Pairing the open world design of Avalanche Studios with the gunplay and precision shooting of id Software, RAGE 2 has been on our radar ever since it made its debut last year. With its vibrant punk aesthetic and over-the-top action, we decided to send Toby Berger into the wasteland. Armed with a can of neon-pink spray paint, a gelled up hairdo, and a VHS tape of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, he finally emerged to bring you this review.
Moment-to-moment action, unlike Ranger Walker’s rote journey, is the saviour here. Fast, visceral, and immensely satisfying through and through. Weapons you collect are not only varied but they each have an often surprising and engaging alternative firing function — like the Smart Rocket Launcher’s lock-on system, for example. When taken as a whole Rage 2’s arsenal offers up a range of ways of taking on enemy encounters. And while you start off with just an assault rifle and a pistol, additional weapons are found in Arks: giant fallout-like shelters designed to withstand the cataclysmic effects of an asteroid’s impact on Earth. Visiting these massive structures to pick up new weaponry gives you more to play around with, and that only adds to the fun. Oh, and Rage 2’s shotgun just might be the best digital double-barreled firearm in a long while.
In celebration of the release of A Plague Tale: Innocence, developer Asobo Studio has teamed up with the brilliant Sean Bean to present a trailer highlight where, in conjunction with gameplay footage, the notoriously 'always dead at the end' actor, reads out "The Little Boy Lost", a poem by William Blake.
Having played all the way through the game, it's a fitting marketing exercise, but as you'll read in our in-depth review, the game itself just needed a bit more than the parameters of a poem to elevate it to the next level.
And if that headline didn't grab you, maybe you're also dead inside. Necrobarista sees a coffee shop as a nexus point where the dead can converse with the living and you, as the player, can help the dead close out "any unfinished business" from their living, err... lives.
And more pertinently to our immediate community, it's coming to PC first, this August 9. Here's the grind:
Stop in for a cup of coffee at The Terminal, a magical café in Melbourne, Australia frequented by living and dead customers. Staffed by a necromancer, this back-alley java house allows the deceased to return to the world of the living for one final day before shuffling off this mortal coil.
Necrobarista takes visual novels in a bold new direction with 3D visuals that provide a distinct cinematic aesthetic and supply the narrative’s branching scenarios with depth and nuance. This also gives players the opportunity to explore the coffee shop and investigate its environments as they mingle with patrons and help them resolve unfinished business.
As supernatural story sequences unfold from several characters’ perspectives, the dynamic camera moves and pans between a variety of angles and vantage points, creating a cinematic presentation previously unseen in the genre. Inspired by the arts of film and anime, Route 59 Games brings the world to life by empowering players to move and interact in free-roaming first-person scenes akin to point-and-click adventure titles.
“Necrobarista is the distillation of our deep passion for anime, videogames, and storytelling,” said Kevin Chen, lead designer, Route 59 Games via press release. “We set out to pay homage to our influences while also creating something completely new and inventive. While it’s taken a while to perfect the recipe, we look forward to sharing it when Necrobarista launches on PC this August.”
Necrobarista will release via Steam for $14.99 and supports English, Simplified Chinese, and Japanese language options. The game also features an original soundtrack from Kevin Penkin, the award-winning composer responsible for the memorable scores found in Made in Abyss, Florence, Under the Dog, Norn9, and more.
Is Esports the next QA for game development? If the devs at Kylotonn have anything to say about it, yes. In a continuing trend, they recently invited the best WRC Esports players to come and play an alpha build of WRC 8, with the feedback being directly injected into the game in an effort to make it as tight and polished as possible.
Here's the official line from publisher Bigben:
Backed by the official 2019 license of the FIA World Rally Championship and its Esports experience, the WRC series is back with a resolutely simulation-centered gameplay, a dynamic weather system, and an entirely redesigned Career mode. WRC 8 also offers more content than ever with 102 special stages spread across the championship’s 14 countries, and a selection of historic cars that left their mark in WRC history.
In order to refine the gameplay and the sensation of driving, Bigben and Kylotonn exclusively invited some of the best players in the WRC Esports community to try out, for the very first time, an alpha version of WRC 8. Physics, graphics, weather, level design, and game modes… all the new features were presented in order to get the players’ feedback. Two days of work went into perfecting the physics expected by the community, and supplemented the feedback already collected from professional drivers.
“First impressions are actually really good. I can see there’s definitely been a step up from WRC 7 and Kylotonn have made a step forward in what they’ve produced” said Jonathan “Jonno” Holmes, 2017 and 2018 eSports WRC finalist.
Often we don't *really* need to add any written content when the words "cinematic" and "Blizzard" are paired, but Kosta will yell at me if I don't at least throw something together, so here it is: Watch this incredible piece of CGI celebrating a forthcoming update. There, job's done.
So a few things ahead of the embed below: I mean, Duncan Jones is probably a top bloke and all, but let's just leave the movie-making stuff in-house moving forward, eh Blizzard? Secondly, all future cinematic releases should just be CGI. Finally, Marvel and Activison-(Blizzard) have a relationship, surely Blizzard's CGI and storyboarding team could just nut out a World War Hulk movie of this calibre and rake in the cash, while also making us happy? C'mon, Blizz -- sort it out!
We've been all over the World of Warcraft Classic since it was announced, and overnight Blizzard has revealed exactly when we'll be jumping back into the skin of the original release in celebration of 15 years of WoW.
Specifically, in Australia we'll be playing the game from August 27 with all current subscribers receiving the "authentic re-creation of the game’s pre-expansion experience at no additional cost". Additionally, said current subs can put their hand up to join a beta for the new retro experience starting May 16. Here's Blizzard's official word:
This authentic re-creation takes players back to the beginnings of Blizzard Entertainment’s groundbreaking massively multiplayer online role-playing game, a time when Onyxia spread terror from her lair in Duskwallow Marsh, Leeroy Jenkins became a sensation after some ill-advised heroics in Upper Blackrock Spire, and only the bravest or most foolhardy quested alone in Stranglethorn Vale.
With World of Warcraft Classic, Blizzard has rebuilt the original WoW in its most polished and complete state—as it was at the time of the “Drums of War” update (patch 1.12.0), originally released 23 August, 2006. Included for all subscribers at no additional cost, World of Warcraft Classic gives players the opportunity to reexperience together the moments that came to define early WoW, like 40-player raids on Molten Core; days-long PvP battles at Tarren Mill; and the grand, server-wide effort to open the gates of Ahn’Qiraj.
“Building and launching World of Warcraft back in 2004 was immensely challenging,” said J. Allen Brack, president of Blizzard Entertainment. “A tornado literally tore the roof off one of the game’s data centers during the early days of testing—but Blizzard was fortunate to have hundreds, and then thousands, and then millions of people around the world cheering our developers on.
“Like many of our players, everyone at Blizzard was fuelled by the excitement of seeing the world of Azeroth from the ground level, through the eyes of the heroes inhabiting and fighting over it,” Brack continued. “Azeroth has always been a wondrous and deadly place, and it was especially so at the time of WoW’s launch, when everyone was discovering its vistas and exploring its dungeons for the first time—all while helping and supporting the company as everyone here worked through the many technical struggles of hosting a game of this size.
“That early experience was incredibly important to Blizzard. It taught us many things about ourselves as a developer and publisher, and about the global community of players that we feel honoured to be a part of. The World of Warcraft Classic experience is very different from the Azeroth we know today, but we love it for what it is and what it stands for. We can’t wait to get reacquainted with this dangerous, demanding, and rewarding world with all of our friends, new and old.”
Additionally, Blizzard points out that in celebration of the 15 year anniversary, later this year a number of activities will come to the game which will "[culminate] in a 25-player raid (accessible through Raid Finder) that will pit players against some of the most iconic bosses from throughout the game’s history. Players who make it through this epic trial will earn the Obsidian Worldbreaker mount, designed to evoke the terrible visage of the ancient Dragon Aspect Deathwing the Destroyer".
A special Anniversary Collector's Edition will also be made available from October 9 (one day after my birthday!)that will feature:
This treasure trove of collectibles and in-game bonus items comes with 30 days of game time for World of Warcraft and includes an imposing statue of Ragnaros the Firelord, that stands over 10 inches tall; a pin depicting the head of Onyxia, Broodmother of the Black Dragonflight; a mousepad adorned with a map of Azeroth; a set of fine art prints that illustrate Azeroth’s storied past; and a pair of mounts*—the Alabaster Stormtalon, and the Alabaster Thunderwing—in honour of the moment WoW players first took to the skies. The World of Warcraft 15th Anniversary Collector’s Edition will be available for RRP $144.95 AUD / $154.99 NZD. Players can pre-purchase today at gear.blizzard.com and at select retailers worldwide.
We've spent the past little while amidst an epidemic. And no, we don't (wholly) mean the local political attack ads running at the moment. Rather, we've been avoiding the Inquisition, rats and the "bite" itself in Asobo Studio'sA Plague Tale: Innocence for review purposes. Now, it might be time to watch some comedy and lie down.
There aren't a lot of games that push this level of emotional endurance at this level of visual and audio quality, and we'll be keeping our eye on this studio moving forward. And while it has myriad hang ups, there is something unique here. Check out a snippet from our review:
There’s a fitting metaphor tied heavily to any screens or footage you see of Amicia holding Hugo’s hand. While warming and contextually justifiable on a narrative level, the game itself is a super-heavy hand-holding experience for the player. Hard-fail scenarios come in thick and fast, and often there’s only one way to progress your movement through the game’s 18 chapters. Combat, which is largely lite-on, is clunky and frustrating. Amicia’s only tools are her sling and variable ammunition you eventually learn to craft. She walks on by lost or discarded weapons, shields and more, throughout her journey. But it’s in the sling we -- and her -- trust, and it’s one of the game’s biggest failings. Everything we see (for the most part) sells the setting and period, and in the wake of the situation that sees our hero and her little brother pushing forward through corpses, rat nests and battlefields caked in bloodied fallen, with various other weapons available for pillaging, that she wouldn’t just even pick up a dagger is detrimental to the experience. In fact, there are numerous scenarios where you have enemies running at you where aiming your sling has to be specifically at their head in order to stop them. Fail to do so and… well, hard fail.
Which could be seen as either a negative, or a positive, depending on which way you'd like to look at, and desire, the newest entry in the series. Controversy aside (and revealed later than our interview), we spoke with Gearbox designer, Matt Cox, who has a heavy hand in the game's NPCs and a number of bosses, who let go that while we do go off-world and onto other worlds, realistically the experience will remain more about enemies and enemy encounters than shaking up level design.
"A lot of the biomes are more aesthetic, but as far as gameplay [goes], the different types of creatures, obviously, will behave a little bit differently than maybe just, like, bandits that you've experienced on Pandora," Cox revealed to us. "So I think the different types of gameplay that you'll see on the different planets, or biomes, or where we go, will be mostly based on the types of enemy design that you will encounter...
"It's weird -- all to say it's very Borderlands, it's a very Borderlands experience."
We'll have an interview feature up with greater detail surrounding Borderlands 3 this week with quotes from Cox as well as Carl Shed who worked on the game's lighting and teased "we're going anywhere in the Universe. It could be anything. So try and have some fun and do something exciting" as his and the team's directive from Randy Pitchford which plays to the above comment about how biomes will be more aesthetic than gameplay differential. Still, we're definitely hoping we get some 'out of this world' level design. There's only so much loot-hunting you can do on repeat, no matter how you dress it up.
Which is to say that it all looks and sounds a bit grim. While Payday continues to drive in revenue and will be the studio's key focus moving forward to maintain operating funds, its latest earnings report highlights from stand-in CEO, Mikael Nermark, that the company will need to "streamline operations" with a renewed focus on "game development and publishing of own and third-party games".
Where this leaves employees of the other parts of the business and, indeed, how much that renewed focus even strips back the core development side of the studio will remain to be seen.
Starbreeze has been in a "reconstruction" phase of its business since early December in 2018, which has clearly had an impact on operations and earnings. However, as the report states, net sales for the year came in at $5 million USD, while overall operating costs came in at around $17+ millions USD, according to VG247. The larger output can be attributed to the aforementioned reconstruction, however, the studio also lost time and return on the development of Overkill's The Walking Dead, which was terminated by rights owner, Skybound, VG247 also notes.
Sales in the first quarter amounted to SEK 47.8 million (110.1), of which PAYDAY 2 accounted for SEK 26.7 million (25.1). EBITDA amounted to SEK -106.7 million (48.8). The decrease in earnings is due primarily to lower net sales, higher administrative costs related to the re-construction and the negative accounting effect of the sale of System Shock 3 amounting to SEK 68.1 million
The CEO stated, adding:
My main task is to secure financing for the company’s future operations. This involves both long-term financing we can use to build the Starbreeze of the future, but also making sure that the assets we have determined are unrelated to the core business are managed in a commercially viable way. Once this financing has been secured, we will be able to look ahead and present a more detailed strategy for the future. In order to clarify the company’s business and value a restructuring of the company's assets and simplification of the legal structure is in progress as part of the reconstruction. All assets have been valued by an external party and the majority of core business assets were consolidated into two new legal entities. One includes employees and the other includes assets and the publishing business for titles developed by Starbreeze and third-party developers. We are in a challenging situation. I stand united with the entire Starbreeze team in the efforts to get the business in order. We have a very strong asset in Payday, which is the foundation upon which we will build Starbreeze's future.
Hopefully the studio can bounce back, and we hope not too many people have been affected by this. Starbreeze's efforts include the headlined The Darkness as well as the banned-in-Australia FPS reimagining of the Syndicate franchise. In February of this year, the studio sold back its publishing rights of System Shock 3 to rights holder OtherSide Entertainment.
And as something of an 'asymmetrical multiplayer' title, which is to say this is basically Evolve and is coming to the PS4 in 2020 from little-known studio, IllFonic, whose previous work was a game based on Friday the 13th, that wasn't received too well.
Once we decided on Predator, it was clear this needed to be a shooter that had to look and feel authentic to the lore. Our teams’ passion for Predator helped us launch the partnership with Sony Interactive Entertainment and Fox. Not only do these powerhouses believe in our vision, which has made this a dream project, they understand what we want to create. They have given us so much to work with and are empowering us to create something new for fans, while expanding the lore of the Predator. Having that quality bar raised by our partners has been a great driver for creating an amazing game...
Creating an immersive world for the Predator universe has been so rewarding for our team. We’re massive fans of this IP, and it’s made us closely examine every aspect of the game to be certain we are staying true to the world. Fox has been an incredible part of this process.
Our motto at IllFonic is, “Gameplay over everything” and we believe that will be evident the moment gamers enter the hunting grounds. There will be surprises in store for everyone when the game launches next year.
I think the idea that the Fireteam will be performing other duties similarly to those Dutch and his rescue team did in the original movie is a great distraction, how this is driven though will be the key differentiator -- will this mean teams (read: Clans) will gain new information helpful to their cause? New weapons or abilities? And how does the Predator fill out this preamble time? The head swims, and we're yet to be given a decent Predator gaming experience. And what lessons can be learnt from Evolve? Surely staying away from microsotransations or segregated on-disk content; tiered content drops that will wind up whittling out players is the basic takeaway, but there's oh-so-much more.
I'm not going to lie -- Predator is my favourite movie of all time Over Star Wars, over Lord of the Rings, over anything with Leo; anything directed by Scorsese, so I will be all over this project.
Hopefully we can get some time with IllFonic at E3, but right now, we're bleeding, man. And we do actually have time to bleed.
Which is *kind of* weird, but still cool for anyone who hasn't played the 4X strategy sci-fi epic in that three year period. The free weekend opportunity has already kicked off and ends May 12.
Here's the official word from Paradox:
With constant updates since its launch in 2016, today’s Stellaris is bigger, deeper and more fun than ever. Ordinarily retailing for a suggested price of $39.99 USD, the deep and engaging gameplay of Stellaris will be available for free on Steam this weekend.
Featuring deep strategic gameplay, a rich and enormously diverse selection of alien races and emergent storytelling, Stellaris has engaging challenging gameplay that rewards interstellar exploration as you discover, interact and learn more about the rich and mysterious universe you will encounter during your travels.
“It feels like just yesterday we were launching Stellaris, unsure of how people would take to it, but now it has its own thriving community and is celebrating its third anniversary!” said Daniel Moregård, Game Director for Stellaris via press release. “It’s an occasion we’d like to celebrate with the amazing community who filled the galaxy of Stellaris with their stories. We hope players new and old can enjoy this Free Weekend to the fullest!”
With his days slaying zombies and various Mafia groups behind him, The Walkling Dead and The Punisher star, Jon Bernthal has leant his voice to the latest entry in Ubisoft'sGhost Recon franchise with the recently-announced Ghost Recon Breakpoint.
Once again set in an open-world playspace, Breakpoint, will offer up both a solo and co-op experience with diverse systems and unique characters. Here's Ubi's official line:
Players will discover Auroa, a mysterious island where the most technically advanced facilities meet wild and untamed nature. Home to drone creators, tech giant Skell Technology, Auroa has fallen into the wrong hands and all contact has been lost.
The Wolves, a lethal ex–US Military unit of former Ghosts gone rogue, have taken over the island. Led by Nomad’s ex-brother-in-arms, Lt. Colonel Cole D. Walker, portrayed by Jon Bernthal, they have reprogrammed Skell’s drones into killing machines and are ready to use them, no matter the casualties. Nomad and the Ghosts are sent in on a recon mission, but their helicopters are shot down. Injured, without support, and hunted down, players will live an intense military experience as they fight to survive, take down the Wolves and regain control of Auroa.
Steep slopes, accumulating injuries, and fatigue are new challenges for players to tackle as they test their survival skills in the varied terrains of Auroa. To overcome adversity, players will enjoy total freedom to accomplish their missions and have plenty of tactical options and tools at their disposal, including a set of new military features. They will be able to carry enemies and teammates’ bodies, blend into their environment with prone camo and set up camp with teammates in the bivouac to manage equipment, change classes, and fine-tune their strategies.
They will also be able to choose among thousands of customization combinations to create their perfect Ghost, and keep their character and progression through the game in both the main campaign and Player-versus-player (PvP), available at launch.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint will include a robust post-launch content support plan, with regular updates after launch. New story arcs, classes and features will be continuously added, and for the first time in a Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon game, a new type of endgame content: Raids.
Additionally, Ubisoft announced the Gold, Ultimate and Wolves Collector’s Editions of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint as well as the standalone Ubicollectibles® figurine of Nomad:
The Gold Edition will include the base game and the Year 1 Pass.
The Ultimate Edition will include the base game, the Year 1 Pass and the Ultimate Pack.
The Wolves Collector Edition will include the base game, the Year 1 Pass, the Ultimate Pack, a Ubicollectibles® high-end figurine of Lt. Colonel Cole D. Walker, a Steelbook®, exclusive lithographs, Walker’s dog tag, a waterproof map of Auroa as well as the soundtrack.
The standalone Ubicollectibles figurine of Nomad is available for preorder on the Ubisoft store.
Fans who purchase the Gold, Ultimate, or Collector’s edition will have access to the game up to three days early. Fans who pre-order Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint will receive access to the Ghost Recon Breakpoint Beta closer to launch, as well as the Sentinel Corp. pack which includes exclusive gear.
Watch a 10+ minute gameplay reveal video embedded below.