The idea of a spiritual successor to the Burnout series is no doubt an exciting one. From the fast arcade racing to building up boost by driving like a mad-man on the left-hand side of the road (who would ever do such a thing!), to the crashes. The sweet, sweet, crashes. Dangerous Driving promises to be all of that in a new game created by a small team that were integral to the series.
But alas, the end result falls way short of its spiritual successor ambition.
From the arcade handling to driving on the wrong side of the road to fill up your ‘Heatwave’ meter, to watching the outcome of a digital head-on collision, all the stuff that someone might consider Burnout is here. And it mostly works fine. With races, takedown modes, and even Need for Speed Hot Pursuit-style car chases. But the basic presentation, repetitive and generic track design, simplistic and overly shiny car models, inconsistent handling, last-last-gen looking crashes, the lack of in-race music, and AI racers that suffer from an extreme case of ‘catch-up logic’ make Dangerous Driving feel budget and, well, cut-rate.
Last year ASUS gave a number of its ROG laptops, or Republic of Gamers, a make-over. Thinner, lighter, better displays, stylish new looks, and more. With the ASUS ROG Strix SCAR II part of this shake-up the 2019 model, although identical, swaps out the GTX 1060 or the GTX 1070 for the new mobile NVIDIA RTX range. And all without raising the price.
Last year we reviewed the ASUS ROG Strix HERO II, where we described it as “a truly impressive laptop with a brilliant 144Hz display, 8th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU, fast memory, and sleek new look”. A sentiment that can be wholeheartedly transferred to the ASUS ROG Strix SCAR II because it’s essentially the same laptop – but now powered by an NVIDIA RTX 2060. A change that has surprisingly kept the pricing in line with the GeForce GTX 1060 model we tested the first go-around. And based on the performance captured, makes this one of the best gaming laptops available in its price-range.
Having recreated the cathedral in Assassin's Creed Unity, and therefore digitally mapping the real-life structure, much news during the week has suggested Ubisoft's own technology could help in any restoration efforts down the track. Today, however, Ubisoft has come out in official response to the blaze and has offered both a donation to the restoration of the structure, as well as free release of the PC version of AC Unity.
Here's what the company said:
As the smoke clears on the events that unfolded on Monday at the Notre-Dame de Paris, we stand in solidarité with our fellow Parisians and everyone around the world moved by the devastation the fire caused. Notre-Dame is an integral part of Paris, a city to which we are deeply connected. Seeing the monument in peril like this affected us all.
In light of Monday's events, we will be donating €500,000 (AUD$786,095) to help with the restoration and reconstruction of the Cathedral. We encourage all of you who are interested to donate as well. In addition, we want to give everyone the chance to experience the majesty and beauty of Notre-Dame the best way we know how. For one week, we will be giving Assassin's Creed Unity away free on PC, for anyone who wants to enjoy it. You can download it now for Uplay PC here: http://assassinscreed.com/unity-notredame/
When we created Assassin's Creed Unity, we developed an even closer connection with this incredible city and its landmarks – one of the most notable elements of the game was the extraordinary recreation of Notre-Dame.
Video games can enable us to explore places in ways we never could have otherwise imagined. We hope, with this small gesture, we can provide everyone an opportunity to appreciate our virtual homage to this monumental piece of architecture.
Construction of the Cathedral was started in 1160 and was completed a century later in 1260, with additional building taking place over the next few centuries.
In a recent in-depth chat with Dead Space co-creator Michael Condrey, it came to light that a Dead Space major motion picture was on the cards amidst the series' transmedia explosion, that never came to fruition.
"In all, more than a dozen creative spin-offs came from Dead Space’s humble beginnings,” Condrey told us. “At more than one point, Dead Space was in talks as a feature film, too. That would have been something really wonderful to see come to life."
The series, as it stands, remains lost at vacuum sea, but we'd heard these rumblings before from reliable sources, and Condrey admits that while Resident Evil was a key inspiration for Dead Space in the first place, it was also the original Alien that helped them land where they did with the base concept.
"Ridley Scott’sAlien was such a powerful north star for us in that way. The crew of the Nostromo, and the space tug itself, were very familiar and set a tone that allowed the alien threat to feel credible and relatable. Our primary focus for the USG Ishimura was functional spaces that supported our gameplay goals, but the form was rooted in environments and cohesive spaces that were grounded to today’s shipping crew needs -- medical decks, science labs, crew quarters, food storage, the bridge…".
It's hard not to think about how a movie based on Dead Space couldn't have done really well. Especially given the first game's version of Isaac had no voice but was of salt and pepper origin in the hair and facial hair space. Our honest thoughts? George Clooney as Isaac Clarke would have made all the sense in the world.
As promised, Ubisoft's continued post-release content drops for Assassin's Creed Odyssey remain in full swing. Today the publisher-developer announced that the second post-release story arc in the epic open-world action-RPG, The Fate of Atlantis, will be available later this month.
Again broken up into episodes, The Fate of Atlantis'Fields of Elysium, episode one, will be available across PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One from April 23. This will be followed up with two additional episode that will take players to the "Greek afterlife to uncover the great mysteries that lie within the ancient realms of the gods".
As the story of Fields of Elysium unfolds, players will traverse the paradise of Elysium, an otherworldly realm of great beauty, to reveal its sinister secrets all while facing against the might of the Isu. Players will encounter both new factions and familiar characters, and acquire new legendary weapons and gear.
Fields of Elysium will also introduce all-new Ability enhancements, which modify existing abilities to alter their function, giving players the opportunity to further fine-tune their playstyles. Ability enhancements are divided into each branch of the skill tree, Hunter, Warrior and Assassin, and several will be introduced in each episode, starting with Ares Bull Charge, Might of Artemis, Kronos Time Warp and Ares Madness in Fields of Elysium.
Following the first story arc, Legacy of the First Blade, The Fate of Atlantis will see our hero confront deities, encounter terrifying beasts of myth, and forge new bonds with a colourful cast of characters. After Fields of Elysium releases on April 23, the second episode, Torment of Hades, and the third episode, Judgment of Atlantis, will complete the second story arc mid-2019 on all available platforms.
In order to play The Fate of Atlantis, players will have two different options:
Following the main game, players will have to complete the questline Between Two Worlds, the mythological main game story arc, and Heir of Memories, the Lost Tales of Greece questline that is available after completing the former questline. Finally, they must have reached character level 28 or above.
Otherwise, players will be able to use a shortcut created specifically for those who would like to play The Fate of Atlantis and who do not fulfill all the above conditions. Thanks to this shortcut, players will enter Greece level 52 with preset Abilities and resources enabling them to start their adventure into the afterlife with the Lost Tales of Greece questline Heir of Memories. They will also have the opportunity to choose their hero. However, contrary to the previous option – players’ progression using the shortcut will not carry over to the main game save, and they will not be able to obtain achievements.
Watch the launch trailer for The Fate of Atlantis embedded below.
From it's exceptionally stylish design to the premium build quality and the sheer impressive performance that comes from a brilliant display and the power of an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 - the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX701 for most will remain a dream. Hefty price-tag aside it's a glimpse at what's possible when form and function combine.
Bringing it all together is the truly impressive display, which is listed as being ‘Pantone Validated’. A term that we hadn’t even heard of until this review, but in our tests the 17.3-inch IPS panel provided some of the best image quality we’ve ever seen from a laptop display. From the 100% sRGB colour-output to the brightness and contrast to the wider-than-expected viewing angle it’s commendable that ASUS were able to not only create a sleek and stylish looking ultrathin gaming laptop, but also pair it up with a vibrant display that matches.
Where it gets interesting though is with the ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX701’s discrete graphics option. The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 (with Max-Q design) comes from the NVIDIA’s most recent line of RTX cards that offer up real-time ray-tracing in modern high-end games in addition to the usual performance boost over the previous generation. A line, the GTX 10 series, that has been a staple part of the gaming laptop market for a couple of years now. With RTX-powered laptops now popping up, getting to see the RTX 2080 in action on a thin, portable, and impressive laptop was as they say, ‘of great interest’.
When the sci-fi horror classic Dead Space arrived in 2008 there was no way to really judge just how well it would hold up over a decade later. The answer of course is 'remarkably well' with Dead Space being one of the defining releases of the previous generation of consoles - from its groundbreaking and exceptional blend of intense action, horror, and sci-fi. Plus, there's the brilliant sound design, realistic lighting effects, and intuitive HUD-free presentation.
And of course, the now iconic Plasma Cutter that allows you to target and scientifically slice off Necromorph limbs from a distance.
Recently our own Stephen Farrelly decided to replay through the seminal release, where along the way he reached out to co-creator Michael Condrey (Visceral Games, Sledgehammer Games, and now in the process of setting up a new studio at Take-Two) to talk about everything Dead Space.
The result is a retrospective that looks back at the core design, classic moments, and a look behind the scenes of its creation.
“I’d love to say that we were brilliant enough to design the entire ship’s layout from the beginning, but it was a creative exploration that developed over time,” he adds. “Our first prototype, for example, intended to showcase both our gameplay and tone. We had a zero G section, a terrifying elevator sequence, and an interior combat area showcasing the dismemberment mechanic, all of which inspired the future game, but none that survived 100% intact to the shipped game. As the storyline developed, and the locations became more firm, the USG layout evolved into what fans ultimately came to know in the original game.”
The last couple of entries in the Anno series from Ubisoft have been set in the near or semi-distant future. With Anno 1800 the series returns to the past, specifically with the dawn of the industrial era in a setting that involves island hopping, trade routes, naval combat, and making soap from raising livestock, rendered fat, and processing that at a factory.
Although complicated and full of the micro-management and small detail that the series is known for, Anno 1800 is also best entries we've seen in years. And a great city builder.
Getting into the weeds and understanding worker hierarchy and production chains and what leads to what is a key part of Anno. The new trade system that blends seamlessly with the light real-time combat feels effortless once understood. All of this comes together best in the non-story sandbox mode where player creativity can shine, and planning will no doubt lead to some truly wondrous island locales. From the animation to the visual effects, this is the best-looking Anno game to date.
With NVIDIA's Alexey Panteleev and lead programmer on Quake II RTX telling us, "Our goal is to publish an open source version of Quake II RTX." The news came as part of our recent chat with a few of the engineers at NVIDIA who put together the demo that was showcased at GDC this year.
Quake II RTX, as it's being called, replaces all lighting effects in-game with real-time ray-tracing in a truly stunning look at one PC gaming's all-time classics from 1997.
“We first heard of Christoph’s Q2VKPT [Quake II mod] sometime in late January shortly after it was released,” Principal DevTech Engineer Alexey Panteleev and lead programmer on Quake II RTX tells me. “We were not aware of the project before that. Originally, our intention was just to analyse and improve performance and fix some image quality issues. I started making some improvements, then everyone got excited, and then things really started cooking.”
“Quake II was already a pioneer in simulating many lighting effects,” NVIDIA’s Manuel Kraemer adds. “For instance, the first Quake is credited as the first game to store pre-computed diffuse lighting and occlusions into lightmaps. Because these ray-tracing calculations could not be performed in real time, much of the lighting in the game was static. Many shadows were also missing or incorrect. Although lightmaps have been greatly improved since, they remain a fundamental technique that is still used today in almost every game.”
There's a bit of necromorphic serendipity happening here. Earlier today I posted a news item with the teaser "There was a period of time when the big publishers in the industry took risks. Big risks. EA with the likes of Dead Space (stay seriously tuned here)... with that last bracketed statement being most poignant. You see I recently went back and started replaying the original Dead Space, then decided to write a piece on it, then a direct message Tweet from a friend, and friend of the site, amplified that decision. Then this happened.
It could just be a case of coincidence or confirmation (read: hope) bias, but either way the timing here is weird.
Negative Atmosphere is as Dead Space in principle as it gets. Sure, it may be a bit faster and it may currently only have humans (undead?) as its baddies, but currently playing through the original Dead Space, I can clearly say this is as close as it gets.
Good on 'em I guess.
EA won't release a new Dead Space as far as we know, Visceral is gone and the further away we can all get from Dead Space 3, the better. What Negative Space turns into will be interesting, but for now it's *kind of* nice to know what Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey created all those years ago still resonates, and beyond my own loungeroom. Watch the video embedded below, and keep an eye on these guys via their Twitter.
Let us know what you think in the Comments. Oh, and stay tuned for some very cool Dead Space content from a deep retrospective angle.
We'd be remiss to not let you know about a good fire sale, and Nintendo appears to have gone one better with a "Blockbuster Sale" that features some of the Switch's biggest titles at what look to be very decent discounts.
With Hearthstone's latest expansion out today, which not only kicks off the new Year of the Dragon but also a year-long narrative, we recently had the chance to sit down with Liv Breeden and Stephen Chang of the Hearthstone team to talk about overall design philosophy and what goes into creating cards and spells and mechanics for villains.
Turns out, thinking like one.
“We started with Schemes pretty early on because the idea of sitting and plotting, the best villain waits until the perfect moment before they unveil what they’ve been planning the entire time,” Liv tells me. “That's such a cool idea that we wanted to play that up. And we got into it early.” In Rise of Shadows, Scheme spell cards grow in power over-time which leads to the potential for a perfect play – where the planets align, and everything goes to plan. Hagatha's Scheme starts as one point of damage to all minions costing five mana, but if it’s held for three more turns that becomes four points of damage for the same cost. And it only grows from there.