Shacknews - Steve Watts

Ever reluctant to accept changes in the industry, Nintendo finally announced its plans for mobile game development this morning. It has been a long time coming, with pressure coming from investors and industry-watchers for the storied publisher to follow the shifting market. While the move makes financial sense, and Nintendo could certainly be successful by following the well-worn path created by other mobile publishers, it will lose a piece of its identity if it fails to break from conventional mobile norms.

Nintendo has always prided itself on custom-fitting its own hardware to its software. The synergy between its systems and games has been a selling point, and one reason why fans have known they can count on Nintendo for a rock-solid gameplay loop. For all the calls for Nintendo to put their games out on other systems, including mobile, the hesitance makes sense. Nintendo's strength has always been bolstered by the hardware equivalent of home field advantage.

Stepping into the mobile market, then, marks a big step outside of Nintendo's comfort zone. The risk it runs now is letting the company's discomfort with this new platform influence it into utilizing some of mobile gaming's bad habits.

Almost a year ago, Nintendo received what was possibly the worst advice ever given to it. In a well-meaning letter from Oasis Management's Seth Fischer in February of 2014, the hedge fund manager expounded on the potential to tap the free-to-play market. "We believe Nintendo can create very profitable games based on in-game revenue models with the right development team," Fischer wrote, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. "Just think of paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump a little higher."

(Take a moment to collect yourself after reading that last sentence.)

Mr. Fischer isn't a game designer, and so it's hard to blame him for giving input that so callously discounts the precision with which Nintendo balances its mechanics. Until very recently, it would have been easy to shrug off his bad advice. Nintendo's experiments with free-to-play had largely bucked the anti-consumer trends that define the term. That is, until the release of Pokemon Shuffle. 

Both Rusty's Real Deal Baseball and Steel Diver: Sub Wars shared one vital characteristic: there was a limit to how much you could spend. Even if you purchased all of Rusty's mini-games without earning a single discount coupon, you would eventually unlock them all and be done spending money. Sub Wars was even more straight-forward, with a single purchase. It was a demo version in all but the name. In both cases, to whatever extent you enjoyed the free content, you could play it to your heart's content. 

Pokemon Shuffle went a different and altogether unwelcome direction, relying on an energy mechanic. In fact, the F2P hook paired with the familiarity of a rather typical match-three game makes it practically indistinguishable from thousands of games on the iOS and Android App stores. It's the vanilla ice cream of video games: plain, easy, uncreative, inoffensive. In fact, Nintendo had previously announced a partnership to make a themed Puzzle & Dragons game, a series which has historically been another match-three with energy gates.

Energy mechanics have been unpopular in the mobile space, specifically because they're so clearly targeted towards monetizing compulsion. "You enjoyed your time with the game? That's nice, but now you have to stop and wait," they seem to say. "Or, well, you could pay us a little money." The barriers feel more artificial and arbitrary, based entirely around the monetization scheme. There has been such backlash against it that it was strange to see Nintendo adopting it at all, much less on one of its dedicated hardware platforms.

That kind of compromise is uncharacteristic of Nintendo, and raises some concern regarding today's news of mobile development. The company's step into mobile games means it will be in unfamiliar territory, and especially susceptible to following the trends of other mobile publishers. If it relies too much on the conventional mobile hooks, its efforts will inevitably be lost in a sea of the same-old. Given its willingness to try a monetization scheme that was already unpopular when Pokemon Shuffle came out, it may even be behind the curve of mobile trends.

Nintendo's entrance to the mobile games business is rife with possibilities. It could breathe new life into series like Pokemon and Pikmin, or revitalize underused ones like WarioWare or Elite Beat Agents. However, in entering a market that is already so crowded, Nintendo needs to keep its independent streak alive, and be a leader rather than a follower.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is coming back with another Adventure, and that means it's time to pass judgment on the new slate of cards. This time the full set will include 31 new cards in all, and we'll be taking a critical eye to each and every one of them. All of the cards are being categorized as Winners or Losers, which are self-explanatory, or "Oddballs"--cards with unique effects that could be useful with some creative deck management.

On the whole this expansion looks to add some new tools for existing deck types, revive some underutilized classes, and give better tools all around. Blizzard generally knows what it's doing, so the vast majority of these are either good (Winners) or could be (Oddballs). Still, you can't have a deck expansion without some clunkers. Check out the full gallery below, and then dive into our reviews to see what we think.

Winners

Blackwing Corruptor - The Shaman's Fire Elemental is so good, why not make a neutral version? That seemed to be the mindset behind Blackwing Corruptor, which sacrifices 1/1 worth of stats for one mana. At the same time, it carries the new "holding" requirement, so it's really only at home in Dragon-based decks. Still, Fire Elemental is extremely versatile, so letting other classes have a crack at the removal-minion combo value is great.

Blackwing Technician - Just like Tinkertown Technician is a staple in Mech decks after the release of Goblins vs Gnomes, expect Blackwing Technician to be a regular in Dragon decks. The stats are decent for the cost, but the added bonus if you're holding a Dragon makes it a must-play on turn three for sheer value alone.

Chromaggus - Like all 8-mana minions, this needs a strong ability to compensate for the cost. Fortunately, Chromaggus' ability is a strong one. Assuming he survives at least one turn, he'll provide a duplicate card. Holding him back until you're fairly certain to draw a Legendary means you'll get two copies of them instead of just one. It is vulnerable to overdrawing, but clever play will let you copy a few cards, and use him to remove a big threat. The Dragon synergy, and not being weak to Big Game Hunter, are just bonuses.

Demonwrath - A clear staple for Demon Warlock decks, this is essentially a cheaper Consecration if used correctly. It will help the recently popular Demonlocks stay competitive against aggressive rush decks while they work on getting their demons out, or in a pinch it can be used to activate your own Deathrattle minions.

Dragonkin Sorcerer - This isn't a class card, but it might as well be for Priest or Paladin. It's very clearly focused on classes that lend themselves to buffing minions, by giving you some additional stat power whenever you do. A Priest's Power Word Shield, for example, would immediately make it a 4/8 at relatively low cost. The Paladin's Blessing of Kings becomes a 5/5 buff, making this thing a hulking 8/10 on turn five. 

Dragon Consort - While Paladin already has competition for a strong five-drop with Quartermaster, that one is very situational and relies on Silver Hand Recruits already in-play. The Dragon Consort is more forward-facing, with decent vanilla stats and a benefit that activates the next turn. Paired with a strong 8-drop Dragon like Chromaggus, the Paladin will be uniquely suited to swing the board advantage in their favor on turns five and six.

Drakonid Crusher - There's lots of utility to this card, as it answers two persistently difficult classes. The "Handlock" style of Warlock is easy to get towards critical damage, but hard to finish off. Big taunts, Antique Healbots, and the ever-present threat of Jaraxxas makes it a race against time to finish the job. Drakonid Crusher answers all of those easily. Control Warrior also tends to hit low health, but makes up the deficit with huge armor gains. That armor doesn't count towards health, though, so the Crusher would still be activated to knock off some of that armor. It's vulnerable to Big Game Hunter and Silence, but on the whole it's very versatile and even offers decent vanilla stats without the effect.

Emperor Thaurissan - Expect some big tempo swings with this guy. 5/5 for 6 mana makes for bad stats, similar to Sylvanis, but like Ms. Windrunner his ability more than makes up for it. You're guaranteed right from the start to reduce the cost of every card by 1 mana. If you have four cards in-hand, that's 4-mana worth of cost-savings by trading 1-mana worth of stats. Pretty worth it! More importantly, the ability stacks, so if your opponent can't kill him immediately your cards will just get cheaper and cheaper.

Fireguard Destroyer - Shaman is at a shortage of big beefy minions, especially on turn 4. If you take the Overload cost into account, this thing is at minimum a 4/6 for 5 mana, which is decent. The extra attack boost, though, makes it a must-play, and it's likely to become a staple in Shaman decks. Imagine staring down a 7/6 on turn four, and being forced to take the damage or burn a Big Game Hunter or Silence.

Hungry Dragon - With excellent stats for the cost and the benefit of a Dragon label to boot, this seems like a must-have for Dragon decks. The drawback adds a bit of randomness, but as long as you have at least one minion out, you'll probably be able to deal with whatever it spawns. At worst, you'll spawn a high-attack minion like Flame Imp and your Hungry Dragon is the equivalent of a 5/3 for 4 mana--which is still pretty decent.

Imp Gang Boss - This is a card we'll see in lots of Warlock decks, because it plays so well with both the popular Zoo type and the recent resurgence of the Demonlock. The Gang Boss gives Warlocks a hearty body to play on turn three without bringing out their Void Caller prematurely, and it assures leaving behind an annoying imp even if it dies in a single hit. Imps are weak, but as Imp-losion showed, they can get out of hand when they flood the board.

Lava Shock - Some cards lend themselves to really thoughtful, complicated plays. Shaman has always been a class that requires some level of foresight, since his Overload ability gives overpowered benefits at a cost the next turn. Lava Shock puts an even deeper wrinkle in it by letting savvy Shaman players plan not only their Overloads, but also when exactly to unlock those overloaded mana crystals to use them again. It will be hard to use correctly, but players who can manage it will be extremely powerful.

Quick Shot - This is a gift to the aggressive "Face Hunter" style of play, giving yet another cheap damage-dealing tool. 2 mana for 3 damage puts it on-par with the Dark Bomb, which has become a staple for Warlock decks. Plus, it has an added benefit of cycling for itself if your hand happens to be empty. Since it's cheap, it's much more likely to be playable on an empty hand than Core Rager (see: Losers.)

Revenge - As if the Warrior didn't already have enough Control tools. This fits right in with the current meta, giving the Warrior a nice versatile card to act as both removal of the opponent's minions, and activation for cards like Armorsmith and Grim Patron. The special ability, similar to Mortal Strike, lets you swing things in your favor if you're low on health and acts as a beefed-up Consecration. The only drawback is that if you're already low, it will do some serious damage to your side of the board too, so say goodbye to all those lovely Grim Patrons.

Resurrect - Priest isn't generally very minion-heavy, and Resurrect seems aimed at giving it more board-presence without so much reliance on stealing the opponent's cards and minions. At only 2-mana, it at least pays for itself with everything but 1-mana minions. If you happen to revive a great card like Sylvanis, or even one with a Battlecry drawback like Injured Blademaster, it's a ton of value for the cost.

Solemn Vigil - Paladin's card draw has always been situational. The class mostly relies on Divine Favor, which is an outright dead card if playing against aggressive decks, or Lay on Hands, which is so expensive you essentially spend a turn on it. Solemn Vigil is a nice middle-ground, giving versatile card draw that can give you a cheap card refresh after making trades, or a more expensive one in the late-game when you may have more mana to spare.

Twilight Whelp - Aw, what a cute little dragon! Priest gets an early game minion that isn't just a card-draw engine, by essentially giving it a Zombie Chow without the drawback. You'll need to be holding a Dragon to activate it, and most of them are higher-cost so you may not want to keep them in the Mulligan phase. But if you happen to be holden a Fairie Dragon or Hungry Dragon, this Whelp is a huge swing. 

Volcanic Drake - Like the Mage's Dragon's Breath card, the Volcanic Drake is overbudgeted for the stats and relies on minion trading. However, while Dragon's Breath only delivers one-time damage to a target, Volcanic Drake puts out board presence. It would be so-so as a five-mana card, and really excellent for four, so if you make just one even minion trade it pays for itself.

Volcanic Lumberer - Druids are already filthy with big taunts, and Volcanic Lumberer just adds to the pile. It relies on trading to really be worthwhile, but even a single trade (two minions down) would make the stats better-than-vanilla. This would be a great fit for Control decks, delaying your opponent until you draw that all-important Savage Roar combo.

Losers

Core Rager - At first glance, Core Rager is insanely powerful. It's potentially a 7/7 for 4 mana, and its card ability seems to play well with the aggressive rush-style decks so popular with Hunter right now. On top of that it's a Beast, which makes for nice synergy. However, its stats are awkward. Having an empty hand on turn four is extremely unlikely, even for aggro decks, especially because of the common use of Webspinner in the early game. That means Core Rager will be relegated to a later play, when your opponent will already have tools to deal with it. It's a card that represents a big swing if you get it out early, but it will be nearly impossible to get it out early without buliding a deck around sub-optimal cards like Wisp. It's just not worth that sacrifice for one card.

Dark Iron Skulker - This isn't necessarily a terrible card, but not a very useful one. The Rogue already excels at board control, especially in its currently popular "Oil Rogue" incarnation. The Skulker is targeted squarely at regaining control after being overrun by small minions, as in a Zoo or Rush deck, but Rogues are doing fine without. Meanwhile the effect is very conditional, only hitting minions that aren't already damaged, and it would trigger the Deathrattle effects of minions that are popular in Zoo decks anyway. The stats are weak for the cost and the effect isn't necessary.

Dragon Egg - Without some buffing, at best this will summon two 2/1 whelps. Those may be helpful for certain Dragon synergies, but they're easy enough to remove across all classes. Plus, since it has 0 attack, you don't get to determine your own targets or remove a target while spawning your whelps, so whatever enemy minion triggers the effect will still be around to remove it.

Druid of the Flame - This card may seem versatile, but neither of its forms have much use. A 5/2 is far too weak on turn three, since it can die to even most 1-drops. A 2/5 is slightly better for small token removal, but without Charge or Windfury it just sits on the board and gets taken down without much trouble. Plus, since Shade of Naxxramas is a staple in Druid decks, playing this card instead is never going to be preferable.

Rend Blackhand - Any 7-drop with only 4 health is too weak to start with, but Rend's problems don't end there. He's also vulnerable to Big Game Hunter, which is in heavy use right now thanks to the prevalence of Dr. Boom. His effect requires two separate conditions to line up at once. And since the card text doesn't read "enemy Legendary," if you have a Legendary out and your opponent doesn't, you won't be able to play Rend without sacrificing your other card. This might be useful in a meta that's very heavy with hard-to-remove Legendaries like Ysera or Kel'Thuzad, but even then it's hard to imagine him seeing regular use. 

Oddballs

Axe Flinger - Warrior has been pigeonholed into a Control deck archtype, and Axe Flinger aims to change that. This would be right at home if some intrepid player figures out how to make a proper Warrior Aggro deck. Like Grim Patron, the class' tendency to damage its own minions means this could do serious damage to your opponent. At worst, it's the Warrior equivalent of a Hunter's Explosive Trap. You can remove the minion, but it's going to cost you.

Dragon's Breath - At its base stats, this card has an awful cost. However, the ability seems aimed at minion-heavy mages like the current Mech Mage archtype. If you just save it for a turn with lots of trading, either in the mid-game with low-grade minions, or in the late-game with a card like Dr. Boom, it can be practically free. It could provide great value in the right deck, but consistently having it in-hand when you happen to be trading could prove difficult.

Gang Up - Rogue decks aren't usually minion-heavy, instead relying on a handful of burst damage from weapons or charged minions. That makes Gang Up an odd duck. Like Faceless Manipulator, you really need to rely on copying your own minions since you can't count on your opponent's.  That said, Rogues do tend to draw their entire deck with cards like Sprint, so shuffling into the deck isn't itself too much of a drawback. Plus, at the very least, it will make opponents wary of playing really strong cards, since the Rogue will be able to get three of them in response.

Grim Patron - It has awful stats for the cost, but the effect is sure to make for some interesting plays. This seems right at home in Warrior decks, which get a lot of mileage out of damaging their own minions. The synergy with Bouncing Blade, which never found a proper home from GvG, is through the roof. Other classes might get use out of it, too, like a Priest running Wild Pyromancer. We're sure to see some experimentation with this one.

Flamewaker - This might have been a great card before the release of Goblins vs Gnomes, but now it's filling a niche that's already taken. The spell ability plays so well with Spare Parts you would really need to use it in a Mech deck, and if you're running Mechs anyway there's no reason not to play Tinkertown Technician for much better stats. That said, some intrepid Mage player could probably find a way to make this work, and the card itself isn't outright bad. It's just hard to see where it fits right now.

Majordomo Executus - A neutral card that acts similarly to Jaraxxus is just what Hearthstone fans have been waiting for, and this one does look fun to play. However, it will be extremely hard to use well. Jaraxxus' effect takes place immediately, which means it's useful to gain back health quickly when you're on the ropes. The Handlock archtype relies almost entirely on this. Executus, on the other hand, is much harder to control. Since he summons Ragnaros as a Deathrattle, your opponent will usually get to pick when that happens. Ragnaros only has 8 health, so it will almost never work in your favor. Against classes that have plenty of burst damage, they can just make sure to take out Executus the same turn they have 8 points of damage. 

Nefarian - Nine mana is always going to be hard to justify, and Big Game Hunter is so popular that an 8/8 is extremely vulnerable. That makes its ability the real benefit, which essentially costs 1 mana for a much more specific version of the Priest's Thoughtsteal ability. Instead of stealing any cards, you're taking random spells. Additionally, the spells are randomized from the class, rather than from your opponent's deck, so you have a chance at grabbing just about anything. Time will tell if Nefarian gets widespread use, but the ability is so unique it will be fun to play around with, at the very least.

Shacknews - Steven Wong

DomiNations, a free-to-play real-time strategy (RTS) game for mobile devices, lets players take a small tribe from the Stone Age to a full-blown civilization in the Space Age. If that theme sounds familiar, it might be because Brian Reynolds and Tim Train are involved; both of whom worked on Civilization II and the RTS game Rise of Nations. So, having rival nations battle each other for control of history should be pretty familiar territory for them. DomiNations is not only a new history themed game for the two, but it represents a comeback for the development studio Big Huge Games, which the two originally founded and re-founded when it became collateral damage after 38 Studios' collapse. DomiNations could bring the challenge and thrill of historical strategy to millions of mobile gamers worldwide.

While speaking with Tim Train, we went hands-on with an early build of DomiNations for iOS. In it, you start with a small tribe and a handful of buildings. It's up to you to gather resources, clear away the surrounding forest, construct buildings, purchase upgrades, and raise an army. There are two main resources, Gold and Food, which are used to purchase buildings, upgrades, and perform some actions. Gold is generally acquired through structures or mining, while Food can be gathered from trees, farmed, or you can hunt the various animals that roam the forests. You can also acquire significant resources by attacking and pillaging neighbors. Ultimately, DomiNations is a game about war.

The only thing pacing your expansion is the number of workers you have at your disposal and time. Every task, from hunting rabbits to building Wonders, requires a fixed number of resources, workers, and time. Players have the option to spend Crowns (real world currency) to speed up construction and replenish resource stocks faster, but you can get plenty of Crowns for free (at least you can early on). However, the game does reach a bit of a standstill when you have your workers assigned to long tasks, leaving little else to do except watch them hammer away. There's no way to pause construction, only cancel or pay to accelerate it. 

Animations and graphics are pretty cute, and DomiNations takes on a certain SimCity feel, as you move structures around and plan out your road network. Eventually, you'll work your way to the next Age, which provides you access to a host of new structures and technological improvements. Evolving also make you vulnerable to attack by other players, just as you can attack them. So, you'll have to spend quite a bit of time thinking about defense. Fortunately, the game balances out by only allowing cities within certain eras to attack each other, so you never have to worry about modern soldiers killing your medieval knights in a hail of gunfire. This also means that you could technically stay in the Stone Age forever and be safe from attack, but you won't be able to grow. There are a number of ways the game encourages you to move on to the next age, which are mostly found in expansion and technological limitations and how animals don't respawn until the next Age.

As stated earlier, with all things considered, DomiNations is a game about war. You can choose to ally with friends to share resources and gain bonuses, but hunting and gathering can't match up against sending soldiers to raid your neighbors. Barracks and garrisons hold a fixed number of soldiers, and can be upgraded to hold more. When invading an enemy town, you tap to drop soldiers onto the field and they'll attack the first thing they see. You start with only one special ability, but you'll get more as you progress through the game and choose a nationality.

There are currently seven nationalities to choose from: China, Japan, Rome, Greece, England, France and Germany. Each feature a different aesthetic, unique unites, and different bonuses. For example, the British--with its long history of imperialism--gains extra loot when raiding enemy towns in addition to having unique ranged units. Greeks, thanks to the leadership of Alexander the Great, have a cavalry unit and can build Wonders at a reduced cost. As players move up the ages, they'll be able to build more sophisticated armies that include siege units. So they'll be able to roll catapults into battle and lay waste to walls and structures. Although the feature won't be ready for the iOS release, I was told players would eventually have the option of inciting a revolution to switch nationalities, so they'll be able to experience how other nations play.

It takes a lot of time and resources to work your way through the Ages of history, so it's a good thing DomiNations is free-to-play. The game is available now for Android and launches for iOS on April 2nd. Players on one device can link their account so that their games can carry over to another, even across platforms.

Shacknews - Aaron Linde

Bloodborne is a pretty hard game, which is why players should try to use anything and everything in order to gain an advantage over the enemies you’ll face. Sure, you could follow our Boss or co-op guides, but a newly-discovered exploit can give Hunters the unfair advantage they so desperately need.

The exploit allows you to create a duplicate of any item in a pretty simple way. Before we get into it, we should note that performing this exploit will go against the real Bloodborne experience you’ve paid for, so only consider this exploit if you really need the help.

The first thing you’ll need to do is create an alternate character and progress them through the game far enough so they gain access to the first lantern in Central Yharnam. Once you do, transport yourself to the Hunter’s Dream and then log back into your main character. Once there, you’ll want to empty out your storage chest.

With your storage chest emptied with your main character, go to your alternate character and buy a pebble. Store the pebble you just purchased into your alternate’s chest, making sure that’s the only thing in there. Now go back to your main character and decide what it is you want to duplicate, noting that only items you can have multiples of are the only ones that can be duped. That means no duping of weapons.

Once you have in mind what you want to duplicate, put one of that item in your storage chest as your main character. Now go and purchase a lot of pebbles, making sure to reach the limit you can carry, which is 20. Once you reach the limit of pebbles you can carry, the extra pebbles will show up in your chest as duplicates of the item you currently have in there. For example: if you purchase 5 extra pebbles that you can’t carry, those pebbles will be transferred to your chest and will show up as 5 of whatever item is in there.

Shacknews - Shack Staff

This year's PAX East was a showcase for a number of games, both large scale and small indie. Shacknews got to check out some of the latter and found one that had us wondering, "Magnets, how do they work?" Our own Andrew Zucosky stopped by developer The Guru Games' booth to check out Magnetic: Cage Closed.

Magnetic is a first-person puzzle platformer that grants players the use of a magnet gun. The magnet gun, as one might imagine, utilizes the attraction and repellent properties of magnets, as well as the properties of magnetic fields, in general. Not only can players control objects with the magnet gun, but entire areas can have their polarity manipulated. The game goes beyond logic puzzles, though, as the story will have players making tough dialogue choices that will affect how the narrative progresses and, ultimately, how it ends.

To learn more about becoming the master of magnet, check out the full interview below. Magnetic: Cage Closed is coming soon to Steam, with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions also planned.

Shacknews - Daniel Perez

With the upcoming release of Furious 7, Microsoft has teamed up with Universal Pictures to offer a special version of Forza Horizon 2 that serves as a prequel to the upcoming film. In the long-winded Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious, you play as your character from Forza Horizon 2 directly after dominating the Horizon Festival in Southern Europe. Your next task is to assist Tej, who is voiced by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, as he needs you to legally earn ten cars for his crew.

While the premise of the Fast & Furious expansion may not win any awards for originality, what you get is a piece of downloadable content that feels more like a re-introduction to Forza Horizon 2 rather than an extension of it.

Southern Hospitality

Instead of having the player boost cars like the Fast & Furious crew would do in their films, Tej requires you to acquire ten cars he’s been keeping his eye on for his crew by racing for them. There are a total of ten vehicles you'll need to earn, some of which will be featured in Furious 7, which is a neat idea as I now feel like I had some direct influence over the film after I completed the collection Tej requested.

The objectives I was tasked with completing in order to earn the vehicles offered a nice sampling of content that’s available in the full version of Forza Horizon 2. Some races required me to keep a top speed of over over 130 mph by the end of the race, come in the top 3 upon completion of a race, or beat a military helicopter to a finish line. In order to acquire a vehicle, I needed to complete a two-step process of races, and then I was on to the next set of races. Once I collected all of the required vehicles, I was presented with a menu to buy one of three digital versions of Forza Horizon 2, which I was able to close to replay any of the races I had already completed as well as complete a number of side objectives, such as crashing into billboards and clocking in a high speed through one of several speed cameras. I was also able to drive any of the vehicles I acquired in Free Ride, although I was limited to driving around southern France.

The variety in vehicles also felt like a nice sampling of the main vehicle categories players can experience in Forza Horizon 2. I started off with the Dodge Charger R/T, but soon I found myself able to drive a Toyota Supra, a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, and a Bugatti Veyron, among others. There were rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive vehicles I could check out, allowing me to once again sample how each one performs on the roadways of southern France. Some races I came across allowed me to race with whatever vehicle I was currently driving, while others either automatically had me driving one I had already unlocked or gave me a choice between a number of suitable rides.

How Low

Even though there’s quite a bit of variety in the Fast & Furious pack for Forza Horizon 2, owners of the standalone game should reconsider picking it up as it doesn’t take into account whether or not you have already played Forza Horizon 2. That means you’ll be reintroduced to a number of tutorials for game features you are probably very well acquainted with, such as how to toggle through the radio stations or tips on earning high style points. In fact, if there wasn’t a demo for Forza Horizon 2 already, I could easily consider the Fast & Furious DLC to be a demo rather than an extension of the main game.

The Fast & Furious expansion doesn’t expand on the original Forza Horizon 2 experience either as the standalone game has its own set of races, side objectives, and other things you can do that are only made available within the game. That means the vehicles that you unlock in the Fast & Furious expansion won’t transfer over to Forza Horizon 2, although many of the vehicles included are available to unlock on their own in the main game.

The cross-promotion between the Fast & Furious franchise and Forza Horizon 2 is also done poorly as the game starts with a number of high-octane clips from Furious 7, but the only real connection I had with the films during play was the fact Ludacris was chatting with me about upcoming races, as well as praising or berating me depending on the outcome of a race. If I was able to race against or with some of the other characters from the film franchise, or maybe even attempt to boost a vehicle, that would have made me feel like I was really taking a part in its world, but ultimately this just feels like Forza Horizon 2 with a light coating of Fast & Furious.

Roll Out

Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious is a great “demo” for fans of the film series who want to check out Forza Horizon 2 while also getting a dose of the film franchise they love so much. The game does a great job of giving players a taste of the Horizon 2 experience as I was able to complete the main story in approximately 3 hours. That's definitely enough time to get those who were previously on the fence about buying Forza Horizon 2 to pony up their cash for the full experience.

As for those who already put in countless hours into Forza Horizon 2, you won’t be missing much if you consider skipping the Fast & Furious expansion altogether as there's nothing here that you already haven't experienced for yourself. That is, unless you're a really big Ludacris fan.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

It's officially April Fools Day on the east coast and Blizzard didn't waste any time starting this year's wackiness. Anyone that's logging into the Heroes of the Storm beta is finding something… different. All of the games heroes have gigantic craniums, thanks to a new patch that includes a new Big Head Mode.

The details are all on Battle.net. The basic Heroes of the Storm 5v5 MOBA gameplay remains the same, however now all characters have massive melons to carry between their shoulders. While the size changes don't appear to extend to minions, they do extend to mounts, giving the game that much of a cuter look.

The patch will automatically be downloaded upon starting Heroes of the Storm. Look for Big Head Mode to last throughout April Fools Day.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

With Mortal Kombat X set to release next month, NetherRealm won't waste much time before starting its DLC releases. Of course, consumers are rightfully wary of Season Pass deals and may wonder whether the investment will be worthwhile. So it should come as something of a relief that the developer is planning to allow a rotating "try before you buy" kind of deal with the game's Challenge Towers.

"We have way more challenges and they're broken up into what we're calling Living Towers," Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon told Angry Joe (via Shoryuken). "And every time you turn the game on, there's going to be three towers in the Living Towers section. One changes every hour, one changes every day, and one is called the Premier Tower, which is kind of like an event tower. So for instance, if Jason comes along, you're going to have a Jason tower that you play as Jason. And you can even use that tower if you didn't purchase Jason. So it's really cool, it gives the players a taste of what the character and what it's like to play them."

There's no confirmation on when the DLC is set to release, though the folks at Test Your Might appear to have a leaked EB Games ad that point to a tentative schedule. The ad points to Jason from Friday the 13th releasing just 12 days after the game's release, with the other three characters set to arrive every two weeks.

For more with Ed Boon, check out the full interview below.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Hearthstone players are journeying to Blackrock Mountain in just a few days. But before then, Blizzard has a few housekeeping items in order. A new patch was released earlier today and it's made a few adjustments to a couple of commonly-used minions. Those adjustments are for the better.

The biggest change for Patch 2.4.0.8311 comes to Warsong Commander, who can now grant the Charge ability to all minions, even those summoned by other minions. That means Dragonling Mechanic, Murloc Tidehunter, and yes, even Dr. Boom's trusty Boom Bots will all be given Charge.

Other changes address various minion-related bugs. Vol'jin will no longer kill itself when swapping with a lone stealth minion, Sylvanas Windrunner will no longer target dying minions (such as those under the Corruption effect), and Bane of Doom can now summon any collectible demon.

The full list of changes can be found on the Hearthstone website. Those looking to further prepare for Blackrock Mountain can also check out Steve's breakdown of all 31 new cards.

Shacknews - Shack Staff

Breach & Clear has seen some significant growth, enough for Gun Media and Mighty Rabbit Studios to take the series from its mobile origins to PC with the follow-up, Breach & Clear: Deadline. The strategy RPG hit Steam Early Access in late January and is looking to find its footing before a full release. To check on the game's progress, Shacknews spoke to designer Randy Greenback.

Greenback discusses the Deadline's inspiration from games like Fallout Tactics and XCOM and talks about the shift to an open world. Other topics include customization, tactical options, and the various enemy types that players can expect to see in this new adventure.

Check out the full interview below.

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