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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>
Nostalgia is supposed to be about the things of our early years, but recently I’ve been feeling nostalgic about games released much more recently than my usual rose-tinted diet of Ultima and Daggerfall. I’ve only gone and started missing Dead Space like it was a childhood friend. … [visit site to read more]
With 2013's Injustice: Gods Among Us, NetherRealm Studios showed it was more than capable of putting together a solid fighting game featuring the DC Comics pantheon. More than that, the developer capably made it stand out from sister franchise Mortal Kombat with its own distinct features and mechanics. For an encore, Injustice 2 further builds on the foundation set by its predecessor and steps forward as a truly superheroic effort.
The original Injustice featured a grand DC Elseworlds narrative of a world ruled by a totalitarian Superman and while that plot featured several twists and turns, Injustice 2's Story Mode seamlessly continues this tale with an easy-to-follow recap. Injustice 2 takes place in a post-Regime world with Superman safely imprisoned and Batman desperately trying to pick up the pieces of a world still shaken to its core. His efforts are quickly stalled by a supervillain gathering, the Injustice world's take on the classic Society, which would herald the arrival of extraterrestrial threat and perennial Superman baddie, Brainiac.
With Batman's team overwhelmed, there's a certain pattern the narrative starts to follow. The heroes have had their differences and it looks like now it's time to come together to take on the real villains. Then everyone hugs it out and everything's okay again? In actuality, much like the rest of NetherRealm's Injustice narrative, things aren't that simple. The story that unfolds surrounds the increasing complexity of the classic good vs. evil conflict, as well as what it means to truly deliver justice. It's an eye into Batman's perfectionist (and somewhat naive) view of what justice should be. It's a continuing look at why Superman has pursued the path that he has (albeit one that does Wonder Woman's character a disservice by making her into a Lady MacBeth type). But more than anything, it's the desire from all sides for things to be the way they were and the heartbreaking realization that there is no going back. Fixing things isn't as easy as remembering that everyone's mother happens to be named Martha.
Of course, between all the deeper themes, there's an outstanding, action-filled superhero story that culminates in epic battles unfolding through cutscenes and through standard gameplay.
One big improvement from the first Injustice game is that the quick-time events of the original story are gone. Instead, they're replaced with chapters that center around two characters. Whenever a fight is cued up, the player selects between one of the two heroes, with some of the story's dialogue unfolding differently depending on the character chosen. The choices take a much more extreme turn towards the end of the game, but the story remains cohesive throughout.
Besides the Story Mode, Injustice 2 also offers the standard single-player mode, but this one comes with a bit of a twist. Playing off the Brother Eye satellite used in the game's story, Multiverse mode offers up contains the standard Arcade mode, where players take on one opponent at a time. However, there are also other Earths that open up with different scenarios and different opponents. Beyond having their own versions of the game's fighters with their own distinct looks, Multiverse mixes things up by occasionally tossing in game-altering conditions, like hazards, boosts, or souped-up opponents.
Multiverse is a great example of using an online connection for something positive, adding in new worlds every day with a finite time to complete their missions and collect their rewards. Some of those worlds have rarer rewards that are worth pursuing. The game even offers a social element to help make Multiverse hopping a little more fun with the Guild system, where groups of friends can earn rewards by completing specific Multiverse tasks. The whole Multiverse package is a robust expansion of the Arcade Mode concept that gives it a much longer life, though anyone with an offline connection can still play the normal Battle Simulator.
Let's discuss those Multiverse rewards. They come in the form of Mother Boxes, as Injustice 2 is the latest game to get into the mystery loot craze. With a full comic book universe to play with, the Mother Box rewards dig into the rich DC Comics lore and give each character a dapper new look. The most interesting element, however, is that each piece of gear offers RPG-style boosts. Some of them offer advantages specifically for Multiverse Mode, while others can help give a little boost during multiplayer. What makes the gear system particularly cool is that it gives the sense that a player's fighter is progressing and growing over the course of invested hours. There's a sense of something to aim for, in addition to the usual character ending and the like.
The one problem with the gear system is that oftentimes, a cool Epic or Legendary item will get opened up, but won't be accessible until that particular figher levels up. And sadly, the characters level up about as slowly as the Batmobile with a flat tire. Getting to actually play with that awesome piece of gear will mean hours of grinding and that's when the Multiverse can start to feel tedious.
There's a sense of accomplishment once that gear is finally available, especially for those that want to take it online or assign it to an AI squad that can fight other players' AI squads in simulated combat. The latter is a particularly nifty feature that adds a fantasy element and a cheap way to earn extra experience or loot.
Of course, those that are looking for a more even playing field can also play multiplayer without gear benefits. After all, some people just want to see who's the better player without fancy toys.
Speaking of Injustice 2's fighting system, it feels like a further evolution of NetherRealm's distinct fighting style. A friendly tutorial explains everything in great detail, gently explaining how to perform combos, overheads, throws, specials, and anything else required of a NetherRealm fighter. Dashes and slides can cover much more ground, with environmental cues also helping cover a full screen's worth of ground in a moment, helping quell the rise of trigger-happy projectile spammers.
Given that combos are often the bane of the novice's existence, Injustice 2's eloquent explanation of the overhead and other moves that bounce opponents off walls is a godsend. The game encourages players to experiment with juggles, whether it's a simple light attack combo or a cool special move that catches an opponent in mid-air. This complements the rest of the game's mechanics smoothly, including the theatrical Super Moves and the returning Clash system. The latter goes a long way towards giving the game its identity, even if they start to feel old upon repeated viewings.
Injustice 2 feels like a step up from Gods Among Us in every way imaginable. It's a far deeper experience, follows up wonderfully on the last game's story, and also gives reasons to keep coming back for repeat visits. The rich cast of fighters all have their own distinct styles, but they're all wrapped up in an easy-to-learn fighting system that's just plain fun to play. NetherRealm has a true grasp of what makes the DC Universe special and this game is as much of a love letter to that world as it gets.
Resident Evil 4’s influence has become immeasurable since its release in 2005. Games like Gears of War and Uncharted owe much to the game that revolutionized third-person action controls. However, one popular sci-fi horror game would look a lot like an entirely different sci-fi horror game if not for Capcom’s reinvention of its seminal series. I got the opportunity to sit down with Dead Space designers Ben Wanat and Wright Bagwell to talk about the early days of development and how Resident Evil 4 helped them shape their own horror series out of another.
"When Resident Evil 4 came out, we were just awestruck by it," Wanat told me. "We were all playing it and we were like, 'Holy shit, this is a really awesome game. They're actually trying to tell a story; they've got some cool cinematics; the gameplay systems are fixing a lot of problems, bringing it into this action realm but keeping this intense horror feel to it. It was this amazing combination and—oh, the enemies were so freakin' cool."
Wanat didn't shy away from admitting that Resident Evil 4 is one of his favourite games of all time. And it's clear looking at Dead Space that he wasn't alone at EA Redwood Shores (now Visceral Games).
"It's pretty obvious when you play Dead Space, to look at it and go, 'Yeah, it's almost like they decided to make Resident Evil 4 in space,' which is exactly what we were doing."
But it wasn't always that way. Early on in its development, before Resident Evil 4 had even been released, Dead Space was a completely different game. Rumours have circled around the sci-fi horror game's early days, reinforced by similarities found within Dead Space. During our discussions, Wanat confirmed them to me.
"Originally, we were pushing around this idea of maybe we could make System Shock 3. And you can look at the Dead Space blueprint and be like, 'Oh, this is kind of like System Shock,'" Wanat said, smiling.
"To do a System Shock 3, you're really tackling a monumental task, to make people happy with a sequel that wasn't made by the same team as the original," he explained. And while the game didn't make it out the door and live on as the third System Shock, Wanat said that a new entry in that series was the goal they shot for early on.
"It was like, 'Everybody, get your System Shock 2 copy, play it start to finish, and let's figure out what we're going to do,'" Wanat said, recalling the early days of development. "Then Resident Evil 4 came out and we were like, 'Oh. No, this is the shit.'"
However, Redwood Shores couldn’t just change the name of its project and work on something completely new.
"It was at a time at EA when there was no appetite for original IP. It seemed like everybody else was doing it except for us," Wanat lamented. While Redwood Shores created games based on James Bond, Lord of the Rings, and The Godfather, Wanat said the desire to make something original was fervent within the studio. And Resident Evil 4 was the catapult they needed.
"We were so hyped about Resident Evil 4 and we got obsessed with improving the mechanics," Wanat said. The team truly wanted to develop a first-rate survival-horror game. However, convincing EA to bet on an original idea wasn't going to be easy, and it was something that co-director Glen Schofield, now the GM of Sledgehammer Games, would work on for a long time. Schofield would break the ice on the idea, show some promising progress, and over time, slowly build the confidence EA needed to give the project a thumbs up.
"Eventually everybody accepted it, they saw how cool the things coming out of it were. That confidence continued to grow," Wanat told me. "Having that group there from the get-go and building this stuff without a greenlight was a little weird, but it's probably what got that whole thing working because we could all put our expertise into a pool and make something tangible.
"And once people saw that it was a real thing, they got it much easier than if you were trying to say, 'I want to make this totally scary-ass thing,' to which they'd look at their portfolio and say 'Nope, scary-ass thing is not in our language.'"
The executives weren't the only people impressed by the Dead Space demos. Wright Bagwell, who was working on another game at the time, played through one of these demo levels and was so enamoured with the experience that he absolutely had to work on the game.
"One of the level designers came over and said 'Hey Wright, we're testing this out. I want you to come into this dark room, I'm going to turn the lights off and turn the sound up really loud.' And we played through this demo level, and I remember feeling like I was going to shit my pants," Bagwell said, laughing."I was working on another game that got cancelled, and EA was trying to get me to work on something I didn't want to work on, and I was like, 'No, I want to work on Dead Space or I'm going to quit.'"
So Bagwell joined the Dead Space team, and at this point, it was starting to come together. Controlling Isaac was becoming a smooth experience, thanks to some of the big improvements to Resident Evil’s formula that the team was working on. Wanat specifically pointed out the ability to move while shooting. Despite the relatively simple-sounding nature of this change, it wasn't as straightforward as flipping a switch and letting someone walk around.
"I love in Resident Evil 4, the tension of not being able to move. But it caused a lot of problems for us to put movement in because we were making a new game," Wanat explained. "The enemies couldn't follow the same formula. It breaks a lot of the mechanics. We didn't know it was going to happen until we did it and were like, 'Oh, I think we broke something fundamental about the tension,' so we had to get it in other ways.
"It was like, 'It's a game changer. Let's embrace it and make this the best, polished survival shooter. Let's try to be the gold standard.'"
The move from System Shock 3's first-person view to the over-the-shoulder perspective that we know from Dead Space was something else that Wanat was increasingly happy about, as it allowed players to more easily care about Isaac.
"Even though Isaac didn't have a voice in the first game, seeing him and seeing him get grappled and eviscerated, I felt like there was a better chance to make a connection with the character. And that kinda gives the player a sense of who he is and the place he's in that we could have missed out on if we went the first-person shooter route and—man, we ripped off so much stuff from Resident Evil 4," Wanat stopped himself mid-sentence, laughing.
"But in a way, the modifications we made to the formula gave it its own style. Things like the outer space setting gave us a way to include new mechanics that weren't really available for the time and setting that Resident Evil took place in."
Dismemberment by way of plasma cutter, perhaps Dead Space's defining feature, was one such mechanic that joined the movement system to set itself apart from its Earth-based counterpart.
"It was very interesting to get those two things together and see that something special was taking shape," Wanat said. "But we do owe tremendously to Resident Evil 4. We were really big fans. We had so many of those water-cooler moments after that game came out."
Dead Space released in October of 2008 and was met with an overwhelmingly positive critical reception, in addition to sales of over two million copies. When Dead Space 2 was announced less than two years later, it was no surprise that EA wanted to push the series into a more action-focused direction to appeal to a wider audience. Bagwell moved into the creative director's chair, charged with a delicate balancing act of making sure there were moments of adrenaline-surging panic, but also time for the player to relax among the nameless horrors and dismembered limbs.
Despite its obvious inspirations, Dead Space had become its own thing. The studio was no longer praying at the altar of Resident Evil 4, but Wanat says there were some leftover influences that didn't make it into the first game.
"We didn't really have the ability to do any elaborate cutscenes," he explained. "I mean, we looked at Resident Evil 4, and we thought those were elaborate at the time. I love the intro. They're in the jeep, a guy goes to pee in the bushes, it's this really cool moment. And we couldn't really do those things, but we all wished we could. So in Dead Space 2, you get a lot more character moments and those over-the-top moments."
Like its predecessor, Dead Space 2 garnered high praise from critics and, according to EA, sold nearly two million copies in its first week of release. However, that success wouldn't carry over to the third game. With less positive reviews and significantly less sales, Wanat, the creative director of Dead Space 3, expressed disappointment with how it closed out the series.
"I think in Dead Space 3 we kinda destroyed what we had because we pushed too far on it, but it was a deliberate decision in each of those instalments to make it faster, more relevant to a broader audience," he said. "It's a hard thing to do, to make a horror game have mass appeal. They're two diametrically opposed things."
Wanat and Bagwell went on to co-found Outpost Games, a developer that's currently working on a multiplayer survival game. Not much is known about their upcoming game, but the two designers wouldn't be surprised if Dead Space fans found some pieces of the sci-fi horror series woven throughout it. However, speaking to Wanat, it sounds like he's not quite done with survival-horror.
"Personally, I've got so much of that stuff in my system, that one way or another I will make another survival-horror game because I can't stay away from that kind of creative expression. That's just part of my DNA now."
Below you will find the 25 best horror games ever released on PC. To ensure the list was as accurate as possible, the compiler was locked in a dark cellar with a copy of every game in existence and a computer capable of running them all. Two weeks later, the following article was found written on the walls in blood (the postscript was recorded on an audiolog). The writer was nowhere to be seen.
Update: despite earlier declining to comment, EA have since told Eurogamer that the report is “patently false”, while Viceral’s UI lead has tweeted that “The reports of our death were greatly exaggerated.” Perhaps it would have been better to say that when a whole bunch of people asked the first time?>
It’s not pinin’! It’s passed on! This franchise is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet its maker! It’s a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! Its metabolic processes are now ‘istory! It’s off the twig! It’s kicked the bucket, it’s shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible! It’s f-ckin’ snuffed it! This is an ex-franchise!
This post brought to you by a sense of humour from 1969. You know us Brits, always with our Monty Python gags. Perhaps it’s the only way I know how to pay tribute to Dead Space, the EA action series which has reportedly uh, taken a holiday in the wake of lacklustre sales for the recent third game. (more…)
Dead Space 3's demo version will be available via Xbox Live and PlayStation Network on Jan. 22, though a news release from Electronic Arts this morning says that a limited number of Xbox Live gamers can get access to the demo a week early.
Early access will be awarded through the site demo.deadspace.com. The news release said codes would be given out "while quantities last," up to Jan. 14, and that the early access code expires Jan. 22. An Origin account, or registering one, is necessary to get an early demo code. Oh, and you must be 13 or older, which is interesting, as this is an M-rated game.
Anyway, the demo will feature Isaac Clarke and new co-op companion Sgt. John Carver battling necromorphs on an ice planet, sounding similar to what EA showed off way back at E3 in June. Co-op play will be a feature of the demo, EA said.
The demo news accompanied this trailer, a recap of the events in the first two games. It still gets you current without giving away too much from them, but for those still playing through, I guess this gets a qualified spoiler alert.
There's some kind of preorder bonus at the end of the trailer. Skip ahead to 3:27 if you're interested in it but don't want to see the series recap.