemical reaction that reaches up to 2500°C.
In layman's terms: everything burns.
As such, using it is an absolute blast -- pun most definitely intended -- when The Order: 1886 actually lets you. Fighting through the neo-Victorian London streets as a latter-day Templar Knight requires you to keep your head and push forward, throwing up billowing thermite smokescreens to cover your approach and igniting them to wreathe entire squads of cockney rebels in flames.
Unfortunately, The Order 1886 is also very keen to be as "cinematic" and "filmic" as possible, meaning that much of your time will be spent gawping at what amounts to unskippable cutscenes.Click here to read more...
Until Dawn is a very different kind of horror game, in that it's halfway between a choose-your-own-adventure novel, David Cage cinematic QTE-fest and a Saw film. A good Saw film, if you can imagine that.
Having played it for the best part of 45 minutes at Gamescom, however, I was initially reminded of a cheesy slasher flick. A group of eight attractive twenty-somethings decide to take their holiday in a sprawling old house in the middle of an icy forest. It's spacious, comfortable and the perfect location for a getaway, at least it would be were it not for the masked psychopath hell-bent on murdering everyone. As such, you'll leapfrog between the perspectives of the terrorised tourists as they desperately try to survive the night. Who will live? Who will die?
That, dear reader, is entirely up to you. Until Dawn promises one of the most wildly-branching narratives in videogame history; boasting over a thousand different directions for the story to diverge and more than one hundred endings. Everybody can die, but depending on the decisions you make, you might be able to save a few before the credits roll. Followed by several more playthroughs with totally different results.Click here to read more...
"Here we go again," I yawned as my first multiplayer match in this year's Call Of Duty started to count down. "Business as usual." Right before I leapt a full storey-and-a-half into the air, airboosted onto a roof, slammed into the ground and shredded two opponents into chunky kibbles with a pair of high-tech miniguns.
I cackled like a madman. Then, perhaps deservedly, my celebration was cut short by a terminal dose of laser to the face.
When it comes to teaching an old dog new tricks, you can't go far wrong by strapping your mutt into an insanely mobile exoseleton and arming it with exotic future boomsticks [don't try that at home, kids - DARPA]. It's still the same beast, only more... awesome. Sledgehammer Games promised to shake up the Call Of Duty formula this time, and I'm delighted to report that Advanced Warfare feels comfortably familiar yet entirely, brilliantly different.
And no, I can't believe I just wrote that either. We still can't make a value judgement, and they might still cock it right up, but let me explain.Click here to read more...
Forget Lilith. Zer0 wh0? There's a new vault hunter in town, an unstoppable force of pure chaos, and its name is...
...Claptrap? Oh no.
Oh yes. The irritating yelllow robot who everybody hates to love has finally got his chance to shine in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, and having stepped into his chassis for an hour at Gamescom, he's possibly the most ridiculously brilliant character in the series to date.
And possibly the worst. See, whereas most vault hunters bring a single powerful primary ability to the table, literally anything can happen when you hit that left bumper. Sometimes you'll turn into a pirate galleon. Sometimes you'll force bizarre statuses on your entire team, such as infinitely throwing grenades or bouncing off all surfaces like a mad pinball machine. And then, damage done, you can ask for a high five. I'm going to regale you with my stories from Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel soon, but right now, it's time to do the moon dance.Click here to read more...
"Prepare to die." Dark Souls issued the challenge and gamers responded. Then promptly died, over and over again, becoming more skilled and experienced with each crushing setback.
In Bloodborne, however, that mentality won't get you anywhere. If you mean to unravel the secrets behind Yharnam's mournful bloodsoaked streets, you need to be prepared to KILL.
Don't panic: Bloodborne is still unmistakably From Software fare. It's a third-person action-RPG, tough as nails, as dark and soulful as you'd expect. You'll stalk through intricate and evocative environments, feeling truly isolated and alone one moment before all hell breaks loose the next. Punishing and deeply pretty even in its early Gamescom build, sharing many of the same buttons as its spiritual predecessors, Bloodborne will feel second nature to fans of Miyazaki's work.Click here to read more...