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Date: Saturday, 12 Apr 2014 03:01
Chris Watters fills you in on how Wolfenstein: The New Order is shaping up in this preview from PAX East 2014.
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Date: Saturday, 12 Apr 2014 02:50
Despite shortcomings in lower resolution and stuttering frame rate, Titanfall still thrives on the Xbox 360.
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Date: Saturday, 12 Apr 2014 01:45

Here's a great way to end your week. Straight from PAX East in Boston comes this 6-minute video showing off Diablo III for PlayStation 4 running in 1080p at 60fps. The video features commentary from Blizzard senior producer Julia Humphreys and senior level designer Matthew Berger.

The PS4 version of Diablo III, titled the Ultimate Evil Edition, was announced during BlizzCon 2013 in November. It includes the main game and its Reaper of Souls expansion.

The video also touches on some of the game's new features, like its Mail, Player Gifts, and Nemesis systems, as well as the Apprentice Mode. We also learn in the video that Diablo III for PS4 will include all of the PC patches, which means the game will be "very finely tuned," Berger said.

Blizzard has not announced a release date for Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition for PS4. An Xbox One version is currently in development, but Blizzard is not sure if it will ever be released. Already reached level 70 in Diablo III? Check out GameSpot's guide to understanding its endgame content.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com
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Date: Saturday, 12 Apr 2014 00:59
Blizzard shows us some cool features of the iPad version of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft at PAX East 2014.
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Date: Saturday, 12 Apr 2014 00:41

Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut is pushy. This space shooter all but wrecks its occasionally thrilling dogfighting action by never, ever knowing when enough is enough. The game is a prime example of kitchen-sink game design, assuming that if one white-knuckle tumble against a dozen enemy spaceships is good, then waging that exact same battle many times in succession during each and every mission must be flat-out fantastic. In reality, of course, this relentless approach chafes. It wears at your patience almost from the very beginning, to the point where the monotony soon makes you long to do something livelier.

The premise is a traditional space opera saga. The year is 2299, and you play a voiceless spaceship jockey named Adams, who gets into the civil war raging between Earth and rebellious human colonies just as the colonials are about to go all Death Star on the homeworld. The story is intriguing; not everything is spelled out in the beginning, leaving a lot of open questions about the mysterious alien tech that sparked the war, as well as about your fascinating allies, one of which is an enigmatic humanlike AI. There is no shortage of tension created by the threat to Earth--tension dramatically underlined in the fiery remains of a planet that serves as the backdrop to the campaign's second mission.

Zippy space combat is the highlight of Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut.

Most of the time, Strike Suit Zero is content to be a modern take on the familiar space shooter, with design tropes that go back to Wing Commander. You take to the spacelanes in the cockpits of various vessels, and upgrade and unlock weapons, armor, and other gear as you move through missions. Controls are easy to grasp: The sticks control roll, pitch, and yaw, while the buttons handle shooting, acceleration and deceleration, and firing off missile-diverting chaff. The feel isn't quick flightstick-precise, although the accuracy is close enough to fend off any frustration. The overly simplistic targeting is the only real problem, as you often need to cycle through lengthy lists of foes to choose the one that you want to attack.

You also gain access early on to the strike suit, a Transformers-styled variety of ship that can morph into a giant robot whenever you blast enough enemies and power supplies like drones to load up on an energy source called flux. The character of the game changes as soon as you make the switch, as you immediately go from flying around Rogue Squadron-like to a good re-creation of Optimus Prime standing still in space. Whenever you transform, you lose all maneuverability and speed aside from a weird sidestep that seems entirely out of place, but gain the ability to unload huge energy blasts and twisting waves of missiles that obliterate enemy capital ships.

Battles can look cool, but they suffer from extreme repetition.

Predictably, morphing into a battlemech can be effective, especially when facing waves of enemy fighters, and it's satisfying to pull a "watch this" moment and shred enemy squadrons in seconds. But the Transformers angle doesn't mesh well with high-speed dogfighting. One moment you're looping and spinning at speeds that would snap a spine; the next you're locked in place like a Big Bertha, mindlessly firing round after round at every nearby foe. Becoming a giant robot always comes with some regret, as it brings the entire game to a crashing halt.

What drops Strike Suit Zero back to zero most of all, however, is tedious combat. Every one of the 13 scenarios in the main campaign and the further half-dozen or so offered up as part of the additional Heroes of the Fleet mission series (sold separately as DLC when the game was released for the PC last year) does everything but beat you into submission with a Megatron action figure. Objectives rarely vary from escort missions, seemingly eternal dogfights, and straightforward assaults. In all mission types, enemy ships keep coming, and coming, and coming, warping in many times after you think the mission is finally over, like some intergalactic take on Halloween's Michael Myers. Sheer enemy numbers overwhelm the interface. Tracking colonial ships is a real challenge in battles, as the screen is always littered with red arrows pointing offscreen to every threat and piece of random space junk. Your battle cry soon becomes "Enough already!"

Transformation brings the fun to an immediate halt.

Most of Strike Suit Zero is stripped down in comparison to more lavish space shooters of days gone by. There are no extravagant load-out option screens, no recreation decks to relax in with your fellow pilots, or even animations during the mid-mission visual transmissions from allied vessels (in the future, everyone is apparently a ventriloquist). The main plus here is being able to play from either a first-person cockpit point of view or from an external trailing camera. Ship models are bland, with little in the way of detail, and mission backdrops are mostly static scenes that are stylish and atmospheric, but still limited in impact, like the matte paintings in old Star Trek episodes. This is a plain Jane game made up for the prom.

Only the soundtrack rises above the waterline of mediocrity here, thanks to futuristic tunes that come off like mash-ups of the musical scores from Blade Runner and the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. There is a vaguely Eastern vibe to the music, along with echoing choral odes and never-quite discernible chants of exotic words. The only odd thing about the music is its slightly distant sound. Instead of being front and center in the mix like the usual game soundtrack, the score here is somewhat buried, as if you were cruising around listening to the universe's top 40 station on the FM dial.

Sometimes, simple is better. Maintaining focus on frantic space battles that move quickly and wrap up before you have time to regret what you're playing would have made Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut more energetic and compelling. Piling on enemies and tossing in the Transformers-inspired ship just clogs up what could have been a charming, if deeply predictable, space shooter.

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Date: Saturday, 12 Apr 2014 00:41

The original Half-Minute Hero for the PSP is one of those games that, despite a brilliant concept and critical acclaim, didn't really find an audience, at least not until it was ported to the Xbox 360 and PC at a later date. Half Minute Hero: The Second Coming is a direct follow-up to that game, taking place some time after that game's end. The initial story follows Yusha, a brooding military commander with a mysterious past. During a challenging mission in which the continent is threatened with destruction within an extremely short time frame, he's approached by the world's omnipresent time goddess, who has the power to rewind time in exchange for her favorite thing: cold, hard cash. But Yusha's about to get caught up in something far bigger: an epic time-bending conflict stretching across multiple generations and locations--in 30-second chunks.

Big enemies require even bigger, lumbering mobile hero castles for maximum annihilation.

The gameplay in The Second Coming remains similar to the original's Hero 30 mode. The game is split up into missions, where you have around 30 seconds to figure out a way to destroy a large enemy that will cause global destruction if the timer runs out. This process is facilitated by progression that distills common tropes to their bare essentials: fighting enemies to gain levels, stopping at towns to get information and supplies, and finding a path to the boss's lair. Given that there's only 30 seconds to accomplish all of this, things have been heavily streamlined: enemy fights involve auto-ramming into foes until somebody dies, character levels skyrocket within seconds, and towns are linear paths that allow you to dash in, get what you need, and dash out. Even so, 30 seconds is a harsh time limit, so you have the ability to pray to statues of the time goddess to reset the clock. But every time you do, she asks for a little bit more cash, making each progressive reset more and more expensive to finance. The game transforms a typically slow-paced genre into an epic race against time, turning genre conventions on their head and making you think and act quickly in order to succeed.

Unlike the original game, which offered multiple game genres (real-time strategy, shooter, tower defense) creatively compressed into thirty-second chunks, The Second Coming is entirely based around the RPG-styled gameplay. The lack of clever gameplay variety compared to its predecessor is one of the biggest disappointments of The Second Coming, and I often found myself wishing I could switch to a different sort of 30-second adventure every so often like I could with the original.

Equipment changes are reflected on your sprite. Who doesn't want a bunny hat?

However, the one style of gameplay that is present in The Second Coming is far more engaging and refined here than it was in the original game. There's now an actual overworld to explore between quests, offering optional dungeons, enemy battles, and tons of hidden secrets. Taking a bit of time to poke around between 30-second do-or-die adventures can yield treasures like hidden gear and evil lord medals, which can be exchanged for various unlockable features. Combat--simple though it may be--has also been refined with the addition of super-damaging, auto-activating skills learned from weapons and a stat-altering class-change system.

Quest design, too, benefits greatly from this increased focus, with some creative ideas thrown into the mix. Areas of the map may be destroyed when the timer hits certain points, necessitating a potentially costly time reset to restore things to how they were originally. Defeating giant-sized enemies and obstacles requires the aid of a ridiculous-looking mobile battle fortress you find and continually build upon throughout the game. One of my favorite quests involves you being given an absurd amount of "cursed money" you have to figure out how to waste before time runs out--a choice between blowing it all in an underground casino like a boss or buying individual loaves of overpriced bread to feed to children of a Dickensian orphanage.

As you might suspect from hearing that quest description, The Second Coming incorporates a lot of silliness and humor into its proceedings. The settings--standard fantasy, modernized pseudo-fantasy, and post-apocalyptic fantasy--are inspired by common tropes of JRPG worlds. Every well-worn character arc you can imagine (the obviously-set-to-betray-you party member, the jealous childhood rival, the thief turned ally, amongst many) is present, as are common plot threads (we must prove ourselves worthy of this power we need to defeat the boss!), though with their own goofy little twists to suit the game's frenetic pace. Famous RPG scenes, characters, and concepts are referenced and parodied lovingly, but even concepts outside of RPGs and games are fair game for The Second Coming's delightfully silly story. The game sometimes invests too heavily in its ridiculous narrative, however. There are some genuinely heartfelt moments in the story, but occasionally an overly wordy dialogue sequence leaves you wondering if the writers have started to take their tribute to RPG cliches a little too seriously. (Thankfully, the start button will skip reams of dialogue during almost every part of the game.)

You're free to gamble the time way--until the world explodes.

Beyond the main game, The Second Coming introduces new map/quest creation modes and a multiplayer feature. The quest creation tool allows you to develop simple quests and challenges on custom maps for players to download and enjoy in either solo or multiplayer modes. It's a nice way to let player creativity shine, and sharing created content on Steamworks is a breeze, though since this game was ported from an original Japanese PSP release, the actual creation interface itself is a little rough around the edges and not really optimized as well as it could be for a PC. Multiplayer is an absolute blast, allowing up to four players to play through a map and try to hinder each others' progress in defeating the evil lord. The 30-second timer remains and is universal for all players--if one person resets, it's reset for everyone, and if it runs out, all players are penalized. Throw in optional "goddess whims" that have random effects on the map and players and you've got a formula for ever-changing, incredibly fast-paced fun. You can even use your (or others') custom maps to make things even more challenging.

The Second Coming is a delight to play. While the lack of gameplay variety compared to what came before is a definite disappointment, the game is just so outright fun that it's easy to forgive. The sheer joy of fast-smashing adorable little pixel characters against each other while an amazing soundtrack filled with all-star game music composers cheers you to victory against the clock is well worth the price of admission, and the delightful secrets and extras make it an even more appealing package.

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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 23:46
Peter fills Shaun in on the unsettling environment featured in an The Evil Within demo he saw at PAX East 2014.
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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 23:34

Only five of the 30 new cards slated to be released for Hearthstone’s first single-player campaign--titled The Curse of Naxxramas--were officially unveiled at PAX East 2014 today. But if those cards are anything to go by, then it seems deathrattle is going to become a lot more common in Blizzard's recently released card game.

Deathrattle (abilities triggered upon a Hearthstone minion's demise) feature in four of the five new cards so far confirmed for The Curse of Naxxramas, and is apt considering the campaign's eponymous setting. In World of Warcraft, Naxxramas is the floating necropolis of the archlich Kel'Thuzad--in other words, the undead have sway in this corrupted location. Players will be able to tackle this creepy area when The Curse of Naxxramas is released later this year, and marks the first of Hearthstone’s single-player-focused Adventure Mode releases.

A spooky new board awaits in Naxxramas.

So what exactly is Adventure Mode? In this mode, players will do battle against a series of AI opponents to gain new cards. The Curse of Naxxramas will have five sections or "wings" to play through, with each wing featuring anywhere from three to four bosses. Cards are earned as you defeat bosses, with bonus cards also being awarded for clearing wings. Any card earned will be usable in Hearthstone’s regular Play or Practice modes, while Naxxramas-themed cards will also be added to the mix in Arena matches. Only the first wing--the Arachnid Quarter--will be free. The subsequent four in Naxxramas will need to be purchased either through in-game gold or with real world money (although Blizzard has not confirmed what the cost will be). And your reward for completing all of Adventure Mode? 30 brand new cards, including class-specific ones earned by completing class challenges.

So how will the introduction of 30 new cards to Hearthstone affect the game’s balance? Lead designer Eric Dodds says balance is something Blizzard is continually monitoring, with a new team created within the company that continually monitors balance issues.

"Before we had done a lot of balancing by what we thought was the right thing to do, and we did some internal balancing, but because we were in beta, there was also a lot of balancing going in because the community was helping out a lot," Dodds said. "But going forward, we now have a balance team making sure that all of these cards are balanced, because we have to make sure these are not cards that will break the game. So we have an internal team that is working on these specifically."

Baron Rivendare is afoot.

Dodds says the introduction of 30 new cards also has the potential to significantly impact Hearthstone’s metagame. "What’s interesting I think is there will be an interesting metagame happening during those four weeks as new cards come out, and decks suddenly change. Everything will be different, and then a week later, all these new cards come out. So over the course of the month we’re going to see really interesting changes and shifts in the metagame."

"One of the cards I’m excited about is Baron Rivendare, because it makes deathrattles trigger twice. There will undoubtedly be things that happen that honestly we haven’t even thought about as possibilities. There are certainly the simple ones where I have a harvest golem and I get two damaged harvest golems out of it. It’s one of those things that I expect interesting combinations to come out of the community."

What happens, then, in the case of these new cards inadvertently unbalancing the game? Dodds says the solution is not to withdraw cards, but rather to empower players with solutions by introducing new cards into the mix.

"As far as card changes moving forward, our plan is, ideally, not to make any card changes because we want these cards to feel really solid in player's hands. That said, if something is clearly very out of hand--and that’s a super subjective thing to say--then it's something we’ll talk about," he said.

"But really what we want to do is when we feel the environment changes and changes in a way that doesn't work super well, is that we put additional cards out there in the player's hands that allow the player to take control. Because really the way we think about it is that we're just providing tools for the player to have a fun experience. So if it feels like they don't have the right tools for that experience, then we better put some more tools out there."

If you choose to never put in a dime, you can still access all of the content over time.

Hearthstone production director Jason Chayes.

For a game that has so far kept most of its gameplay modes free (buying cards and Arena are, of course, a different matter), the move to charging for a new mode is an interesting one for Hearthstone. But for production director Jason Chayes, the move still perfectly aligns with the game’s goal of allowing players to access content in whatever way they please.

"We basically wanted to make it that no matter how you were experiencing Naxxramas, you were able to unlock the various wings for free just by earning the gold and unlocking it. That's an important philosophy we have for Hearthstone, is that if you choose to never put in a dime, you can still access all of the content over time. So that is a core part of how Naxxramas is designed. Beyond that, though, if a player is interested in getting to that content a bit faster, they can spend a bit more money and access it as well," he said.

The Curse of Naxxramas is set for release sometime in "summer" 2014 for PC, Mac, and iPad.

The first five cards unveiled for The Curse of Naxxramas.

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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 23:00
Watch Dogs and The Last of Us Remastered deliver on the details, and a five-year-old outsmarts Microsoft but they still have the edge with the cloud
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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 22:57
Shaun and Chris talk about their time with Evolve at PAX East 2014 detailing the new skill point system of the Goliath class.
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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 22:17
We sat down with Blizzard at PAX East 2014 to get a demo of Diablo III on PS4 which includes all the additions from Reaper of Souls and more.
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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 22:14

Image credit: Destructoid

Today at PAX East, Castle Crashers developer The Behemoth revealed that it is working on an Xbox One game currently titled "Game 4."

Destructoid first reported the news, adding that the game is expected to be playable this year. More information about it is scheduled to be released at events like San Diego Comic Con and PAX Prime.

The site also obtained a piece of concept art for Game 4, and it is bizarre indeed. I'm at a loss for words; what do you make of it?

The Behemoth is best known for creating the Castle Crashers and Alien Hominid franchises. The studio also released BattleBlock Theater in 2013.

It is not much of a surprise to learn that The Behemoth is working on an Xbox One game, as the company is one of the many developers signed up for Microsoft's independent publishing program ID@Xbox.

We will have more on Game 4 as it becomes available.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com
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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 21:17

In a new interview with GameSpot today at PAX East, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft production director Jason Chayes opened up on the challenges of bringing the free-to-play collectible card game to Android. Ensuring that the game's interface translates to the many variations of Android devices is one of the toughest tasks, he said.

"Just the breadth of different screen resolutions, different device capabilities--all of that is stuff we have to factor in to make sure the interface still feels good," Chayes said.

"The conventions we've established between the PC and iPad versions should carry over into this new platform," he added. Maintaining a smooth Hearthstone experience, whether it's on an Android smartphone or tablet, is key, Chayes explained.

We also spoke with Hearthstone lead designer Eric Dodds, who stressed that the Android version of Hearthstone remains on schedule for a release during the second half of 2014. "That is something that we are still on track for," he said.

Hearthstone soft-launched last week for iOS. Just today, Blizzard announced a new single-player adventure called Curse of Naxxramas, and you can play without spending a penny.

Parent publisher Activision Blizzard has major ambitions for Hearthstone. CEO Robert Kotick said earlier this year that the game has the potential to become Blizzard's next "mega franchise," joining World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com
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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 20:54
Titanfall on 360 was promised to be a first class experience. See how it stacks up to the Xbox One version.
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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 20:42

The Wii U version of Ubisoft's open-world action game Watch Dogs will launch this fall, according to a new report at Nintendo Enthusiast.

After the "fall 2014" release window appeared on the Uplay store, a Ubisoft representative told the site that the date was indeed accurate. We have followed up separately with Ubisoft to confirm the date, but have not heard back as of press time.

We already knew that the Wii U version of Watch Dogs would debut after the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC versions on May 27, but we didn't know when exactly that would be.

For more on Watch Dogs, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com
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Date: Saturday, 15 Mar 2014 16:35

Ouya has revealed the lineup of games it will show off at the 2014 Game Developers Conference next week.

There are 11 games in total, ranging from local multiplayer games that seem a lot like one of the first big Ouya hits TowerFall Ascension, to more experimental projects like That Dragon, Cancer.

Except for Double Fine’s Broken Age, which was already released on PC, all the games below are exclusive to Ouya.

Toto Temple Deluxe

Developed by Juicy Beast, Toto Temple Deluxe is a local multiplayer game where up to 4 players must hold on to a goat for as long as possible, while their friends jump and dash around trying to knock it out of their hands. It will launch in April.

Duck Game

Another local multiplayer arena deathmatch game, this time with a large arsenal of weapons.

That Dragon Cancer

That Dragon, Cancer tells the story of the challenges developer Ryan and his wife Amy faced while dealing with their son’s cancer. It will touch on the trials of the experience, as well as the lighter, more hopeful moments. Ryan will not be at GDC because of the recent passing of his son.

Cascade

Developed with the help of a leading Alzheimer’s researcher, Cascade lets players explore interconnected worlds, and is meant to raise awareness of the disease.

Reagan Gorbachev

From the makers of Fist Puncher, Reagan Gorbachev is a top-down brawler and puzzle solving adventure starring the leaders of the United States and Russia during the height of the Cold War.

LAZA KNITEZ!!

Yet another local multiplayer game, this time with interstellar jousting.

Neverending Nightmares

A horror game with a branching narrative inspired by the creator’s own battle with mental illness. It successfully Kickstarted in the fall.

Thralled

Set in 18th-century Brazil, Thralled tells the story of a runaway slave. The GDC demo will be the first that’s been made available to the public.

Broken Age

The Ouya version of Double Fine’s new adventure game, Broken Age. Be sure to check out our review of the PC version.

Whispering Willows

Another 2D horror game, Whispering Willows allows players to switch between human and spirit forms to solve puzzles, connect with ghosts, and avoid danger. The game was first conceived as part of the Ouya Create Game Jam and will be out later this spring.

Knight & Damsel

Sadly, no trailer for this last one. Knight & Damsel is a 2D side-scroller that pits two players in a split-screen race to rescue the other from danger. The knight makes his way toward an evil castle to save the damsel, while the damsel escapes from said castle to save the knight.

While most of these games are exclusive to Ouya, soon you will not need to buy the Ouya microconsole to play them. Last week Ouya announced its Ouya Everywhere initiative, which aims to bring Ouya to set-top boxes, smart TVs, and other devices besides its dedicated $99 microconsole, starting with Mad Catz’s M.O.J.O. microconsole.

Emanuel Maiberg is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @emanuelmaiberg and Google+.
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Date: Saturday, 15 Mar 2014 16:00

If Doom means two things, cocking shotguns and shooting demons, it follows that Wolfenstein, the father of the first-person shooter and Doom's own daddy, can be boiled down to two core elements as well: shooting Nazis, and taking their secret Nazi gold. Wolfenstein: The New Order doesn't forget this. In the game's prologue, which runs for just over an hour, you'll gun down Nazis in a grey stone castle, find a secret room behind a portrait on the wall, and plunder Nazi treasure for extra points. Developer MachineGames isn't just making an old-school shooter here; it's making an old-school Wolfenstein game.

Wolfenstein 3D was far more challenging than today's over-the-top shooters. BJ Blazkowicz featured as the barrel-chested hero on the front of the box, shooting a giant gun at the roof (for some reason) and kicking a Nazi in the face. The image misrepresented the actual experience. You were a prisoner of war, escaping from a castle's cell with nothing but a knife, and subsisting on leftover chicken drumsticks and bowls of dog food. If you were very low on health, you could even drink human blood off the floor to feel a bit better. Sure, you eventually found that giant gun from the front of the box, but the sense of tension that persisted as every bright blue door creaked open stemmed from your inherent vulnerability.

Blazkowicz returns as the other end of your gun arm in The New Order, and he still isn't the kind of bullet sponge other modern shooter protagonists feel like. Cover is important; you cannot expect to pop up and absorb some incoming fire as you take down Nazis in a one-man war of attrition. You need to be smart, think about your positioning, and lean as much as possible. Not only does The New Order allow you to automatically peek around or over cover by aiming down the sights, but it lets you manually lean in any direction: sideways, upwards, diagonally, and even down. After a couple of minutes, using this leaning mechanic becomes second nature, and offers enhanced situational awareness and protection without the need for sticky cover.

You'll need to use this lean mechanic often, because Blazkowicz's health regenerates only a small portion, so you'll be relying on health and armour pickups to stay alive. Compared to shooters with completely regenerating health, this fundamentally changes the way you approach combat. Every time you peek around a corner to shoot a Nazi, his helmet falls off, and you can pick up that helmet to restore your own armour. It's a simple, satisfying flow: kill enemies, take their stuff, live longer.

Even the enemy dogs help out here. Remember them from Wolfenstein 3D--the German shepherds that did their best to bite your face off? Those loveable little hounds are back. This time, they're wearing body armour, which you can pick up and wear after you kill them. And if you come across their bowls of dog food in the castle, you can eat the food to restore your health.

Let's recap: BJ Blazkowicz, the protagonist of Wolfenstein: The New Order, runs around killing dogs, wearing dog armour, and eating dog food. If Wolfenstein 3D's Blazkowicz was a bloodsucking cannibal, The New Order paints him as a maniac.

BJ Blazkowicz, the protagonist of Wolfenstein: The New Order, runs around killing dogs, wearing dog armour, and eating dog food.

I don't think we're supposed to look at this stuff too closely. I don't think we're supposed to ask where Blazkowicz keeps all his guns and grenades (probably tucked away in his new, massive neck). It's old-school in the way that early first-person shooters were abstract enough that such questions never felt pertinent. Take the new perks system. The more silent takedowns you perform with a knife, the closer you get to unlocking the ability to throw a knife. The more knives you throw, the more you can carry. There are multiple perk trees that feed multiple play styles, with new abilities earned by simply continuing to play in aggressive or stealthy fashions.

But the plot of The New Order isn't abstract, so I do think we're supposed to go along with it. The whole setup is ridiculous. The castle Blazkowicz is infiltrating is the fortress of a Nazi general named Deathshead, a scenery-chewing cartoon villain, if the name didn't already give that away. The castle's walls are protected by robot dogs and giant mechanical gun platforms. Deep in the castle's bowels, Deathshead performs human experiments in an attempt to create a kind of mechanical supersoldier. This could easily be the plot of a 1990s first-person shooter--and I'm OK with that! I'm down with ridiculous. But I can't tell if The New Order is as comfortable with itself as I would be, because it suffers from a wildly inconsistent tone.

Over-the-top action sequences are followed by grizzled, noir-esque narration--poetic musings from Blazkowicz on the Nazis' cruelty, or memories of a better civilian life. You can throw a grenade to play fetch with a robot dog, after it devours your fellow soldiers in a gory display of gibs. Later in the story, you'll need to interrogate a Nazi officer. Your first instinct will be to pick up the chainsaw on the workbench, which results in a hilarious onscreen prompt that reads "You need splatter protection."

The New Order seems like it's trying to be Inglourious Basterds, mixing dark, absurd humour with even darker ultraviolence. If the prologue is any indication, I'm not sure MachineGames has enough Tarantino in it to pull this off. But the lows of an inconsistent tone didn't detract from the game's first hour of first-person shooting highs.

The lows of an inconsistent tone didn't detract from the game's first hour of first-person shooting highs.

As the prologue concludes and the plot jumps forward to 1960, the Nazis have spread their robotic death machines all over the world. I feel like I know where this is going: a showdown with mecha-Hitler. We asked Bethesda if the robo-Fuhrer would be making an appearance in The New Order, and received a cryptic reply: "Hitler was killed in Wolfenstein 3D and we haven't said anything beyond that about Hitler at this stage." Now, I've heard enough noncommittal PR responses to know how to read between the lines and see the lack of an outright denial. I'm not sure how you could get any more old-school than a showdown with Hitler in a mech suit. MachineGames, bring it on.

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Date: Saturday, 15 Mar 2014 15:00

Why is Sonic wearing a scarf? What's with all the bandages? When did Knuckles start working out? These questions and many more were on the lips of Sonic the Hedgehog fans worldwide when longtime game developer Sega unveiled Sonic Boom earlier this year. The announcement described Sonic Boom as taking place in a parallel universe to the existing Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, complete with its own cartoon series, children's toys, and two new video games for the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS, respectively. Sega was also quick to point out that Sonic Boom is not a replacement for the existing Sonic. Instead, think of it as a complement in the same way the Ultimate Marvel series complements Marvel comics, or Mega Man Legends complements Mega Man.

The announcement also included a new look for Sonic and some of his friends, a look that took the Internet completely by surprise. Love 'em or hate 'em, these new designs are what Bob Rafei and his team at developer Big Red Button have been obsessing over for the past three years. Armed with over two decades of game-making experience, Rafei has brought together a team of industry veterans hailing from the likes of Naughty Dog, Heavy Iron, and High Impact Games to tackle the Herculean undertaking. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Rafei about walking the razor's edge between paying tribute and being unique, and about giving the blue blur a fresh coat of paint.

When Sega approached Big Red Button three years ago with Sonic Boom, the young team leapt at the opportunity. According to Rafei, Big Red Button was founded specifically to create character-focused action games, and Sonic Boom was exactly the sort of high-profile project his team needed to prove itself. The idea to make it a parallel universe with a unique style was decided early on; however, the decision on how this new style would look did not come as easily. "We went pretty wide with the designs at first, and by going too wide, we lost some of the spirit of the character and had to rein it in," said Rafei. "Sonic Team and Sega were very open-minded about our approach, and accepting of a lot of things we were doing. Ultimately, because of some of our really wacky ideas, we did find the boundaries of things we could and couldn't do."

"We experimented with different colors and surface features on the characters, such as fur or scales, and quickly Sonic Team came back with their discomfort of that. They were great guardrails for us to understand when we were deviating too far from the character. Without their input, the character would have been a lot more alien and different from what Sonic is known for." Discomfort may be putting things mildly, particularly in the case of Takashi Iizuka, the current head of Sega's Sonic Team in Japan. As Rafei recalled, "Early on, when we had our first review of all the crazy things we wanted to try, Iizuka-san came down to Los Angeles and looked through all the different concepts."

"I felt sorry for the guy because sometimes he couldn't actually look at the screen--it was too traumatic seeing all the crazy stuff we wanted to do. Over the course of that meeting, when we were coming up with new ideas, we had a very sincere--just two adults talking--conversation about why a character should or should not wear pants, and that was a very surreal moment in my life and my career," Rafei continued. "But it helped us understand the rules of clothing in this universe. Any small adjustment went a very long way, so we had to be very careful."

As Rafei and his team continued to refine their designs for Sonic and his friends, they were forced to ask themselves many of the same questions that have been bandied about the Internet in the weeks after Sonic Boom's announcement. With four Crash Bandicoot and four Jak and Daxter games under his belt, Rafei is confident in his ability to bring a strong group of characters to life, and feels his team did an excellent job of solving the puzzle of Sonic Boom's design. So, what were those questions the team--and consequently the entire Internet--were asking?

When did Knuckles start working out?

Because they were giving Sonic a new look, Rafei knew they would be attracting people who had possibly never heard of--or knew little about--Sonic the Hedgehog. With that in mind, there was one thing above all others that was most important about these designs: the silhouettes. "It's really important for me to make sure when you have an ensemble of characters that they all have distinct shapes so you can quickly [internalize] the variety between them. With that comes a quick understanding on who these characters are. That's why, for instance, we requested to beef up Knuckles, to make him look more like the bruiser he is."

What's the deal with all the sports tape?

"From my perspective, it was important the characters have a practical heroism to them and not vanity, which is more fitting for villains. The arm and leg wraps were inspired by fighters and American football players--two groups who don't really care what they look like so long as the end result is that they kick ass at what they do. That was something I wanted associated with these characters. The sports tape is meant to show the characters are not vain; it's just a part of their daily routine. When the world is in jeopardy, you don't have time to worry about what you look like. It's a more grounded approach for the characters.

"This is in contrast to Eggman and his very formal, military-esque attire. That's a very conscious design choice because his character is more vain and is very concerned with what his robots look like and what he looks like. Hopefully you can see the thought that went into this and not just something we threw out for the sake of it."

Why is Sonic wearing a scarf?

"The bandanna also raised a lot of eyebrows, and for me this is another action adventure trope. It comes from the lone ranger, the cowboy, even the snowboarder archetypes--it's all practical as a requirement against the elements. It's kind of ingrained now in our consciousness what an action adventure character should wear, and we experimented with different items, and the bandanna really resonated with us. It comes down to a practical need of the character adventuring and not vanity."

Is Sonic Boom anything like classic Sonic?

"Ultimately, we wanted to make sure [Sonic Boom] didn't conflict with what was in canon; we wanted to reinforce it. For example, my inspiration, along with the rest of the art team's, comes from a lot of Miyazaki, Disney, and Pixar films, so we wanted to dive into some archetypal things for the environment--specifically nature versus industry. When you see more of the village and of the environments we've built, you'll see their lushness and organic quality, and that's really important to establish early on. Not only is it canon, but subliminally you want to protect that [natural beauty]. Then, when you see the robots and machinery associated with the villains, it becomes a very archetypal conflict that just fits right into the Sonic universe."

Doctor Eggman's formal attire was designed to play up his vanity, as opposed to the more practical garb of Sonic and friends.
"When you go with a stylized game the silhouette is so important, and legacy Sonic has such a recognizable silhouette that we didn't want to mess with it too much."

As the video game industry gets older, these sorts of updates and redesigns are inevitable. Styles change, techniques are refined, and what's in vogue today could be gone tomorrow. However, as Rafei noted, if you approach this challenge with the right attitude, it doesn't have to be a negative thing. "Change just for the sake of change is not a worthy goal by itself and not as impactful as change that serves a greater purpose. For Sonic Boom, this revision was based on enhancing the epic adventure story. We want Sonic fans new and old to instantly recognize the team's individual [strengths], and we didn't want Tails, Knuckles, and Amy to feel subordinate to Sonic, either in visual appeal, personality, or, most importantly, gameplay.

"No other entertainment medium evolves as fast as the gaming industry. The very platforms where games are experienced can look radically different in 10 years or less. This rapid evolution really lends itself to experimentation with classic and iconic titles. Legacy characters--especially ones that are generational--are natural candidates for this varied, stylistic approach. How many shades of Batman have we seen in the 75 years?" And, for that matter, how many different shades of Sonic--from classic to modern to werehog--have we seen since his initial debut back in the early 90's? The fact that this speedy hedgehog still warrants such attention after so many years is a testament to the support and dedication of his fans, and that's something to be celebrated, even if Knuckles had to get a lot bulkier along the way.

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Date: Saturday, 15 Mar 2014 14:11

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD will release on PC via Steam later this month, Konami has announced.

Konami said that the game’s enormous boss fights will be brought to “vivid life” in the PC version’s HD presentation. The PC version will also include online leaderboards, a Boss Rush Mode, and Steam Achievements.

Mirror of Fate originally launched exclusively for the 3DS in March 2013, while the updated HD version came to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in October of that year. The game introduces Trevor and Simon Belmont and mixes platforming and action gameplay. Konami has yet to announce a price, but Mirror of Fate was released for $15 on other platforms.

For more on Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD, check out our review, which found it to be a great improvement over the original 3DS release.

Emanuel Maiberg is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @emanuelmaiberg and Google+.
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com
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Date: Saturday, 15 Mar 2014 13:12

Sony has announced that it is raising the price of the PlayStation 4 in Canada from CAD $400 to $450 in order “to respond to changes in the market environment.” The higher price is in effect starting today.

“The PlayStation 4 computer entertainment system delivers phenomenal play experiences that will shape the world of games for years to come and has quickly become the next gen console of choice with gamers in Canada,” Sony said in a statement. “To respond to changes in the market environment, the price of PlayStation 4 will be revised from CAD $399.99 to $449.99 MSRP [manufacturer's suggested retail price].”

Sony didn’t say that it changed the price because of the declining value of the Canadian dollar compared to the American dollar, but at the current exchange rate CAD $449.99 is equal to around USD $405, which is just about what the console costs in the United Stated.

Sony also said that Infamous: Second Son and MLB 14: The Show, two PlayStation exclusives, will release at the higher price of CAD $70.

A Microsoft representative has told the The Financial Post that the company is not raising the price of the Xbox One in Canada, which will stay at CAD $500.

Earlier in the week we reported that the PS4 led US hardware sales in February, but only by a narrow margin.

Emanuel Maiberg is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @emanuelmaiberg and Google+.
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com
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