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Games previews

Claptrap Unleashed - Carl chats to the producers of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
2K Australia, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, FPS games, Games previews, Gamescom 2014, Gearbox Software, Interviews, Videos

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.

PREVIEW | The Order 1886 has brilliant boomsticks, but is it a slave to cutscenes?

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Games previews, Gamescom 2014, PS4 games, Ready at Dawn, Sony, Third Person Shooters

PREVIEW | The Order 1886 has brilliant boomsticks, but is it a slave to cutscenes?

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.

PREVIEW | The Order 1886 has brilliant boomsticks, but is it a slave to cutscenes?

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.

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PREVIEW | Until Dawn lets you choose who dies

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Games previews, Horror games, PS4 games, Supermassive Games, Until Dawn

PREVIEW | Until Dawn lets you choose who dies

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.

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PREVIEW | Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare feels like the future

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Activision, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, FPS games, Games previews, Gamescom 2014, Sledgehammer Games

PREVIEW | Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare feels like the future

No, really

"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.

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Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Preview | Claptrap Is The Best Worst Vault Hunter EVER

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
2K Games, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, FPS games, Games previews, Gamescom 2014, Gearbox Software

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Preview | Claptrap Is The Best Worst Vault Hunter EVER

"You're... GOING TO LOVE ME!!"

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.

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Bloodborne Preview | Prepare To KILL

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Bloodborne, From Software, Games previews, Gamescom 2014, PS4 games, Sony Computer Entertainment

Bloodborne Preview | Prepare To KILL

"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.

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Battlefield Hardline Preview | Choice-alution

Author:
Carl Phillips
Category:
Features
Tags:
Battlefield: Hardline, DICE, EA, FPS games, Games previews, Gamescom 2014, Visceral Games

Battlefield Hardline Preview | Choice-alution

Up until now, the general consensus regarding the single player portion of Hardline has been largely that dismissal – “it’s all about the multiplayer, stupid!” or “When has there ever been a decent storyline in a Battlefield game without Bad Company in the title?” It’s hard to ignore those cries as they’re fairly accurate, but Visceral Games came to Gamescom to restore some faith in the single player campaign, and I was invited to see how they planned to rekindle our interest in the storytelling aspect of the franchise.

The first thing we were told was that the focus on story was of great importance to Visceral, so much so that they had hired writers responsible for bringing the critically acclaimed series’ Justified and True Detective to life on the small screen. This was clearly evident during the early part of the level we were shown, which happened to be the same one used in the EA press conference. Taking place halfway through the game (or “season,” if the episodic thing is to be believed) protagonist Nick Mendoza finds himself and his partner Boomer being double-crossed in a deal-gone-south, with the player tasked with escaping their imprisonment and completing their assignment.

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Classes, Romance, and Giant Heads - Pillars of Eternity Q&A with Josh Sawyer

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Games previews, Interviews, Kickstarter, Obsidian Entertainment, PC games, Pillars Of Eternity, RPGs, Videos

Classes, Romance, and Giant Heads - Pillars of Eternity Q&A with Josh Sawyer

I love the old Infinity Engine RPGs, and I'm not alone. Jon often makes the point that the stories modern games tell seem to have suffered as a result of having so many more advanced tools (particularly when we start bandying around the word "cinematic"), and that there's something to be said for text-heavy adventures and RPGs making the very most of their limited options. The writing had to be spot on, the world building exceptionally well researched, everything providing the optimal framing for whatever adventure was to be had.

Games couldn't rely on polish and looks to get by as they can now, they actually had to be good. And we were spoilt rotten with games of exceptional quality.

Pillars of Eternity wants to tap into all of that, reviving that old-school spirit, but upgrading and updating a few of the more clunky mechanisms that have grown rusty over the years, and the team at Obsidian look to be right on track. We've already sent the half-hour gameplay presentation we checked out a couple of weeks back, but we also got the opportunity to put a bunch of further questions to project director Josh Sawyer, and he waxed lyrical regarding classes, romance, and one of the game's best Easter eggs.

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PREVIEW | Can Lords of the Fallen step out from Dark Souls' shadow?

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
ARPGs, CI Games, Dark Souls, Deck13, Games previews, Lords Of The Fallen, RPGs, Tomasz Gop

PREVIEW | Can Lords of the Fallen step out from Dark Souls' shadow?

Lords of the Fallen is looking like Dark Souls crossed with The Witcher. And that's fine.

When you first pick up the controller and start playing Lords of the Fallen, it becomes readily apparent that From Software's opus has been an enormous influence on this game. The controller setup is almost identical, the challenging philosophy behind the action is clearly evident, as is the commitment to visually interesting spaces, vistas, and enemies. Oh, and let us not forget the enormous, hard-as-nails bosses.

But what's clear is that Tomasz Gop , Deck13 and CI Games have little interest in making Lords of the Fallen a measuring rod and an exercise in frustration. Combat is very much predicated on the weight of your weapon and the heft of your armour, but there's a greater distinction here in terms of playstyles than might be found in LotF's inspirational genre predecessor. Lords is never going to handle like a Platinum game might, but there's a pleasing fluidity to the action when you're wielding lighter weapons such as daggers, and a satisfying brutality to larger two-handed weapons. Timing is of course absolutely key when chucking around war hammers and the like, whereas using your agility to dance out of harm's way and then back in to deliver strikes and flurries is paramount when taking a lighter approach.

PREVIEW | Can Lords of the Fallen step out from Dark Souls' shadow?

Equipping a set of claws that makes central character Harkyn look like a medieval Wolverine allows for a sort of jump thrust that I'm pretty sure is pulled straight out of Brad Pitt's arsenal in Troy.

There seems to be a little more wiggle room in terms of setting up your character and doing things your own way, and that extends to the classes. You can choose between cleric, rogue or warrior at the start, but as far as I could tell, that only really affects your magical capabilities. There are bits and pieces of armour or weaponry labelled in a manner that might suggest class-specification, but these are simply suggestions. If you want your cleric romping about with an enormous axe and heavy armour, you absolutely can. And I do so love an RPG where I can mix and match.

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VIDEO | Pillars of Eternity Developer Presentation wth Obsidian's Josh Sawyer

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Games previews, Kickstarter, Obsidian Entertainment, PC games, Pillars Of Eternity, RPGs, Videos

We're seeing a fair few nostalgia trips these days, blending old-school sensibilities with updated systems -- distilling the elements that made classics like Baldur's Gate and Fallout and Elite so utterly brilliant and updating everything to provide a smoother experience that feeds our rose-tinted desires and removes any clunkiness or mechanical cobwebs.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing indeed, and it carried Pillars of Eternity (just called Project Eternity back then) to the top of Kickstarter's funded list, giving Obsidian Entertainment the chance to pay homage to the Infinity Engine games that put so many of its employees on the map.

Last week, we got the chance to check out the game and chat to project lead Josh Sawyer, who delivered a half-hour presentation bringing us up to speed on where development currently sits. There'll be a preview coming shortly, but here's the presentation in full for now. Apologies for the awful visuals (had a slight tech fail on the day).

PREVIEW | Nintendo's Titanfall - Splatoon is rip-roaring, refreshing fun

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
E3 2014, Games previews, Nintendo, Nintendo EAD, Splatoon, TPS games, Wii U games

PREVIEW | Nintendo's Titanfall - Splatoon is rip-roaring, refreshing fun

Stay with me, I'll explain...

One of the undeniable highlights of Nintendo's E3 showing was Splatoon -- a new take on the third-person multiplayer shooter that coated the genre in a fresh lick of paint.

Or rather ink.

Nintendo have never struck us a company that'd jump into the saturated online shooter market, you wouldn't find them crafting a COD killer or taking the field against the likes of Halo or, indeed, Battlefield. But Nintendo are all about innovative twists on well-worn themes, and in Splatoon they've not just handed a roster of their beloved mascots Quasar rifles or paintball guns, they've gone and greenlit a brand new IP. Nintendo EAD making a new IP and a multiplayer shooter? Don't be alarmed, hell hasn't frozen over just yet.

PREVIEW | Nintendo's Titanfall - Splatoon is rip-roaring, refreshing fun

The excellently named Splatoon features two teams of four players vying for control of a level, marking territory by splattering everything in sight with ink to match the teams' respective colours. You essentially run about the place, covering as much of the map as you possibly can in the colours of your team, splattering any miscreant foes you come across, and transforming into a squid every so often to refill your paint gauge, traverse the place a little faster, and just because it's cool.

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PREVIEW | When Crackdown met Jet Set Radio - Sunset Overdrive is pure, unadulterated Insomniac

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Games previews, Insomniac Games, Microsoft Studios, Sunset Overdrive, Xbox One Games

PREVIEW | When Crackdown met Jet Set Radio - Sunset Overdrive is pure, unadulterated Insomniac

Back when Fuse was still called Overstrike 9 and looked like a badass Saturday morning cartoon stuffed with throwaway lines, brimming with personality, and looking both mechanically and aesthetically interesting, we were super excited for it. But apparently EA weren't. Insomniac never said it outright, at least not on the record, but it was clear that somewhere in between Overstrike 9 becoming Fuse, someone cracked out the mood-hoover and sucked all of the fun and characteristic charisma out of Insomniac sails. Still, they must have stashed it all somewhere, bottled it up and hidden it away from EA, because then along came Microsoft with a boatload of cash and creative freedom, and suddenly Insomniac have uncorked their creativity and are back with a bang in Sunset Overdrive.

The party line is clear -- "this is the game that we always wanted to make" -- but the smiles are back too. I canvassed the opinion of a few of my colleagues at the showcase and the top pick of the day was largely given to Insomniac's bright effort.

Sunset Overdrive is a mish-mash of Crackdown, Jet Set Radio, and Scott Pilgrim in many way. Community lead James Stevenson likened its underpinning concepts to aspects of The Omega Man, and that scene from I Am Legend where Will Smith is spanking golfs balls off of a roof in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. The whole point of Sunset Overdrive is to embrace the fun nature of gaming, centred around the philosophy that things don't have to be grey and grim and depressing just because it seems to be the End of Days.

How the world has reached that point in this game sets the tone perfectly for the action that follows. The story kicks off in the fictional metropolis of Sunset City, an urban sprawl industrially dominated by the massive corporation FizzCo. FizzCo has created a brand new energy drink called Overcharge Delirium XT, and they throw an enormous party to celebrate its release -- a party that you, the protagonist (a nameless character who's highly customisable...yes, you can even play a female assassin if you want) are hired to clean up. Unfortunately, everyone who drinks Overcharge Delirium XT turns into a slavering mutant, and you find yourself stuck in Sunset City, it's streets overrun by assorted monsters, Machiavellian FizzCo reps trying to cover everything up, and other human enemies capitalising on the frenzy.

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PREVIEW | A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build is cuddly & cunning

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Alan Hazelden, Benjamin Davis, Games previews, Indie Games, Mobile games, PC games, Puzzle games

PREVIEW | A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build is cuddly & cunning

A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build lives up to its name, but you wouldn't know it at first glance. In fact, it looks positively adorable.

Sokobond designer Alan Hazelden and Game Jam veteran Benjamin Davis have conspired to create something truly lovely; a soft, warm and decidedly festive little puzzler starring a loveable lonely monster. All it wants in life is to create snowmen by rolling up snowballs, which become new friends to hang out with and cuddle, like Tanya above. Cuddling is already directly coded into the game -- just flick the stick to initiate a big old bear hug. Playing it is therefore much like drinking a great big mug of Horlicks on a bitterly cold day, making you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

"It's a puzzle game about being a monster and making snowmen," Davis told me at the Develop Conference last week, lulling me into a false sense of security with the simple pitch. Right before A Good Snowman started spanking my brainpan.

PREVIEW | A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build is cuddly & cunning

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Sunset Overdrive Interview - Insomniac's James Stevenson on freedom and fun

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Games previews, Insomniac Games, Interviews, Microsoft Studios, Sunset Overdrive, Videos, Xbox One Games

Sunset Overdrive Interview  - Insomniac's James Stevenson on freedom and fun

I remember interviewing Ted Price at an EA showcase a couple of years back and wondering where the boundless energy of the Ted Price I had in my head had gone. The game Insomniac was showing off there was Fuse, and only a few weeks before, a new trailer had emerged that probed our deepest fears for that game -- the transformation of a colourful, mechanically-noteworthy shooter into a grey mess with a far more serious tone.

I asked him why the name had changed from Overstrike 9 and it looked like something behind his eyes just died.

But Sunset Overdrive is different. It's colourful, loaded with bonkers weaponry, and seems utterly determined to prove that post-apocalyptic games can embrace a frenzied party of irreverent fun, all the while channelling the spirit of Crackdown and Jet Set Radio and, according to Insomniac's community lead James Stevenson, The Omega Man.

Click here to check out my interview with Insomniac's James Stevenson >>

VIDEO | Sunset Overdrive Gameplay vs Jet Set Radio - Remix

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Gameplay footage, Games previews, Insomniac Games, Jet Set Radio, Microsoft Studios, Sunset Overdrive, Videos

VIDEO | Sunset Overdrive Gameplay vs Jet Set Radio - Remix

Sunset Overdrive is shaping up to be a blast of chaotic, sandbox fun, filled with madcap mayhem, crazy weapons, and cartoon violence. In short, it's looking like the game that you'd expect an unfettered, unleashed Insomniac to make.

And that's awesome news.

Sadly, however, we weren't able to capture footage directly at a recent showcase event, but I did jump into a half-finished demo with the camera rolling on the screen to snap up a little bit of off-screen gameplay footage. I wasn't able to capture the in-game audio as it was being pumped through headphones, so instead I've spliced it together with some tracks from Jet Set Radio.

Given that the game resembles the lovechild of a bizarre threeway between Crackdown, JSRF, and a packet of Skittles, it seemed fitting.

Click here to check out our Sunset Overdrive Gameplay vs JSR Remix >>

Forza Horizon 2 Developer Interview - Ralph Fulton talks aesthetics and AI

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Driving games, Forza Horizon 2, Games previews, Interviews, Playground Games, Racing Games, Ralph Fulton, Videos

At a recent Microsoft showcase, I sat down with Playground games' creative director, Ralph Fulton, to have a bit of a chat about the upcoming Forza Horizon 2. The hands-on preview is already live, and here's a little taster:

The dusty tracks of Colorado are abandoned in the sequel for the sweeping coastlines of Southern France and a Northern Italy, on a map that Playground are touting as being three times the size of the original game's. The difference is clear already, and for this European writer at least, enormously welcome. Even in the short demo I breezed through, everything seems a little more vibrant, the vineyards and rolling fields delivering more colour, peppered with quaint Mediterranean villages. The Lamborghini that adorns every shot of Horizon 2's marketing is certainly more at home here - a millionaire's paradise, and a driving fan's dream.

Forza Horizon release for Xbox One on September 30th.

Forza Horizon 2 Preview | The Forza's Strong In This One

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Driving games, Forza Horizon 2, Games previews, Racing Games, Xbox One Games

Forza Horizon 2 Preview | The Forza's Strong In This One

I've always enjoyed the Forza series in general and applauded Turn 10 for the way that they've managed to create a game series for racers and drivers and car aficionados of all capabilities, ensuring that petrolheads come back time and time again thanks to exceptional vehicle modelling, options to tailor the Forza games to one's own specifications in terms of simulation and skill, addictive progression mechanics and rewarding unlocks, and car-porn camerawork that might make the BBC Top Gear team deliver an ovation.

The original Horizon made all of that even more accessible, choosing to target a younger, fresher audience with a Festival concept and a soundtrack curated by Rob Da Bank. It might not have been to everyone's tastes, but it clearly worked. Although Criterion had already busted open-world racing right open with Burnout Paradise and Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Horizon delivered something perhaps a little more cohesive, a little more robust, and a little more diverse.

Forza Horizon 2 Preview | The Forza's Strong In This One

'People told us that they'd play Forza Horizon to relax,' Playground Games' Ralph Fulton told me at a recent event, and it's not difficult to see why. In my review, I likened the spirit of Forza Horizon to the same spirit that encourages driving fans to take their beloved vehicles out for a Sunday spin. You do it for the love of it, the feel of the car, and the thrill of the open road. It's not about casual or hardcore, it's about capturing that spirit, and Horizon managed to do that in a way that few other games in the genre can come close to boasting.

The dusty tracks of Colorado are abandoned in the sequel for the sweeping coastlines of Southern France and a Northern Italy, on a map that Playground are touting as being three times the size of the original game's. The difference is clear already, and for this European writer at least, enormously welcome. Even in the short demo I breezed through, everything seems a little more vibrant, the vineyards and rolling fields delivering more colour, peppered with quaint Mediterranean villages. The Lamborghini that adorns every shot of Horizon 2's marketing is certainly more at home here - a millionaire's paradise, and a driving fan's dream.

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PREVIEW | Project Giant Robot is daft, goofy, and utterly Nintendo

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Games previews, Nintendo, Project Giant Robot, Wii U games

PREVIEW | Project Giant Robot is daft, goofy, and utterly Nintendo

...but can it sustain a full game?

Nintendo are desperate for that GamePad to seem relevant. Far from giving up on the Wii U, the Big N are doubling down on their console, having delivered one of the finest E3 showings in their recent history (albeit with a few too many instances of "coming 2015" for our liking), and a number of works in progress. In a move that seemed entirely un-Nintendo-esque, the Nintendo Treehouse channel unveiled two very early game prototypes in the form of Project Big Robot and Project Guard.

Project Giant Robot is what five-year-old me might have envisaged back when cereal packets could be used to transform oneself from a human boy into an Autobot. The demo began with robo-construction. You get to pick the base units for your robot's head, arms, torso, and legs from a plethora of increasingly weird items. I decided to make a robot made up entirely of Megazord heads. You can stretch and squish each module too, so if you want to create a robot with guns bigger than The Incredible Hulk's you can.

You can make your robot thinner than a rake or fatter than than Jabba, you can give it supersized shoulders or a pea-sized head. But whatever the physical appearance, players need to be aware that it'll affect how the robot in question handles. Make it too top-heavy, and your robot will be susceptible to toppling over. Bigger mechanoids will make for heavier hitters, but they'll also be slow and lumbering. Tall robots will suffer balance issues as the tradeoff for power, but while smaller robots might stand their ground better, they'll sacrifice something in terms of punching weight.

PREVIEW | Project Giant Robot is daft, goofy, and utterly Nintendo

What followed was a series of battles against robots of increasing size in amongst a blocky urban landscape that proved ripe for destruction.

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PREVIEW | Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric was the worst thing I played at Nintendo's E3 showcase

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
E3 2014, Games previews, Nintendo, Sega, Sonic Boom, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, Wii U games

PREVIEW | Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric was the worst thing I played at Nintendo's E3 showcase

Why is Sonic wearing a sodding scarf? Seriously. Can someone please explain why Sonic is trying to evoke the rugged heroism of Nathan Drake? Has it really come to this? And while we're at it... why is Knuckles a triangle with legs now? He looks like he's been freebasing creatine.

Despite vomiting heavily into a bag upon witnessing the hideous visual transformations of Sonic and co. for this new venture, excused of course by chants of TV and transmedia, I foolishly thought that there could be some merit in really shaking up the Sonic formula, getting some proper co-op gameplay involved, and busting out some awesome action-platforming. But, though it might be easy to suggest a revamp for a series that's been inconsistent over the last decade, Sonic Boom is not the answer.

PREVIEW | Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric was the worst thing I played at Nintendo's E3 showcase

I actually liked Lost World in parts. It was flawed, sure, but I had fun with it in places. Sonic Boom, however, exists to remind you of the very worst PS2-era platforming tie-ins. Simple movement is incredibly imprecise and twitchy. Sonic constantly overshoots areas, and Knuckles appears to handle like a lead brick mired in treacle. Enemies pop up for you to smack down by spamming the face buttons for normal and special attacks -- Sonic does a spin-dash, and Knuckles, well, Knuckles can climb walls.

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PREVIEW | Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the glorious lovechild of Mario and Fez

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, E3 2014, Games previews, Nintendo, Nintendo EAD, Wii U games

PREVIEW | Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the glorious lovechild of Mario and Fez

Super Mario 3D World's "Captain Toad" stages were absolutely brilliant. They were wonderful puzzle-platforming vignettes that varied the pace a little and gave players something fresh and new to do. Now everyone's favourite, useless little mushroom fellow has his own marquee game, and it's shaping up to be something truly delightful.

Much of the appeal comes from the fact that Toad is fundamentally useless. His only real ability is to plant a smile on your face -- he can't jump or attack or do much for that matter -- and that makes for a game that looks like it might be Super Mario 3D World replica with a new avatar, much like Nintendo did with New Super Mario Bros U and Luigi, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Captain Toad is no Goomba-stomping moustachioed maverick. He's a toddling mushroom with a benevolent god rocking a GamePad and a camera.

That's us. The players.

PREVIEW | Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is the glorious lovechild of Mario and Fez

Our job is to steer Toad through a number of increasingly complex levels that can be spun around, their perspectives played with, to ferret out secret gems and hidden coins, and eventually guide Toad to the star at the end of each stage. It's a mechanism that evokes memories of games such as Echochrome (though Nintendo eschew Escherian temptations) and Fez, where the systems of stages are fixed, and the player progresses through manipulation of the camera angle and the stage itself as a whole.

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