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Shacknews - Robert Workman

Late last month, I gave my impressions for Sony's The Last of Us Remastered, explaining how Naughty Dog was setting the standard for "revisions" of games that were popular over on the PlayStation 3. Indeed, that's a high bar to live up to, especially considering the dramatic power that game delivered in the first place. Still, if any game can keep up with Joel and Ellie, it's certainly Metro Redux, which delivers a compelling tale of its own. Better yet, two.

The Metro titles are the work of 4A Games, who first got its start with the underappreciated Metro 2033, released under the THQ label, before moving on to Deep Silver with the oft-delayed Metro: Last Light, which turned out to be worth the wait. Both of these titles, inspired by the Metro books by Dmitry Glukhovsky, have made their way inside Redux, and it's the ultimate package for those who have been with the series day one. For those who haven't, though, the welcome mat is certainly out for you as well, even if it is covered in radiation.

The games take place in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where a single survivor, Artyom, has his hands full. Along with haunting flashbacks that stop him at nearly every turn, Artyom has a lot to contend with, including fellow survivors fighting tooth and nail to survive, mutated creatures that hunger for human flesh, and even aliens that somehow play a strange but vital part in the story. As the shaken soldier, it's up to you to fight for survival.

What makes Metro Redux such a complete package is that you can play either 2033 or Last Light any way you see fit. Previously, 2033 was limited to merely surviving, as you conserved any ammunition you got your hands on while keeping your gear in tip-top shape to avoid succumbing to radiation. With Redux, 4A Games has tweaked the game with the inclusion of various modes to choose from, which also apply to the brilliant Last Light.

Spartan mode may be the best bet for those who prefer a more action-oriented affair. While this does take away some of the survival essence from each game, it makes them more exciting, as you blast your way through corridors and use a variety of weapons you'll snag and upgrade along the way. The shotguns are your best bet, but a good old assault rifle can do its own fair share as well. Stealth kills are also welcome in either game, as you can easily sneak up behind a soldier and plow a blade right into his neck.

Those who prefer the more traditional approach to Metro can stick with Survival mode, where the ammunition is limited and the enemies are a bit tougher. This is probably the experience that's best preferred with the tone of the game, as fighting your way through a post-apocalyptic Moscow should be anything but a cakewalk. Those who want it even tougher can turn on Ranger mode, which deactivates the heads-up display and makes each situation even more of a burden to get through. That's a good thing.

No matter what style of play you prefer, 4A Games has tweaked the controls so that they feel terrific. The run-and-gun action never loses a beat, and even if you prefer stealth, the responsive gameplay feels satisfactory, right down to nailing that perfect stealth kill.

In addition to tweaking the gameplay for both titles, 4A also remastered the visuals so that they run at 60 frames per second. This is whether you're outside running around in the bleak neighborhoods, or making your way through darkly lit corridors underground. The resolution shows a slight difference with the versions, between 1080p on PlayStation 4 and 900p on Xbox One, but, honestly, only the nitpickers are bound to notice the difference. Both games look magnificent across the board, with nary any bugs to get in the way, nor any lessening of the dark, harrowing worlds that Artyom must claw his way through.

Although Metro Redux doesn't introduce any new content for veteran players to discover--aside from DLC they might have missed, which is included in the package--the presentation and various mode styles are more than enough to keep you coming back. Both 2033 and Last Light have a great story to tell, and long-time fans and newcomers alike will find something to appreciate with Redux.

This piece is based on review copies provided by the publishers at Deep Silver. Metro Redux is available now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. The game is rated M for mature.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

Along with the overflowing cast already included in Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes, Disney Interactive has announced that the main characters from the forthcoming animated film Big Hero 6, a co-production between Disney and Marvel, will also be in the game. Hiro and Baymax will both be included, playable in their own Toy Box playset as you play your way through San Fransokyo.

You can watch the trailer below and expect the duo to be doing some damage when the game launches this September for various platforms, including Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U and 3DS.

Meanwhile, Big Hero 6 will hit the big screen on November 7th.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

Destiny is less than two weeks away, a game that's been a long time coming since its initial introduction last year. PlayStation fans have a little more to get excited about with their versions of the game on PS3 and PS4, as they'll get some exclusive content before Xbox owners.

To highlight which exclusives gamers will be getting, Sony, in conjunction with Activision and Bungie, has released a new trailer highlighting what gear, guns and maps you'll be getting with these versions of the game. You can watch it below and savor the flavor of exclusiveness.

Destiny releases across the board on September 9th for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

Six years after innovating with DRM-free games, GOG.com has announced that it's opening up its portal to DRM-free movies. The website hopes to convince "big Hollywood studios" that offering TV and cinema classics 100 percent DRM-free is the wave of the future. Though not everyone might be so easily convinced.

"Our initial idea was to start with the big guys, but the process is not easy," said Guillaume Rambourg, GOG.com VP for North America. "In our first round of talks, the response was largely, 'We love your ideas, but we do not want to be the first ones. We will gladly follow, but until somebody else does it first, we do not want to take the risk.' Most studio officials agreed that DRM is pointless, but were quick to add that the lawyers would not allow them to get rid of it."

The video below highlights GOG.com's plan for movies, as it currently offers 20 various documentaries that are available for a small fee on its site. These nclude such offering as The King of Arcades, Gamer Age and Indie Game: The Movie, as well as the premiere of a new film called Pixel Poetry, featuring Adam Sessler and other gaming stars.

Those who wish to try the service out before making any sort of purchase can do so with two particular documentaries, Art of Playing and TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard, which are available free of charge and enable gamers to see just what kind of quality the movies offer.

It's going to be a rough climb for this service, but with so many documentaries and other movie types available, GOG.com should have no trouble offering some form of variety. And lest we forget the games as well? Nope.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

Rockstar Games has had no trouble adding fresh content to Grand Theft Auto 5's Online world, as it's already introduced a special flight school earlier in the month, giving would-be Mavericks their own opportunity to buzz the tower (or whatever other structure happens to be nearby). This week, it's continuing to add to the fun with ten new Rockstar Verified Jobs, available for download now.

The missions vary, offering a number of new racing events and battles, including That's What She Said (no, really, that's the name of the mission), as well as Code 13-91, Rebel Rodeo, Brand's Snatch, Hit the Apex and Tittie Twister, along with new capture maps like Hold: Operation Interrupt and Raid: Claustrophobia. You'll also be able to take on deathmatches like Urban Jungle and Rail Yard.

Rockstar has detailed each of these missions and maps over at the Rockstar Newswire, if you want to take a look.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

Ever since Microsoft took the Kinect out of the Xbox One bundle, it's been selling a lot better, at a more manageable price. However, there are those who still want to grasp the experience of motion-based gestures, along with voice commands and games that utilize the device, like Kinect Sports Rivals. Not to worry, as you'll soon have your chance to snag the peripheral on its own.

Microsoft has announced on its Xbox Wire page that the Kinect sensor will be available for stand-alone purchase starting on October 7th. The device will come with a downloadable game, Harmonix's Dance Central Spotlight, and will retail for $149.99.

So if you don't have a Kinect yet, you'll soon have the chance to get one a la carte.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

It's not often you see a popular video game series bridge out with an interesting side chapter, especially one that actually ties in events with other releases in the series. However, that's exactly what we're getting with Deep Silver's Escape Dead Island, which we checked out last month at San Diego Comic-Con.

Players will be able to experience this new adventure on November 18th when it releases for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, filling the shoes of a new hero as he fights for survival on an island chock full of zombies, using distraction, stealth kills and whatever else to his advantage in order to stay alive. Unless a storage container smushes him first, obviously.

In addition, European gamers who pre-order the game will also gain access to a special beta for Dead Island 2 when it launches. This was previously announced a few months ago in the U.S., so, yes, we're getting it too.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

Earlier this month, we had some hands-on impressions for 2K Games' iOS port of Bioshock, which is a pretty close translation of the original Xbox 360 game, despite being transferred to a touch-screen. Players won't have to wait long for the game to arrive on the App Store, because it's happening tonight.

The game will be available starting at 9 PM PDT in Apple's devoted store, going for the price of $14.99. A word of warning: the game will only run on newer Apple devices, such as the iPad Air, the iPad Mini 2, the iPad 4, the iPhone 5S, the iPhone 5C and the iPhone 5. Trying to run it on previously released devices simply won't work. So make sure you have one of these devices before you download the game.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

Gauntlet players won't have to wait too much longer to experience Arrowhead Studios' new take on the multiplayer action game, which closely emulates the original 80's games that inspired all the dungeon questing to begin with.

WB Games has announced that the game has been delayed slightly, this time set for a release on September 23rd. According to its press release, the additional time was "needed to fine-tune details in order to bring gamers an even more robust multiplayer experience."

In addition, the team at Arrowhead, along with WB, released a new trailer highlighting some of the gameplay aspects you can expect in the PC release, including how well players work together, as well as their individual talents. You can view it below.

Finally, if you're at PAX Prime this weekend, you'll be able to experience a special "The Gauntlet" tournament featuring a number of web superstars, including Nerdist's Jessica Chobot and IGN's Greg Miller, competing to see who is king or queen of the Gauntlet game. Fans are encouraged to check out the tourney, which will take place outside the Main Expo entrance in the South Hall.

Also, keep an eye out for the Gauntlet food truck, which will be circling the area of 9th and Pine during the four-day event this weekend. Because who doesn't want turkey legs and candy apples?

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Nothing ever changes about the undead. Walkers will continue to wander aimlessly in a neverending search for food. Humanity, on the other hand, will continue to grow and change. Even in the middle of the greatest disaster to befall the world, people will continue evolve. That's my main takeaway from The Walking Dead: Season 2. Even if Telltale wasn't quite able to hit that same emotional punch that rocketed the first season to the top of Shacknews' Game of the Year list in 2012, it still stands as an example of fine storytelling and narrative within the context of an adventure game.

If the first season of The Walking Dead was about paternal instincts kicking in during a time of apocalyptic crisis, the second season is about the loss of innocence and forsaking childhood for the sake of survival. This season put young Clementine in a starring role and focused on her lone path into the apocalypse.

Clementine as the main protagonist meant a distinct change in the narrative dynamic. The game was no longer about doing what's best for the group and keeping everyone happy. If anything, the party that Clementine stumbled onto was in a woefully bad situation and there was only so much she could do to help keep things together.

That leads into one of the main issues with this season of The Walking Dead. The supporting cast simply isn't all that compelling, especially the cast we're introduced to in the first two episodes. I've gone over the problems with the supporting cast previously, so I won't belabor this point. However, in comparison to the fleshed-out characters that we see evolve over the first season, this season's cast pales in comparison. There's no reason to care about many of them, often because they're total screw-ups that make their survival situation worse and because it rapidly becomes apparent that Clementine is the smartest and most mature member of the group.

That isn't just a blind observation, either. There are several instances in the game in which Clementine is either approached with an extremely dangerous task or is blamed for making a spur-of-the-moment choice. Somehow, the adults here always think it's the best idea to throw Clementine directly into the fire for tasks that they could just as easily handle themselves (such as talking to an extremely-volatile Kenny) or blame her for taking spur-of-the-moment action in a life-or-death situation. It makes these characters come off as unsympathetic, so when any of those supporting players meet their premature demise, it's hard to drum up the same kind of emotional response that drove so much of the first season.

However, while I can harp on where Telltale has come up short with its characters, they should also be credited for continuing to be masters of their storytelling formula. These games aren't simply about choices and the number of choices you can make. These choices have no teeth if there aren't consequences and this season sees some very real consequences, especially in the latter half. The Walking Dead is built on a foundation of choices, but it flourishes because of what results from them. Never is that more evident than in the final episode's closing minutes.

Without diving deep into spoiler territory, there was a reason that Telltale structured their episodes in the way that they did. It might have seemed curious that they blew off the Woodbury-style camp storyline in the third episode and that's because there was one other character worth investing in: Kenny. With Clementine's story signifying a child's forced journey into adulthood and maturity, it also meant she had a very harsh lesson to learn over the course of her journey. Just like herself, people grow and people change. So do relationships. The person you knew years ago is not necessarily the same person you know now and how one chooses to deal with that change is a very real dilemma in life. The manner in which The Walking Dead deals with Clementine and Kenny's relationship is the true highlight of this season, right down to the final episode's gut-wrenching climax. More than anything, as the story progresses and that relationship changes, it will have many players questioning the choices they made, harkening back to the idea of consequences.

It was pretty clear that Telltale was more interested in telling a story this time around, because the fail states this time around were a lot more forgiving. Whereas I found myself having to repeat a few portions of the first season, because of screwing up a few puzzles, there was no such danger of that happening this time. Yet Telltale didn't forsake any of the interactive elements, managing to keep the tense atmosphere going through all of its walker segments. They still feels organically placed, rather than as tacked-on segments for the sake of adding action.

It took a while for The Walking Dead: Season 2 and its story to find their footing, but Telltale still knows how to pack an emotional punch. Whether it was during the hostage situation at the end of the second episode, the escape attempt at the end of the third episode, or the twist at the very end of the season, there are still a number of heartbreaking moments that promise to touch feelings in ways that few other games can. The difference between this and last season is, there just aren't as many this time around. Perhaps because of that, this feels less like a GOTY contender and more like a game that's simply very good.

Overall, this is the essence of The Walking Dead. It's tragedy and despair, with only that one faint glimmer of hope that keeps humanity going.

Final Score: 8 out of 10.

This review is based on downloadable Xbox 360 codes, all provided by the publisher (with the exception of Episode 3, which was purchased by the reviewer). The Walking Dead: Season 2 is available now on PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Vita now and is coming later this week to iOS. The game is rated M.


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