Gravity Ghost Review

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Childhood is terrifying. Childhood is beautiful. Childhood is full of wonder. And childhood is marked by the continual loss of innocence that comes with each new year. Learning that the unexplored experiences which is exciting and enticing could kill you is part of growing up; as is learning that there are consequences to all of our actions no matter how pure our intentions may be. Those are heavy themes for adults to handle, let alone children, but they rest at the core of delightful platformer Gravity Ghost.

In Gravity Ghost, you control the ghost of Iona, a recently deceased young girl who lives on a secluded island with her two younger sisters and her older sister, Hickory, who became their guardian after the tragic death of their parents. The circumstances leading up to Iona’s death unfurl throughout her story as tensions between her and Hickory arise: she believes that her sister’s fiancé was responsible for their parents’ deaths. You meet Voy, a seemingly tame wolf that Iona has befriended. And you watch Iona retreat deeper and deeper into her own heartache and isolation as the mystery and tension surrounding her death grow.Gravity Ghost combines the aesthetics of Maurice Sendak with the narrative power of classic Don Bluth films like The Secret of NIMH, yet there’s little to compare the game’s overall style to. The art is like the pages of an illustrated children’s book come to life with painstaking details and a beautiful colored-pencils effect, and before the (welcome) heavier elements of the story arrived, I grinned ear to ear at the sincere innocence of it all. But Gravity Ghost is a story about the price of innocence, and it explores guilt and death and family from a child’s point of view without sacrificing clarity of insight and without ever looking down on or being condescending towards the perspective of its young star. Gravity Ghost operates on pure empathy, and the story’s denouement left me on the verge of tears.Gravity Ghost’s gameplay is also quite good, although it never quite reaches the magnificent heights of the game’s storytelling and art. Gameplay revolves around platforming with a physics twist. You leap back and forth between planetoid objects of varying sizes and manipulate the gravity wells of each object to shoot yourself across the levels. Along the way you collect stars which open the doors to finish each level, and flowers which lengthen ghost Iona’s hair and allow you in turn to collect the ghosts of dead animals and terraform planets. Returning those animal-ghosts to their former bodies also leads to the sublimely animated cutscenes which move the story forward.

This maelstrom will make sense by the end. The variety of celestial objects in the game is a perfect fit for its tight three-hour running time. Gas giants allow you to bounce like a pinball machine. Fire planets propel you high in the sky off their steam. Water planets allow you to dive beneath their surfaces to collect stars and flowers. And gem planets are super-dense with stronger gravity wells than normal. Over the course of the seven constellations–with around 80 or so small levels in total–that make up the game’s campaign, you also gain the ability to terraform the planets from one type to another, which is necessary for solving many of the game’s simple puzzles.Leaping back and forth between the gravity wells to collect the stars and flowers and ghosts and power-ups isn’t always the smoothest experience, but the game gives you a host of tools to circumnavigate most potential sources of frustration, except in timed segments where the looseness of the gravity physics can become aggravating. Despite the looseness of the controls, bouncing and floating between the planets is an oddly Zen experience and it becomes quite soothing before long. It also helps that the soundtrack, from FTL composer Ben Prunty, adds to the game’s strange rejuvenative power.
The worst thing that can be said about Gravity Ghost is that I crave more of it.

Beyond the occasionally frustrating timed segments, the worst thing that can be said about Gravity Ghost is that I crave more of it. The game is short. It took me just over three hours to do a 100-percent run for each star and ghost and power-up. And, once you’ve beaten it, there are few incentives to go back and play again, minus chasing a couple of achievements you wouldn’t think to chase on your first go around. But while Gravity Ghost may be short, it never overstays its welcome. Each constellation is the perfect length, and the game continues to implement new mechanics and kinks into the core gameplay up to the final levels.It’s easy to capture the happiest moments of being a child: friendships, vacations, exploring the vast, uncharted world in front of you. But it’s hard to convey the toughest moments, those moments that we compartmentalize and repress beyond recognition as adults. And it’s especially hard to convey such moments in language and images that both children and adults can appreciate and understand. That Gravity Ghost accomplishes this feat with such seeming ease is a testament to its imagination and its power.

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Titanfall on PC

Dying Light Review

Oh, Dying Light, how I love you. I love the way you let me leap across rooftops and climb tall towers like an acrobat with endless supplies of energy. I love how I can dropkick a zombie and watch its flailing body knock over others like a fleshy bowling ball. I love looking over my shoulder as I run through the darkness, only to see a crowd of undead sprinting towards me, growling hideously and baring their ghastly teeth.

But oh, Dying Light, how you irritate me. I hate you for the gunners that ambushed me as I swam underwater, because there was no way to know how to react until I emerged and discovered that I wasn’t meant to peek my head out–not yet. I hate you for that time you filled the screen with so much haze and bloom during a boss fight that I couldn’t see properly. I hate that sequence when you made me leap from one pole to another, because you made it hard to get a good look at my surroundings, and your button prompts are hardly generous. And I hate these moments most because your systems are strong enough to let the open-world gameplay do the heavy lifting. The harder you try to direct the action, the weaker you become.

Fight or flee? It’s a decision as old as humanity itself.

If you count yourself among the Dead Island fandom, your expectations are already set. You understand developer Techland’s inconsistencies, and you are prepared to disregard the chaff so that you may reap the grain. Dying Light spawns from the same pile of mutated freaks as Dead Island, but it establishes its separate identity early on. The first difference to become clear is in tone: where Dead Island’s story was difficult to take seriously, Dying Light sets the stage for a dark drama with a city overrun with infected victims, and a desperate populace anxious for hospice and aid. There are light touches here and there: you stumble upon The Bites Motel, for instance, and magazine covers and other details offer plenty of sight gags. But you are meant to be fearful and cautious, and you are meant to empathize with the survivors working so hard just to stay alive, let alone thrive.

As a covert operative sent to the city of Harran to recover a secret file, you find yourself in over your head, playing triple agent as you run errands for the city’s two primary factions while radioing information to your agency’s head honcho. Death is always in the air, not just because the infected have overrun the city’s two sizable explorable areas, but because the survivors are so weary, so close to defeat. Dying Light lumbers through one cliche after another, but it’s perfectly palatable: expressive faces and decent voice acting make the story beats and cutscenes worth paying attention to, even when the specifics–the antihero with a heart of gold, the doctor close to discovering a cure, the power-hungry villain–fall solidly within been-there, done-that territory.

In the dark–but never alone.

Dying Light also sets itself apart with its parkour system, which sees you running across the city from a first-person perspective. It takes a short while to get used to climbing onto ledges, which requires you to be looking at them in the proper way. But then it’s off to the races, and you’re running across rooftops and sneering at the zombies below, most of which can’t handle the climb. Rushing through the open world this way is terrific, due to solid (if not quite excellent) controls and well-constructed climbing and leaping paths, particularly in the game’s second half, which takes place in the city’s vertically-minded old town. Even better, the parkour energizes moments of great tension. Far Cry comparisons are easy, given how you unlock a few of the game’s safe houses by climbing tall towers. But the climbing requires more finesse and situational awareness than it does in Far Cry 4, and some of the towers are outrageously tall, making the entire endeavor an anxious exercise in precision.

And tension is yet another aspect of Dying Light that sets it apart from its zombie-game peers. When night falls, particularly dangerous and fast zombies roam the city, and the entire timbre changes. It’s best to circumvent the vision cones of those baddies and avoid direct confrontation, but you’re occasionally mobbed in spite of your careful movement. These undead are more persistent than the Liberty City police department, so the best option is to run, run, run until you lose them. You can hold a button to look behind you and see how close they are, and doing so can be startling when you see the incoming horde. It’s been some time since a zombie game legitimately scared me, but that look-behind-you move reveals some creepy sights. During the day, you scamper around and, occasionally, confront your infected fears. Once the sun has set, you slink and sprint, trying not to catch the deadly eyes of nearby volatiles.

Burn, beautiful zombies, burn.

Throw in a three-pronged upgrade system that makes you stronger and more agile as the game progresses, and you have the foundation of a great game. Alas, Dying Light flounders too often for it to achieve greatness, though it’s poised to develop the same cult following that so many Techland games do. This is a surprisingly long game stuffed with, well, stuff, yet your role for too many hours is to play errand boy–a role so demeaning that even lead character Kyle Crane remarks upon it. Go flip a switch. Go collect crayons, or mushrooms, or coffee. As the first act draws to a close, Dying Light has taken a turn for the worse: each time the game grants you structure, it struggles, to the point where you might wish the gofer quests would return, because the ones that have taken their place are either frustrating slogs, or simply bad ideas.

The slog arises because these simple tasks require you to cover a lot of real estate. As fun as it is to move through Harran, the parkour doesn’t carry the game alone. The other problem with Dying Light’s first half, as dumb as it may sound, is the zombie crowd itself, which is not powerful enough to provide a huge challenge, but is too powerful to wholly ignore. The undead become annoyances–children that wave their arms around and demand attention while the game asks you to once again take to the streets so you can pull a lever.

Firearms are powerful, but it’s best to use them against human foes.

The bad arrives when Dying Light embraces ideas that have an air of cleverness, but have you crying out “what were you thinking?” as implemented. There is the time you quaff a potion intended to temporarily disguise you from the undead, but it reverses your movement controls. And so death might very well ensue depending on when you drink and how quickly you adjust to the surprise. There is the time you descend on a zip line and let the game drop you at the very end of it, only to take a good amount of fall damage. There’s a garbage pile a few feet before the end that you can leap into, but the limited field of view when ziplining, and the general visual bleariness, mean you probably won’t know it’s there until you’ve lost half of your health bar, and you’re cursing Techland for not noticing how these elements don’t quite work together–or worse, for not caring.

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These are just a few examples of the frustrations that set in. Once the second act arrives and you enter old town, however, there’s a moment of revelation when you gaze upon the district and take in its beauty. The slog has been set aside, and excitement for new navigation blossoms. Depending on how you spend the skill points you earn, you gain access to a grappling hook that provides so much stimulation that you wish you’d gained access to it even earlier. Then again, Dying Light gets occasionally lost in “ideas” even in the second half–shooting segments that lack tightness, confrontations with multiple kinds of big baddies that have you flying backwards and getting poisoned simultaneously, and so forth. You’ve got the tools to succeed, at least, even when the fun meter drops: upgradable weapons starting with knives and baseball bats and working up to machetes and ice picks, along with throwables like grenades and molotov cocktails. Those weapons degrade quickly, but there are more of them scattered around than you will ever need.

When night falls, particularly dangerous and fast zombies roam the city, and the entire timbre changes.

Dying Light succeeds when it remains confident in its systems. The combat isn’t as fulfilling as it is in Dead Island–you won’t be breaking any arms–but out in that wild world, you aren’t meant to wade into the horde anyhow. What drives the action is the promise of discovery and self-improvement. There are locks to pick and supplies to nab before the opposing faction gets to them. The balconies harbor new people to meet, who share their stories if you stick around long enough to hear them. When a zombie or six draw near, you swipe, kick, and bash until the blood is flying and the grunts are silenced, and you can return to your pillaging. Dying Light most often approaches greatness when it allows you to improvise your own tune instead of clumsily trying to conduct the entire orchestra.

That a game of such wild fluctuations can still give rise to so much fun speaks well of its high points. Those peaks rise even higher when other players are involved, and you have a few friends (up to three) join you, distracting the speedy virals while you take care of a ground-pounding beast swinging his giant hammer around. Competitive zombie invasions are liable to have you tensing your muscles even further invasions when they turn the game into a nighttime arena. This is Be the Zombie mode, and while using your tentacle to grapple your way around as a zombie is enjoyable, it is the tension you feel as a hunted human that makes these moments stand out. You can tweak your setting to allow or disallow these sudden multiplayer matches, and there’s no shame in wanting to explore without distraction. But if Dying Light’s nighttime pressures appeal to you, allowing zombie attacks further extends that drama.

I am rooting for Dying Light’s success, even as I shake my head at its avoidable foibles. I understand it, I get it, and so I find pleasure in it even as it disappoints me, even when I land between a fence and a rocky cliff and get stuck there, even when I don’t grab a ledge or pole after a jump for reasons that I can’t quite understand. My dearest Dying Light, I am so grateful for your specialness, for it shines through even when I am prepared to damn you to hell.

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Life is Strange, Episode One Review

“It was a dark and stormy night.” So wrote novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, creating the writing cliche to end all cliches, and inadvertently describing Life is Strange’s opening scene. There’s also a lighthouse in this scene, that old signaler of melodrama to come, rising above you amid the falling rain. The torrential imagery bookends the first episode of this five-part adventure, but most of the drama is of the teenage type. There are snotty girls to contend with, and privileged jocks accustomed to people bending to their will. Students fuss passive-aggressively on social media, and older adults are either mentors or bullies. This is the world seen through a young adult’s eyes, a world in which every sight, sound, and whisper is full of life-ending, life-making meaning.

The particular young adult you play is Max Caulfield–no relation to The Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield it would seem, though Life is Strange’s references are not subtle, so I presume that Max’s similarities to her namesake are not accidental. Like Holden, Max attends a private school, though her primary interest is photography and not football or fencing. She’s back in her Oregon hometown to attend school after spending the last several years in Seattle, where life wasn’t quite what she had imagined. “When we would play pirates in our room and in the woods, it seemed like Seattle was that fabled faraway island of treasure and adventure that we were always seeking. With coffee shops,” writes Max in her diary. “But Seattle wasn’t like a fable.”

The art style has a haze to it, as if the game is a memory.

As it turns out, life at Blackwell Academy isn’t idyllic, either. After a stern lecture by her photography professor, Max wanders through the school’s halls to the bathroom. She’s out of sorts: she had what seemed to be a nightmare in class–that dark-and-stormy-night scenario that began the game, and which showed a tornado roaring towards the town. As Max, you walk past blue lockers covered with posters that admonish students not to text and drive, and comment silently to yourself about the classmates you pass. When Max plugs earbuds into her ears, you hear the light indie-rock you imagine an angsty teen from the Pacific Northwest might listen to–the kind that plays when you enter a Starbucks. This may not be your reality, but it is easy to believe is it Max’s. The themes and characters are familiar, in any case: the aloof school principal, the quiet religious girl, and the anxiety of being called on in class when you don’t know the answer.

Well, there is one aspect that is decidedly unreal: you can rewind time. You discover your special skill during your restroom visit, when a heated confrontation between a psychopathic rich kid and the girl that confronts him ends with a bullet in the young woman’s abdomen. In that moment, you reach out to help and time quickly zips back to minutes before, when you are still in class. Now you know the answers when Prof. Jefferson asks you. Now you can tell him what he wants to hear about the photography contest he wants you to enter. And now you have a chance to save an old friend’s life.


Don’t like how she reacts? Rewind time and do it again!

Time reversal is Life is Strange’s most unique element, but also its most problematic. The game is rooted in the adventure formula that has made Telltale Games’s Walking Dead series so popular. You walk around the environments, interacting with people and objects, and making choices during dialogue that turn the story in a particular direction. “This action will have consequences,” the game tells you, and you then wonder about the potential consequences, and mentally note them when they occur. After a single episode, it is hard to tell how intervening when a security officer is harassing a student will shift the future, but should you not like the immediate reaction, you just rewind a bit and do it over again. It’s a nifty effect at first, but the rewind as a whole undermines one of the formula’s most treasured elements: ownership of your decisions.

Granted, there are limitations, so you can’t return to the moment of truth when a consequence becomes apparent hours later. But undoing a line of dialogue because a classmate reacts poorly to you diminishes the choice’s power. I rarely sweated my decisions, because I could just try again until I landed on the one I liked best. I suspect that I may come to regret seemingly easy choices when more episodes are released and the repercussions play out. For now, however, I don’t feel much ownership of Max; In The Wolf Among Us, it was clear that I was playing my Bigby, but after a single episode of Life is Strange, Max isn’t my Max–she’s just Max.

Someone needs a Xanax.

The rewind mechanic also allows for a few light puzzles. When you rewind time you keep what you have recently picked up, and of course, you have new information you didn’t have before. As a result, you might be able to perform new actions and have new conversations. Rewinding only affects the people and events surrounding you; you remain in place, with any items you may carry, while time retreats everywhere else. In this sense, rewinding your surroundings is like fast-forwarding your own body. You can avoid falling objects, for instance, by rewinding time, moving forward, and resetting time with you further ahead than when you started. Annoyingly, however, Life is Strange breaks its own time-bending rules when it suits the narrative. When you first discover your skill, for instance, you are moved back into your classroom seat, and do not remain in the bathroom. Developer Dontnod has its cake, and eats it too.

Inconsistencies of time reversal aside, Life is Strange is an involving slice of life that works because its situations eloquently capture a peculiar early-college state of mind. Some of the characterizations are too on-the-nose: of course Max’s rebellious friend Chloe smokes weed and talks back to her stepfather, because that’s what rebellious teens do, and of course that stepfather is an ex-military authoritarian with a buzzcut and a bad temper. This is storytelling shorthand, but much of it rings beautifully true. When Max is reunited with Chloe, the tension chokes the air: Chloe feels abandoned and angry at being left behind when Max moved, and at being ignored when Max returned to town. Max doesn’t necessarily have answers for all of her choices, only apologies. These interactions can break your heart specifically because you might have had such conversations yourself. The performances, especially those of the actresses that play Max and Chloe, amplify the laughs, the groans, and the tears in equal measure, even when the dialogue takes a clumsy turn. (As it does, for instance, when you meet Blackwell’s creepy janitor.)

Victoria is not a nice person, but you can always kill her with kindness.

Life is Strange sets the stage for later conflict, foreshadowing the storm to come and informing you of a young local woman gone missing. At the same time, the game makes everyone look like a guilty party. The rich frat boy with a gun, the smug school administrator, the stepdad in need of anger management skills–these and other characters have plenty to hide, though it’s impossible to guess what all their secrets might be. The looming tornado and the inconsistent time mechanic seem almost unnecessary as a result, for Life is Strange’s most important drama is the one developing in Max’s own mind.

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Grim Fandango Remastered Review

In video games, some trends go out of style, and old stand-bys are cast aside when better alternatives are discovered. Some elements of art are timeless, however. Language and culture may change, but empathetic characters and great stories never fade from fashion. Grim Fandango has always stood tall as one of the PC adventure greats, and the deft storytelling and warm humor that made it so inviting remain evergreen.

You can thank Manny Calavera for that warmth, which may come as a surprise given that he’s cold and buried. Manny is a travel agent in the land of the dead, where he suffers the arrogance of a cocksure co-worker and the disrespectful gaze of a corrupt boss. They’re all skeletons–most dead people are, of course–but they’re more human than most video game characters. As Manny flees his job in pursuit of the beautiful and skinless client who has captured his heart, he surrounds himself with an eclectic array of kooks, including the obese and naive Glottis, a demon mechanic prone to betting on cat races. “The doctors made me promise I wouldn’t do it any more,” he says, when Manny confronts him. “But they can’t get in the high roller’s lounge, now can they?”

Underworld noir.

Glottis is Manny’s closest friend, but there’s room in his life for other demons–and more than a few souls who have wandered off the four-year path to the ninth underworld. This is Mictlan, the afterlife through the eyes of the Aztecs, who envisioned that path as being filled with deadly obstacles like winds made of razor-sharp blades. Manny encounters obstacles (this is a puzzle-adventure, after all), but few are quite as deadly as knife-wind, though there are dangerous flaming beavers to contend with. In its illustrations, the holy Codex Borgia depicts Mictlan as teeming with surreal wildlife and grotesque deities; Grim Fandango looks to Mexican celebration Dia de Muertos for its primary artistic inspiration, however. It’s as if Manny and his skeletal friends have leapt from a José Guadalupe Posada drawing, or perhaps just escaped a particularly joyous Day of the Dead celebration.

You needn’t know about Grim Fandango’s cultural significance to grow attached to its characters. Every situation is steeped in humor, but the chuckles rarely come at anyone’s expense. The game is both funny and gentle: even the most mercurial residents of this world are allowed their dignity, and the adventure is better for it. Glottis may be good for some lighthearted comedy, but he’s not the butt of the joke; when he tells Manny, “I don’t want to be a pianist any more. I’m a mechanic,” it’s hard not to be moved. It’s a fitting tone, considering how Dia de Muertos invites us to celebrate those that have passed by remembering how they made us laugh. Manny’s surname itself refers both to actual skulls as well as to humorous poems that honor the dead, which makes a scene in which he attempts a bit of beat poetry particularly wonderful. (“My teeth… Everythingness. Or is it? I am your failure. Ske-bee bop, bop! Ske-bee bop, bop! Woman? The phone is for you.”)

What happens in Rubacava stays in Rubacava.

But what about the play? Returning to an old game can make you appreciate advancements that have since come. Playing Grim Fandango Remastered, however, might make you wonder why point-and-click adventures didn’t more frequently crib from its pages. You do not swipe a cursor around, hunting for interactive objects. Instead, you steer Manny directly using either the original’s tank controls or an updated scheme in which Manny moves in the direction you push, and his bony head turns to look at the people he can speak with and the things he can collect as you pass them. (The PC version of the remaster comes with a point-and-click scheme, but Grim Fandango is at its most personal when you use direct controls.) It’s a lovely solution to a genre-wide design issue, yet so uncommon that it feels utterly fresh. The game’s inventory management is equally brilliant: Manny reaches into his suit jacket and cycles through each item one at a time. There is no laborious item combining within the inventory screen, and developer Double Fine never allows Manny’s jacket to become overstuffed with doodads.

That means that the focus can remain on the puzzles themselves, almost all of which make absolute sense within this world. It may sound silly, but in context, it makes absolute sense that you would scare away pigeons by fooling them into pecking an inflated balloon animal. If you get stuck, it’s not because you aren’t following a ridiculous line of logic that no reasonably smart person could guess. No–chances are you haven’t explored thoroughly enough, or Double Fine actually managed to fool you with a red herring, such as one involving a loaf of ceremonial bread and an old-fashioned pneumatic tube.

That isn’t to say Grim Fandango doesn’t harbor its minor annoyances. It’s easy, for instance, to walk into that elevator in Rubacava by accident when you wander too close and descend to ground level, only to have to get back in and rise again to the top. More relevant is the remastering itself, which might leave you disappointed in light of the dramatic visual transformations we see in remakes like Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty!, or remasters like Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. You can see the differences between the old version and the remaster with a click of a button, and you’ll note that environments and cutscenes haven’t changed in any meaningful way. Granted, Grim Fandango’s background art remains vibrant, but the new, smooth character models and shadows sometimes look out of place as a result. I often found myself sticking with the original models just because they looked more natural in front of the low-resolution backgrounds.

No more picking up sailors for Manny.

There is a significant bright side if you are interested in video game archival, however: developer commentary. It’s an all-too-rare treat, and one that belongs in any remaster, of which there have lately been too many to count. Of course, it helps that Grim Fandango lead developer Tim Schafer is so good-natured when sharing his memories, but the commentary is endlessly entertaining, whether the Double Fine team is cracking jokes about dulce de membrillo (would have thought that a brief story about quince cheese would be so silly and sweet?) or waxing serious about the Red Scare. The director’s commentary is a standard DVD and Blu-Ray feature, which makes the scarcity of video game commentary all the more disheartening, particularly when remasters, remakes, and reimaginings are de rigeur.

Grim Fandango’s greatest triumph, however, is that you needn’t overflow with nostalgia to appreciate its greatness. There is only this boisterous world and the unionized bee-demons that inhabit it, which you see through the eyes of one Manny Calavera, an everyday hero that has rightfully earned a place in video game history. Even if you don’t know what happens at the end of the line, you’re guaranteed to enjoy the trip.

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Switch Galaxy Ultra Review

Life’s not easy when you’re a wannabe Lothario and rogue but your day job is being the galaxy’s most reliable (and poorly behaved) freight hauler. Sure, you get to kick up your boots in some of the most disreputable dive bars on the galaxy’s outer ring, and you could cut the sexual tension between you and your boss–a wealthy and nearly immortal shipping magnate–with a butter knife, but you also have to push your freighter at breakneck speeds through the galaxy’s most congested shipping lanes and protect your bounty from greedy pirates and even greedier tax men. But, hey… it’s a living.

These are the worlds and emotions and possibilities shimmering on the surface of Switch Galaxy Ultra, a hyperkinetic arcade racer from British developer Atomicom Limited. And though the tantalizing backgrounds and universe that the game inhabits are never fully capitalized on, SGU takes you on a top-speed adventure with the potential to be a welcome retro throwback. Unfortunately, troubling glitches and repetition keep it from crossing its own finish line.

SGU follows the adventures of Vince Vance, a less charming version of Han Solo who needs a little dough after a fight in an alien casino. Luckily, his old job running freight for the Dakur Corporation, one of the galaxy’s biggest enterprises, is waiting for him, and Vince sets out with his ship to collect and deliver Tantalum–the game’s sci-fi technobabble plot mover–over the packed and busy interstellar highways that are his home away from home.

Aside from short interludes throughout the rest of the campaign that have no narrative connection to one another, that’s all the story there is in SGU. The game begins on a beautifully drawn if unimaginatively written series of comic book pages that introduce the game’s universe, and rare and very short comic book pages add more flavor to the universe later without providing any sort of overarching story. SGU provides the groundwork for a potential twist on the space trucking trope and then fails to go anywhere with it.

All of SGU’s attention after those lavishly drawn comic book pages is placed on its core racing mechanics, which are, fortunately, as solid as it gets. SGU’s core gameplay should be familiar to anyone who’s played games like Audiosurf or Amplitude. You control a ship on progressively larger and more complicated tracks, and input is limited to acceleration, braking, and switching lanes. Multi-colored barriers, broken track sections, and other long-haul space truckers are all obstacles to clearing a record-fast run. A mini-game is also included at the halfway point of each track to collect Tantalum, which is used to unlock new levels, and any collisions with barriers after Tantalum is collected causes you to lose pieces of Tantalum from that level.

When SGU sticks to its simple but elegant racing, it can be a blast. Over the course of the campaign (over 50 levels), new obstacles and bonuses and mechanics are introduced at a steady pace. You can hit boost pads to kick your acceleration to supersonic speeds. You can pick up colored orbs that allow you free passage through a specific number of barriers of that color without being slowed down or losing your Tantalum. Bombs are placed in the track that you can activate by colliding with them, which in turn wipes out whole sections of barriers. Enemies slowly arrive and bomb the track and can slow your ship down with explosions or cause your controls to be inverted, which is a particularly nasty trick when you’re moving so fast that your brain, eyes, and fingers must be totally in synch not to crash.

Nailing the most brutal slaloms requires a Jedi-like focus, and the only immediately comparable sense of achievement is nailing the rhythm of the toughest riffs from tracks in the Guitar Hero or Rock Band games. If you have the game’s best ship with maxed-out stats (which is easy and happens well before you reach the final level), you will whip around stages like a stunt driver in a Fast and the Furious film, and you will feel totally in tune with your ship and the game’s environments. Later stages are hallucinatory with their labyrinthine structures of barriers and the narrow passageways that you can survive in. The effect of the blur of colors and the focus required to navigate these levels are hypnotic, and when I stopped playing the game, my vision continued to tilt and swirl like the rollercoaster tracks I had just conquered.

The game’s difficulty is a steady curve from challenging to masochistic, but it’s too easy to simply ignore the challenges that the game asks you to overcome. Collected Tantalum is used to unlock later levels, and there’s an assumption in the game that you’ll progress through until you reach gated-off levels and return to early levels to collect the required Tantalum needed to progress. But it becomes apparent early on that acquiring Tantalum is childishly easy. Tantalum can only be lost in the second half of the tracks, and the speed with which you finish a track does not factor into level progression. So, once Tantalum is acquired, there’s little reason (beyond personal pride) to push yourself to race through the second half of tracks at your best speed. Instead, it’s much easier and more efficient to just hold down the brake and cruise through, ensuring that you don’t lose any precious resources.

And that’s especially problematic because it turns the end game into a repetitive, mindless bore. You will need nearly all of the game’s Tantalum–10 pieces can be collected per level–to finish the game’s campaign, and, while backtracking is kept to a minimum at the beginning and middle, by the end of the game, if you liked to try to push yourself on your first runs throughout the campaign, you will have to return to almost every level you visited picking up those remaining pieces of Tantalum you dropped. It’s not a stretch to say that over half the time I spent with SGU involved backtracking to earlier levels.

While the tracks themselves–especially the later ones–are massive, the game recycles most of its environmental assets more times than I could keep track of. The first time you see the imposing and highly detailed space station/city that marks the end of your laps, the sense of scale it creates is daunting and eye-opening. When you see it 50 more times, it loses its wonder, and the same goes for the asteroids, planets, and space stations that dot your journeys.

Performing well in missions earns you credits that can be spent to upgrade your ship and buy new ones. And returning to early levels with a stacked ride is entertaining, as you travel so fast and your ship is so tough that hitting a barrier here or there becomes as meaningful as a fly running into the windshield of a semi. They barely slow you down. But there aren’t enough progression options to fill out the game’s sluggish end, and by the time I reached the last group of levels, I’d amassed a fortune in credits because I’d run out of meaningful things to spend money on.

While SGU lays the groundwork for a strange and unique sci-fi universe, perhaps it’s for the best that there isn’t more traditional narrative. When SGU’s writing isn’t simply reading like Star Trek techno-nonsense, it can feel downright offensive. The game’s humor is sophomoric at best, and alien characters come off as unfortunate appropriations of real-world cultures, including your sultry and clearly Russian boss and a smug alien in a dive bar that reeks of awful Hispanic stereotypes. With some cheap titillation in the art on a planet with naked alien priestesses, SGU tosses casual misogyny into its grab bag of cheap writing.

If you’re willing to block out the story and to seek out the challenges that SGU provides too many ways to avoid, a deceptively fun and enticing arcade racer is there for the taking. The game is available for cross-buy for both the Vita and the PS4, and, while even the solid racing charms don’t survive long play sessions, it’s not hard to imagine being on a plane or on a bus and finding myself taking the chance to shave a couple more seconds off another breakneck run.

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Nosgoth Review

By name alone, Legacy of Kain brings up a host of fond memories. Whether those recollections star the vampire Kain as he faces the Circle of Nine, or Raziel, who rose from death to seek vengeance, the series is often held in high esteem. So, the revelation that the first game to return to the universe after more than 10 years is an online-only, free-to-play competitive action game comes as, well, unexpected. Nosgoth steps far out of Kain’s shadow, using its lore as a backdrop for a fast-paced, class-focused vampire-on-human multiplayer gore fest that is mostly entertaining, even though the excitement gets dragged down by shoddy matchmaking obstacles and irritating bugs.

The chord it strikes is similar to 2007’s Shadowrun, not just in design but also in how it approaches its narrative. Canonically, it’s meant to bridge the 500-year gap during the opening scenes of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, but takes a perfunctory approach to its storytelling; realistically, Nosgoth is merely a spinoff. There are, however, casual reminders here and there that Legacy of Kain, plus Soul Reaver and its protagonist Raziel, are Nosgoth’s inspiration. Raziel’s ruined clan, represented by the disfigured sentinel class, is all that remains of his flying kin. And it isn’t difficult to spot the enormous statue of a pre-crispy Raziel who stands watch over the chaotic human-on-vampire battles in The Fane, a map comprised of white marble and accented by gold leaf and torches burning with blue flame. Beyond the theme and the few hints and winks, however, little else of the Legacy of Kain fiction is found in Nosgoth.Issues with the story aside, it concerns me that Nosgoth would follow Shadowrun’s lead, especially considering that the path Shadowrun ventured down didn’t end with much success. Nosgoth even goes so far as to mimic some of Shadowrun’s own mimicry of the Counter-Strike formula, with matches consisting of two rounds, in which you start on the human or vampire team of four players each, and then get swapped to the other side once a necessary goal is met. But, thankfully, the similarities stop there, as Nosgoth primarily revolves around its team deathmatch modes, focusing on classes and team dynamics rather than using acquired cash to purchase weapons, gear, or special abilities between rounds. In team deathmatch, the winning side is determined after stacking up the total kills–with a maximum of 30 per session–acquired by each team during the ten-minute rounds.Battles set in the eponymous dark-fantasy setting of Nosgoth are tense, energetic, and often wildly entertaining. Nosgoth leans heavily on the team element as an unconditional imperative. A single human, who spends the majority of a match nervously scanning rooftops and corners for movement, doesn’t stand much chance when paired up against a physically dominating vampire. But likewise, a vampire stumbling alone into a group of quick-witted humans will rapidly find himself, for once, at the bottom of the food chain.

Special weapons with unique properties are gifted from time to time. The vampire hunters are armed with technology and cunning, facing down their bloodsucking rivals with arrows and blades, snaring them with spells, and damaging them with deadly traps. But technology isn’t enough; victory requires diversity. A team composed mostly of scouts, a sniping class, is powerless once the vampires get within mauling range. The scout’s abilities are supplemented by a hunter class, which uses a crossbow for mid-range battles, and handy bolas, in normal and poison varieties, to temporarily restrain an enemy. Just as useful is the alchemist, who uses her launcher to lob explosive projectiles onto the heads of vampires hiding on rooftops, while utilizing an array of volatile chemical concoctions, such as vials of combustible liquid that erupt in a wall of flame, or containers filled with sunlight, which temporarily blinds oncoming bad guys. What vampires lack in the technology of their mortal foes, they make up for in strength and incredible athletic prowess, making them an absolute blast to play. Unlike the gravity challenged humans, vampires can climb buildings and walls, stalking their prey and planning strikes from unseen heights. The deft reaver is able to leap far into the air, pouncing on his prey and slashing with metal claws. But maybe you prefer strength over speed; the imposing tyrant, muscle-bound and armed with abilities that allow him to charge through and knock over humans, as well as leap high into the air and emit a shockwave when landing, is as close to a vampire Hulk as I’ve seen yet. The other two classes are the aforementioned sentinel, who can fly, snatch humans, and drop them from high in the air, and the deceiver, a strategic class, able to mask himself as a vampire hunter and strike from behind with a deadly blade. No matter what class you choose, playing as a vampire is a joy. Bounding through the air as the reaver is something that never ceases to put a smile on my face. You get a giddy feeling of anticipation as you look around to see your allies, circled on walls and pillars, ready to strike your unsuspecting adversaries from above. Plus, it’s difficult to deny the savage thrill of dragging away the limp body of a defeated vampire hunter post battle to feast on his blood in order to regain lost health–except during rare moments of “stretchy limb syndrome,” which makes pulling a bloodied corpse that ends up stretching along the ground like taffy look, well, a tad goofy.But then there is that pesky balancing problem, which far too often drags the pleasure of the hunt to a grinding, groan-inducing halt. The issue is a two-parter, but let’s cut straight to the first point: the vampires are overpowered. Even as I hit more than 15 hours of play, I couldn’t recall a match that didn’t feel stacked against the human side, even if the advantage was only slight. During most of my games, all I could hope for when on the human team was to reach at least 15 kills. That way, if my opponents proved somewhat more incapable playing as humans, a victory could still be secured. Make no mistake, I witnessed capable human teams, but even the most skilled players seemed lost as to how to proceed when their opponents switched classes and charged forward with several tyrants. It’s not just a question of countering with the right classes and abilities; matching classes is important, but still, the vast majority of games I played as a human were losses, even as I became more confident in my vampire-hunting skills.
Nosgoth at its finest is still a promising multiplayer game, and I look forward to seeing how far it goes. It does need more: more classes, more maps, more game modes, more everything.

On the subject of skill, the likelihood of getting matched with or against players of similar aptitude is a crapshoot, which brings up the second part of the balancing issue: matchmaking is broken. You gain experience points that slowly increase your level over the course of play. That rank, however, doesn’t seem to matter once you leave new recruit mode, designed to ease novice players into Nosgoth, and get placed into standard team deathmatch games. It’s common to get matched against teams that are either well below your skill level or far beyond it. Fighting a team that struggles to get even 10 kills against your own makes for a rather boring 20 minutes, but when the tables are turned, it results in immense frustration. Matchmaking also seems to have issues with finding players. Sometimes, a game will start right away, but at other times, you are left waiting for a vacant spot to fill for upwards of several minutes.At least Nosgoth’s maps, save for one that sports ugly, low-resolution mountains in the background, look fantastic enough to distract from any grievance for a short while. The five available maps are large, beautiful, and meticulously detailed, featuring a varied color palette that makes each one easily distinguishable from the others. It’s difficult not to look upon The Fane, a town deep within a vaulted cave, with some measure of awe. Other environs are scarred by battle, and the sound of muffled screams brings weight to fights, surrounded by buildings set alight. Nearby, fountains that were once ornate, cluttered with corpses, now run red with blood. Every map is also dotted with well-placed and quickly accessible shrines, where human players can fill up on health and ammunition–so long as they watch their backs.Raziel really had seen better days before that whole Lake of the Dead incident. Like many free-to-play games, Nosgoth includes different payment options. Bundles can be purchased that will unlock classes, character skins, and new abilities, and that offer a sum of gold, the latter of which is earned at the end of every match. Normally, any gold that is acquired can be used to unlock new class abilities for up to one week for a small amount, or permanently for a much larger chunk of change. Based on my experience, it takes about six to eight hours of play to earn enough gold to unlock a single ability forever, which means you will either need to dedicate a lot of time to get the loadouts you desire, or pony up the cash if time isn’t in your favor. Runes, currency that must be bought using real-world money, can also unlock any of the prior items in place of gold. Character skins, which serve as aesthetic upgrades, can only be traded for with runes.Outside of Nosgoth’s team deathmatch, there isn’t much else in the way of content. There are three modes of play, but two of them, new recruit and team deathmatch, are basically the same in design. Flashpoint, the third multiplayer mode, is currently in beta testing, and does provide a different, if ultimately brief, distraction. The mode is a king of the hill variation, in which the human team attempts to capture six points on a map as the vampire side fights to keep the beacons out of the grimy hands of mortals. I found it difficult to want to keep playing Flashpoint, as it isn’t distinctive enough compared to team deathmatch to hold my attention long. There are also only five maps at launch, and though they are all nice to look at, it didn’t take much time before I yearned for a change in scenery. Officially, Nosgoth is in open beta, but Square Enix explicitly states that this beta constitutes the game’s launch. Nonetheless, it comes with the bugs and glitches associated with a game in progress. There are times when your vampire may refuse to completely vault over a ledge onto a rooftop, which is particularly bad during a hasty escape, when his pallid backend may become a pincushion. Worse, however, are the rare connection errors with the server, which vary in range from bolas and arrows flying through enemies, to warping from one wall back into the original without warning. But these are standard-issue problems for the most part; what stands out above all is the fickle party system. At times, accepting an invite doesn’t place you in a party according to your screen, though the host’s screen shows otherwise, and trying to join a match with a broken party never works. But at least that isn’t as bad as when the game decides to crash, which it does on occasion after you accept a game invite.Nosgoth is surprisingly fun, given the glaring problems. Sure, matchmaking is a mess and glitches need to be ironed out, but Nosgoth at its finest is still a promising multiplayer game, and I look forward to seeing how far it goes. It does need more: more classes, more maps, more game modes, more everything. And for the most part, the developer has been upfront that updates are coming quickly, starting with a new map and a female vampire class, both to arrive in the following weeks, with a new human class to arrive soon after. No, Nosgoth is not the Legacy of Kain everyone wanted, and it isn’t exactly bold or fresh either, especially considering that it evokes bitter memories of a failed game from 2007. But with additional content, bug fixes, and needed matchmaking tweaks, Nosgoth could be something that stands strong on its own, worth returning to time and again.

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The Marvellous Miss Take Review

We need more heist games in our lives. Stealth games are a dime a dozen, but only in heist games are you required to play with confidence. We need the thrill of strolling into a heavily-guarded museum or bank and lifting priceless items from under everyone’s noses. And we need to feel vindicated and smug as we walk out of the place with no one the wiser. That’s the essence that The Marvellous Miss Take attempts to embody, steering you to fearlessly swipe paintings and sculptures under the careful watch of patrons and guards. But though the game wants you to feel like you’re overcoming incredible odds thanks to your innate cunning, its unreasonably small levels and erratic enemy behavior destroy the very confidence it demands of you.

But first, you’re eased into a life of crime. You play as Sophia Take, an art enthusiast who saw her great aunt’s collection swindled away and split among greedy one percenters. She takes matters into her own hands and sets out to steal the art back. (She even resembles everyone’s favorite world-class educational thief, Carmen Sandiego.) Though Miss Take is brimming with resolve, she soon reveals that she’s a little unsure of herself to Harry Carver, a well-to-do and benevolent master thief who she bumps into in the middle of a caper. Together with Harry and pickpocket Daisy, Sophia slowly accumulates more and more of her great aunt’s collection, gaining more confidence with each heist. These three figures form the core of the game’s story and characterization, and, though it’s tempting to paint them as one-dimensional afterthoughts, the game pulls off some subtle tricks to fill in the gaps.

You’ll learn to hate the color blue after seeing so much of it in this game. Sophia’s initial uncertainty carries into the player experience as well. You must abscond with all the art on the current floor and then either board an elevator or make your way to the exit. Guards’ fields of vision are represented by giant blue cones that protrude from their eyes as you look down on the floor from a semi-isometric view. The levels themselves are cramped, with guards’ vision often filling 75 percent of a room, making success seem impossible. But the game invites you to overcome these feelings by trying to gradually make you realize the ease with which you can accomplish your goals. The controls are dead simple, as the game can be played solely with the mouse. Just click on a spot, and Sophia moves there. Hold down the left mouse button and she starts running, though her haste makes noise that attracts guards, as does whistling by holding the mouse button down over her.You start the game feeling intimidated by the sheer number of blue cones covering the levels. You feel shy about walking up to grab a painting while a guard’s back is turned, but you learn to time your pacing in order to boldly walk to your target before the guard is any the wiser. You’re afraid to set foot in a heavily-guarded area for fear of stepping into a guard’s field of vision, but being seen doesn’t get you caught immediately. Instead, a glimpse of you only gets a guard’s attention and lures him or her to the last point at which you were seen. Stay in sight too long and you alert the guards, but duck out of sight in time and you can lure guards to wherever you need them to be.The UI is super stylish, which makes the plain look of the rest of the game even more disappointing. Even Sophia’s partners’ side missions encourage you to come out of your shell. Harry has a leg injury and needs a cane to walk, so he’s unable to run. This means that his heists happen at night when guard activity is at a minimum. He must sneak around armed with only a weird ball-like contraption, which makes noise when thrown against a wall. This teaches you not to rely on running to and fro and also encourages you to actually use the many power-ups the game gives Sofia, such as smoke bombs that block vision or teleporters that let you make a quick getaway. Daisy’s missions, on the other hand, require you to get up close and personal with guards, picking their pockets to get keys and make off with a safe’s contents. Though Daisy’s prowess at pickpocketing means that she can approach guards without them becoming suspicious, it teaches you, when being Sophia, not to be so timid when it comes to worming your way through the guard-filled minefield. When you start getting the hang of navigating the security and playing the guards like saps, your confidence starts to snowball until you feel like a master thief. And clearly Sofia does too, as after clearing a level, she puts her hand on her hips and throws heavy shade at the mooks she just put to shame.
The moments in which you should be slipping past a heavily-guarded room to snag a bust are often ruined thanks to a guard who happens to turn the wrong way.

At least, that’s the experience the game wants you to have, and occasionally it succeeds. But, though the game attempts to convey scenarios that make you feel like you’re succeeding against all odds, the game commits the sin of actually stacking the odds against you. The fact that most rooms are bathed in blue does make the levels somewhat unmanageable even when you learn all the tricks. The cramped corridors and tiny rooms make maneuvering more of a chore than it needs to be. Worst of all is the inconsistent enemies, who, aside from the frequency with which they change direction, are completely unpredictable. Guards patrol in whatever direction strikes their fancy with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Now, not having predictable patterns isn’t necessarily a bad thing if a game is designed with unpredictability in mind, but with so little space to work with and only one tool at your disposal at a time, you often find yourself waiting for an enemy to happen to wander to just the right spot so that you can enact your plan. This also means that the moments in which you should be slipping past a heavily-guarded room to snag a bust are often ruined thanks to a guard who happens to turn the wrong way. This takes your supposed skill out of the equation somewhat and makes the game a frustrating slog.Glue freezes enemies in place for a period of time. It also doesn’t help that the world itself isn’t terribly interesting. For a game that seems built on slick intrigue, the levels themselves all play just about the same, albeit with varying degrees of frustration. Each floor you have to tackle is just a bunch of hallways connecting a bunch of bigger rooms. You barely ever get to use the environment to your advantage in clever ways, adding a thick layer of monotony to proceedings. Gimmicks such as dogs who can smell your footsteps, security cameras, and lasers add some much-needed variety, but once you encounter them once, you’ve seen all they have to offer. Levels also offer no visual panache, looking very sterile and plain, which is disappointing because the game’s soundtrack embodies the slick, stylish world of high-class thievery.The Marvellous Miss Take aims to be a different kind of confidence game, one in which you stroll into a level like you own the place and take whatever you wish with ease. All the pieces are in place to build you up and make you a virtual master thief, and Sofia’s journey is the perfect embodiment of this process. It’s just a shame that the game’s level design and enemy combine to short-circuit the experience throughout, because there are so many individual pieces that make the game really easy to like. Sofia deserves better.

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Assassin’s Creed Unity: Dead Kings Review

Whether it’s a sequel from an annualized racing series or an expansion pack to a well-received game, there’s comfort in the familiar–and, potentially, boredom as well. Dead Kings, the first downloadable content for Assassin’s Creed Unity, is an unfortunate example of the perils of taking the beaten path and the design bugs that go with it. So it’s a minor blessing that protagonist Arno Dorian returns without a thirst for vengeance or a love interest to protect, his two motivations from the main game. All he wants to do is leave late 18th century Paris…almost as much as I do.

It is from a “one last heist” premise that Dead Kings springs forth. Without the need for money or emotional attachments to complicate the situation, Arno comes into the job as a brooding ex-assassin who just wants to get away from all the dark memories of his time in the city. This is also why Dead Kings is set in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis rather than in Paris proper. Safe passage to Egypt is Arno’s reward; all he has to do is find a manuscript and solve several tomb puzzles. One would think that a ticket from Paris to Egypt would be less complicated, but it wouldn’t be much of a game if Arno just spent a day pickpocketing for boat fare, now would it?

The Marquis de Sade, one of the highlights of Assassin’s Creed Unity, makes a welcome return.

The sight of a new set of vertical bars in the Progress Tracker provides an initial (and irrational) hope that Dead Kings might aspire to more than the usual half dozen story missions expected from Ubisoft’s post-release add-ons. Suppress your enthusiasm early: aside from one bar devoted to tracking the six main assignments, the other columns represent an unremarkable swath of optional missions and collectable trackers.

Dead Kings is a wholly unsurprising sampler pack of many of the mission types from Assassin’s Creed Unity, right down to the easy-to-solve environmental puzzles. Tailing objectives are painless, as are the foot chases, which both benefit from thick urban designs. As one who was indifferent to the much flaunted crowd densities of Assassin’s Creed Unity, I greatly preferred maintaining pursuits from rooftop to rooftop even if my target was on the street. A combination of patience, guard patrol observations, and an ample supply of stealth gear ensures that you can clear a few missions completely undetected, if that’s your preference.

Of all the Parisian characters sporting inexplicable English accents, these Raiders have some of the strongest cockney accents.

If you guessed that the title “Dead Kings” implies that tombs are to be raided, then you are absolutely correct. Much as in the search for the Well of the Souls in Raiders of the Lost Ark, you have an advantage over the looters desecrating catacombs for treasure. Dr. Jones had better information than the Nazis; Arno has wall climbing skills, which is all he needs to get ahead of the Raiders, the new faction of this DLC. They’re not an especially bright bunch. In fact, compared to elite guards, alley gangs, and other factions from prior Assassin’s Creeds, the Raiders are no more than annoying thugs with longer lifebars.

As if to recognize that we may not have patience for these bullies, Ubisoft included one of the most useful and potent weapons in franchise history: the Guillotine Gun. If you can buy into the absurdity of the Animus, then you won’t laugh when I tell you that I assumed that this weapon would fire wide guillotine-inspired blades, like a primitive version of the plasma cutter from Dead Space. The reality is less novel, more practical, and resoundingly brutal. The Guillotine Gun is a bayonet on steroids; two blade swings can take down brutes and the firing mechanism functions as either a grenade or mortar launcher, depending on the distance. As with any high damage weapon in the series, dealing death is utterly satisfying, provided you don’t get caught in the blast of your own gunfire.

The completion of a campaign should leave you with the sensation of a job well done. It should not leave you with the relief of knowing that you won’t have to endure another second of a mediocre game. I experienced the latter during my playthrough of Assassin’s Creed Unity and had similar impressions of Dead Kings, albeit in a slightly more tolerable bite-sized package. This new content is best experienced by those who have yet to complete the main story, since the Guillotine Gun is a sufficient stress relief tool for coping with Unity’s glitches (although you will experience the story out of sequence). As much as I appreciated the shift away from the crime investigation premise of Assassin’s Creed Unity, sending Arno on a mere fetch quest turns Dead Kings into the blandest kind of open-world adventure, in which a man who used to be a hero is reduced to a mere errand boy.

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Ultra-Rare 20th Anniversary PS4 Sells For $129,000

The online auction for the world’s rarest PlayStation 4 has ended, with the console selling for an incredible ¥15.135 million, or about $129,000, The Wall Street Journal confirmed on Monday.

What made the console so rare? The system in question was a 20th Anniversary PS4 console, but not just any unit; it was the first of only 12,300 ever produced, making it the ultimate collector’s item.

The PS4 was sold through Yahoo! Auctions, open only to bidders in Japan. It received more than 1,500 bids before closing yesterday, January 25.

“We appreciate all who participated in the auction and are surprised at the highest bid price, which was higher than our expectations,” a Sony representative told WSJ.

Sony is now in the process of reaching out to the auction winner to arrange for payment. Per Sony’s original agreement, it will donate the price paid for the system, along with a matching donation, to Save the Children Japan. That means Sony will give a gift of around $258,000 to the charity.

Sony released the 20th Anniversary PS4 in December 2014 to celebrate the original PlayStation’s launch in Japan in December 1994. Units sold out in a matter of minutes. For everything you need to know about the console, check out GameSpot’s unboxing video below.

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Filed under:PS4 Written Byeddienoteddy Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford. (function(a,b,c,d,e,f){a[d]||(a[d]= function(){(a[d].q=a[d].q||[]).push([arguments,+new Date])}); e=b.createElement(c);f=b.getElementsByTagName(c)[0]; e.src=’';e.async=true; f.parentNode.insertBefore(e,f)}(window,document,’script’,’yad’)); yad(‘dd8948fa-75df-30d8-a1b9-8ade0e28daac’, {tracking: {ftag: ‘YHF5d25503′}} ); (function() { var pageType = document.getElementsByName(‘pageType’); if(!pageType.length){ return; } pageType = pageType[0].getAttribute(‘data-type’); if(pageType == ‘article’ || pageType == ‘review’ || pageType == ‘video’){ (function(a,b,c,d,e,f){a[d]||(a[d]= function(){(a[d].q=a[d].q||[]).push([arguments,+new Date])}); e=b.createElement(c);f=b.getElementsByTagName(c)[0]; e.src=’';e.async=true; f.parentNode.insertBefore(e,f)}(window,document,’script’,’yad’)); yad(‘045e47d1-1e51-3375-b487-13f8602f933b’); } }());

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Watch This Epic Destiny Guitar Medley

Here’s something to get your week off to a rockin’ start. Bungie shared the video above of youngster Ryan Abundo covering songs from the Destiny official soundtrack on guitar and bass. It’s damn good.

“Having spent an unhealthy amount of time playing Destiny (during the busiest semester of my life, no less), I can safely say that Bungie got at least one thing right: the music,” Abundo writes on Facebook.

The songs you’re hearing are:

“The Traveler””End of the Line””The Last Array””Excerpt 2 from the Rose”

You can download the medley here.

In other recent Destiny news, developer Luke Smith has promised that Bungie won’t make the same mistakes twice with the game’s upcoming DLC, House of Wolves.

For more on Destiny, check out GameSpot’s previous coverage.

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Filed under:Destiny Written By

eddienoteddy Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford. Want the latest news about Destiny? (function(a,b,c,d,e,f){a[d]||(a[d]= function(){(a[d].q=a[d].q||[]).push([arguments,+new Date])}); e=b.createElement(c);f=b.getElementsByTagName(c)[0]; e.src=’';e.async=true; f.parentNode.insertBefore(e,f)}(window,document,’script’,’yad’)); yad(‘dd8948fa-75df-30d8-a1b9-8ade0e28daac’, {tracking: {ftag: ‘YHF5d25503′}} ); (function() { var pageType = document.getElementsByName(‘pageType’); if(!pageType.length){ return; } pageType = pageType[0].getAttribute(‘data-type’); if(pageType == ‘article’ || pageType == ‘review’ || pageType == ‘video’){ (function(a,b,c,d,e,f){a[d]||(a[d]= function(){(a[d].q=a[d].q||[]).push([arguments,+new Date])}); e=b.createElement(c);f=b.getElementsByTagName(c)[0]; e.src=’';e.async=true; f.parentNode.insertBefore(e,f)}(window,document,’script’,’yad’)); yad(‘045e47d1-1e51-3375-b487-13f8602f933b’); } }());
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