Shacknews - John Keefer

If you haven't wanted to drop money on Watch Dogs 2, Ubisoft is giving you a chance to play a bite-size version of the game for free, starting with the PS4 version. 

The demo, which is out today on the PlayStation Store, offers a three-hour chunk of the full game, with access to co-op and multiplayer modes. You can basically play any part of the game you choose, with all of your progress saved if you later choose to buy the full game. You must be a PlayStation Plus member to try it.

For you Xbox One folks, that demo will be available next week on January 24, with Xbox Live Gold needed to participate. There is no word on if PC users will get their own version of the demo

Shacknews - John Keefer

GTA Online continues to add new goodies into the game, with the latest update including a new top-of-the-line sports car and a new adversary mode.

Let's get to the car first. Available starting today from Benny's Original Motor Works, the Dewbauchee Specter is a two-door coupe designed for only the most exclusive clientele. And now through January 30th, players can get 25 percent off Benny's Upgrades, and the Executive Upgrade that will move Benny and his tools right into your own garage.

As for the new Adversary mode, it is called Collection Time and can be played with two or four teams. Each player starts out with one point in the form of a money bag. Killing that player allows the bag to drop and be collected by whoever gets there first. The team with the most bags at the end of the time limit wins. Seven new maps have been added for Collection Time.

As for the usual monthly double GTA$ and RP, the focus is on Biker Clubhouse contracts and special vehicle missions. The Premium Race for the month is Chiliad.

Everything runs through January 30.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Mass Effect: Andromeda apparentyl will have a fun little feature that just seems ready to be abused at any time: Weapons that you craft can be named whatever you want.

The BioWare team continues to drop little hints and tidbits via Twitter. First, we got Lead Designer Ian Frasier releasing this morsel: "PRO TIP: In MEA, you can craft your own krogan-style hammer and name it GRABTHAR'S HAMMER. That one's free, folks. ." That one tweet, aside from the nice Space Quest reference, reveals crafting your own weapons, a dedicated slot for melee weapons, and a name-your-own-weapon tool. When asked about the dedicated melee weapon slot, Frasier responded with "There's a dedicated melee weapon slot. The omni-blade you start with is just one (though you can upgrade it).."

Then Senior Designer Justin Perez got into the act with his own weapon names: "Today in my in-progress playthrough I made an Assault Rifle named FAST and a Sniper Rifle named FURIOUS."

I would hope there will be some sort of filter or naming check, as the potential for juvenile delinquency is probably just as high as seeing some really cool weapon names. It should at least make for an added level of clever shenanigans.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Nintendo Switch doesn't have too many third party titles planned for it when it launches on March 3. According to Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford, Nintendo could have had Borderlands 3 for the console-handheld hybrid.

When a fan asked Pichford on Twitter about the game as a possibility for Switch, he replied "I do not see that as happening. We were talking to Nintendo, but that stopped for some reason. They have other priorities." He didn't go into more details, but Borderlands 3 on Switch probably would have been big, given the popularity of the previous titles. 

Pitchford has said previously that there is definitely going to be another Borderlands game, Aside from that tease, we don't know anything else. We had hoped it would get a showing at E3 last year, but it didn't happen.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Resident Evil: biohazard is due out next week, and while we don;t know much about Ethan's story yet, we know that there will be some extra story content coming after launch.

Not too much is known about the Not a Hero DLC yet, but Famitsu (via Siliconera) tells us that the new story will be different from Ethan's nightmare that we'll see at the end of the main game. The DLC will be free and released sometime this Spring.

Resident Evil: biohazard is coming on PS4, Xbox One and PC on January 24. Capcom just released a new trailer for the game late last week.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Injustice 2 will pick up where Injustice: Gods Among Us left off, With batman and Superman still squaring off against each other. Both are in need of new allies, as the war of attrition has taken its toll, so developer NetherRealm Studios is adding a new character to the mix.

Enter Brainiac.

"Brainiac possesses superior intelligence, impossibly advanced technology, and inexhaustible resources," Dominic Ciancolo, cinematic director on Injustice 2 for NetherRealm, said in a blog post. "The overwhelming threat he poses to Earth forces Batman to question everything he knows. It also makes him consider crossing lines he’d vowed to never cross."

Ciancolo said that the team wanted to move the story forward without repeating the previous narrative. They had a lot of fun developing the characters in the first game and wanted to do the same in the sequel. The new threat will test both Batman and Superman, even in their adversarial relationship, he said.

Injustice 2 comes out on May 16 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. 

Shacknews - Steve Watts

In many ways, the Nintendo Switch feels like an evolution of several disparate concepts it has toyed with over the years, from the Super Gameboy to the Wii. In no piece of software is this kind of iterative evolution more apparent than Arms, which looks and plays like a Wii Sports Boxing sequel that was shelved for years and then fell into the lap of the Splatoon team.

The Wii Sports Boxing DNA is clearly evident right from the start. Holding a Joy-Con in both hands, the player physically punches the air with each hand, and the matching arm flies in the game. In a minor but unmistakably improved tweak, twisting your fist as you deliver a punch makes the arm curve at an angle, which adds a wrinkle of strategy as well as rewards you for following through on your real-life punches.

(Nintendo has since clarified that you can play with a Pro controller without using the motion controls, but honestly, what would be the point of that? I remain open to being convinced, but this feels like a motion-controlled game first and foremost, and based on my limited experience, button-based controls would likely to sap the fun out of it.)

Artistically it's a clear visual descendent of Splatoon, which sported more elongated faces and almond-shaped eyes than Nintendo's usual style, usually with inky domino masks and splashed with neon and sheen. Arms takes this aesthetic and ages it a few years. It looks like the sport that Squid Kids would watch in their off-time, combining the bright and bubbly anime influence with its otherworldly strangeness. Like kids with cephalopods for hair, the denizens of this world have some variation of springs for arms.

The Splatoon influence doesn't begin and end with mere aesthetics, though. The 2015 surprise hit also showed a purity of design, building a complex and deep sports-like experience around simple mechanics. The depth came from how the dueling factions, both equipped with equally straightforward goal, clashed and improvised.

Arms carries that philosophy into a 1-on-1 competition. The mechanics themselves aren't terribly deep–just a combination of juking, dashing, and punching. But the punches were responsive enough that when going head-to-head, the game gets surprisingly complex. It's a game of fake-outs and feints, dodges and distance. The ability to swap out weapons on each arm, mixing and matching as you please, is likely to add that much more strategy.

I suspect that Arms won't have quite the longevity of Splatoon. Team sports add extra layers by sheer numbers, so this is more limited as a matter of course. Regardless, it's an impressive twist on an idea that was introduced but far from perfected on the Wii, and a surprisingly strong part of the launch line-up.

This Arms preview was based on a pre-release demo of the system at an event where refreshments were provided by Nintendo.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The Xbox One dashboard is getting another update this spring, with a focus on speeding up common tasks.

In a blog post from Microsoft detailing the upcoming Windows 10 High Performance mode (via The Verge), platform engineering head Mike Ybarra detailed further enhancements to the XBO interface as well. An update to the Guide will let you pull up a quick overlay with a single button press, giving access to common functions like your friends list, Achievements, and party chat.

The update will also add clip recording and editing directly in the new guide. Plus, it will bring a Gamerscore leaderboard, revamped music controls, and a new look for Achievement tracking and Cortana.

Xbox One's dashboard was originally built around the revised Kinect that originally shipped inside the box. While that's no longer the case, the revisions to the dashboard have sometimes seemed stifled by the framework put in place from the start. Microsoft has been chipping away at improvements, and this one may provided yet another performance boost. The update is expected to come alongside the Creators Update for Windows 10, which is slated for April.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Part of the widespread sticker shock we saw in light of Nintendo's announcement of a $300 price point for Nintendo Switch was the revelation that it comes with no packed-in software. The Wii famously came with Wii Sports to show off its unique capabilities, and even the Wii U had an optional SKU with Nintendoland. Console pack-ins are a rarity nowadays, but with unconventional hardware like Nintendo's, it pays to have something that can explain the tech. That makes the decision not to include 1-2-Switch especially baffling, because it's so perfect as a system showcase.

1-2-Switch is actually very similar to Wii Sports and Nintendoland, in that it's a collection of short tech-demo-like experiences that, when taken together, explain a broad range of the system's functions. We were shown a handful at our hands-on demonstration, with assurances that more would be included in the total package.

In fact, for the most part these are less mini-games and more micro-games, to borrow a phrase from Nintendo's own WarioWare franchise. Most take no more than a minute at most to play a round, and some like Samurai Training or Quick Draw take even less time than that. Aside from the initial setup phase, Samurai Training lasts as long as it takes for one player to swing his imaginary sword, and the other player to attempt to catch it. It's a game that can be over in mere seconds.

That's not to discount the fun of it, though. It was my least favorite of the micro-games we played, and it was still pretty enjoyable. My biggest reservation was that the catching aspect, which involves clapping your hands down on a Joy-Con controller, was mildly uncomfortable. Quick Draw, a similarly fast game, simply involves waiting for the audio cue and then reaching up and pulling the trigger as quickly as you can. It's basically a game of reflex. 

One aspect that these games share in common, though, is the deemphasis on the actual television screen. While the ideas are illustrated with vibrant, goofy photos of actors dressed in samurai or cowboy garb, you really shouldn't be watching the screen for the cues. In fact, at one point our demonstrator took the Nintendo Switch out of its dock and turned it around, just so I would have to rely on sound. Years of video gaming left me looking at the screen as a matter of habit, and it was one I needed to break.

Some other games were more substantial, but only slightly. One had us simulating a milking motion by "pulling" down on the Joy-Con while gripping the shoulder buttons. A typical round lasted about a minute, and rolling your fingers from one button to the other apparently made for ideal milking. A game of table tennis impressively realized the sport without visual cues, leaving the timing and rhythm entirely up to hearing the audio of the ping-pong ball bouncing on our imaginary table. It's a concept that seemed destined to fail, but a solid 37-hit volley assured us that it really does work.

I was most impressed by Ball Count, a game demo that's veers closest to being a pure tech demo. Both players put their Joy-Con on the palm of their hands, and gently tilt it from side to side, feeling virtual marbles "bounce" inside. The goal is to ultimately guess the number of marbles inside, and in our experience, both of us would either correctly guess or be remarkably close to each other. It's not very fun or long-lasting as a game in itself, but it's the best example of Nintendo's "HD rumble" feature at work. The haptic feedback was precise enough to approximate the actual feeling of rolling marbles, down to pinpointing the difference between four and five of them. It got me more excited about the Joy-Cons as individual units than anything else I played at the event.

Which brings me back to my bafflement. Nintendo hasn't specified how much more will be included in 1-2-Switch, but so far it's a relatively modest collection of micro-games and tech demos. That seems like a tall order at an MSRP of $50, and unless there's more to it that we haven't seen, I don't expect it to sell much.

Even beyond the sticker shock or sales concerns, though why wouldn't Nintendo package its best sales tool right inside the box? 1-2-Switch has the potential to be the Wii Sports of this generation–a clever, small experience that lets each owner act as an ambassador and easily explain to friends and family what makes the system unique. Instead, it appears, Nintendo is insistent upon selling it separately, meaning that even some Switch owners themselves won't grasp its full range of capabilities.

This 1-2-Switch preview was based on a pre-release demo of the system at an event where refreshments were provided by Nintendo.

Shacknews - John Keefer

One of the favoritie pastimes for some players in any game is datamining. No Man's Sky is the latest target, with new dialogue and files found that indicate an ATV could be coming soon.

Various data files have been combined (via Power Up Gaming) that players will need to build a special terminal for the vehicle and hire a mechanic via a variety of quests. The resulting ATV will have vertical boosters, a jet engine and photon cannon; all of which will be upgraded from basic to Alpha, Beta and then Gamma.

The dialogue options show the following items and upgrades:

  • ATV Photon Cannon Alpha: Standard weapons system with twin cannons
  • ATV Photon Cannon Beta: Improved sighting and recoil dampening, and a longer charge capacity
  • ATV Photon Cannon Gamma: Improved firing rate, larger capacity and maximised photonic charge.
  • ATV Jetpack Alpha: An ATV jetpack system.
  • ATV Jetpack Beta: Increases the maximum altitude and flight range of the unit.
  • ATV Jetpack Gamma: Maximizes the altitude and flight range of the unit.
  • ATV Tune-up Alpha: Improved acceleration, tougher shocks, and better range.
  • ATV Tune-up Beta: Higher horsepower, ECU tuning, a stronger frame, and a longer range.
  • ATV Tune-up Gamma: Added speed and acceleration, active traction tires, and greater time between refueling
  • ATV Storage: A secure parking area for the ATV.

There is nothing official from Hello Games about the vehicle, but if it does show up, it could happen in the next update, given how extensive the dialogue and data files are.


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