Enough is enough, Halo: Master Chief Collection. This is getting ridiculous.
That Halo: MCC's multiplayer matchmaking is still a muddled mess several weeks after release is frankly unacceptable. We've given 343i a lengthy spool of rope, and they've been allowed a fair bit of slack from the gaming press, but this was supposed to be the flagship title of the winter. And for all of the talk about what a great content package it is -- and it really is a cracking content package even as an offline game -- the fact is that Halo's multiplayer has always been just as much of an important part of the formula as the expansive, game-changing singleplayer/co-op aspects of the series, if not more so.
This was supposed to be the triumphant end to a year in which the Xbox One has really turned itself around, largely thanks to the efforts of Phil Spencer and his team; and what better series to deliver than Halo? Microsoft and 343i got everything right, delivering an outstandingly well-priced and well-balanced collection designed to (re)introduce a new generation of Xbox fans to the Master Chief and his exploits.
Everything except the matchmaking.
Looking about on Reddit and N4G and the various comment streams across coverage of 343i's debacle, many have asked why the likes of Driveclub and Assassin's Creed: Unity came under such heavy fire while Halo has been given the benefit of the doubt in many quarters. With Driveclub, it's important to note that the game's unique selling points were all tethered to that online experience. Driveclub was a game marketed, previewed, and centred around the connected experience -- without it, the game was simply impossible to review and disappointing to play. Assassin's Creed: Unity was a Uplay-stuffed singleplayer game that released in a broken, shambolic state, filled with bugs that any decent QA department would have surely rooted out, with all signs pointing towards a game that could have desperately used a few more months in development.Click here to read more...
Last week we reviewed the singleplayer portion of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, looking at all four of the legendary campaigns that this unprecedented reboot brings to the table at 60 frames per second, with new challenges and medals, alongside cross-game playlists and full cooperative support.
However, now that 343 Industries has switched on the multiplayer and matchmaking long enough to test it, we're ready to finish this fight.
If you got that reference then you're in good company -- and, spoiler alert, The Master Chief Collection needs to be on your Christmas list.
We've never seen a multiplayer collection like this before. More than 100 maps from all four numbered Halo games are ready for action, from Sidwinder to Hang 'Em High to Midship to Zanzibar to Sandtrap to Blood Gulch, playable in title-specific or cross-game playlists. Whether you're a fan of the outrageous vehicular madness of Big Team Battle (which boasts a cross-game playlist containing 41 maps!), insane King Of The Hill brawls, vertical Oddball matches or the tight teamwork of classic Team Slayer, you're good to go and able to delve into thirteen years of series evolution.
I'm also thrilled to report that SWAT is primed and ready on day zero, including maps from both Halo 2 and Halo 4. SWAT is the king. Make sure it's in Halo 5, 343 Industries!Click here to read more...
Platform: Xbox One
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Sunset Overdrive promised to bring the fun to Xbox One. Mission accomplished.
It's an explosive, anarchic and angry thing. Free to create the game they wanted to make after Overstrike was butchered into a generic shooter by EA, Insomniac vented their frustration in an all-out orgy of sweary gory irreverent ultraviolence as we take to the rooftops of a city gone to hell following a soda-related apocalypse. We'll create our character and destroy massive hordes of mutants and robots with outrageous evolving weaponry, grinding on every balcony and bouncing off every parked car. The city is a playground. Go play.
This is a game that lets us murder a robotic focus group (revenge for Fuse, perhaps?) and team up with weaponised LARPers, swears profusely, incinerates flocks of pigeons with no regard for animal welfare and insults practically everyone with a smile on its face. It gleefully pokes fun at videogame conventions by acknowledging the absurdity of respawns and the 'rule of three' in sarcastic fourth wall-breaking dialogue, because why the heck not. Whereas many AAA titles are grim and gritty, this is violently vibrant and edgily humorous, backed by thrashing punk rock and gleefully aware that it's a videogame.
Punk isn't just the soundtrack. Punk is Sunset Overdrive's entire deal.
By the same token, though, it's also sarcastic, smug and self-assured to the point of arrogance. Thankfully there's a difference between arrogance and confidence, and despite a few missteps stemming from Insomniac's lack of experience with games of this open scale, Sunset Overdrive succeeds on the strength of its traversal, mobility and firepower.
Click here to read more...
I'm currently hard at work on our Sunset Overdrive review, and by hard at work I do of course mean "grinding, swinging and leaping across a vibrant colourful city while shooting a huge horde of crazy enemies with insane weaponry." I know, it's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
As such, I can't deliver any sort of value judgement until next week, and I don't plan to. We're a classy outfit here at Dealspwn.com. But based on the first two hours of gameplay, those official videos and previous contact time at preview events, I'd like to offer a purely descriptive preview of what Sunset Overdrive has to offer, and to point out a incredibly basic fact about what Sunset Overdrive is bringing to the table at this late hour. Or more accurately, what it actually is and what it definitely isn't.
See, there's a big difference between a "sandbox" and a "playground," and understanding the distinction will help you make the most out of Insomniac's high-velocity shooter.
Click here to read more...
Platforms: Xbox 360 | Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Playground Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Forza Horizon 2 is the most fun I've had on four wheels since BurnOut Paradise.
It's not really a racing game, but there's certainly no shortage of races. More than 700 events and dozens of championships are scattered over a gorgeous open swathe of idealised European countryside, a playground for two hundred cars rendered in the series' fetishistic attention to detail. You'll challenge capable Drivatar AI to ad hoc showdowns with a single button, thrash monstrous off-roaders across vineyards, chase down an aerial stunt team in a Ferrari, form online clubs and get together with your friends for virtual multi-event road trips, all while trying to make your way to the Horizon Festival's grand finale.
But at its core, Forza Horizon 2 isn't about memorising apices and placing first. It's the primal yet powerful joy that comes from simply driving beautiful machines around stunning scenery. It's the thrill of sliding a 1969 Ferrari Dino around a perilous mountain road to The Marriage Of Figaro. The heart-stopping roar of your Lamborghini Diablo perfectly setting off the William Tell Overture as you cruise over a sun-baked hill, or getting air in a VW Camper Van during a midnight thunderstorm as fireworks explode in the distance. A thousand beautiful, personal, perfect automotive moments.
Oh, and I just smashed a Bentley through a greenhouse for a laugh. The races may be intense, but Forza Horizon 2 comes alive when you're just driving for the sheer sake of it.Click here to read more...
Quantum Break is still one of the Xbox One's biggest wildcards. Promising to transcend the boundaries between games and television, Remedy's latest creation finally broke gameplay cover at Gamescom, revealing that the creators of Max Payne are still capable of creating a handsome shooter with some nifty slow-motion mechanics.
We had to know more, so naturally I attended the Quantum Break showcase at the first possible opportunity. The lights dimmed. Our guide stepped up to the plate. And Remedy unveiled... an expanded version of the demo we already saw during Microsoft's press conference.
Wonderful, quoth Jonathan sarcastically. However, it's clear that while Quantum Break's gunplay looks rather fun, the time-based puzzling and intriguing transmedia setup are what's really going to set it apart from the crowd. Like Max Payne crossed with Bernard's Watch and Blinx: The Time Sweeper, perhaps.Click here to read more...
Mark Of The Ninja is one of the best stealth games of recent years: a hardcore sidescrolling shadowy masterclass in evasion and brutal predatory hunting. It's also now one of the cheapest stealth games of recent years, clocking in at a paltry £2.96 on GOG, saving you £8 vs the Steam RRP. The special edition is also available for £3.55.
Gears of Fable? Oh go on then. Fable Legends has copped a fair bit of flak forits more action-oriented approach to the Fable universe, but there might just be space for a co-op TPS that leverages the IP for fresh purposes.
You can decide for yourself by checking out the 10 minute video we captured at a recent Microsoft showcase. There was no game sound to record due to the in-game audio being pumped out through headphones, so we've stuck in some favourites from the Fable OST.
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.Click here to read more...
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 >>
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 >>
This weekend saw thousands of Halo and machinima fans flock to Austin, Texas for the Rooster Teeth Expo, at which 343 Industries were naturally keen to drop some choice details about the upcoming Master Chief Collection. A new trailer hints at The Arbiter packing some cloudy motives this time around, which we'll be able to expand upon by finding hidden terminals throughout the campaign, while fan-favourite Halo 2 map Coagulation is getting a massive new overhaul.
Oh, and they've decided to strap guns to the Mongoose, creating the appropriately-named Gungoose. New trailer and intel below.Click here to read more...
Halo 5: Guardians' reveal artwork raised eyebrows across the internet by relegating the familiar armour of Spartan-117 (John to his mates) to the bottom of the banner, in place of an as-yet unnamed character wearing MJOLNIR tech.
We previously suspected a couple of series mainstays, but apparently we're way off piste.Click here to read more...
Get set to come out swinging. Touchdown, hit it marines!Click here to read more...
Come back Insomniac. Fuse is forgiven.
Or at least, the first official gameplay footage of Sunset Overdrive looks like an exciting open-world experience that's packed with colour and personality, ridiculous weapons and wall-grinding mobility - something akin to a fusion between Crackdown and Jet Set Radio, perhaps.
Naturally we can't make any value judgements until we play the finished product this autumn, but Insomniac's Xbox One exclusive has definitely catapulted itself straight onto our radar. Have a look and tell us what you make of it!
Mark Of The Ninja is one of the best stealth games of recent years: a hardcore sidescrolling shadowy masterclass in evasion and brutal predatory hunting. It's also now one of the cheapest stealth games of recent years, clocking in at a paltry £2.99, saving you £9 vs the RRP on Steam.
Today brings us the news that Microsoft have bought the Gears Of War license from Epic Games, meaning that the franchise will now become one of the Xbox One's core exclusives. Black Tusk Studios are already working on the next game in the series, which has the potential to take the series in some exciting new directions.
So much potential, in fact, that we've come up with a quick wishlist for what we'd like to see from the franchise, both in terms of its setting, gameplay and features we so desperately crave.
Every death, every twist, every hard-won battle and every sacrifice in the Gears Of War canon harks back to a single pivotal event in Sera's history: Emergence Day. The Locust blitzkrieg changed everything, yet the games have proved surprisingly reluctant to actually show it to us beyond a couple of brief cutscenes. Even Judgment chickened out, opting to set its campaign after this all-important conflict. It's high time we experienced E-Day in all its savage and desperate glory, seeing how the pristine cities of Sera became the charred rubble we've seen in game after game, as massive sinkholes open up beneath the gathered COG war machine.Click here to read more...
News has just broken that Microsoft have bought all of the IP rights to the Gears of War franchise from Epic Games, and have handed over development on the series to Black Tusk, with Rod Fergusson -- former Director of Production at Epic Games on the Gears of War franchise -- moving back to Microsoft to spearhead the effort.Click here to read more...
Platform: Xbox One (£7.99)
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Dead Rising 3 deserves some quality downloadable content. Anyone who's hacked, slashed, burned, melted and creatively brutalised their way to the end of overtime mode will know that two returning series characters beg to be fleshed out in greater detail, with backstories and unanswered questions to explore over the course of several hours. Or completely ignore in favour of carving hordes of undead into tiny pieces while wearing lingerie and reindeer antlers.
Never mind all that, though, because Capcom Vancouver are more interested in telling the mediocre stories of four total randomers who you'll struggle to care about even as you forget who they were. Case in point: Special Forces commander Adam Kane, who apparently ran around Los Perdidos for two hours doing some boring fetch quests, scrutinising lamp posts and and racking up the kills in an awesome minigun-equipped APC.
Okay, in fairness, that last bit was pretty cool. Broken Eagle is fantastic fun because Dead Rising 3 is fantastic fun, but at £7.99, fails to deliver anywhere near enough meaningful content... and makes the season pass even more of a mug's game than it already is.Click here to read more...
Platform: Xbox One (£11.99)
Developer: Press Play
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood may look like a throwaway kids' platformer at first glance, but it plays like a colourful gameplay hybrid of Trine and Limbo.
After our improbably-coiffured hero banishes his annoying brother to an evil realm with a spell he found on the internet (one weird trick to cast your sibling into another plane of existence?), Max sets forth to save Felix from the evil Mustachio and save a bizarre world in the process. A Saturday morning setup to be sure, but the puzzle gameplay is surprisingly serious business.
Things start out simple, easing players into the extremely basic moveset. Max can waddle at a slow jog, jump over small obstacles and drag objects around, much like the Limbo lad, but is otherwise completely defenceless. A couple of nicely choreographed chase scenes set the tone nicely, before introducing Max to his magic marker, the only object he's thought to bring with him from the real world. As a sort-of-sequel to unappreciated WiiWare puzzler Max & The Magic Marker, Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood uses his Sharpie to twist reality in some excellent brainteasers.
Well, it is a magic marker, after all.
Click here to read more...